Donovan McNabb is a black quarterback.
I blame Rush Limbaugh for telling him, because it's ruined everything. Just like when somebody told Steve Martin that he wasn't black in that movie, it got into Don's head and he's become a jerk.
Now, I admit I already knew Donovan was a black quarterback, and I figure Donovan suspected it, too. But I'm a born-and-bred Philadelphia Eagles fan, so he was just our quarterback, and the best one we'd had since Randall Cunningham ten years before. (Who was also black.)
But Rush Limbaugh had to go and open his trap. All his success notwithstanding, Limbaugh had just fulfilled the secret lifelong dream that many guys have, becoming a sports commentator, and he got himself hired by ESPN. Doing what got him there in the first place, being Rush, instead of saying something bland he called it like he saw it:
"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go...I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well."
Well, he was sort of right about the quarterbacking, although he didn't take into account the Eagles' pathetically slow, uncrafty, and hamhanded receivers and substandard blocking by his offensive line.
But I really agreed with the part about the press, and found it uncontroversial: all things being equal, like in a game I didn't care who won, I always cheered for the black quarterback, if there was one.
Racism and stereotyping in American football always said that blacks weren't intelligent enough to make the quick calculations needed to outsmart a deceiving defense. The discrimination started at the college level, which fed the professional NFL. The growth in the number of black NFL quarterbacks was slow indeed.
So, I meself plead damn guilty to social concern. I was always desirous of seeing a black quarterback do well, to put that racialist canard to bed once and for all. Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam, Vince Evans, James Harris. Finally, Doug Williams ended up breaking all the Super Bowl passing records leading a crushing victory for the Washington Redskins.
When Limbaugh let the cat out out of the bag, Donovan McNabb was being touted in the press as one of the very best quarterbacks in football, but it wasn't quite true. He was close, and the reason he was close was because he could run away from anyone trying to tackle him.
Now I've always loved running quarterbacks: it seemed to make more sense and was incredibly more stylish to run away and gain yards then sit in the pocket and get utterly smeared for a loss. I liked the white guys who did it, Greg Landry, Steve Young. Many of the black guys could do it. Some say there's a genetic component to running well because Olympic running champions have been disproportionately black. But maybe it's a cultural thing, that to be authentically black you have to be able to run, just like to be authentically white you have to be able to play "Stairway to Heaven" on guitar.
Although charitably an OK passer, Donovan McNabb's extra edge was that he could run and run astonishingly well. But somehow it got into his head that running made him a "black quarterback." Damn you, Limbaugh, damn you. He stopped running. Donovan wanted to be "a quarterback," and turned his back on his best gift.
Even a writer at a black Philadelphia newspaper noticed. Black pride is fine, Donovan, but winning football games is where it's at.
Later, an amazingly troubled yet sublimely gifted receiver named Terrell Owens joined the Eagles, and made Donovan look statistically splendid as a passer for awhile. But Owens, as toxic people do, went on to destroy everything around him, the team, and McNabb, who'd worked to bring him aboard. Today, Donovan, with nowhere else to turn, is echoing his father's previous wack comments, calling Owens' criticism of his play "black-on-black crime."
Whooo. (taking a breath)
Donovan McNabb was, and despite all this, remains a hero of mine, even though he's acting like a jerk just now. Rabid Philly fans, who once pelted Santa Claus with snowballs, organized a protest when he was first drafted. (The guy they wanted instead turned out to be a terminal pothead.) McNabb put up with all the criticism while he took the team through the growing pains of going from sucky to perennial Super Bowl contenders. He played through a score of injuries that would have sent any lesser man to the bench with no questions asked. He put up with everything, with good cheer, even temper and generosity of spirit. Now his head has exploded. Every man has his limit.
Dammit, Rush, why did you have to go and tell Donovan he's black? Before that, he was just an NFL quarterback, a pretty good one at that, and a helluva guy besides.