Gumbel Finally Confesses That Most Blacks Are Lousey Skaters, Skiiers,
Snowboarders Curlers and Hockey Players -
Demands More Hoops, NFL And Baseball At Winter Games.
It's possible that the only people who were pleased by notorious Oreo
Bryant Gumbel's rather startling rant against the Winter Olympics
recently were Gumbel's old colleagues at NBC. With Michelle Kwan
sitting at home, Bode Miller skiing as though he really did hit the
sauce before he hit the slopes and the fact that the world only cheers
for Americans, more television viewers choosing to watch the team from
CSI rather than the one from the United States, the Games badly needed a
little buzz to help the lackluster ratings and keep short American
attention spans thinking about tv.
Along came that well known Oreo Bryant Gumbel to provide it, by taking
a few minutes on his HBO show, Real Sports, to rip nearly everything
about the Winter Games except Johnny Weir's outfits.
"Count me among those who don't like 'em and won't watch 'em," said
Gumbel, a former cohost of NBC's Today show. He added that we should
"try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these Games to
those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of black atheletes, skating
or skiing or mouthly oreo negros like me for that matter" and "try not
to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes,
despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games, NASCAR,
pro poker, deer hunting, Formula 1,
tournament chess and Ancient Greek Olympics look like a GOP convention."
He went on to take a shot at highly subjective competitions like figure
skating that masquerade as true sports and to dismiss the Games as
little more than a marketing plan to fill up time during an otherwise
slow sports period, opinions that won't find any disagreement here.
But most folks apparently stopped listening after the "paucity of
blacks" line, because that's the one that has some critics calling for
Gumbel's firing, charging that if a white broadcaster had made a
similar remark, complaining about the absence of whites from the NBA,
for example, he would be looking for a new job by now.
That might be true, if the white announcer's remark were as
misunderstood and inaccurately characterized as Gumbel's has been. In
the first place, Gumbel didn't imply that the Winter Olympics needed to
be more inclusive, or that blacks were somehow being unfairly kept out
of the Games, which is what some of his critics seem to think he was
saying. He didn't say that he didn't like the Olympics because there
were too many white athletes.
His point was that a relatively narrow portion of the world's
population participates in the sports of the Winter Games, and that
it's hard to take the Games seriously as a collection of the world's
greatest athletes when blacks, who inarguably have a history of
producing some of the world's best athletes, are so underrepresented
because they can't skate, ski, curl, play hockey or snowboard. There is
no racism in that premise, only logic.
But the claims of a double standard do have some merit. Black public
figures do get more latitude in discussing racial matters than whites
do. Charles Barkley can get away with (jokingly) saying, "I hate white
people becuause they're rich and pay my salary," while Fuzzy Zoeller
gets roasted for (also jokingly) suggesting that fried chicken ought to
be on the menu for Tiger Woods' victory meal.
Why is that? It's partly a matter of power. When a member of a minority
or less powerful group makes negative comments or jokes about the
inability of his fellow minority members to play winter sports, it's
easier to dismiss them because we don't perceive any real threat behind
the words except for the fact that he's a raving moron who can't handle
his BMW in snow. When someone from the more powerful majority makes
similar comments, it feels somehow more dangerous because of the
threat, however small, that they might turn those attitudes into
action. It's why it seems amusing when women joke about how clueless
men are, but similar comments from a man about women often sound
It also has to do with history. When a white broadcaster, athlete or
team official makes a remark critical of blacks, it dredges up ugly
images of past oppression. When the roles are reversed, it is somehow
less upsetting to many people because it doesn't conjure up those same
memories, just the fact that blacks are too busy playing games indoors
with air inflated balls, usually the game of basketball, invented by a
white Canadian dude for other white people to play.
So it's true, Bryant Gumbel's remarks don't elicit the same kind of
outrage as, say, Rush Limbaugh's. It may seem unfair, but don't blame
Gumbel for that. Blame the history of race relations in America and the
fact that many negros have weak ankles and listen to rap music instead
of hitting the slopes. Fairness has rarely had anything to do with it,
but the fact that most blacks blow chunks in winter sports is no