The Costas Rant

Ryan Noonan

Ryan Noonan is an economist with a small federal agency. Fields in which he considers himself reasonably well-informed: literature, college athletics, video games, food and beverage, the Supreme Court. Fields in which he considers himself an expert: none. He can be found on the Twitter or reached by email.

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199 Responses

  1. JBaldwin says:

    The proper response to this post is, oh brother.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    Jesus. Talk about dogwhistling.

    Of course it’s a white guy yelling at black guys. Most of the players in the NFL are black. If it is now impossible for a white person to criticize a black person without it being racism, then we might as well pack it up and go home.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I don’t think it’s the mere fact that a white person is criticizing black people that is the problem. It’s that it’s a white guy criticizing black people about a lack of class.

      Look, as I said, it may really just be the regular asshole move of condescending to people because you think you know better than they do how to behave in polite society, but I think there is an extra dimension here that is a little squickier than that. What Costas dislikes isn’t the celebrations, it’s the dance moves, etc. It’s a more specific complaint than you’re indicating.Report

      • I don’t think it’s racial thing, I mean he did juxtapose Barry Sanders (positively) with Marc Gastineau (ngatively)… but maybe he just hates the french.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Jonathan says:

          It seems worth mentioning that Gastineau’s sack dance – at a time when racism was significantly more tolerated in the NFL and sports in general – was also the original impetus for complaints that the NFL should crack down on excessive celebration, with those complaints resulting in his dance getting banned.

          Frankly, it’s especially difficult for me to buy Ryan’s argument here given the number of people I’ve known who have made similar rants to Costas’ from any number of classes and races.


      • Scott in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:


        A white guy criticizing blacks for a lack of class is even worse and must be racism. we should pack it up and go home.  I’m glad someone finally said something about all the ridiculous TD displays.Report

        • Zero in reply to Scott says:

          You’re being a bit ridiculous about this.  The question is not whether ALL criticisms of this type simply MUST be evidence of racism, the question is whether this particular criticism in this particular circumstance is motivated by a sentiment that’s at least partially racist.  Why not address the issue Ryan actually raised here?Report

          • Scott in reply to Zero says:


            I try and take folks at face value and try not to assume/suspect some deep insidious racial subtext.  I don’t see any reason to suspect Costas of racism so frankly I am not even sure why the race issue is even being brought up other than it gives liberals something else to be outraged about. Please tell me, where in Costas’ commentary was there a racial element?Report

            • Scott,

              I don’t want to speak for Zero but I suspect this is kind of like when certain people said that it was racist to call Obama a ‘radical’ because it was a code-word. Super-secret hidden subtexts are easy to claim because they are impossible to refute.Report

  3. greginak says:

    I didn’t see the Costas rant and i don’t actually care enough to watch it just to dislike it. I’ll note that when i watched part of the Denver game a couple weeks ago they had shots of Tebow on his knee praying after a TD and some other big play. They also had a short pic montage of him praying on his knee at famous sites around the world. There are plenty of people who find Tebow cloying and overbearing.

    I don’t like the”silly” TD dances myself but it doesn’t really matter. It seems like something like that happens in every sport now.Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    Okay, so if I like people in the endzone to act like they have been there before, and I find gawdy displays irritating, it is inherently a sign of racial anxiety. If I show a white guy doing it, I only did it to show that I am not a racist. If I treat a hat-tip to God (which white and black athletes do) differently from a self-aggrandizing dance, that’s further indicative of the fact that my views are tightly wound to race.

    Got it.

    Why is it so hard in this country to have a frank discussion on race?Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Will Truman says:

      Why is it so hard in this country not to be a gigantic dickhead to people who don’t act exactly how you want them to act? The point is that you think people should care what you think about how other people act; why do you think that?

      Why is it any of Bob Costas’ business what people do in the endzone? Is this whitesplaining?Report

      • What happens in the endzone is not like what happens in the bedroom. Or the locker room, for that matter. It’s a public act, in a public forum, for public consumption.

        On what basis should sports commentators keep their opinion on sports-related issues to themselves? It’s not like he was talking about the Ryan Deficit Reduction Plan. It’s relevant because it has become a part of the game.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Will Truman says:

      Also, I believe I said it’s not merely about race. It’s also about religion, and money, and power more generally. A frank discussion about race in this country has to take as an axiom that race is a source of power and it is wielded pervasively in ways that are very often unconscious or not well-grasped by the wielder(s). This post is provocative, sure, but your response is the opposite of “frank”.Report

      • Okay, to drop the snark and be frank…

        It is not uncommon for people to attempt to take moral high ground on a particular issue by injecting race dynamics into an issue where its pertinence is questionable. This allows us to take a matter of taste, in this case, and turn it into a moral issue.

        And so, if Costas includes footage of white players in his videotorial, we can mock him for it even as we criticize him for giving another white player (Tebow) a pass. And if he excludes any whites, well that’s telling, isn’t it? I mean, surely they could have found some whites. And with that, it’s a non-falsifiable allegation (whether we say it’s “just” about race or not) with the proof being not the footage he uses, but the position he holds. Or, perhaps more to the point, who he is (in this case, someone you believe should sit down and shut up).Report

        • Pinky in reply to Will Truman says:

          Will, I think you’re accusing this article of being disingenuous.  I don’t think it is, and frankly that makes it even worse.  I’d prefer to believe that this is a cheap attempt to score a point through false accusations of racism rather than believe that someone watched Costas and genuinely thought it was motivated by racism/classism/whateverism.

          Really, I couldn’t disagree with this article more.  Costas’s editorial was so on the money that it erred on the side of obviousness.  It was followed by a recap of the first half which was filled with the same ridiculous poses that he’d been complaining about, and it illustrated how much of the blame falls on his profession.  I could barely imagine disagreeing with Costas on this point as a matter of taste.  But to disagee with him on this and claim the higher moral ground is to espouse the worst instincts of our self-centered modern culture as praiseworthy.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Pinky says:

            This is a fair criticism of my remarks, which, on further reflection, were unfair to Ryan. I seem to find myself butting heads with him a lot, but I cannot off the top of my head recall him pointscoring.

            So, with that in mind: I apologize, Ryan.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Pinky says:

            As far as Costas’s remarks go,  I am not really a fan of what he was criticizing, but I can see how they can be defended (they’re having fun!). I think that’s why I took this particular defense of them – or rather this criticism of the criticisms of them – with such a particularly harsh response.Report

  5. greginak says:

    I’d add for no particular reason that Costas did a great job with his interview with the Sandusky guy.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to greginak says:

      Agreed. I’m not (repeat: NOT) accusing Bob Costas of being a bad journalist or a bad human being.Report

      • Sam M in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

        Gigantic dickheads aren’t bad people?

        “but the image of a white guy haranguing (mostly) black players for lack of grace or class?”

        Can you imagine ANY circumstance in which it would not be racist (or gigantically dickheaded) for a white person to harangue a black person for a lack of class?Report

        • Zero in reply to Sam M says:

          The problem is that there is no agreed-upon standard of behavior in this instance.  Costas thinks touchdown dances & other similar celebrations are bad; lots of NFL players and millions of fans disagree.  In reality, Costas is haranguing the players, the league, the media, society, whatever for its failure to uphold standards of behavior that he personally prefers.Report

  6. Jesse Ewiak says:

    It’s not racist, but sure there’s a racial element to it. Just like the “dress code” in the NBA or as Charles Pierce put in his article about the lockout, “the “perception” building that his players were less “dedicated to the game” than they were to their various “outside activities,” and that the hired help was “out of control.”

    I realize pointing out the racial elements of things is bad and we’re in post-racial society blah blah blah. But, yes, an old white guy is uncomfortable with a black guy not acting like “he should.” News at eleven.Report

  7. JohnQ says:

    I liked the rant, probably because as a Bills fan (stop laughing… please) I was disgusted at Johnson’s bozo moves that cost the Bills 15 yards on the kick-off.

    I do find some of the celebrations tacky.  Not just in football, but the BS soccer players do after a score, and the chest thumping some NBA’ers do.  Face it, guys and gals – you are playing A GAME, and though you may be better than most (at least during the preceding 30 seconds) it is tacky to parade yourselves around as if you were gods (or mimes) just because you scored.  That goes for Tebow, too – nothing says tacky like declaring “my god just listened to MY prayers and ignored the enemies’ prayers!” – especially when many of them pray to the same god….

    And though they may be tacky, let the fools parade around.  I do prefer the Emmitt Smith method of “act like you have been there before,” but it generally causes little more harm than declare about the player “I’m tacky!”  However, play within the rules and DON’T HURT YOUR TEAM WITH YOUR “I AM GREAT” BS!

    (sorry – cap lock got stuck there for a bit…)Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to JohnQ says:

      Wait, there’s another Bills fan around here?

      I personally think the rules against “excessive” celebration are utterly absurd and ridiculous.  Even for the people who hate those celebrations, do they hate it so much that they’re going to stop watching the games or buying merchandise?  Probably not.  Conversely, do such celebrations make the games a little more entertaining for the casual fan in the sport’s key merchandising demographic?  Absolutely.  As far as I’m concerned, those celebrations keep things lighthearted (for the most part) and remind us that as passionate as we may be about it, it’s still just a game, and more importantly, it’s entertainment.

      That said….the point of the game is still to win, and the average fan cares about 1000 times more about winning than they do about getting some theatrics, win or lose.  In the context of this particular game – a key divisional matchup that was incredibly close, not, like the Bengals game last year, a for-pride blowout victory – Stevie’s actions were nothing short of idiotic, and I was really disappointed with him for it.  The rules may be stupid, but it does no one any good to lose because you won’t follow them.Report

      • I think what has been defined as “excessive” is unnecessarily broad. And I think the college rule, which brings touchdowns back, is beyond absurd. There are some exceptions to this (I can see why throwing the ball into the stands might be a bad thing, for instance, though more along the lines of Delay of Game than the same penalty they assigned to facemasking), but even then you definitely don’t bring a touchdown back.Report

  8. Jonathan says:

    When a commentary about sports begins with a Kardashian reference, you know it ain’t going to go well.Report

  9. Mr. Bonneville:

    First, I’ll confess to not watching the video you linked to and to not being a sports fan generally.

    Second, I think part of what you’re aiming at–and I hope I’m not putting words into your mouth–is that in a race-conscious society, everything, or almost everything, is about race, whether we want it to be or not.  I think that’s part of the tragedy of racism:  there’s a way in which it’s inexorable, in which one sees and performs it.  Contra some of the comments above, it doesn’t mean that you’re accusing people of racism (in fact, you state explicitly that you are not).  It just means we’re all in the mix.

    In other words, I think I agree with your post, or with what I understand your post to be coming from.  I do suppose that like your post, my comment will be unpopular.Report

  10. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Whether he intended it or not, the whole thing struck me as a welling-up of some racial anxieties at work more broadly in the culture.

    I think you’re reading way too much into the poll results.

    I don’t believe it’s the celebrations that bother Costas so much as the character of the celebrations.

    I believe it’s the celebrations that bother Costas so much; spontaneous displays of game enthusiasm are charming, they make you feel like you’re watching someone who really loves the game (too a very much lesser extent, established traditions like end-zone jumping in Green Bay are marginally okay simply because they are established *team* traditions).  Choreographed displays, on the other hand, smack of self-promotion, not enthusiasm for the game.  That seems pretty straightforward to me.  It’s not even that much of a grumpy old man thing, I’ve always thought end-zone celebrations that were calculated are lamezor.

    Why didn’t we see a clip of Tebow ostentatiously praying to God every single time anything of note happens?

    Probably because even though Bob thinks they’re stupid, he’s also been at the gig of making public sports commentary long enough to know that calling someone out for God displays can end your career as a sports commentator?

    Have you not *met* many rabid football fans?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      Still, the holier-than-thou attitude struck me about exactly as it did Ryan. It was similar to whitesplainin. Just of the more general privileged-elitist-telling-the-underlings-whats-good-for-them variety.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Stillwater says:


        You realize that this *is* the entire schtick for sports commentary, in a meta sense?  Armchair quarterbacking, but you get paid for it?Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          Errr, no. Armchair quarterbacking is second guessing a coaching move or a QBs decision. It’s centered around winning. Costas wasn’t doing that. He was passing judgment on a cultural aspect of the game which he finds distasteful. And since he’s neither a representative of the NFL nor a team member, it reeks of privilege.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

            I should add, even if he was a rep of the NFL or a team member, the sanctimonious way he delivered his message still reeked of privilege.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Stillwater says:

            No, I mean, his Normal Job is to be a Paid Armchair Quarterback (well, properly he’s not an analyst, but commentators do it too).

            When your Normal Job is to tell people from a position of authority what someone else is doing wrong, it’s not terribly out of bounds to expect that to creep elsewhere.

            Costas should stick to baseball.  He’s really a baseball fan.Report

            • Zero in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              A very interesting side-point here is that the premise of Costas’ rant –that endzone celebrations and the like are on the rise and possibly out of control– seems to be factually false.  As a long-time NFL fan, I’d say that both the frequency and the complexity of the routines is actually DOWN from about 10-15 yrs ago.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Old Man Costas was ranting about players bad behavior in just about precisely the same way 15 yrs ago!

              Also, BTW, the “Lambeau Leap”, that you interestingly enough referenced as an age-old tradition actually only dates back to the ’90s and, as such, is actually a much more nouveau development in the realm of touchdown celebrations than the dances and choreographed routines and such!Report

  11. strech says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t mind over the top celebration? I don’t watch football much, and you probably shouldn’t get your team a penalty, but it’s a football game. It doesn’t have the sort of gravitas that is ruined by people doing over the top celebrations.

    They probably shouldn’t get this elaborate (to use a non-football example) but the whole concept of having fun while playing the game being this great sin is kinda weird.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to strech says:

      In general, I find over the top celebrations to be amusing and I’m a big fan of them.  I can even make an argument that the whole choreography business, in some cases at least, provides some extra motivation to the player involved.

      That said, I’m not a big fan of seeing those celebrations hurt my team when they get flagged.Report

      • Jonathan in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I kind of enjoy the celebrations when players actually do something worth celebrating. The guys who do a Big Happy Dance after making a tackle for no gain or throw out the first down signal for catching a six yard slant on third down, that gets annoying (especially when their team is down by 20 or 30 points).Report

    • Stillwater in reply to strech says:

      I think it all started in the NFL when the Redskins kept beatin down the Cowboys and doin that crazy team dance in the end zone. Made Tom Landry mad, it did. And so the league imposed the Landry rule: no fun allowed if someone’s feelings could get hurt.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to strech says:

      I don’t watch football much, and you probably shouldn’t get your team a penalty, but it’s a football game.

      It’s not just a football game to the people on the team.  Stevie Johnson’s choreographed-in-advance routine (which seems to be the event that set Costas off), which he had to know would draw a 15-yard penalty, in a close game, may well have been the deciding factor.  One loss can be the difference in making the playoffs or not, in the rest of the team (including coaching staff) earning playoff bonuses, of the owner making/losing significant chunks of money.  Do the dance, draw the penalty, lose the game… then stand up and tell your teammates, “It doesn’t matter that you don’t get the $20-150K basic bonus you would have earned in the playoffs, or the performance incentives you might have earned if you were able to play in an added game, because after all, it’s just a football game.”Report

      • strech in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I should probably have been clearer, but I didn’t use the word “just” for a reason. It’s not that a football game is unimportant. It’s that celebrations – even theatrical or self-aggrandizing ones – aren’t out of place or inappropriate.

        If your only complaint is that there’s a rule and it should be followed, so any intentional violation is inherently selfish, then I can see that.Report

        • Zero in reply to strech says:

          I think that if Costas had confined his commentary to simply the Stevie Johnson situation or even just exclusively celebrations that draw penalties, then I don’t think Ryan would’ve posted this rebuttal.  Costas blew it up into something of a diatribe against the downfall of civilization.  I think we can all agree that getting a penalty for your team is generally a bad idea… but Costas wasn’t really ranting about that, though.Report

          • Scott in reply to Zero says:


            So what does Costas’ rant about the downfall of western civ have to do with race?  I’m still waiting for someone to actually find a racial connectionReport

          • Will Truman in reply to Zero says:

            That’s not actually true, by my following of it. The sequence of his logic is:

            (1) We live in an exhibitionist society. This is being exhibited in our sports, and…

            (2) It’s probably too much to ask that to change, given the times we live, but…

            (3) Can we please at least not do it when it costs teams the game?!?!

            The downfall of civilization was the lead-in.Report

            • Zero in reply to Will Truman says:


              I don’t dispute your interpretation of Costas’ stream of logic, but I think it’s kind of odd to disregard the foundation of his argument.

              To put your deconstruction another way, he’s saying that lots of people in society behave in ways that he finds idiotic and it’s offensive to him when football players behave in ways that he considers ostentatious, but that’s so pervasive that he’s just going to single out situations in which that behavior generates penalties.

              Essentially, he’s using the penalty situation to argue against a cultural shift that he disagrees with.Report

  12. Michelle says:

    I guess my blinders are on because I don’t see any racial anxieties underlying Costas’ commentary. It doesn’t even strike me as much of a rant, compared to the stuff that comes out of the mouths of true masters of the rant (and racists) like Rush Limbaugh. To me, Costas shows a genuine concern about the increasing incivility and unsportsmanlike conduct in professional sports, not to mention staged showmanship for the sake of showmanship so many players seem compelled to exhibit. Costas also seems pretty even-handed in showing plenty of players, regardless of race, engage in this kind of behavior. If saying so makes him a curmudgeon, so be it.

    The same commentary should apply to behavior like that of Tebow (as if G-d really cares whether who wins a freakin’ football game–roll eyes). I find that kind of overt religiosity on the football field to be equally over the top and tacky.  Yes, tacky. And equally staged.Report

  13. Jesse Ewiak says:

    Well, also the calls against celebration and for “more civility’ is another kind of guilt. It’s the guilt of a well-educated, intelligent, professional person being a fan of an inherently violent sport. If everybody is wearing suits, respectful to the officials and the other team, the mayhem and destruction occurring after the whistle is acceptable. I’m sure there were Romans concerned about the incivility of the gladiators as well.Report

    • This, perhaps, strikes me as the more compelling argument, well worth exploring.Report

      • Sam M in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        As someone whose kids are just now beginnging to think about organized sports, I think  a more likely explanation is that people don’t want their kids making asses of themselves by regurgitating these antics. I have seen high school kids do it, and seen parents groan in the stands. It’s embarrasing.

        Also, I think people are discounting the extent to which parents use, or try to use, sports as a way to build character. Teamwork. Hard work. All of that stuff. Making fun of a guy who shot himself in the leg kind of subverts all that.

        Yeah. People draw to many parallels between sports and morality. Still, there it is.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Sam M says:

          That is no doubt the lion’s share of it.  But I’m not sure it’s all of it.  My personal observation is that when someone does a premeditated and orchestrated celebration in soccer, there is a helluva lot less handwringing and moralizing, even after factoring in soccer’s status as a niche sport in the US.  Indeed, when it happens in the World Cup (a time when a sizable number of Americans actually do follow soccer), such celebrations are more frequently used as a promotional tool than they are the subject of commentator handwringing.

          I also wonder whether it’s entirely a coincidence that moralizing about boorish behavior on and off the field by football players is reaching its apex right as we start learning more and more about the effects of the violence inherent to football in the modern era.  Perhaps it is, perhaps not, but it strikes me as worthy of consideration.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            I also wonder whether it’s entirely a coincidence that moralizing about boorish behavior on and off the field by football players is reaching its apex right as we start learning more and more about the effects of the violence inherent to football in the modern era.

            I’m not sure which way you’re going with this, but I do remember thinking, even while he was moralizing about touchdown dances, that Costas feels justified in doing so because he was so successful the last time he moralized on Sunday Night Football: about concussions and defenseless receivers. It seems to me that the league crackdown on head shots and helmet-first hits came right after he made a big deal about it.Report

            • I was going for something more along the lines of “on some level, as we struggle to come to terms with the effects of the game’s inherent violence, there is an increasing compulsion to justify it as being somehow civilized and dignified in a way that it probably is not.”  It’s mostly speculative, and I’ve got no idea if there really is a link (assuming it’s also what Jesse was suggesting), but it strikes me as something well worth further investigation.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                That could certainly be part of it, but as a relatively casual fan I’ve been aware for decades of the devastating toll players have taken and continue to take in the NFL. Head injuries, knees, hips.

                There’s something to the theory that it’s all about attempting to civilize barbaric behavior, to make it appear more in line with the norms of the viewers. But then we get back to why self-aggrandizing behavior of individuals in a team sport would be viewed as ‘uncivilized’. And that brings attention to the cultural differences between players and the fans. And that brings us back racism.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Sam M says:

          “When you get the ball into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

          I find the quote attributed to Darrell Royal (University of Texas), Vince Lombardi (Green Bay Packers), Paul Brown (Cleveland Browns), and Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys). Who really said it?Report

  14. Tod Kelly says:

    Ryan – I’m at the office checking in & have to wait to listen to the rant tonight, so I have nothing of substance to offer there.

    But, on a tangential note, I note that basketball announcers and fans treat players differently based on race.  If you have a 6’11” black guy playing 11th or 12th at the back of your bench that averages 3 points/ 3 boards a game, he’s usually a pariah and fans talk about his lack of work ethic, even though they have no idea what his work ethic is.  Take the sakes stats with a white bench warmer and I have noticed he is praised for his dedication, hustle and smarts.

    So I think the kinds of things you are talking about do creep in, somehow.Report

    • BSK in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      It goes deeper.  Keith Law, a former MLB exec, said this type of coded language and race-tinged thinking creeps into player evals, having HUGE impacts on players’ futures and team success.  Almost always in the negative.  How sad is that?Report

  15. Jason Kuznicki says:

    So there’s nothing to be said for winning graciously?  Really?Report

  16. I have no problem with the celebrations (I like soccer celebrations more but that’s a different conversation).  I like them limited in high school and college but in the pros? It’s supposed to be a spectacle.

    As to the Costas rant, implying there is a racist element strains credulity. He was talking about a single aspect of the game that he isn’t a fan of. There were more black players shown because blacks dominate football, especially in scoring positions (RB,FB,WR).Report

  17. Steve S. says:

    “Isn’t it also kind of a bit… well, racist?”

    Just come out and say it.  Yes, this is from the old curmedgeon’s school of “sports used to be fun before all the black people took it over.”  Costas is a New Yorker and notice how he opens his piece with Homer Jones and “some of my favorite endzone celebrations are by black guys” comment.  He then notes, either from sheer stupidity or mendacity, that the “Lambeau Leap” is “spontaneous.”  So early on in his piece I had already decided not to take it seriously.

    My personal feeling is that the celebrations are mostly stupid but I usually succeed in ignoring them.  The NFL takes an ambivalent attitude toward them; it thinks the ostentation is good for the brand, but on the other hand it puts off old white guys who dye their hair.  So the real problem is not that black guys are ruining the game for old white guys, it’s that the NFL has a Rube Goldberg set of guidelines for this (and so many other things).

    College football has some profound problems but one area where they are consistently better than the NFL is in-game rules.  Their pass interference rule is better, their overtime rule is better, and their celebration rule is better in that the guidelines are pretty straightforward.  I don’t mind some clowning by NFL touchdown scorers, but the league needs to be clear and simple about what’s allowed and what isn’t.  Regardless, we’ll probably still be subjected to Bob Costas pining for the good old days when football was played in a dignified fashion by the likes of Deacon Jones and Ben Davidson.Report

  18. DensityDuck says:

    I will say that I kind of wish the guys celebrating would do more to acknowledge the fact that there’s a whole bunch of other dudes out there whose efforts helped make the score happen. To some extent I’m more okay with the ostentation of a team dance or group celebration than I am with one guy jumping around like he’d thrown the pass to himself.Report

    • Bryan Spatz in reply to DensityDuck says:

      What you describe is actually specifically outlawed by the NFL- individual dances are okay, any choreography or coordination has been explicitly outlawed.  Stupid rule addressing a non-existent problem imo.  Was there ever a real grassroots clamoring to reduce touchdown celebrations?  I don’t see it and its one of the many ways that the NFL is the No Fun League.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Bryan Spatz says:

        Huh.  That’s kind of lame–I mean, I can understand the impulse (otherwise you’d have the whole team out there doing a chorus-line act) but it’s kind of a drag that you and your buddies can’t have a high-five schtick, that we all have to pretend it’s just one guy doing everything.

        Then again, pro sports these days is more about Sports Entertainment than actual sports, so I guess the idea that the show has stars is what they’re trying to encourage.Report

  19. Dividist says:

    To ascribe any racial motivation or attitude (conscious or sub) to the Costa rant strikes me a absurd. And I am standing shoulder to shoulder with Karl in correcting Ryan’s age-ist identification of a clearly middle-age man as “old”.  And yes I am in that same age bracket. That said…


    Ryan is directly on point with the sanctimonious sermoniziang of Bob Costas. I’ve not been been able to listen to him since he went on his crusade pontificating about the evil of steroids in baseball, drilling Mark McGwire until he broke down, casting Bonds as the antichrist, and finger-wagging at all the the owners and managers that looked the other way.  I’m not saying he is wrong about steroids, it’s just this: I remember a different Bob Costas in 1998 during the McGwire / Sosa home-run record chase.


    I remember a Bob Costas  up in the booth, waxing poetic about the historic race, giggling like a little girl with every steroid fueled shot , and cheerleading the chemically enhanced muscle-bound combatants that “saved baseball”.  Nobody could look at  the dramatically changed and  almost cartoonish bulked-up bodies of Sosa and McGwire and not know they were juiced. Not the teammates, not the coaches, not the owners, not the fans, and certainly not the announcers in the booth calling the games. Even in 1998.  I don’t remember any hint of that classic Costas sanctimony then. Costas and his network benefited from that steroid fueled chase as much as any owner or player.  In 1998 Costas had to do a Linda Blair Exorcist imitation to avoid seeing what was going on down on the field.


    Anyway – that’s my middle-aged white guy Costas rant.


    BTW – I was there on September 8, 1998 in Busch Memorial Stadium when the Cards played the Cubs and McGwire broke Roger Maris’ record.  It was great. I still have the ticket stub, commemorative hat and newspaper.Report

  20. Burt Likko says:

    1. I detect not a whiff of racism, race, racial politics, racial angles, or racial undertones in Costas’ monologue.

    2. It’s not just touchdown dances. Linebackers do sack and tackle dances, which are debatably even more disgraceful because they celebrate someone potentially getting hurt.

    3. Costas’ stated objection to the excessive celebrations is that they cost the players’ team yardage and potentially impact the outcome of the games. They don’t have to be penalties, though — the NFL could permit such celebrations if it chose to. I suspect there are two reasons it does not. First, one ought not attend a car race just for the crashes but rather for the race itself; so too ought one to attend a football game to see the game, not the dancing. Second, it creates a culture in which excessive displays after a play are similar to excessive violence as part of the play itself (see, e.g., Ndamukong Suh) which can lead to serious injuries.Report

    • Zero in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Actually, the NFL _does_ permit such celebrations.  For the most part, players are not penalized for celebrations, even pre-planned or choreographed ones.  Obviously, the stevie johnson situation is an exception, but that’s the point.  Costas just used that as a jumping off point to rant about behavior that he doesn’t like just because he doesn’t like it.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Zero says:

        Exactly. Spontaneous or planned celebrations are permitted (not group celebrations, per Tom Landry). Excessive celebrations and taunting are not permitted. Those get a penalty. Surely Costas wasn’t complaining that today’s players are unaware of the rules. He was gettin on about something else entirely.Report

  21. Dazedandconfused says:

    No one ever seems to mention how depraved our culture is when a hockey fight breaks out. For some reason, fighting is not accepted in sports that have a majority of black players, but allowed with a slap on the wrist in majority white team sports, like hockey and baseball.Report

  22. Tod Kelly says:

    Ryan – OK, home now, and just watched the Costas thing.  Maybe it’s an old guy thing, but where is the racism?  I am just not seeing it.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      As others have pointed out in some of the comments, it’s a white guy telling black guys they aren’t acting like they should. At best, you’re right – it’s an old guy thing. But that kind of condescending lecture about the “right” way to behave is inherently tied up with issues of race, religion, gender, and so on. I could have written this post more broadly about power, I suppose, but the racial dimension strikes me as the most interesting. Costas sees black guys dancing funny and it bothers him. That’s not because there’s something objectively wrong with dancing funny.Report

      • FWIW, I’m not sure that I read it that way.

        I think of Costas as a sports “purist,” who views his craft through a very romanticized nostalgic lens.  I think this is why he fits most naturally as a baseball play by play guy.  I suspect that it has more to do with preferring the humble hero to the show-boater than anything else.  I doubt race, religion or gender is factored in at all.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      You can also, if you prefer, think about it culturally. The end zone celebrations are largely a manifestation of a culture that is younger/blacker/etc, and Costas finds that culture distasteful/alien/etc. But again, I see race as one of the key delineations of this cultural divide, so you still have to talk about it.Report

      • I think you have something with the culture angle.  But where you see him saying “Noooo!  Black people!” I see him saying “Damn kids today with their dancing in the end zone!  That end zone is my lawn!  Get off!”Report

        • BSK in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          But why does Costa feel that the end zone, something he’s never stepped in wearing anything but loafers, is his lawn?  Why does he feel that he gets to determine what culture is appropriate?  You don’t think there is an element of white (as well as male, educated, older, etc.) privilege at work there?

          Lots of research has been done into how we respond to people of the same race versus those of another race.  The results tend to show that our responses are different, even if there is nothing overt or explicit in our conscious thinking.  For reasons going back to hunter-gatherer times, we tend towards an “us and them” mentality.  We identify with those people most like us and, as such, are more accepting and understanding of their actions.  When one white person sees another white person do this, we are better able to imagine ourselves in their shoes and can better rationalize their actions.  This is harder to do when a white person looks at a black person (or a black person at a white person or any other cross-racial observation).  The very same actions done by a person of another race seem alien and other and, thus, are more likely to be derided.  Most of this happens subconsciously and can’t necessarily be controlled.  If Costas’s rant was spontaneous, I think we could chalk a lot more of it up to this.  But it wasn’t.  It was calculated and scripted.  He wasn’t just reacting and emoting.  I would think that, as a professional journalist, he would be capable of reflecting, stepping back and saying, “Why am I having this response?” before going on the air with it.  He didn’t.  He didn’t feel the need to.  He had an emotional response and determined this to be the right response to have.Report

        • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          The “damn kids on my lawn” mindset is not independent of racial anxiety.Report

          • Very true.  But I think I need to see something more for me to make the connection you do.  After having skimmed the comments it seems this might be a case where everyone is seeing (me included) what they want to see.  For example, I can’t help but notice that the fact that not all the players highlighted in the piece were black is seen by some as proof of premeditated racism; it’s hard for me to believe that the same people wouldn’t have found an absence of white people equal proof.

            At the end of the day, I think that racism is both pernicious and destructive, and moreover is deeply rooted in all of us – and that it takes great care and discipline to recognize when we are having a reaction to someone who is different simply based on the fact that they are different.  That being said, I’m not sure that the exercise of seeking signs of racism in others without personal introspection is so useful.  At best, it leads to long threads of Scott and (Just-Mike) Mike pissing on each other but saying nothing.  At worst it makes things… well, worse.

            So could Costas have, somewhere in the back (or forefront!) of his mind a sense of distaste because some of the players who use these antics are people of color?  Sure, I guess.  But personally, I don’t feel comfortable calling him out on it just because I think I know what’s in his head.

            Like I said, I need to see more than I’m seeing here to attribute to Costas the malice you are seeing.Report

            • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Whoa, whoa, whoa. I think there are a number of places where you’re perhaps misreading me. I will try to clarify:

              1. In no way am I accusing anyone of premeditated racism. My larger point is that this is so hard, and so necessary to guard against, precisely because it’s almost never premeditated. Even Rush Limbaugh’s far, far worse rant about Donovan McNabb probably wasn’t really premeditated.

              2. I think the presence of a couple white players is most likely evidence that the people at NBC were well aware of how racially tricky this rant would be. The Andy Hutchins tweet is meant to convey that. That they put a couple white guys in there in an attempt to even it out doesn’t absolve them totally, in my eyes.

              3. Your middle paragraph is the crux of the whole thing. It is *precisely* why I have gone out of my way not to call Costas a racist or a bad person or anything like that. Racism is hard, it’s deeply rooted in the American (or even human) psyche, and it requires vigilance to stamp out. I am by no means what you’d call “politically correct” or anything like that, but I do think there is value in calling attention to things that look like racism if you think they look like racism.

              4. As for reading Bob Costas’ mind, I have no idea. I’m not in the business of mind-reading. But what you mean and what you say are not always (rarely?) the same thing, and what he said strikes me as racially problematic, at least to some degree.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                As a follow-on to #3, I think you can cover a lot of this ground if you state an objective criterion for this kind of complaint.

                Is Costas concerned about the fact that certain celebrations cause teams to lose yardage, as he suggests in some places? If so, that strikes me as not especially racist, although there would be room to argue about the nature of the rules themselves (which are not Costas’ responsibility, generally speaking).

                On the other hand, if his complaint is that the dances are yucky or annoying or the result of a collapsing culture, my hackles are going up. As I’ve said, I don’t see a way to disentangle “get off my lawn” curmudgeonism from questions about race, gender, religion, and all the other favorites. What people who make those complaints are primarily objecting to is that someone who is different is Doing It Wrong. That’s an ugly, shabby way to treat another human being.Report

              • Again, it may just be an old guy thing, but I feel like I have seen a lot of this kind of “Where has decorum gone?!” stuff in my life in all kinds walks of cultural stuff.  This doesn’t seem any different to me than, say, the way some older folks are horrified that the “F” word has gone from never-spoke to fairly common place, or song lyrics that are sexually expect rather than innuendo, or the rise of “potty humor” in big budget movies.

                What I see in the clip you posted reminds me more of what I mentioned above than, say, people I knew in the 80s that got freaked out that their friend was dating a black guy.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                ya. but it’s cultural. ageist, classist, it all amounts to discrimination against other people.

                you’ve got a right to bitch, but pardon me if my hackles go up…

                How many people did you hear bitching about emo, right after all that gangland rap music vanished off the face of the marketing earth? (some people just gotta bitch, eh?)Report

              • It appears I did misread then, and I think we are on the same page.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                You could make the argument that Limbaugh’s criticism of McNabb extended the latter’s career by at least four years.  If criticism of McNabb weren’t linked with Horrible Right-Wing Racism he wouldn’t have lasted three seasons in Philadelphia.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I pretty regularly have no idea what your arguments are attempting to accomplish.Report

              • Kris Kringle in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                “I pretty regularly have no idea what your arguments are attempting to accomplish.” Hey, whatta ya mean here, Ryan?–I thought I was the reigning king of incoherence around these parts!Report

  23. Jaybird says:

    Out of curiosity, I still make fun of Mike Vick for killing dogs.

    Should I stop? Is my mockery of his dog-killing racially insensitive?

    I need to know because I have a rant prepared for Thursday night and if I need to write a new one I should get started on it now.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, since racism doesn’t exist any more, you’re probably fine.Report

      • Scott in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

        No, any criticism of minorities is automatically racist.Report

      • Good, I’d hate to criticize animal abuse for sport and sound like someone steeped in privilege!Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          So you take a negative view of horse racing then, right?


        • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

          Trust me, Jay, you are wholly incapable of sounding like someone who isn’t steeped in privilege.Report

          • Could I have a list of things that I need to be careful about criticizing, then?

            Here, I’ll get it started:

            1. End zone celebrations
            2. Killing dogs
            3. ???Report

            • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:


              • I’m beginning to wonder if the list of safe things might be shorter…

                1. Myself
                2. People similar to me
                3. ???


              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m a little unclear on why a libertarian is so eager to tell other people their culture is wrong in the first place. Here’s a thought: don’t fishing criticize people. People on the internet might find you slightly less insufferable.Report

              • There are two ways to mistake matters of morality and matters of taste.

                One is to mistake a matter of morality as a matter of taste. “Hey, it’s their culture to not let women to learn to read. We can’t judge!” At worst this comes across as evil and, at best, it comes across as the worst caricature of muddle-headed Liberal Tolerance.

                The other is to mistake a matter of taste as a matter of morality. “You shouldn’t chew gum on Sundays! It’s sinful!” At worst this comes across as Theocratic Despotism. At best, it comes across as being a curmudgeon complaining about people on their lawn.

                The problem is that you can’t really argue against matters of taste. They’re matters of taste! It’s like arguing that someone shouldn’t like/dislike black olives!

                Ah… but if you can somehow turn their matter of taste *INTO* a matter of morality… then you can judge. “Why don’t you like black olives? Is it because they are black?”

                If you do this hamfistedly enough, it tends to results in… well… in it being obvious.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

                Is the point of your argument that there is something objectively morally wrong with endzone celebrations? Because that’s kind of dumb.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                No. It’s more that getting pissed off at people really, really not liking them enough to accuse them of moral failure for not liking them to the point where they complain about them is fodder for fun-making.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, I think JB is arguing that whether zany over-the-top antics in the end zone are “awesome fun” or “just plain rude” are a matter of taste.  And to find one opinion or the other morally wrong is… um, wrong.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, I wouldn’t say that it’s “wrong”. I’d say that it’s a mistake.

                There’s a bit of a distinction there and I would like to cling to it for all I am worth.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                Explain why it’s not wrong, but still a mistake?  I’m curious.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s more that getting pissed off at people really, really not liking them enough to accuse them of moral failure for not liking them to the point where they complain about them is fodder for fun-making.

                Ahh, but that’s not what Ryan was arguing. He was arguing the other way. Given that end zone dances ought to be regarded as merely a matter of tase, why its it that someone (Costas) would elevate them to the status of having moral content? Since doing this is so obviously ridiculous, it’s easy – almost necessary! – to attribute another motive to the person doing it.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                RTod, read JB upthread. Matters of taste can’t be right or wrong. So it’s a category error.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                Given that end zone dances ought to be regarded as merely a matter of tase, why its it that someone (Costas) would elevate them to the status of having moral content?… etc.

                Still, this is an excellent point.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                Like, a really excellent point.  Like, I just had that moment where I see a vase and not two ladies kissing.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Thanks! And you know I always agree with you.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                As moral opprobrium goes, “knucklehead” is on this side of the line for me.

                As for “mindless”, I have a different relationship to that term than most.

                I see it as him saying “I do not like it! I do not like it very much!” rather than “this is Morally Wrong”.

                One of the things about matters of taste? It includes hating stuff.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Criticism leads to bad things JB. It starts out as just one person’s view, but pretty soon others join in and before you know it the Collective is trying to Change Things for the Better. It’s better to not criticize anything, really, given the result. Especially if the criticism is about yourself.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      At this point, if I were Mike Vick, I’d just say “I did two years in jail, I paid millions of dollars in fines and lost all the rest of my money, and you people still won’t get past the dog thing.  I get run over every time I throw a pass, guys step on my knees, guys nail me in the face with their helmets so bad I get brain trauma, and it gets no-called because I hurt a dog this one time.  Professional breeders kill more puppies than I ever saw dogs in my whole life but I’m still the bad guy.  Know what?  Fuck all y’all, imma kill some more dogs.”Report

  24. Fish says:

    I guess I come down on both sides here.  I certainly appreciate Emmit Smith’s “act like you’ve been there before attitude,” but I also understand the emotional release in celebrating an on-the-field accomplishment.

    Unless I’m mistaken, there’s no play clock for the extra point.  The NFL could easily control end-zone celebrations by making the extra point a timed play.  Let Stevie Johnson or DeSean Jackson celebrate any way they want to.  Heck, let ’em assemble a choreographed dance number if they want to.  While they’re doing that, the referee is going to set the ball, blow the whistle, and start the play clock.  You’ve got forty seconds…GO!

    And while we’re at it, can we get rid of the extra point and just make everyone go for two?  That five yard “delay of game” penalty suddenly becomes much bigger when you’re trying to reach the end zone instead of kicking a pretty-much-automatic extra point from the seven (ball placed at the two + five yard penalty = seven).Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Fish says:

      Oh, I very much like the kick-for-one-or-go-for-two decision. Before that became the NFL rule, I thought it was the best idea to come out of college; it adds a nice wrinkle of strategy and keeps games competitive for longer.Report

  25. Sam M says:

    Isn’t it highly likely that if someone went on the opposite rant, they would be charged with… racism?

    That is, let’s say Sportscaster X loves touchdown celebrations. A new rule comes out banning such celebrations. So he comes out and says, “Well, the ban was written by mostly old white guys who have never played the sport. Who are THEY to tell black athletes how to behave? Because as we all know, black athletes have a different concept of class and dignity, and expecting them to adhere to white standards of class and dignity is entirely unacceptable.”

    Because… they can’t adhere to these standards? Or won’t? Wouldn’t that be the working assumption?

    Someone said it above, but it bears repeating: this strikes me as something far closer to Costas busting a “kids these days” zinger on national TV. The same one my dad busts out when he sees the whippersnappers (all of whom are white where we live) doing anything different than what was done in 1950. Long hair on boys is still a bugaboo around here. Rooting for the wrong football team is another. Swear words. Manners. Etc.

    The fact that these people are white does not make him hesitate for even one second. I really don’t think he would be more willing to levy such complaints if they were black, largely because it would be impossible for him to be more eager.  

    Now, if he said, “It’s impossible for black people to have short haircuts and use proper manners because their culture won’t allow it, so we should not expect them to do so…”

    Isn’t that more racist?Report

    • BSK in reply to Sam M says:

      Yes, but that is a false dilemma if I’ve ever seen one.Report

      • Sam M in reply to BSK says:

        How so? Forming an opinion about how people in a given pursuit should conduct themselves, then criticizing a certain black person for not conducting himself in that fashion is racist.

        Forming an opinion about how people in a given pursuit should conduct themselves, but assuming that black people can’t or won’t do it is racist.

        Seems to me that forming any opinion about how a black person conducted himself is racist in and of itself, given this standard. The only thing to do would be to ignore black people. Which I assume is also racist.

        But fine. That’s a false choice. Let’s say I am interested in a certain pursuit. Call it chess or knitting or cooking or baking or… whatever.

        I am paid to opine about this pursuit. One day, I see someone conducting himself in a way that strikes me as crass or unprofessional or unclassy. That person happens to be black.

        Please describe to me how I offer that opinion without being racist. Is it possible? Can you imagine ANY way in which Bob Costas would be able to criticize a black player for being unclassy? If so, please describe what that kind of commentary would look like.

        Unless, of course, we take it as a given that you have to be a gigantic dickhead for ever taking someone to task for a lack of class.Report

  26. Jeff says:

    The sad thing is that Costas used to be a great interviewer.  Way back in the day (1988 to 1994) he had a late night talk show thart was absolutely amazing.  He had always was up on the host and the questions were in depth and interesting. 

    I miss that Bob Costas.Report

  27. DensityDuck says:

    It’s interesting to read the transcript of Costas’s rant, knowing nothing about the races of the players mentioned.  The rant doesn’t bring up their races or imply that the “culture” is anything but that of the NFL.  If there’s any racism, it’s Ryan insisting that Racism Has A Shape, and if you fit that shape then you’re racist.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Yeah, if you don’t mention the races of the people involved, it can’t possibly be racist.

      All those kids who go to school in Detroit are really stupid.  <– Not racistReport

      • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

        Assume I don’t know anything about Detroit. Explain how what you said is still racist.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Assuming that negates the content of the claim. Racism is never (or rarely) overtly expressed by intelligent people. But intelligent people like to point to the lack of overt racism as evidence that they aren’t in fact racist. If I said “Students in Detroit are stupid. Just like their kin in Africa”, would that be racist, even tho I didn’t overtly mention race? Is the idea that I was merely linking to independently held beliefs about geographical locations enough to make the claim not racist?Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

            You still assume that I know you’re talking about black people.  What if I assumed you were talking about Afrikaaners?

            I think the funny part here is that you’re saying “it’s racist when someone talks about <i>those people</i>”, and I’m saying “what people are they talking about?”, and you’re saying “<i>you</i> know, <i>those</i> people”.  I think you honestly don’t even realize what you’re doing.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

              those people who forget what mode the comment box is in 😛Report

            • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

              No, the point is how many layers of language do I have to peel back before context and general knowledge are enough for even you to understand the implied connection. On the surface, it’s easy enough. As Atwater said, ‘states rights’ became the euphemism. But if you reject that ‘states rights’ is a racially motivated term, or if it becomes apparent that even that claim is viewed by society generally as racist, then the racist would move back one more level of abstraction to make the same point.

              This is one of the consequences of PC culture, of course: back in the day racists felt comfortable expressing their racism. Now, they have to shield themselves from pushback. Which is a bit of a paradox, really: if they think racism is justified, then why not simply say it outright? And the alternative to this view, that racism is dead in America, is just too absurd to even be considered. It’s not dead, it’s just buried beneath layers of euphemism.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

                “even you”? oh snap.

                “[I]f they think racism is justified, then why not simply say it outright?”

                I suppose the alternative–that they aren’t actually being racists–is just too incompatible with your worldview.

                I don’t get where you’re trying to go with this. You say that racism is hidden beneath the surface by euphemism, and then you complain about having to “peel back” layers of language. You talk about unconcious assumptions and then you berate me for being unwilling to blindly accept your unconcious assumptions. I guess I’m sorry that I’m not willing to roll with your dogwhistling accusations?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I don’t get where you’re trying to go with this. You say that racism is hidden beneath the surface by euphemism, and then you complain about having to “peel back” layers of language.

                No. I’m not complaining about it, merely pointing out what is entirely obvious and unobjectionable. Look me in the eye DD and tell me a) that there’s no racism in the US, and b) that expressions of racism are not made under cover of euphemism to permit plausible deniability of racism. If you can do that and still kiss your mother, I’ll concede the whole argument.

                You talk about unconcious assumptions and then you berate me for being unwilling to blindly accept your unconcious assumptions.

                No, there not unconscious  assumptions. They’re very conscious. Intentional, in fact. They may play on the masses in an unconscious way, to some extent, since I think everyone sorta concedes that public expressions of racism, outside certain circles, are at least socially unacceptable, if not objectively so. Which is why your previous examples of statements being ambiguous between a racist reading and a neutral reading don’t make any sense. I mean, look: when people say that gay marriage ought to be a states rights issue, they mean that states ought to have the right to prohibit gay marriage (and abortion, and inter-racial marriage, and maybe even segregated public spaces!). But of course, it’s not fleshed out that way. What’s invoked is a positive view states autonomy and self-expression. And what sane person would oppose those things?

                “even you”? oh snap.

                I didn’t think you’d stoop so low DD. You know I was talking about the hypothetical racist person in that sentence. Let’s keep this above board, aight?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

                Stillwater, sometimes a “states rights” guy is just a guy in favor of more state autonomy. Like, errr, me. I don’t think states should be allowed to have separate spaces, but I would prefer a model where states had more leeway on a whole host of issues, <i>including things I disagree with</i>. I don’t use the term “states rights” due to the implications, and I think most of the blame that goes with that are people who used the term for more nefarious ends, but it is more than a little frustrating to support greater autonomy on some subject and (without a string of disclaimers) suddenly have it assumed that I want to do it for said nefarious ends.

                And you’re kind of backwards on gay marriage. Gay marriage has been passed state-by-state and the attempts to suppress it have (broadly) been more federal (government) in nature.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                Well, that’s a fair enough point Will. And I certainly can’t dispute it since it’s an honest expression of your views. But the context of the discussion is euphemisms for racism, and certainly ‘states rights’ often serves that role. So on that score, expressions of racism can be cloaked in more neutral language.

                As to the larger point about state’s autonomy and more flexibility in self-determination, I tend to think this makes some sense in certain domains but not in others. For example, the right to choose doesn’t seem to me like it can be arbitrarily decided: its absolute. It either is a basic human right or follows from them and therefore ought to be a codified, or it isn’t. So the federal government, as the entity charged with protecting basic rights, has a role to play in deciding the matter one way or the other. And the same goes for basic protections of gay marriage, interracial marriage, religious freedom, 2nd amendment protections, limits on searches, and other rights. So if you’re suggesting that cultural preferences on rights-related issues ought to be sufficient for expression in law depending on region, I guess I’d have to disagree.

                Re the progression of gay marriage rights, I of course agree that states are taking the lead on this. But that does’t mean that the extension of the right to marry ought to stay with the states. It seems to me it’s either a basic civil right or it isn’t, independently of regional differences on the acceptability of the practice. And if it is, then it ought to be federally protected.


              • We agree on “certain domains but not others” but are pretty far apart on which domains. I have a more… limited… view of absolute rights. Even those rights that I would strongly, strongly defend in a regional context. The domains that I would forward to the federal government have more to do with commerce and being the arbitration in how we deal with differing rights in different states (ie what happens if someone is driving to a state where an AK47 is legal to another state where an AK47 is legal through a state that it is not).

                I completely understand why people would disagree with me, though.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                ie what happens if someone is driving to a state where an AK47 is legal to another state where an AK47 is legal through a state that it is not

                INTERSTATE COMMERCE!!!Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

                “Look me in the eye DD and tell me a) that there’s no racism in the US, and b) that expressions of racism are not made under cover of euphemism to permit plausible deniability of racism.”

                :rolleyes:  I’m sure we could find some racist people.  That doesn’t mean Bob Costas is one of them.

                I mean, let’s just review here:  You’re saying that Bob Costas is a racist and therefore criticizes black people in a way that he wouldn’t criticise white people, and if he does criticise white people in that way then it’s a cover for his racism.  You’re saying that his pointing to bad things done by black people is actually a secret racist criticism that uses black football players as proxies for the entire black ethnicity–but that when he says the same things about white players, his remarks are limited to those persons themselves and are really just there as a smokescreen.

                Like I said earlier, is it really so important that Bob Costas be racist that you’ll believe that scenario?Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I don’t remember a single person accusing Bob Costas of being a racist.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Is your privilege preventing you from hearing the dogwhistles that other people are hearing?Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Ha ha! Privilege is funny when you have it! Let’s all laugh at privilege! Thank goodness we aren’t black, amirite?!Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Who’s mocking it?

                I’m asking you if your privilege is preventing you from seeing things that other people see.

                Oh, let me guess: You’ve overcome *YOUR* privilege… as is demonstrated by yelling about it louder and louder and louder and louder and louder.

                Just another white man, yelling about privilege. (Let me guess: You’re 1/32nd Cherokee.)Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Man, I try to maintain a general policy against feeding trolls, but you really do bring out the worst in me. In the interest of pretending, futilely, for the 500th time, that you give a damn about what my argument actually is:

                I have stressed, repeatedly, that privilege is pervasive, and that the best/only defense against it is constant vigilance. I’m not sure how you conclude from that that I’m the one pretending it isn’t there. It makes no more sense to me than when you argued elsewhere in this thread that some people mistake morality and taste, and therefore Costas is right. Stillwater completely dismantled that argument, but apparently you didn’t learn anything from it.

                All that said, I don’t even understand your point. Privilege is a thing that gives you a dominant social position over someone else. Accusing Bob Costas of saying something racist, or even of being a racist (which, again, isn’t something anyone has done), can’t even plausibly be tied up with the accuser’s privilege. It doesn’t make any sense. What dominant social position do I hold over Bob Costas? The answer is “none”, or extremely close to that.

                In the end, I don’t totally understand most of your motivation, except that you appear bound and determined to disagree and score points. Do you have something to contribute to a discussion about Costas’ remarks, or are you just here to be contrary?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Who’s mocking it?

                That’s a little unfair, JB. Didn’t you say upthread something about (your interpretation of) Ryan’s views being ” fodder for fun-making”?


              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I did address your argument. I said that Costas was publically disliking something that was a matter of taste and you turned it into a matter of morality by bringing racism into the discussion.

                I mocked your attempt to make a disagreement over a matter of taste into a matter of morality.

                As you switch from discussions of “racism” to discussions of “privilege”, I can’t help but notice that you are still turning a disagreement over a matter of taste into a matter of morality *AND* trying to take the moral high ground by claiming it’s a case of you being “vigilant”.

                I think it’s great that you’re trying to be virtuous. Knock yourself out. My problem comes when it’s by pointing out how very sinful other folks are… when, really, what they’re doing is merely stating a preference about a matter of taste.

                (And, by the way, if you think that I think that Costas is “right”, you don’t understand my argument. He’s “not wrong”, which is not the same thing… and I don’t think that Stillwater dismantled that argument as much as he disagreed with whether Costas was making a Moral Argument or an argument from Aesthetics… I think that’s making the latter and, as such, he may as well be giving an argument about why strawberries are better than raspberries).

                “Privilege” is being used as an argument for why Costas should not have said what he said when, presumably, there are people who could have given the exact same speech without not being accused of doing whatever you’re not accusing Costas of doing.

                It has nothing to do with the content of his speech.

                It has nothing to do with whether he makes reference to any premises.

                It has nothing to do with any argument he’s making.

                It has nothing to do with whether his conclusion logically follows from his premises.

                It has to do with WHO HE IS.

                Which shuts down the conversation. Hell, we don’t even have to quote him. We can just say “here are the stats of Costas. Here are the stats of the person he’s complaining about” and then make insinuations without actually making any arguments… why? Because “privilege” makes the argument for us.

                Even when it comes to matters of taste.

                And I am not a fan of that particular game. I do what I can to make fun of it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                That’s a little unfair, JB. Didn’t you say upthread something about (your interpretation of) Ryan’s views being ” fodder for fun-making”?

                Of course I did and of course they are.

                I’d still like to know how Ryan is squaring this circle within himself according to the premises that he seems to be operating from.

                “Privilege” always seems to have a particular thumb on the scale… it’s not one that says “you don’t have the right to an opinion on X”, it’s one that says “you are only allowed to have an opinion on X if it is one of the following opinions…”

                I mean, let’s say that Costas said “I think that these celebrations are great… they really get the fans involved with the game”, his privilege would not have changed one jot… no, not one tittle. Yet no one would be saying that he doesn’t have the standing to be saying the things that he’s saying.

                It’s only when he’s complaining that suddenly we discover that there is a privilege bar beyond which certain opinions are questionable.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Jay, I appreciate the somewhat serious response for once. I do still think you’re oversimplifying what I’m saying, though.

                It is emphatically not just about who Costas is, even though you are correct that it is ALSO about who Costas is. A white person criticizing a black person is not independently racially problematic without reference to the content of the complaint. If you said to a black person that he/she is assembling a piece of Ikea furniture incorrectly, or even if you said he/she has bad taste in ice cream, I can’t see any component that makes that statement problematic.

                The nature of the issue here is that Costas is – and please do not harp on the fact that I’m boiling this down too much, because I get it, I’m just trying to make my point – criticizing black people because they dance funny. That DOES give me the creeps, for the same reason I would cringe if you called a particularly talented black running back a “young buck”. Whether Costas intends to use the code he’s using or not – and I think he clearly does not intend it – I find the statement – the particular statement – that he’s making problematic, because of who he is and who he’s criticizing.

                It’s both things. I’m not “taking the moral high ground”, I’m not accusing Costas of racism, I’m not even accusing Costas of a serious moral crime. I’m just saying, “Dude, do you realize what you’re saying? Have you stopped to examine where that might be coming from?”

                Also, I realize you think he’s making an argument about aesthetics rather than morality, but surely you can see how reasonable people disagree. I don’t usually go around accusing people of ruining the culture because they like onions on pizza, and if I were to start doing so, you’d be the first person jumping all over me for mistaking taste for morality.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                What I think you and DensityDuck are trying to do here is act as if we can analyze the content of these statements independent of the circumstances. If Costas were complimenting the dances because the fans like them, of course that has nothing to do with enforcing his own dominant social position on other people. Do you think either one of us finds that claim non-obvious? Content and history matter for interpreting what’s going on here.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If you see “culture” as a matter of taste, someone complaining about someone ruining the culture as someone complaining about a matter of taste.

                If you see “culture” as a matter of morality, you come to a different conclusion.

                We’re not talking about little girls not learning to read or rape culture in fraternities or something that is obviously a matter of morality.

                We’re talking about something that is obviously a matter of aesthetics… and attempts to turn it into a matter of morality.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                act as if we can analyze the content of these statements independent of the circumstances.

                This need to analyze only shows up under certain circumstances. There is a burden of proof that comes along with these things and, all of a sudden, Costas has to explain how he has the standing to say the things that he said that you and I both know that someone else could have said without questions of privilege arising. *THAT* is noteworthy.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

            Worth noting that when I write about the various schools I substitute teach at, when I talk about the bad ones, I feel the need to clarify that I am talking about schools populations that are almost entirely white. And, to an extent, it is only because these students are white that I can talk so freely about them without having to worry about people thinking that I am only saying these things because they are black (and alternately, getting responses about how terrible black culture has become).Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

      It’s interesting to read the transcript of Costas’s rant


  28. Ryan Bonneville says:

    I’m moving this conversation because it’s overloading the stream up there.

    If you see “culture” as a matter of taste, someone complaining about someone ruining the culture as someone complaining about a matter of taste… We’re talking about something that is obviously a matter of aesthetics… and attempts to turn it into a matter of morality.

    I have two responses:

    1) I’m not sure why you don’t think reasonable people can disagree about this (as Tod and Burt, among others, have done in this very thread), but whatever. I think it’s far from obvious that Bob Costas considers the issue a mere matter of aesthetics, and I think the fact that he went on this rant is at least prima facie evidence that he takes this morally seriously. It’s still him who has confused taste and morality, not me.

    2) Is it your position that one cannot make a statement about preferences that raises questions about racial privilege?

    This need to analyze only shows up under certain circumstances. There is a burden of proof that comes along with these things and, all of a sudden, Costas has to explain how he has the standing to say the things that he said that you and I both know that someone else could have said without questions of privilege arising. *THAT* is noteworthy.

    You are supporting my position here. Tell me who else could have said the same thing without any raising of eyebrows, and let’s examine why that is. As I said, context matters. It’s: (a) what he said, (b) who he is, and (c) who he said it to. I need you to explain to me why you think one of those three things is irrelevant in determining whether a statement is racially difficult.

    An example, if it helps: You are at my house for a cook-out in the summer. At some point, I shout, in front of everyone else, “Jaybird, why did you eat all the watermelon?” Now imagine you’re the only black person there.


    • 1) I’m not sure why you don’t think reasonable people can disagree about this (as Tod and Burt, among others, have done in this very thread), but whatever.

      There is a “privilege” dynamic here, remember.

      This changes things from being merely a “I like black olives” “I don’t like black olives” discussion.

      It becomes a “people who recognize privilege and try to be vigilant against it like black olives… and people who don’t go around saying stuff like how they don’t like black olives” discussion.

      I *WISH* that reasonable people could disagree. The injection of privilege into the conversation turns it into “reasonable people agree, privileged people disagree” conversation.

      I think the fact that he went on this rant is at least prima facie evidence that he takes this morally seriously.

      So let’s bust out his essay, in its entirety:

      For those of you too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to notice, we live in a culture that in many ways grows more stupid and graceless by the moment. Sports both reflects and influences that sorry trend, so on playing fields everywhere, true style is in decline, while mindless exhibitionism abounds.

      In the late ’60’s, the Giants had a receiver named Homer Jones. He invented the spike — and it was great; a simple, elegant punctuation that somehow has devolved into this…(video of excessive celebrations)

      Given the tone of the times, it’s probably too much to expect that most players would appreciate that back in the day, this guy (Barry Sanders) was much cooler than this guy (Mark Gastineau), or that there is a difference between spontaneous and/or good-natured displays of enthusiasm and calculated displays of obnoxious self-indulgence. No, that train has already gone so far down the wrong track, there’s probably no turning back.

      So our suggestion here is a more modest one: hey, knuckleheads, is it too much to ask that you confine your buffoonery to situations that don’t directly damage your team? Week after week, game after game, we see guys who think nothing of incurring penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing their team’s valuable yardage, even late in close games.

      Today’s most conspicuous culprit: Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson, who after a TD catch versus the Jets, thought it would be a good idea to go Marcel Marceau, pantomiming, among other things, Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg. But in this case, it was Johnson, who shot himself in the foot, as his display cost his team a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff. And given a short field, the Jets proceeded to score in a critical game that wound up, 28-24, New York.

      Which raises this question: where are the coaches in all this? Guys are routinely benched or called out for blown assignments. When is a coach going to make an overdue statement and sit a guy down on the grounds of pure selfishness and unprofessionalism detrimental to his team?

      By the way, late in the loss to the Jets, Johnson dropped a pass that could have led to a Buffalo win. Shockingly, he didn’t follow it with a rehearsed “my bad” dance of apology. Maybe he just forgot.

      And let’s look at the word choices here (and I tried to get every word that contained “judgment”):

      stupid, graceless, sorry, style, decline, mindless exhibitionism, simple, elegant, cooler, spontaneous, good-natured, enthusiasm, calculated, obnoxious self-indulgence, modest, knuckleheads, buffoonery, damage, unsportsmanlike, culprit, selfishness, unprofessionalism, detrimental.

      Did I miss any?

      Which of those strikes you as moral approbation? It seems to me that we’re well-within discussions of aesthetics here.

      Is it your position that one cannot make a statement about preferences that raises questions about racial privilege?

      Of course not.

      But the fact that this is possible does not make what Costas said an instance of such.

      Tell me who else could have said the same thing without any raising of eyebrows, and let’s examine why that is.

      For me, the “raising of eyebrows” deals with the people inclined to raise eyebrows… given that the exact same speech could have been given by someone else without these same people raising them.

      This tells me that the content of the speech has nothing to do with why they raised their eyebrows but because of who Bob Costas is.

      When you can change the speaker without changing the speech and nobody cares in this circumstance and there are raised eyebrows in that one, the interesting issue is the one that belongs to the eyebrow owners.

      At some point, I shout, in front of everyone else, “Jaybird, why did you eat all the watermelon?” Now imagine you’re the only black person there.

      Is whether I did, in fact, eat all the watermelon relevant to the theoretical?Report

      • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

        Reasonable people can disagree. I think Costas’s rant is racially problematic for the reasons I’ve listed. Tod, in particular, said that he agrees (more or less) with my diagnosis of what makes things racially problematic, but he doesn’t think this rises to that level. Reasonable people, disagreeing. News at eleven.

        As for your list, I think “stupid” and “decline” indicate something slightly more morally charged than mere aesthetic judgment. Who would even say something like “we live in a culture that grows more stupid and graceless by the moment” if they didn’t intend any kind of moral judgment at all? Maybe he should have followed up with the Seinfeldian “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

        Is whether I did, in fact, eat all the watermelon relevant to the theoretical?

        Is it relevant to whether what I’ve said is racially problematic? Not being black myself, I can’t 100% guarantee this answer, but I suspect it is not. If you were black, I am willing to claim that you would find the question pretty uncomfortable in either case. This is, of course, the nub of the whole thing. You seem to believe that there is nothing cringeworthy about saying something that dredges up racial stereotypes and makes people feel extremely uncomfortable as long as the statement is true. That’s exactly the sort of thing that I think is well explained by privilege.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

          I can’t help but see that guy on the Geico commercials getting all angry because someone said “neanderthal”.Report

        • Ah, semiotics.

          It seems to me that if we’re going to talk about what we’re not talking about but signalling with plausible deniability when it comes to whether we are, in fact, signalling, it becomes very important to not minimize things to circular arguments.

          If I am your best friend and have been your best friend since infancy (we cried on planes together!) and I came back with “you gonna whip me, cracka?”, I could see that what we were actually doing was demonstrating the strength of our friendship to everyone else there at the BBQ. Hey, we can say the most offensive things to each other, things that make everybody else at the party wince, and laugh about it because we are so tight.

          If you’re just being a jerk and showing off to your friends that you can invite a black guy to your BBQ and humiliate him in front of everybody with impunity, then that’s an entirely different dynamic than the previous one.

          And, of course, if I did eat all of the watermelon, then “why did you eat all the watermelon?” could be something that fell out of your mouth before you realized what you were saying and then you’re standing there, aghast, that you actually mentioned watermelon to a black person and, worse than that, in front of people… well, that’s an entirely different dynamic again. (I should expect to not be invited to the next BBQ, I imagine.)

          Reducing it to “a white guy said this about a black guy” when whiteness isn’t really relevant and blackness sure as hell ain’t is to create a false positive… on a very slim reed indeed.Report

          • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

            I’m sorry, what? I appreciate your willingness to tease out some scenarios here, because they’re interesting, but your last claim makes almost no sense to me. Whiteness and blackness are both relevant in the story, and both are obviously so. If you’re not black in the first place, when I ask you about the watermelon, it’s purely a question of (a) did you eat the watermelon, and (b) why did you do so? There are no other aspects to the issue, and it needs basically no further explication.

            If we’re both black, I have no real idea what the scenario looks like. This is one those moments where I am going to come right out and admit my own privilege – not to mention my personal experience of the universe independent of my privilege – leaves me unable to really answer the question. Maybe it will be like the above where it’s no big deal, maybe it’ll be an inside joke. I have no idea. I can’t address it sensibly.

            The only reason the scenario is problematic – and the only reason you seem to feel the need to examine different ways we got to the scenario – is because my being white and your being black is an issue. Whether I’m insulting you, saying something accidentally, or just plain ignorant of what my words make you feel is a neat question for another time, but it doesn’t really address the fact that what I’ve said is going to make some people – probably including you, except in your first scenario – cringe.Report

            • Sorry. I didn’t mean whiteness/blackness was irrelevant to the BBQ (oh, goodness, it certainly would be) but irrelevant to rant by Costas.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

                I see. Well, in that case, we’re at the level of “reasonable people disagree” – at long last. Whew.

                I’m not on a witch hunt here. I don’t want Bob Costas to lose his job. I realize now that the word “racist” was incredibly poorly chosen. I will endeavor not to do that again.Report

            • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

              Argh, I have more to say. I keep coming up with new thoughts. Jumping off of your scenarios and what I said to DD below, if you know what the statement means, and you say it specifically to hurt someone, that’s the big deal. Racism with a capital R. Bigotry. Whatever. That’s the one that’s just evil.

              If you don’t know, or it’s an accident, that’s the one that’s what I would call “racially problematic”. It’s the one where you should apologize, but it says nothing about whether you’re a bad person.Report

              • kenB in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                OK, I’m pretty close to agreement here, except that in case 2, I think *both parties* have a responsibility to smooth the interaction — the speaker should accept that what s/he said has potential offensive overtones and be ready to apologize, *and* the listener should go with the most charitable understanding of the comment and not take offense where none was intended.Report

          • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

            To add to the beginning, whiteness is obviously not the only issue. If we are both white and you are overweight, and I ask the question, it might be equally uncomfortable, although in that scenario it is far more likely that my intentions are purely malevolent.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

      To the extent that there’s any moral message in Costas’s actual words, it’s that coaches should reprimand players for behavior that can damage a team’s performance, even if said behavior wasn’t extreme enough to draw a penalty.

      “At some point, I shout, in front of everyone else, “Jaybird, why did you eat all the watermelon?” Now imagine you’re the only black person there.”

      …which is only racist if you know that “black people like watermelon” is a racist statement. 

      There was a man in China who bought an ad in the newspaper classified section, reading “in memory of June 4 1989”.  Nobody stopped him from printing it, because nobody knew what it meant.  There’s a reason I’m telling this story.

      That aside:  So you’re arguing that end-zone celebrations is something only black people do?  Or that jumping and dancing as a form of celebration is something only black people do?

      Or are you really just going with the ultimate-reduction “any time a white man criticizes a black man it’s racist”?Report

      • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I’m not addressing most of this because I don’t think it’s a serious attempt at an argument, but this….

        …which is only racist if you know that “black people like watermelon” is a racist statement.”

        is key to the entire discussion. It is racist whether or not you know. It just is. It is racist if the person you say it to finds it uncomfortable because of the races of the people involved. If you don’t know what the word “nigger” means, and you use it in a room full of black people, IT IS STILL RACIST.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

          …yeah, which of us isn’t interested in serious discussion?  The one asking that the other justify the unstated assumptions that underlie his argument, or the one angrily declaring that context doesn’t exist and he’s expressing absolute facts?Report

          • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Which one of us is angrily declaring that context doesn’t exist? This is what I mean when I say I never know what you’re arguing.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

              When you insist that racist language is racist regardless of who is using it and how they’re using it, you’re denying that context has any meaning at all. 

              I mean–let’s just be clear, here, you’re saying that I cannot ask a black person whether they ate all the watermelon without it being racist.  EVER. Even if they did in fact eat the watermelon.

              “If you don’t know what the word “nigger” means, and you use it in a room full of black people, IT IS STILL RACIST.”

              This baby is totally racist, then.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Okay, fair enough. I think my stronger claim is “It is racist if the person you say it to finds it uncomfortable because of the races of the people involved.” That’s, I guess, not context-independent.

                As for the rest, I am saying that it is unlikely you would be able to ask a black person, publicly, in the middle of a picnic where he or she is the only black person present, if he or she ate all the watermelon without making him or her uncomfortable. If you know for a fact that it wouldn’t make him or her uncomfortable, and you are asking because you sincerely want to know, then that seems at least generally fair.

                But if that person does find it uncomfortable, you are obligated to apologize, I should think. This is the better claim, I admit. If you say some racial epithet in a room full of people it applies to, not knowing it, and they say, “Hey, that’s not a good word for you to be using here because it’s offensive”, then what we have is something that is “racially problematic” if not explicitly racist (since that word, as others have pointed out, is really loaded). I’m sorry if I’ve let my terms slip around too much.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                The thing is, it’s exactly as problematic as a British person in New York asking for a fag (or, maybe, a New Yorker in Britain talking about how there were so many bums hanging out on the Underground.)  That’s what I mean about context.  The thing that makes asking a black person if they ate the watermelon racist is the cultural context that links black people, watermelon, and racism.  You need to already know that ‘black people and watermelon’ is racist before asking a black person if they ate the watermelon is racist.

                As opposed to, say, “you ate all the watermelon because you’re a greedy thief, just like all black people”. Which bring us back to Costas.  Had he been all “this is clearly just an overflow of black culture’s lack of decoroum and discipline”, then yes, I’d agree that it was kind of racist–because Costas was specifically implying that being black was the root cause of the excessive touchdown celebration.Report

      • Ryan Bonneville in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Also, just to really get at how incredibly sociopathic I think this position is, what if the scenario did happen, and my black friend pulled me aside to explain how my question made him feel uncomfortable because of the racial stereotypes it called up? What’s the more appropriate response?

        A) “Oh God, I’m so sorry! I will never do that again!”

        B) “But you did eat all the watermelon.”Report

  29. Tom Van Dyke says:

    I’m underwhelmed by all this.  Dude helped lose the game for his team.  He’s a professional and the reality is that there’s a penalty for excessive—and more to the point, pre-planned—“celebrations,” and this was clearly one.

    The league banned them a few years back when they reached the height of absurdity: Terrell Owens in particular, iirc, with a Sharpie planted in his uni, then a cellphone planted in the goalpost.  This isn’t celebration, a spontaneous expression of joy for the team’s success. It’s exhibitionism, self-glorification, and bad sportsmanship to rub it in on the other team.

    DD helpfully provides the transcript, and I found what I was curious to see: Costas starts out with the first egregious offender of some years back, Mark Gastineau, he of the first “sack dance.”

    A white guy, and of course the verrrrrry aware Costas used him purposefully, knowing that just this kind of crap was waiting for him by criticizing a black guy.  The point is that the “sack dance” was all about Gastineau, not the game or his team.  A sack doesn’t put anything up on the scoreboard, and Lord knows we’ve seen a QB dust himself off and come right back with a big completion on the very next play.  BFD.

    So too, what does Costas contrast the sack dance with?  The class of Barry Sanders, yes, a black dude.  Anybody who can hear a dog whistle when Costas is bending over backwards not to blow it is hearing things.

    Remember the Ickey Shuffle?  Ickey Woods, black RB for Cincinnati?  The whole country liked that and even started doing it.  Ickey was a big happy goofball, and The Shuffle was childlike but not childish and people could tell..

    And that’s the difference here.  Neither would Ickey have done it if it was going to cost the Bengals 15 yards on the next kickoff.  That wouldn’t be Ickey.

    Wiki tells us the league considered banning it, but let it slide.  Also that well-known caucasoid “NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip famously performed the Ickey Shuffle in victory lane after winning the 1989 Daytona 500.”  It was a joyful thing.

    That’s a world away from a black guy mocking the other team’s Plaxico Burress [a black guy] for a stupid and life-changing mistake that cost him 2 years in prison and of his career. It’s a world away from Tim Tebow’s thankfulness at success on the field, and how the War on Christmas got in here I have no idea.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      TVD, this is a pretty excellent response. Where we disagree actually arises specifically from where we agree. I think you are absolutely correct that Costas drew the Gastineau/Sanders contrast specifically because he knew this was a racially problematic argument to be making. What we disagree about is that you think that it’s not and his efforts indicate that, whereas I think it is and his efforts illustrate that.

      Still, this is exactly the “reasonable people disagree” thing I’m fighting with Jaybird about. So thanks.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      “Anybody who can hear a dog whistle when Costas is bending over backwards not to blow it is hearing things.”

      Except that, apparently, to some people, bending over backwards to not blow a dogwhistle means that you’re actually blowing it twice as hard.Report

    • Steve S. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      “Anybody who can hear a dog whistle when Costas is bending over backwards not to blow it is hearing things.”

      I think this kind of misses the point.

      Costas has been around sports for decades.  If he’s going to complain about how some aspect of sports today is inferior to how it was in 1969 he’s got to know that this will be fraught with a racial component whether he wants it to be or not.  I mean, somebody who has covered sports for decades and pretends to be some sort of intellectual certainly knows this.

      So his options are to leave it alone, or he can say his piece and live with the consequences, or he can do what he ultimately did; say his piece but caveat it with a few “some of my best friends are black” moments.

      There is just no way around it.  Look up the top touchdown scorers in the NFL, the vast majority of them are black.  You can no more call them “knuckleheads” as a class and expect it to escape notice than if you called rappers a bunch of “knuckleheads” but put a picture of Eminem in your video essay to illustrate your point.

      “Terrell Owens in particular, iirc, with a Sharpie planted in his uni”

      This is just an aside, but I happened to be at that game.  I was on the opposite side of the stadium and could tell that he was pulling one of his patented stunts but couldn’t see exactly what it was.  I was part of history!Report

  30. wardsmith says:

    if you called rappers a bunch of “knuckleheads”

    You mean there’s one (Eminem included) who isn’t?

    My kids used to listen to rap. If I heard a “song” I’d ask them if the artist was dead. Oftentimes he was, so I’d say, “I like him”. Eventually my oldest said, “Dad how come the only rappers you like are dead?” Then he said, “Oh I get it”. That’s when I broke out my old LP’s and showed them what REAL music sounded like. They’ve never gone back.Report