Outmanned, But Never Outgunned (Part 1)

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: December 27, 2007

David Garrard

David Garrard

PHILADELPHIA — In spite of performance – enhancing drugs, plantation mentalities and insipid innuendoes, the “short-dick men driving Hummers” mindset has not escaped the muddied medulla oblongata of many National Football League front offices.

The abject refusal of many teams to ignore the obvious talent of Black men to lead at the most important position is compounded by the collective criticism of mainstream media in the selective language utilized by them.

It almost makes me not want to hear the word “athlete” tossed around by some talking head because most have no fucking clue of what it takes to play the position; moreover cope with the mental requirements for succeeding at quarterback.

I felt the same way about how “articulate” was used as a code phrase to describe a Black person who could properly identify subject and predicate in a sentence; but of course, not in a truly flattering way.

And on the heels of Michael Vick’s incarceration and dehumanization, the Black quarterback is under more pressure than that produced by a dozen Deacon Joneses and a ream of Ray Nitschkes.

Neither Dick Butkus or Lawrence Taylor at their height of gridiron bloodlust and desire for on-field mayhem can compare to the tidal wave of unspoken support to recycle the game’s most important position to “Big Bill Broonzy” status (kids, ask any ‘Old Head’ about that one).

Although there are starting Black quarterbacks in the League, and Black Super Bowl quarterbacks in the League, too many other Black quarterbacks are refused the opportunity because the League simply can’t mentally handle it.

As the teams come down the stretch towards the playoffs, only one Black first-string field general ( Jacksonville’s David Garrard) two second-stringers (former starter Charlie Batch in Pittsburgh and Quinn Gray in Jacksonville) and a potential playoff starter in Tennessee’s Vince Young represent the AFC.

In the NFC, Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who has been the subject of immense undue criticism and scrutiny while having started only 13 professional games, could be the lone Black starter with Washington’s Jason Campbell being sidelined with injury. The New York Giants have former starter Anthony Wright, but is listed as a third-stringer.

Seattle’s Seneca Wallace, who has started some games due to injuries, is listed as a second-stringer, but has been demoted to the “Slash” duties that almost seem demeaning given the eventual failure of Kordell Stewart, whose ego likely crumbled faster than his body given the rise and fall of his career.

Now having said all this, is the position subject to the most critique? Of course it is. Thick skin has to be a prerequisite for the position; but that doesn’t mean the Black men playing aren’t aware their asses are scrutinized for booty pimples with greater intensity than their white compatriots.

That there was as much fuss made about the playoff match-up of Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb a couple of years only infuriates me more because it was reported as if it was some sort of miracle that it happened.

Let’s remember this: the boatful of muthafuckas who endorsed and allowed the “gentleman’s agreement” to be in effect during the mid 1930s – 1940s — keeping African-Americans off their gridirons — left their stamp on the game with the same poison Major League Baseball had done years prior.

That it only lasted 11 years doesn’t change the fact they took their cue from the caretakers of America’s Pastime; which makes them as spineless as and as hypocritical as those assholes who would look at the color of a man’s skin and immediately attempt to devalue him.

Even as civilization progressed, this bullshit never stopped. Countless numbers of Black men who could play quarterback were shuttled off to play different positions.

For some it wasn’t that big a deal, just playing meant being able to take care of loved ones. But as a great a cornerback as Ken “Snake” Riley was during his stellar career in the pros, wouldn’t it have been nice to have this Rattler shaking and rolling as the starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals?

Now I can hear it already – there are a limited number of positions. True that – but there’s also something called “best man plays.” And if the best man at the position is a white player, no problem.

I rooted for my guys Christian Adrian (“Sonny”) Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, and Jaws Jaworski; and suffered through King Hill, Pete Liske, Jack Concannon, Norm Snead and other nameless Eagle quarterbacks until Randall Cunningham came and Buddy Ryan made me a believer again.

Because Ryan believed in “best man plays” — and it didn’t matter at what position, what school you came from, or what you had on your resume. It was about ballin’ — and you either could or you couldn’t.

Because if all the players, Black and White, were never in a position to compete for the spot, with the best man emerging on top, then it’s not about winning anymore — and that should infuriate everyone.

Through the years, good men — Black men — suffered. For every Brian Mitchell or Tony Dungy (another story all by himself!) you have an Eldridge Dickey or a Joe Gilliam who caved in and was destroyed internally by the sensory bombardment of maliciousness by short-sighted fans on the outside and small-minded management on the inside.

What must Marlin Briscoe have been thinking when he’s looking at a depth chart that didn’t have his name on it at the position he was not only meant to play, but proved he could — and play it well?

Do you truly believe that if Damenyune Craig were White and had thrown for over 600 yards in a game he wouldn’t be on someone’s roster today?

And what must Tony Robinson be thinking every time TNT or some other cable channel shows “The Replacements” and seeing Keanu Reeves return from the muthafuckin’ Matrix to play a Black quarterback? Talk about central fucking casting!

That men like Chuck Ealey, who would go on to exemplify the concept of “role model” these hypocritical bastards who run the League so blatantly trumpet, would be shunned because he had the gumption to tell the league, “Quarterback is what I do best. I went 53-0 throughout my entire amateur career — you can even look it up — and yet you want me to come in and play defensive back. Thank you — but no thank you.”

Men who myself and some of my colleagues have talked about this year: Condredge Holloway, Roy DeWalt, Marcus Crandall, Damon Allen, Tracy Ham, Danny Barrett, Kerry Joseph (this year’s Grey Cup Champion quarterback who has run for over 1000 yards in a season and played fucking defensive back for four years in Seattle), J.C. Watts, Casey Printers, Michael Bishop, Marcus Brady, Kevin Glenn, Joe “747″ Adams, Henry Burris, Warren Moon (with a fistful of Grey Cup rings) and Ealey, who went north to be able to play they game they love at the position they knew they could play — and win.

Insulting? You Damn Skippy it’s insulting. But until a league with over 65% representation of Black men playing in it come to grips with the reality of “best man playing” at the position that matters most, most fans will continue to get the same diluted, polluted and convoluted product that the League wishes to offer.

Next time: “Grit Ain’t Groceries.”