Saturday, May 25, 2024

A cautionary tale on the dangers of never growing up

September 3, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Sports, Weekly Columns

( There are many things attached to the horror story of star NFL quarterback Michael Vick participating in the barbaric sport of watching two dogs trained to kill go about tearing each other apart. Though people like Geraldo Rivera have gone on the record assuming that the national black community will come behind Vick because of the attention, the weight and the charges to which he has pleaded guilty, I doubt it.

Like every other minority group of Americans – including Catholics – black people can sometimes be manipulated by the idea of group solidarity. But, also like everybody else, black people are usually too shrewd to be hustled by those who try to hide indefensible sins behind ethnicity.

However uncomfortable it might be to swallow, disappointment in human behavior is almost always faced in the long run. Apologies may throw people off for a short while, but they only go so far.

There are a number of things that stand out about Vick and separate him from most of the black Americans we see celebrated in the media.

First, he is not only very dark in skin tone but he is also inarguably one of the handsomest men in the entire United States. Were he an equally attractive and talented actress, his smoky color would have kept him from starring roles in film or the abundant jobs reserved almost exclusively for light-skinned half-naked rump rollers in hip-hop videos.

Second, with his ability to think fast and scramble when necessary (move around quickly in the backfield or carry the ball if no receivers are available), Vick was on his way to becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the sport. He resoundingly shut down a complaint held for many years by black football fans: that black men were rarely chosen for that position because white owners almost never thought they were intelligent enough to handle a role that called for brains as well as brawn.

In short, never expect or demand quality thought from a black man; it’s asking too much.

Thirdly, Vick seems to have joined Mike Tyson and Allen Iverson in becoming a hip-hop athlete – one whose talent, no matter how massive, becomes secondary to embracing the gutter excitements and trashy behavior that hip hop celebrates as a form of ethnic allegiance called “keeping it real.” Comedian Chris Rock, in a routine on his “Bring the Pain” CD, refers to such loutishness as “Keeping it real. Real dumb.”

This was echoed by a Black Entertainment Television host of a hip-hop show who said Vick misunderstood one fact: Some things from one’s background need to be left behind and one should not be so naive as to be exploited by the worst elements from his former neighborhood.

A great hall of fame black athlete from the days before the multimillion-dollar contracts and endorsements told me when the Dwight Gooden drug problems became big news that the younger players seemed to have not been given the right advice by their parents. Every temptation from women to drugs had always been waved in the faces of athletes. It was in their interest to turn away from them. They needed to be adults, not bad little boys in the bodies of men.

Perhaps that ugly adolescent streak that has dogged American men in so many instances is the real problem and the one that Michael Vick alluded to when he publicly apologized and said that he needed to grow up.

Although Americans have long worshiped youth and childlike behavior, we can see in the arrogantly imbecilic actions of a Paris Hilton or a Lil’ Kim that the problem of immaturity transcends color, sex and the class of one’s background. It is a disease of the mind and the spirit that we all need to disavow and step away from. Perhaps we will, but that is a freedom that demands more than a notion.

By Stanley Crouch

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