Thursday, December 23, 2010

Race in football

This year's BCS National Championship game, which matches the two best-ranked college football teams, will have University of Oregon playing against Auburn University. What is remarkable is that both these teams will have black men - Jeremiah Masoli and Cam Newton - as their starting quarterbacks. While black athletes dominate virtually every other position in the game (except another - see below), quarterbacking remains the white man's domain.

Newton also won the 2010 Heisman Trophy - the most-coveted honor for a college football athlete. Neither is this Heisman the first won by a black quarterback, nor is the BCS match-up between two black quarterbacks a first; yet one wonders if this signals a trend.

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Similar to quarterbacking, there is a small but not-statistically-insignificant number of black coaches in college and professional football. Some of the numbers in the NFL can arguably be attributed to the Rooney Rule which the league enforces on its teams since 2003 which requires teams to interview minority candidates when filling senior coaching positions.

Generally speaking, some affirmative actions can be classed as necessary evils. Others may be unnecessary. But the Rooney Rule is neither - it is plain bizarre.

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The one football position where black athletes don't seem even dimly poised to make a breakthrough in is that of the kicker. The lack of black kickers in college or professional football is quite inexplicable. As of today, none of the 32 NFL teams has any.

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Off-topic: This one promises to be a rather stray observation, but what is it with kickers having East European-sounding names? Here is a sampling: Janikowski (Raiders), Gostowski (New England), Czech (Pittsburgh), and Hauschka (Denver).

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