Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sportsology 201: Intro to Racism in Sports

Racism is all the rage these days. Thousands of people have made the trek today (and many others wearing black) to the small town of Jena, Louisiana for marches in support of the “Jena Six,” six black men who were originally charged with attempted murder in a schoolyard fight.

With the Washington Huskies playing good football and Notre Dame floundering, there has also been talk about whether or not Tyrone Willingham was treated fairly or if Charlie Weis is being treated more favorably by Notre Dame because he is white. For those of you who don’t remember, Willingham (the Huskies coach) was fired by Notre Dame after only three mediocre seasons. Weis, his white successor, had two good seasons, but is in the midst of a horrible third season.

And of course Donovan McNabb is in the news again in a race related issue. On Real Sports, he told James Brown that black QB’s are judged differently than white QB’s, which has been very controversial.

As a young black man, of course I have opinions on all of these issues, and hopefully facts to back them up. First things first, I’m glad to see the numbers of black people coming together for the Jena Six. I was skeptical that we would ever really come together as a collective again, but this issue seemed to spark everyone’s interest.

However, at this point, do people know what they’re rallying for? There is a lot of he say-she say involved in what happened leading up to the fight. The definites are: There was a noose hung from a tree, those responsible were given three days in school suspension, there were racial clashes instigated by both sides, culminating with the Jena Six beating up the white kid. Everything else is speculation.

The chief issue or reason to rally was the fact that all but the 14-year-old were given attempted murder charges for a school fight. The school administration did not do enough to cool racial tensions, which led to a fight. Now, if you assault someone, especially to the point where they are hospitalized, you should be punished. However, attempted murder was an extreme charge that had racism written all over it.

As the heat was put on the DA and the Jena justice system, the extraneous charges were dropped. Even now, blacks are usually charged with more and given longer sentences than whites when the same crimes are committed. That’s nothing new. Rallying for the Jena Six isn’t going to change that either. However, I believe the mission in Jena was accomplished when the boys were given appropriate charges to what happened. If you beat the crap out of somebody, you should to get battery and assault charges, regardless if you were egged on by any acts of racism, unless you were defending yourself.

Controversial opinion I know, but it’s rational. Now on to the lighter stuff, sports.

Tyrone Willingham was fired partially because he was black, partially because his teams were average. Notre Dame for some reason wants to believe it’s still a powerhouse football school. Yet, their athletes are held to a different standard than those at football factory. That standard is they are actually expected to be scholar athletes. Until that changes, Notre Dame is probably going to continue to be average.

That said, Ty didn’t have a shot. He wasn’t able to have “Top 5” recruiting classes because recruits knew he wasn’t going to last there. Now he’s rebuilding a Washington team that was in worse shape than Notre Dame was when he arrived on each campus. Ty Willingham is proving that he is a good coach and will succeed if given a chance. Will he win a championship at Washington? Probably not, but neither him nor Weis would have/will win a championship at Notre Dame.

Weis, on the other hand, is one of the most overrated coaches period. After seven games against average competition, he was given a 10-year contract extension. Now Notre Dame has to pay. They have put themselves in a big Catch-22. It’s obvious that Weis isn’t that good, but they can’t fire him because they gave their genius that big contract and they didn’t give Willingham enough time to turn things around and don’t want to make that mistake again. Yet, since they fired Willingham after three years, the racism will become more obvious if they don’t do the same to Weis, which could possibly also affect recruiting.

And while we’re on college football, there are only six black head coaches at I-A schools. A talking head on ESPN said that there’s too much pressure on schools when they hire a black coach, because if they fire them (like ND and T. Will) they will be accused of being racists. To that I say, if you don’t do racist stuff nobody will call you a racist.

Last are Donovan McNabb’s comments about black QB’s coming under more fire than white QB’s. Funny because Rush Limbaugh infamously said that black QB’s and coaches don’t get criticized enough because the (liberal) media has a vested interest in seeing them succeed. Now Donovan was way wrong when he called T.O.’s “verbal attack” on him black on black crime. This time he’s right.

Exhibit A is his game from Monday. His stats were 28-46 for 240 yards with no TD’s or INT’s. Immediately there was talk about him being washed up, how bad he played, how bad he looked, the throw’s he should’ve made, and this being his last year in Philly. And with the focus back on McNabb the Eagles three main issues that have kept them from getting back to the Super Bowl are once again ignored.

The Eagles lost that game Monday not because McNabb didn’t hit Kevin Curtis on an out during their last drive, but for three reasons. 1. Andy Reid and or their offensive coordinator’s play calling sucks. His refusal to run Brian Westbrook (who was getting over 5 yards a pop Monday) costs them several drives and potential points. 2. Their receivers suck. They can’t get open and when they do get open, they can’t catch and are not explosive. Besides T.O., Donovan has never played with good receivers. Look how much Tom Brady has played with three good receivers opposed to his usual cast of castaways. 3. Their defense is steadily slipping. Washington could’ve easily scored 30 plus points against them, but they have a young QB and a dumb offense with too many plays.

Additionally, Donovan is recovering from MAJOR knee surgery. Of course he isn’t going to look great. By the end of the year, he’ll be much better. If they Eagles cut him after this year (which they probably will), they’ll definitely hear it from their fans who’ll probably watch him lead his hometown Bears to their first Super Bowl since 1985. I’m calling it already.

The moral of the story is that racism is still alive and well. It’s just that now people hate to talk about it. Anytime the race card is thrown out there, many white writers and talking heads are critical and condescending about it. They are force feeding us this false reality of a world without racism.

From the black side, we’re so quick to jump on a “racist” bandwagon without doing our research, which leads to the backlash against using the race card when it’s actually valid. (See Jena Six, Michael Vick, etc.) For people of all races, the first step is to acknowledge the fact that racism still exists and will always exists as long as there are races. Two, make sure all the facts are out there before making a judgment. Three, if we really want to stop racism, we need to start coming together and moving forward to a country without races.

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