Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fishering for an Answer

Click here to view a larger image. Fisher DeBerry (Photo: Scripps/Rocky Mountain News)
OK. by now, most folks have heard -- or read -- Air Force Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry's comments following a 48-10 loss Saturday to Texas Christian University. After Texas orchestrated the Academy's first loss this season, DeBerry blamed his team's woes on a lack of minority players. Yes, DeBerry said that his school needs to recruit faster players, specifically pointing out that TCU had more African-American players than the Academy did and that those players ran a lot faster than his Falcons players did. When asked to elaborate, he said:
"It just seems to me to be that way, that Afro-American players can run very, very well. That doesn't mean Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well.''
Shocking words, eh? So shocking, in fact, that many folks are saying DeBerry's words, in the year 2005, are nothing short of a racist statement. Well, damage control has commenced. AFA reprimanded Mr. DeBerry. And yesterday, no doubt at the behest of his employers, DeBerry offered a (non-)apology, saying that he was sorry if anyone was offended by his remarks. But who exactly should be offended? No, really, I want to know. Is DeBerry a racist hayseed (sorry, his accent didn't help him at all), or is he merely stating the obvious? One way of looking at this is to say that DeBerry was complimenting Black athletes, although in an admittedly awkward fashion, and debasing White ones. I mean, he pretty much implied, 'I lost this game because I got too many White guys on this team, and they can't play as well as Black athletes.' So, maybe he should apologize to the White suburban couch potato, who is lamenting his lack of credentials for a sports career. On the other hand, touting the positives of Black athletes tends to paint an overly broad picture. And, some folks would say, this praise sends a controversial message, and it could be construed as saying: 'Hey, you guys make great athletes, but you suck at everything else.' And blaming a loss on the lack or presence of a particular minority on either side of the scrimmage line is probably missing the point. So, who's right? Any comments?


Anonymous said...

Hmm, this reminds me of the "Jimmy the Greek" comments back in the 80's (?). I think his comments were more shocking, though.

I fall into the camp that you can't make these kinds of general statements, even if there's a complimentary aspect to them. Attributing success or failure to a person's / team's "race" really takes you down a bad road quickly.

I do think that society and the media is a little jumpy over the race issue - many things are called racist when they are not. But, in this case, I think DeBerry needed to be called on his remarks.

As to who should be offended, well, probably lots of people. To the white guys on both teams, he said, "You are inferior, because you are white", and to the black guys, "You are superior (only?) because you are black". He didn't qualify it by saying "more muscular, better conditioned, etc." - it was just black vs. white.


Anonymous said...

Coach DeBerry is a man with a great reputation and 22 years of coaching experience at the Air Force Academy (his record is 164-99-1). Why is it that we question his racial attitudes now? Why is our knee jerk reaction to forgo any reasonable examination of the content and context of his statements and instead proclaim them 'a mistake,' 'racist' or 'offensive'.

Where can we talk about racial issues in this culture? If we cannot discuss these things rationally, with neither pride nor prejudice, within the world of ideas found in academic university life, where can we? What will be the effects of a culture that prizes equality over freedom? A culture that is so stigmatized by the possibility of personal offense is one where the hallmarks of the liberal society, freedom and responsibility, will undoubtedly be subjected to the tyranny of the minority.

See Air Force Academy Football Coach Criticized For Frank Comments on Race