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Racism Should Be As Obsolete As Fuzzy’s Vaudeville

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 1997

If Fuzzy Zoeller keeps this up, it’s only a matter of time until Fox or ABC gives him a sitcom.

No self-respecting jokester is without one these days, and that is, after all, Fuzzy’s convenient alibi: he’s a jokester.

What’s the difference between a comedian and a jokester? Other than a sense of humor?

About three gin-and-tonics, I suspect.

It matters not to the networks that Fuzzy is a one-joke pony. Archie Bunker tilled the same sorry plot for years, and later came Jeff Foxworthy - scrubbed and sanitized for contemporary tastes, which are influenced considerably more by the PC seal than PG.

TV lives to clone. Tune in next week and it’ll be Drew Carey coming out.

Hey, Fuzzy’s not the only jokester around here.

By now, you should have all split into one of three camps over Fuzzy’s beery, boorish japes in the wake of Tiger Woods’ romp in the Masters - the Lighten-Up Camp, the That-Racist-Yada-Yada Camp and the He-Was-Dead-Wrong-But-He’s-Still-A-Good-Guy-Deep-Down Camp.

Any undecideds should hop a jet to the next Tour stop, which Fuzzy is threatening to turn into his own private vaudeville. Even though vaudeville, as we all know, is dead - like Fuzzy’s deal with Kmart.

There is a fourth camp out there, one suggesting that Fuzzy’s social trou-drop was actually a good thing, like castor oil. The thinking is that, in the rush to turn Tiger Woods into this generation’s Jackie Robinson - no sale on that one, by the way - we needed a reminder that the history, politics and social mores of professional golf remain, even as the embers of Woods’ Masters win provide a welcome light, just a skosh to the left of the Klan.

I’m not sure more reminders are necessary. Now, if every Fuzzy mention of collard greens shames a Bushwood type into sponsoring a golfer of color for membership, well, that’s different.

But we won’t hold our breath.

The golf public that was thrilled down to its Foot Joys over Tiger’s historic siege of Augusta National reassembled in Greenville, S.C., on Monday - this time to cheer Fuzzy Zoeller as he played a pro-am. They swarmed the course, thrusting visors and programs at him to autograph.

Telling him, in effect, “You da man, Fuzzy.”

And the crowd will be even more adoring the next time he plays 18, since in their midst he decided to reprise his cutting-edge humor with an African-American acquaintance - expanding the menu this time to include watermelon.

I’m betting that before the week is over, he’ll be signing “Fuzzy Zoeller” by cartooning two drumsticks where the “ll” should be.

If Fuzzy’s black friends want to encourage him, that’s their privilege. Among friends, we tend to encourage each other to cross the lines.

This doesn’t account for Fuzzy’s snappish, humorless remarks on CNN, meant for a national audience - nor for Tiger’s lesbian jokes in “GQ.” Alas, all they do is enforce another tired stereotype: the ignorant jock.

We have this insane notion that, since our playing fields - though not the front office - nor the newsroom are now thoroughly integrated, that sports has become the ultimate melting pot. Tolerance supposedly thrives here, where it doesn’t in our cities.

Nice try.

In the past year or so, we have heard Nets coach John Calipari call a sports writer a “Mexican idiot” - as if just plain “idiot” wouldn’t do. We have heard an NBA broadcaster wonder if Thomas Jefferson’s slaves would have loved this game. We have read where a small college coach in Maryland referred to his basketball players as “my plantation.” And we have heard Charles Barkley declare that he hates white people, and read Art Shell’s lips as he rates his favorite white quarterbacks.

Now, in the Remedial Academy for Sensitivity in Sports, we can add the Fuzzy Zoeller Chair for the Culinary Arts to the Al Campanis Teaching Fellowship for Buoyancy and Managerial Necessities, the Jimmy the Greek Chair for Kinesiology, the Ben Wright Chair for Mammary Obstruction and the Howard Cosell Chair for Primate Study. For the postgraduate, there’s the Marge Schott seminar for - well, you name it.

Like it or not, the imprecise colors of political correctness bleed into the bigger picture.

Why did the fried chicken cross the road?

To pick up Fuzzy Zoeller’s ball - out of bounds again. And again. And again.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review


 
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