Standard Operational Procedure. Some of you may remember the last JFK special Peter Jennings hosted a few years back. Some of their "experts" concluded JFK was an amphetamine junkie and had to be removed before he started WW3 with the Russians. There was more dis-information, but that was the worst of it.
The grid iron has been the home of one of the most chilling myths perpetuated against African Americans. For years, we were told that the black quarterback lacks the "intelligence" to lead NFL offenses. The implications were far-reaching, suggesting that this same lack of mental capacity is a natural barrier to leadership in every area of society. Even the quasi-miraculous effort by Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, who threw for 340 yards in a 42-10 "old fashioned butt-kicking" of the Denver Broncos, was not able to squelch this myth. After all, in the minds of many white folks, abnormalities or " statistical spikes" can occur in any observation.
Notwithstanding, there is a strange silence in the media about what has taken place during an historic 2000-2001 NFL campaign. Five - not one, two, three, or even four - yes five African American quarterbacks have led their teams to the Playoffs! And if the mass media is not telling this story, let us be vigilant to do so. These men have collectively shattered forever this longstanding myth of mental inferiority: Brooks/Blake (Saints), Culpepper (Vikings), McNabb (Eagles), McNair (Titans), and King (Buccaneers). This does not suggest that we ever subscribed to the myth. Indeed many of us grew up thinking that we would someday throw a game-winning post pattern in a Super Bowl. We always knew the stuff that we were made of. But it serves a purpose akin to the 1936 Olympic Games performance by Jesse Owens in Berlin as Adolf Hitler's Aryan theories fell to gold medals in broad jumping, the 100-meter race, 200-meter, and 400-meter relay.
Perhaps the media will broach this discussion at some point in the future. If so, I suspect it will be with a jagged edge. Some might say that these African American signal-callers are over-achievers, each elevated by an amazing supporting cast. But our response MUST BE that Montana, Bradshaw, and Staubach each had their amazing supporting cast; indeed some of the game's greatest. Others might say that these men rode the wave of team dynasties. But our response MUST BE that New Orleans' history is far from glorious, and Bucs' past can only be "bottomed" by the last 10-year history of my hapless hometown Bengals. Others might say that the rules have made it easier for the black quarterback. But our response MUST BE that Manning, Bledsoe, Grbac, Warner, Testaverde, Favre, and the others have the benefit of the same rules. And yet others might say that superior coaching is the reason for their success. But our response MUST BE that when Culpepper and King look over to the sidelines, what they see are head coaches, Green and Dungy, also draped in brown skin tone; this line of reason only leads to other myths falling !
While single-handedly their accomplishments do not compare, I would submit that as a group their efforts are as significant to the pigskin arena, as Joe Louis or Ali to the ring, Jordan to roundball, and Tiger to the links. Why? Because the 2000-2001 season will forever be a memorial that God has blessed African American quarterbacks with a unique level and mix of intelligence and sheer athleticism. These are smart black men, strong as cornerbacks, fast as linebackers, and as accurate as a Grecian javelin hurler. We are seeing the evolution of a position once "reserved" for white men after wideouts, running backs, and other skill slots fell to men of color. We can safely predict, particularly in light of the college ranks with men like Virginia Tech's Michael Vick, that in the coming years a gradual transformation will erase the very appearance of the racial bias associated with bigtime quarterbacks (QBs). And it is this bias that we seek to erase, not so much the appearance of the white quarterback, lest our perspective be deemed equally prejudicial.
Myths are falling. And while they fall, there are lessons emerging as, well. That we do not have to be jealous of one another during our season of promotion. I have yet to hear Akili Smith (Bengals QB) degrade the talents of AFC Central rival McNair. Even though King (Buccaneers QB) is no longer in the playoff, he does not trash the blessings being realized by Culpepper.
And what of elder statesmen like Rodney Peete, their acceptance of these younger newsmakers, and willingness to share the sporting hero center stage. These men have a common understanding that they are rising together, and that their contemporary opportunities come on the shoulders of Vince Evans, James Harris, Randall Cunningham, and other QBs who paved the way.
I thank the Lord that He has allowed us to live during such a time as this. Perhaps, we as a people will one day learn that there is nothing peculiar about football. That we have a history and destiny for greatness. Our promise transcends the football field, and is available to us in business, science, and technology, and wherever our feet shall tread. It is this promise that men like Hall of Famer Alan Page - former right defensive tackle who averaged 37 sacks per season over 11 years with the Vikings - embraced as he moved from the football field to be Minnesota's Assistant Attorney General in 1987 and an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1993.
I charge each of us to be sensitive to our men (and women), young and old, who in growing numbers losing hope that we can accomplish great things. Let this be a challenge to ourselves to remember what McNair, Culpepper, and the others have shown us in 2000-2001. These, too, were once young black men running the gauntlet of "Living While Black." But as they have risen, so shall we all who are steadfast in whatever goals the Lord has placed in our spirit.
Rev. Kenneth D. Price