Thursday, January 29, 2009

Smart -- The New Cool?

I woke up this morning and did something I usually don't do -- I turned on a TV set. This is unusual for a host of reasons; I don't watch TV as a rule, I was in a hotel room, and I had access to cable.

Bryant Gumbel was on talking sports and I stopped channel flipping for a second. He was talking a bit of hope on his program from the bully pulpit -- but it was interesting and it caught me a bit off guard. I'm not a huge sports fan, but I was captivated to hear some things about his view of hope from the perspective of someone viewing Barack Obama as a positive influence.

He was saying that a lot of today's athletes were identifying with Barack and that some of the influences he was hoping to see from our president were extremely positive from a role model perspective. He was talking about how Barak was a basketball player and the unspoken target was obviously the young African American male. Things like Barack's respect for his wife, his obvious morality were topics that he quickly touched on. His not speaking like a Gansta Rapper. His ability to articulate issues and engage in intelligent dialog.

Bryants' speech was well done from my point of view. It was extremely to the point and diplomatic -- the kind of stuff that might have an impact on someone. Hate speech doesn't work well when you're attempting to affect a target audience -- this is why the pundits gain a lot of my ire -- they're making the people that have already made up their minds happy and at the same time, intentionally or otherwise creating a rift in our country over important issues.

I liked what Bryant had to say but I caught myself wishing he'd have selected a broader audience. My own son could benefit from his words and he's not African American. The general young male population, speaking from my own observations, could benefit. We've had a couple of decades of culture focused upon young males and extreme ignorance as cool. Beavis and Butthead, Dumb and Dumber, Bill and Ted -- Hannity and Colmes. Rap music culture has components that are in part an obvious worship of the immoral but I'd argue that Jackass did similar damage.

Barack has obvious mental clout. Standing next to our prior president, he makes "W" look like a degenerate frat boy when he talks about anything. This isn't because George was a Republican -- it's because George thought ignorant speech was cool. I'm told that George W Bush wasn't a dumb guy behind the scenes -- that the talk was an act and the cowboy swagger part of what he thought was a cool image.

I hope Bryant Gumbel is right about this one, but I'd like to hope that the Barack effect here hits all American kids -- male and female. I hope that they learn to articulate problems and be a part of a general positive, intelligent discourse.

Yeah, I'm reaching for a lot -- I'm hoping for some rather impossible ideal conditions -- but we've had such a downturn in culture. Stupid used to be cool.

Maybe Barak's image will set a new trend. Maybe Smart will be the new Cool.

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