Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Attitude, Not Color: When Did "Prima Donna WR" Become a Racist Term?

I'll be the first to tell you that listening to Jim Rome's radio show is like watching some terrible comic who thinks that if he repeats the same shitty joke twelve times, it'll magically become funny the thirteenth time. And then listening to a lot of the sounds of silence in between.

That said, I still make a focused effort to try and catch his ESPN TV show in the afternoon, for reasons I think I'll discuss in a future post.

On this particular afternoon, I heard an argument that was, to borrow a phrase, pants-on-head retarded. Not from Rome, as might be expected, but from one of his Forum guests.

In a discussion about whether or not Terrell Owens fit into Buffalo, Buffalo native Vincent Thomas of SLAM Magazine had an interesting theory. For one thing, Thomas essentially put his hometown on blast for being racist, or at least "a place where there's still an undercurrent of racial tension."

Okay, fair enough. But he didn't stop there.

Thomas then proceeded to put the entire NFL-covering media and fanbase on blast for the very same condition. Vince has apparently decided that because most of the NFL's wide receivers are black, and many of them are seen as being "prima donnas" or "divas," that these terms are now veiled racist slurs.


Did I miss a memo?

Here I'd always thought that diva is as diva does. T.O. being a perfect candidate for this conversation has nothing to do with his skin, any more than Chad "Future" Johnson Ochocinco or Randy "Yeah, I Take Plays Off" Moss or Plaxico "OW, MY FUCKING LEG!!!!!!" Burress catch grief over their race.

These guys get blasted for being goofballs because (news flash) THEY ARE GOOFBALLS. TO's Sharpie, Chad putting the pylon, Joe Horn making a phone call from behind the goalpost...hell, let's go even older-school and bring up this literary classic. All of these are goofball actions. In terms of obnoxiousness, they fall somewhere between Matt Leinart's hot tub club and Jeremy Shockey passing out poolside.

Shockey's a fine example of a white player whose act generates even more annoyance than TO or Chad Machogrande could ever muster. The big difference between Shockey and a guy like TO is that we only hear Shockey's line of BS in post-game interviews and ambulance-chasing pictures on TMZ. He's not begging people to watch a reality show of his life...although the producers of "Celebrity Rehab" are probably on line two right now.

These players act in the most "Look at me" ways they can possibly muster, and when they're not showing up on the SportsCenter highlight reels, they're trying to take over other media. Ochocinco's been waging a Twitter war with Mark Schlereth. T.O.'s pissing and moaning at Rome (yes, over Twitter) for justly pointing out that "The T.O. Show" is D.O.A. in the ratings.

Who are the great white hopes at WR these days, anyway? There's Wes Welker, the king of the seven-yard slant (and the occasional car-wreck hit). When he scores (which doesn't happen nearly enough for his fantasy owners, myself included), he knows how to act like he's been there before. Same with guys like Kevin Walter, Greg Camarillo, and Dallas Clark. (Yeah, I know Dallas is still listed as a TE, but he's as much of a TE these days as I am a nose tackle.)

As a Buffalo native, Thomas of all people should know that not all black wide receivers are considered nutjobs, since his team employed one of the best and classiest wide receivers ever. Maybe you heard of him.

Andre Reed didn't have to turn every touchdown into a sub-Carrot Top prop comedy show. Jerry Rice scored more touchdowns than anyone, and he just tossed the ball to the ref and said, "Okay, now I'ma get another one." Cris Carter never had tearful news conferences where he said, "That's my quarterback, man," then turned around and eviscerated said QB weeks later for being BFF's with the tight end.

Celebrating scores is all well and good, and I'm one who thinks the No Fun League needs to loosen the noose a bit in that regard. But I'm there to watch football on Sundays, not a Saturday Night Live skit or a Greek tragedy in three acts.

Even Vince Thomas's fellow forum guest, longtime columnist Terence Moore, laughed off Thomas's attempt at calling down the thunder Whitlock-style. Terence even got off the line of the day when he scolded Thomas with, "You know, I've been black for a long time." He then proceeded to, in not so many words, politely tell Thomas that he was full of it.

Terence gets it. Just like Forrest Gump got it. Trying to make every NFL fan or media member who pokes fun at or is tired of TO or Chad Quesotampico into a racist is a blatant play for attention by someone who's obviously not gotten enough through his writing. Well, congrats, Vince, here's a little attention for you. Enjoy it.

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