Tuesday, January 23, 2007

White = Hardworking

That's the subtext from this gem from the easily-mocked Peter King:

Of the guys I've covered regularly in recent years, what's remarkable is the three players who stick out for their interest in constantly getting better and doing only what's best for the team. All three played this weekend. Manning. Tom Brady. Brian Urlacher. They love the game, respect the game, work at the game and treat other players with respect. It's what we all should be teaching our children, not that Reggie Bush crap we saw Sunday ... the pointing and taunting.

Among all NFL players, a significant majority of whom are black, the three who work the hardest and are most committed to the team are white. If there was ever a quote that best summarized the latent borderline racist stereotypes that middle-aged white sportswriters pile into their columns about hard-working white guys and loud-mouthed black guys, this would be it. I don't think that Peter King is consciously racist and I'm sure that he interacts well with black players. (He would really suck at his job if he didn't.) However, he, like most other writers, trades in racial stereotyping and this paragraph is pretty obviously an example.

This hits on something that I've wanted to discuss for several weeks. I feel a significant amount of white liberal guilt about my criticism of Michael Vick and that guilt intensifies with every call to 680 or 790 from Alpharetta about how Vick lives the "thug lifestyle" or he's "dumb" or "lazy" or "shouldn't drink from the same water fountain as me because that will lead to miscegenation." (OK, I made that last one up.) Some of those criticisms of Vick are probably true. He isn't very good at reading defenses and there are grounds to criticize his work ethic, in light of the fact that he fumbled on the final drive against Cleveland because he was clearly winded. However, those criticisms come with a lot of baggage in the form of unfair stereotypes that have been hurled at black quarterbacks (and black athletes in general) for years. There's no good way for me to distinguish myself from a latent racist when criticizing Vick's performance...other than to anguish in my guilt over it, I guess.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that out there.


Anonymous said...

I think its possible to believe those are 3 of the top 5 players in the NFL and it helps make his point that all 3 were still playing in the Championship round.

It is odd that all 3 are white in a predominately black league, but King has been enamored with Manning and Brady (especially Brady) for years.

My problem is that he only seems to write about and give credit/blame to Quarterbacks and Coaches. Maybe that is an inherent racism since most happen to be white, or maybe that is just the only people who open up to him, hard to tell.

Anonymous said...

Great Bradley article, this is so true:

"You need to step back and remember your place in the sporting firmament, to recall who you are and what you represent. You once made it easy to believe in Michael Vick. You need to stop making it hard."

I've always thought Vick is a good person, I hope he can get control and have a nice 5 year finish to his career. I don't believe he's stupid and can't read defenses, but I do think he is childish and lets his emotions muddle his thinking on the field.

blackertai said...

He should have included Marvin Harrison in that list, but aside from that, I don't think there was a ting of racism in that paragraph. It's a widely accepted view around the NFL that Brady and Manning are both the two current best QB's in the league, and it would be hard to argue the perception of Manning in particular is in any way miss-characterized in that paragraph. I would agree, as well, with Urlacher's characterization, as for the past two seasons in particular he's been receiving an amazing amount of media coverage. Aside from him and now Tank Johnson, I could not name a player on the Bears defense due to the media fawning over him and his play-making ability. The WWL reinforces the views of these players, but they also show other plays of African-American lineage who are praiseworthy as well, as the previously consistently positive coverage of Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison and Warrick Dunn have shown. The fact that Brady, Manning and Urlacher's names are all more media conscious at the moment (what with the recent success of Manning to be the Patriot curse and Brady's involvement in that, along with Urlacher and the Bear's D's play for the majority of the season) help to keep King (who I agree is often easily-mocked) from appearing as overtly racist as you claim.

Granted, I make no claims on his actual feelings towards the matter, but having read that article, I don't find it holding the charge you seem to sense, and with the success of Indy and the Bears this season, along with the WWL's love of all things Patriots, the fact that these three particular standout players on those teams would receive praise does not strike me as odd.

Andy said...

As someone who follows the Bears closely, it does seem weird to see Brian Urlacher on this list, which makes me agree with Michael.

This is not to say that Brian Urlacher is not a hard worker, or doesn't do what is best for the team. But when you've watched his full Bears career those aren't the first things you think of to describe his success. You think of his freakish athleticism and his "football smarts." Urlacher himself said recently that sometimes he stops himself from watching too much film so that he doesn't overload his brain and instead will rely more on his instincts.

So out of all the players in the NFL, to single him out as one of the hardest-working seems odd, and seems to support the idea that in King's mind white superstar must equate to hardworker.