Rush Was Right, Of Course. But Why?
Rush Limbaugh has resigned from his ESPN football
pregame gig for telling the truth about the media
overrating Philadelphia Eagles quarterback
is what Limbaugh
said about McNabb:
"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. They`re interested in
black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think
there`s a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a
lot of credit for the performance of this team that he
really didn`t deserve. The defense carried this team."
these are some of the ritual expressions of horror.
- Democratic Presidential candidate General Wesley
Clark, showing his respect for free discussion of
ideas: "Mr. Limbaugh
should be fired immediately."
- Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean,
governor of the
whitest state in the union: "There
is no legitimate place in sports broadcasting for voices
that seek to discredit the achievement of athletes on
the basis of race."
immediately dusted off their pitchforks and torches.
Nobody is more hysterical about racial differences than
the typical sportswriter—precisely because racial
differences are so blatantly obvious in sports.
fortunately, the internet is now here to correct Big
Media. Two webzine columnists have already done
excellent jobs of explaining that Rush was simply right:
Karen De Coster on the paleolibertarian
Allen Barra on the neoliberal Slate.com.
McNabb, who a year ago
most lucrative contract in the history of football
up to that point, is a tremendous athlete. But he`s not
yet been more than a decent quarterback.
However, having written
countless articles denouncing the NFL`s black
quarterback lack as being the result of irrational
racism, Big Media now has a vested interest in hyping
the new generation of black quarterbacks to prove they
were right all along.
I`d add that there`s
another reason the media has overrated McNabb: McNabb
has been a bit more exciting than he has been effective.
He`s certainly been
adequate. But you could easily get the impression from
the TV sports wrap-up shows that he`s the second coming
That`s because, as with
many black quarterbacks, McNabb`s best plays, the ones
that are shown over and over again, are so much more
spectacular than his average plays.
Personally, I`ve long wanted more black quarterbacks in
the NFL. Living in Southern California, I don`t have a
team to root for. So I just watch the wrap-up shows to
see amazing plays. And black quarterbacks provide more of
them than whites, because they are generally faster and
contrast, most white quarterbacks just pass.
I was saddened when Atlanta Falcons quarterback,
Michael Vick, who might be the most amazing physical
talent ever to play in the NFL—a runner who makes even
McNabb look like poor Joe Namath after a half-dozen knee
operations—broke his leg in August.
thrill-seeking tastes, watching
Peyton Manning, an old-fashioned white quarterback,
efficiently dissect an opposing team (last Sunday: 20
completions in 25 attempts for 314 yards and
just isn`t as electrifying as watching McNabb or Vick
snake for fifty yards on a broken play.
then, I don`t care who wins.
were an Eagles fan, however, I would do what they`ve
been doing this year: booing McNabb for being only
mediocre at consistently moving the Eagles down the
fun as it is to watch, running is a secondary talent for
an NFL quarterback.
Unfortunately, the current black quarterbacks generally
have less than spectacular passing accuracy, perhaps
because they get so banged up carrying the ball. McNabb,
for example, has never achieved either of the standard
season benchmarks: completing 60 percent of his passes,
or averaging seven yards` gain per passing attempt.
Why do black quarterbacks tend to be better runners
than white quarterbacks?
For the same reasons that blacks tend to be better runners
than whites in all sports. Perhaps the single most
self-evident fact about American spectator sports is
that blacks, on average, are
faster than whites. No human being not of West
African descent ever ran 100 meters in less than 10
seconds until this spring, when
Patrick Johnson, finally broke that barrier, 35
years after the first Sub-Saharan African. And Johnson
is an interesting combination of Australian Aborigine
Further, blacks tend to enjoy advantages in "real time"
responsiveness—hence black strengths in running with
footballs and basketballs and in jazz, rap, dance, trash
talking, preaching, and oratory.
As Thomas Sowell has
pointed out: "To be an outstanding basketball
player means to out-think opponents consistently in
these split-second decisions under stress."
Until about five years ago, black NFL quarterbacks were
actually about as common as blacks are in the general
population. But this was widely denounced in the press
as proof of white racism—because blacks are so much more
common in other football positions. For example, when I
last checked a few years ago, 59 of the 60 starting
cornerbacks were black.
Quarterbacks and cornerbacks, however, require radically
different skills. It`s simply wrong to expect equal
proportions of each race at both positions.
Why? Three reasons:
- Cornerbacks are defenders who guard pass receivers.
Speed, jumping ability and the ability to react
instantaneously are crucial talents. These are all
areas in which blacks tend to be strong.
But, in contrast, quarterbacks need arm strength and
throwing accuracy. And there`s no clear racial
difference in throwing ability. The closest analogy to
the quarterback is the baseball pitcher, whose primary
job is likewise to stand and throw. Many more
African-American big leaguers play the outfield, where
their speed is useful, than pitch, where it`s not.
- Lots of young black quarterbacks switch to other
positions as they grow up. Why? Basically because they
can switch. Many blacks who played quarterback
in grade school or high school—where the simplest
strategy for winning is often to put your best athlete
at quarterback and let him run with the ball—make it
to the NFL in other positions, where the competition
is less stiff. There are four times as many NFL
starting jobs for defensive backs as there are for
quarterbacks. There are three times as many for
contrast, most white quarterbacks are too slow to play
anything else in the NFL, except perhaps tight end. So
the handful who make it are survivors of a ferocious
nationwide competition in which first prize is, you
get to be an NFL quarterback—and second prize is, you
get to be an insurance salesman.
- The unspeakable: average racial
IQ differences. IQ is hardly the most important
factor in football. But it matters enough that the NFL
requires all college players with a chance of being
drafted to take a traditional IQ test—a twelve minute,
fifty question quiz that
Wonderlic Inc. has been selling since 1938. (You
can take a 15 question sample
version here.) Getting twenty questions right is
roughly equal to an IQ of 100. Each additional correct
answer gives you two more IQ points.
Football is a complex game with enormous playbooks that
players must digest. Like the modern
U.S. military, pro teams want players who learn
reasonably quickly (although most coaches don`t like
eggheads or wiseguys with smart mouths, either).
The average NFL player has an IQ of 98. That`s very good
for a group that`s majority black, because the average
black American scores around 85 and the average white
around 100. (The stereotype of the dumb college football
player is only true relative to the real college
students at fine flagship state universities like
Michigan, Texas, and Georgia.)
Paul D. Zimmerman,
Sports Illustrated`s renowned gridiron guru,
reported the following average IQ scores for certain
positions among top college players invited by the NFL
to the annual scouting combine:
Tight Ends: 104
Middle linebackers: 98
Wide receivers: 94
note, the mostly white positions are at the top of the
list and the mostly black positions are at the bottom.
But all the scores are fairly good.
Quarterbacks face the stiffest learning challenge. They
have to understand not just what they are supposed to do
on each play, but what everybody else is supposed to do.
Accordingly, as Bob Harris
wrote on SI.com:
"Teams want quarterbacks to score in the mid-20s
[around 110] and a score in the mid-teens [around
90] is generally acceptable for the other positions."
Let`s say that a team has a rule of thumb that it wants
to draft quarterbacks with three digit IQs. That`s
one-half of the white population, but only one-sixth of
the black population. Since there are about five times
more young white men than young black men, there are
about 15 times more whites than blacks with IQs of 100
Still, over the last five years, the number of black
quarterbacks has risen to about seven starters out of 32
teams. How come?
column, National Review Editor Rich Lowry
echoes the conventional wisdom: "There once was a
shortage of black quarterbacks in the NFL because of
racist stereotypes about their abilities."
Implication: the recent rise is because we`re all so
Elementary economics suggest this is dubious. Indeed,
back in 1996, when National Review was edited by
John O`Sullivan, I described in a cover story "How
Jackie Robinson Desegregated America” how the
Brooklyn Dodgers grabbed a big edge in 1947-1956 by
being the first to sign black baseball players. That
racial discrimination can have costs was perfectly well
understood throughout team sports three decades ago. The
assumption that NFL teams would ignorantly penalize
themselves by playing inferior white quarterbacks for an
additional quarter of a century is silly.
Instead, the recent rise in black quarterbacks is due to
technical changes in the game.
the supply side, until recently there were few blacks
being groomed in school to be NFL-quality passing
quarterbacks because the aerial game was mostly popular
among schools in the West, where not many blacks live.
This "West Coast" offense has finally spread to schools
in the South and the Great Lakes. Now more black
quarterbacks are in the pipeline for the NFL to choose
the demand side, for decades, NFL teams constructed
their drop-back offenses around the expectation that
their quarterback`s knees would inevitably become so
banged up that he could barely walk, much less run. (Namath
was the mythic exemplar of the perpetually-hobbled
quarterback.) The special skills of black quarterbacks
didn`t have much value within these conservative game
plans. Fortunately, over the years, improvements in
surgery, turf, and physical conditioning have made it a
little less necessary for teams to treat their
quarterbacks like fine china. So they have been
exploring the possibilities of quarterbacks who can both
throw and run.
It`s been a slow process, however, with frustration on all
sides. Football teams are like armies—it takes them a
lot of trial and error to figure out how to use a new
kind of weapon effectively.
Perhaps surprisingly, Hollywood has already produced a
good dramatization of the complicated opportunities and
difficulties posed by black quarterbacks: Oliver Stone`s
1999 football movie
Any Given Sunday. It`s not Stone at his best (or
worst), but it`s a perceptive and fair depiction of the
black quarterback issue by a man who gave up all hope of
being politically correct years ago.
Dennis Quaid plays the white drop-back quarterback who
gets too banged up to play. In desperation, old-school
coach Al Pacino replaces him with a young black QB (an
Jamie Foxx) who has a chip on his shoulder because,
throughout his career, coaches have tried to convert him
to other positions.
doesn`t like studying the playbook. He just makes
things up as he goes along, with often wonderful (but
sometimes disastrous) results. This delights the
sportswriters, who declare him "the future of
football." It drives Pacino crazy.
Eventually, Pacino and Foxx begin to respect each
other`s strengths. They reach a compromise. Foxx finally
bears down and learns the playbook. Pacino gives him
more freedom on the field to make things happen.
Together, they win The Big Game.
Hollywood happy ending will probably eventually come
true in NFL, too. Lots of talented men are working hard
to make it a reality.
Meanwhile, expect no toleration for those so rude as to
point out that the emperor has no cleats.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and