by Kendra James
HBO’s Ballers is one of the most confusing yet simplistic shows to debut this summer. It doesn’t require more than 30 minutes of your attention a week, and if asked what it’s about you need only three words to explain: Entourage with football.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, John David Washington, Dule Hill, Omar Benson Miller, and Rob Corddry, the show was billed as a comedy about the lives of current and retired football players in Miami that would entertain while also highlighting some of the issues the NFL has faced (or tried to quietly sweep under the rug) over the past decade.
In reality, calling it a comedy would be an overstatement. It is better described as a show with an occasional guffaw. The pilot was directed by Peter Berg, who also directed the film and eventual pilot for Friday Night Lights before sticking around to executive produce that show’s entire run. That pedigree, and the fact that Ballers debuted before Berg shared a transphobic meme about Caitlin Jenner, had me inclined to at least give the pilot a chance.
The confusion in watching Ballers comes when you realise that you are still watching Ballers. By the time you’ve reached the finale you’re done trying to explain why you’re watching Ballers: an uneven show being kept afloat by nothing (really, nothing) more than the charm of the cast and the frustration of knowing that underneath the luxury porn and sex jokes there could be something there.
(Editor’s note: In light of recent events we’ve opted to repost this article as a an unfortunate refresher re: domestic violence and the NFL.)
By Guest Contributor David J. Leonard, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire
In the aftermath of the tragic murder of Kasandra Michelle Perkins, and the subsequent suicide of Jovan Belcher, much of the media and social media chatter have focused on Belcher. Indeed, Kasandra Michelle Perkins has been an afterthought in public conversations focused on questions regarding the Chiefs’ ability to play, concussions, masculinity, guns, and the culture of football in the aftermath of this tragedy. Over at the always brilliant Crunk Feminist Collective website, one member described the situation in sobering terms:
Headlines and news stories have focused on the tragedy from the lens of the perpetrator (including speculation of potential brain trauma, his involvement, as an undergraduate, in a Male Athletes Against Violence initiative, and his standing as an allstar athlete), in some ways dismissing or overshadowing the lens of the victim, who in headlines is simply referred to as “(his) girlfriend.”
Mike Lupica, at the NY Daily News, offered a similar criticism about our focus and misplaced priorities:
That is why the real tragedy here — the real victim — is a young woman named Kasandra Michelle Perkins, whom Belcher shot and killed before he ever parked his car at the Chiefs’ practice facility and put that gun to his head.
She was 22 and the mother of Belcher’s child, a child who is 3 months old, a child who will grow up in a world without parents. At about 10 minutes to 8, according to Kansas City police, Jovan Belcher put a gun on the mother of his child in a house on the 5400 block of Chrysler Ave. in Kansas City and started shooting and kept shooting. You want to mourn somebody? Start with her.
By Guest Contributor Isaac Oommen
Players hold up a banner saying “Say No To Racism” before the FIFA World Cup match pitting Uruguay against Ghana. Image via Zimbio.
Soccer was an unstoppable force in the Gulf Middle East, where I grew up. One of my earliest memories is of my dad teaching me the basics of ball control in our gravel back lot in Buraimi, Oman (my dad maintains to this day that the essence of playing good soccer is to understand that the ball is actually metaphorical, making the game the only one that can be played with no equipment whatsoever). These were soon followed by actual games at school, tournaments and watching the dubbed Arabic anime Captain Majid.
When I first came to Vancouver, playing pick-up games of soccer was one of the few ways in which I felt that tiny slice of home. Even now, my game-days are spent at packed Commercial Drive cafes where groups of brown men from all over the world switch between spells of silence and uproar while staring at high definition televisions.
Interacting with large transnational populations wherever I went, I found, as sports writer Matt Hern says in One Game at a Time, that there was rarely a site of greater integration, tolerance, generosity and undermining of racial stereotypes than sports.
By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Complex
This week Bruce Lee made his HD debut on EA Sports UFC as a pre-order bonus — or, if you beat the game on Professional Difficulty, as an unlockable. The results, thankfully, are impressive. The developers have Bruce’s face and body structure down, but more importantly, they’ve captured his little mannerisms—the nervous tic where he rubs his nose, the stance when he lets loose with a signature punch or kick, and the scowl on his face when he approaches the Octagon.
UFC fighters, in their promotions of the game, have fallen over themselves to praise Bruce Lee. They speak reverently of him—he’s a childhood hero, an inspiration for how to lead one’s life, a warrior that all other fighters should aspire to. Dana White refers to him as the founder of mixed martial arts, and although this claim smacks of hyperbole, it has some merit. Bruce was someone who valued practicality over form—he disliked the traditional arts’ reliance on stances, believing that these things were too stiff, and thus, predictable. Instead, Bruce believed in Jeet Kune Do — the “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It was a philosophy that encouraged formlessness — what was flexible and applicable in a “real life’”situation.
By Arturo R. García
The advocacy group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry (EONM), which has been involved in the ongoing campaign against the Washington, D.C. football team’s name, posted some disturbing footage last week of two Native Americans being accosted and forcibly restrained by members of the San Francisco Police Department?
Their apparent crime? Asking a baseball fan to show some sensitivity.
By Guest Contributor Megan Red Shirt-Shaw
On the first morning of this year’s NFL Draft, I turned on the television to see an interview with the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell. Sitting in a suit and smiling, Goodell was asked about his favorite team growing up. After saying he had initially been a Baltimore Colts fan, he shared that he eventually became a huge Washington Redskins fan. A few voices from the studio audience let out a whoop in solidarity. I stood with my arms crossed watching the remainder of the interview, wishing like many young Native people that I could sit down and have a conversation with the commissioner of the NFL.
Conversations about the Redskins, Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves have successfully gained a lot of attention over the past year, with movements across the country arising including the “De-Chief” movement and Change the Mascot. House Democrats, and the league’s own Richard Sherman have come out in support of why the name change is important, especially with Donald Sterling’s public downfall in the NBA.
Beyond a deeper understanding of what the term “Redskin” means to Native people, there’s the issue of where that term is continuing to rise to the surface. What the adults on the wrong side of the conversation seem to forget, is who images of screaming painted Redskins fans or Eagles fans holding “Indian heads” on stakes truly impact the most – Native kids across the country who are just beginning to form their own identities as young, Indigenous members of society.
By Arturo R. García
They might be loathe to admit it, but good cheer likely wasn’t the only reason so many people connected to the NBA were so quick to declare Tuesday morning the final chapter in Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s relationship with the league. The problem is, the league’s own mechanics all but ensure that won’t be the case. And that’s just on paper.