Donovan’s Beef (Part Three)

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: October 6, 2007

NOTE: Michael-Louis Ingram’s look at Donovan McNabb and the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL concludes. Today: Part Three — Black and White.

Donovan McNabb PHILADELPHIA — As Donovan McNabb and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles get to briefly heal their battered bodies during the bye week, I’m reminded of the quote, “11:00 Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America .”

In spite of the fact this was first said before the monumental Brown v. Brown v. Board of Education decision during those early days of segregation, the hypocrisy of Christian values — encapsulated in the congregations of churches — has never been more clearly defined.

On the playing field, that statement could’ve been amended to imply, “1:00 in the afternoon (Eastern Standard or whatever applicable time zone) was the most segregated hour — under center.”

Now before the dismissals start, pick up on this: Are there Black quarterbacks in the league? Sure. Of the ones that start: Steve McNair, Vince Young, David Garrard, Daunte Culpepper, Tarvaris Jackson, Jason Campbell and McNabb, none of them got there as part of fulfilling some imposed EEOC obligation to the government.

That said, to think the same racial undertones permeating throughout society wouldn’t exist on the gridiron would be as naive as believing most work areas are free of it as well.

In spite of the great perks and big salaries, you gotta remember these cats are working on Sunday. And their “workspace” is subject to the same influences as everyone else’s 9-to-5.

Which means recognizing exemplary work by employees can get skewed. Peyton Manning may have a street named after him at his college field in Tennessee, but it was his Black teammate, Tee Martin, that led the Volunteers to their coveted college championship. So who’s the better leader?

By the way, if you don’t think college athletes are employees for their respective schools, think again. But that’s another subject for another time.

As asinine as the “How long have you been a Black quarterback?” question was, the question they never will ask is “How long haven’t you been a Black quarterback?” You’d be surprised at the number of players that could answer, “Since I got to the pros.”

And for most of them, the desire to play and earn a good living and feed their families may suppress the insult tossed in front of them by small-minded owners who can’t see any further than their wallet.

I don’t have to ask the New York Jets Brad Smith or Seattle’s Seneca Wallace whether they’d prefer playing the position they play best as opposed to some bastardized factor-back. Actually, I would ask them, but they’re too busy doin’ that “little extra” on the field.

Ironically, it is the Southern-based franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars, where upper management clearly assessed their status at the most important position because they had a man, James “Shack” Harris, who played the position and no doubt aided in weighing the merits of those competing for the top slot.

So the release of Byron Leftwich was warranted and didn’t become a big deal.

The real deal behind Donovan’s very justified beef is that McNabb can see the end of his career, and he knows what he has to show for it won’t be fairly assessed when he does leave.

For every great thing done on the field, some asshole who has likely never played a down of football in his life will enter the four concerned room of politics and quote some stupid statistic and demean his accomplishments.

Oh — and they’ll probably say, “Well he did some things well, but he could have done a little extra.”

Those same people would never say, “Dan Fouts was good, but..”

You have to also consider the ones charged with telling the tales of Sunday’s heroes. Until the lions get to eat all the muthafuckas involved, the tale of the hunt will always be told by the hunter.

The black and white venom coming from bully pulpits of jealous journalists with selective memories won’t help, either. And all the smiling and graciousness in front of the media hordes won’t mean a thing.

While McNabb has clearly stated his point that Black quarterbacks have to “Do a little extra,” what he’s too classy to say is the Eagles have used him up.

For years, his acumen at football and talent carried the franchise, with very little help; while the Iggles made big money.

But now, the poundings and injuries are further compounded by the flaws in the team’s coaching staff and front office in finding complimentary talent to assist McNabb.

No matter how hard he works, he can see the Iggles will get never remotely close to a Super Bowl again as long as the head coach and front office personnel remain in place.

Which muddies this black and white thang into what it really is — a green thang.

Because football has become the most popular sport, the money made from it has allowed certain franchises to coast; and dispense more energy in balancing their salary caps than addressing the balance of power in their conference.

For every Dallas, New England, San Francisco, Indianapolis or Pittsburgh who work diligently to make a Super Bowl run every year (sometimes mortgaging futures to do so) you have franchises like Philadelphia that know no matter how good or bad their on-field product is, people will still line up to buy it.

So when Donovan leaves because he wants that Super Bowl ring, don’t be surprised; because he sees this too.

But that won’t stop him from trying to do his “little extra,” his competitive fire and his home training won’t allow him to do anything less.

After all, it is a Black thing — and sadly, we do understand.