Bill Rhoden’s Ode To The Black Quarterback

Updated: March 13, 2007



It is beginning to Pour

for journalist Bill Rhoden

who is now reigning as

the best Black Sports Journalist

in America with his writing at

The New York Times and now

TWO outstanding books about

African American experience

within Sports and the applause

is pouring in from all sides even

if you can barely hear it as

it gets louder and louder

In his last book “$40Million Slaves” Bill Rhoden focused in on the problem of African Americans no longer associating their shared identify as Black athletes of the past did. Coupled with an exploration of the history of African Americans in Sports it merits a permanent place on the shelf of important Sports books.

Now less than a year letter another winning entry from Mr. Rhoden in which he provides an indispensable oral history of African American Quarterbacks. Quarterbacks as Bill Rhoden readily agrees occupying a unique position in the entire world of Sports. No other position comes with either equal responsibility nor is the personification of an entire team as is the Quarterback in football.

Team owners, media and fans often equate their team completely in terms of the Quarterback. And maybe that says it all when it comes to the small number of African Americans who have played Quarterback in the past. Certainly the numbers have improved in recent years but it is still far from parity.

here is what Rhoden says in the introduction

“As with all civil rights struggles, the battle to integrate the quarterback position stirred passions. What’s unique about it is that the debate raged on long after every other position in the four major sports had been opened to African American athletes.”

Rhoden collects oral histories from a breath taking 80 different individuals in compiling his ode to the Black Quarterback. Any African American Quarterback you can name who is still alive is likely to be found in these 300 pages talking about his experiences and unique challenges as an African American determined to make it as a Quarterback.

Collecting and expertly editing the words of the men themselves captures a power that writing about them cannot achieve. You are there with the likes of James “Shack” Harris and Doug Williams. Yes it was and is football but when you are there calling and directing the plays and leading the Offense it thrusts you into a separate world the other players do not inhabit.

Of course Rhoden could not interview all those African American players from earlier eras now gone who dreamed of but never were allowed to play Quarterback. If Rhoden could some how enter a time machine and go back to find and interview those players and present the character of those times he would have another volume maybe even more powerful.

Back to the present Bill Rhoden in his new book gives tremendous attention to James Harris who won 39 consecutive games as a high school Quarterback. He then went on to star at that position at Grambling College only to be ill treated as an NFL Quarterback and never given the same ability to prove himself as were the White Quarterbacks of his generation in the 1970s. Still Harris became the first African American in NFL history to open a regular season game as QB which he did with Buffalo and the first to make it to the Playoffs.

The full title of Rhoden’s book is

Third And A Mile

The Trials and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback

An Oral History

if its not the next book

you buy and read then

you have made a mistake

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