The day after the NBA Draft, the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon chatted with ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick and implied Boston’s poor history of race relations (to coin a phrase) to be the reason behind Kevin Garnett’s refusal to accept a trade to the Celtics. Perhaps unaware how many high profile black athletes feel the same way, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune’s Bill Burt accuses Wilbon of “pulling an Al Campanis”.
On several occasions, fans in the “Boston Garden,” which was replaced by the new FleetCenter/TD Banknorth Garden in 1995, and apparently on the “street” called Wilbon the “N-word.”
Is he serious? When did this happen? Did he report this to his editors? Did he call security in the Garden? Does anybody believe this?
Then Wilbon went on to talk about Pumpsie Green, Jackie Robinson and Bill Russell, stories that have been told so many times I get ill.
Weren’t we over them? Didn’t everyone with a drop of New England blood in his/her veins agree they were not proud times in our region?
Wilbon questioned Patrick about great, cherished black athletes who came to Boston after Bill Russell. Patrick, unfortunately, didn’t have a clue and was speechless. Before Patrick was able to pull a rabbit out of his hat, Wilbon brought up Jim Rice and disarmed him by implying Rice, a Hall of Fame-caliber star, was not beloved.
He, of course, used that four-decades-old argument of “Freddie Lynn was loved more.”
Of course, Patrick and Wilbon forgot about probably the most beloved Boston athlete of the 1990s around here, Mo Vaughn. I covered the Sox then and this guy was a god compared to Roger Clemens, who was despised by most fans by the time he left here after the 1996 season.
Robert Parish, Andre Tippett and Cedric Maxwell are well-paid and well-embraced ex-Boston superstars who played and stayed here. But the fact that I have to bring that up is patronizing to blacks.
Patronizing, perhaps. But also inaccurate. Parish played a final 3 seasons with the Hornets and Bulls, respectively. It is also a tad selective for Burt to paint Vaughn or Rice as universally beloved, much as he’s awfully careful to omit any number of incidents a tad more contemporary than Pumpsie Green. Like Dee Brown being pulled over by the police. Dennis and Callahan yucking it up about the “METCO Gorillia”. Really, what can we make of Burt being quick to cite Andre Tippet but not nearly so fast to recall Charles Stuart?
If Burt wishes to argue that Boston isn’t a racist town, he’s certainly entitled to his point of view. But he’s either blissfully ignorant about how the city acquired such a reputation, or he actually believes there’s anything to be gained by scoffing at Wilpon’s claims of being verbally abused.
Burt’s twisted sensibility on this point is further exposed when he demands to know where Michael Holley stands on all of this (“Holley, who is black, unfortunately had a chance to make Wilbon look like a fool. Instead, though, Holley walked on egg shells, semi-refuting Wilbon. Maybe some of our finest are too close with the popular Wilbon.”) And why single out Holley? Bob Ryan’s worked alongside Wilbon far more recently. Or is Michael Holley’s employment at WEEI and the Boston Globe supposed to prove how enlightened Boston’s truly become?
I’m trying very hard to get into Burt’s head, but it’s a dark and scary place. Because Michael Holley has managed to negotiate the Boston sports media scene without being lynched, he’s qualified to tell us Michael Wilbon is lying about being hit with N-bombs on Causeway Drive? Good fucking grief, perhaps Boston struggles with a racist tag because some of the burg’s most blatant apologists are in such denial.