The Great Whitewashing Of The American Fan
3:09 PM EST on December 2, 2021
Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
Nothing about the Atlanta Braves should stick with you, but alas, here I am, still ruminating a month after the Braves won a World Series that was defined less by great baseball and more by this:
Now I’ve always fucking hated the tomahawk chop, because it’s annoying, repetitive, and stupid. It’s a lower form of fandom than The Wave. It’s also quite racist, as every Braves fan attending Game 4 in the above footage was not only aware of at the time, but also actively embraced. These charter members of the Kyle Rittenhouse Fan Club put all of their heart and soul into doing their little chop routine, in a stadium that was built not only outside of Atlanta’s downtown but in a deliberately inaccessible location, in a white county, in a state that’s at the forefront of voter suppression efforts both past and future, with Donald Trump in attendance. Just a sea of aggro white faces everywhere the camera looks. I dare you to spot one black or brown face—or even a hand—in that video. One.
This is all by design. Seven years ago, the Atlanta Hawks—another team that has no business taking up any of your memory bank—forced out owner Bruce Levenson after leaked emails showed him desperate to put more white fans in the seats. The Hawks have since made efforts to court their black fans, but the Hawks are an exception in both the tactlessness of their backroom marketing strategies and, more importantly, their realization that those strategies were not only racist as shit, but also actively harmful business-wise.
Elsewhere, teams have made it plain, either by word or deed, that they do not want black faces to represent their respective fanbases. Only the white fans matter. You remember late Texans owner Bob McNair’s “we can’t have inmates running the prison” comment back when players started openly protesting police brutality: a remark he’d apologize for and then apologize for apologizing for. McNair’s son Cal, who very much looks like a Cal, is no better.
McNair, addressing more than 100 attendees at the Houston Texans Foundation Charity Golf Classic at River Oaks Country Club, spoke into a microphone just outside the pro shop as participants gathered in their carts before leaving to tee off via a shotgun-start format. At the end of his brief remarks, according to two witnesses who asked to remain anonymous, McNair – whose family has owned the Texans since they were founded in 1999 – told the crowd, “I’m sorry that we couldn’t get together last year, because of the China Virus.”
The personal racism of your average NFL owner, or any owner for that matter, is nothing new. What’s more striking is the ways in which their racism, implemented as a matter of policy, has since borne cultural fruit. There are only two black head coaches in the NFL. Only 35 percent of its coaching assistants are black. Last year, a report out of central Florida showed that only 23.9 percent of NFL senior executives are anything but white men. All of that whiteness has manifested itself, disproportionately, in the stands and in luxury boxes, where white NFL owners get brandished on every telecast as their team’s No. 1 fan. Those owners have endeavored to remake the front-facing part of their customer base in their image, and they are succeeding.
Money is their foremost tool to accomplish this task. According to the last Census, the average yearly income for white Americans is $100,005. For black Americans, $67,593. The median ticket price for an NFL game, right now, is $386, which means that fans who have more disposable income—white fans—are much more likely to populate the stands. And this is true even though, percentage-wise, the NFL has more avid black fans than they do in ANY other demographic.
So every time you look at a sports crowd that is mostly just white faces, you are looking at the result of a various owners' intentionally exclusionary practices. You already know from Colin Kaepernick’s blacklisting which fan demographic NFL owners ultimately prefer. Such is the NFL’s sense of marketability that any player too unrepentantly black will be rejected by much of the country. Because of that, we get a self-perpetuating cycle where white fans are exclusively shown images of themselves and people like them, because they won’t accept anything else. The real fans get priced out, leaving face-painted shitheads and disaffected suits to serve as their body doubles. No wonder Kyle Juszczyk gets chants from the crowd any time he touches the ball.
The wealth inequality that bore these luxury stadiums was always destined to show up in the stands and, thus, the collective imagination. No fanbase is a monolith, no matter how hard owners, networks, and white fans try to make it so. And yet it's white fans who get the most airtime, and everyone is getting all too comfortable with it. Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker profiled NBA mega-agent Rich Paul earlier this year, and Paul told Chotiner that many black NBA players didn’t want black agents when he first courted them, because they had seen white people dominate all positions of authority to the point where they became conditioned to believe that white people were the ONLY people that had credibility in those roles. Draymond Green told Chotiner likewise:
“There was always kind of this thought that, for African-American players, the best-fitting person to represent us wasn’t one of ours.”
The same thing can happen with entire fanbases. Majority white fans dominate, even when they're not the majority, while whole swaths of non-white fans are pushed towards the margins. What you end up with are Braves fans chopping their way into aggro ecstasy, with impunity. Ask yourself if you want THOSE fans exclusively repping that team, or your team, or any other team.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Patriots at Bills: We make our kids read every night before they go upstairs to bed and I forgot that kids, especially teens, have alarming Teen Reading Powers in which they not only can read without much light, but prefer it that way. My wife and I keep asking these kids, “Hey man, don’t you guys want some light so that you can SEE what you’re reading?” and they always say no. Then I’ll turn up the light anyway and my son will get up to turn it back down so that he can read in the atmospheric equivalent of a fancy Italian restaurant. It hurts my own eyes to watch them read like this. But hey, I guess after a day of holding a phone screen brighter than Polaris a foot away from your face, your eyes need the comedown.
Ravens at Steelers: I’m pretty certain that ESPN’s Bill Barnwell hates my guts because I once said he looked like the Zodiac Killer. This is untrue: He actually looks like character actor John Carroll Lynch, who plays the Arthur Leigh Allen in Zodiac, who’s pegged as the killer in that movie even though that may not be true at all. BUT THAT’S NOT WHY I’M APOLOGIZING. I used to make fun of Barnwell often because he was a member of the Bill Simmons Extended Universe, and I reflexively despised anyone in that universe for a good long time. Some of that hate was founded—I never thought Grantland was a good website—but most of it was typically petty horseshit on my part. I have since come to the realization that Barnwell, who stayed with ESPN after Simmons got curbed, has become one of the most dependable sources of NFL information around:
I’ll still chafe whenever Barnwell predicts bad things for the Vikings, but A) Many other NFL experts do this and B) They are almost always correct to do so. So, to that end, I am sorry to you, Barnwell. You are not a serial murderer, and you give good copy to the world. You are the good Bill.
Bucs at Falcons: Right now Leonard Fournette ranks eighth in rushing touchdowns and has not only become the Bucs’ de facto No. 1 back, but also a terrifying ground weapon for a team that was already loaded on offense. The only reason Fournette is a Buc right now is because the Jags treated him like an unruly stepchild for three years and then unceremoniously dumping him, leaving him out on the market as perceived damaged goods. Doug Marrone should be fed to an alligator.
Meanwhile, do you know who the No. 1 running back in football is in the Pro Football Focus rankings? That’s right: It’s Cordarrelle Patterson. Now tell me that isn’t cool as shit. Converting to running back is the new converting to wideout.
Chargers at Bengals
Broncos at Chiefs: This is your Sunday night game. Mike Tirico filled in for Al Michaels last week and lemme tell you: Tirico SUCKS. He absolutely fucking sucks. This is the last year of Al’s contract and I’m already dreading a near future in which I gotta hear Tirico’s jayvee timbre presiding over every Sunday night in my home. Makes me feel like I’m watching a fucking high school game. That chirpy dwarf belongs on the Home Shopping Network. Keep him away from the good football.
WFT at Raiders
Cowboys at Saints: I have no evidence to back this up (perhaps I should ask Barnwell), but my working theory right now is that any defender who switched to a single digit jersey for this season has gotten better because of it. This may only be because of Matthew Judon, but I’m gonna stand by that take until it’s proven wrong. And then I’m still gonna STILL stand by it. Pass rushers are 178 percent more badass when they’re rocking single digits. That’s a fact.
Niners at Seahawks
Cardinals at Bears
Eagles at Jets: Few things on Earth scare me more than the creation of “That’s My Jam!”
There was a line from the show Difficult People that was painfully accurate: “Isn't it funny how Jimmy Fallon slowly turned The Tonight Show into a children's birthday party?” This new monstrosity is the culmination of Fallon’s terrifying efforts. Imagine WANTING to watch this drunken pissboy and the entire fake-ass cast of The Voice throwing a shitty karaoke party every week. If that truly is your jam, you can go take a walk off a mountain. This is so much more alarming to me than Kevin Hart playing Arnold in a live Diff’rent Strokes reboot (something that really is occurring).
Colts at Texans: It’s very important that both these teams “play with tempo.” That’s the key to the game, every game. Doesn’t matter if it’s a fast tempo or a slow tempo, but you MUST have tempo-ing be a fundamental part of your offensive gameplan.
Vikings at Lions
Jaguars at Rams
Giants at Dolphins
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Exhausted,” by Death & Memphis! From Devin:
I’m a teacher. After the first week back at school during a pandemic, I kept playing this on guitar ‘cause goddamn I feel it.
And now I feel it, sir. You should play this in front of the students. It’ll teach them to listen real good.
Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week
Baker Mayfield, who now occupies similar territory to Miami-era Ryan Tannehill in that I’ve seen him play many, many games and still can’t tell if he’s worth a shit. Baker can move, and he can get the ball downfield. He LOOKS like a capable pro. And yet…
This is indeed Benching Season, and the cardinal rule of Benching Season is that if you have to answer questions about benching an important player, it’s because they deserve to be benched. Baker’s biggest advantage is that he isn’t any of the other quarterbacks Cleveland has started since 1999. He’s also been hampered by injuries, which suggests that there’s an optimized Baker in waiting who’ll be a kick-ass quarterback for years to come, so long as you ignore the fact that Baker is ALWAYS hurt.
He’s also already crossed that opaque threshold where a player unofficially becomes a veteran, which means inexperience is no longer a crutch they can rely on for being inconsistent. So chances are this is the Baker Mayfield you and I will get for the duration of his career, which is confusing and depressing in equal measure. He’ll be a FANTASTIC color guy one day though.
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
Mr. Mac: Mormonism’s premier missionary wardrobe emporium! From Erica:
I'm on a work trip to the SLC area, and I almost spit my Irish coffee all over the room when this commercial came on. Salt Lake City is surprisingly hip, but damn, the Mormons still have a strong grip on the culture!
That they do. I was curious about the dress code for Mormon missionaries, so I looked it up:
“As an ambassador of the Lord you are to wear professional, conservative clothing that is consistent with your sacred calling and that will clearly identify you as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
I wonder if some young Mormon ever tried to bang on a door wearing Tom Ford and got summarily excommunicated for it.
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2021 chopping block:
Jon Gruden – FIRED!!!!
(* - potential midseason firing)
I don’t actually believe that the Rams will fire Sean McVay. But come on, look at this shit:
If this were any other coach, you’d say, “Well, how do you trade away literal years of top draft picks to optimize your current roster, still fuck up the exact same way you always have, and keep your job?” But McVay still has a be-stubbled halo over his head where he still gets perceived as clever and vibrant when his system has been rendered stultifying at the end of every season. The Rams may as well have hired Norv Turner to run things. At least then you wouldn’t fool yourself into thinking this is progress. AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY HE FIRED WADE. EXPLAIN YOURSELF FUCKO.
SHAMELESS BOOK/LIVE PODCAST PLUG
We are now less than a week away from the LIVE episode of The Distraction at Caveat in New York on Dec. 8 at 7:00 p.m. You can buy your tickets right here—precious few remain—and get $5 off using the code DEFECTORPAL. So come join Roth and me and Kelsey McKinney for a night of comical mischief in which we’re taking questions directly from the live audience. I promise not to die afterward this time. My wife would kill me if I did.
Also, The Night The Lights Went Out is available everywhere books are sold and will NOT get fucked by the dreaded supply chain if you buy it as a gift this instant. So if you don’t want your Christmas to take place in February, you know what to do.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Jimmy sends in this story I call BROWN CRUSH:
I recently moved to Santa Cruz, so I figured I'd do as the locals do and grow white person dreadlocks and pick up surfing.I'm naturally a morning shitter, so one day I wake up, have a cup of coffee, take my regularly scheduled dump, and put on my wetsuit to head out to catch some waves. As I'm walking to my local break, I feel a slight rumble in my stomach. Relying on the poop I had just taken, I wrote these tremors off as a fart. That was a mistake.I paddle out to where the waves are breaking and wait for a set to roll in. The rumblings from my walk over have settled into a need to poop, but not urgently. You know, the kind you can put off until a more convenient time. I catch the first good wave I can, and ride it all the way into the shore. At this point I consider getting out and addressing the poop, but I'd have to walk all the way home, and I was exhilarated by the wave I had just caught, so I paddled back out. That was a mistake.As soon as I'm out at the break, I'm confronted with an overwhelming need to shit. I assess my options, a toilet is at least fifteen minutes away and my body doesn't have fifteen minutes of resistance in it. I briefly consider taking off my wetsuit and shitting into the ocean, but it's winter in Northern California and I'd prefer not to die of hypothermia. So I have no choice but to unleash a torrent of diarrhea directly into my wetsuit. I can feel my suit fill up highlighting the warmth and texture of the shit.I figure what's done is done, and since I'm out here, and don't need to poop any more, I may as well see if I can't catch a few more waves. So I proceed to surf for the next 45 minutes enveloped in a wet cocoon of my own gross fecal matter. When I finally remove my suit my whole body is coated in shit. I haven't felt clean since.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Sugared pecans, which my mom makes every Christmas and which are one of only two ways in which I’ll consume pecans (pecan pie, of course, being the other).
We are now in Christmas cookie season, and I have very big cookie plans. I’m gonna smear white frosting all over my body, roll myself in chocolate sheet cake, top myself with meringue mushrooms, and become the tastiest buche de noel you’ve ever run away from in terror. Gonna be amazing.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Dirt Cheap! Featuring ANOTHER bad local commercial of the week! From Gavin:
I can't comprehend how nobody's sent in "Dirt Cheap" brand beer yet. Dirt Cheap exists only near St. Louis (lucky us), and their store brand is reminiscent of bug spray aftertaste. I'm not even going to make jokes, I'll just say it tastes like these commercials look.
I’ve seen some bad professional wrestling in my life, but that’s easily the worst. Anyway, I fear this beer, Dirt Cheap liquor store itself, and the Dirt Cheap chicken, shown on this can being extremely Down To Fuck. Given what our reader tells us about this beer, you WILL end up fucking a chicken if you drink it.
Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: Aidan Hutchinson
“I’d be honored to have Aidan on our team next season. That guy is Michigan to the core. When I think of Michigan, right, I think of tough things. I think of stripped-off tires lying on the side of the road, and cigarette butts that stay lit no matter how many times you step on them, and homes without central air, and hauling buckets of clean water to your house with a big yoke across your shoulders, and ground so cold you can’t even dig a proper grave for the dead. That’s Michigan tough to me, and Aidan’s got all of that toughness where it counts: in his ballbag.”
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Lions Fans
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, which I really liked except for the absolutely fucking horrific special effects. I’ve seen ads with better effects, man.
This isn’t a unique case for Marvel, either. Their effects keep getting worse every time they put out something new. Black Widow had awful effects too, and so does Hawkeye. I know this isn’t due to a lack of resources, because Disney has all the money in the world and because their other big property, Star Wars, has excellent VFX by comparison. Dune, which had roughly the same production budget as Shang-Chi, had some of the best effects I’ve ever seen. So why do Marvel movies always look like shit?
I’ll tell you why: because of YOU. You keep watching this crap and being okay with fight scenes that turn into a game of Tekken 7 from the first punch thrown. If you like Marvel movies, I got no beef with you. But have some fucking self-respect and demand better effects from your lord god Kevin Feige. Because this shit is embarrassing. I could make better effects on an iPad.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Ned Flanders saved me! I used to party all night and sleep with lingerie models until Ned and his bible group showed me that I could have more.”
“Professional athletes… always wantin' more.”
Enjoy the games, everyone.