Thursday, March 12, 2015


            A nasty video recently published on the ESPN website illustrates two depressing social phenomena that most people are unwilling to acknowledge, let alone deplore.  But that is Splashing Rocks' job. 

            The charming title of the video is "I Hate Christian Laettner" (apparently ESPN will soon broadcast a full-length program with the same title).  The video is introduced with the an equally pleasant textual lead-in:  "Everyone hates Christian Laettner.  No one hates him more than Kentucky fans.  In honor of the upcoming 30 for 30 film,  Kaylee Hartung traveled to Lexington to see if, 23 years later, hatred for Laettner is still as intense as ever."

            Lovely, isn't it?
            For those unfamiliar with college basketball, Mr. Laettner was a college basketball superstar for the historically great Duke University basketball teams of the period 1989-92.  Without question, Laettner was one of the greatest collegiate basketball players of all time.  He led Duke to two consecutive national championships in 1991 and 1992.  In the latter year, he was not only the national collegiate player of the year, but USA Basketball's Male Athlete of the Year. 

            Laettner was one of those superior players who was at his very best when the competition was the most intense – which means the NCAA Tournament and its climactic "Final Four."  No one excelled in that event like Christian Laettner.  To this day, he holds the NCAA Tournament records for most career points scored (407), most free throws made (142), and most games played (23).  He was NCAA Tournament MVP in 1991.  He is the only player in NCAA history to start for his team in the Final Four for all four years of his collegiate career, including the two championships.  In short, Laettner's record of success in college basketball's premier event is simply unequalled.

            Yet with all his consistent excellence, Laettner is most remembered and recognized for one brilliant play.  The word "iconic" is grossly overused, but in this case it aptly describes what is known among college basketball fans simply as "The Shot."  With only 2.6 seconds remaining in a dramatic overtime NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky, Duke trailed by a point.  But then Laettner caught a floor-length pass from Grant Hill, calmly turned, and sank an astonishing shot to nail the victory in what many regard as the greatest collegiate game ever.  The man was simply "clutch," in that game and many others.

                                            They loathe Laettner . . . .
                    . . . but love Lewis: The Twisted American Sportsmind   
            With all these sterling credentials, one would naturally think that Laettner would be greatly admired by most college basketball fans.  But for strange and disturbing reasons, a kind of mindless collective notion has developed over the years that hating Christian Laettner is somehow a normal and generally shared feeling among many of those fans.  It bears a striking similarity to the equally mindless and nasty dislike of New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady.  Another Duke basketball great, the incomparable long-range shooter J. J. Reddick, has also been singled out for this same kind of irrational mass antipathy.

            It all has to do with profound jealousy, self-loathing, and a Quisling-like repudiation of one's own racial identity.  Laettner and Brady are handsome, intelligent, and remarkably successful white competitors in sports that are largely dominated by blacks.  For some unfathomable reason, this inspires intensely negative feelings against these men among a certain class of white person who would never entertain, or at least never acknowledge, such rancor against prominent black athletes. 

            The collective Laettner-loathing has become so widely accepted among sports media that ESPN feels comfortable in promoting a video – soon to be followed by a full program – that portrays hatred of this remarkable man as a colorful, amusing, and even likeable quality. 

            The video starts with the fatuous premise that "everybody" is like the feckless white liberals at ESPN and naturally hates Christian Laettner.  It then finds amusement – and assumes the general public will also find amusement – in the piquant revelation that those colorful, salt-of-the-earth Kentucky University "fans" hate him even more.  This is presumably because Kentucky was the victim of Laettner's legendary and endlessly re-televised impossible shot.

            In ESPN's video, a vivacious woman reporter gleefully entices expressions of progressively more venomous Laettner-hate from a herd of unkempt and ill-mannered Kentucky basketball supporters.   Most of them are proudly wearing their garish and undoubtedly overpriced Kentucky basketball caps and/or jerseys.  An unprepossessing middle-aged man, with rapier-like wit, scornfully describes the handsome and accomplished Laettner as a "piece of crap."  The reporter smiles approvingly.  Another embodiment of Kentucky class and graciousness then declares that Laettner is "a bad person."

            Then a blonde, fortyish woman, apparently a mom, proudly displays a tee-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "I Still Hate Christian Laettner."  The classy lady then explains, "For Christmas this is all I told my family I wanted."  This Mom must be real proud of filling her house with that wholesome, home-bred Kentucky hate on Christmas morning. 

            Several of the responses are conspicuously "bleeped-out" by those clever ESPN producers.  They are subtly letting us know just how gross the invective gets when the target is a well-educated white superstar who – unlike the pseudo-students who play one year for Kentucky before promptly dropping the pretext of classes and jetting off to the NBA – actually graduated from an academically superior university after playing all four years of his eligibility.

            But the video descends to its nadir of nastiness when one of the Kentucky wits purports to quote his own grandmother as having described Christian Laettner as "the only Christian she knows that will burn in hell." 

            This distorted celebration of  irrational collective rancor is deeply disturbing on many levels, but it reflects two broader pathologies that are increasingly prevalent in a declining American culture.

            The first is the grossly disproportionate importance of big-time sports in the lives, emotions, and activities of a large portion of the American public.  SR has previously examined  aspects of this unhealthy phenomenon in a post comparing the addiction to big-time sports with Marx's depiction of religion as the "opiate of the people."  See "Big Time Sports:  America's New Opiate" (Feb/ 18, 2013), at 

            The willingness of presumably ordinary Kentuckians to spew such extreme venom against a man they do not even know – on camera – demonstrates the distorting extremes of their loyalty to a grotesquely oversized collegiate basketball program.  And Kentucky's program is hardly alone in this respect.

            It is evident that these people would fanatically support the Kentucky basketball team, and ferociously revile its opponents, irrespective of any considerations of the character or integrity of the teams' respective players.  And their association of the basketball team with the University itself is purely delusional.

            These fans are apparently oblivious to the fact that most of Kentucky's star players cannot wait to toss away their books, end the pretext of attending classes, and promptly depart the Lexington campus at the conclusion of their first and only year of collegiate competition.  The blue-shirted Laettner-haters' blind loyalty to the University of Kentucky program is exceeded only by the one-and-done players' determination to immediately abandon it after less than a single academic year. 

            The Kentucky fans are being played for fools and suckers, and they either don't know or don't care.  If Kentucky fielded a team of five probationary delinquents against five altar boys, the blue-shirted herd would continue to bellow their rabid support for the delinquents.  They are just too heavily invested in the corrosive myth of big-time collegiate sports to change course.

            Apart from the corrupting influence of America's mega-sports fixation, the second pathology revealed  by the orgy of Laettner-hating – and Brady-hating, and J. J. Reddick-hating, etc. -- is a bizarre racial double standard.
            It is perfectly acceptable, and even kind of "cool" in the twisted realm of the ESPN sports herd, to openly revile successful white athletes like Laettner, Tom Brady, and J. J. Reddick (if you doubt this, just run an Internet search using "hate" with one of those names).  But expressing open contempt for black athletes, even black athletes who may have earned such contempt by their barbarous and violent behavior, is socially and politically unacceptable.

            You will never see an ESPN video entitled "I Hate Ray Lewis."  Or "I Hate Ray Rice."  Or "I Hate Allen Iverson."  Yet Christian Laettner has done nothing I am aware of to make him more despicable than these celebrated black athletes.

            Oh, wait.  That was kind of an understatement.  It's not merely that Laettner has done nothing to warrant the nasty invective that would never be directed against these or many similar errant black athletes.  He's not even in their ballpark.  Lewis (indicted for murder in 2000), Rice (documented girlfriend beater), and Iverson (15-year sentence for felony maiming, but quickly granted clemency) are proven perps, yet they are not remotely despised and reviled like Laettner, Brady, or Reddick, whose records are clean of such behavior.

            The classic example is Baltimore Ravens linebacker legend Ray Lewis.  He was indicted for murder, but was able to avoid conviction by pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.  But never mind.  The Barbarians of Baltimore have erected a heroic statue of the miscreant Mr. Lewis, and he has achieved the status of a beloved and respected elder statesman in the pro football and ESPN cultures. 

            So the documented criminal offender, Ray Lewis, is a revered Baltimore Legend, while the family man with the spotless and distinguished personal record, i.e, Christian Laettner, is an object of nationally broadcast rancor, even 23 years after his athletic triumphs.  This isn't Denmark, but something is seriously rotten here.

            One of the weirdest aspects of this whole sorry spectacle is that Laettner himself seems to take it in stride and even share in the "joke."  He recently appeared for an interview with ESPN host Dan Patrick which actually seemed designed to promote the forthcoming  hate-Laettner video.  Why Laettner would condone a national celebration of malice directed at him is anyone's guess.  Perhaps he is so inured to what he he has endured over the years that he has decided the best defense is to roll with the punches.

            But Laettner is now a 45-year-old family man, with a wife, two daughters, and a son.  Is it possible that his wife and children can lightly dismiss a nationally broadcast program explicitly featuring the widespread hatred of their husband and father?  More likely, ESPN's "I Hate Christian Laettner" programs are deeply hurtful to the Laettner family.  One can only imagine the nasty abuse the Laettner children will likely endure as a result of all this.

            Yet millions of mindless ESPN viewers will watch the program and join in the perpetuation of what amounts to media-approved hatred of a remarkable athlete who has done nothing to warrant such animus.  In today's America, it could only happen to a white heterosexual male who had the audacity to excel aggressively in an arena where most of his fellow whites are content to serve as props and spectators.


Friday, March 6, 2015


              Putative 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be in big trouble – at least politically.  If her scandal-driven problems prove sufficient to derail what was assumed to be Ms. Clinton's unchallenged progress to the party's nomination, the Democrats will have only themselves to blame for the destructive disarray that will ensue. 

                By subordinating their party to a system of hereditary political entitlement, the Democrats will have left themselves without a viable alternative candidate if their anointed heir apparent -- i.e., the wife of Bill Clinton -- self-destructs.

                Hillary Clinton: The Dem's Queen Victoria, but without the gravitas
                A potentially devastating scandal has developed concerning Ms. Clinton's extraordinary scheme to shield her communications as Secretary of State from federal record-keeping and disclosure requirements.  In an act of remarkable audacity, she established an entire independent e-mail server at one of the Clinton mansions in Chappaqua, NY, in order to divert her official e-mails from the State Department's main server – effectively sheltering them from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, congressional subpoenas, and general public scrutiny. 

                This is no mere technical mistake being blown out of proportion by media investigators and political opponents.  It was a calculated scheme designed to place Ms. Clinton in a privileged pocket of secrecy so that she could conduct her activities as Secretary of State, and her associated political activities, outside the realm of normal public and congressional scrutiny.  In short, Hillary Clinton and her courtiers sought to isolate her from the public accountability that citizens have a right to expect – at least in a functional democratic republic.

                SR leaves to others a fuller examination of the legal details and consequences of Ms. Clinton's shadowy, "off the books" system of secretive government at the State Department.  Given the Clintons' proven ability to use delay, obfuscation, and counter-attack to avoid the consequences of their wrongdoings, Hillary Clinton may yet survive this sleazy scandal as she has survived so many others.

                But what if the "Secret Server" scandal proves too damaging for the Democrats to cling to the inevitability of Ms. Clinton's nomination as their presidential standard-bearer?  It would leave them without a replacement candidate possessing the credibility, stature, and especially the readiness to enter the 2016 presidential campaign in a position of strength.  All of the alternative candidates that come to mind – at least at this juncture – are fatally flawed and deficient (so, of course is Hillary, but unfortunately, too many voters appear ready to overlook her flaws). 

                Vice President Biden is a national joke, whose recurrent tasteless verbal blunders are exceeded in vulgarity only by his shameless physical groping of both young and mature females – all recorded in painfully embarrassing photos that would make devastating campaign commercials.  Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is a wild-eyed pseudo-Indian leftist favored by the angry and radical extremists of a leftist Democratic Party -- which may serve her well in Massachusetts, but which renders her unacceptable to most of the national electorate.  Martin O'Malley, the former Governor of Maryland, left such an unimpressive legacy that he departed office with a pathetic 41% approval rating, and his hand-picked candidate to succeed him as governor was resoundingly defeated by a Republican in a state where Republicans are as rare as white elephants.  

               The two remaining prospective candidates are even further beyond the pale:  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is an outright Socialist who looks like a deranged and disheveled great uncle, and would be lucky to carry even his own left-wing state; and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is an eccentric, rude, and irascible crank whose presidential prospects are taken seriously only by himself.

                In short, if Ms. Clinton's candidacy implodes, the Democratic bench appears to be empty of credible replacements.  And the reason is evident.  The Democratic Party's preoccupation with dynastic politics created an overwhelming presumption that Hillary Clinton, the heir to the Clinton Political Dynasty, would be awarded the party's 2016 presidential nomination almost as a matter of hereditary entitlement.  So powerful and prevalent was this dynastic assumption that other potentially viable candidates demurred pursuing the nomination as an exercise in futility.

                Hillary Clinton is an elderly, uninspiring, pampered, and greedy grandmother.  She is utterly lacking in political charisma – compare her style, for example, with that of Jack Kennedy or, for that matter, Barack Obama – and she has a well-documented record of dishonesty, evasion, sleaze, self-dealing, and sharp practice in her governmental and political career.  She is a Queen Victoria without the gravitas and an Evita without the sex appeal.  She became Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and now presumptive Democratic Presidential Candidate for one reason and one reason only:  She was the politically loyal wife of Bill Clinton, a moderately popular and absolutely lucky president, and gained considerable popularity among a certain kind of American woman because of her ability to endure her husband's degenerate misbehavior, in and out of office, with a remarkable degree of self-containment and sang-froid.

                Why would such a shifty, unimposing, unattractive, and simply tacky person be considered the inevitable choice as the Democratic nominee for president in 1916?  It is simply because of the Democrats' preference for dynastic succession and connection, rather than individual merit and excellence, as the natural system for selecting much of their political leadership.  Although the Republicans have had some political dynasties of their own – notably and obviously the Bush presidencies – their tendency to embrace hereditary politics pales in comparison to the Democrats.

                The standard and precedent for this phenomenon was set by the notorious example of the Kennedy family.   The super-rich whiskey tycoon, Joseph Kennedy, parlayed his wealth and friendship with President Franklin Roosevelt to become Ambassador to Great Britain and a powerful Democratic power-broker.  He hoped his eldest son would become President, and when that son died, he transferred the family political ambitions to the next-in-line, John F. Kennedy. 

                The rest is history.  Jack Kennedy's brief and undistinguished presidency was misportrayed by the liberal-democratic media as a romantic neo-Camelot after he was assassinated by a deranged communist.  Like a latter-day Borgia, he had appointed his 36-year-old younger brother Robert as Attorney General despite his glaring lack of legal qualifications – his only compelling qualification was being the President's brother and confidante.  After Jack Kennedy's death, RFK parlayed his status as the Kennedy Heir into election as a Senator from New York, even though he was obviously from Massachusetts.  Then his dynastic connection had all but assured him the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968 when he too was assassinated.

              But the Democrats remained addicted to the notion of hereditary political royalty.  The youngest Kennedy brother, Ted, had already been handed the family senate seat in Massachusetts, and after Robert's death, the dynastic presidential expectations devolved upon him.  The force of the Kennedy's dynastic entitlement was so great that not even Ted Kennedy's notorious abandonment of Mary Jo Kopechne in the dark waters of Chappaquiddick could derail his presidential expectations.  Only the ruthless exploitation of the powers of incumbency by Jimmy Carter's team prevented Ted Kennedy from seizing the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980.  The ensuing years have seen the Royalist Democrats, like so many 18th century champions of a Stuart Pretender, cast about desperately for yet another Kennedy – whether John F. Kennedy Jr., his sister Caroline, or the severely addled Patrick Kennedy – to restore the Family Dynasty to its place of hereditary political power.

                The Kennedy's, alas, are hardly the only Democratic political dynasty.  The governments of two of the nation's most dominant states, California and New York, for example, have been dominated by hereditary Democratic entitlement for much of the past 50 years.

                Edmond G. "Pat" Brown held the governorship of California from 1959 to 1967.  California's Democratic voters then awarded the governorship to Pat Brown's son, Jerry, in 1975, and re-elected him for an additional term in 1979.  After an interlude in which he repeatedly sought the presidency and served in other offices, Jerry Brown reclaimed the family governorship in 2011 and was re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term in 2014.  Thus, the Brown family has exercised a dynastic Democratic stranglehold on California's highest office for a substantial portion of the modern era. 

                A similar dynastic Democratic domination of the governorship has prevailed in New York.  Mario Cuomo served as governor of New York for three terms, from 1983 to 1994.  Not content with prolonged leftist misrule by one Cuomo, Democratic voters bestowed the state's governorship on Mario Cuomo's son, Andrew, in 2010.  Andrew Cuomo had previously parlayed his family connections – including his marriage to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy – to become Attorney General of New York and Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

                One could go on, because the Kennedy, Brown, and Cuomo Dynasties are but the most prominent examples of a "royalist" tendency that is embedded in modern Democratic politics.  We could move over to the city level and find, for example, that the Daley family, featuring the vulgar reigns of Mayors William and Richard Daley, has dominated Chicago's mayor's office and its Democratic political machine for almost a half-century. 

                And this ethos of dynastic entitlement, akin to pre-modern Europe's Divine Right of Kings, continues to permeate Democratic politics in the present and toward the future.  Needless to say, Hillary Clinton's  unchallenged primacy in claiming the Democratic nomination for president is but the most prominent current manifestation of the phenomenon.  A mere minute's perusal of the Internet, moreover, will reveal that media and political liberals are obsessed with the exciting prospect – exciting for them, but appalling for the rest of us – that the likes of Chelsea Clinton and even (one instinctively winces at the mere thought) Michelle Obama may perpetuate their respective family political lineages in the future.

                Whatever the reason and consequences, the grossly misnamed Democratic Party is dedicated to anything but "democratic" selection and aspiration in choosing leaders for both the party and the Nation.  It prefers political offices and political power to devolve through an ingrained system of virtual dynastic succession and hereditary entitlement.  The smug, evasive, and utterly unimposing persona of Hillary Clinton would never triumph in a genuinely merit-based competition for selecting the most appealing and accomplished candidate.  Unless the Secret Server debacle or some other scandal proves fatal, however, Ms. Clinton is nearly certain to receive the Democratic nomination as the proximate heir to the Clinton political dynasty.  The prerogatives of dynastic succession are so strong in the Democratic Party, moreover, that she may claim the nomination notwithstanding the serious damage she may suffer from Secret Server or other distasteful scandals.

                In the end, Republicans should be grateful for the Democrats' addiction to honoring the entitlements of political royalty.  Although the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination includes a dynastic candidate of its own in Jeb Bush, Bush's status and prospects are not remotely comparable to Hillary Clinton's. 

                While the Democrats are eager to hand Ms. Clinton the nomination with hardly a semblance of genuine opposition, Jeb Bush faces not only fierce competition from a large field of strong candidates, but the implacable, and likely decisive, opposition of the conservative wing of the Republican party.  Unlike Democratic liberals who swoon and kowtow to hereditary Kennedy's and Cuomo's and Clinton's, Republican conservatives adamantly reject further perpetuation of a Bush dynasty or anything resembling it. Consequently, Jeb Bush is unlikely to gain the GOP nomination.  If he does, it will be despite his Bush family credentials, not because of them.

                The Founding Fathers fought a ferocious revolution to replace the tyranny and privilege of hereditary monarchs with the competitive politics of a democratic republic.  Over two centuries later, the Dynastic Democrats seem bent on reverting to the decadent and complacent rule of political royalty.

                ADDENDUM:  Almost on cue, the political website, Politico, has provided prompt confirmation of this post's thesis that liberal Democrats remain perversely obsessed with the notion of hereditary political royalty.  Three days after our posting, Politico headlined an article entitled, "Excited for Jeb and Hillary?  Just Wait for Chelsea and George P!"  The title conveys all one needs to know about this piece of heavy-breathing political royalty nonsense.  All one can respond is, "No, we are not excited, but we are surely horrified by the ghastly prospect you pose."