I will preface this by saying, I am making a generalization knowing that it will be grossly inaccurate and not representative of every white man even though sometimes it seems like it applies to them all.
Sports is a universal language. Everyone appreciates athletic competition and games of skill. It is one of the most talked about topics amongst most men, particularly young men. The primary topics in the barber shop are sports, politics and women. The problem is that it is used as an ice breaker for white men when talking to Black men regardless of the circumstances or the age of the Black man. When used under certain circumstances, it is disrespectful and demonstrates a profound lack of courage and basic human understanding. Let me put it another way that may be more relatable, if you are a nervous white person talking to a Black man and you try to tell a joke to break the tension, the worse thing you could possibly do is tell a bad joke or one that has racial overtones. The sports questions are as bad if not worse because we as Black men expect to hear something come out of a white man’s mouth that has no racial consideration or thoughtfulness. But when a Black man that is known for his intellectual ability is asked “Did you play baseball?” almost the first time that he encounters a white man in a business setting of any kind, it's like a slap in the face. At the very least, the first thought that come to mind is “Asshole” or “Idiot”.
So brothers, we are united in our indignation and unmitigated lack of understanding that compels white men to repeatedly do the same dumbass thing. I am convinced they are aware of the stupidity of the statements but do it out of fear and discomfort of even having to talk to us without any thought of commonality. They simply can’t imagine that we could have anything in common besides sports. It is so stupid that I imagine straight up punching them in the face the second the words leave their mouth. Lately, this is the only way I can get through the encounter without getting angry. I’ve punched them in the face and now they are sucking air and trying to regain their balance. Once the appropriate time has passed, I say something generic like “I am really glad I came to this event, there seems to be a lot of interesting people”. This allows them to bask in their stupidity while they wonder if I heard them.
I will give you a couple of my all-time greatest idiotic moments.
I was in The Villages, Florida a few months ago – you know – it's where the guy yelled “White Power” while driving his golf cart to a Trump rally. I stopped in a grocery store to pick up some fruit for the rest of my drive home to Tampa. I was sporting my University of Texas, Longhorn ball cap. White guy, about seventy years old, comes up to me from nowhere and says:
I bet you played ball. Let me guess, football. When did you play?, You must of played for Royal. No, no you probably played for Fred. Fred Akers?
Now so far he is talking to himself because I haven’t said a word. I’m standing there holding an orange and I’m thinking – Dam, I only wanted to do a quick stop. Who the fuck is this? So I say, “yeah – back in the day”. I am over fifty years old, still handsome, but let’s get real. Why is this guy asking me if I played football in a grocery store out of nowhere? Its pretty crazy. I know he can see the look on my face, you know, the “Who the fuck are you” look. Then he says:
Yeah, I had this young boy, black boy, that was fast as lightening. Played running back for me, but I knew he was really a wide receiver. I had met Fred at a kind of coaches convention and I told him that I would hate to loose him but I believed he would be great in his offense. If I send him to you, you got to give him a scholarship cause his family is poor. He went down to Texas and started two out of four years. Isn’t that something?
So now I’m thinking the guy may have a little dementia and I am looking around for the person he must be with. I say, “Yeah, that’s something” and I walk away. Before I can get out of the store, the guy comes back to me and tells be where he used to coach and how he knows I must have been good on the field.
This is the kind of shit that happens all the time. Now granted, I am six foot, four inches tall and over 250 pounds. While I am proud to have been the MVP in football and basketball in high school, that was over thirty years ago. What have I been doing for the last couple of decades besides waiting for this asshole to ask me if I played ball.
One more example. Something that happened a very long time ago. It happened in Texas on one of my first jobs out of college. I worked in an office that was responsible for doing technical analysis of healthcare records for clinical trials in medicine. The director of the facility was a loud mouth, relatively little guy that thought he was funny. Since you are an employee, you had to take it because he was in charge.
Everybody knew I was athletic because I was on the intramural basketball team and was one of the better players. So the day after a game, its early and several of us are getting coffee and settling down. He comes in the office to get his coffee and says, I hear you had a good game last night. I say, I played pretty good but most important – we won. He ask, did you play ball in college? I said, I played one year but decided to focus on my studies. He said, Oh, you weren’t very good so decided to try your hand at math? I understand you are bi-lingual too. You speak Jive Talk and English. And laughs in a loud voice. Awkwardly, everyone smiled. Needless to say, I had no comment.
Now this was the other side of the coin. Where your relative lack of sports ability is used to say you do not measure up. All the non-athletic brothers know what I am talking about. When a white man ask you if you played basketball when you are five foot, two inches and barely weigh one hundred pounds. They already know the answer but use the question to suggest you are inferior. That you have no success in life because there is no way you have any other talent. In this instance the imaginary punch in the face works well. Then you wait and say something like “no, but I am an engineer so I think I got the better genes”.
No matter who you are. No matter what your body type or makeup. You encounter the white man that can’t think of any other topic except sports to engage you. He fears you. He does not understand anything about you and has never taken the time to consider who you are as a person. Or any Black man. We are inconsequential to his life. Or so he thinks. Historically, he hasn’t made a dime on his own without the blood, sweat, and tears of a Black man or woman.
The Angry Man
We all know an angry man. It seems he always speaks with passion even when the words appear