WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes has announed that she is a lesbian, nonshocking the entire sports world. Meanwhile, Fisher DeBerry, the head coach for Air Force Academy’s football - the strongest of the three Academy teams - has lamented his team’s lack of black players, since black players tend to be a bit faster than than kids of other races (put more precisely: the very fastest sprinters are far more likely to be black than non-black). Swoopes will of course be celebrated for her courage, while the raking of DeBerry has only begun.
ESPN’s columnist Pat Forde serves up the very worst of sports columnism in condemning DeBerry’s remarks:
[I]t’s not like DeBerry was inventing something here — or even saying something many coaches don’t talk about in private. But given the decades of wrongly stereotyping black athletes as physically superior and mentally inferior — run fast, think slow — the coach was walking into a minefield. He was creeping toward Jimmy “The Greek” territory — and every coach knows that you don’t go there. Certainly not without great care.
I’m all for a more open dialog about race in America, and especially in sports. But sweeping generalizations about fast black players are going to get a coach in trouble.
Let’s see if I get this right: Forde is “all for a more open dialog about race in America” but he can’t even deal with the fact that the fastest players in football are overwhelmingly black? Nor is that fact something coaches only talk about in private: They put it on open display every single NFL Draft. You have heard about the NFL Draft, Forde? It’s shown on ESPN every year. You see the same thing in the starting lineups of every team in the National Football League: The speed guys (receivers, cornerbacks, safeties, runningback) are almost always black. Forde, DeBarry isn’t talking about some wild-eyed stereotype, he’s talking about reality, he is - ultimately - talking about his won - lost record, the one that is slipping, the one that you think should convince him to retire.
Michael Wilbon at Washington Post is a fundamentally non-moronic sports columnist and he writes the following in his October 29 entry:
But our fear of any discussion involving race should not eliminate common-sense observations. Since Jason Sehorn retired from the NFL a season or so ago, how many white starting cornerbacks are there in the NFL? The answer, as far as I can find, is zero. And even if I missed one or two, fact is that a position based largely on speed is 99 percent black in the NFL. That’s not the same as making a presumption about the intelligence or character of cornerbacks, black or white. It’s fact, jack. DeBerry didn’t offer any cultural or empirical evidence about cornerbacks; he just said he would like faster ones, and as the NFL demonstrates, the fastest ones are black. That isn’t even debatable.
Forde, you should read and learn.