Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Friday, August 26, 2005
Hey Jeff, listen up!

By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

Dear Mr. Kent,

Love your game, big fan. Heard that you had a little issue with Milton Bradley the other day. Heard he said some "not so friendly" things about you. Those things happen from time to time, ya know. If I were you, I wouldn't sweat that. Teammates are like family -- you can't choose 'em.

I also heard that you can't deal with black people. I'm sorry … African-American is what was said. Now Jeff, since I'm a fan and I want to see you continue to ball at an All-Star-like level, I'm going to pass along some advice on how to deal with us, since, you know, I've been black for a long time.

The first thing you gotta understand is that sometimes we be trippin'. Now I'm not saying that Milt was wrong, I'm just telling you that we black people tend to "bug out" or "snap" at times. No reason, no excuses. Our women do it more than the men. But somehow we give them reason, they say. But that's a whole 'nother story. Anyway, get used to the "snappin'" -- that's just us.

Latasha Byears
You can feel it when Latasha Byears, the Dennis Rodman of the WNBA, drives
Look, cousin (not that we're related, that's just the way black folks talk to one another sometimes), I know you saw "White Men Can't Jump." Remember the scene where Woody was telling Wesley that "black people would rather look good" than get dirty on the court. Well, that's true. That's how we are.

Now don't get it twizzled; we hustle as hard as the next non-black ballplayer. But it looks different. A lot of times, because of the way we do things -- because we try to look smoove at all times -- it comes off that we don't hustle enough; that we're not giving it our all. It's quite the opposite, my man.

So when you make comments to other ballplayers, especially teammates, that question their intensity on the field, that question their "hustle," it inherently takes us back to the old mentality that people used on us. We call it the gym rat theory. It insinuates that blacks are more naturally gifted athletes and the game comes easier to us, and because of that "theory" we don't practice as hard, we don't have to put in the same amount of hours, we don't have to do as much work.

It pisses us off, Jeff.

And I'm not saying that you said that, I'm just telling you that black athletes have had to deal with that forever, since sports began. They said it about Joe Louis in relation to Rocky Marciano, they said it about Willie Mays in relation to Joe DiMaggio, they said it about Oscar Robertson in relation to Jerry West, Magic to Bird, they're saying it about Serena Williams in relation to Lindsay Davenport.

"Naturally gifted" to us Jeff … man, that's code for: We don't have to work as hard at the game as you all because of our inbred talent. So whenever someone comes close to saying or just insinuating it -- even when they don't mean it that way -- it sets us off. Literally.

So Jeff, in the future, remember we're really sensitive about that. Probably oversensitive. Blame history.

See, there's a difference in us and y'all. You all say yams, we say sweet potatoes. Y'all got Nick and Jessica, we got Bobby and Whitney. When someone says "Name a classic movie," you all say "Animal House," we say "Cooley High." When someone says Calvin, you all think Klein, we think the kid from the McDonald's commercials.

We just different, yo.

Now, the only reason I'm writing you is because this is the second time this has happened. Back in San Fran in what, 2002, you had drama with Barry Bonds. Remember that? Yeah, that was crazy. You two, two of the best players in the game on the same team, acting like Shaq and Kob before Shaq and Kob.

In hindsight, it was cool … like Shaq and Kob. Makes for good baseball, better print. Teammates ain't gotta be best friends and all to get things done. I mean, if teams are supposed to be like family, that's just how fam actually is sometimes. You and BB kept it real.

Kobe Bryant
Same accusation, same sport, same time, same organization. Different treatment?
But that don't count, 'cause Barry ain't really one of us.

But now an issue with another "brotha" pops up. I'm not saying I see a trend, but …

Jeff, you've been in the league too long to not know how to deal with us. I mean, I know there's a color issue in baseball, I know there aren't many of us, but man, I know over the years there has been enough time for you to learn how to tolerate us or figure us out.

I mean, I've heard people call you a loner. They say that you don't get along with anyone, that it's not racial with you -- it's neutral. That you're just a down-home country kinda fella and it's you that we don't know how to deal with.

Cool. That's fair.

But when you start naming all of your black friends ("If he thinks I have a problem with African-Americans, then go talk to Dusty Baker, Dave Winfield who took me under his wing, Joe Carter and all the guys I idolized in this game and all the veteran players who taught me how to play this game."), it kinda validates Bradley's point.

No one ever claimed that you couldn't get along with us, no one even said that you didn't or couldn't learn to like or even love some of us. That's not the point. The point being made by your teammate is that you can't "deal" with us. Meaning, you don't understand us.

When Bradley says it's "a pattern of things" that you've said, when he says they are things he didn't "interpret" as funny, it lends itself to making us think that in the clubhouse -- and maybe outside of the clubhouse -- there isn't a certain degree of "consideration" for who we are and how we act.

And I know Milton is closer to an L.A. Angel than a real one, but don't totally ignore his claim.

And I know, like me, you'd hate for him to be right.

I don't want you to come out of this as the new Fuzzy Zoeller. Feel me? I don't want you to be the new white poster child for the "fried chicken and watermelon" circuit. Leave that for John Rocker's kid.

So remember what I said earlier; trust me, it'll help you until the Dodgers start winning. Black folks, we snap off; black folks, we sensitive.

And almost everything said and done with or about us has a history behind it that we have yet to outlive.

Plus, if you can't do it in L.A., how is Jeff Francoeur going to learn to do it a Braves uniform? Do you know how many black folks are in Atlanta?

And that's all I'm tryna do by writing you. Just to let you know that even though whatever you said may not have been of ill intent, or maybe your words were simply misunderstood, you don't deserve the label that's not far from being put on you.

Because not being able to deal with black people doesn't make you a racist, it just makes you human.

One love,
Your new black friend,
Scoop

Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.