- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Novelty no more

“Without his record-breaking $400,000 contract — made possible only by the brief, competitive presence of the American Football League — Joe Namath might never have bent genders, hosted his own weirdo talk show … or eloquently defended his God-given right to get wasted whenever … he pleased. …

“When athletes suddenly had the financial freedom to become known for their non-sporting activities and beliefs — when the U.S. Olympic team raised black-power fists on the medal podium in 1968, when [Muhammad] Ali rapped about the Vietcong to Howard Cosell, when people solicited Namath’s opinion about Nixon — there was a novelty to both the expression and the new television medium that transmitted it. As with anything new, the interest came in a noticeable burst, then subsided. We are no longer shocked or thrilled that an athlete has an opinion about the presidential election. …

“We probably don’t need professional athletes to break boundaries for us anymore, but we should give a moment’s gratitude to those who did.”

—Matt Welch, writing on “Locker-Room Liberty,” in the May issue of Reason

Mythical gap

“The New York Times [recently published a series of articles] on ‘Class in America,’ which aims to disparage the notion that the U.S. is a land of opportunity by claiming that ‘new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe.’

“Yet the scholarship commonly cited in support of such assertions … says no such thing. …

“[I]ncome distribution is an agenda-driven ideological fixation that frequently impairs journalistic judgment. …

“[T]here is no evidence that it has become harder to get ahead through hard work at school and on the job. Efforts to claim otherwise appear intended to make any gaps between rich and poor appear unfair, determined by chance of birth rather than personal effort. Such efforts require both a denial that progress has been widespread and an exaggeration of income differences. …

“Recent ‘news’ reports implying it has become more difficult for young Americans to live better than their parents fail to identify any genuine problem. And they suffer from one added handicap: They are demonstrably untrue.”

—Alan Reynolds, writing on “For the Record,” May 18 in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

Kung fu fighting

“The world’s most popular action star sits lotus-style on a couch in the Regency hotel suite, talking about the evolution of the martial arts film. His English isn’t great, but that doesn’t matter. Jet Li is good with his hands. …

“Li is talking about the kick-first, ask-questions-later martial arts pictures that defined the genre for U.S. fans, starting in the 1970s, when Li was a martial arts wunderkind growing up in early-‘70s Beijing. Chairman Mao Zedong’s repressive government allowed theatrical exhibition of just 20 foreign films each year, and scrutinized mainland-produced films for government-approved messages. Meanwhile … Hong Kong cranked out about 100 super-violent kung fu pictures a year, making an international superstar of Bruce Lee. …

“Nevertheless, Li believes kung fu now trumps kung fu then. The genre has become less self-contained, he says, treating fighting not merely as fighting, but as a means of expression.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, writing on “Hollywoo,” in the May 11 issue of New York Press

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