When race is brought into any discussion, it must be done delicately yet effectively. Must be sensitive to how some see it, but still be honest in your opinion. It's a fine line that it seems many sports pundits stumble over when discussing the black quarterback.
I remember when I was younger - I marveled at the athleticism of Randall Cunningham. I didn't understand why every team in the league wouldn't want a quarterback who could just tuck the ball and run if nobody was open. Seemed simple enough. Albeit at the time I was too young to understand the intricacies of reading a zone, calling audibles etc. And to this day I have no idea if he was good at any of that - but I knew one thing - he separated himself from everyone else on the field and not because of his skin color but because of his skill set. I was young enough to know that then but as I became older something got lost along the way.
I didn't see quarterbacks by skill set. I really saw them as black and white. And I saw them not in the skin color sense but in the "day and night" sense.
As I started to understand the game more it started to become more and more obvious that the white quarterbacks were the prototypical "pocket quarterbacks" while the black quarterbacks were the "unconventional quarterbacks." Even I fed into how the television would describe each. So much in-fact that if I saw a black quarterback who wasn't fast, I would say "this guy blows," or if I saw a white quarterback who ran, I would say "this guy doesn't have a clue what he's doing out there."
And I thought I was right. Not because I'm a football god who can never be wrong - but because the sports pundits, said the same thing as well.
You can have your eyes closed with the television on and hear words and phrases like : "unorthodox" - "awkward throwing motion" - "makes moves on the run" - and you know the quarterback they're talking about is black. Granted there have been QB's with similar descriptions of their game (i.e. Tim Tebow) but nine times out of ten, you know they're talking about a black quarterback.
Now that I'm older I would like to think I can see things as simple as they should be. It doesn't matter if you're the "prototypical" or "unconventional" quarterback. You just have to be a good quarterback. No matter what your skill set is like, if you can make it work to the best of your abilities and get a quality performance out of it, that's all that matters. And in terms of this blog and to quote the late Michael Jackson, it don't matter if you're black or white.
Did it take me till I was in my 30's to know that a black or white person isn't better than the other? Of course not. Don't be ridiculous. But the overall perceptions that were fed into my brain when I was younger definitely kind of screwed with me in to what I thought a quarterback should be.
On another note, the black quarterback is held to an entirely different standard. For this example I'll use Michael Vick. When a black quarterback is given the job to be the starting quarterback of an NFL franchise the black community sees this as a huge step. I for one love the emergence of the black quarterback all over high school, college and in the pro ranks, I personally think it's one that is long overdue since I saw Cunningham tearing things up in the 80's. When Vick was given the reigns in Atlanta he was the most exciting player to watch in football. He sold jerseys, sold sneakers and most importantly sold seats. He didn't win when it mattered and didn't have a full skill set, but he was fun to watch. And that made it okay. Even when Vick wasn't he most popular because of his attitude, the black community in large supported him and said his antics were just being blown up because he was black. Then came the dog fighting charges. It didn't only hurt Vick's career but it was a massive blow to the black community. This is someone who they supported and he let them down. I bring this up because I was listening to Mike Patton (@General_MP) on 102.5thegame.com - and a caller brought up how Vick disappointed many in the black community.
Cam Newton is the most recent, who last season the world loved him (because he was exciting, not winning games) but when he struggled early on people called into question his mechanics and mental toughness right away and were asking if Carolina was asking for trouble by making this kid their franchise quarterback. Whoa. Slow down. Sophomore slumps are normal in any road of life.
Sometimes the weirdest obstacle a black quarterback must hurdle comes from others in the black community. ESPN's Rob Parker questioned Robert Griffin III's personality by asking the question: "Is he a brother, or a cornball brother?...he's black but he's not really down with the cause. . . he has a white fiance...he's a republican." Forget the fact that RG3 when healthy is one of the more explosive players in the league, Rob Parker decided to attack him because - for a lack of better words, RG3 just wasn't "black enough" for his liking.
Race is a card some play, but in truth you're not playing too much when you're dealt that hand for the rest of your life. We are who we are and I'm not here to preach racial harmony - but at least in terms of football and the black quarterback - can't we just reset our minds into thinking how a "white quarterback" and "black quarterback" should be? Why can't our previous perceptions be left in the past where that thinking began - and see it as what the individual can bring to a franchise? I for one have had enough of the "sideways talk" - just call it how you see it without making it a stereotype.
GW Gras follow me on twitter