What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

An ode to Serena Williams

My favorite athlete of all time

12:15 PMSerena Williams is my favorite athlete of all time. It took me a good decade to come to say this out loud. Not because I had a problem with admitting that, when it came to watching sports, my machismo wouldn’t let me say I preferred to watch a woman, but because for so long Williams has been appreciated by men, particularly black men for nearly everything except for one: her tennis game.

When she first emerged on the scene, all the narratives were wrapped up in her being Venus Williams’ little sister. They were doing it for the culture, and everyone appreciated it. She was part of this “Black Girl Magic” duo that seemingly could not be accepted or understood in the tennis world and that sense of rebellion was a major draw for many black people who still viewed tennis as something for retired people to do in country clubs. But don’t forget, almost immediately, she took those braids to the top.

In the 1999 U.S. Open, she beat four players who’d won Grand Slam tournaments before, knocking off No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis to win the title. Hingis wasn’t ready. (Sidebar: Serena and Venus won doubles at Flushing Meadow that year, too.) As far as tennis is concerned, she never looked back. It took her less than five years to complete what’s now known as the “Serena Slam,” holding all four Grand Slam titles at once, even if not winning them all in the same calendar year.

But when we think about comparisons to the great athletes of our generation, perhaps because she’s black, perhaps because she’s a woman, or perhaps because so many men are blinded by her style, her body or her dance moves, we fail to recognize her on-court ability. We still don’t appreciate Serena Williams the athlete enough.

In a strange way, losing in the last two U.S. Open semifinals has helped us recognize what we had. The fact is that her personality itself might have “Made Tennis Great Again,” but more importantly, her skills made tennis great again. It took a long time for broadcasters and analysts to describe her approach as anything other than power and intimidation because that’s the instant thing they saw when a strong black woman entered the arena. She single-handedly created and destroyed the career of Maria Sharapova because we as a culture are so obsessed with Great White Hopes once black people start dominating sports, never mind the so-called “ideals” of beauty discussion.

Again, the tennis was forgotten. If you’re counting, she’s more dominant that Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, combined.

“There have been examples in other sports of spectators being aware that they were watching a one-of-a-kind talent and ought to cherish the opportunity,” Tom Victor wrote for Joe.co.uk. “Usain Bolt is one such example, as is Michael Phelps where the aura and legend bubble to the top before others catch up with the talent, to the point that they are spoken of in the past and present tenses simultaneously. You have to force yourself to enjoy and appreciate something in the knowledge that there will undoubtedly come a time in which you’ll get to tell your children and grandchildren ‘I was there.’ ”

But as far as the proverbial barbershop convo goes, Williams’ name isn’t coming up much. Maybe her position as a feminist icon scares dudes away from having a real discussion about her court control and mental prowess. Yet, seeing Williams now, even the casual fans notice they’ve witnessed something great for longer than they probably wanted to realize.

“My mind was just a little bit everywhere, but it was what it was. Yeah, serious left knee problems. But fatigue had nothing to do with it. If I was tired, I need to find a new career,” Williams said after her U.S. Open loss to Karolina Pliskova on Thursday, who’d beaten Venus earlier in the same tournament.

She hasn’t hung up her racket yet and is still the No. 2 player in the world. Nobody wants to put an early end to her illustrious run, and she likely still has a couple Grand Slam wins left in her. But now that she seems, well, mortal, your mind does begin to wander off the court.

We’ll be watching Williams do quite a few things for a long time coming, as she is a woman who is successful at everything she does. Fashion, entertainment, philanthropy, literature, politics, who knows. But I, for one, will miss watching her play tennis, the most.

Karl-Anthony Towns wants you to get out and vote

Timberwolves team up with Minnesota secretary of state for public service announcements

5:15 PMWhen it comes to professional basketball, Minnesota is officially the wokest state in America. On Wednesday, in conjunction with Secretary of State Steve Simon, the NBA’s Timberwolves launched a series of voter registration public service announcements designed to educate state residents ahead of the polls opening this fall. Of course, they don’t endorse any particular candidates, but they’re important nonetheless.

Featuring second-year star Karl-Anthony Towns, the first one is short and to the point. These ads are currently running on FOX Sports North in the state. As a friend put it to me, “Can you imagine a top 10 NBA player from a decade ago doing a sincere importance of voting PSA?”

My answer was simple: Absolutely not. Which is the most basic way to explain how far this league has come in terms of what social activism means to its players. Not everyone can get on an ESPYS stage and tell America that enough is enough. All players don’t necessarily feel empowered enough to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt during warmups.

For younger guys such as Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks, who’s written eloquently about his hometown of Chicago for The Players’ Tribune on a couple of occasions, the activism isn’t necessarily as bold or as brazen, but for the impressionable kids watching at home, it can be equally effective. The softer diplomacy of community involvement on a level larger than just giving food to the homeless or basketball clinics (which are important in their own right) can work, too. Setting an example for young people that civic involvement is a necessary part of change is as good a reason to use the spotlight of the league as any.

Mind you, this is also the franchise that on the WNBA side players wore T-shirts in protest of gun violence and the community where Philando Castile was killed in front of a 4-year-old while riding with his girlfriend in a car. For a state with a population that’s 75 percent white, their hoopsters are as progressive as it gets.

Daily Dose: 9/7/16

Bill Cosby gets a court date

10:45 AMAnother podcast under the belt. This week, we talked about the return of football, the South by South Lawn Festival and Miss Karin makes her second appearance. Have a listen.

We’ve finally got a date for Bill Cosby’s trial. June 2017 is when we’ll see the well-known comedian finally face his accusers in a court of law. If you watched any of the footage Tuesday, you know that he’s not doing particularly well, health-wise. But the critical question here comes in whether or not a judge will allow other women who’ve accused him of drugging and raping them on the witness stand. If so, this trial takes on a totally different identity. ABC News reports on the latest developments.

In Tuesday night’s debut episode of Atlanta on FX, the topic of transphobia, among many things. was addressed. If you didn’t see it, there’s a fascinating scene that unfolds in a jail, involving a man seeing an old flame of his from high school. In an added twist that introduces the elements of anti-gay prejudice often so closely intertwined with it, a guy says, when referring to homosexual relationships in prison, “That’s not gay, that’s jail.” Anyway, check out this VICE Sports story about being a girl in the boys’ locker room in high school sports.

Oprah Winfrey’s got a new show out, as well. Queen Sugar is a program on her OWN network that was created in conjunction with director Ava DuVernay. I missed it Tuesday night, but am looking forward to it. Now, in her personal life, there are apparently rumors that Winfrey is possibly going to see wedding bells? I feel like these rumors are as old as I am. She’s responded, once again, but I still have no idea why people care so much about whom the media mogul chooses to spend her life with. Although the Chappelle’s Show skit is still funny.

As a basketball player, Stephen Curry’s appeal is obvious. Great shooter, great dribbler, fun passer and reasonably sized human. Particularly for kids, he’s a lot easier to mimic if you’re a young athlete with little experience. Head to a youth league game sometime soon. Every kid is shooting like Curry. But that’s in this country. How does that everyman appeal translate, in say, China? How about even better than here. The Golden State Warriors guard has been there all week and ESPN’s Darren Rovell tagged along.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Rapper Drake is opening a strip club. Not just any one, though — one that only comes with the care, grace, respect and love that Drizzy could offer. Of course, it’ll be in Houston, but there’s something inherently funny about the Canadian rapper trying to launch a spot for sensitive thugs who want to contribute to college funds.

Snack Time: Details seem to be sparse right now, but Ferguson, Missouri, activist Darren Seals was found shot dead in a burning car on Tuesday in St. Louis County. It’s sad, it’s disturbing and a huge loss for the community.

Dessert: Rapper Anderson .Paak’s got a new live album out. It’s pretty dope.

Also, I’ll be joining SiriusXM FC (Channel 85) from 11 .am. to 2 p.m. for a special on soccer in the black community. Tune in.

All Day Podcast: 9/6/16

College football is back and the SXSL Festival is upon us

5:39 PMSummer might be over, but you know what that means? College football season has arrived, and the All Day Podcast crew is here to break down the best moments from Week 1.

Staff writer Justin Tinsley recaps perhaps the most exciting game of the weekend — a Texas upset of No. 10 Notre Dame — while podcast host Clinton Yates tackles the question of why Louisiana State struggles to produce a solid quarterback. With the NFL season starting this week, stay tuned for weekly chats about everything football.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed

Also on the pod: A discussion surrounding an exciting upcoming event in the nation’s capital — the South by South Lawn Festival. Last week, it was announced that the White House will host this arts, film and music festival in October. In terms of music, the question is who will be taking their talents to the South Lawn stage. Senior style writer Jill Hudson has the perfect candidate to organize the musical lineup.

Our segment Missed Connections with Miss Karin is also back this week, in which Undefeated copy chief Karin Berry reads entries from the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist.org and provides her own commentary. Keep a lookout for this segment on future podcasts.

Give it a listen, and if you have any feedback or show ideas, feel free to email us at allday@theundefeated.com.

Daily Dose: 9/6/16

Obama is still righting wrongs committed by the U.S. military

12:22 PMAlright, kiddos. Labor Day is done, football has started and all the first days of school are behind us. It’s time to kick things into overdrive.

You know what sucks about school? Homework. The existential dread that exists for all of us who’ve ever sat in a classroom is something that you learn to manage, but never really enjoy. No one likes homework. All across the country, people have been questioning whether or not sending kids home with more tasks is an effective learning tool, so one school in Massachusetts is doing the smartest thing ever. They’re banning homework. I have no words for how genius this is. ABC News’ Morgan Winsor reports.

The Vietnam War was an extremely destructive process. We don’t even need to get into the human capital that were killed, injured or otherwise affected from an American standpoint, while the physical damage to the lands was extensive. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama pledged $90 million to help fix that in Laos, where the United States once held a secret bombing campaign. There are still bombs littered across that nation’s countryside, which is a terrifying thought. The president calls it a moral obligation.

Your boy spent two days stuck in Florida because of Hurricane Hermine. Daytona Beach is not that exciting of a place, but I can tell you that I know a whole lot more about NASCAR than I did when I left. Let’s just say that I spent a lot of time watching old guys smoke 100s while drinking beer out of Styrofoam cups. But the storm itself was interesting. Garden variety stuff for those parts, but I’d never been around anything that might be considered a hurricane. FiveThirtyEight’s Eric Holthaus explains from a meteorological standpoint why this storm was different.

So, football’s back. If you didn’t catch any of this weekend’s action on the gridiron, I don’t know what you were doing, because it was excellent. LSU lost a game the Tigers definitely should have won, and Florida State showed the country that the Seminoles are for real. On top of that, Tennessee got a huge scare from Appalachian State, which has been known to knock people down a peg. But the most interesting story of the weekend is probably Oklahoma, which got throttled by Houston in a game that many expected to be close, but not like that. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is in trouble, no doubt.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I love a good revenge story. Particularly when it’s between two lovers when one is wronged. But this story of a woman setting fire to the wrong vehicle in an attempt to get back at her boyfriend is absolutely hilarious.

Snack Time: Things are a tad hectic over at Fox News right now. Roger Ailes was ousted recently, Gretchen Carlson was awarded $20 million to settle a sexual harassment suit and Greta Van Susteren straight up walked out on Tuesday. Wow.

Dessert: Come for the story, stay for the picture of the back of my head.

The other side of the tracks in Whistler

has some art gems that aren’t easy to find

7:00 AM

Most people know about Whistler, British Columbia, from snowboarding. The town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, has hosted the Winter Olympics and is generally just considered a mecca for the sport. So tourism there is a huge deal. People come from miles away to not just board, but also hike and enjoy outdoor activities in the mountains. But there’s one spot that’s become a street art haven in a unique way.

It’s called the Whistler Train Wreck. An artificial accident created a site where old boxcars were overturned in a forest. Eventually, it got so popular that local tourism boards had to stop telling people to go there because the trails were too dangerous to guarantee safety. Anyways, the homeys over at Mass Appeal took a trip up there and brought their cans with them. Check it out.

Gary Rogers goes in-depth

in a new interview with the ‘No Jumper’ podcast

7:00 AMhttps://soundcloud.com/nojumper-1/the-gary-rogers-interview

If you’re not familiar with the No Jumper podcast, don’t be upset. It’s a not exactly obscure, but certainly niche show that started last year in Los Angeles. It’s hosted by this guy Adam22 (née Adam Grandmaison), a BMX rider who started the website The Come Up about his craft. He’s also the creator of OSS (which stands for something we can’t print here), a brick and mortar store that’s about the whole culture, as well. Dude is OG as far as that scene goes.

Anyway, his latest interview is with Gary Rogers, host of the YouTube show SKATELINE, whom we’ve discussed before. He’s officially major at this point, and so an in-depth interview with him was well needed. Per usual with him, it’s a very vulgar chat, but he talks about everything from how he got into skating, where his YouTube show started, his Black Gold brand and music career.

He’s got Viceland show written all over him.