The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Roll Tide!

Posted on | October 20, 2019 | Comments Off on Roll Tide!


After the conclusion of The Other Podcast Saturday night, my colleague John Hoge and I went to dinner with my brother Kirby who, thanks to generous support from the tip-jar hitters is now recuperating here. After dinner, Hoge dropped Kirby and I off at my son Jim’s house, where we watched the Alabama Crimson Tide defeat Tennessee, 35-13. The game was actually closer than the final score would imply. In the fourth quarter, Tennessee drove down to the Alabama 1-yard-line where their quarterback ran a keeper and fumbled while trying to extend the ball over the goal line. The loose ball was scooped up by Tide cornerback Trevon Diggs. As Diggs streaked down the sideline in the opposite direction, Kirby said, “Ain’t gonna catch him. He’s the fastest man on the field.”

It was this 100-yard fumble return that put the victory away, but despite their undefeated season so far, Alabama is a team with problems. There are true freshmen starting in the Tide defense which, as Coach Nick Saban said in a post-game interview, is “a work in progress.” Meanwhile, Alabama’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left the game with an ankle injury that will keep him out of the lineup at least until the Nov. 9 meeting with undefeated LSU, currently ranked No. 3 nationally.

Perhaps the best news to come out of Saturday’s game, however, was something Kirby called to my attention in the second half.

“A black punter — you don’t see that much,” he said.

This is one of those facts that you’re never supposed to mention. All behavioral patterns involving race are taboo in our society, so that anyone who merely points out an observable pattern automatically becomes suspected of racism. And I must confess that this was a question that never occurred to me: Why are the punters and kickers in football always white? In a sport where black players excel at every other other position, you simply take it for granted that the kickers are always white. Yet here was a black punter coming into the game for Alabama, a fact that turns out to be newsworthy for other reasons:

Ty Perine is a punting sensation.
The walk-on freshman from Prattville High School entered the second half of Alabama’s game against Tennessee and instantly became a fan favorite.
Alabama fans have been dealing with kicking woes for years and the Crimson Tide have ranked near the bottom of college football in punting average this season.
So it’s no surprise that the crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium cheered wildly for Perine who started his career with two successful punts for a 46.5 yard average. . . .
“He’s a guy that’s a walk-on that’s gotten better throughout the course of the year and we thought it was time for him to get an opportunity based on some of the struggles we’ve had at that position,” head coach Nick Saban said after the game. “And I thought he responded really well.” . . .
Perine entered in place of freshman Will Reichard, who played his first game in a month after suffering a hip flexor but left the game late in the second quarter with another apparent injury. Reichard had a 33-yard punt in his only attempt Saturday before leaving after apparently re-injuring the hip flexor injury that cost him two the past two games. . . .
At Prattville, Perine had quite the successful career, helping the Lions reach the playoffs his senior year and an extremely high average hang time on his punts. He was also on the soccer team.
In Week 10 of last year’s high school football season, he had a 57-yard punt downed on 1-yard line against Smiths Station with 4 minutes remaining in a 23-18 win that coach Caleb Ross called the play of the game. . . .
He was the Montgomery Advertiser’s All-Metro punter in 2017 when he averaged 42 yards per punt and had nine punts landed inside the 20. He was the news organization’s All-Metro placekicker in 2018 when he was 8-of-13 on field goals with a long of 35, including a last-minute, game-winning 28-yarder at Stanhope Elmore. He also averaged 38.2 yards on 40 punts with seven downed inside the 20 last year.

The question here is why this kid had to walk on at Alabama. Shouldn’t this high-school standout have been recruited for a scholarship? And you have to wonder if some subtle racism explains this. Because nearly all kickers and punters are white, perhaps this has become an expectation that would cause college coaches to overlook a talented black kicker, in the same way white running backs and receivers are often overlooked.

Also, notice that Perine played soccer in high school. Soccer is one area of U.S. athletics where African-Americans are severely underrepresented, in the same way (and perhaps for the same reasons) that blacks were underrepresented in golf (before Tiger Woods) and gymnastics (before Dominique Dawes) — these are sports where economic privilege matters, where private lessons and other expenses limit opportunities for poor kids. Whereas in the rest of the world, soccer is a sport of the masses, in the United States it’s a game of the suburban middle class, and parents have to pay for their kids to participate in youth leagues. Also uniquely to the United States, football attracts top athletes who might, in other countries, be playing soccer. In the South, at least, high-school soccer is played in the spring, and most high-school football coaches don’t want their players participating in soccer, mostly because of the risk of leg injuries. If you’re a high-school football star, you coach would rather you play baseball or run track in the spring. Anyway . . .

Alabama may have finally solved their punting problem, and now if the defense can get its act together, we’ll have a shot at the title.



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