Thursday, September 20, 2007

You don't say

Like Jack Nicholson, when Tom Cruise ask for the truth, most people can't handle it.

Appearing on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said that Black quarterbacks face greater scrutiny than their White counterparts. "It's just reality," he says. "It's something that I've been a part of and other (Black) quarterbacks before and after me have been a part of."

You don't say, Donovan. For further proof of what McNabb is talking about, please check out New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden's book, "The Field Generals," where he chronicles the history of the Black quarterback. Read about what Marlon Briscoe had to do, just to get a one-time tryout at quarterback. Read about other Black quarterbacks, including Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with Washington, and how they endured the endless questioning of their abilities, smarts, whatever.

All because of the color of their skin.

The quarterback position is the most scrutinized in all of sports. They love you only when you're winning. But throw a bad pass or miss an open receiver, or don' t get that crucial first down in the game's critical moments, and your name becomes mud. You're only loved if you are the backup QB -- people always think they can do the job better. But once the backup takes over as starter, then the role reversal begins.

A vicious circle that triples if you're Black. That's what McNabb is saying. The criticism is twinged more if you are a person of color.
And only a Black man knows this.

Yet Whites immediately dismiss what he says. A Philadelphia Daily News columnist wrote that McNabb must get rid of a chip on his shoulder.

It's not a chip, but a mountain that he and other Black QB's must shoulder. The critical spotlight is always hotter for them than it is for Whites.

But only a Black man knows this.

Ever since Tarvaris Jackson was named the starter by the Minnesota Vikings, 'white flags' immediately were hoisted. He's too young, critics say. Then after throwing four interceptions in a 20-17 overtime loss at Detroit, cries for his replacement intensified.

A St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist urges the coaching staff to place Jackson on the injury list because he "tweak" his groin. Coach Brad Childress should keep Jackson on the sideline "with honor," wrote Tom Powers. "Just say the quarterback is too hurt to play," Powers suggests.

Other Twin Cities columnists also wrote similarly. Powers' paper now are running polls, asking readers on who should start as Vikings QB: Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, or Kelly Holcomb. It doesn't matter that both Bollinger and Holcomb are just as inexperienced as the second-year Jackson. After three weeks, it's time for change.

These same scribes years ago expressed the same lack of confidence when former Minnesota coach Dennis Green named Daunte Culpepper as starter.

The fact that both Culpepper and Jackson are Black only heightens the criticism. Only if you aren't Black that you can't read between the lines. Only if you aren't Black that you can't clearly see just how much their criticism play a part in planting doubting seeds in fans, most of whom already are Monday morning quarterbacks and coaches in their own right.

Only if you aren't Black that you can't fully understand what McNabb is saying. You won't see White sports columnists ever walking a block, let alone a mile in his shoes.

All quarterbacks start out young and inexperienced. Then when are they going to get the necessary reps to be good, or be fairly evaluated, if they are not allowed the chance to fail, in order to eventually succeed.

Peyton Manning started out young, as did Joe Montana and Steve Young. Even Roger Staubach and John Elway suffered through growing pains before they eventually found their winning groove.

Why is it that White QBs are allowed that luxury, while Black QBs must play with a burned neck because the white heat from columnists, fans and others breathing down their necks. Why is it that Black QBs must be grizzled and well worn in order to prove themselves worthy to stand behind center?

"Black or White quarterbacks, we all go through something because that's the life of a quarterback," says Tennessee's Vince Young, one of sic Black starting NFL quarterbacks, along with McNabb, Jackson, Steve McNair of Baltimore, Jason Campbell of Washington and Jacksonville's David Garrard.

You don't say Vince. He somehow forgot how many questioned his abilities last year because he flunked some fancy pre-draft test. He forgot how many thought someone else and not him was suited to be drafted No. 1 overall.

Young must think that he somehow will escape a well-known fact but rarely admitted. That he won't be roundly criticize, much of which will be racially inspired. He won't, so long as he exceeds on the field.

Because when he don't, and you better believe Young will have bad days -- all QBs do, his hue will play a part in the unbalanced criticism and unnecessary analysis from columnists, most of them are White.

Unless his hue changed, Young will experience it, if he hasn't already. He and other Black quarterbacks do. And always will.

What Donovan McNabb said is right. However, Whites can't handle the truth.

And they never will.

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