Friday, August 2, 2013

5 comments Jason Whitlock Seems to Believe Tony Soprano is a Real Person

Jason Whitlock has written on the topic of Aaron Hernandez and says Hernandez is a by-product of our culture and really society is partly at fault for his actions. It also appears that Whitlock thinks Christopher Moltisanti and Tony Sopranos are real people.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the monstrous allegations facing Aaron Hernandez as an aberration that says nothing about American sports and American society.

It would also be a waste of a perfectly good column that could serve as a way to get attention.

He is, in my eyes, a symbol that popular culture has installed Tony Soprano as America’s most celebrated and revered icon above Joe Montana.

I'm not entirely sure where it states that Tony Soprano is the most celebrated symbol in pop culture replacing Joe Montana, but I guess to get to his point Jason Whitlock has to makes some shit up as he goes along.

Let me explain. For nearly two decades, I’ve been writing columns detailing the impact on the sports world of popular culture’s glamorization of prison/gangster/hip-hop culture.

But there are athletes who enjoy the hip-hop culture that don't around killing people. While Whitlock is smart to detail this impact, he needs to be careful to chalk up every incident involving an athlete to this culture.

Jay-Z, a rapper who glorifies his former life as a drug dealer, has far more cultural influence than LeBron James.

In way, this is true. In the realm of sports LeBron James and Jay-Z's impact collide. What LeBron does on the court has a large impact on culture as well.

Aaron Hernandez is a reflection of where we are as a society. Like Allen Iverson and an endless plethora of fatherless and directionless modern athletes since the end of Michael Jordan’s reign, Hernandez saw his athletic gifts as a platform to represent where he was from, not where he hoped to go.

Yeah, this is sort of true. I tend to not like agreeing with Jason Whitlock because I feel like he is talking in generalities here by painting "an endless plethora" of athletes with the same brush. I agree in principle, but I don't like how he paints with such a broad brush.

This is what a 40-year drug war, mass incarceration, a steady stream of Mafia movies, three decades of gangster rap and two decades of reality TV have wrought: athletes who covet the rebellious and marketable gangster persona.

I have to think Hernandez's actions can be explained by other things outside of his embracing the gangster persona. A lot of athletes don't have to covet and chase the gangster persona because they are born into it. It's not that Hernandez chased being a gangster, but he could have been born into and didn't have the strength to escape from his situation. We are only as good as we were raised to be, so I don't have to think Hernandez looked at "Scarface" and thought "That's what I want to be," but instead saw the movie and noticed small parallels in his life or the lives of others he knew growing up. You can grow up in a middle class household and still not have been brought up correctly. If Whitlock is going to paint athletes with such a broad brush then he needs to understand not all athletes chase the gangster persona, but just lack the want and ability to change their surrounding which encourage this persona.

The unhealthy side effects of drug prohibition and popular culture have made murderous drug dealers respected members of American society. Random, murderous violence and the people who commit those crimes have been normalized in America, thanks in large part to popular culture.

So it is television's fault?

We all loved and respected Tony Soprano. This is why James Gandolfini’s death was such a big story.

No. Not at all. You can tell Bill Simmons and Jason Whitlock are friends because they love to use the proverbial "we" when they want to lump a large group of people together in order to help prove one of their points. It's lazy writing. In the face of a lack of evidence, just say "we" all believe something.

The reason James Gandolfini's death was such a big story is because he was one of the most talented actors of this generation and he died a premature death. Plus, I personally held out hope of a "Sopranos" movie and I know I'm not the only one. So his death means that movie is definitely not happening. He is best known as Tony Soprano, but he was a talented actor and that's why his death was a big deal.

Modern athletes carry guns. They do drugs. They mimic rappers and gangster pop-culture icons.

Partially because some of them grew up around people who patterned themselves after these people. Yes, these athletes want to mimic some gangster pop culture icons, but what takes the athlete from being a mimic to putting this mimicry into action can be partly attributed to the familiarity of these icons.

It was only a matter of time before some athlete was accused of imitating Tony Soprano. The gangster influence in our society is that strong.

Okay, no one was imitating Tony Soprano when he (allegedly) committed this murder. I know Jason Whitlock is very tenuously trying to tie Aaron Hernandez in with Tony Soprano, but the comparison isn't doing a hell of a lot for me.

Aaron Hernandez is not Rae Carruth or O.J. Simpson. Carruth and Simpson were accused of committing crimes of passion, emotion and greed. They had motives. Hernandez is being described by police as simply violent, volatile and dangerous.

Supposedly Hernandez wanted to shut up Odin Lloyd because Lloyd knew too much about another crime Hernandez is alleged to have committed. There's the motive.

He’s Joe Pesci’s character in the movie “Casino.”

Stop trying for parallels to pop culture. Aaron Hernandez isn't Joe Pesci in "Casino."

It’s written to argue that athletes of the previous generations belonged to an athletic culture that sat atop American pop culture. There was no incentive for Hank Aaron to acquire street cred. He was the gold standard.

Well, gangster culture wasn't as prevalent when Hank Aaron broke in the majors. So besides the fact there was no incentive to acquire street cred, it was also just a different time with a different culture. Times change.

Jay-Z is the new gold standard.

Just like Frank Sinatra was the gold standard a few decades earlier. Just like other pop culture icons were the gold standard for athletes in one way or another during other decades.

The whole sports world played along with Jigga Man’s charade of NBA ownership. Now Kevin Durant and other athletes are flocking to Hova’s sports agency. An unrepentant, flamboyant former drug dealer has the White House, President Obama-stamped seal of approval.

Not to beat the Frank Sinatra comparison into the ground, but had the stamp of approval of John F. Kennedy and various other prominent athletes' stamp of approval too. You don't have to do too much research to see the ties to illegal crime (i.e. the Mafia) that Sinatra had during his lifetime. I'm not a huge Jay-Z fan, but he is a former ("former" being the key word) drug dealer and he isn't the first successful person to have a shady background and eventually be looked up to by athletes.

Proving we learn nothing from our history, drug prohibition has legitimized the drug dealer the same way alcohol prohibition legitimized bootleggers (Joseph Kennedy). You let corrupt people make enough money and eventually they’ll use their wealth, power and influence to bait others into participating in and rationalizing their corrupt actions.

This article is all over the place. How is the world at-large supposed to stop someone from making money, especially if most of a person's money is gained through legal actions (Jay-Z's money may have started in drug dealing, but making music and his business sense has caused most of his current wealth)? I understand where Whitlock wants to go with this column, but he isn't pulling it off. He's trying to pull a fictional character into the real world (Tony Soprano), compare this fictional character's actions to Jay-Z, and then say the NBA shouldn't let Jay-Z have a sports agency. So the basic point is that Aaron Hernandez committed murder because the NBA allowed Jay-Z to become a partial owner of an NBA team. After all, Hernandez wants to be like Tony Soprano, who apparently is a real person now.

Walter White and Marlo Stanfield are heroes.

Wow, what a misinterpretation. I realize Jason Whitlock loves "The Wire" and considers himself the expert on the show, but Marlo Stanfield isn't a hero. There are no heroes on that show. Vince Gilligan specifically is taking Walter White from a sympathetic character into a character the audience has difficulty rooting for. Walter White is not the hero, we are simply following his journey from teacher to drug kingpin and we see this journey mostly from his point of view. Jason Whitlock is misunderstanding things. Walter White and Marlo Stanfield aren't heroes, they are the main characters.

Incarcerating people for profit is a legitimate form of business. It’s this cesspool that allowed Aaron Hernandez to hide out in the open.

Aaron Hernandez is not responsible for his actions. It's society's fault I tell you.

He reportedly threatened Wes Welker. Matt Light, a former Patriot, made it clear in a newspaper interview he could easily see Hernandez’s character flaws. A dozen NFL franchises took him off their draft boards based on their investigation of his behavior at Florida.

NFL franchises took Randy Moss and Warren Sapp off draft boards because of concerns regarding their behavior. I'm not downplaying the pre-draft concerns about Hernandez and how he has now been accused of murder, but dozens of other players have been removed from teams' draft boards due to concerns that team had and these concerns never came to fruition.

When he stood in chains before a judge at his arraignment, in a white T-shirt and his arms decorated in ink, Hernandez did not look out of place.

Partially because he been suspected and arrested for murder. It's easy to say a guy doesn't look out of place in chains when he is standing in court fresh out of jail wearing chains. Otherwise, Aaron Hernandez just looks like a regular athlete who chooses to have tattoos.

Guilty or innocent, he looked like someone who had prepared for this moment. He didn’t look like an athlete. He looked like an ex-con.

I don't think Jason Whitlock is racist, but he has made a career out of making statements like this that he knows he can get away with saying and other writers could not get away with saying. It's a sort of competitive advantage that Whitlock has claimed as his own. He doesn't race-bait, but he uses his background and race as a way to get attention (negative or positive) that would only give other writers negative attention.

Like nearly everything else in this society, athlete culture has been hijacked by mass incarceration and the pervasive gangster culture it has produced.

A lot of athletes also grew up in this culture. So the culture has less hijacked sports and more sports has become a part of this culture due to the background of some of these athletes who play the sports. It's a symbiotic relationship in a way.

Sports culture is steeped in patriotism and the ideals and values we claim make this the greatest country in the world. It’s not by accident the national anthem is played before every sporting event.

America, fuck yeah! Sports are steeped in patriotism, but everything steeped in patriotism can't stay pure and free from issues. Look at the military for an example of this. Nearly everything about the military is patriotic, but on nearly ever level there is some sense of impurity and even impropriety. It can't be prevented.

Rappers and musicians are rebels. They look normal in prison tattoos and white Ts.

Again, Jason Whitlock takes advantage of statements he can make that other writers can't make.

We can no longer distinguish bad from good. We no longer even aspire to be good; it has considerably less value.

Again with the "we" that Bill Simmons also seems to enjoy using so much. It's such a lazy way to try and make a point. Just lump everyone together and say "we" can't distinguish bad from good. It makes the problem more of a societal problem as Whitlock is suggesting rather than an isolated incident or one bad guy football player in a sea of good guy football players. The whole societal "we" thing just feels lazy to me.

Popular culture has so eroded the symbolic core principles at the root of America’s love affair with sports that many modern athletes believe their allegiance to gangster culture takes precedence over their allegiance to the sports culture that made them rich and famous.

Remember when this article was about how Tony Soprano is a real person and a person athletes aspire to be?

Aaron Hernandez wanted to be Christopher Moltisanti more than he wanted to be Kellen Winslow. 

The difference being that Christopher Moltisanti isn't a real person and Kellen Winslow is a real person. Let's be honest about Hernandez wanting to be like Kellen Winslow. Kellen Winslow retired before Aaron Hernandez was even born, so should it really come as a shock that Hernandez wouldn't want to be like Kellen Winslow? There are much more modern tight ends that Hernandez would modern himself after.

Sounds crazy until you look around and see there are 1,000 times more aspiring Kim Kardashians than Hillary Clintons.

Wow, 1000 times more? I didn't know there was such a specific number available. This is another misleading comparison though. In the 1950's do you think more women wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe than Eleanor Roosevelt and don't you think more men wanted to be like Frank Sinatra than Dwight Eisenhower? Yes, men probably wanted to be like John F. Kennedy in the 1960's, but don't you think Elvis Presley or one of the Beatles had a draw to these men (or kids) as well? My comparisons really aren't excellent, but I think it goes to prove the point that pop culture didn't just start impacting how kids and athletes behaved over the last decade. Athletics always tie into pop culture at some point through history, and unlike Jason Whitlock, Aaron Hernandez realizes Tony Sopranos isn't a real person.


Anonymous said...

"Popular culture has so eroded the symbolic core principles at the root of America’s love affair with sports that many modern athletes believe their allegiance to gangster culture takes precedence over their allegiance to the sports culture that made them rich and famous. Aaron Hernandez wanted to be Christopher Moltisanti more than he wanted to be Kellen Winslow."

Where is there proof of such outlandish statements? I really need to become a sportswriter, so I can begin to know what everyone else is thinking. Apparently you attain this special ability when you publish your first article.

I love the movie "Casino." I have seen Aaron Hernandez play since he was a Florida Gator. I never, not even for a milisecond, tied the two together.

This business of using "we" reminds me of a writing class I once took, where the teacher said not to use the phrase "the reader" in our papers, because there's no such thing as "the reader." If you want to say something, simply say "I'm left to think," rather than "the reader is left to think." It's a writing technique that paid writers shouldn't get away with. If you believe something, then say you believe it, don't assume that everyone else does.

Snarf said...

Plenty of people died during the era of saloon piano music culture, well before "hip-hop culture" was on the horizon.

Apparently Muammar Gaddafi was a big Nelly Furtado fan.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I don't think there is any proof of that statement. Whitlock is grasping for attention and his comparison to Hernandez to a fictional gangster isn't even close to being accurate. I wouldn't think the character of Christopher has anything in common with Hernandez.

I try to avoid the usage of "we" unless it is in circumstances where I feel like it must be used. Bill Simmons is the worst about it and Jason Whitlock clearly isn't that far behind. I thought the comparison to Kellen Winslow was stupid too. Winslow retired in the mid-1980's. Hernandez is 24 years old (I think). Isn't there a more modern TE that Hernandez would want to be anyway?

Snarf, it's because those during the saloon piano culture were trying to be like Wild Bill Hickok of course.

jacktotherack said...

I wonder how many lazy fuckhead "journalists" have gotten mileage out of this dead horse of an idea. Thank you Jason Whitlock for bludgening the already dead, rotting corpse of a horse that is the whole "modern pop culture has eroded our societal values." Do the morons who write pieces of shit like this stop to think for one second that American society has always been, in one way or another, violent? That people have always glorified the outlaw element of society because people? Jesse James? Lucky Lucciano? Al Capone? This isn't exactly a new phenomenon.

Like you said, Whitlock wanders all over the fucking place in this column. How about mentioning the fact that in the late 70's and early 80's nearly half of the NBA were cokeheads? I'm sure hip-hop gangsta culture caused this to happen. How about all the speed MLB players used to take? Was this caused by Easy Rider and biker gangs?

People enjoy sports for the same reason they enjoy drugs, alcohol, music, violent movies, etc. It's escapism. It's forgetting about your boring ass 9-5 job and losing yourself in something else for a brief moment. It has always been that way. It always will be that way.

Sorry for rambling a little bit. In summary, Jason Whitlock is a race-baiting, sexist, lazy hypocrite. I hate him.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, we don't talk about the MLB players used speed. That was a different time. I don't think you rambled too much, because you probably up salient points from the past that show the issue with Whitlock's hypothesis.

I can handle some of Whitlock's writing, but when he is wrong he tends to be really, really wrong. This is one of those times. He often writes to get a reaction and then sits back proud at how he has managed to get a reaction.