By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
Amar’e Stoudemire just discovered that the nouveaux media landscape and its myriad social networks are filled with semantic landmines – around which he didn’t tiptoe so quietly this week.
Stoudemire was just fined 50 grand by Stu Jackson, one of the NBA’s Lords of Discipline – yes, that’s a gratuitous cinematic reference starring my boy Mark Breland – for tweeting a gay slur at a fan who implored Stoudemire to do better this season, along with this New York Knickerbockers.
Disclaimer: I don’t advocate slurs against any race, religion, or sexual orientation.
But I do say that if you were a kid in NYC in the 1970s or ‘80s (as I was) the new, taboo terms were tossed around so promiscuously that you’d have thought we were premature truckers.
And if my old man pinched my allowance for using salty language, I’d never have the $3 it cost to watch Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy, both men catalysts of a new vernacular, if not a lifestyle.
Almost every young man is imbued with a certain homophobia. Or at least we were. It was wrong, and life taught us the truth. Call it enlightenment. But if you were anywhere around the five boroughs back in the day you invariably stewed in some melting pot, in which every ethnic slur known to humans was slung with impunity. As the rare white kid on the court, I was called everything from “Casper” to “Opie” to “ The Flaming Torch” (because of my red hair). It was all in the game, and everyone got a piece, national origin be damned.
Is it good that we can’t speak our minds anymore? We can’t say for sure. We know we need to keep it tight, among the closest kin and oldest friends. Otherwise, something seen as innocuous back in 1985 is now nuclear.
We can’t be proud obscenity and rampant bullying that exists in every school, from, say, second grade on. But this hypersensitivity to everything belched off the cuff is disconcerting.
From the Bible to the Magna Carta to the Constitution, we’ve learned that properly weaved words can change the world. But it seems we’re facing an odd dichotomy when it comes to speech. As kids we’re told about Sticks and Stones, yet as adults everything offends us.
Does the lightening of Amare’s wallet really change anything? Are locker rooms no longer teeming with testosterone? Do you not thing the very word for which he was spanked still isn’t showered on athletes like so many bills they drop on strippers? Yes, these questions are rhetorical.
I’m just a dumb sportswriter, far too obtuse for highbrow items like this. But sports I do know, and while STAT just earned a new number on his stat sheet, he, like the Knicks haven’t changed with the times. Indeed, the Knicks haven’t been properly hip since our parents were sitting on their hair in Sheep Meadow. As always, the Knicks make their hay outside the lines, far from any hardihood on the hardwood.
LeBron James didn’t just win his first NBA title and shed every negative, on-court moniker, he just told the Knicks they aren’t winning a title while he’s in Miami. So while Amar’e Stoudemire learned that times have changed, some things remain the same in New York. That’s worth some swearing, when no one is listening.