THE IRVIN SAGA - A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW By Rufus Shaw
Tue, Dec 6, 2005, 01:28 AM
Since I am a big fan of Michael Irvin’s, I was disappointed as many folks South of the Trinity were when Mr. Irvin found himself once again in the negative glare of the media spotlight. Many of us South of the Trinity are still somewhat baffled over the fact that there were no drugs found in this case and the drug even hinted at was marijuana, a drug that is legal in 11 states. Yet, those facts withstanding, Irvin was crucified and I am not surprised. Little has been reported about Irvin’s own victimization by the culture of privilege that envelops African-American star athletes literally from the moment their athletic exploits become noteworthy.
I admire Michael Irvin as much for his ability to become successful after leaving the playing field then I admire his exploits on the field. His ascension to media stardom is even more remarkable when you consider he overcame drug addiction, near financial ruin, and massive legal problems. Unfortunately, very few former Black professional athletes maintain even a semblance of financial well being after they leave the game. My good friend, the late Bullet Bob Hayes, comes to mind. A great athlete and a great guy but Bob was never able to do what Michael Irvin has done even though their circumstances were similar.
In African-American communities all over America, aspiring child athletes who show promise of greatness are ushered into a special sub culture of privilege where the rules are different and the notion of right and wrong as others outside of the culture are taught are simply not the same. That does not mean the members of this privilege culture are bad people or criminals in the making. This is no truer then whites who are members of the upper class are automatically considered Enron clones in the making. But it does mean we do not see the world the way the average person commenting on Michael Irvin’s life was taught to see the world. I was somewhat successful as a high school and college athlete, though I never achieved the success of Michael Irvin; I was still a member of that sub-culture of privilege that exists in the Black community, a sub-culture that almost guarantees its members’ failure in society at large.
Professional athletics is the only profession where African-American people are universally accepted and respected by powerful whites. Irvin’s fans are Republicans and Democrats alike. Even the President hugged Muhammad Ali during a recent awards ceremony. Young Black kids growing up in the worst urban conditions can see their way out via professional athletes and so can their non-athletic peers. Thus the rules for existence in society no longer apply to one who has the athletic ability to possibly “go pro”. Maybe that explains why Michael Irvin did not pay his traffic ticket in a timely manner like most citizens are taught to do. Why should he?
Those of us who are from that very special culture of privilege have never been really forced to follow all of the rules. Just like those white folks from the wealthiest enclaves of American society probably do not follow all of the rules like the average Joe. African-American star athletes are erroneously taught from an early age, we are maybe so special that all of the rules don’t apply. The problem is we are never really forced to understand even though we are indeed special we are not white and thus not as privileged as we were taught to believe. That’s how it is South Of The Trinity.