by Ryan Meehan
Friday night in Chicago at US Cellular field the Texas Rangers were in town to take on the Chicago White Sox. This was a special game for the White Sox to be hosting, as it was also Major League Baseball’s annual “Civil Rights Game”. It’s my understanding that this event is held to honor players like Jackie Robinson who helped advance the cause of minorities in sport, as well as raise awareness for the dwindling number of active African American players in baseball. The designation of the Civil Rights Game was something that Major League Baseball assigned to this particular game, and like any sport that pretty much trumps any promotion that the stadium might be running at the time.
Something which surprises me that almost nobody is talking about is the same evening, the promotion that they just happened to be running at the ballpark was Elvis night. They encouraged fans to dress like the self-proclaimed “King” of rock n’ roll, and even had Elvis impersonators sing the National Anthem and the seventh inning stretch.
Before we go any further, I should probably explain that I am in no way a fan of Elvis. For those who may not be familiar with why someone who considers himself a rock n’ roll historian may feel that way. My friend Josh Hurley who has done NFL picks with me over at FOH before probably did more to reinforce my feeling of hatred for Elvis Presley than anybody else. If you even so much as mention Elvis around Hurley you won’t be able to finish your sentence without him saying “Fuck Elvis” so loud that everyone within a half of a city block can hear him. And there is a very good reason for that:
Elvis Presley was a complete fraud. The only songs he ever wrote in his supposedly storied career were “That’s Someone You’ll Never Forget” and “You’ll Be Gone”, however many journalists will challenge that he purchased the writing credits to those two cuts to establish his legitimacy as a songwriter. As the saying goes “50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong”, basically justifying his pathetically overrated existence as a musician and performer by stating his record sales statistics. According to several online sources, Celine Dion has sold over 175 million albums worldwide so as far as I’m concerned even adjusted for population growth that renders the Elvis argument pretty much worthless because Celine Dion fucking sucks.
But lack of songwriting credentials isn’t what numerous music purists look to as the reason for classifying Elvis as being overrated. I hate to make your grandmother mad (and it’s a good thing that she’s probably too old to effectively use the internet to read SBM) but there’s an elephant in the room and we all know what it is:
Elvis stole rock n’ roll from black writers and performers
Don’t believe me? Tough shit. I stand by that statement and I always will. And maybe you should do some research yourself to find out why I am so adamant about bashing a dead guy that I shouldn’t even care about.
Now during the civil rights movement, it was a different era and Elvis was probably allowed to steal material and style points from these artists. Now, did Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin use the influence of black blues artists before their time to create unique form of heavy metal music? Of course they did. But they didn’t call themselves the kings of anything, and when it came to the recognition that they would ultimately receive for their work they earned it by spending years honing their craft and touring to the point where it killed almost all of them.
But in 2013 we have moved past the era of all that. And I had hoped that we had moved past the era of appreciation for Elvis. Even in an 81 home game season, I would think that there would be 81 other ideas that would be better suited to base a promotion around. I’m well aware that league-wide MLB events are different then ballpark promotions. I’m also aware that these promotions are solely meant to attract potential ticket buyers to the ballpark by developing some kind of a theme that everyone can get excited about.
The reason why nobody is making a big deal of it is because it’s in this bizarre sort of “no-man’s land” when it comes to the race discussion that’s occurring in America. Although it’s a total slap in the face to those who established the forward thinking that allowed us to be where we’re at as far as diversity in sports, it can be viewed as a pure coincidence and totally harmless. Plus if somebody like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton cries foul, everybody can just write it off as something else that those two morons are using to sell advertising space within their product. It’s almost like the perfect crime, even though it’s not really a crime at all. It’s simply just another example of how negligence can lead to something being viewed as being in poor taste.
I don’t even remember what the final score of the game was, and that’s hardly the point. The point is that the people who work for marketing and promotion for a team like the Chicago White Sox make crazy amounts of money and nobody caught this. The fact that this happened in a stadium on the South Side of Chicago which is a predominantly black neighborhood just blows me away. (How many of these fans were super jacked about Elvis night?) Every time we take steps towards racial equality, some shit like this happens and it makes it seem as though it’s intentional. I don’t believe that it was intentional, but I do believe that there seems to be a growing trend in this country towards people who have really good jobs in the world of professional sports that just aren’t paying attention. Any of us who write for this website would love to have a job with any of these teams, and when we see something like this that could have been prevented…sure we get pissed. There were eighty different nights they could have chosen to honor Elvis for his contribution to people who don’t know shit about music, and instead they chose to do it on the evening that they set out to supposedly honor the group of people that thoughtless asswipe stole his signature sound from.