BY JOSEPH H. CARTER SR.
As the 2016-17 National Basketball Association season ended, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook won 2½ pages of coverage in the New York Times. Arguably Westbrook and Thunder were the only favorable publicity the state of Oklahoma earned during the period.
A half-page photo showing the player’s backside while hanging by two fingers from the basketball net with “Westbrook O” gleamingly on page one of the Times’ sports section.
Two pages inside the April 13 Times compared the adopted Oklahoman star with a dozen sports greats of American history proclaiming: “Sorry, Folks, Westbrook Wins.” Following the Times subhead, writer Sopan Deb continues: “Easy peasy. Westbrook has just put together the most impressive season in sports history.”
Elsewhere in scores of national publications during the same season, Oklahoma was repeated slammed for several corrupt politicians, racist right-wing voting and particularly for providing Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator who immediately set-out to end government efforts to protect the nation’s environment. Other crazed legislative actions cutting schools to four-day weeks and starving colleges won national headlines along with untoward action by some college athletes.
Back at the sports section, Westbook closely was compared with golfer Tiger Woods, baseball stars Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Hank Aaron, basketball’s Wilt Chamberlain, tennis’ Martina Navratilova, hockey’s Bobby Orr, lady basketballer Breanna Stewart, race car driver Richard Petty and even cricketer W.G. Grace, who won plaudits in 1879 – the year Will Rogers was born.
“Westbrook showed he was an elite scorer, passer and rebounder in a game in which he’s required to play both sides of the ball,” the Times opined. “Heck, consider the sport.”
Consider the man: self-effacing, humble, hard worker and a team player.
While Westbook originated in Los Angeles, he became great in Oklahoma. Moreover, he reigns as a role model for lackluster Oklahoma politicians.
Or, maybe, Russell Westbrook should run for governor himself so that Oklahoma might then win high marks on the editorial pages.
– Joseph H. Carter Sr. is author of President or Precedent: Carl Albert’s History Changing Choice [Amazon], Never Met A Man I Didn’t Like: The Life and Writings of Will Rogers [HarperCollins] and The Quotable Will Rogers [Gibbs Smith Publishers].