Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gumbel's Law of Slavery Analogies

In previous "My Two Cents" commentaries I have referred to Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies.  It's the somewhat tongue-in-cheek postulate from Mike Godwin that the longer a political conversation goes on--the more likely a reference to Hitler or Naziism will be made.  It is usually the point in the conversation where we cross over from actual serious debate into idiocy.

Well now, I would like to add a new "law" to the science of discussion: Gumbel's Law of Slavery Analogies--which will hold that the longer a discussion goes on about a professional sports contract situation--the more likely an inappropriate comparison to slavery will be made.  It is named in "honor" of HBO Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel--who this week had these comments about NBA Commissioner David Stern in an opinion piece about the on-going lockout............

"His efforts are typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern-day plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his "boys". ... His moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place."

Now Gumbel's comments aren't the first comparison of pro athletes to Africans brought to America against their will and forced to labor for no compensation.  In fact, it's not even the first one this year.  You may recall, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made this comment in a Yahoo Sports interview during the NFL lockout this summer:

"It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too."

Sure, I could have called it Peterson's Law of Slavery Analogies--but Adrian Peterson was a football player at the University of Arkansas--while Gumbel graduated with a journalism degree from Bates College--so I would expect him to be a bit more knowledgeable on American History.

If Gumbel wanted to make a reasoned argument that the owners themselves are the ones who agreed to previous labor deals that resulted in bloated contracts for over-rated players, that would have been valid.  So too would have been pointing out that the players have come to the table from the beginning willing to cut their percentage of basketball-related revenues.  But instead, Bryant went immediately to the giant hammer of "slavery"--usually swung by race-baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in an effort to discredit any points made by non-African Americans.

I'm sure that Bryant Gumbel's and Adrian Peterson's ancestors would have jumped at the chance to be among the highest paid people in America--and to have the ability to change employers through free agency.  But since they did not, then it is probably best just to leave them out of the conversation.

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