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Republican Sports Fans And The Affirmative Action They Cheer For
Over the years, the thing I've been vilified for the most is my pointing out, patiently, that there are long-lasting connections between ancestry and average intelligence—and that these matter for a broad range of issues, including, of course, immigration. (Here are my 2007Frequently Asked Questions lists about IQ andrace.)
It's not hard to understand why most Democrats are so angry and unreasonable about this. It suggests that that America's post 1965 immigration disaster, which they constantly gloat about because of what they think will be its short-term political effects, will in fact prove profoundly negative for America.
But why do so many Republicans echo Democrats?
An important aspect that has garnered almost no attention, even from me: a conflict of interest to which Republicans are especially prime. It involves sports—especially the most Republican of team spectator sports.
In a culture dominated by the left, sports are a major locus of conservative sentiment.
In 2010, a market research firm with the awkward name of National Media, Research, Planning & Placement released an elegant report on The Politics of Sports Fans. Using Nielsen Ratings data and interviews with 32,000 adults, NMRRP discovered that the audiences for most television genres skew toward the Democrats. (Presumably, the creators of most television shows lean even more to the left.)
The biggest exception: sports. Viewers of sports programming are more Republican than fans of any other genre.
Moreover, in terms of likelihood to vote, sports fans are neck and neck with documentaries fans, trailing only fans of national news.
So sports fans tend to be both Republican and civic-minded.
Thus, in the American cultural landscape, sports represent a rare bulwark of conservatism.
The NMRRP report went on to break down the politics of fans of different sports.
Not surprisingly, PGA golf watchers are both the most Republican and the most likely to vote. But golf is not a huge spectator sport.
The most popular TV sport: professional football. Since practically everybody watches it, the NFL's fans are fairly average. But they still skew somewhat more Republican and more civic-minded than the national norm.
The most Democratic sport: the National Basketball Association. The NBA is tied for second most Democratic with professional wrestling, trailing only the lesbian-oriented Women's National Basketball Association.
The NBA, which began in the Northeast of the country and then came to be dominated by blacks, has many black and Jewish fans. (The New York Knicks' most characteristic season ticket holders are movie directors Spike Lee and Woody Allen.) On the other hand, college basketball leans modestly Republican.
The most Republican among the major spectator sports: college football. It skews even more to the right than NASCAR. The MSM uses stock car racing as the stock example of a conservative sport because college football has fairly sophisticated fans, most being college graduates.
Finally, college football trails only the NFL and the Olympics in the size of its fan base. (And the Olympics are on TV only every four years).
Thus it's not unreasonable to view college football fans as representative of the best of conservative America. The hit 2009 movie that won Sandra Bullock her Oscar, The Blind Side, offered a rare sympathetic cinematic portrayal of this class.
One paradox: Republican Red States tend to give their hearts to taxpayer-supported public universities,while Democratic Blue States are more dominated by private colleges.
Consider consistently Republican Alabama. The public University of Alabama won the college football championship in the 2009 season and Auburn (a second huge state college) took the 2010 title. In contrast, college football is least popular in the blue Northeast, where private colleges are concentrated.
But, there is a more fundamental paradox in college football that bears on the widespread desire among Republicans to have to thing never think about the race-IQ question again.
Europeans are always baffled by why and how two of our five largest spectator sports are contested by college teams. In Britain, Oxford and Cambridge compete mostly at rowing, which is mainly an excuse for alumni to wear silly hats. On the Continent, colleges and spectator sports barely mix at all.
Europeans ask: Is there really a strong positive correlation between scholarship and athleticism? Europeans have a lot of experience with soccer stars, and while many futbolers are excellent disco dancers, and some are snazzy dressers, nobody has ever noticed that soccer players are, on average, particularly scholarly.
And, considering the various racial gaps in average athleticism and intelligence, Europeans have to wonder, wouldn't the correlation in America between intelligence and athleticism tend to be, well, negative?
Consider last year's Heisman Trophy winner: Cam Newton, the giant (6'6", 248 lbs.) black quarterback who led Auburn to the national title. (Here's video of his epic 49-yard touchdown run against LSU that made him the favorite for the Heisman.)
It's often been said that Cam Newton was born to play college football. (Though he was the #1 choice in the NFL draft, his unique skill set might not work out quite as well in the NFL, where running quarterbacks are rarer than in college).
However, I've never heard anybody say Cam Newton was born to be a college student. He certainly hasn't displayed much interest in the life of the mind. He began his academic career at the University of Florida, but left after being caught stealing another student's laptop computer. He spent a year at a junior college (here's some amusing man-among-boys footage of his JuCo season), one year at Auburn, and then on to the NFL.
It's widely believed that after his exile to junior college, Newton's father auctioned him off to the highest bidding college. I can't really blame the Newtons for trying to pocket some of the vast sums Cam's football playing generated.
Auburn and Alabama are in the strongest college football league in the country—the Southeastern Conference, in the heart of the Red State South. The SEC has won the last five national titles.
One reason: a lot of fast and strong blacks grow up in the South. Also, the SEC tends to allow its coaches a little more ethical leeway in recruiting. In an article for ESPN on disputes over the merits of such esoteric SEC football program practices as "oversigning" and "grayshirting", Chris Low reported (May 26, 2011) that SEC coaches justify promising more scholarships than they are allowed by the NCAA because:
"It's also different recruiting in a lot of the SEC states than it is in other parts of the country in that coaches are dealing with a larger pool of at-risk students academically. Granted, it's not politically correct to say that, and coaches are hesitant to say it publicly. But just about all of them deal with it in the SEC, and often it's a guessing game down to the last minute about whether a handful of players in each class are going to qualify academically."
Consider all this from the point of view of Republican college football fans—typically alumni of state flagship universities.
Conservatives tend to be loyalists. They want their old alma mater to thrive in the USN&WR rankings, which mostly require higher average SAT scores.
And, as loyalists, they also want their old school to win on the football field. And winning in college football and basketball is in large part about lowering entrance requirements.
The essential question is: How much affirmative action should your favorite college offer to football players—in terms of test scores, grades, recruiting ethics violations, and overlooked felonies?
That's a very interesting question. But it's not one that a rabid college football fan is happy to dwell upon. The answers tend to be pretty depressing.
For example, the most storied name in college football, Notre Dame of "Win one for the Gipper" and "Four Horsemen" fame, has used its football popularity to make itself into a rigorous academic university, with some of the highest SAT scores in the country. The college's promotional video features many students talking about how tough their academic load is an unusual recruiting tactic these days.
This football-enabled rise in rigor has not, however, been an unmixed good for football recruiting. Notre Dame last won the national championship in football in 1988, when coach Lou Holtz talked the administration into letting its academic standards slide. Since then, Notre Dame has held its football team to higher standards than the typical powerhouse. Said one ND insider regarding the quarterback of the 1988 team, who scored 690 out of 1600 on the SAT: "If Tony Rice's transcript and SAT scores were brought into the admissions office today, they would be set on fire".
By 1995, though, Notre Dame's criteria turned down Holtz's prize recruit, wide receiver Randy Moss. He went on to one of the most devastating NFL careers ever. And Notre Dame hasn't really been a national title contender since.
Can a college win it all without trashing its academic standards?
In college basketball, highbrow Duke has followed a strategy of recruiting teams that at least look like college students. (This doesn't mean that Duke puts scholar out on the hardwood—Tom Wolfe's novel I Am Charlotte Simmons gives a detailed depiction of the basketball team at "Dupont U".) While most other college basketball coaches chase black inner city players, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski tends to recruit whites (Christian Laettner, J.J. Reddick), mixed race athletes (Shane Battier), and upper crust blacks (Grant Hill, whose parents are Yale and Wellesley grads).
Coach K expects the players to whom he gives scholarships to stick around for four years. This means that Duke gets fewer superstar black players, who assume their college careers will consist of the mandatory single year ("one-and-done") before they move on to the NBA.
That level of experience and team play helped Duke win its fourth national title in 2010. Interestingly, these strategies have helped make Duke the most hated team in college basketball. All across the country, white basketball fans despise Duke for winning with teams that are whiter than the norm. The typical contemporary fan wants victory to go not to the best team, but to the teams that recruit the best athletes. The average ESPN-watcher feels Duke is not playing by the rules of modern college basketball—that Coach K is making a mockery of how the game is supposed to be played.
In college football, Stanford appears to be following the Duke basketball strategy. Stanford has gone 21-5 over the last two seasons with teams led by white stars: running back Toby Gerhart (the Heisman runner-up in 2009); quarterback Andrew Luck (Heisman runner-up in 2010); and fullback-linebacker-premed Owen Marecic (the first college player to start on both offense and defense in decades).
So far, not many fans have noticed what Stanford has been up to. So less hatred has been directed its way. But can you consistently win in football the way Duke wins in basketball? In his book about Notre Dame football, Return to Glory, Alan H. Grant says the odds are against you:
"To field a good hoops team, you need just two or three excellent players. Schools like Duke, and Stanford for that matter, can dominate on the hardwood without visibly compromising their academic integrity. But football demands more than two or three bodies. It demands at least 50 guys who can compete with anyone in the country. And with 117 schools on the Division I-A level, all vying for those same players, it's just a fact that you can't routinely sign enough guys to fill your team withoutsacrificing some of your academic standards."
That's the harsh reality of winning at college football that most fans don't want to think about.
For example, in 2004, former Heisman trophy winner Paul Hornung, then a Notre Dame radio announcer, frustrated after a Fighting Irish loss to speedy Miami, lamented,
"We can't stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we've got to get the black athletes. We must get the black athletes if we're going to compete."
John Steigerwald in the Valley News Dispatch explained what Hornung was complaining about:
"The average SAT score of an incoming Notre Dame freshman is 1,360. The average SAT score for black high school students in 2003 was 857. The average SAT score for a white high school student in 2003 was 1,026."
Actually, those scores are for college-bound seniors. For all seniors, the averages would be lower if everybody took the test ... not to mention all the high school dropouts, who would drive the averages down even lower.
"The average SAT score for Notre Dame football players in 1997 (I couldn't find results from more recent years) was 899. So, Notre Dame has had lower standards for all football players for quite a while…. Notre Dame ranked 12th on that list of SAT scores. The University of Miami ranked 80th with an average SAT score of 803."
You'll note that the well-informed Mr. Steigerwald was writing for theValley News Dispatch. In contrast, the New York Times sportswriters who were so outraged over Hornung's comments were writing for theNew York Times.
A couple of years later, the remarkably successful football coach at the Air Force Academy, Fisher DeBerry, was shoved into retirement after getting in trouble for saying that blacks "run very, very well" which made it hard for his mostly white team of future pilots to compete with TCU.
Red State Republicans don't want to know about the choices that their favorite colleges have to make to win at football. They don't want to be reminded of the race-IQ link.
Sports fandom, academic elitism, and Political Correctness are three of the three strongest urges in 21st Century American life.
Because the first two are contradictions, the third has won even—maybe especially—among Republican college football fans.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]