Football is still football

Since we’re into the football season I thought it was time to interject my two cents. I’ve noticed several teams starting black quarterbacks these days. Some because of injury, but others have been under center since training camp. By my count, the first weekend of the National Football League season in September saw nine African Americans as their respective teams’ starting quarterback. That’s pretty good, I believe, given the (Colin) Kaepernick hub-bub a few years ago. I didn’t think all those wealthy NFL owners would take the chance.

But, then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. Some thirty years ago Jimmy the Greek said blacks were better athletes than whites. They were bred to be better athletes. Yep, he said that.

Here’s that story. In 1988 a reporter asked Jimmy about the passage of the bill supporting a holiday for MLK and civil rights in sports in general. The Greek replied: “Well, they’ve got everything; if they {blacks} take over coaching like everybody wants them to, there’s not going to be anything left for white people.

“I mean all the players are black; I mean the only thing that the whites control is the coaching jobs . . . The black talent is beautiful; it’s great; it’s out there. The only thing left for the whites is a couple of coaching jobs.

“The black is a better athlete to begin with, because he’s been bred to be that way. Because of his high thighs and big thighs that go up into his back. And they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs, you see.

“I’m telling you that the black is the better athlete and he practices to be the better athlete and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes all the way to the Civil War when, during the slave trading, the owner, the slave owner, would breed his big woman so that he would have a big black kid, see. That’s where it all started.”(1)

He lost his job after that. The NAACP wanted his head. I remember at the time wondering what all the hub-bub was about. Its not like he was lying. We can debate if blacks were better athletes back then. But the idea that blacks were bred during slavery? That’s a no brainer. So, this was my first glimpse into the world of revisionist history. Also known as: “Don’t tell the truth or else they may ask for reparations again” history.

Anyway, I grew up in the 1970s and it was understood that blacks were gifted athletes but considered too dumb and inept to play quarterback. That really infuriated my father. Maybe that’s why he was never a big football fan. Granted, he loved the Kansas City Chiefs, but only because that’s his hometown.

I guess that’s where this gets interesting. There’s still a segment of our society that believes blacks are too dumb and inept to play quarterback. We’re about to enter the third decade of the twenty-first century and some folks out there still believe blacks are less than whites when it comes to making decisions under pressure. Last year, following a Houston Texans loss, a “gentleman” from the Onalaska ISD believed he was sending a private message, but I guess he hit the wrong button. His private massage went viral. He said, “When you need precision decision making you can’t count on a black quarterback.”(2)

Like Jimmy the Greek, this individual also lost his job. Sadly, its a reminder that some folks out there would be happy with black athletes merely doing the grunt work in football (blocking and tackling) while whites make all the relevant decisions (quarterbacks and coaches). Hmm.

So, six weeks into the season black quarterbacks are everywhere in the NFL. Marlin Briscoe and James Harris, back in the 1970s, opened the doors for black quarterbacks in starting roles and they immediately shattered the myths of “dumb and inept”. Since, black quarterbacks have excelled at the position with six of them guiding their teams to the Super Bowl. Their numbers in the league today – as well as in college football! — attest to a general acceptance of their competence, though obviously still guarded in many quarters. But at least one or two of these extraordinary precision decision makers has a legitimate shot at leading their teams to the Super Bowl this season. Even the Greek would take a bet on that.

See you next time.