Spur-ring Change in an ESPN World

17 Aug

Earlier this month the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs took “one small step for (woman)” when they announced the hiring of the first female game coach in Association history in the person of Becky Hammon, a long time WNBA guard who is currently rostered on Spurs sister organization, the San Antonio Stars.

Side-bar: Sisters in step have to include 2014 Little League World Series ball-players Emma March (VAN) and Mo‘Ne Davis (PHI) who’re leaving their own imprints on the surface of Planet Equality.

Hammon will not be the first woman assistant coach in NBA history. That honor belongs to Lisa Boyer who worked as a Cavaliers practice coach in 2001-02 under John Lucas but was paid by the now defunct WNBA franchise Cleveland Rockers (1997 – 03).

Reigning NBA championship guru, Gregg Popovich, had this to say on the hire:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs (NBA.com / “Spurs / 8-5-14).”

......B.Hammon.wc.cca.5.09.P.Shilikov.1.2m

It remains to be shown this writer, however, if in fact Becky will actually be on Spurs’ payroll or instead compensated indirectly as was Ms. Boyer back in 2001 (“terms of the (Hammon) contract were not announced,” as is “club policy” / “Spurs” / NBA.com).

One would guess the Spurs go all in and make BH an official NBA coach upon conclusion of this WNBA season, her last, and then buckling-on her spurs for duty.

Side-bar sequel: Bear in mind Spencer Tracy’s (Drummond: Inherit the Wind (‘60)): “Progress was never a bargain, you have to pay for it.” Will more girls rising to higher levels of play simply mean more youngsters will feel pressured into using PEDs?

But while San Antonio and NBA look to’ve taken a step forward for gender equality, Disney’s sport media arm ESPN, the self-anointed “worldwide leader” in all things athletic, seem to have taken “one giant leap (backward) for mankind” when they recently opted for suspention (suspension + vacation) of their acerbic & self-satisfied First Take co-host, Stephen Smith, rather than outright dismissal, after Smith made dicey dialogue in wake of the NFL’s suspension of troubled Ravens’ run-back, Ray Rice.

......R.Rice.wc.cca.8.17.10.USAF-SS.B.Hughes.1.36m

The general Rice facts:

The Ravens’ star and then girlfriend Janay Palmer were both arrested in February for a disturbance at an Atlantic City hotel. The event occurred in an elevator where, upon exit, Rice was seen on video pulling Palmer, apparently out cold, into the hallway. Rice was charged with 3° aggravated assault. The next day both were married. In May, he entered a not guilty plea seeking entrance into a State “pretrial intervention program” or in alternative, a plea bargain requiring A/M counseling (“Ray” / NFL.com (AP) / 5-1-14).

In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the League’s punishment: a two-game suspension for Rice to start the 2014-15 season.

What exactly transpired in the elevator has not been made public and Rice is not talking, or, as ESPN’s Keith Olbermann has put it, Ray has not “owned up.”

The fact Rice was initially arrested, then indicted (GJ) in what looks to be an absence of mitigating facts that Palmer’s prone state was internally or drug induced, leaves only one reasonable assumption: she was victim of a serious, physical blow by the accused.

.......R.Goodell.8.30.12.wc.cca.2.9m.SSG.T.Wade.USMA

Goodell’s taken flak for what some see as serving up ‘punishment light’ in the Rice case, and that on top of what could seem to the casual observer as a kid-gloved prosecution.

I was in that camp myself early on, disappointed in what appeared a lack of leadership by Atlantic County prosecutor and NFL headquarters both. But I’ve come around.

When a party (Palmer) appears to have little or no desire to see the system of justice carried to its fullest extent, stronger evidence is wanting, the other party (Rice) is 1st time offender and precedent looms, ‘book throwing’ is out of the question . That’s this.

And keep in mind too that Goodell is hardly lacking in the wherewithal department when it comes to punishing wrongdoers, as Bountygate and Bullygate suspensions attested.

While my heart says Ray got off easy, the brain says Goodell’s 2-game ban was prudent.

But curiously, prudence proves a poor substitute where public perception demands more.

In the public’s eyes, League’s response to Rice speaks to a woeful lack of concern on the issue of domestic violence against women. Due to that perception, right or wrong as it is, NFL’s hard-on-the-eyes, pink-wear campaign, designed to aid fight versus breast cancer, with a welcome up-tick in female fandom, could experience a consumer backlash.

NFL’s actions on Rice are somewhat shaped by precedent, not so, for ESPN.

State crime codes, along w/ ancient mores & norms, provide that a person is permitted, even encouraged, to defend themselves or others in close proximity if under a physical threat that’s imminent, unavoidable (locales vary on retreat), presents threat of bodily harm and the force used is reasonable & necessary to repeal the threat.

Might such a defense be what Mr. Rice claimed: a physical force used on Palmer in the elevator was justifiable?

And this is where Mr. Smith’s comment red-flags.

On ESPN, Stephen used the word “provoke” to describe how generally, one (Palmer?) may help to bring about a physical retort by their own behavior. The concept self-defense would’ve sufficed there, but then, what self-respecting macho man wants to publicly admit to such a need in the presence of a woman?

Putting aside cheap word games, the question of force reasonably necessary arises.

A punch, slap, physical aggression from any adult, whichever gender, can be hurtful, even deadly serious. America’s female correctional facilities do not lack for residents.

But Ray Rice has thighs the size of tree trunks, arms as big as logs, and twice as fast.

That he appeared no worse for wear in video, albeit, not the clearest imagery, while Janay was laid-out prone on the hotel carpet, strongly suggests Rice was either the aggressor or at least exceeded his grant in S/D, or “provok(ery),” if you prefer.

.......S.Smith.wc.cca.7.31.10.Diversity1.101k

Smith is more than simply a TV commentator, he’s a network motif.

Beginning around 2012, the CT-based media giant swung to a different tack.

Stephen became the mid-day face of the new ESPN, a hip-hop happening network where everyone’s touchin’ screen, movin’ & groovin,’ but where at times you may feel you’re inside a big cocktail shaker: one part Ketel One® vodka, other, Real Housewives.

Then there’s old man Skip Bayless, the former face, back when his very popular 1st and 10 segment ruled the ratings but which was then surprisingly given the boot, who’s been demoted to the George “Gabby” Hayes saddle, i.e., side-kick.

ESPN’s new mission: youthenize, everything & always. These folk used to set the standard. Now they just drive in the same tired trends.

First shake-up, ditch the old reliables like Classic and ESPN News, in same manner CNN dumped Headline News for hardcore gossip. As if kids couldn’t handle quality.

In its place: ESPNU (can’t get enough SEC redo & Title IX), radio-TV amalgamations and their double-dip commercial spots, a flagship program (Sportscenter) that, when it’s not reduced to ticker-tape status at screen’s bottom is so packed to the port-holes w/teen soundtracks, club-wear dress & talking heads you’d think you were at a discothèque.

Enter Stephen, who joined forces with cocky kindred spirits C. Cowherd, T. Kornheiser and spit-sure, ex-jocks like Ted Bruschi, Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley as members in ESPN’s AKC: All-Knowing Club.

And the kids, like the adults who tune-in religiously to shock-jockery AM radio, eat it up like it were a Skittle®-coated, Oreo®-cookie ice-cream bar, so the Suits think.

If ESPN president John Skipper (2012) and Disney cohorts think for one minute that the new face and his line (“provoke”) will continue passing muster with the viewership they so desperately court (kids and women), they’ve got another thing coming.

But that’s one of the many beauty-marks on the monopoly figure: she’s never wrong, and when she is, she’s not. Hey, you want all-in, metaphors come with admission. Welcome to equality.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Posted: 8-17 @ 6:44 pm, EST
Photo credit: B.Hammon / wc.cca / P.Shilikov – 5.09 (x2);  R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSg – T.Wade / USMA / 2.9m;  R.Rice / wc.cca / 8.17.10 / USAF – SSg B.Hughes;  S.Smith / wc.cca / 7.31.10 / Diversity1 / 101k.

Edit: 8/17 @ 8:48pm

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