One reason I like old farts is because, unlike the craven young, every now and then they just can't stop themselves from blurting out the truth. My wife calls it "Elderly Tourette's Syndrome."
Awhile back, Paul Hornung, who won the 1956 Heisman trophy as college football's best player at Notre Dame, lost his radio announcer job for suggesting that Notre Dame had to lower its admissions requirements for blacks. (The black quarterback of ND's last national championship team in 1988, Tony Rice, scored a 690 on the SAT: "If Tony Rice’s transcript and SAT scores were brought into the admissions office today, they would be set on fire.")
Outside of sports, what Hornung said would make you a much lauded liberal supporter of affirmative action, but Hornung was crucified by sportswriters for saying it because he was thought to be implying two pieces of crimethink:
- blacks are faster on average
- blacks have lower SATs and GPAs
Obviously, both are true, but that was his fatal mistake. Sportswriters believe that what you don't say is more important than what you do say. The true test of a respectable sportswriter is his adamantine ability to not mention the elephant in the living room -- racial differences in sports skills -- and to persecute anyone who does let slip an acknowledgment of reality.
Now, we have another brouhaha, which I earlier labeled inane-to-the-point-of-being-insane. Just now, an Air Force officer sent me this official email he just received about the high crimes of the 67-year-old Air Force Academy football coach, who dared to suggest that black players tend to run faster than players of other ancestries.
From: Funkhouser Ryan O Jr Maj USAFA/DSE
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2005 5:06 PM
Subject: Results of Coach DeBerry Press Conference
Sent on behalf of the Vice Superintendent, Brig Gen Irv Halter
During his weekly news conference Tuesday, Falcon Football Head Coach Fisher DeBerry made some inappropriate comments about recruiting minority athletes. They were inappropriate because they could be construed by some as stereotyping a particular racial group. The Academy will not tolerate inappropriate remarks by its staff, faculty, cadets or contractors. Coach DeBerry was officially reprimanded by his supervisor, Dr Mueh, and the Academy Superintendent.
Coach DeBerry released a public statement today:
“Today, it is my desire to make a public apology for remarks I made recently about minority recruitment. I realize that the things I said were hurtful to many people and I want everyone to understand that I never intended to offend anyone. Gazette columnist Milo Bryant was right today when he said that I should have never said what I did. I have made a mistake and I ask for everyone's forgiveness. I regret these statements and I sincerely hope they will not reflect negatively towards the Academy or our coaches and players. I thank the administration for the opportunity to make this apology.”
Coach DeBerry has been a successful coach and mentor to countless cadets for more than 25 years, and the Academy will continue to fully support him as our head football coach.
Of course, America's sportswriters, those true-blue defenders of liberty, piled on immediately:
Pat Forde, ESPN: DeBerry should retire before his legacy slips:
Then, after losing to TCU Saturday to drop to 3-5, DeBerry explained that the Horned Frogs' defensive success is attributable to the fact that it starts 11 African-Americans.
"… Afro-American kids can run very, very well," DeBerry said. "That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me they run extremely well."
Again, not ideal timing. On Monday, the academy welcomed a new superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Regni, who pledged a zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination. On Tuesday, DeBerry piped up about TCU's African-American players, stopping just short of saying, "We need us some more of those black fellers."
I'm not saying that Fisher DeBerry discriminates. I went to high school on the base of the Air Force Academy, and I graduated a few years ahead of Fisher's son, Joe (who was a fine baseball player). I don't know anyone in my hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo., who doesn't think highly of DeBerry.
So it's not like DeBerry was inventing something here -- or even saying something many coaches don't talk about in private. But given the decades of wrongly stereotyping black athletes as physically superior and mentally inferior -- run fast, think slow -- the coach was walking into a minefield. He was creeping toward Jimmy "The Greek" territory -- and every coach knows that you don't go there. Certainly not without great care.
I'm all for a more open dialog about race in America, and especially in sports. But sweeping generalizations about fast black players are going to get a coach in trouble.
Combine DeBerry's two tone-deaf episodes and you have the unsettling feel of a coach who is losing his way. Combine that feel with the on-field results -- Air Force has lost 14 of its last 22 games and could have its first back-to-back losing seasons since 1980-81 -- and you have concerns about the state of the program.
For two decades, few coaches in college football have done better than Fisher DeBerry. In a no-win situation, he won routinely.
DeBerry's career record is 164-99-1. He's had just three losing seasons in 21 years -- the third-longest tenure in the game, behind only Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. He's won at least eight games in 11 different seasons. He's dominated the Commander In Chief competition against Army and Navy. His option offense has been perfectly tailored to the Falcons' strengths -- discipline and intelligent decision making -- and compensates for their physical shortcomings.
Not ideal timing! Forde is saying that the heavily white Air Force Falcons have, compared to blacker teams, better discipline and more intelligent decision making, which compensates for their physical shortcomings.
I'm all for a more open dialog about race in America, and especially in sports. But sweeping generalizations about smart, disciplined, slow white white players are going to get a sportswriter in trouble.
Here's Forde's email in case you want to praise him for his courageous defense of free speech.
Another brave, calls 'em as he sees 'em sports columnist: