Sex, Lies, Death

The irresistible pull of the down-low myth—uh, story—hooks reporters and their readers

Pardon the lack of enthusiasm

Watching ESPN these days immediately sends me into spasms of geezerdom: "Bring back Irv Cross! Dick Schaap, why did you leave us?" The best I can say about Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser's Pardon the Interruption is that they make me forget what channel I'm watching.

With great horror last week I tuned into PTI and found Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith subbing. As any sports nut knows, Wilbon and Kornheiser's shtick was honed over two decades—not with prodding from producers, but in the newsroom of The Washington Post. Smith and Bayless are also print journalists (The Philadelphia Inquirer and The San Jose Mercury News, respectively), but the two have about as much chemistry as a tombstone. Jokes fall dead on arrival, debates are transparently staged as the duo tries to patent the art of scowling. The only thing worse than the festival of argument that's starting to define ESPN and cable news is a fake festival of arguments. Wilbon. Kornheiser. Hurry home. Can't hold on . . . much longer . . .

Black on white on black

Favorite attempts by white people to convince themselves Barack Obama isn't black:

  • Christopher Buckley in The New York Times calling Obama "the new Tiger Woods of American politics"—ditto for NYT columnist David Brooks on PBS. Who was the old Tiger Woods?
  • William Saletan—whose stuff I love—noting in Slate, "Obama isn't exactly black. His mother is white and came from Kansas. His father came from Kenya." Now they tell us. That sort of thinking would have done more for the race than the Emancipation Proclamation. "Wait, he's not really black. His mother's from the Gold Coast and his father is the lecherous overseer. Release those chains!"
  • Scott L. Malcomson, also in the NYT: Obama "is not the direct product of generations of black life in America: he is not black in the usual way." True. But try that one on Abner Louima, or better yet, Amadou Diallo.
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