Follow the Rules and Make it Easier for Journalists

I would have posted this picture even if it didn't go along with the story.

One of the most important rules of being an Oreo is not to congregate with other Oreos. Doing this is obviously dangerous for an Oreo because it may cause you to start relating to other of colors on about things related to being of color and then your years of repression are as ruined as a salmon frittata cooked at 375 instead of 350.

But it also puts journalists in a sticky situation.

How are sports writers supposed to write about blackletes in typically anglo sports if they can’t call them “The Tiger Woods” of that sport?

Writer Richard Morgan writes about this phenomenon in his article: “The Black Athletes Who Don’t Play Basketball.”

In 2005, The New York Times noted that Kyle Harrison and John Walker were both considered simultaneous Tiger Woodses of lacrosse — and that wasn’t even counting the other two black lacrosse players, John Christmas and Harry Alford, who were layered onto the story as icing.

Adolfo Cambiaso is the “Tiger Woods of polo,” according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and according to Vanity Fair in May of 2009. Unfortunately, Jabarr Rosser, then a 10th grader in West Philly, was already named as a potential Tiger Woods of polo in the Philadelphia City Paper, way back in 2001.

If only Kyle, John, John or Harry had paid attention to the rules, they wouldn’t have put the NYT and Vanity Fair in such an awkward position. And we’ve seen how much VF wants to get imagery right.

Morgan continues:

Phil Ivey is, by all accounts, the Tiger Woods of poker. Although, given that he earned $17 million in three days of playing–and another $7 million in online poker–he doesn’t need endorsement deals the way Woods does.

Kelly Slater, the part-Syrian Australian, is or is not the Tiger Woods of surfing, depending on who you ask.

Jeremy Sonnenfeld was, for a while, the Tiger Woods of bowling—due to his age, not his ethnicity. England’s Robert Fulford was the Tiger Woods of croquet, again due to his age—though he was in competition for this title with Jacques Fournier. Same with the white Englishman Phil Taylor, the Tiger Woods of darts (and, by The Independent‘s measure, “Britain’s greatest living sportsman”). Although that was 2001, well before The Independent got around to writing about Lewis Hamilton, the young black Briton who is the Tiger Woods of F1 racing.

But if you are going to start crowding a non power sport with more than one person of color in it, be sure to do it correctly. Morgan describes how sports writers prefer to write about these anomalies.

Sports journalism tends to be celebratory, regardless of who is the focus of the story. With black athletes in atypical sports, stories rely on showcasing the player’s rare talent and fierce determination that have blessed him or her with the power to overcome whatever obstacles have kept blacks from joining, say, fencing teams in the past. It’s a very Billy Elliot version of The Blind Side.

But, as with The Blind Side, the story often becomes about how it takes a village of white people to transform a troubled kid by means of civilizing leisure. There’s the white adoptive family, the white coaches, the white private-school teachers, the white personal tutor.

See! While a high profile career in sports requires mostly insanely intense focus, determination, strength and a high pain tolerance, there is also a secret ingredient…if you’re of color. I don’t think we need to watch the video again to remind us of what that secret ingredient is, but just in case you wanna, here it is.

Aaaand, in case you’re worried that all these Tiger Woods of whatevers will make it more difficult for you to stand out at your next lacrosse meet or equestrian trial, don’t worry, Chris Rock is here to remind us of things of colors shouldn’t do…so that we Oreos can proudly go forth, do them and confuse!

His upcoming movie, The First Star, tells the story of people being baffled by black skiiers. Much the way Essence was, Morgan says a few years back.

in 1989, Essence ran a story on the National Brotherhood of Skiers; they marveled at “the sight of all those sisters and brothers at the summit, out there on the mountain at the crack of dawn, even after partying all night.

Oh, right…Essence is a black magazine…don’t worry. I only learned that in research for this post.

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