Photo Credit: Fox News
By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach (11-11-12)
As a patriot and in order to strengthen the two-party system in US politics, what follows is a prescription to be immediately administered to some on the far right of the GOP to help them better deal with an acute fear of emerging US electoral demographic dynamics, using what I call my GOP 12-Step Affirmative Action Program – inspired by the life of National Basketball Association (NBA) Hall of Famer and Indiana native Larry “Legend” Bird.
By way of background, until 1950, the NBA was segregated against Afro-Americans. Earl “Big Cat” Lloyd was drafted from West Virginia State College (hometown, Alexandria, VA), and the first to play in an NBA game — for the Washington Capitols.
It wasn’t easy for Afro-Americans in those days. “I remember in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we stayed at a hotel where they let me sleep, but they wouldn’t let me eat. They didn’t want anyone to see me…” said Floyd.
Over time, things changed in Indiana. Case-in-point, battleground Indiana went for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, although Mitt Romney took it in 2012 – perhaps raising false hopes for Romney supporters on Election Night.
Historically, southern Indiana is credited with spawning the modern-day Ku Klux Klan and that’s the cultural milieu of the 1950’s and 60’s that Larry Joe Bird grew up in – poor and the fourth of six children. Bird came of age in the town of French Lick, later earning him the nickname “the hick from French Lick.”
His mom, Georgia, was a waitress, his dad Claude Joseph “Joe” Bird, was laborer, who had occasional bouts of drinking and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, stemming from his military service in Korea. Joe Bird committed suicide when [Larry] Bird was 18, saying the family would be better off without him.
When he was in the “sixth or seventh grade” Bird says he couldn’t wait for school to be out so he could play pick-up basketball games with the older and better-skilled Afro-Americans waiters who worked at a hotel near his home.
“They let me play,” said Bird in an HBO documentary: Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals. “I always looked at that…as I got a chance to play against the black man, and they treated me good,” he added.
After a great high school basketball career, Bird quit legendary Coach Bobby Knight’s Indiana University basketball program and dropped out of IU after 24 days. He said his mother didn’t speak to him for two months.
He cut grass and hauled trash for the French Lick public works department for about a year before being coaxed to Indiana State where the Sycamores put together a perfect 33-0 season – ultimately suffering a bitter loss to rival Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA final.
The predominantly white NBA of the 50’s and 60’s gave way to the “blackening” of the league by the late 70’s; so much so that the New York Knickerbockers were then known colloquially and coarsely as the “New York N-word-bockers.” White-viewer interest in televised professional basketball waned.
Bird and Magic renewed their rivalry in the NBA. Within a few years of Bird joining the storied Boston Celtics and Magic signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, CBS resumed the for-years-suspended live coverage of NBA basketball featuring the slick “Showtime” style of Magic’s predominantly black Lakers against Bird’s mostly white, so-called “lunch-pale carrying, blue-collar” Celtics.
At the time, Boston was settling from ethnic strife between Afro-Americans and whites still smarting from violent confrontations over court-ordered busing to integrate the public schools.
But “race was never an issue with Larry Bird,” said Bird’s Celtic Afro-American teammate Cedric Maxwell. “He was just a guy who wanted to kick some [expletive deleted]…and win,” he added.
Bird’s position was and is “…It don’t mean anything to me. It never has. I don’t know why. I mean, am I doing something wrong here?” said Bird to HBO.
Bird didn’t complain about the changing demographics of the league or about “lost traditions” or ever talked about ‘taking our league back.’ He played hard, played fair and won 3 championships and 3 NBA Most Valuable Player Awards.
He didn’t whine about his prospects or mourn archaic or prohibitive NBA traditions or take his ball home when he lost a big game. Nor did he take guff from Afro-American, or any other players for that matter, or claim to be colorblind.
“I just wanted to prove that a white boy who couldn’t run and couldn’t jump could play this game.” Bird has said.
In the 65-plus year history of the NBA, Bird is the only person (white, black or otherwise) to be named League MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year – which he accomplished in an era when the demographical evolution of the league starkly trended away from being wholly dominated by white men, to become dominated by Afro-Americans.
Larry Bird’s story is a uniquely American one and as unlikely as is President Obama’s life narrative. Both sagas are worthy of celebration by us all and give hope to all Americans of all ethnicities. It is in that spirit that I offer this balm in Gilead – my GOP 12-Step Affirmative Action Program for those who are near spasmodic over the 2012 election. There is hope. There is healing.
1. Even if your brain trust is legendary, if it’s not helping you achieve your desired results, get a new one (Symptom: High tolerance to prolonged exposure to televised pundit meltdowns)
2. Be tough – No whining and no excuses when things don’t go your way (Symptom: Experiencing continued verbal aspirations of those who predicted a Romney landslide)
3. Work hard and work with the best, even if they look different from you – combine your transferable traditions with new cultural idioms (Symptom: Compulsion to shout “We are going to take our country back”)
4. Color-blindness is not necessary; Color-fear is ridiculous (Symptom: Amos and Andy are the only black people you know)
5. Find people who believe in you (Symptom: Problem choosing alliances and building coalitions and you attract people who believe that a job is more important than your health)
6. Live and let live and people will work and play well with you (Symptom: Propensity to legislate personal lifestyle choices of others and toward building fences around anything south of your home)
7. Acceptance that you can only build a winning team with the human resources that exist in the present and that diversity abounds (Symptom: Inability to digest food in the presence of a 2010 US Census Bureau Report)
8. Don’t trash an exceptional rival, mimic him or her (Symptom: Delusional belief that Stepin Fetchit could become editor of the Harvard Law Review)
9. Acknowledge that most people don’t want your “stuff” (Symptom: Irresistible paranoid feeling that someone wants to take your gun)
10. Commit to not embarrass your mother (Symptom: Uncontrollable tendencies toward voter suppression)
11. You can come from the most lily-white, dirt-poor, KKK-spawning environment and still achieve in America and lead others – including Afro-Americans – to greatness, without being angry or afraid (Symptom: Failure to acknowledge that Red states lead the nation in consumption of government entitlements)
12. Evolve. Do not patronize those who market in divisiveness (Symptom: Irresistible urge to host a screening party to watch D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation or “The Best of GOP 2012 Election Night Punditry”)
WARNING: Moderate Republicans, Compassionate Conservatives and/or Center-Right Progressives should use these steps sparingly and they should only be administered in the presence of a registered Afro-American Republican or Rev. Al Sharpton (if not available, Rev. Jesse Jackson will do) to avoid experiencing an overwhelming overdose of empathy; leading to unpredictable side-effects including, smiling at unknown Afro-Americans and inviting known Afro-Americans to your home for a fried chicken dinner and to watch reruns of Good Times.
Serious Note: Larry Bird does not endorse my Larry Bird-inspired GOP12-step AA program nor has he any known history of substance abuse; nor is the reference here to a 12-step model intended in any way to be disrespectful to those suffering from the disease of alcoholism. The writer constructed this model completely out of whole cloth and acknowledges that Larry Bird would likely want no part in this exercise.