Thank you ESPN for glorifying a player who exemplifies poor decision making off the court. Don't we all want our sons and daughters to grow up to be like him? Winning seven games of beer pong, tweeting pictures of themselves clearly inebriated, sticking their tongues on the ladies, being arrested for buying illegal drugs, and testing positive for said drugs are not the behaviors I want my children associated with. I pray my children hold themselves to a higher standard and see that there are consequences to their actions that can be lifelong (see Ohio high school football players convicted of rape, and the girl whose life is forever changed by being raped because of drunkenness) and possibly life-ending (drug overdose, drunk driving, AIDS). Do I want my children confident in whatever they endeavor to do, and be excited about success? Absolutely. But keep it classy, kids. There are plenty of examples of those, too.
You either love Marshall Henderson or you hate him. The junior guard for Mississippi’s basketball team taunts and trash talks. He riles up fans and then flips them indecent hand gestures. Then he reconciles it all by telling us, “Hey, it’s just a game.”
Hipster-targeting ESPNU proves that there’s an additional love/hate line for Henderson aside from the obvious “fan of Ole Miss” / “fan of some other team” line. There’s also a generational component. The more kids grow up seeing self-congratulating preeners like Terrell Owens become stars, the more likely a new generation of hot dogs — like Henderson — will be accepted.
Thus ESPNU’s video tribute to the guy who never met a shot he didn’t like:
Henderson is not this particular writer’s cup of tea. I look at his classless displays on the court and think “White Trash.” Perhaps “White Brash” would be more fitting.
But what if Henderson weren’t white at all? Deadspin.com dares to ask the question today: What if Henderson were black?
Greg Howard points out in his article that the same semester Andy Kennedy welcomed Henderson into the Rebel fold, he dismissed Dundrecous Nelson and Jamal Jones from his team after they were busted smoking weed and in the possession of “drug paraphernalia.” As you surely know by now, Henderson was once busted for trying to buy pot with counterfeit money. Then he violated the terms of his probation by testing positive for alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine and spent some time in the pokey.
Nelson and Jones are black. Henderson is white.
Now, in fairness to Kennedy, one of college athletics’ oldest double-standards is the fact that Player X can be arrested somewhere else and turn to State U for a fresh start… while Player Y will be booted from State U for committing the exact same crime as Player X.
“Screw up on another team, we’ll say you learned your lesson. Screw up on my team, you’re gone.”
Now, while this writer feels there’s probably something to Howard’s argument that Henderson would have been treated differently by coaches and the media had he been black, I believe there’s a bigger issue to discuss. I wonder if Henderson would have been accepted just the same by Ole Miss fans and white fans everywhere had he been born black.
Talk to enough fans of a certain generation and you’ll eventually be told that showboating entered into college athletics when the black athlete was allowed to take part in major college athletics. Whether that’s true or not the perception is certainly out there. And if I wrote that there’s a new showboating, outlaw basketball player who’s making waves — be honest — wouldn’t you first picture in your mind the image of a young black man? Don’t act like you’ve never used stereotypes.
The University of Mississippi has some sad chapters written int0 its racial history, of which everyone is aware. Naturally Rebel fans are pretty touchy whenever race is mentioned in a story regarding their school. So we’ll give UM fans the benefit of the doubt and say that they — like most fans everywhere — would support any player who helped their school win games. Showboat? Thug? Black? White? Alien? All good so long as the player can hit a three from the corner.
But what about white fans elsewhere? You know, the folks who’ve rushed to defend Henderson’s maverick behavior, his taunts, and his double-birds. Would the white, non-Ole Miss fans out there who’ve said Henderson is good for the game make the same argument if Henderson were black? I doubt it.
There are those who try to convince the world that racism is dead and no one should talk about it anymore. Ridiculous. There are all kinds of isms that are still alive and well. People relate better to people with whom they share a common experience. Be it religion, birth state, or skin color, we are quicker to accept those people who we see as being “like us.”
So would Henderson get the same support from Joe Average White Guy if he were Taunting Black Guy instead of Taunting White Guy? Sorry. I don’t think so. In fact, many of the people who’ve defended Henderson to me have said it’s just good to see a white guy who can shoot a basketball like that. And doesn’t that really tell you everything you need to know?
(A hat tip to KentuckySportsRadio.com.)