The old adage says that religion and politics don't mix. Someone needs to tell FOX Sports writer Jason Whitlock that sports and politics don't either. In his February 17 column dedicated to ranking the top 10 quarterbacks of all-time, Whitlock made one of the most ridiculous, outrageous, and boneheaded statements any sports reporter has made in a very long time.
Whitlock was describing the game-clinching play of Super Bowl XLIV when Saints defensive back Tracy Porter jumped a route being run by Colts wide-receiver Reggie Wayne, intercepted quarterback Peyton Manning's pass and galloped down the field for a touchdown, securing the Saints win. For Indiana folks like me, it was heartbreaking. For the folks of New Orleans...ecstasy.
But Whitlock managed to drive a political wedge into what should have otherwise been left as a thrilling moment of sports history by writing, "A black defensive back outsmarted a beloved white quarterback. I know. That's a truth many of you can't handle. It makes you uncomfortable."
Yes, I'm serious...he really did write that. Whitlock didn't bother to enlighten anyone what it was about Porter's skin pigmentation that led to his decisive advantage over Manning. Perhaps that little nugget of wisdom will come in a future column.
Now, for the purposes of full disclosure, I readily admit that I am a Peyton Manning sycophant. I would defend him and his body of work on the football field any day, against anybody. I would not be the source to come to for objective analysis of where he ranks on the list of all time great quarterbacks. But this has nothing to do with defending Manning or his legacy. It doesn't even have anything to do with football. Rather, it has everything to do with our society having the courage to look race-baiters in the face, rebuke them, and then quit giving them a platform from which they can continue to fan the very flames of discord that they claim to abhor. They don't despise racism; they thrive on it. And in cases like Whitlock, they apparently make their living from it.
Leading into his buffoonish remark, Whitlock wrote that he was making his column, "all about the elephant in the room" - that elephant being the fact that a black player outsmarted a white one. Apparently Whitlock saw himself as courageous for being willing to discuss what no one else would. Maybe it didn't dawn on him that the reason no one else was bringing it up was because it was such a stupid thing to say.
How would Whitlock react if a white sports writer had written a column to address the "elephant in the room" regarding the Saints go-ahead touchdown that had occurred just moments before Porter's interception - a play that was just as pivotal in determining the game's outcome? If that writer correctly pointed out that the play was called by a white coach (Shawn Payton) against a black coach (Jim Caldwell), was executed by a white quarterback (Drew Brees) throwing to a white tight end (Jeremy Shockey) over a black defender (Jacob Lacey), and concluded that it was time we paid attention to those facts, would that be acceptable?
You see, rational people just don't think this way anymore. Most of us aren't obsessed with race. Dare I say it - most of us don't really care about race. A lot of black Indianapolis Colts fans were devastated when the black Porter picked off the white Manning. Conversely, a lot of white New Orleans Saints fans were elated when it happened. That's as it should be, isn't it? Wouldn't that have been a better elephant to write about, if one was determined to bring race up at all? Isn't that living up to the words of Dr. King when he spoke of judging someone based on the content of their character (or in this case, their athletic play) rather than the color of their skin?
Why does that elude people like Jason Whitlock? And how does he think that his racially-driven remarks will help us reach that mountaintop of brotherhood? Perhaps it's because Whitlock isn't nearly as interested in standing atop that mountain as he is in drawing attention to himself and his work?
It is a sad, sorry and small man who looks at a great play like Tracy Porter made and who thinks the significant storyline is the color of his skin. So let's just address the real elephant in the room, shall we? As long as such men - men like Jason Whitlock - are setting the discussion agenda, we're never going to reach a colorblind society. They simply won't allow it.