December 3, 2005

Why have basketball and football diverged?

Over the last decade or so, scoring in basketball has dropped, with brutal scores like the 69-65 in the deciding game of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals becoming common. Field goal and free throw percentages have fallen. This collapse of offense, while defense remains strong, seems to be related to the dominance of the hip-hop ethos in the basketball world, with its Me First attitude and its animus against all forms of "acting white," such as practicing your shooting by yourself rather than scrimmaging with others so you can show off more.

In contrast, offense in football has ascended to seldom-matched heights. For example, in big games in college ball today, #2 ranked Texas scored 70 points against Colorado and #1 USC tallied 66 against UCLA. USC running backs Reggie Bush, with 260 yards (228 of them in a first half that was as spectacular as any I've ever seen), and Lendale White, with 161, combined to carry the ball 40 times for 421 yards against a team that came in 9-1. USC may have more stars at the the skill positions than any college team ever and an overwhelming offensive line.

So, what's going on? Are defenses getting worse? Or are offenses just so much better? Why is basketball debilitated by hip-hop but football isn't?

Is there just not much practicing by yourself possible in football? The most obvious chances to practice by yourself are in kicking and punting, positions that are completely dominated by whites.

A reader sent me an article recently about all black high school teams in Washington D.C., like Dunbar H.S., who can't kick extra points to save their lives:

The teams combined for 11 touchdowns, but just one kicked extra point that day. Woodson also had a 3-yard punt and several horrendous kickoffs, including one in the fourth quarter that actually went backward. A Dunbar player eventually dove on the loose ball as it sat three yards behind its starting point. The referees took several seconds before deciding that a backward boot should be treated just like a forward one and awarding Dunbar the ball where it died.

Horrific kicking has long been a staple of D.C. high-school football (“Black Men Can’t Kick?” 11/16/2001). Jefferies, who over the years has proved he can turn kids into stars at every position except placekicker, says he’s always figured cultural or racial factors prevent his players from warming to the position.

“Everybody here wants to be the running back or the quarterback or the linebacker,” he says. “Very few kids want to be kickers or punters. And, well, soccer’s not big in D.C., not with African-American kids.” (Dunbar and Woodson fielded all-black squads. Neither school has a boys varsity-soccer program.)

In contrast, my old high school has had a dynasty of kickers going back to the 1990s, when our kicker made all 11 field goal attempts in a four playoff game march to the championship, four of them over 50 yards, highlighted by a game-winning last-second 58-yarder in the rain.

This is just another example of how ethnic groups in a country don't automatically assimilate to become more like each other. We're seeing a lot of examples of how blacks are deciding to become blacker all the time. You probably never even noticed that becoming a good placekicker is "acting white," but apparently most black youths understand that and they are determined to "keep it real" by being atrocious kickers.

By the way, the typical problem with picking the winner of the Heisman Trophy for college's best player is that players can rack up gigantic statistics if they are in the right spot at the right time, playing in an offensive system that rivals can't figure out how to stop. For example, Andre Ware of Houston won the 1989 Heisman for passing for 4,699 yards and 46 TDs in 11 games, but was a famous bust in the NFL and Canada. Jason White won two years ago at Oklahoma, but couldn't catch on in the NFL.

Obviously, the reasons Reggie Bush averaged an amazing 9 yards per carry this season include that's he's running behind an immense offensive line, that's he's spelled frequently by Lendale White who might have been an All-American if was a starter, and defenses have to watch out for USC's passing attack spearheaded by last year's Heisman winner Matt Leinart.

But If Reggie was playing for Rice U. instead of Tailback U., he still probably would have averaged 7 yards per carry. Has there been a more exciting open field runner since Barry Sanders?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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