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April 15, 1993 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-04-15

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Page 14--The Michigan Daily- Thursday, April 15, 1993

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71

SPORTING VIEWS

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Racism a bitter real
in sports media, too
by Rob Pugliese
The Pitt News
Sports is big time, big business in America. That is part of its
intrigue, its glamour and its attraction as an escape from the ugly reality.
But sports has its ugly side as well and sadly, much of that is due to
the people who cover sports. With all the fascinating personalities,
players and coaches, it is the sports media who are perhaps the most
powerful of all.
When intelligent, well-schooled writers or reporters have something
provocative or insightful to say, that's fine. But that does not explain or
excuse the complete insensitivity and lack of compassion that most of
the media continually display toward human beings. Often lost amid the
grind of sports is the human element. People play these games, not
robots. Compassion and understanding are lacking, and that is an awful
realization, especially when considering the saga of Chris Webber.
The Michigan sophomore, a superstar on the basketball floor and an
exemplary young man off of it, has been vilified by the media for much
of the season. They have painted him to be a cocky, arrogant punk - a
black knight symbolic of everything that is evil on the basketball floor.
At 6-feet 9-inches and a chiseled 245 pounds, Webber is an imposing
figure - imposing enough to forget that he is just 20 years old. He
entered the national limelight in the fall of 1990 when, as a high school
senior at Country Day High in suburban Detroit, he was anointed the top
schoolboy player in America. At Michigan he has met and surpassed all
expectations, leading the "Fab Five" to the title game in each of his first
two seasons. But that is not enough for some critics.
Still, he is criticized - for his on-court demeanor and his supposed
bad attitude. See, Webber enjoys playing basketball and is not afraid to
show it. He laughs and grins a lot on the floor, hollers when he dunks
and occasionally likes to talk a little trash. Many members of the media
depict him as a brash, nonchalant person who has no respect for others.
And don't think this does not affect the public's perception of
Webber and his Wolverine teammates. When you hear people talk about
Michigan, it is usually something to this effect: "I hate Michigan ... I'm
glad they lost" or "they're a bunch of punks ... they play gangsta ball."
Now if they were five talented white kids from suburbia, would
Michigan take all the flack it has received this season as supposed
"underachievers and streetball players?"
I've heard Webber called a "dirtbag," a "thug" and a "street hood,"
not to mention countless other moronic expressions, many of them
blatantly racial. In 1993, crude and ignorant stereotypes abound,
ridiculous misconceptions about Black basketball players are still
lingering like some sickening stench.
It would be a travesty not to point out that a minority of the media,
most notably the New York Times, attempted to give Webber and his
teammates a fair shake all season. But the average person only sees and
reads the waves of negative criticism.
The shame of it all is that those people will never learn about the
person that wears the baggy maize-and-blue uniform and black shoes.
They will miss out on his refreshing candid nature, the soft-spoken,
almost shy honesty and politeness that he possesses. He is a genuinely
charming 20-year-old with a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts.
Raised in a religious setting by two loving parents, he is a young man
with the proper focus in his life. And his crime has been having too
much fun for the masses to handle, enjoying a game he loves to play -
playing it his way.

Yost hosts
exhibition
by Ryan Herrington
Daily Sports Editor
Yost Ice Arena once again will
host some of the country's brightest
figure skating talent as Skate
Michigan '93 glides into Ann Arbor.
Lisa Ervin and Mark Mitchell
headline the list of skaters who will
perform in the exhibition Saturday
evening. The two have both per-
formed extremely well in competi-
tion during the past few months.
Ervin, who has appeared at Skate
Michigan since its inception in 1991,
finished second at the 1993 United
States Nationals. Turning 15 next
week, Ervin also placed second at
the World Juniors earlier this year,
marking the second straight year she
finished in this position.
Training out of Winterhearst
Skating Club in Lakewood, Ohio,
Ervin has had a lifelong love for the
sport, which she began at the tender
age of three.
Since beginning her competitive
skating career at the age of six, Ervin
has excelled so much so that in
1985, she decided to move away
from home to Lakewood to train un-
der coach Carol Heiss Jenkins.
Although her amateur career is
still in its infant stages, Ervin has
had her fair share of international
competition. By placing fourth at
U.S. Nationals a year ago, Ervin
qualified as an alternate for the
American Olympic squad.
Her counterpart Mitchell was
also the runner-up at this year's U.S.

skating
Saturday
Nationals and took fourth place at
the World Championships held in
Prague. Since winning the 1986 U.S.
Junior Championship, Mitchell has
made a name for himself as a
formidable competititor, having fin-
ished among the top four at
Nationals each of the last four years.
Born and raised in Connecticut,
Mitchell trains full time in the
Boston area. When Mitchell is not
practicing at the rink, he can be
found taking classes at Massachu-
setts Bay College, where he is an
honor student majoring in public
relations and advertising.
In addition to Ervin and Mitchell,
the duo of Todd Reynolds and Karen
Courtland will perform in the pairs
exhibition. Reynolds and Courtland
finished third at the 1993 Nationals.
The pair was the first alternate for
the U.S. Olympic team last year.
The program will consist of 11
acts, including two pairs and a preci-
sion team consisting of 29 skaters.
The entire event is produced by
Kinesiology students.
This is the third year Yost Ice
Arena has hosted the event. In pre-
vious years former Olympic gold
medalist Dorthy Hamell and U.S.
champion Jill Trenary have head-
lined the event.
Tickets are still on sale at Yost
Ice Arena as well as at the Michigan
Athletic Ticket Office and the
Michigan Union. Reserved seats are
$8 and $5.

Chris Webber and the rest of the Fab Five draw frequent criticism that
some have suggested stems from racist attitudes.
Who is to say what the proper way to behave on the basketball floor
is anyway? And, more importantly, the media should better channel their
efforts to learn about the Chris Webber who exists away from basketball.
Sports and life are endlessly connected, and as a sportswriter you
learn that each is a giant metaphor connected to the other. A lack of
compassion is one of our society's glaring deficiencies, and the sports
world is indicative of that. Media misconceptions and fabrications
destroy the integrity of individuals, a terrible thing to discard. The pen is
a mighty instrument, used too often as a weapon against innocent
individuals like Chris Webber.

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FILE PHOTO
Fourteen-year-old Lisa Ervin is one of the skaters whose talents will be
showcased at Yost Ice Arena Saturday in Skate Michigan'93.
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