Today's Reading Assignment
From the sports page, courtesy of Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star and Fox Sports.
For his weekly NFL Truth column, Mr. Whitlock offers only one, on the negative impact of the hip-hop culture on the National Football League. He believes the antics of hip-hop players is one reason that the rosters of the league's leading teams, i.e., the Colts and the Patriots, have grown "whiter."
One one hand, it's disappointing that anyone is concerned with the number of black and white athletes on a given team. But, as Whitlock points out, the NFL's most successful owners and coaches have little time (or patience) for "gangsta" players that undermine their coaches and disrupt the clubhouse. He fears that conduct of Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Larry Johnson, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson will make it more difficult for black players trying to enter the league in the years to come.
Whitlock has long railed against the corrosive effects of hip-hop on pro sports; his column on the 2007 NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas is a classic, detailing how the league's hip-hop coterie essentially beseiged a city. Are his concerns overstated? Perhaps. Last time we checked, Larry Johnson, T.O. and Chad Johnson were still gainfully employed in the NFL, and both Michael Vick and Pacman Jones are expected to return once their legal problems are resolved.
But, as Mr. Whitlock observes, the tolerance for that "type" of player may be waning. He can't envision a coach like Tony Dungy allowing one of the bad boy Johnsons on his roster, and quite frankly, neither can we. Dungy, a man of great character and integrity, sets clear standards for his players and expects them to be met. The results speak for themselves; the Colts are defending Super Bowl champions, even if their club house is a bit dull by NFL standards.
Unfortunately, for every Tony Dungy there are plenty of coaches who let the players run the asylum. Whitlock notes the apparent "love affair" between Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and wide receiver Chad Johnson. Lewis has repeatedly enabled Johnson's outlandish behavior, even threatening to cut players who leaked details of a locker room fight between Johnson and his coaches (which reportedly included a swing at Lewis). Meanwhile, the Bengals have devolved from a playoff team to an also-ran in less than three seasons.
In our view, Whitlock is one of the few sports columnists worth reading because he's willing to confront some of the inconvenient truths facing professional sports. Besides, his characterization of Chad Johnson as "the Flavor Flav of the gridiron" is absolutely priceless.