Archive for ‘Sports’

06/02/2012

Flushing, Queens, New York. Not Vlissingen, New Amsterdam.

Johan Santana celebrates after his no hitter. Straight up stolen from the AP.

I’ve always thought “Flushing” was a stupid name for a city. We associate the word mostly with toilets.

Terrible.

I was reminded of it last night as I watched Johan Santana throw the first no hitter in New York Mets history. In watching and reading the coverage from several media outlets across the nation, I saw many of them refer to the events happening in Flushing, and every time they said it, I remembered myself as an eight year old kid. When my dad told me the Mets played in Flushing, I was perplexed. “There’s a town called ‘Flushing.’ And the Mets play there? Gross.” I kind of felt like the rest of baseball has always silently snickered about how the Mets play in Flushing, referring to Shea Stadium as a toilet.

So why the hell is that town called Flushing?

Turns out that the area was originally named Vlissingen by the Dutch when they settled in what is now New York City. Vlissingen is also the name of an existing town in the Netherlands which has been around since 1315. All the way back in the 1600’s, the English started referring to that Dutch town as something more Anglo: “Flussingue.” That eventually became “Flushing.” So, after the British took over the New Netherlands colony, the New World Vlissingen simply became Flushing around the end of the 17th century.

All this happened a few hundred years before flushable toilets in homes became popular. The phrase “flush the toilet” was nearly non-existent in English writing until the 20th century. Here’s the Google Ngram picture for the phrase.

“Flush the toilet” historically.

So, you know, the name of Flushing, Queens where my New York Mets play has NOTHING to do with toilets. Not even close. I feel way better about the name now. My inner, snickering eight year old has been somewhat pacified.

*Most of the information about the historical aspects of Flushing and Dutch/English occupation was culled from Wikipedia, so I generalized it to make sure it didn’t really make a difference for the point I was trying to make. If I made any important mistake, feel free to point it out in the comments.

04/05/2012

Augusta National and The Masters are a disgrace. (Update)

Update: Augusta has allowed its first two female members. It only took 79 years. Progress is slow.

Tradition is an unacceptable excuse for prejudice.

Since 1933, Augusta National Golf Club has been a place where rich men could get together and play golf. The Masters Tournament has been held at Augusta ever since 1934, and the two are virtually interchangeable. They are a brand. They have carefully orchestrated every single aspect of that brand for years. It’s always been an absolutely beautiful course, and that beauty has either been preserved or enhanced over the decades. When those iconic visuals are combined with its stature as the only location to see a “major” tournament every single year, Augusta National is not just a golf course: it’s a monolith. It’s the most famous and most revered and, in golf circles, most respected course or club in America—and likely the entire world.

And women are not allowed to be a part of it.

Millions and millions of Americans tune in every year to watch the Masters on television. The Masters and Augusta National are privatized and monetized; they make tens of millions of dollars a year. I looked into it, and the only thing I could find was this link from 2004 saying that the Masters generates $44m in revenue. I’m surprised even that number is public, as they are a private club with an incentive to keep such information hidden. They’re a for-profit, multimillion dollar business operating right here in America:

And women are not allowed to be a part of it.

It’s a classic “boy’s club.” They pick and choose who they would like to have in, and up until the 90’s, this excluded minorities. It’s a remnant of an American past where it was perfectly acceptable for a bunch of rich white men to get together and tell the women and the negroes to get the hell out.

As part of this historic tradition, each year the Masters bestows their iconic “green jackets” on the winner of the tournament as well as a few others they deem worthy. Well, who is more worthy than their corporate sponsor overlords? The CEOs of their corporate sponsors every year, historically 100% men, have also been given green jackets: a sign of acceptance and membership in the Augusta National Club.

Cue 2012. Cue IBM. Cue a potential snag.

But IBM, the technology corporation and longtime Masters sponsor, broke from a tradition like no other and hired a woman, Ginni Rometty, to head its company. Now, Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters each year, is in a pickle.
“Could Ginni Rometty Finally Force Augusta¬† to Change?” – Jane Mcmanus, espnW

So did that snag actually cause a change in policy and allow a woman to be treated equally alongside men?

Well, that’s not clear just yet. I guess we’ll have to wait for Sunday.¬† (Update: they didn’t) Even though the tournament has already begun, The Masters and Augusta National will not comment on the issue. And, while their formerly racist (though former might not even be appropriate) and thoroughly sexist history has done more than enough to stain and tarnish the esteem of the Masters and Augusta National in the eyes of any thinking, egalitarian, and non-bigoted person, Augusta clings to their prejudice in the name of tradition.

A tradition of bigotry used as an excuse to continue its bigotry.

The voices speaking about this are simply too impotent to impact the situation. The only way it might change is if people stop watching and caring. And, since it’s the biggest tournament of the year, as long as golf is still popular in America and the world, this will continue. As long as people still watch on television, and as long as those corporate sponsorships still want to reach those millions, there’s no pressure which can be exerted.

Even back about 10 years ago when sponsors completely pulled their support, the Masters went ahead anyways commercial free. These guys have enough money to do it. And they have the dedication to their bigotry, as well.

And, let’s say that this year Augusta relents and allows Rometty to become a member, it would only be seen as being done solely for corporate ties. Changing their bigoted tradition over a few million dollars: how… appropriate? How… classy?

So, regardless of the outcome of this particular story, one thing will still be true:

Augusta and the Masters are a disgrace to American civil and social progress—a vestigial marking of historical American patriarchy.

04/05/2012

Phil Taylor’s awesome take on the Miami Heat and Trayvon Martin.

“…this killing, overlaid with its possible racial motivations, strikes a chord with African-American athletes. They have been that kid in the hoodie, automatically judged as suspicious, and not that long ago. When they say that they are Trayvon, they mean exactly that.”

BOOM.

Under The Hoodies, A Deeper Truth – 04.02.12 – SI Vault.