Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy Rudy Fernandez Day

In case you haven't heard, Rudy Fernandez will be arriving at Portland International Airport soon. Consistent with the hysteria with which Rip City citizens have surrounded the man, a mass of folks plan on showing up (2) to greet him. Driving into the DeceptivelyQuick satellite HQ this morning, I heard local sports radio urging people to take an early lunch and head to the airport to cheer for the man. The hype tornado continues.

I hate to ruin a good hero-worship session, but I am starting to feel like I am either the last sane Blazer fan or the only insane one. I am still confused as to why nobody is at least discussing his apparent ignorance (1 , 2).

When that infamous slant-eyed photo hit the news, I looked forward to reading some of Rip City’s premier bloggers discuss the photograph. I was sure it was coming. It seemed important given Rip City’s obsession with Rudy, with having “good guys” on the team, and with the sizable and growing Asian population in the Portland-metro area.

I was naive.

Obviously, not all blogs could be expected to delve into the issue. For example, the ones earning pay checks from Paul Allen. Indeed, Trail Blazers Center Court wasn’t about to touch the controversy. In a bit of unintentional comedy, on August 12th, shortly after the photo hit major spots like Deadspin, Center Court posted an entry entitled “Everything you need to know about Rudy Fernandez in four pictures.” The most famous picture to date featuring Rudy was not included. Must not be important.

Center Court has the excuse of being team owned, as does Mike Barrett’s Blog. It was far more disappointing to me to see how the controversy was covered by Rip City blogs that are Vulcan-free. The best of these are Blazers Edge and the Oregonlive Blazers Blog. These places are where to turn to read talented writers who don’t have anything in their job descriptions related to towing the Blazers company line. Their importance can’t be emphasized enough. And they both ignored this.

Dave and Ben, the excellent Blazers Edge writers, have combined for 66 stories to date that carry the Rudy Fernandez tag. You can spend hours in the archives devouring in depth analyses of Rudy’s game. You won’t find one discussing the photo. All the site has to offer on the topic is a thread posted by a commentor. The comments are great on Blazers Edge, but the bulk of us visit the site interested in what Dave and Ben have to say. We’re still waiting. We’re still waiting for Sean Meagher at Oregonlive to give us his perspective as well.

For a fan base that screamed of a need for "good guys" for years, why the free pass for Rudy? Do we just want to ignore the negativity for a while and bask in the warm fuzziness? Maybe. Is it related to the fact that Rudy's skin color is close to the vast majority of Blazer fans? I hope not. It would sure be interesting to hear what others have to say.



Half-Pint said...

Well put, DQ. But you definitely are not the only remaining in[sane] Blazer fan. Perhaps the public's desire to deny the truth stems from their even greater desire to find someone to "make things better"?

Jack Brown said...

Thanks, we'll see if anyone cares. So far, not really.

Matt O. said...

It is important to remember that not all countries have the same history of racial prejudice as America. I have not researched Spain's history as far as Chinese immigration, but I think it is safe to assume that Spain has less Chinese/Asian citizens than America and therefore less of a history of prejudice against them. So (and since I have not done the research on Chinese immigration and prejudice in Spain, keep in mind that I can't say this with certitude), is it possible that we are projecting our history of horrible prejudice against the Chinese onto a culture (the Spanish)without that same history, and if this is true, isn't it possible that removed from this history of prejudice, the motivation behind the gestures in the photograph have an entirely different meaning than if they came from American players.

Matt O. said...

Sorry, horrible last sentence, corrected like this, "the motivation, meaning and understanding behind the gestures in Spain are entirely different from the motivations, meaning and understanding of those same gestures in America."

Jack Brown said...

Consider that after the photo hit Team Spain was booed by the Chinese in Beijing. Whatever the intentions behind the photo, that should give you an idea of how it was received.

Obviously, the team wasn't trying to offend anyone. But obviously, they did. Because Team Spain doesn't see it as offensive means they get a free pass? Really?

matt said...

Not a free pass, but it seemed to me that the Spanish players really had no notion that what they did was prejudiced, and while in America we think of this as completely insensitive (because of our history of prejudice), it could also mean that the Spanish players are, in this case, completely unprejudiced and see nothing wrong with Asian eyes. (You seem to be coming from a position that there is actually something negative about narrower eyes. All negative connotations about the eyes come from America/Western Imperialists' (and remember that Spain has never been an imperial power in the far east. It was mostly France, England, the Dutch, and America.) history of prejudice i.e. horrible caricatures, white actors taping there eyes and playing asians in 50's movies, etc. If you come from a culture without these examples of prejudice, than those eyes have no negative connotations and are instead just eyes. It would be like an American athlete wearing a blonde wig and clogs to an Olympics held in Sweden. It is not culturally sensitive or correct, but it's not horrible either) So maybe we don't need to demonize the Spanish basketball team but instead inform them that those perfectly beautiful eyes have been made into a symbol of racial hatred by another culture and that to make that gesture is offensive.
This argument does not come from a belief that Rudy is a good person, but from the belief that Pau Gasol would not knowingly commit public relations suicide right after signing with the most globally recognized basketball franchise in the world.
However, it is also possible that the Spanish basketball team consists entirely of racist assholes and the gesture means the same thing there as it does here. I just think it is possible that we are being hypocritical by talking a big game about cultural tolerance, while we condemn a group of people without taking the time to look at their culture (BECAUSE PREJUDICE IS A PRODUCT OF CULTURE).
Peace out.

Jack Brown said...

Nice points. And keep in mind why I raised this issue. Not because I was calling anybody racist or trying to attach blame. I wrote this entry because it seemed unusual to me that there was ZERO discussion of this by local media.

Your comments here are more than any Portland-media people delved into the topic. That seems strange. Given our obsession with Rudy, why would they blatantly side step the topic?

Maybe its just an indicator of people being uncomfortable broaching the subjects of race and culture. Maybe they just want to feel the good vibes and not deal with any potential unpleasantness.

I don't know.

But keep in mind, there is definitely a significant Chinese population in Spain. And things have not always been so great for them.

Also, very blatant racism is alive and well in Spain. Stuff like that makes them hard to defend when these types of incidents keep arising.

Anonymous said...

Matt, you raise some good points here, but I would like to point out the fact that the Chinese crowd boo'd the Spanish national team when they took the court. That then says to me that the Chinese fans didnt quite appreciate the gesture. I dont think it was a blatant racist move, I just thought it was culturally insensitive, immature, and completley unnecessary, given the circumstances....Racism due to skin tone, narrow eyes, etc is not just a product of America, but exists throughout the world, even within asian countries. In any event, I dont think DQ is making Rudy out to be racist, but rather somewhat naive, and in for a bit of a culture shock with his move stateside, where, as this post proves, things like this photo are dissected and blown up.


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