Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Race Cards should be played with caution

Donvan McNabb finally opened up on his feelings regarding the Terrell Owens saga. Unfortunately, Donovan seems to have kept quiet on the subject too long and opted to express himself in an unflattering manner.

I respect Donovan McNabb. He's endured the hostile wrath of Eagles fans who wanted to see their team draft Ricky Williams. McNabb came to Philadelphia having to overcome an entire fan base that wanted to see him fail for no other reason than to vindicate the second guessing that occurred when the Eagles drafted McNabb with their first round pick in 1999.

Since then McNabb has been a class act. He kept his mouth shut and played hard, eventually winning the hearts of those cruel Eagles fans. When Rush Limbaugh took shots at him, McNabb took the high road and kept on playing without offering much of an opinion on the subject. Why argue with idiots? Even when things started to disintegrate shortly after the Eagles lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots, Mcnabb kept quiet and offered no insight into how he felt about T.O.

Now that T.O. is all but out of Philadelphia forever, McNabb has finally offered some perspective. In a recent interview he compared T.O.'s antics to black on black crime. Donovan said he was particular hurt by T.O.'s comments that Brett Favre would be a better fit for the Eagles. Apparently McNabb inferred a racial slur in this assessment because Owens chose to identify Brett Favre over the other black quarterbacks in the league.

I don't begrudge McNabb being frustrated. I also believe that McNabb and T.O. might have shared some private thoughts on Brett Favre and Owens' opted to use the inside information to hurt McNabb. In MY opinion, Brett Favre has been given a much longer leash because he is white. I believe that if Brett Favre were black, coaches and fans would be a lot less tolerant of his reckless style of play. I suspect that McNabb shares a similar opinion and expressed that opinion to Owens.

It doesn't really matter. What matters is the fact that T.O. went out of his way to publicly humiliate his teammate and quarterback. McNabb has a right to be upset and if he feels that race is a factor in those comments he is certainly entitled to that interpretation. Perception is reality.

unfortunately McNabb's timing is off. The T.O. situation is finished. The Eagles will trade Owens to another team or simply cut him at the last possible minute. It's obvious that Owens is not the right fit for Philadelphia. McNabb could have just as easily said good riddance to bad rubbish and moved on. Instead he decided to express his feelings and in doing so he finally played the race card.

It was a bad play. The time to lay that card on the table was when Rush Limbaugh accused McNabb of getting a free pass from a liberal sports media who wanted to have a black quarterback excel. Limbaugh claimed that his comments weren't racially motivated but they were. He implied that there weren't any successful black quarterbacks so the media was sensationalizing the performance of one charismatic player to fulfill that need. It was bull, but Rush was playing to his crowd of fat angry white people who aren't smart enough to form their own opinions. McNabb dismissed the affair as no big deal when in reality it was a very big deal indeed. Rush is a racist. McNabb even took a shot from the NAACP when a local organization boss, Jerry Mondesire, opted to accuse McNabb of selling out by trying to be a pocket passer. Again, another great time to fight back. Mondesire had no business using his post in the NAACP as a platform from which to take a shot at a professional athlete who has been nothing but a positive role model for blacks and whites alike. Mondesire seemed particularly upset that McNabb is a spokesman for Campbell's. Apparently nothing says Uncle Tom quite like a bowl of Chunky Soup.

Owens' comments don't have obvious racial implications. McNabb seems to be crying wolf. That's why I think that there's more than meets the eye to this Brett Favre reference. But since we don't have the whole story, we can't draw any conclusions and it's McNabb who looks like the moron.

Sadly, this misplay of the race card happens too often in sports. Athletes are insecure creatures. Nothing exemplifies this better than the antics of Terrell Owens, who needs reassurance through compensation as well as adulation. Black athletes sometimes feel that criticism, especially that from the predominantly white media/fanbase, is racially motivated. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it is not. For most people sports transcends race.

Barry Bonds plays the race card. The man accused the press of trying to tear him down when his mistress came out and said she saw him take steroids. It's not a conspiracy, Barry, whitey didn't make you cheat on your wife. You did that. Your mistress saw you taking steroids, got mad at you and told the press. They had to run the story. Barry thinks that the world hates him because he's a black man who is threatening to break all the records. That's not true. The world hates Barry Bonds because he's an insufferable ass. The fact that he's black is unfortunate because it gives him an out.

Shortly after becoming the highest paid athlete in the history of professional sports, Jose Canseco complained that he was treated unfairly by fans, coaches and the press because he happened to be Latino. That was untrue. He was vilified because he was an arrogant jerk who got paid too much money. His ethnicity had nothing to do with the animosity he perceived. If you want proof of that look for the footage of a routine fly ball bouncing off his noggin for a home run in Cleveland back in 1993. God doesn't even like Canseco.

When people use the race card to deflect warranted criticism or to justify unacceptable behavior they weaken the suit. It makes it that much easier to doubt the sincerity of future claims of racial prejudice and even alienates those who are sympathetic to oft-affected minorities. It's the cry-wolf scenario. Pretty soon nobody listens.

McNabb's comments disturbed me because they didn't make any sense. He said it would have been different if Owens had compared him to Dante Culpepper or Byron Leftwich, but that Brett Favre was a slap in the face. Why? Favre is a future Hall of Famer while Leftwich might be heading for a career carrying a clipboard and Culpepper is good, but not in the same category as McNabb. Why is Favre such an insult? It made me wonder if McNabb has some racial issues himself or if he simply feels the same way I do about Favre and his erratic play. Since McNabb didn't elaborate on why, he leaves us to fill in the blank. Unfortunately that requires too much of a leap.

McNabb's got to stay consistent. If he doesn't want race to be the issue then he can't bring it up. He avoided the discussion when Mondesire and Limbaugh came after him and he didn't take T.O.'s bate when Owens took shots at him through the press. He took the high road. Admirable. But if that's the path you choose to take you need to stay on it.

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