I’ve always enjoyed reading New York Post sports columnist Phil Mushnick, although I don’t see this stuff that often anymore.
He gets after things that most other writers ignore, and his point of view usually is pretty interesting. Combative, sometimes, especially when he feels he is righting a wrong.
Today, I was looking for something on-line, and I came across Mushnick’s column of Dec. 21, 2008, in which he chastises ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman and then NBC golf analyst for insensitive remarks regarding Italian-Americans. Yes, it was nine months ago, but it is still relevant.
Mushnick suggested that Italian-Americans are the last ethnic or religious group in America that can be negatively stereotyped without penalty to the stereoptyper. As examples, he submitted Berman’s description of Tampa Bay Buccaneer safety Sabatino Piscitelli’s return of a blocked punt, during which he used a thuggish, B-movie Brooklyn-Italian accent, and Miller’s genuinely dumb references to Rocco Mediate during the 2008 U.S. Open, when he said, among other things, the dark-skinned Mediate “looks like the guy who cleans Tiger’s pool” and more or less made fun of Mediate's first name.
As an Italian-American – or, as I like to say, Sicilian-American - was I offended? The Berman thing I didn’t hear or see, so I guess not, but the guy ought to know better. Miller’s words? Definitely offensive. Like Mushnick, I don’t think either guy meant anything negative. They were just being thoughtless. But, also like Mushnick, I do believe had either used similar stereotypical language in relation to African-Americans, Blacks, Jews, Hispanics or Asians, they’d have been in big trouble.
Maybe, probably, everyone is too politically correct today, but guess what? If you aren’t going to take it, I’m not going to take it, either.
Another thing Mushnick is known for is corrective history. In that same column, he wrote about the 1958 Colts-Giants NFL championship game, regarded by many as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and the event that popularized pro football on television, where it has been the greatest show on earth ever since.
As Mushnick wrote, once a notion is repeated often enough, fact has no chance.
The “fact” that the Colts-Giants game was responsible for a huge boom in television viewership for the NFL simply isn’t true, Mushnick wrote. He quoted Steve Sabol, head of NFL Films, as saying that viewership rose only slightly the season after the big game, and not at all in 1960. Sabol’s opinion is that the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, with Vince Lombardi, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Jerry Kramer and the rest, were the driving force behind what would become the phenomenon of football dominance of the airwaves.
Greatest game ever played? Maybe, but there are other candidates. The reason pro football took off on television? Probably not, because the numbers say it wasn’t. I watched that game with my father, mother and brother, and remember it very well, because I was a big Giants fan. But I also remember watching Otto Graham and the Browns win in 1955, and the Giants win the next year, and the Lions whip the Browns in 1957.
In any case, it is a point of view I haven’t seen elsewhere, so that’s why I still read Mushnick now and then.