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Air Force football coach: Racist, or media over-reaction?

 
 
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 01:04 pm
From the sports world, but this item has taken on a somewhat political context because of the Air Force connection.

The coach (who is white) for the Air Force college football team is being blasted for remarks he made about black athletes after a recent game in which his team lost to TCU. The coach, Fisher DeBerry, was quoted as saying Air Force lost because TCU "had a lot more Afro-American players then we did and they ran a lot faster then we did." He then went on to say "It just seems to me to be that way. Afro-American kids can run very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other 'decents' can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well."

He has since given an apology to anyone who will listen, asked for forgiveness, and groveled his way into keeping his job. Every organization that can get a word in has called the comments insensitive at best, racist at worst. The athletic director of the Air Force stated the Air Force academy "has a zero-tolerance policy for any racial or ethnic discrimination or discrimination of any kind."

My question: Was this racist? Was what DeBerry said something that should not be talked about?

There has not been a white tailback in the NFL for over two decades. Every year there has been less then a handful of white running backs in college football. Look at any sports scouting/recruiting website, and you will find that over 90% of high school football players who are being looked at for scholarships who play positions that require speed happen to be black.

Watch the Olympics; very occasionally, there might be a white runner in the speed events, but often every heat will be filled by only black athletes.

This is not a secret. My friends who are black are constantly joking with me when we play hoops that 'white men can't jump', as the movie title suggested. How is it "racial discrimination or ethnic discrimination", as the Air Force AD said, to point out a trait that makes one superior to another?

Is this something we are not supposed to talk about? It is an obvious fact, and a foregone conclusion (at least in football) that you find a preponderance of black athletes in speed positions.

Has society become so sensitive to racial issues that we are not allowed to talk about any racial attributes, even when they are positive?

In the past (as recently as the 1970's), some racist idiots would make statements that were blatantly racist and untrue, such as black athletes were not smart enough to play quarterback. That statement, obviously, had been met with the ridicule it deserved.

But the media and others are acting as if the Air Force coach had said something similar to this. What's the deal? Is pointing out any racial difference considered racist on its face?
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 01:15 pm
The political problem here is that Coach didn't know when it's wiser to keep your mouth shut. The point is this: whether what he said is true or not, is immaterial; it is still stereotyping. It is not useful to allege that members one race are, somehow. better (or worse) at a given task than members of any other race. It makes it look as though blacks are, after all, somehow "different" from whites. The problem isn't with what the coach said; it's that he said it at all. Discretion is the better part...etc.
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Mills75
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 04:11 pm
Quote:
...Caucasian kids and other 'decents' can't run...

What does he mean when he uses the term "decents"?

It's not racist to notice a statistical tendency--African Americans make up a disproportionately large percentage of professional athletes. The way the coach phrased it, however, implies that African Americans are genetically predisposed to run fast, and that's ignorant.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 05:10 pm
I wonder what he meant by "Caucasian kids and other 'decents'."
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kelticwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 06:57 pm
The coach no doubt menat "descents", such as European descent, Asian descent, etc.

He may have put the accent on the first syllable, so the story got printed out as "decents". Don't forget that in some parts of the country, the pronounce it INsurance. This seems to be about the same thing, phonically.

Poor guy. Now that pronunciation is ANOTHER thing they're going to jump on. And on top of that, his team lost the game.

This guy should have stood in bed.
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 06:59 pm
Everybody's so quick to jump on this dude. I have a feeling he might have been misquoted because using the word 'decents' as a plural noun simply doesn't make sense. Is it possible he meant 'people of other descent'?
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kelticwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 07:08 pm
A Lone Voice wrote:
There has not been a white tailback in the NFL for over two decades.


I'm gonna be picky as hell.

Mike Alstott is white, still playing, and he played tailback in the NFL, (or whatever you want to call it when you have only one running back to run the ball, which is most of the time).

When he was in the same backfield as the faster Warrick Dunn, who is black, Alstott switched to fullback or blocking back. But very frequently, Alstott was THE running back, and he had some good years in that position.

Craig James, white, played tailback, not blocking back, for several years for New England within that 20 year limit.

However, I'm not sure if there is anyone else on that list of white people who were in the backfield to actually run the ball, not to block for the black running back and carry the ball only once or twice a game to cross up the defense.

PS: Franco Harris was half African-American, half Italian. Although it is still unfortunately customary to call a half-black, half-white person black, (because the blackness was seen as "polluting" the whiteness), as a white person I hereby claim Franco Harris as white running back.

We need the help.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 08:28 pm
Your explinations make sense, kelticwizard and Merry Andrew.

It didn't occur to me that that is what he was saying.
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Mills75
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 08:37 pm
I've never heard anyone refer to other "descents," either. I suppose if you insert an 'of' giving you "of other descents", that would make sense. But then there still seems to be the suggestion that it's genetic.
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kelticwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Oct, 2005 10:10 pm
Mills75 wrote:
I've never heard anyone refer to other "descents," either. I suppose if you insert an 'of' giving you "of other descents", that would make sense. But then there still seems to be the suggestion that it's genetic.


That's the point. It is genetic.

The fastest two hundred times in the 100 meter dash, as of a couple of years ago, were all run by people of African descent. Granted, some of those times were by the same people. Still, the fact that you have go to the 201st or lower fastest time to find a non-African descended person speaks volumes, does it not?

Some were born in America, some in the West Indies, some other places, but they all were of African descent.

Especially since in the more economically wealthy countries, with the best training facilites, tend to have predominantly non-African populations.
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 07:05 am
The venerable Boston Marathon has been won by Kenyans for who knows how many years in a row now. And by wide margins over the also-rans.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 05:53 pm
In 2001 a Korean won the race, Bong-Ju Lee, and a Ecuadoran, Silvio Guerra, came in second. Kenyans took places 4th through 6th in that race. Silivo Guerra is non-black.

A bit earlier than that, I think there was a non-black Hispanic who won that race, but I can't find the info. on Google.
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Mills75
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 10:01 pm
kelticwizard wrote:
That's the point. It is genetic.


Actually, there's quite a lot of debate on that point. While it's true that the statistical correspondence of athletic prowess and African heritage is greater than, say, that of athletic prowess and European heritage, it is also true that people of African heritage are more likely to be poor with sports being one of a very small set of perceived options for escaping poverty. Impoverished people of European descent are likely to see many examples of similarly situated individuals who were able to improve their economic position through education, vocational training, etc. They perceive more options for bettering their economic position, thus they have less incentive in general to focus on sports. Because impoverished people of African descent perceive fewer options for bettering their economic situation, they have more incentive to focus on athletics.

It's impossible to say that athletic prowess is or is not a genetic racial characteristic of people of African descent at this stage in our understanding of genetics. However, considering that the level of genetic variation among people of African descent is greater than the level genetic variation between people of African descent and non-Africans, it seems unlikely that genetics is a major factor here.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 11:17 pm
I used to pay attention to running, and while I don't remember the names, some people from non african countries or, eek, racial heritage, who have excelled at marathons are people from high altitude countries, or who have trained extensively at altitude.

Skipping along, years ago I was a tourist in Guatemala looking out a bus window at people stolidly making their way up amazing slopes laden with weight on their shoulders, going to market.

I don't know about the genetics of muscle contraction or lung capacity and don't now remember much of the biochemistry; I suppose there can be some survival aspect to a regular random mutation.

I know that genetics is a pandora's box to open. Let's say I just don't know if it is relevant to the question or not.
0 Replies
 
kelticwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Oct, 2005 01:10 am
Ossobucco:

High altitude is a key to long distance running.

However, long distance running is a different kettle of fish from sprints.

I too have my skepticism about the Kenyans necessarily being genetically predisposed to long distance running.

But as I stated before, the best 200 times in the 100 meter dash were all run by people of African descent, from a variety of countries. And the thread is about a football coach talking about speed in the football world, which is usually measured at 40 yards and 100 yards, (end zone to end zone is 100 yards). yard = 0.91 meters Smile
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kelticwizard
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Oct, 2005 01:32 am
Mills75 wrote:
kelticwizard wrote:
That's the point. It is genetic.


While it's true that the statistical correspondence of athletic prowess and African heritage is greater than, say, that of athletic prowess and European heritage, it is also true that people of African heritage are more likely to be poor with sports being one of a very small set of perceived options for escaping poverty. Impoverished people of European descent are likely to see many examples of similarly situated individuals who were able to improve their economic position through education, vocational training, etc.


Might make sense if you are talking about boxing. Boxing gyms are largely, though not exclusively, located in poorer neighborhoods. So there will be a correspondingly higher percentage of minorities.

But football is played and track is run at all schools, both wealthy and poor, predominantly while, black or Hispanic. Yet at the speed positions-running back, receiver, cornerback-we see black athletes almost exclusively. And what white athletes we see at receiver generally are known for their size and ability to out-wrestle the defender, not their ability to run past the opposition, although there a couple of white receivers who can do that.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Oct, 2005 09:54 am
KW, I am skeptical but not closed to random genetic mutation being a factor.
Back in '84 the woman runner, forget her name, who was among the most famous women runners to that date and who won the Olympic what, marathon?, was said to have extraordinary lung capacity, I think even compared to other marathon achievers. Does that run in families?? She was caucasian from the US.
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A Lone Voice
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Oct, 2005 01:34 pm
Glad we got the 'descent' issue cleared up; I should have included the explanation in my original post, but y'all figured it out just fine.

Quote:
"I'm gonna be picky as hell.

Mike Alstott is white, still playing, and he played tailback in the NFL, (or whatever you want to call it when you have only one running back to run the ball, which is most of the time).

When he was in the same backfield as the faster Warrick Dunn, who is black, Alstott switched to fullback or blocking back. But very frequently, Alstott was THE running back, and he had some good years in that position.

Craig James, white, played tailback, not blocking back, for several years for New England within that 20 year limit.

However, I'm not sure if there is anyone else on that list of white people who were in the backfield to actually run the ball, not to block for the black running back and carry the ball only once or twice a game to cross up the defense.

PS: Franco Harris was half African-American, half Italian. Although it is still unfortunately customary to call a half-black, half-white person black, (because the blackness was seen as "polluting" the whiteness), as a white person I hereby claim Franco Harris as white running back.

We need the help. "


Nice call, kelticwiz, but you kind of made my point. Your 'white' running back, Franco Harris (quite an immaculate reception, wasn't it?), retired over 20 years ago. Mike Alstott is a fullback; I don't think his 40 time would beat most high school tailback recruit's time, he runs with power and agility, but not speed. As to Craig James....Who? You might have got me on that one. Smile

So we seem to be going somewhat back and forth on whether or not the speed advantage of black athletes is genetic or not; yet everyone seems to be sidestepping the main issue I brought forth about the coach's statement. Should he be beat up by the media like he has been?

A local sports writer (white) compared the Air Force coach to Jimmy the Greek; if anyone recalls Jimmy's stupid remark on live TV, he stated that blacks were genetically superior to whites athletically because of breeding programs instilled by slave owners. He said slave owners would "breed big bucks" to large black women, with the result eventually being superior black athletes today. Jimmy was correctly and collectively dismissed as a racist knucklehead; but the Air Force coach did not even come close to saying anything as offensive, and I believe it was very unfair of the sports writer to make the comparison.

Merry Andrew stated
Quote:
"The political problem here is that Coach didn't know when it's wiser to keep your mouth shut. The point is this: whether what he said is true or not, is immaterial; it is still stereotyping. It is not useful to allege that members one race are, somehow. better (or worse) at a given task than members of any other race. It makes it look as though blacks are, after all, somehow "different" from whites. The problem isn't with what the coach said; it's that he said it at all. Discretion is the better part...etc. "
.

In today's world, you are probably right, MA. But why? Why has society become so gun-shy when it comes to race? I believe ignoring all things[/u] racial is somewhat racist in itself, isn't it?

I think my local sportswriter pal and other white critics are being condescending with black folk; they seem to falling all over each other in trying to out-do each other in being politically correct. Far from being simply white guilt, these people are trying to position themselves as being the white avenger for black people everywhere, and I think it is pathetic.

People are different. All of us bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, yet when it comes to race, we must tiptoe around as if we are all factory made and identical.

Confront racism when it rears its ugly head. But jumping on issues like this makes one look simply silly. Michael Wilbon, a sports writer for the Washington Post, had a pretty good take on this; Here is the link:Fury over racism misguided
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Oct, 2005 01:42 pm
A Lone voice wrote:
Air Force football coach: Racist, or media over-reaction?

Not racist, if possibly mistaken. Definitely a media overreaction -- that is, if the coach really had been 'blasted' by the press. I notice you say that he was, but you give no cites of the blasts.
0 Replies
 
Mills75
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2005 06:37 pm
kelticwizard wrote:
Might make sense if you are talking about boxing. Boxing gyms are largely, though not exclusively, located in poorer neighborhoods. So there will be a correspondingly higher percentage of minorities.

But football is played and track is run at all schools, both wealthy and poor, predominantly while, black or Hispanic. Yet at the speed positions-running back, receiver, cornerback-we see black athletes almost exclusively. And what white athletes we see at receiver generally are known for their size and ability to out-wrestle the defender, not their ability to run past the opposition, although there a couple of white receivers who can do that.

It's not the availability of the sport, but the time put into practice. Whereas students of European descent seem to see sports as just recreation, students of African descent tend to see them as keys to their futures. They will spend more time outside of formal practice playing sports than students of non-African descent. It's the eye of the tiger, and white students just aren't as hungry. :wink:
0 Replies
 
 

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