Don't be distracted by roadblocks to productive dialogue, nuanced conversation

Don't be distracted by roadblocks to productive dialogue, nuanced conversation

The ultimate goals, the basic expectations, are easy enough to see. Justice. Anti-racism. Equality. Love and respect for humanity.

Obvious and uncomplicated, right?

That’s why I’m surprised by some of the twisted things I’ve seen and heard in the last month and a half. It’s been about that long — seven weeks — since George Floyd pleaded for his life in Minneapolis, his neck pinned to the ground for nearly nine minutes under a police officer’s knee.

It was that recorded murder, thoughtless and merciless in high definition, that sparked historic protests here and abroad. Those marches were emphatic, multigenerational, multiethnic rebukes against abuse of power and injustice. Anyone exercising that abuse — and verbally or silently protecting it — is clearly the enemy.

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So how exactly did we get here?

In this climate, how does DeSean Jackson say he stands for love and unity yet get to a place where he’s producing multiple anti-Semitic posts on social media? Even worse, as he apologized for those hateful comments and tried to bury them, a former NBA player wouldn’t let him do it. Instead, Stephen Jackson retrieved them from the trash, gave them value, and added a wilder, more conspiratorial, anti-Semitic commentary on the wealthy Rothschild family.

Nothing good comes from reviving someone else’s deleted posts. And any conversation that leads us away from justice and toward a comparison of atrocities (1619 and the Holocaust) is destined to fall to pieces.

Jackson, a longtime friend of Floyd’s, was eloquent and thoughtful in the days after Floyd’s death. Kendrick Perkins remarked at the time that Jackson’s steadiness and passion seemed to be a divine “calling.” I could see what he meant. But seemingly hours after having that thought, I heard Jackson lecturing Stephen A. Smith because the commentator had the nerve to disagree with Kyrie Irving’s position on an NBA restart. Jackson told Smith that “no Black man” should say what Smith said. Then, condescendingly, he concluded that management — presumably white management — pulled some strings and turned Smith into a puppet.

Apparently, there is just one path to justice, and that single path doesn’t allow Black people to disagree with one another on layered issues. Even if the issue is basketball. Perkins learned that in a painful way when he, too, disagreed with Irving. When Kevin Durant saw Perkins’ criticism of Irving, he called his former teammate a “sell out.”

Justice. Anti-racism. Equality. Love and respect for humanity.

That still is the mission, right? Does it require us all to get there on the same ideological train? Do we all have to sound and think the same to arrive at a place where reasonable people all want to be?

In some ways, history has no precedent for what we’re seeing right now. Some data specialists and pollsters have suggested that the Black Lives Matter protests are the largest in the country’s history. While we haven’t seen that before, we can take some lessons from disagreements in the past. It’s certainly not new for passionate people of conscience to collide on strategy.

In her 2014 movie "Selma," filmmaker Ava DuVernay was able to capture an essential truth from a dramatization. Even as they agreed to march against racism and segregation in Alabama, there was tension between Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) and some members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). King’s group was seen as more deliberate while the youthful SNCC was more urgent.

Combined, the two groups produced some of the country’s most compelling leaders, drafted and ushered in groundbreaking legislation, and organized protests that we still discuss today, including the March on Washington.

King, a Christian, often had sharp philosophical differences with Malcolm X, a Muslim. One man gave us a “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” while the other left a piece of his soul with his autobiography. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve gained insight, and wisdom, from both over the years.

In some ways, clearly, it’s harder to be nuanced with different opinions — or to listen to them at all — today. While the immediacy of social media is its strength and allowed the world to see the Floyd video, it’s the immediacy of our platforms that often derails conversations before we give them context and allow them to develop.

A perfect example from the last seven weeks is the warp speed with which Drew Brees’ image was recreated. He shared his opinion on kneeling for the flag, and I disagreed with what he had to say. But I still wanted to hear him and understand his reasoning. If I were his teammate, I’d be eager to do that away from social media so I could have an authentic — and likely uncomfortable — conversation with him in private.

You know by now that two of his higher-profile teammates, Michael Thomas and Malcolm Jenkins, initially did the opposite. I saw a video where Thomas was applauded for his actions by ... Stephen Jackson.

Meanwhile, it’s been nearly four months since three plainclothes police officers in Louisville entered Breonna Taylor’s apartment after midnight and killed her. She was shot eight times. It was supposedly a drug raid, but there were no drugs. Just a 26-year-old EMT and her boyfriend. No one has been charged with murder.

The enemies are still out there. Let’s keep our eyes on the ultimate prize.

NASCAR live stream: How to watch Sunday's Cup Series race at Michigan

USA TODAY Sports photo

NASCAR live stream: How to watch Sunday's Cup Series race at Michigan

Can Kevin Harvick complete the weekend sweep?

NASCAR's Cup Series will get the green flag at Michigan International Speedway again on Sunday afternoon following Harvick's dominant Saturday victory, which marked his fifth win of the 2020 season.

The No. 17 Ford of Chris Buescher will start on the pole for Sunday's Consumers Energy 400. Clint Bowyer, Tyler Reddick, Matt Kenseth, and Aric Almirola round out the top five. Harvick will start in the 20th position.

For the full starting lineup, go here.

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Sunday's race will be 156 laps (312 miles) around the 2-mile speedway. Stage 1 will end on Lap 40 and Stage 2 ends on Lap 85.

Here's how and when to watch:

When: Sunday, Aug. 9, 4:30 p.m. ET.
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports

Michael Holley: Remember, Boston sports fans, it could be much worse

Michael Holley: Remember, Boston sports fans, it could be much worse

By now, my kids can predict when their father has a “You Don’t Have It So Bad” lecture on the way. For example, when they complain about cleaning their rooms, I’ve got: “You’re fortunate to have a room to clean; I had to share one small room with my brother and grandfather until I was 16…”

I’ve got one of those for everything. And my exaggerations get better with time.

I thought of that the other day when I watched the Red Sox get swept by the Yankees. This is where I don’t need to exaggerate: the Red Sox have a chance to be worse than Bobby Valentine’s 2012 Sox on the field, but not as reality-show crazy/entertaining off it. (Remember Bobby showing up at the ballpark in Oakland late because he said he wanted to pick up his son from the airport? And then ripping the airport, the ballpark, and the city when he was called on it?)

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They’ve got talented hitters who aren’t hitting, and they’ve got a pitching staff that’s doing what you’d expect from a group with Nathan Eovaldi as its emergency ace.

But with all that said, we really have had it good in Boston, with the Red Sox and every other professional sports team in town. The championships are obvious, but it’s deeper than that. In the last 20 years, accounting for all five pro teams in the region – I see you, Revolution – think about how many times you’ve looked at your favorite team and sensed no pulse or hope.

Before we go team-by-team here, consider what true despair looks and feels like. In the NBA, it’s a New York Knick. The Knicks have missed the playoffs 15 of the last 20 years, and have had 14 different head coaches. Good luck, Tom Thibodeau. It’s not you, it’s them.

In the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers have an enviable four-out-of-six streak. That is, from 2010 until 2015, they had the number one overall pick four times in those six seasons.

And as challenged as the Red Sox are right now, let an Orioles fan tell you about a real struggle. Baltimore had a dozen consecutive losing seasons, including a six-year run in which the team lost at least 92 games each year.

That’s the context. Now here’s a sampling of Boston’s worst of the past 20 years.

New England Patriots: All right, I had to start here. I recently had a conversation in which I tried to recall the exact order of the Patriots’ nine Super Bowl sites. I should have punched myself in the face for that smugness. The one bad season was 2000, Bill Belichick’s first in New England. Anything else that makes the list, including last season’s one-and-done, is nitpicking.

Boston Bruins: I nominate the 2005-2006 season. This is still a sore subject for Mike O’Connell, who argued with Brian Burke as recently as April over a 15-year-old trade. The B’s dealt Joe Thornton to San Jose (Burke claims his Anaheim team offered far more than Boston’s Marco Sturm-Brad Stuart-Wayne Primeau return), and Thornton won the Hart Trophy that same season.

A couple other surprises about that year: it’s one of the two losing seasons the B’s have had in 20 years; and Thornton isn’t the only member of that team who ascended elsewhere. Their fired coach, Mike Sullivan, took over his next job – with the Penguins – and won back to back Stanley Cups.

New England Revolution: 2011, by far. This was not the year to tell a soccer-curious friend of yours, “Hey, watch a Revs game with me. You’ll learn something.” Nope. This was a bottomed- out roster.

Taylor Twellman retired in November 2010 due to concussions, and the 2011 team’s leading goal-scorer was Shalrie Joseph with five. Five goals, all year. No player had more than one assist in MLS play.

Limited talent, limited budget, nonexistent training facility. It’s no wonder the Revs won just five of their 34 games. Fortunately, the franchise has fixed most of the issues from 2011. They also took something else from 2011: the coach of that season’s MLS Cup champs, the LA Galaxy’s Bruce Arena.

Boston Celtics: This is too easy. No, it’s not the 2006-2007 season and its 18-game losing streak. That team actually sold out its final 13 games and had terrific TV ratings; you liked that team and its future. I’m guessing you didn’t like the 2000-2001 C’s, with Rick Pitino telling you one season that “Larry Bird is not walking through that door…” and then walking out that door himself the next year after 34 games.

Boston Red Sox: This is a good debate. Do you go with one of the three last-place teams (2012, 2014, 2015)? Or do you slide in the 2011 darkhorse? That team was blessed with talent on the field, in the dugout (Tito Francona), and in the front office (Theo Epstein). It lost due to poor conditioning, poor attitudes, and…yes, fried chicken, beer, and video games.

After looking back on what you’ve seen, and contrasting it with 12 parades, it’s a pretty good life. Just imagine, you could be stuck rooting for the Jets and Knicks.