Dave Zirin isn’t just my favorite sports writer, he’s one of my favorite writers period. I love the way his work shows how sports cannot ever be separated from the political context that they operate in.
His latest article talks about the Oakland Warriors and the city they play in, the city I call home. He says:
“The Golden State Warriors just finished the finest season in history… by a team that failed to make the playoffs. In the epic Western Conference, G-State’s 48-34 record was only good enough for a ninth best. But the team did see Monta Ellis emerge as perhaps the fastest, most dynamic person to step on a court since Johan Kriek. It saw Stephen Jackson improbably become a second tier MVP candidate (the team went 0-6 without him at the season’s beginning) and an NBA universe weeping that the high octane crew from Oaktown won’t be pulling off any playoff miracles this season.
While it’s nice to see basketball matter again in the Bay Area, I had an entirely different kind of feeling last month when Warriors stars Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Ellis and the now-retired Chris Webber appeared at a “Silence the Violence” rally in their backyard at Oakland Tech.
Jackson, who’s had his share of off-the-court troubles, said, “I’ve seen a lot of violence in my life, and it could have stopped me from being where I’m at today. If I can give some kids some knowledge that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, then I’m willing to do that.”
Oakland is a place where there are too many funerals–too many parents burying too many teenagers. As longtime community activist Todd Chretien said to me, “In the last five years around 700 people have been murdered in Oakland, out of a population of less than 400,000. About half of these murders have taken place within a two-mile radius of the fields and floors where the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland As and the Golden State Warriors play ball.
“What’s wrong? Poverty and racism,” he said. “Unemployment for young black and Latino men hovers between one-third and one-half. The cost of living is the highest in the country. The schools are underfunded and under attack from Bush’s No Child Left Behind. In the last thirty years the ruling elite in Oakland have de-industrialized and taken their jobs elsewhere (and now they’re taking the As with them).”‘