Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History  CSPAN  February 6, 2016 8:00pm-9:16pm EST

8:00 pm
telecom communities and the defense community to find a happy medium where people can get the spectrum they need without sacrificing capabilities. the argument is being made, why is it ok for us to be regulated by the fcc when other companies that also collect a lot of data, like facebook or google, do similar things with that? the flipside is that groups say well, you are not just controlling where they go, but how they get there. >> wat >> matthew andrews of the university of north carolina talks about the racial tensions of the 1980's as reflected in sports.
8:01 pm
when white and black athletes faced off in basketball and .oxing which conversations and disagreements over racial issues took place. this class is about one hour and 10 minutes. matthew: we have been exploring the question of gender and women's rights and sports. we will return our focus to race relations. we're going to explore what i like to call the return of the great white hope in the 1980's. you know all about the original great white hope. you did research on it. jim jefferies in 1910. he comes out of retirement's and white racedeem the war righ
8:02 pm
and defeat jack johnson. was unsuccessful. he failed. in the 1980's there were a few white athletes who are thought of in the same way. these were white athletes that white americans hoped would score symbolic victories in sports and the attitudes towards these athletes suggested that perhaps the nation had not come as far as many people like to thank. think. states may have entered what commentators were calling a post-civil rights era. the 1970's and the 1980's. clearly race was still meaningful. racial anxiety still existed. to illustrate these anxieties we are going to explore these anxieties in a few minutes. he will explain where they can come from.
8:03 pm
you all know how much i liked boxing and prize fighting. it is the last one all semester. savor the experience. i'm going to tell you about the 1982 fight between larry holmes and jerry cody. gerry cooney. the heavyweight champion ship of the world. this was boxing's last great fight between a white fighter and a black fighter. it left the murderous racial hysterics of the johnson jefferies fight behind. but like that fight, it was both a sporting event and it was a racial from a. a serious and intense racial drama. larry holmes was the champion.
8:04 pm
he was a tremendous heavyweight champion. but he was the victim of bad timing. he is the first great champion right after mohammed ali. you all know about mohammed ali. fact he defeated an older and out of shape mohammed ali in 1880. 1980. never got the credit he deserved because he was not as charismatic as ali. he was a skilled boxer, he had very fast hands, he was a very big man with a hard heavy punch. he had serious knockout blows. ooney he wast c undefeated. he was 39-0. was an irish american from new york.
8:05 pm
prices through the toxic ranks. he becomes famous for two main reasons. like homes, such amend tremendous puncher. he has very very hard. he ended many of his fight with early knockouts. but second, and there are no two ways about it, he is popular because he is white. that has a lot to do with his popularity. after decades of heavyweight boxing being dominated by black fighters and black champions. floyd patterson, sonny liston, mohammed ali, and now larry holmes. here was a white possibility. a great white hope. a white american who might reclaim the heavyweight title. this fight takes place in june .f 1982
8:06 pm
there is an interesting coincidence going on. movie in thester iii.ers, rocky let's talk about rocky. any rocky fans out there? ok. arefirst two rocky movies films in which a white italian-american boxer fights a cocky flashy brash black heavyweight champion, apollo creed. i'm going to ruin the ending for you. rocky is a heavy underdog in the first film 19 loses of the first film. he loses in a split decision. no one thinks he's going to do well. he does remarkably well but he
8:07 pm
does not win. in the next movie he knocks out apollo creed in the most implausible boxing scene ever filmed. rocky wins. these were both very popular movies. these are movies about race and american history. though fictional characters, rocky balboa and apollo creed are meant to signify and represent real fighters. muhamed ali.is there is no doubt about it. he is brash and cocky and the heavyweight champion. he is black. is ali. rocky balboa is accommodation of a couple fighters. from theky marciano
8:08 pm
perspective of the 1980's marciano was the last white heavyweight champion. he was 49-0 over his career. he was champion from 1952 to 1956. never lost about. the only heavyweight who can say that. when mohammed ali was dominating boxing in the 60's and 70's there are always those who said yeah, but he can't beat rocky marciano. we get that fight in these movies. the other fighter that balboa is is joe frazier. you know a lot about joe frazier. we watched a documentary about him. he's from philadelphia as is joe frazier. rocky trains by punching slabs of beef as does joe frazier.
8:09 pm
we watched the frazier documentary and got a sense of how badly white americans wanted frazier to be ali. frazier was there hope against .li one way of reading the rocky is to saye first two that rocky is white americans revenge fantasy against mohammed ali. they couldn't beat them in the ranks with fictional characters going to do it for us. here is rocky taking it to apollo. these rocky movies exist.
8:10 pm
cooney fight takes place at the same time as the third rocky movie. in that movie rocky fights a black fighter played by mr. t. the promoters trying to link cooon with rocky. ey here's the cover of time magazine with gerry cooney and sharing theboa cover of the nation's most important news even though h. was theugh larry holmes champion this fight was all about cooney.
8:11 pm
their promoter of the fight, john king, a man about as subtle said this is a black and white fight. this is about race. cooney was very clear, he said it has nothing to do with race. promoters talked about race every chance they got and they knew this would sell tickets and spur interest in the fight. larry holmes got so tired of all the talk about race and he jerry cody isid ooney is the great white hoax.
8:12 pm
takes place in las vegas, june 11, 1982. 32,000 spectators. millions more watching oni pay-per-view. here's an interesting facts. the las vegas police department employed their swat team and surrounded the arena. snipers were pointing their guns went inrowd as they wai because they were death threats revolving around this fight. members of the ku klux klan had said that they would assassinate larry holmes if he won the fight. black militant organizations said they would be arms and if any harm comes to larry holmes we are going to do something to jerry cody. cooney.
8:13 pm
cooney's dressing room was equipped with a phone line so that president ronald reagan could call and congratulate him on the victory. there was no phone line in larry holmes's dressing room. the president was not interested in congratulating larry holmes if you want. once both fighters were in the ring, the ring announcer .ntroduced larry holmes first it was a long-standing tradition in boxing that the champion was introduced second. the champion was always introduced the last. it was a position of honor. cooney wasason gerry given that honor. i cannot remember it happening at any other bout.
8:14 pm
lmes was disrespected in the rain. ing. larry holmes says the gerry cooney, let's have a good fight. ira member hearing that and that was the exact moment that i became a larry holmes fan. this course is not about me. i hope not. 1982 i wasnning of 13 years old and i was a huge sports fan. looking at the sports illustrated covers. my bedroom walls were covered with sports posters. i was very excited about sports.
8:15 pm
and this fight. i remember as this fight got wanting jerrydly cody to beat larry holmes. i grew up in a mostly white mostlyrhood and went to white schools. all of my friends were white. i was reading the sports page. i was reading sports illustrated. i was reading time magazine. the messages that i was getting from these publications was that want gerry cooney to win and black people want to larry holmes to win. i was neither smart enough to know what was going on nor did i have enough self-confidence to be able to break away from that. i bought it.
8:16 pm
i took the bait. thinking that coney somehow represented me. this is the way ideas about race are created in this country. this is how racism operates in this country. you unthinkingly align yourselves with someone because they happen to share the same pigmentation that you have. when larry holmes said have a heel.ight, i felt like a i felt like a dope. . great white dope you read a book about mohammed ali. he said americans have been bamboozled to think in terms of an us against them mentality. a black versus white mentality.
8:17 pm
i bought it. i like to think i don't do that now. this is the way ideas about race are transmitted in sports. very interesting moment i think. it was a very good fight. he came out and was fighting hard. oney inked jerry cody the second round. somehow we managed to get back up. gerry cooney for what many people consider to be the greatest fight of his career. he went to show detail with larry holmes into the late rounds. larry holmes was just better. he was a skilled boxer and a slugger.
8:18 pm
gerry cody was really just a slugger. by the 12th around jerry co oney was so tired he couldn't get his punches up anymore. he hit larry holmes right in the groin. larry holmes was doubled over in pain. he had points deducted from his score. break in the action so larry holmes could recover. his trainer reached into his pants and started massaging his genitals. i became a man that night. [laughter] round, larry holmes gerry cooney down.s
8:19 pm
his trainer throw in the towel and larry holmes remains the champion. he was not a complete hoax but so much of his popularity and so much of the reason for his fame was because of white hope and white hype. larry holmes was right when he said that. this is the opening story to get us into the 1980's. any questions? >> did cooney loses popularity after the fight? matthew: cooney went into
8:20 pm
obscurity after this fight larry holmes and jerry cody became friends after the fight. he never gets a chance to fight for the title again. >> did anything significant happened the night of fight? not like 19it is 10. we are have scores of people getting hurt and dying. but just the fact that it is 1982 and there is still anxieties about a race right happening, it got a lot of people questioning just how far has this country really, with regard to race. yes we've had a civil rights movement and the black power movement but have we really moved beyond racial anxieties? was the public opinion of larry holmes?
8:21 pm
in wouldn't put them the good negro integrationist camp of floyd patterson or sonny liston. people weren't terribly interested in him and that was because he was not mohammed ali. he couldn't talk the way ali could. but who can? the nation wasn't terribly interested larry holmes. cooney.bout gerry and that is goes on inks and hehael spank lost. so he was 48-1.
8:22 pm
the press conference everybody said see, you are no rocky marciano. and he said rocky marciano could not carry my jockstrap. he was tired of all that talk. other questions? let's put this fight into larger historical context. what is going on in the united states at this time? a white backlash to the civil rights and black power movements. for two decades the civil rights and black power movements have .een gaining steam black americans start scoring major civil rights victories through the courts and legislation in the room
8:23 pm
protests. black americans were dramatically protesting racism, they arete 60's dramatically protesting lingering racism in the united states. by the 1970's many white americans began to feel as if become the victims of the civil rights and black are movements. byy were being victimized all the changes. there was a growing belief among many white americans that the nation and specifically the government, the federal were overly fixated on the problems facing black americans. and they were not fairly considering the problems facing white americans. interesting and unfortunate coincidence in timing.
8:24 pm
the gains made by the civil rights and black power movements occurred right at the same time as a steep economic downturn in the united states. decades of the american economy steadily rising . at the start of the 1970's the economy slows and the economy begins to regress. this was due to a number of factors. complicated global factors. the cost of the vietnam war. the rising price of oil. the fact that american companies were now sending jobs overseas. this begins in the early 1970's. many white americans like all americans were feeling the pinch. they were feeling and economic pinch. wages were falling in the 1970's
8:25 pm
and job opportunities were drying up. times were not as good as they have been. rather than look at their declining economic status and blaming these complex global and economic factors. what many white americans did was they blame to people of color. it was almost as if people thought about race as a scale. as white status seem to be going down they noticed that black americans were going up because of the civil rights movement. so it must be their fault. in the 1970's grace became seen race became seen as a zero sum
8:26 pm
calculus. any gains by blacks were seen as losses by whites and vice versa. we could just as easily bring gender into it. make it a white man's story. the status of american male workers was falling. the status of american women was rising. and othernother legislati legislation. many white american men were on the defensive. this is a great example. affirmative action. it begins in the united states in 1965. they begin implementing
8:27 pm
affirmative action policies. the idea is that in order to combat lingering effects of different aspects of must takeociety affirmative action to let applicants of color in. try to desegregate schools. the government needed to take affirmative action to hand out to businesses owned by black americans. aggressive needed to be done to even out the racial scales of the quality. this is the idea behind affirmative action. many white americans saw affirmative action as a total negative. they saw it suddenly they were being victimized by the government's policies.
8:28 pm
they were the victims of racism. reverse racism. this placard says i am a victim of a hate crime, affirmative there was a real growing sense of resentment. a sense that they were under siege and that black rights were not fronting white rights. and that is the rallying cry of whitesklash movement have rights too. don't forget about us. we are being treated unfairly. i will relate this to sports. any questions?
8:29 pm
>> did this can occur in any ?pecific location matthew: it is a national phenomenon. i will be talking about boston. we think perhaps unfairly that it is a southern phenomenon. it is deathly a national phenomenon. boston would be the place we will focus on just a second. let's relate this to sports. just as black americans had latched onto black athletes as symbols of power and deliverance and deliverance in a time of anxiety and a time of unfairness , white americans begin latching
8:30 pm
on to white athletes for exactly the same reasons. in some ways it makes perfect sense that this would happen in the world of sports. of the arenase where black gains were most obvious. sport was becoming the 1970's progressed. african-americans were doing very well in the world of sports. there is one sport particular where this is true. basketball. you know about this moment. 1966. the symbolic moments in basketball. the ncaa title game.
8:31 pm
texas western has an all-black starting five defeated the university of kentucky which was an all-white team. there was a reaction. there was a backlash. some try to undercut the significance of this moment. and try to explain away make it very very ugly. was a great west virginia player who played for the lakers and in 1966 he was an announcer for the phoenix suns, he said that team can do everything with a basketball except autographi it. undercutting their accomplishments. game of college basketball itself changes would texas western wins. their rule changes that are implemented. the coach of kentucky the , hishite kentucky team
8:32 pm
team had been dumped on repeatedly in that 1966 title game. he used his influence to get the ncaa to ban dunking in college basketball. beginning in 1967 dunking was against the rules. it was abolished and made a technical foul. rupp was one of the reasons why this happened. a, amazing center at ucl ew alcindor. they saw him as unstoppable, he is ruining the game, so let's
8:33 pm
get rid of the dunk. you know him as outspoken. believed there was a racial motivation to that change. he said the dunk is one of basketball's great crowdpleasers and there is no good reason to give up except that this and other makers were running away with the sport. are running away with the sport. this is an anti-black change. they did not reinstate the dunk until 1976. we have discussed college
8:34 pm
basketball a lot. we have not discussed pro basketball. the nba was established in 1946. an all-white league. 1950. desegregated in by 1970's the nba was totally integrated. in fact the nba was predominantly black. basketball is an urban sport. it was created to fill the sporting needs suburban americans and people living in
8:35 pm
cities. beginning with the great migration during world war i the northern urban cities were becoming more and more black. an increasingly profited with african-american families. their children played basketball. most of the players were black. this caused a major public relations problem for the nba. people like seeing representations of themselves on the field of play. , theyny white americans no longer felt like they were being represented in the nba.
8:36 pm
they lost interest in the national basketball association. here is the indisputable truths about the nba. in my car to imagine now because the nba is so popular. in the 1970's the nba was not popular. historian who calls that the dark ages of the league. and also as ar play on race. as being tooved black. it had a blackness problem. here's a chart. as the percentage of black there is as up,
8:37 pm
corresponding dip in tv viewership. an interesting blip in 1977. bill walton, that was a year dominated by the portland trail blazers and their fabulous when healthy white center bill walton. are tuning in when bill walton is out there. they are not tuning in what is black players. another factor that helps explain the unpopularity of the
8:38 pm
nba was fighting. there was a ton of fighting. this has a racial angle as well. the nba has really cracked down hard on fighting. it is forbidden. not so in the 1970's. nba games in the 1970's were like hockey games. there were fistfights all the time. every team had an enforcer. they had a guy like maurice a big tough strong guy. his job was to physically intimidate the other team. physically punish the other team's top scorer. to use his fists whenever necessary. we are going to have a fight. had a guy like maurice lucas. moment ways the defining
8:39 pm
was in 1977 with what is known as the punch. the houston rockets were playing at the los angeles lakers in 1977 and there was a fight. the rockets forward rudy comes and itpitch who is white was unclear if you've is coming to join in the fight or if he was coming to break the fight up. a member of the lakers permit washington who is black saw him coming and turned around and through a right cross right into his face. ground anded to the
8:40 pm
there was blood everywhere. jawington had shattered his and his nose. both of his cheekbones. he couldn't breathe. spinal fluid began dripping into his brain. it really looked like he was going to die right there on the court. he did not die. he returned five months later but he was never the same player. he went on to be a coach. in some ways was the defining image of the 1970's. the image of a black man obliterating the face of a white man. it was being criticized on a number of levels.
8:41 pm
people thought it was a selfish kind of play. but they were clearly turning it hadom the nba because a violence problem and have a blackness problem. and many people saw those things is the same thing. a moment that sealed the deal. any questions? joe: was in 1980 magic johnson's first nba finals?
8:42 pm
matthew: i will explain why. it is going to change. you are right to talk about magic johnson. there someone else we need to talk about. the nba is in the depths of unpopularity in the 70's. the saviors arrived. larry bird and magic johnson. the standard line with talking about bird and magic is to say that the nba was going to die had it not been for bird and magic. the nba would eventually figured it out.
8:43 pm
it was going to be ok. what is so remarkable is that magic and bird entered the league in 1980 and they almost instantly transform the image of the league in the american mind. the nba goes from the death of depth of unpopularity into the sporting mainstream by 1984. with magicas to do johnson and larry bird. they are the ones he turns the league around. magic johnson was a brilliant immensely charismatic basketball player. brilliant a uncharismatic but white basketball player. magic's charisma and birds whiteness matter.
8:44 pm
this was the winning combination is going to help the nba over, there iskness problem a paradox here. a sport or a league that is too black is seen as a problem. fueled byhat can be black versus white competition and antagonism, that sells in american sports. again howen again and racial tension sells sports. give me an example. >> johnson versus jefferies.
8:45 pm
1940 seven, jackie robinson's first year in major league baseball is the year that more people went to evidence field than any year and that history. this one black player in this white dominated sport. schmelingand max but nationalism is also a factor. isaac murphy and snapper garrison. they were the biggest show in town in the 1890's. major taylor. cycling was very exciting when it was taylor against the white cyclists. then he was segregated out of the sport. race-based rivalries in sports
8:46 pm
the sociald excite stakes of the event are just raised. it becomes much more than a sporting event. magic and bird come into the nba. of skin color that people think of them as being polar opposites. let me make a case for their remarkable similarities. the similarities far outweigh their differences. 6'8".ere both forwardrd played small and magic johnson played point guard. neither bird nor magic were .specially athletic no incredible speed or explosive jumping ability. but they were two of the smartest most creative and most
8:47 pm
competitive players the nba has ever seen. they demanded everything from their teammates. tremendous leaders both of them. they made everyone around them better. bird and magic were basketball geniuses. a great awareness that i've never seen, the ability to anticipate what was going to happen next for anyone else on the court could do it. they were mirror images of each other. this is interesting. bird and magic first went head-to-head in 1979 in the ncaa championship game. magic johnson's michigan state birdsns defeated larry undefeated indiana state sycamores. magic beat them. this is the highest
8:48 pm
rated college basketball game ever. more people watched this game than any other. ,t is because of bird and magic these two great players. when people talk about the renaissance of college basketball, a sport that is also becoming more unpopular, they point to this game. magic johnson and larry bird three popular rising college .asketball they go their separate ways and they go to the nba. magic goes to los angeles. larry bird goes to boston. opposite coasts. this also helps ensure national interest. larry bird was ashley drafted in 1979. he made it very clear that he .ould not go into the nba the celtics wanted larry bird so
8:49 pm
inly that they drafted him 1979. they said that is fine, you consider set up the whole year. you can't do that anymore. andcan't draft someone claim their rights later. it is actually known as the larry bird rule. celtics badly wanted larry bird. it wasf people thought no coincidence that boston would use a draft pick for great white .layer and wait a whole year it just seemed to fit with the racial outlook of the city in the 1970's. now we need to talk about boston.
8:50 pm
the red sox were the last baseball team to sign a black player. a lot of people thought this was indicative of the racial climate in the city. they were not surprised that boston was last. in the 1970's boston was the center of the anti-busing movement. busing was the single most theuptive social policy of 1970's. affirmative action was controversy over busing was more controversial. the federal courts were trying to desegregate schools. schools were still segregated in places like boston. they were not say by law. they were segregated because of neighborhood segregation.
8:51 pm
charlotte was another center of controversy. the federal courts ordered that black students beat bused from black neighborhoods into white neighborhoods. black students beat bused from black schools into white schools. in order to engineer integration. these policies sparked intense opposition. bostonlarly in south neighborhoods filled with white irish catholic bostonians. they objected to the appearance of black students in their schools. this is what it looks like. the buses had police escorts. the people in south boston lined the streets and gather at the school as these buses came into their neighborhoods they threw a
8:52 pm
rock so the buses and they threw bananas at the buses. they yelled racial slurs at the black students. they did not want these black children coming into their neighborhoods. the opposition to busing and deceiving racial hatred in boston at this time was memorialized in this pulitzer prize winning photograph in 1976. he called it the soiling of old glory. a black civil rights lawyer happened to walk right in the middle of the white anti-busing rally. studentte high school
8:53 pm
who was upset that black students were coming to school. hetook the american flag used it as a weapon. the civil rights attorney. this is boston in the 1970's. racial anxieties are high. racial tensions are very high. a white backlash. anxieties comes larry bird. larry bird immediately turns the celtics into winners. he is the great white hope. he lives up to the hype. the year before bird was on the celtics they won 29 games. one of the worst teams in the league. next year with the same roster except now they have larry bird a 161 games.
8:54 pm
61.to9 wins 261 larry bird wins the rookie of the year award. they almost made it to the finals. who was there meeting the 76ers in the final but magic johnson of the los angeles lakers. the lakers were up three games to two. game six was in philadelphia. everyone assumed the 76ers were going to win because kareem abdul-jabbar was injured.
8:55 pm
magic johnson steps into a phone booth comes out a superman and and het on the court jumps center he takes kareem's place. and hes power forward plays small forward and he plays shooting guard and the place point guard. he is a 20-year-old rookie and he plays all five positions in game six. the greatest single game in nba history i would argue. if you look at the steaks and you look at what magic johnson did. he carried the lakers to the nba championship. if you wanted to watch this game live you're out of luck.
8:56 pm
were tape delayed and shown at 11:30 p.m. that is how unpopular the nba was. but now it is about to get popular. we're going to dig a little deeper. any questions? boston were south sent there because the english did want them in boston. matthew: there's no rule that says that if you've been subject to discrimination that you can't discriminate against others. part of the anxiety is that in south boston these are working-class people who are
8:57 pm
clinging to their homes and to their neighborhoods desperately. there have a lot of money. they are anxious about the appearance of black students in their schools. their neighborhoods and their schools are going to go down in value. that helps to explain the anti-busing reaction. it doesn't excuse it does explain it. there's a great book about this photograph. the high school student is riding the subway the next day and he sees this photograph of the newspaper and he says who is that guy with the flag? and he says it's me. recognize himself. he was traumatized by this. he becomes the face of racism in the united states.
8:58 pm
he becomes the face of bigotry. a devastating effect on his life. >> how they choose which students would be bused? matthew: i'm not exactly sure. >> it was largely based on parents choice. matthew: we believe in integration and desegregation. there were quotas. some white students were blessed into the black areas. >> the neighborhood adjacent to andh boston was roxbury
8:59 pm
they were really rough afghan american neighborhoods. it was a white island to this increasingly black city. we are going to aggressively hold onto what we have. here's what happens. this game is not shown on national tv. but the nba is about to get incredibly popular. magic johnsons and larry bird. two incredible creative players, one white and one black. for added drama they are on opposite coasts. los angeles and boston. two cities that seem to be
9:00 pm
worlds apart. from a marketing perspective the nba could not have invented this any better. it is absolutely perfect. as the 1980's progress, here's what happens. the celtics actually become more white. they were good. they were a great team. the second-best in the decade, the lakers were the best in the decade. but the celtics were a racial outlier, as we say now. i think it is telling that when the lakers would come into boston to play the celtics, black bostonians would say kick their ass, man. we want you to be those white boys. and so the magic-bird rivalry, the rivalry between the lakers and the celtics, it is incredible basketball. great basketball drama.
9:01 pm
it is also compelling racial drama. it is with bird and magic that we get the renaissance of the mba, because of these -- of the nba, because of these racial tensions. this is an award that you are voted to receive. bird and celtics were in the nba finals five times, they 13 nba titles. magic and the lakers were in eight times, winning five. they went head to head three times, the lakers one two of the three. from the basketball standpoint, we can have an argument over who was the better player. i submit it was magic johnson. i am happy to have that argument, if you want. it is fun, but not terribly important. let me make the case from our perspective, from the advantage
9:02 pm
point of the american historian, larry bird is the much more historically significant player. and i want to end with this idea, justify my choice. we have talked about this before. let me remind you of this very important idea in our course, the idea of symbolic representation. this is the idea that the single black individual, like the black athlete, represents the larger black electives. what we have been talking about in this course is how black athletes were these symbols, the symbolic representatives. joe lewis, jackie robinson, wilma rudolph. were achievements reflection of what all black americans wanted, right? they were symbols of integration.
9:03 pm
mohammed ali, he is the symbol, the embodiment of the black power movement. when he succeeds, the movement succeeds. historically speaking, this is the power of the black athlete, that what they do seems to have so much more significance than just that isolated event. this is the power of the black athlete. this is also the burden of the black athlete. they are never just competing for themselves. they have the weight of black america on their shoulders, for example, joe lewis. a perfect example. yes? player,had one black bill russell. matthew: bill russell is a great black player, and the first black coach in the nba. let me keep on talking. here is what happens though . h.
9:04 pm
in the 1980's, the script about symbolic rotation flips. suddenly, they are talking about the symbolism of the white athlete, focused on larry bird. larry bird became something bigger than himself, a representation of something bigger than himself. in the 1980's, he was not just a basketball player. he symbolically represented a idea that was on the defensive in the 1980's, as many saw it. seems toale ideal that be losing ground, not just in sports, but in society at large. whether it is true or not, that is the perception. americansr many white -- that photograph gives us a sense of this -- especially for many bostonians, larry bird is their symbol. he is their representative.
9:05 pm
he becomes their great white hope. works in one more way. i keep saying this. let us complicate this. just as larry bird was the symbol and the representative of white americans, he became the subject of scorn for many black americans. for many black americans, the idea was that bird was being celebrated by white americans, being celebrated by a white-dominated media well beyond his talent level. thomas, the brilliant guard for the detroit pistons, he lost to the bird's celtics in 1987. he was clearly upset. and he sounded off on the media praise for larry bird. " larry is very, very good.
9:06 pm
but if he were black, he would be just another good guy." he is just average. this comment sparked a firestorm. they got people talking about race. defenders went after isaiah thomas. ability, thatrds is reverse racism. reverse racism. critics pointed to "sports illustrated," the cover. the nba's best player. he is anointed as the best player because he is white. this is journalistic affirmative action. that is what it is. we have claims of reverse racism, and we have claims of journalistic affirmative action, the nation is talking about race.
9:07 pm
it is talking about these issues. larry bird is the symbol, the athlete upon which americans heap their praise and their scorn. and i just want to point this out, this is totally new in american history. historically, it is the black athlete around which we have had conversations about race, about the quality, about civil rights, about freedom. black athletes who dared to appear in white-dominated sports. jackie robinson conversation, joe lewis conversation. we talked about that. now, the conversations about race in the 1980's are about that white basketball player in that green uniform. blackt white hope in a america's sport. i will say this. larry bird, he wanted nothing to do with these conversations. he hated talking about race. i don't think in terms of color.
9:08 pm
doesn't matter what the athlete wants, though, in these situations. i mean, they are the symbols around which our conversations about race come our disagreements about race -- they are the symbols around which our conversation orbits. questions? yes . >> reverse racism? :atthew" particularly, a supreme court race. king said luther --ges by the color of our not judge us by the color of our skin, by the content of our character. those are the arguments on both sides. yeah, that term was used then. race,questions about
9:09 pm
backlash, larry bird? yeah? >> i think for a long time, read auerbach, bob cozy -- he took the top layer among the celtics. matthew: digg early in the 50's and 60's, the nba is very much a local league. it is not on national tv. there is no idea about who is good in california, if you're in boston. but because of the media, you er, now watch lew alcind kareem abdul-jabbar. that is the guy we want. basketball is all local. in the 50's and 60's, it becomes national. recruited, two
9:10 pm
from new york? matthew: we talk about the reasons why frank maguire is able to bring them to new york. other questions, other thoughts? no one wants to argue back and say larry bird was way better than magic? it doesn't matter. >> one of the things i remove her reading in the press, they always talk about how hard of a worker larry bird was. i remember reading that -- i do not remember reading that as much about magic. matthew: i think this plays into our ideas about race. work ethic, magic has natural ability. i am arguing that those are players you should not make that comparison. neither have particular athleticism. they have athleticism, clearly, but not explosive athleticism.
9:11 pm
in some ways, from the basketball standpoint, it is the same guy. but it is interesting we think about them as polar opposites, because of segmentation and his skin color. yes? >> unlike basketball and baseball, football was integrated much earlier. desegregatednfl is right after world war ii. it all happens within a five-year. . period. period. way in the back. >> were there other historians, in the first magic story, it was basketball. matthew: sure, there are always historians and commentators -- i can think of a few people, media commentators that were sitting in this lecture would say i am making a mountain out of a mole hill. this has nothing to do with
9:12 pm
race. what explains the popularity of the holmes fight? challenger, other than race? i am stating my historian credentials on the argument that racial anxiety is almost everything in the situation. but our magic and bird just good because they are black and white? no, they are fabulous. two of the top 10 basketball players in history. but that propels the leak into the stratosphere. it propelled the nba into the mainstream. the guy who propelled the nba into the stratosphere, there he is. michael jordan. almost literally, the stratosphere. we will talk about jordan, his cultural significance, in one week. the nfl, another lake that becomes popular, we will discuss that then.
9:13 pm
announcer: join us every saturday evening at 8 p.m. and midnight eastern as we join students in college classrooms to hear lectures on topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11. lectures in history are also available as podcasts. visit our website, c-span.org/history. or download them from itunes. citizens of the granite state are not easily won. they are hotbeds of political discussion. ♪ city,lage, town, and voters brave snow and sleet to cast their vote. >> thanks to the people of new hampshire, good to be back here. >> first in the nation primary. >> new hampshire. >> new hampshire.
9:14 pm
>> he is from new hampshire. >> it is great to be back in new hampshire. >> one reporter has called new hampshire's primary the most cherished of american political life. ♪ >> governor, thank you so much for coming. >> in the heat of the dialogue, the heat of getting tough questions about their positions on the issues. it is not just a place where the scripted speech -- >> new hampshire takes its first in the nation primary status really seriously. >> this is one in a series of town hall meetings we will have. >> this is my 20th town hall meeting. 150th townto our hall meeting here in new hampshire. ♪
9:15 pm
announcer: each week, until the 2016 election, road to the white house rewind brings you archival coverage of presidential races. from the 1992 campaign, remarks billt clinton. he calls himself the comeback kid, framing his second-place finish as a victory. he faced allegations of a next her marital affair and draft dodging during vietnam. he went on to win the nomination and defeated president bush and ross perot. this 10-minute portion of the speech is courtesy of a tv station in new hampshire. >> the governor of arkansas is coming to the podium. stanng

34 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on