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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Congratulations, Don Imus

By Tim Keown
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They've been running the race to the bottom for years now, whether anyone has noticed or not. They're all talking loudly and saying nothing, sinking deeper and deeper with every syllable. We knew someone would eventually win the rights to mine the deepest pit.

Congratulations, Don Imus. The lowest common denominator, or LCD, is yours. Enjoy it while you still can. There's something you must know, though: There are many more blithering idiots racing to take your crown.

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It's no surprise that Imus' worst moment -- and he's had many like it -- came discussing sports. His indefensible comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team were shocking only to someone who hasn't been paying attention to the loathsome swill emanating for years from the mouth of him and those of his sidekicks.

To put it another way, if you can find something in the entire Sid Rosenberg oeuvre that qualifies as (1) meaningful, (2) productive, or (3) non-pandering, then congratulations to you. That only proves you listen -- or, God and heaven above, actually watch -- way too much.

Somehow, we've reached the point in our society where Imus' comments about the Rutgers women require debate. Should he be punished? Was he wrong? It's scary to think that people actually believe those question marks apply.

Imus isn't the disease; he's simply a symptom. Talk radio is the last bastion of the racist/sexist/alarmist who can out-shock the other guy into better ratings and a stronger following among the LCD crowd.

There is a sports angle to this, and it goes beyond the current issue. This guy and his show have been routinely racist for years, but the best way for him and his buddies to hide is through sports. It's safe -- make a few comments about how white guys can't jump and suddenly you're free to toss out a few barbs about "nappy-headed hos."

We don't -- or can't -- discuss race and sports intelligently, so it's the perfect place for these guys to retreat when they need to nudge-nudge with their buddies about some college girls and their hairstyles and tattoos.

Apparently it used to be safe ground, which is why a guy like Howard Fineman of Newsweek can go on the air Monday morning and tell Imus that he can't do the things he could do a few years ago. Something about how times have changed or something.

"Some of the kind of humor you used to do you can't do anymore," Fineman said.

Nappy-headed hos. That's the kind of humor you can't get away with anymore? That's humor? And Bernard McGuirk saying the word "jigaboos"?

Stop, my sides.

Imus said it knowing full well how many listeners were laughing into their gun racks and plastic tablecloths, thereby boosting his cachet among the LCD set. And he says it knowing he can always come back later and apologize to Al Sharpton (of all wrongheaded people) and make it all better.

And when he gets two weeks off the network can say the old foof's opinions are not the opinions of the network, even though the network is airing him and paying him his salary. Even though the network has known for years exactly what he and his idiot-stooges are all about.

But all is fair in pursuit of the lowest common denominator. So hey, Don, take a couple of weeks off and come back as a different person. What a beautiful world.

This Week's List
Since race seems to be the issue of the day, here's something else to consider: The legacy of Jackie Robinson -- on the 60th anniversary of his debut -- shouldn't be marred by Barry Bonds' trying to swipe a piece of the spotlight by choosing to be one of the African-American players choosing to wear No. 42 on April 15.

A-Rod: True Yankee, finally, after all these years.

Ask yourself, "What is a close-up view of Chris Kaman worth to you?": Courtside seats for Clippers' games will rise $300 per game next season (to $1,500 per game) and those wishing to keep their seats in those prized locations will be asked to fork over a $48,000 deposit or risk losing them.

Well, Barry Zito might be 0-2 but at least he's healthy: Jason Schmidt injured a hamstring in his second start as a Dodger.

You can laugh now, but check back in a few weeks: When the Mavericks don't win the title this year -- and they won't -- they might want to look back to Monday night, when they helped give the Warriors the eighth spot in the Western Conference, as the reason.

Why? you might ask: The Warriors have won five of the last six against the Mavs, and even if they don't beat them in the first round, they'll make them work hard enough to make them feel it down the line.

And the college world weeps: Joakim Noah, heading to the NBA.

So a few guys decide to turn every green into a tarmac and we're supposed to sit around and marvel at the tenacity of the world's best players: No matter who won, the Masters was a terrible mess, nothing more than a battle to see who could screw up the least.

And, finally, it might inconvenience a few of the later-round picks, but who cares about them anyway?: The NFL draft has happened so many times in so many minds that there's really no sense in having the real thing, is there?

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.