Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Imus Ask Y'all to Calm the F*** Down

By now, everyone's been brought into the brouhaha surrounding shock jock Don Imus and his comments on the Rutgers women's basketball team. Now, generally, I don't get too worked up over so-called "racial comments" from famous people. From Fuzzy Zoeller to Michael Richards to Jimmy "The Greek" to John Rocker…they've all put their foot in their respective moufs and, after the initial eruption, we all moved on.

When I first heard what Imus said, I'll admit that the ol' jaw dropped an inch or two. It's not that it was surprising…I mean, c'mon, he's a white guy born in the early 1940s. I'm sure there are many more who regularly think and say a lot worse than ol' Imus. What jarred me was the conversational tone of the discussion, if that makes any sense. Imus and his crew were basically having a calm talk over the air, while almost oblivious to the millions of people listening in.

I've inadvertently walked in on some of my co-workers' conversations or jokes where Blacks, Mexicans, Asians, gays, lesbians, etc. are the punch line or punching bag. Regardless of the target, one person in the group will nudge the keynote speaker and everyone will stand around in awkward silence until I get my coffee and walk back to my office, so that the societal dissertation can continue.

Unfortunately, no one nudged Imus.

So, is America overreacting? Of course…and that goes for both Imus' defenders and detractors. Here are a few reasons to explain my stance:

The Bad Man: As mentioned above, I'm willing to bet that Imus' was raised in a different racial climate than his great-grandkids. Is he racist? Who knows, but it's not like he'd be the first old white man who had no love for "the Black people". Sorry, Sharpton: no news here.

The Target(s): There are some very influential people in the sports industry who are convinced that women's basketball can be a relevant and vital sports entity. The most notable cheerleaders are probably everyone at ESPN, who have a financial interest in both the WNBA and women's college basketball. Consequently, this story's shelf life is already twice as long as it should've been, simply because The Worldwide Leader can hitch their self-serving promotional wagon to all parties involved.

The Climate: Normally, I run from anyone's discussion of politics, gender equity and other polarizing claptrap. But, we live in a country that's about to shove a female presidential candidate down our collective throats. We're a long way from the days of the E.R.A., but the empowerment of women, politically and professionally, isn't imaginary anymore. Or, in clearer terms: you can't be pissin' the bitches off.

The Apology: Imus has apologized. He's been suspended for two weeks and, more damning, he'll be stigmatized for the rest of his short, tonsorial-challenged life. Let the man walk the earth with the scarlet "R" on his chest for all I care, but he shouldn't be fired. Move along, thought police, move along.

The Soundbite: If Imus hadn't said those three little words, this story would've died on the vine. Don't believe me? ESPN's Bill Simmons wrote the following about the WNBA almost two years ago:

Well, the vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal. That's just the way it is. Some are uncomfortably tall and gawky, while others lack the requisite, um, softer qualities to captivate males between 18 and 35. The baggy uniforms don't help. Neither does the fact that it's tough for anyone to look attractive at the end of a two-hour basketball game.
While not defending Imus' choice of words, can't it be reasonably argued that this was his point? And, is there anyone who'd dispute this argument?

I'll leave you with words from That Nick'a Guy:

If something offensive is said on AM radio...does anyone hear it?

Who still listens to Imus or AM radio?

7 comments:

mathan said...

While not defending Imus' choice of words, can't it be reasonably argued that this was his point?

Um, not really. I don't see how making an observation about a (percieved) lack of feminine presence in the WNBA tranlates into calling a group of college athletes "nappy-headed" or "hoes."

That Bootleg Guy said...

I wasn't specifically linking the "nappy headed" comment to anything. Instead, I was trying to put the entirety of Imus' words into context. He began by calling them "rough girls" and commenting on their tattoos. The "nappy headed" devolved out of that.

Sorry, but I think his larger point of the discussion was that these were not attractive women (he even calls the opposing team "cute"). I've seen the pictures of the Rutgers broads. They are not attractive women.

"Nappy headed hos"? Sorry, Imus, you're on your own there.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Those are some pretty insensitive comments regarding the looks of the women. What does their physical appearance have to do with anything? These women were targeted by a guy looking to make them a bad punchline and your defense is essentially, "Well, they ARE ugly, don't you agree?"

Tom said...

My basic response to this has been: Remember, it doesn't matter if you've been actively raising money to help kids with cancer for the last 20 years... just don't make an offhand comment on a slow news week.

I still think Imus's response to this should have been "fuck you, I'm Imus."

SC said...

I'm not really sure I understand your point, BG. Is America overreacting or did Imus get what he deserved? And now that he HAS been fired, do you think the firing was justified? It almost seems like you want to take both sides of the argument when I don't think there's a middle ground to be had here.

That Bootleg Guy said...

OK, working in reverse:

1.) SC: Both, yes and I disagree. Imus' defenders and detractors have gone overboard with their protection/pillaging of the guy. At work today, it felt like the OJ verdict all over again as indignant white folk lamented the "double standard" and pitied the poor ex-shock jock. That said, the firing WAS justified the moment Imus' advertisers starting jumping ship. No money for MSNBC/CBS? B'bye, Imus.

2.) Tom: I thought Imus did everything right in the aftermath. But, this was the rare "racial" controversy that drew sympathy from white liberals who were able to latch on to the "sexism" aspect, if they couldn't quite relate to the race aspect. The moral? Don't piss off Cal Ripken Jr.

3.) Anonymous: Yes. In all those words, THAT was my point.

the artist occastionally known as thai said...

"The Target(s)" -- to be honest, i fail to see how yours/mine/anyone's opinions of the quality of women's basketball or its relevance to society or the sport universe relate to this. if imus had said "women's basketball sucks. period.", i just don't see this being an issue. we've had this discussion before (moment for reminiscing . . . done), would i or a fair number of people agree, not necessary. but it wouldn't be the first time that's been brought up. and it hasn't caused quite this level of furor.

"The Climate" -- again, i'm not sure how this relates other than in the context of "10 years ago, calling these bitches bitches would have been okay." true, probably. and 50 years ago, black face paint in movies (hello, shirley temple!) were okay. i wouldn't want that to be acceptable again, either. i don't see a thing wrong with progress.

"The Apology" -- perhaps. i am firmly on the fence on this one. while i can see the validity of "he f'ed up and he apologized, move on", i can also see the point of "pay the piper." (not named roddy, of course.) like it or not, being a "celebrity" or sort gets you a lot of perks. i'm sure he gets to skip a lot of lines and bypasses a lot of red tapes. and i'm sure he's well compensated for what he does. but along with that comes the fact that, well, you're on the air. things you say CAN and, likely, WILL be held against you. if you like one part of it, you have to accept the other.

"The Soundbite" -- and there you have it. IF he hadn't said those words, it would have died. and that IS precisely the problem with what he did. he said it. bob, the fry guy at the 4th street mcdonald (no offense to bob, of course), may have uttered the same phrase without so much as anybody caring. but, then, bob don't make the dinero that mr imus does, er, did and he don't get the perks that i'm sure mr imus have, er, had. comes with the territory. you're paid to give your opinion, you're just going to have to learn to think it through.