April 20 - April 26, 1995


I suppose I could make a living out of this--I mean it's not as though nobody ever struck a vein of gold and mined it until it was played-out. With diligence...and a little luck, you could stretch it into retirement.

So it wouldn't be entirely out of line if I were to devote all my time and space in The Weekly to parsing Greg Hansen's sentences. Would it?

Last week I started where Greg left off in his screed about commercialism in sports. Greg is still waxing wroth, but I have reached a separate peace with that ol' debil lucre. I announced my sellout, but so far nobody's buying. I can wait. It's been 28 years now, working for chump change. What's another week or two?

Besides, the work is going to be so much less taxing, now that I don't have to think up stuff to write about, then do all that time-consuming research, long face-to-face interviews, cross-checking, the myriad details of routine reportage that never really show in print, but without which I could never bring a week's lecture to the podium. Now all I have to do is read Hansen and pick him apart.

Take last Friday's column, for instance:

Good God, Greg--or should I say Good Greg, God?--Hansen is telling us how it'd be if he were Commissioner of Sports. Yeah, he'd bring ticket prices down and kill off the four-buck hot dog. Wonderful, but rather like shooting fish in a barrel. How about some truly Solomonic decisions on issues that are not so clearly black and white?

Well, after describing how he'd send the Cardinals off to play Canuckian football for a year, Greg unlimbers his mighty pen to take on two of society's most egregious abusers of position, privilege and raw political clout...

...Cripples and Indians.

Don't you just love to watch a journalistic David chuck rocks at Goliath? Goliath and Mothra? Me too.

It started out sounding pretty straightforward and heroic (quoting Greg):

Some UA athletic department officials would be forced to spend a week at the NCAA enforcement office and get a good scolding about the dangers of gambling as it affects college athletics. They would be forced to study a photograph of several former Nevada-Las Vegas...blah, blah blah....

The Desert Diamond Casino Hoop Finale is not an appropriate name, nor is it an appropriate sponsor for any college athletic event...

And so on.

Well, just a damn minute now. We already know Greg has a hard-on about commercial sponsors for sporting events. I think my last opus should pretty well have dismantled any shred of real-world validity to that argument. Even Greg himself, in this week's rant, concedes the inevitability of commercialism, when he says that Desert Diamond Casino is not an appropriate sponsor. Logically implicit therein is that something else is an appropriate sponsor. So Greg has admitted his ethical positions are taken on quicksand.

Let's sink him, shall we?

To begin, why is Desert Diamond inappropriate? It's a gaming establishment, yes, but it's a legal one. It's state- and federal-licensed, operated by and for the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation. Its proceeds go largely to the good and charitable cause of improving the sad lot of a Native American people who long have suffered at the hands of white men. Some of whom were named Hansen.

But perhaps we are talking about something Greg Hansen just personally doesn't care for. So he's not into bingo. That doesn't make The Desert Diamond Casino Hoop Finale a bad thing.

Actually, it doesn't make it anything, because there's no such thing as the Desert Diamond...what he said. The factual name of the event was The Desert Diamond Arizona Hoop Finale. What the event actually was, was the traditional University of Arizona Wildchairs' "Lame for a Game" fundraiser, under a new and, yes, commercial flag. Details, details.

A few more details:

The Wildchairs are the UA wheelchair basketball team, a bunch of crippled kids. Boys

and girls. I say crippled because being that way myownself, I can get away with it. Like Richard Pryor can get away with saying nigger. Only crippled isn't pejorative, it's just accurate. I hate euphemisms and shit like "differently abled" or "physically challenged." For years the Wildchairs have ended their season with a fund-raising exhibition game against the UA Wildcat basketball team--the tall bunch that runs around the court on its hind legs. Only in "Lame for a Game" they have to sit down and roll around in wheelchairs, trying to shoot baskets from about four feet zip, against a team of athletes that knows what it's doing.

Lame for a game, get it?

Well, back in 1990 Greg Hansen got it and he didn't like it. He wrote a venomous piece about how demeaning and insensitive it was to name a game something like "lame." At considerable length Greg carried on to this effect, omitting, unfortunately, the fact that he never had bothered to attend any of those Lame games, nor even to look into how the game got the name Lame. Turns out it was the gimps themselves, cripples, whatever--the wheelchair basketball team--that named it, and they thought it was funny, and weren't offended, and said afterward that Greg should lighten up and shut up and maybe come to one of the damned games before he shot off his mouth again.

But of course he never did. And when the sports department of The Arizona Daily Barf ever does send somebody out to cover the Lame Game, it ain't the large and impressive personage of Greg Hansen, it's somebody from the meat squad, and the story runs in the lifestyle section, along with the knitting column and the bridge results.

Be that as it may, Greg continues to stay away, and the Wildchairs continue to struggle to raise enough money to keep on playing--since they aren't a part of the official UA sports roster--by staging fundraisers on their own hook. Finally this past year they got together with Dave Sitton from The Enterprise Group. Dave is better known as the TV announcer of the UA basketball games. Dave put the Wildchairs together with the O'odham, toward the mutually beneficial establishment of a commercial linkage that would provide two good-guy groups with a win-win situation:

The crippled kids get money to stage their exhibition game, greater commercial exposure for the game, and more funds from it, and the tribe gets its name and its casino, the goose that lays the first golden eggs in the tribe's impecunious history, in front of the public in a most favorable context...

...and they all lived happily ever after, right?

Not if Greg Hansen has his way.

But this is not Greg's week; it's mine. Get your head out of your ass, Greg: you're a marvelous writer and I enjoy your stuff, but sometimes like, yes, even I, you get it wrong.

If a bunch of rich white boys can start a bank and make a shitload of money and pay the UA to put the bank's name on their scoreboards, there's no reason a tribe of poor Indians can't run a keno game and a few slots and sponsor a team of disabled athletes.

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April 20 - April 26, 1995

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