Episode 20: It’s like Kareem without his Goggles
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Putting together a podcast can be time consuming, particularly if it's a narrative one you script out ahead of time. This is an especially packed episode, covering not just almost half a dozen NBA legends, the league's rampant drug scene in the 80's and multiple talented guest stars in Golden Girls history. And yet, I still think I could have dedicated more time to it and one particular subject.
The fact that there's an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the issues of race in the NBA tells you that it's a big, important topic. To be frank, I don't think I handled it all that well in the episode.
Today's NBA players are well aware of the league's history and are more outspoken than ever. LeBron James is far more socially conscious than his idol Michael Jordan ever was. After the horror of Charlottesville last year, Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves called for action following the most racist gathering the nation had seen in some time. And championship coaches Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr take on a certain president who shall remain nameless on a weekly basis, calling out his crass cluelessness and idiocy in the face of a divided country he only wants to bleed dry.
When I say that the names Nat Clifton, Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper should be better known by casual sports fans, I mean myself, too. Why they're not held in as high esteem as Jackie Robinson, I don't know. As a hockey fan, I know the name of Willie O'Ree, the NHL's first black player, but not many outside the game do. And that's a shame.
What all of these guys went through, I'll never understand. Certainly not by sitting at home producing a podcast about a 30-year-old TV show. All I can do is pass on their names and hope their stories endure to influence others to similar acts of strength.
Racism is also a factor in the story of Bill Dana and his most famous character, Jose Jimenez. Although his "killing" of the character is a frequently cited event in his career, less known is how Dana later regretted Jose's retirement. He was surprised that this character that he and others didn't see as a racist stereotype would be happily buried by the people he supposedly represented, then later hated the way Jose went out.
The interview in which he talked about that "emotional whiplash" was on the Emmy TV Legends.org site and unfortunately didn't lend itself to easy inclusion on the podcast. Here's the interview in its entirety. I don't think Dana quite gets across why he felt Jose was retired too early, but it's clear he does regret it and has a lot of conflicting emotions and memories about it.
It's easy for me to say, but I think Dana moving away from Jose was the best outcome, especially knowing how beloved he would be as Uncle Angelo.
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