Thursday, March 11, 2010

Celtics vs. Lakers in the 80s and Race

Today, I was struck by an editorial by ESPN.com journalist Howard Bryant, an African-American who grew up in Boston's violent civil rights crucible of Dorchester when racial tensions were at their peak. His take on the new HBO documentary based on the Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird rivalry: race is the dog that didn't bark. Very interesting and well-written piece; read here.

3 comments:

Jeremy said...

That's a good read especially in that it doesn't generalize out from the unrest in Boston. There are many locales that could tell a similar story, but not all - and the narrative of those who experienced the other side of human nature is what is missing.

I would like to see a follow-up from a West Coast Lakers fan. I don't recall LA latching onto Kurt Rambis over Magic, Kareem, AC, Worthy. It's a bit of a non-sequitur since his talent didn't match Bird's, but it would at least nuance the conversation.

This is an admittedly biased viewpoint, but California seems to present a much more complex case. Though I vaguely remember Fernando Mania growing up in SF (where I grew up), I vividly recall the many people of East Asian ancestry packing Candlestick when Hideo Nomo's Dodgers were in town. What I don't recall is anyone from the area disparaging either player for their race.

Maybe I've whitewashed that part of my life, but I do remember my father admonishing an Atlanta Braves fan (who was from Utah, I think) for some xenophobic comments targeting Nomo. But my dad was a Dodger fan, which can't be disaggregated from his anti-racist act.

SM Sprenger said...

Call me naive, but I never even considered any black/white angle in the rivalry between LA and Boston. It was Magic and Kareem all the way for me.

Robert J. Hudson said...

Maybe I'm just more sensitive to it having grown up in post-Adolph Rupp Kentucky. Howard Bryant is certainly sensitive to it--he also has an entire book on race and Boston Red Sox baseball. However, you make a good point, Scott: from the Lakers point of view it was never about race. For LA, it was just "Showtime Lakers". Boston, according to Bryant and Bill Russell, is an entirely different story.