Thursday, August 7, 2008

Black Boys and Football

My younger brother, Jordan, is 14. He's going to be playing football for the local high school this upcoming year so he's been practicing with the team this summer. Now, Jordan is going to play Quaterback, starting on JV (hopefully) and maybe moving up to Varsity (though not as a starter) by the end of his Freshman year. He's a really great football player. Anyways, he came home from practice today and told me a story that went like this:

J: Hey Amaryah, let me tell you what one of the JV coaches said to me today.

A: Ok, what'd he say?

J: Well, first, let me say this guy has never seen me play. But anyways he came up to me and he started talkin and he was like, "So you're wanting to play QB, right?" And I'm like, Yes sir. So he was like, "That's good. Yeah, you'll probably be started because we don't think our other QB is going to be eligible."

So, my brother's like yeah, yeah, that's cool starter. So, anyways, this sam coach comes up to my brother later and he's talking to him about the offense and he's like, "Yeah, we'll probably try to use you like a Mike Vick or a Vince Young." Michael Vick and Vince Young, for those who aren't football savvy, are two young black QB's known more for their ability to run than pass. Now, my brother is a fan of Mike and Vince, but he wants to be more of a passer than a runner, so he tells his coach, "Yeah, they're cool, but I really like guys like Tom Brady." And his coach is like, "Yeah, but we've got to use your athleticism." And my brother's like, "Well, I really want to be a good passer first." And his coach is like, "Yeah, but we can use your legs, blah blah blah."

Why this was so striking to me was because for a long time, black men were held out of the Quarterback position because that was a leadership and a mental position and many white people felt black men weren't smart enough to lead as QB's. Hand a couple of brothers the ball and let em run as much as they want, sure, but don't let them run the offense. Well, those walls have started to come down, with a increasing number of black QB's, but black QB's are still plagued by the stigma that they can't throw as well as white QB's, the underlying racism being that throwing requires much more knowledge and critical thought, and blacks just aren't capable of playing QB at as high a level as white QB's. So most black QB's are seen as "Athletic" by that it is meant that they are able to run out of the pocket and elude the defense. Anyways, my brothers encouragement from his coach to be an "Athletic" QB instead of a "Pocket Passer" further highlights the extent to which the idea that blacks are somehow natural born athletes has seeped into the mindset of football fans and coaches, etc.

For one thing, the coach hadn't seen my brother play and simply assumed Jordan was Athletic, when he could be slow as hell. Another thing, when my brother told him he'd rather be a passer than a runner, he continued to try to encourage him in the direction of an athelete. It kind of reminds me of that scene in the Autobiography of Malcolm X where Malcolm, in a classroom of all white kids, says he wants to be a lawyer when he grows up and his white teacher tells him thats not a realistic goal for a black boy. He tells him to try being a carpenter, or something like that. While there are a magnitudes of problems with my brother's coach's statement, I think the crux of the matter is the different expectations placed on my brother as a young athletic looking black man. He is encouraged to aspire to a life that has been laid out for him as an athlete, as a QB like the other popular black QB's, and when he tries to break from the mold he is met with resistance and continued encouragment into the box that he is supposed to fit into.

It is sad that he has to deal with things like this, but he knows life isn't easy for a young black man. Here's hoping he sticks to his guns and proves this coach wrong.

1 comment:

Qatfish said...

Crazy. I hope your brother doesn't get boxed into anything. If he's a good passing QB, why not develop the talents he really has? Racism makes people stupid. :(