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Telander: Offensive foul sparks memories: ESPN’s stupid headline rolls back the clock to an era not known for its sensitivity

NEW YORK NY - FEBRUARY 15:  Jeremy L#17 New York Knicks drives past Isaiah Thomas #22 SacramenKings MadisSquare Garden

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks drives past Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on February 15, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\139045813.jpg

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Updated: February 19, 2012 2:36AM

Don’t want to start on a sour note, but the Nets-Bulls game Saturday afternoon at the United Center — Yuck!

The Bulls lost 97-85 to a 9-23 team with Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband as the star. Players named Williams (Deron and Shelden) had 37 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists and four steals between them, and divorcé Kris Humphries had 24 points and 18 rebounds.

The Bulls? Their two big men, Joakim Noah and Omer Asik, combined for no points on 0-for-8 shooting with no assists.

Derrick Rose looked good in his padded chair. The end.

More and more former players are suing the NFL for overlooking the dangers of head trauma, specifically the post-career damage that can come from concussions. At least 30 ex-players have sued, and it wouldn’t be surprising if, someday, basically every man who played in the NFL seeks reparations. Helmet- maker Riddell also is named as a defendant in some of the actions.

Here are three truths: No football helmet smaller than a stove box can prevent concussions. The brain is jelly that moves inside the skull, not bone that can easily be padded.

Second, the head is in the middle of the shoulders and can’t be removed during play.

Third, the game of tackle football, as currently designed, guarantees concussions.

Nor does the NFL have exclusive rights to brain trauma. When will the suits include former NCAA, high school and pee-wee players going after their respective organizations?

I’m guessing it won’t be long.

Then hockey?

ESPN had an offensive headline up for a while early Saturday on its website after the Knicks lost to the Hornets and phenom guard Jeremy Lin’s winning streak came to an end. The headline above the game story read, “Chink in the Armor.’’

The pun/slur about Lin’s Asian heritage was over-the-top dumb in an apparent race to see which media outlet can come up with the most clever/outrageous combination of Lin’s ancestry, sudden fame and entertainment value in its headline.

“Linsanity!’’ was fine, a mere rip-off of “Vinsanity!’’ which accompanied Vince Carter in his glory years. “Linstantaneous!’’ and “Lincredible!’’ were quite enough. Too much were the racist joke tweeted by national columnist Jason Whitlock and the smiling face of Lin popping out of a fortune cookie in an MSG Network graphic with the headline, “The Knicks’ Good Fortune.’’

Lord, is this guy a Kewpie doll or a human?

I’m reminded here of the way things change in society, how sensitivity grows.

When I was a kid growing up in Peoria, one of the toughest sports schools in our Mid-State 8 Conference was Pekin High School, just across the Illinois River. Its official nickname was the Chinks.

The word was written on their warmups, on T-shirts, on posters. When we Richwoods Knights ran onto the Pekin home football field, a huge sign greeted us: “Memorial Stadium. Home of the Chinks.’’

There was a “Chink’’ male mascot and a “Chinklette’’ female mascot, dressed in silk pajamas. Word was the Chinese reference came about because if you drilled a hole straight through the earth from Pekin, Ill., you would arrive at Peking (Beijing), for whatever that was worth.

But when I was a teenager, nobody much cared about the nickname. All I knew was that Pekin was all white, had modern facilities, was a huge school and kicked butt. Twice while I was in high school, the Chinks won the IHSA state basketball championship. We never beat them in football. My senior year, 1967, when Pekin had stars Barry Moran and Fred Miller (who would play at Northwestern and Illinois, respectively), the Chinks won the state hoops tournament by a larger average margin per game than any team ever had.

I remember the school had a cheer (“P-P-P-E-K—K-K-K—I-N! Pekin! Pekin! Pekin!’’) that some people said was a reference to the Ku Klux Klan. That pause in the middle for “K-K-K’’ was the deal.

I didn’t give it much thought. None of us did. I didn’t know any Asians, few enough blacks. I worried about getting beat.

We also played the Farmers, Little Giants, Potters, Warriors, Irish, Indians and Silver Streaks. Had we gone south, we could have played the Bunnies, Cornjerkers and Appleknockers.

But we played the Chinks in everything. And until 1980, when they were finally renamed the Dragons, Pekin and its Chinks seemed serious as can be, not the bad joke they actually were.

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