Speed vs. Race?

In discussing gridiron football as a ludic model of the American military-industrial complex, we pause for a quick resample:

The ball-carrying backs are the metaphorical infantrymen, with the fullback valiantly sacrificing his body so that the halfback may race forward against the enemy and advance towards the strategic goal. … These ground forces are supported by air forces in the form of wide receivers who offer "quick strike" or "deep threat" capabilities. Air forces serve to spread out or soften the enemy's defence, thus creating gaps that may be exploited by the ground game; conversely, a series of skirmishes at the front lines can leave the defence vulnerable to a more economically efficient air strike at the strategic objective.

This trade-off between air and land forces is marshalled by the field commander, the quarterback. The hero of American sporting culture, the tall, white (or increasingly black), handsome quarterback represents the best of what the military academy has to offer on the battlefield: smart, follows the chain of command, tough, calm under pressure, a leader of men, et cetera.

Framed in this context, mid to late twentieth century research on positional stacking in football (eg. that conducted by Richard Lapchick) — particularly with regards to the "thinking" white quarterback position — assumes additional significance, for now we are describing an era of general hysteria about black men in a position of military authority. On the other hand, though, we should be wary of viewing the recent emergence of the black quarterback as evidence of a post-racial America; instead, we might read it as indicative of the very real imperative for speed in modern military affairs.


2 responses to Speed vs. Race?

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  1. Craig Upper says:

    It is a significant advancement in pro football to have an increasing number of black quarterbacks due to the previously stated opinions on what the job of quarterback entails. For many years blacks in professional sports were used for their speed and athleticism, but when thinking the game was required, society always turned to a white athlete for that role. However knowing the sport of football from playing and coaching high school football myself allows me to step back and realize this may not be as big of an advancement as one might think. Since the talent pool is constantly increasing alot of responsibility gets shifted from the team to the training and coaching staff. It has always been the case that when a team is winning it is because of the star player, but when a team loses the blame is put solely on the coaching staff. Having multiple starting quarterbacks that are black in the NFL is not as big of an accomplishment as what the whole world saw last year in the Super Bowl. For the first time in NFL history two African-American coaches squared off in the world's largest sporting stage. For equity to be reached it doesn't start at the quarterback position, it begins in coaching and front office management.

  2. Deanna Fidler says:

    Change happens for a reason. Taking this into consideration, there must be a reason for the black race to progressively be seen as quarterbacks in the NFL. Perhaps this goes back to history and even current social norms that believe that the black race is known for their agility and speed. As my soccer coach always tells us, we all have a role on that team, and that role is given to us because of our skills that best fit certain roles. For instance, fast players are put on the outside, while playmakers are commonly situated in the middle. Likewise, perhaps coaches believe that even though black people may know the game well and be knowledgeable enough for a quarterback, they assume that they may be more effective in a position that requires more speed. Also, from a players end, perhaps they have grown up learning the position that their coach thought they would prevail in, such as a wide receiver position for a child of a black race. This may be done accidently as beginners do not have the knowledge of football yet so rather than judging them on their ability and knowledge, they may be perceived by their natural ability: Such as the wide receiver position. Perhaps we need to change our mindset when coaching children and realize that social barriers set out for children may be taken with them for the rest of their lives. Also, before we wonder why racism is seen in sports we need to look at social problems in our society. Therefore, racial ideologies brought to sport are most likely seen in every day life as well.