By Alan Grant
Special to Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: As Black History Month comes to a close, Alan Grant plops down on the couch for a conversation with his "therapist."

Doc: This is unexpected. What brings you here?

AG: This Black History Month thang straight up gettin' to me, yo.

Doc: Uh, excuse me?

AG: Ever see that movie "Hollywood Shuffle"? It's a Robert Townsend flick about this black actor tryin' to get his. In the final scene, the white director says to Townsend's character, Bobby, who is playing the part of a pimp: "Could you, uh, you know, be a little more … uh, black?"

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Black History Month

Love that movie.

Doc: Anyway … this Black History Month is a good thing, isn't it?

AG: Oh, straight up, dawg. I mean, the idea is all good. But crammin' a people's history into one funky little month? Just don't seem quite right to me.

Doc: I suppose. What do you have in mind?

AG: It's called the 12 months of black history. Starts in February with Shani Davis. Did my man blow up the spot, or what? I mean, sayin' you ain't down with the team even when the team is America and you at the Olympics? Damn! Basically said he didn't care if that white boy was gon' win a gold with his help. Shani said, This about me.

Shani Davis
Matt Dunham/AP Photo
Can you fault Shani Davis for focusing on his individual goals? (Matt Dunham/AP Photo)

Doc: But he was so surly after winning.

AG: Hey, people dogged him out for not being part of that silly-ass pursuit team. Look Doc, in 2006 white folks can't treat a brotha like crap, then a minute later expect him to be all grinnin', shuckin' and jivin'.

Doc: Perhaps. But I'll bet his behavior cost him the chance for endorsements.

AG: Endorsements? Man, don't nobody get endorsements after winning the damn thing. You get endorsements before the Games. Don't nobody care about speedskating until the next Olympics! And as far as the way he's treated, you know how I feel.

Doc: Yeah, I know. No one really loves a black man but his family, right? OK, continue.

AG: March is tournament time. That means Kentucky coach Tubby Smith rantin' and ravin' up and down the sideline, runnin' his crew like he got something to prove. And he do too. 'Dem folks in the SEC take the game serious. That's how Nolan Richardson was at Arkansas. He had a ring and went to three Final Fours. Except he was too intense and had a little too much pride. That got him in trouble. Oh yeah, remember when Mike Davis took over for Bobby Knight at Indiana? In his first season, he went to the Final Four and the championship game, dawg! But that ain't black history, that's ancient history now, yo.

Doc: What about April?

AG: That's when Reggie Bush finds out where he's gonna get paid. You know Bush wanted to go to Stanford when Ty Willie was there, right? Said he wanted to play for a black coach. That's hot to death! Don't hear too many young athletes keep it real like that. But after Ty Willie went to that school in northern Indiana, Bush stayed in L.A. Not a lot of peeps talk about that. Maybe 'cause it makes him too aware or somethin'.

But guess what, Doc?

Doc: It's OK for a black guy to be talented, socially aware and still have fun?

AG: Correctamundo!

Now May is the Indy 500. Not a whole lot of brothas in the Brickyard, though. Last time a brotha was there was 2002. Cat named George Mack. Finished 17th. But, I don't really care. I ain't tryin' to see no cars going in circles. Kind of wack to me.

Doc: But I understand there's a whole lot of money to be made in race car driving, especially on the ownership side of things.

AG: Oh snap! Almost forgot Tim Brown's tryin' to break into that biz. OK then, I'm down with racing. Ready for June?

Doc: As a matter of fact, I am. June means June 19th, or Juneteenth, as it's called. It's the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865, that the Union soldiers and Major Gen. Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free…

AG: … Well, I was gonna say that June is NBA Finals time. That reminds me of Tim Duncan. But since you on the freedom tip, Duncan is about freedom of expression. Or lack of expression. The other day I heard a brotha call in to a radio talk show and say that Duncan was too soft. Someone always clownin' Duncan cause he ain't loud and violent. And that's what black is, you know -- loud and violent. But he come from the islands, Doc. Different kind of brotha there -- laid back and on some different kind of stuff. Like a certain cat who went by the name Robert Nesta Marley: "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery … none but ourselves can free our mind."

But good lookin' out with that Juneteenth thing.

Doc: Thank you. What about July?

AG: July is Wimbledon. And, for me that's Venus and Serena. You ain't heard they dead, has you, Doc?

Doc: Dead? No, why?

Serena Williams
Rick Stevens/AP Photo
Serena and her sister have definitely increased fan interest in tennis. (Rick Stevens/AP Photo)

AG: Just checkin'. Seems like every time I turn on the radio or TV, somebody tryin' to straight bury 'dem sistahs, yo. Sayin' they got too many outside interests and all that. Sayin' they won't win another tournament. Like they want 'em to leave or somethin'. Say what you want, but Venus and Serena are the heart and soul of tennis. They make people care about tennis who don't normally give a crap about that sport. Damn, if they ain't dead, then they ain't done playin' tennis. Maybe they do need a break. Capriati bounced for a while. She was all drinkin' and blazin'. But then she came back and got hers. Now Hingis is comin' back. Folks go away and come back on the regular. For real though.

Doc: Could you speak in your regular voice?

AG: Why, you ain't buyin' it, G?

Doc: No, it just isn't…

AG: Spit it out, son.

Doc: It isn't you, OK?

AG: Actually, you're right. It isn't me. And with that, let's move on to August. That means the NFL Hall of Fame induction. That means my man Harry Carson, a dignified black man, gets his due. I'm glad for him that he got in, but I always respected him for not needing validation from a bunch of people who never played the game.

Doc: That whole "being true" thing is a big deal to you, isn't it?

AG: Yep. And September is all about being true. The New Orleans Saints return to the Superdome in September. That's good for everybody, especially the black community. Joe Horn and his team get to start over again. Joe Horn is a different kind of athlete. Back in August, after Katrina hit, he said the Saints shouldn't have played that last preseason game, they should have gone back to help out folks in New Orleans. He even questioned the league for not doing the right thing. He makes like $4 million per, but he looked past himself and commented about the world around him. Joe Horn speaks the truth. He has enough athletic, personal and professional experience to make him, you know, objective. When I interviewed him for ESPN The Magazine, he told me that "not every black man is your friend, and not every white man is your enemy."

Doc: You don't hear many black athletes say things like that.

AG: Yeah, told him he was preaching to the choir with that one.

Anyway, come October I wonder whether we'll be talking about Ken Williams, the White Sox general manager. He's proof that an educated, studious type of brotha always has a place in sports. Got guts, too. He took a chance and hired that crazy Ozzie Guillen. Then won it all. You know, it seems to me that when the Yankees or Red Sox are playing, Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein get a whole lotta airtime. You get that obligatory shot of them during the games, looking all importantly distraught while terms like "genius" and "mastermind" are dancing around them. Maybe if crazy Ozzie and the Sox go back-to-back in '06, Williams will get his due and his face will dominate the TV screen.

Doc: But maybe he just doesn't want to be on camera all that much.

AG: Yeah, like that ever stopped anyone with a camera.

Doc: Profound.

AG: You want to know profound? That's November. That's when Tiger Woods will be playing in the Tour Championship.

Doc: Tiger Woods isn't black, he's Cablasian.

AG: Nah, Tiger got his own planet. Remember a few years back when Tiger's pop was talking all that noise about his little boy being "sent here to lead us or guide us"?

Doc: I vaguely recall his father saying something about Tiger being sent here in "savior"-like terms.

Tiger Woods
Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
Tiger Woods has inspired plenty of conversations. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

AG: Well, sometimes I hear people -- white people, black people, Asian people, all kinds of people, rich, poor, middle class -- all talking about Tiger. I hear them discussing golf, and sports, and society, and race and racism -- sometimes with one another, and in an intellectual, civilized kind of way. Of course no one has any answers, but it's like people are really looking for answers, you know? Sometimes, when I see that, ol' Eldrick Woods don't seem so crazy after all.

Doc: Hmmm.

AG: December makes me think of Tony Dungy. It will be the one-year anniversary of his son's apparent suicide. I wouldn't be surprised if the shock wears off right about then. That's when his strength will kick in. And my guess is that Dungy will channel that emotion into an angry Christmas and his team will follow suit and make him the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. And that leads me to Jan. 31, which will be the 19th anniversary of Doug Williams becoming the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Doc: I thought you weren't down with … er, uh, I thought you didn't care about commemorating the "first black" anything?

AG: I think it's good for the kids. Like with Shani Davis being the first black American athlete to win an individual gold at the Winter Games. Kids should know that. Jumping into pools with people who don't look like you is always a good thing, even when it doesn't necessarily change the world. And when you make that thing your own? It should be celebrated.

Alan Grant is a regular contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He is a former NFL defensive back who played college football at Stanford.




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