Leland Stein III

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

UM’s Fab Five documentary stir controversy, Grant Hill misses opportunity

In sports column on April 22, 2011 at 9:24 pm


rose hill

By Leland Stein III

ESPN Films documentary on Michigan’s Fab Five is the highest-rated ever film besting all of the 30 for 30 exposés. The two hour ESPN film has drawn a fire storm of controversy.

The two-hour special, entitled The Fab Five ‑ Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson ‑ highlighted the now-iconic recruiting class that was known for its brash and cocky approach to the game. The five freshmen starters, two appearances in the NCAA title game (1992 and 1993), bald heads, black socks, baggy shorts and on court swagger either drew people closer to them or drew the ire of the so-called establishment. Eventually, a booster scandal forced the university to forfeit many of their achievements.

I thought the documentary was a well-thought out, engaging look at one of the more influential teams in college basketball history. Sure it would have been even better with Webber’s presence and the acknowledgement of the Patrick Ewing led Georgetown Hoyas and the Jerry Tarkanian’s coached Runnin Rebels.

No matter, Rose and company brought the bacon and gave the world a chance for true dialogue concerning race, poverty and perception.

Unfortunately, most took Rose and King’s words and ran with the negative. When Rose, who said in the documentary that he felt like African Americans who played for Duke were “Uncle Toms,” an incendiary term within the African-American community because it reflects a black-on-black attack, I felt most missed an opportunity to address the very real gap that permeates the Black community.

The Fab Five was a very real and brutally honest look at the stories behind one of the most dynamic group of college basketball players in recent memory.

The key to me is honest. When a man tells the honest truth about how he viewed life at a 17-year-old disenfranchised black youth, and, people cannot or do not want to deal with it, it is unfortunate.

The term Uncle Tom, is a jab in the back of most African Americans. But, on the other hand the term is one of a jealous person wishing he or she had what the other had. In slavery times the Uncle Tom stayed in the Master’s house and ate the left over’s and had better commendations.

Rose used the Duke-Michigan challenge from 20 years ago as a metaphor for how one defines an individual’s “blackness.” He didn’t hide his contempt for Duke, accusing them of a form of racial profiling. Rose noted that an inner city kid would not have been recruited at Duke. And that declaration has a lot of truth to it.

Rose’s interjection offered all a chance for truthful acknowledgement of the conditions that permeate America’s urban communities.

Said Rose: “I slept with a hoodie and a floor heater. The truth of the matter is as a kid I did not see myself as I’m sure (Grant) Hill did. I’m speaking for people that have the big television on the floor, but the little one that works on top of it.

“The fact of the matter is Duke does not recruit kids like me, so they would not have scandals like kids that need to sell their rings or jerseys just to buy a pizza.”

Since the majority of the media is white dominated, they cannot or will not look at life through a different prism. Rose delivered his message from a honest and thoughtful narrative.

The truth of life in America is that some have and others do not. Rose’s missive clearly denotes the hopelessness that is felt by many that are stuck or born in an environment that is impoverished and appears closed to the American dream.

Hill in a reflex move wrote an op-ed New York Times’ piece launched as a counterattack. Sure his retort that he should not have to apologize for having two college-educated parents is on point.

However, he missed a great opportunity to deal with the reality of life for too many in urban America. What Hill could have done was a profound narrative; instead he pandered to the so-called establishment.

If I had Hill’s voice in a New York Times opportunity I would have said: “I understand where Rose is coming from and the population he is speaking about. I was lucky to have two parents that were educated and loved me. Unforuntately too many in this country do not have that blessings. I was lucky to have that blessings and those that do not tend to look at America from a hurtful perspective. I’m sure if I had been raised in the situation like Rose where my father abandoned me and my mother struggled for basic survival . . .at 17 I would have looked at life very differently. What we need to address in this country is the large gap that is forming between educated and uneducated, and, rich and poor. No, I’m not an Uncle Tom, I was just blessed to have parents like I did.”

If I was Hill that is what I would have said, but I’m not. He missed a golden opportunity to bridge the great divide that is America.

Leland Stein III can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @ LelandSteinIII