Really, Kevin? Can’t Beat ‘Em?

(twelve-minute read)
One of the good guys, from what I can tell. Wearing the dark hat (and a bullseye) now: Kevin Durant.

One of the good guys, from what I can tell. Wearing the dark hat (and a bullseye) now: Kevin Durant.

Young sir, may I call you Kevin?

I’m sure They have been calling him lots worse, though I’m not looking under bridges to check. I’m guessing “traitor” and “chickenshit” and “turncoat” and “ungrateful bastard” are making the more printable lists. “Benedict Arnold” might be favoured by those who know a little American history.

So: Basketball Star Kevin Durant Signs Free-Agent Contract With Golden State Warriors. There’s your lede, not going to bury it. This being July 5th, it’s no longer news in the antic spin-dry cycle of what-have-you-hot-taken-from-me-lately entertainment/journalism. But to me it’s still novel, a bit shuddery and uncomfortable, sort of bewildering yet all-too-familiar, a cause of naive dismay and even a spur to misplaced and minor outrage. Hey, wanna come along? 

This is literally unmediated. I haven’t had the chance to filter my jangled thoughts through what must have been a torrential downpour in the Twitterverse sports teacup, a tempest in the chatrooms and sports blogs of the world. (At least in North America, this must have outdone Iceland over England by far, and may have even outstripped Trump and cute animals for an Internet spell.) I spent the very best part of yesterday hanging around in my corner of Ottawa with some of the finest young people you’d ever want to know, and many of them barely know who Kevin Durant is. The day was about selfless service. Voluntarism. Youth leadership by the young. (Hence, I wasn’t much more than a bystander, but an inspired and committed one.) Moral purpose. Community. Educational vision. Societal transformation. All that grassroots jazz. (And walking. Lots of walking.) There was no time for Twitter.

But some of the youngsters do know KD, and their phones are smarter than mine is. As we hunted for idealists in Overbrook on the fourth of July,

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Bill McKibben (art & worship)

“Art, like religion, is one of the ways we digest what is happening to us, make the sense out of it that proceeds to action….Therefore it falls to those of us alive now to watch and record its flora, its fauna, its rains, its snow, its ice, its peoples. To document the buzzing, glorious, cruel, mysterious planet we were born onto, before in our carelessness we leave it far less sweet.”          Bill McKibben (American author of environmental and lifestyle warnings and pleas, cross-country Vermont snowman)

When is Enough Enough?

Some great things land in my Inbox. Here are a couple of recent examples, and links that can get you more where they came from…

I’d never heard of Gary Tyler until recently. I’d never heard of Jocks for Justice, either, but there is a group of mainly ex-athletes – only Etan Thomas, a forward for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, is an active jock activist – who are standing up for what appears to be one of the great miscarriages of justice in American history. Gary Tyler, in 1974, was riding a bus with other black students to a newly desegregated high school in Louisiana. When the bus was attacked by a white mob, one white teen ended up shot to death. Tyler remains on death row in the notorious Angola prison for being, as a New York Times writer has recently uncovered, simply “the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Amnesty International has flagged the case. Human rights and judicial reform activists are on the bit, too, as are Tommie Smith and John Carlos (the “Black Power” saluters from the Mexico City Olympics of 1968) and other sports notables. Dave Zirin, a writer whose beat is the social and political edge of sports, tells the whole story, with appropriate outrage, here.  It’s a quick but worthwhile read.

Another writer, no less passionate but more measured in his approach, is the noted American environmental crusader Bill McKibben. He’s not just a tree-hugger, although he loves the forests and trails. He’s one of the world’s most thoughtful contributors to the big discussions of how we should live, how we can remain in harmony with our highest human values and with the rest of creation. I first read McKibben in a short article in Utne magazine on how to survive (and more) the all-out consumer assault that our “holy season” has become. It was called “The $100 Christmas”. I had somehow missed his first book, The End of Nature, which was nearly 20 years ahead of its time. It was perhaps the first widely read discussion of the drastic effect on global ecology and climate that has been caused by our industrial excess. I heard McKibben recently at an Ottawa conference of the Sierra Club of Canada. He was thoughtful, he was extremely sobering, yet somehow he managed to be encouraging at the same time. And what a graceful writer!

If you have some time to read great writing that will change (or at least stimulate) your mind, try McKibben’s piece in the spring ’07 edition of Mother Jones magazine. It’s called “Reversal of Fortune”, and it begins this way: “For most of human history, the two birds More and Better roosted on the same branch. You could toss one stone and hope to hit them both…” In other words, the human quest to achieve or acquire more – more food, more invention, more control over our circumstances – has generally served to make life better. But as McKibben notes here, and in his new book Enough, we have hit the stage in human civilization where the desire and attainment of MORE of everything has stopped being beneficial and has become the source of many of our most threatening problems. It’s intelligent but superbly readable, and it won’t leave you in despair. There are things we can do to make our lives BETTER. (If you’d like to read more about this – and this is a case where ‘more’ and ‘better’ still DO roost on the same branch – please click here for more McKibben. Always a good thing.)