NBA and all-around human-experience legend Bill Russell passed away on Sunday at the age of 88. Over the last few days, plenty of pieces honoring his great life have been shared across the information super highway and regular ass TV. Just moments before I started this blog, the Celtics tweeted out this clip of Bill Russell after winning his last of 11 NBA Championships.
In the background, you can almost hear Bill's Celtics teammates inadvertently writing Daft Punk's "One More Time."
Unfortunately, Vin Scully passed away last night. R.I.P. If I were Lenny Dawson, I'd start saying my goodbyes.
But as I was saying before I quickly paid respect to a man who deserves a blog of his own, Bill Russell lived an extraordinary life. Since his passing there's been plenty of stories and clips shared online showing the quality of a man he was, and this excerpt from his 1979 memoir Second Wind is exactly what being a hashtag good guy is all about.
It's a massive bummer that in 2022, equality for all is still a controversial stance, but what a profound statement by the late Bill Russell. Mr. Russell was far from the only person with this viewpoint in 1979, but seeing evidence of somebody having it then makes me happy. Sometimes we (I) make excuses for older people for being "out of touch," saying that that's just from the time they grew up, but it's important to remember there are plenty of examples of people who went against the grain of what was "acceptable" at the time. They used their voice to do the right thing for people getting an unfair shake in society. This memoir was written when the gay pride movement was in its infancy. Being gay was literally still against the law in some states in 1979.
Sadly, there was still plenty of hate at this time. Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated by Dan White the previous year, but Bill Russell explained how stupid and wasteful that hateful energy is in this excerpt. I rewrote what he said so you could see it again. Think about this statement.
"But homosexuals are our children, and we should treat them so; as adults they deserve the full respect given heterosexuals. I have my own fears and insecurities about sex, but I don't think it's my right to impose them on the world, or to hide things from my children; I have too much respect for them to do so. My duty to them is to love them and to help them interpret the world so that they will be able to make free choices and act on them. I worry a great deal about my children, but the best medicine for those worries is their strength and independence, not in their ignorance."
Let's go, Bill Russell! A true champion. I wish I had seen this quote while he was alive. The final part is so important in today's world. "The best medicine is in their strength and independence, not in their ignorance." He doesn't precisely say knowledge is power, but that's one of my takeaways. We've got conservatives trying to dismantle public education and rewrite history. They want to deny the fact that queer people exist and contribute to our society. There's a reason education is underfunded. It's to keep people just smart enough to work for the machine but not smart enough to question things or use their power to overcome.
Now, DOL (doz on life) wasn't created until 2016, and since I was born in 1991, I was not alive to give Bill Russell his credit as a hashtag good guy when this memoir was published. Plus, I didn't create that term until like threeish years ago, but alas, Bill Russell was a hashtag good guy for supporting gay people as people in 1979 and deserves recognition for that. Congratulations on this prestigious posthumous award. In the age of cancel culture and digging up shit from decades ago to destroy people, I think it's important to use history for good and bring attention to the positive. There were plenty of people fighting for equality and civil rights before we were born (assuming you weren't alive in the 70s). If you haven't seen Bill Burr's latest Netflix special, you have to, but this clip on the hypocrisy of cancel culture is perfection and hilarious.
Congratulations, Mr. Russell. May you rest in peace.