Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hai, It's Danny Boy, Mon

Alright, I'll bite. It's been surprising that Daniel Negreanu's misguided attempt at being funny, filming a video as a Jamaican rasta type for Chops and the crew over at RawVegas.tv, hasn't received more blog coverage in recent days. I'd even say that despite the video's base inanity, the greater discussion topic is being studiously avoided.

Anyhow, for the ten percent of you yet unaware, Negreanu donned some dark brown shoe polish, topped it off with some some mock dreads sewn into the requisite rainbow Rasta headgear, and then did an unfunny schtick. Of course, as soon as the video came out, Negreanu was then accused of being racist and applying "blackface," and that he owed an apology for to America's black population for the video. Say what?

Oh, great, another misguided cause and a new faux battle du jour, which ended up seeing Negreanu make dozens of posts in defense of the whole matter. Negreanu even went so far as to say he'd sent the video to some black friends of his and since they found it to be not racist, it was then okay. However, the fact that he sent the video out for preview indicates that he knew the vid could cause a kiddie controversy, despite his later protestations and links to YouTube shots of the "exchange student" train scene from Trading Places, and others, notwithstanding. Negreanu somehow overlooked the fact that Dan Aykroyd's costume was only acceptable because Eddie Murphy's character played another role in the same gag, and that Murphy's bit in that scene (despite being a helluva lot funnier than Aykroyd's) was a PC allowance in and of itself.

Or something like that. After a while, it became confusing, even as Negreanu continued that backpedaling on various poker forums, including his own at Full Contact Poker. It even featured cameos by other well-known names, including Negreanu's old friend Evelyn Ng, who despite being Chinese-Canadian, proved her depth of understanding on the greater issues by noting that she had seen "Crash," the Canadian t.v. show about a Muslim family. Okay, Evy, thanks for checking in. That was, like, deep.

But whatever; the maw beckons. Do I think Negreanu's skit was racist? If it was, it was only mildly so, and it was done so in innocence and familiarity; I do not believe Negreanu to be racist in the manner we all should protest, that of evil intent. We are all racist or predujiced to some small extent, of course, and that's an inescapable part of the modern human condition; show me the person who doesn't have a prejudice and I'd be verifying the lack of a pulse. As for Negreanu, he clearly meant no ill will; he's just not 100% up to speed on the current ass-hatted, "play the victim" nature of American society, and a life spent at a high-stakes poker table, where race really does matter for nothing, does little to teach it. The odd thing is that if any group could or should have been offended, it should have been some Jamaican organization, not this whole "American anti-Black" thing that the debate has devolved into. Lord knows we have enough real victims in the world, no matter the color, creed or personal issue. Why invent others out of thin air?

Negreanu gets minus points here not for being racist, but for being a dunderhead in the fun of the moment. That he's compounded it by making other disingenuous statements is often irrelevant, more an exercise in his trying to back away from a quicksand pool now that he's ankle-deep in the mire.

Also, true to the nature of the world, Negreanu's received as much ill-advised support as rebuke. Those who support Negreanu often call out anyone who dares speak against him as a hater, someone who's just out to kneecap a famous person. This is simply untrue. The more famous a person becomes, the more newsworthy that person gets, because through the person's fame he is supposed to represent something that other people enjoy learning about.

Entertainers, athletes, and politicians are always open for comment because they are selling themselves; they are the product. Whether poker players are important enough to qualify is always a matter for debate, but it's clear that some players are --- people want to read about them or watch them. Also, any player willing to sign up for an endorsement contract is automatically fair game, because he's now placed a monetary value on his image and name; he is satisfying audience demand and accepting payment as part of the trade; he no longer has absolute control over his image in the marketplace of ideas. This clearly includes Negreanu. Maybe he doesn't quite get that, yet. Not that he'd be the first, as immortalized in Charles Barkley's classic "I ain't no role model" utterance.

Charles was full of b.s., of course, since he was taking money to fill some sort of role, whatever it was.

What's funny is that the video in question is appearing over at rawvegas.tv, which is designed to be controversial. Putting the video on a site that one can reasonably expect to be both cutting edge and non-PC is not an excuse for the video itself, but I sure hope Negreanu wasn't looking to Chops and Co. for guidance as to whether the video would be inoffensive to all audiences. Much as I think Chops and his new crew do some neat stuff, the last thing Chops would ever be is a PC filter. Nor, contrary to some persons' wishes, do we quite yet live in a Harrison Bergeron world.

People do silly and stupid things all the time. Negreanu, for his part, needs to either not do silly things, or to do them with full freedom and accept the consequences, rather than trying to renegotiate the world to his preference after the fact. Either is fine by me, not that anyone has asked. Until he figures it out, we're likely to keep getting these performances of smelly toes waving in front of Negreanu's face, whereupon he takes a bite and discovers that it is indeed a foot.


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