Friday, January 24, 2014

"Who You Calling a 'Thug'...?!"


  [thuhg]  Show IPA
a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.
sometimes initial capital letter one of a former group of professional robbers and murderers in Indiawho strangled their victims.
1800–10;  < Hindi thag  literally, rogue, cheat

thug·ger·y  [thuhg-uh-ree]  Show IPA noun
thug·gish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013. 

OK, full disclosure. I fell asleep on the Seattle Seahawks/San Francisco game. I wanted 'Frisco to win, but as I told a friend, my feelings wouldn't have been hurt if Seattle won. They've got a great team. Russell Wilson is as solid a quarterback as I've ever seen and Marshawn Lynch is a great runner. So in my thinking, if Colin Capernick and the '49ers don't make it the Denver Broncos will have stiff opposition (although I think the Broncos are still going to win!).

As I sometimes do, when I'm watching a game that I'm sleeping on, I'll wake up and catch a few minutes of the game just to check on the score. I think San Francisco was ahead the last time I viewed the game through my sleep induced haze. When I finally did awaken, the channel had switched to something else. I learned later that Seattle won.

Good...I thought...

Then I heard about Richard Sherman and his tirade, temper tantrum. When I first heard the interview I was distracted by Sherman's demeanor. "OK, great," I said to myself, "Another loud mouthed athlete who can't control himself." I'd heretofore liked Sherman. He's a great specimen of a defensive back: big, fast, quick, smart. I knew he was a bit of a braggart. But that's football today. Something about this seemed over the line, but let's face it, I have bigger fish to fry.

But the conversation won't die. Especially the 'thug' thing...

Richard Sherman didn't curse. Didn't have to be bleeped once. He did hurl any invective at Erin Andrews, the female reporter who was trying to interview him. Sherman did 'go off' but apparently producers cut the interview and it was fine. Well, OK...

But Monday, Tuesday, in fact all this week Richard Sherman has been portrayed as an out of control, 'thug'.
Fast forward, a little to yesterday. I watched, or was trying to watch serious news and I was constantly being interrupted by constant news updates on the arrest of Justin Bieber, the 19 year old 'singer', uber popular, uber rich, entertainer who has been repeatedly in trouble for 'thug' behavior, but who has never been called a 'thug'. This time his arrest was for intoxication, drug use (marijuana) and some kind of prescription meds. He was belligerent with arresting officers, only calming down when he was at the police station. Thug behavior?

Mollie Cyrus, famous more recently, for not being able to keep her clothes on in public and singing about drug induced sexual behavior, has never been referred to as a 'thug'...

There was a hockey game after the Seattle/San Francisco game during which after the puck had been dropped and the two teams didn't even go after the puck, they immediately started fighting...on two areas of the ice! Not one of the hockey players was called a 'thug'. Richard Sherman has one admittedly loud mouthed interview in which he excoriates an opponent, without using profanity, extols his own greatness as a ball player and he is called a 'thug'...


Sherman's later press conference in which this intelligent, articulate and thoughtful individual said that 'It seems like 'thug' is the new 'N-word'...' I think nailed it. Whites (and some blacks) who would never have been comfortable calling Richard Sherman the N-word, felt perfectly comfortable calling him a 'thug' and everyone would have known what they were talking about. It is no accident that neither Justin Bieber, Molly Cyrus, or hockey players exhibit far more thuggish behavior that Richard Sherman, but who are never referred to as thugs and who are given opportunities to explain themselves...or not, have never been referred to as 'thugs'. "Lost celebrities"...they're referred to. Even though none of them are much younger than Sherman.

Look, Richard Sherman is a Stanford educated professional football player; the same college that graduated Andrew Luck, QB for the Indianapolis Colts, by the way. He is supposedly going back to school for his Master's Degree. He was an honors graduate from his high school in Compton, CA. He's escaped the desolation of poverty in which he was raised and he is trying to help other youth and children escape as well. These are not the actions of a 'thug'.

Perhaps what Sherman's tirade really shows us is that most of us need a more expansive vocabulary and a less stereotypical imagination.

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