You have to love this time of year if you’re a sports fan. Baseball is getting into full swing, NBA playoffs are starting this weekend, and Hockey playoffs are finishing up the first round.
Of course, with all sports you have wonderful exposure to angry fans, hostile local press and increasingly insane and not-even-thinly-veiled racism popping up on every Facebook page and Twitter feed from here to the Great White North.
In this case, the Great White North is Boston, where the Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup finals last year were eliminated in a tense overtime game 2-1 by the Washington Capitals. To make matters worse? The game winner was scored by Joel Ward, an Afro-Canadian player.
First, you have to see the demographic and, somewhat, political irony in this. You have a city that is no stranger to sports championships in recent history facing off against another one that keeps firing its football coaches and quarterbacks. But, Boston is also one of the most virulently old school White male cities in America (the opening lines by Jack Nicholson in The Departed give you a clue). It’s known for a tough anti-“busing” attitude and a reputation for making it an uncomfortable place to live for its Black residents, who comprise 22% of the city’s population. Interestingly enough, the Governor of Massachusetts is Black, Deval Patrick, in a state that’s barely 6% his color.
Basically, this Stanley Cup quarterfinal was the Vanilla City vs. Chocolate City – otherwise known as Washington, D.C. And, even though the vast majority of Caps fans are White, the city is still able to fashion itself as a sort of Black economic, cultural and political center (just barely managing to be a hair above 50% African American). It has a Black mayor, nearly half its City Council is Black and the city government is – you guessed it – pretty much run by Black people … although that’s been changing dramatically as of the last Census (and thanks to a bull-run one-term by former Mayor Adrian Fenty in which he “cleaned” out the agencies). Plus: this is the city once run by the all-too-infamous Marion Barry.
To have Ward score the winning shot was, apparently, a bridge too far for many Boston Bruins fans. That released a torrent of racist N-word laced tweets the likes of which won’t be seen again until Obama gets re-elected. Some of the most offensive tweets are collected here. Once I got to “The fact that a nigger scored the winning goal only made it worse … ” I pretty much got the point.
Yes, yes, we all know that this isn’t reflective of all Bostonians … of course not. Nor is it reflective of all Hockey fans. But let’s be honest: Boston’s worst kept secret is the overt racism that is still reflected in much of its sports journalism, fandom and even management. Even the best Boston bred sports columnist out there, Bill Simmons, has been caught from time to time re-enforcing and then critiquing that aspect of Boston Sports fandom.
Much as I liked Cheers, a downtown Boston bar in the 1980’s would NOT have always been glad I came, and apparently very little has changed in the 21st century.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson
— Managing Editor Charles D. Ellison contributed to this report