Black America And The Real Insanity Of March Madness

the real insanity of “March Madness.”
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Photos: Twitter

Last Saturday I watched one-half of a men’s basketball game on the TBS Network: Arkansas vs. Duke. There was apprehension, of course, concerning whether coach Mike Krzyzewski would have a storybook extension of his career and a trip to the Final Four—and potentially another National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship.

On the court, nearly all Black players were featured—highlighting our excellence in athletics. But Black Americans were on display in almost all commercials featuring humans too.

Snoop Dog spoke for Corona. Black dunkers were emphatic for LE OLED. Old and somewhat overweight Black men (Sam, Charles, and Magic) provided Capital One’s message (as is generally the case, Byrd the White guy was made to appear taller/larger than the Black guys).

LeBron showed what Blacks are notorious for: Participating in conspicuous consumption of expensive vehicles (a Hummer). AT&T lined us up on both sides of the ball: As staffers and customers. Marriott had Grant Hill as an assigner of accommodations—although he created some consternation because of his “biasedness.”

Target and GIECO showed how Black families can spend in unity. Experian conveyed that it was a favorable resource for Black Americans. An advertisement for a movie (“The Secrets of Dumbledore”), which is a Harry Potter spinoff, even factored in a Black character. Importantly, an Apple I-Pad advertisement gave us a hint concerning current and a potential future reality (domestically and globally): Blacks and Whites engaged in deep contestation, while an Asian walks away with the prize.

We should take the time to recall that it was barely one score years ago when Black Americans were experiencing difficulty in achieving representativeness on television. Now, we are over-represented—at least on programs “for us” and the related commercials.

The latter point brings us to the fact that market segmentation continues to peak as a strategy for capturing specific audiences for commercial purposes. The media is remarkably effective at corralling us into a room. You may think that you are there for the entertainment, but actually you are just an experimental subject who is being conditioned to purchase what is for sell.

Notably, at least at our location, while TBS featured NCAA Basketball (one might say for many Blacks and White sports aficionados), CBS featured a science program (“Henry Ford Innovation Nation), ABC featured a local religious program, theFOX affiliate featured a winter sports program (“Pure Outdoor”), and NBC featured “Right This Minute,” a program that is tightly linked to social media. This says nothing about what was being aired on the news channels (for news junkies), or what was being presented on the streaming channels. The point being that whatever your taste, you can find it on TV.

However, in this case, certain advertisers counted on a massive Black audience being glued to “March Madness,” and concentrated their advertisement dollars there.

What did they sell Black Americans? Beer, flat screen TVs, credit cards, expensive automobiles, cellular telephones, hotel rooms, insurance, credit scores, movies, and computers.

Before ending this commentary, it is important to make two final points: First, as we outlined in “Destructive Competition,” by observing the fierce basketball competition on display (Blacks versus Blacks), it teaches us to be competitive not cooperative. Athletic competition, because we take it so seriously, may prevent us from cooperating to address other important aspects of our lives as a people.

Second, inevitable heartbreaking losses elicit tears from players. This does not happen so much in football. Footballers are bruisers; they are too tough to cry. But basketballers, with their hair in braids and curls, are softer, gentler, and it is acceptable for them to cry on camera.

The entire scenario is insanity.

It is insane for Black Americans, many of whom are being left behind on many socioeconomic fronts, to expend so much of our valuable time captured as subjects in front of flat screens and being conditioned to consume when we should be planning an escape from our second-class citizenship—especially our economic second-class citizenship.

But that insanity reaches new heights when we see that we have allowed our young Black warriors—our shining princes—to be programmed to cry over the loss of a basketball game in front of the entire world. But we never see them shedding a tear over the horrendous conditions that many of us confront in America today.

No wonder why Whites and immigrants from all over the world know that they have a readily exploitable resource that can be used and abused to elevate themselves economically to become rich, while leaving Black Americans at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder century after century.

This is the real insanity of “March Madness.”

By Dr. Brooks Robinson\

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