Some Beyonce halftime performance during last night's Super Bowl, huh?
It seems the boys who occupy paneled basements rooms in the Twitterverse - and some who don't - enjoyed it. There were enough pole dancing and Victoria's Secrets references - as in, "Is that a teddy she's wearing?" - to make you wanna puke.
But it's only the sports bubble, after all, where the politics of race is, at the best of times, barely below the surface, skin deep, as it were. There were other examples Sunday night.
Like the end of the game when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis's name came up in connection with that obstructing justice plea bargain he took in a case involving the death of two men some 12 years ago. Lewis still can't seem to outrun mention of that controversy, not even on the occasion of the last game of his life, in primetime.
I'm no Lewis fan. But if his story was good enough for the U.S. justice system, (which has done few black men any favours), then it should be good enough for the rest of us. It isn't, including to some media types who keep bringing it up.
Perhaps that's the inevitable outcome when you have a press corps dominated by mostly white middle-aged men covering sports dominated by young black men. That dynamic tends to lend itself to sometimes overt, sometimes subliminal colour-coded messaging.
We got a taste of that in the multicultural Big Smoke last week, after the Toronto Raptors traded fan favourite Jose Calderon (and forward Ed Davis) for Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies. The move left the city's sports press in shock, judging by the coverage. The stream on the sports talk radio shows proved once again that Toronto is a pucks town (#dontknowshitboutball).
To most pundits, Calderon was the sacrificial lamb in a desperate move made by the team's general manager, Brian Colangelo, for no other reason than to save his job. For Gay himself, all that was heard were disparaging words.
The criticism followed a familiar refrain when it comes to black athletes: Gay was the overpaid pseudo-star who'd never lived up to his potential; another spoon fed baller who'd bring a freelance style of play (read: undisciplined) to a young team needing stability. Calderon, on the other hand, was praised as the steady hand at the tiller of the good ship Raptor. The guy who put the team before himself, always did what was asked of him. All those things about Calderon are true.
Still, it was curious narrative for a number of reasons.
Firstly, for all the appreciation, there was rarely a time when the point guard from Spain wasn't knocked for being too slow, too conservative in his playmaking, too something or other by the Toronto press and fans. In fact, the team had tried to trade him twice before only to see the teams on the other end of those deals change their minds at the last second. They too had their reservations about Calderon.
In Memphis, meanwhile, the press covering Gay's former team had the opposite reaction. They were pissed. Here was the team's leading scorer being let go for nothing other than financial reasons - namely, to take his $19 million a year salary off the books. (In the business of basketball, teams that exceed a certain salary ceiling must pay a luxury tax).
On TNT, the oracle of pro basketball, talk was of the talented Gay turning the Raptors into a top contender in the East with a long shot to make the playoffs, despite a dismal start this year. Shaquille O'Neal, the Big Daddy himself, said he wanted to be "the black Colangelo," when he grows up "because [the Raptors GM] makes big deals."
It seems that everywhere else in the basketball universe but Toronto, the Gay deal was seen as a big win for the Raptors, the acquisition of a marquee name not seen in these parts since a guy named Vince Carter and Vinsanity owned the city.
The irony is that, in making the Gay deal, the new Bell and Rogers-led ownership team behind Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the corporate entity that owns both the Leafs and the Raptors, is signaling that it's prepared to spend money to put a winning product on the floor. (On the ice, too, now that we've had a few weeks to absorb the firing of former Leafs GM Brian Burke.)
That's good news for the city and ball fans of a team that for too long has opted for PR moves, drafted from Europe to fill roster spots, and put a team on the floor that meshes with the city's cultural rep, instead of the best team possible.
As a result, Toronto has become the National Basketball Association's hinterland, a place where only second-rate players come to play, and those who come to us via the U.S. College draft end up leaving.
It says a lot that the world's most talented B-ballers would rather play in some hole-in-the-wall city in the U.S. rather than the fourth largest market in North America.
Toronto fans should be rejoicing that Gay is helping to change all that. Instead, they just want Calderon back.