25 September 2007

White Knight at the Organ Harvest - On Football, Race, and the Many Forms Taken By Evil

monster, n.

1. a. Originally: a mythical creature which is part animal and part human, or combines elements of two or more animal forms ... (Oxford English Dictionary)

In the 19th century, evil was written all over your face - with the sickgreen and stitches of Frankenstein's monster to the phantom lumps of racist-eugenic phsyiognomy and pseudo scientific criminology, there was always an excuse not to get to know someone different from you. After all, the real fear is MIXING - the occult and alchemical composition of the doctor's creation on the one hand and the affront to purity that is miscegenation on the other.

One of the most startlingly evil beings in the history of worlds real or fictional has to be Serpentor, who was fashioned by Cobra's Dr. Mindbender out of DNA extracted from the exhumed bodies of historical badasses like Atila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Vlad the Impaler in order to rid the world of the G.I. Joe team, who had long frustrated Cobra with their ability to somersault unharmed through a constant barrage of LASER beams.

But perhaps an even more evil being was hypothetically conjured by (I can't remember which) network football jock-pundits who grafted parts tangible and intangible (but represented by organs through metaphor or synecdoche) belonging to actual NFL quarterbacks onto one ultimate quarterback who would likely lead a team of those FOX football robots who've been warming up and stretching their metal parts for long enough ... they're ready to play.

The anatomy of a quarterback looked something like this: HEAD - MANNING, HEART - BRADY, GUTS - FAVRE, ARM - McNABB, LEGS - VICK, BODY - CULPEPPER. We recognize this venerable monster: black guys = pretty on the outside, white guys = pretty on the inside. Manning as a leader is a barrage of signals and verbiage, from his commercial ubiquity to the effusive gestural language he deploys at the line, Peyton is football LITERATE - he has 'read' your defense. Brady is a 'winner,' eyeblacked eyes the tribal marker of the American tribe of winners, almost undrafted backup to Drew Bledsoe who willed himself to SuperBowl victory. Favre, with his Mississippi stubble-and-drawl, well, he'd never give up. Ever. And if he throws into triple coverage and gets picked off, it's because he's a 'gunslinger,' a glorybound outlaw among sniveling statisticians.

But Culpepper is a headcase. A headcase who rides 'sexboats.' Vick doesn't think on his feet but with his feet, if he keeps running, it'll cut down on his propensity to make poor decisions.
McNabb can throw the deep ball AND work the press conference, but during the conference championship he's vomiting chunky soup.

This is all a prelude to two events in the world of the NFL - one exhaustively discussed and one thus far mostly ignored: 1) The controversy sparked by McNabb's suggestion that the media are tougher on black quarterbacks and 2) The likely Sunday start at RB for Rams rookie Brian Leonard, who will fill in for ailing Stephen Jackson and will be white while doing it.

The reaction to McNabb seems to me tantamount to what we might call "the banality of racism," following Hannah Arendt's tract on "The Banality of Evil," in which she suggests that after the Nazis, "evil" can be bureaucratic, boring, and just following orders. Now this isn't to equate the kneejerk eyerolls of sports radio hosts with the horrors of war criminals, but rather to suggest that racism works systemically and most perniciously undercover at the water cooler. The mainstream media's frustration with McNabb finds them holding fast to a facile (and imaginary) colorblindness that gives any whiff of inequity the uncomfortable pungency of a fart in an elevator. And inevitably elicits the baffling claim that the deck is stacked the other way and loaded with "race cards." This is not to say that Manning isn't, in fact, impressively whipsmart and poised. Or that Michael Vick doesn't execute dogwarriors. But rather to suggest that neither quarterback can throw a ball all the way to a meritocratic raceless decontextualized utopia in a vacuum.

And this is why no one is discussing what to me seems to be a kind of earthshattering occurrence, the start of former Rutgers Scarlet Knight standout Leonard for the Rams on Sunday. Now sure, there are white fullbacks - Mike Alstott, Brad Hoover, Heath Evans, etc. But there has not been a white 1,000 yard rusher since Craig James for the 1985 Patriots. And I don't even know that there has been a starting featureback since then regardless of yardage totals. SO what are the implications? I have no idea whatsoever. But let's not pretend it isn't noteworthy. For the record, scary essentialist arguments are not entirely the province of the sons of hegemony. Witness this post on Leonard on something called "The Nation of Islam Sports Blog":

"Gradually, as time went on, the Negro proved to be a more qualified fit for the demands of the position of running back; vision, quickness, speed, durability, stength, power, explosiveness. All traditional athletic attributes common to the Negro. And lacking in most white athletes.Similarly, as time has gone on, the Negro is gradually assuming control of the QB position. Quick decision making, running ability, superior arm strength and unmatched determination have become the requisites to excel. Again, the position has gradually shifted to being tailor made for the Negro ... Clearly, the extinction of the white running back is a sign of evolution in the NFL. Natural selection. The absence of Negro QB's in the NFL was completely unnatural, and completely manufactured.In comparing the two, it becomes clear. If you are someone who appreciates the positive evolution of the game and understands that weakness selects itself out of the league; well, then you should anxiously be awaiting the extinction of the white QB."

I don't know, I'm thinking.

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