Uncomfortable Conversations

It’s time to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Jim Rome
June 02, 2020 - 9:54 am
George Floyd

USA Today

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I’m going to be honest – this is a really strange time to be hosting a sports radio show.  Really?….Really strange… does not come close to doing it justice. But let’s just go with that phrasing for right now. Because for nearly three months, there have not been sports. Pretty much zero.

So when people say “stick to sports” my answer would be: what sports would you like me to stick to? What game from last night would you like me to talk about?

But even if there were sports right now, even if we were right in the middle of the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Final, preparing for the US Open in golf, and MLB was heating up, it would still feel very strange to talk about sports right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I can.

I’ve got three interviews scheduled that I’m looking forward to. And we can talk about what is happening with the return of the NBA and NHL seasons, and we can talk about why MLB is throwing up all over itself right now.

But does that really feel like the most important thing at the moment? Can you honestly say that’s what we should be thinking about and doing?

When there are protests happening around the country, when people are being tear gassed, when there is looting – and I’ll get to more on that in a moment – with all of this happening, it just seems really strange to come with a hard take about Dak Prescott’s contract negotiations today.

I know people like to treat sports as an escape, but there’s nothing to escape to right now. There are no games. There are no events. And that’s a good thing.

Because for far too long, sports has been a place where people try to block out the reality of the world. And if the people playing those sports want to talk about the realities they face, they’re told to stick to that sport.

I want to play a clip from University of New Orleans athletic director Tim Duncan talking about an experience he just had.

I wanted to share that clip because of the story that he tells and it is a story that is all too familiar to black men and women in this country. But for me, that’s not part of my reality. And there’s a good chance it’s not part of yours either.

But it is vitally important that those of us who don’t experience that, are able to hear that story.

And that we try to gain some level of insight into the different emotions that you would feel in that situation, knowing how some of those encounters with police have ended in the past. And then you have to deal with those emotions and then they become normalized. Because it’s not normal.

Living in fear of what might happen if you encounter the police should not be normal.

And I know that for some of you, that is going to be very hard to hear. You are going to feel threatened by this story and by the issues that we talked about on the show yesterday.

You are going to turn off your radio. You’ll mutter something about “white guilt” or an “agenda” or that I’m being forced into talking about this by the “powers that be.” You’ll start a sentence with “yeah but” or “what about.” Maybe you’ll dig for some statistics that make you feel better or that you believe in some twisted way makes what happened to George Floyd okay. Or not such a big deal.

And that’s all complete and utter crap. There is no statistic or explanation that would make what happened to George Floyd okay. I have more to lose from talking about this than I gain from it.

If this was about self-interest, I would do the safe thing and talk about sports right now. That is the safe thing. Do three hours of non-threatening, safe, sports radio and say that all we talk about is sports and this is a place where you can escape. That would be the thing that everyone listening could agree on. But that would be tone deaf and ignorant. 

Or I could do the thing where I say that looting is bad and I could just focus on that, and make that the issue instead of the ACTUAL issue. I’m never going to defend looting. It’s moronic when it happens after a sports team wins or loses and it is tragic when it takes place now, because it gives people the opportunity to change the subject. To say, yeah, but what about the looters.

There is a distinction to be made between protestors and looters. There is a distinction to be made between people leading and participating in peaceful protests and demanding justice and the folks rushing into the Patagonia store in Santa Monica and grabbing surf boards. 

The killing of George Floyd is completely and utterly outrageous and unacceptable. Surely we can agree on that. And the fact that this is a pattern that keeps happening is what we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other problems in the world that need to be addressed. But this is the topic of the moment.

I get it if you feel threatened by the conversation from yesterday. But that’s why I wanted to have that conversation. Because it’s well past time that white men had that conversation with each other, man to man.

It is hard to hear. It is hard to be confronted by a reality by stories like Tim Duncan’s and countless others. That is not the one that you and I experience every day. And it is really, really hard to maybe consider the way in which you and I might benefit from this system.

And I’m going to be honest – I am not an expert. I am a work in progress on this. I might make mistakes on this. But the only thing worse than saying the wrong thing right now is saying nothing at all. 

I get it if you feel uncomfortable with this topic. BUT, it’s time to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It just is. And again, my only agenda, is to do better. And to get this right.

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