The Other McCain

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

Patrick Mahomes: Victim of Racism?

Posted on | July 30, 2022 | 2 Comments

Because I didn’t win the Mega Millions jackpot last night, it’s difficult this morning to feel sorry for the $45-million-a-year quarterback:

After an anonymous defensive coordinator called Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes a “tier 2” quarterback because of his “inability” to throw past his first read, discussions have been raised about the underlying message behind the criticism that other quarterbacks don’t receive.
The unnamed defensive coordinator was quoted by The Athletic’s Mike Sando in an article about quarterback tiers with votes from coaches and executives.

“We love Mahomes because of his unorthodox throws, not because of his natural pocket presence. And when that disappears, that is when they lose games. I don’t think that is a 1. I think that is a 2. Nothing against the guy. I love the kid. But take his first read away and what does he do? He runs, he scrambles and he plays streetball.”

The “streetball” comment, along with criticism of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray for an “independent film study” clause in his contract, prompted discussion’s about the types of criticisms Black quarterbacks receive, compared to other quarterbacks.
When asked about those types of critiques, Mahomes said he wouldn’t read that far into it, but knows Black quarterbacks have had to fight to get to where they are.
“It always is weird when you see guys like me, Lamar, Kyler, get that on them and other guys don’t,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time we are gonna go out there and prove ourselves everyday to prove that we can be some of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
Mahomes added that he and other quarterbacks like him prove everyday that they belong behind the line of scrimmage throwing the ball.
“Obviously, the Black quarterback has had a battle to be in this position that we are to have this many guys in the league playing,” Mahomes said. “I think everyday we’re proving that we should have been playing the whole time. We got guys that think just as well as they can use their athleticism.”

To start with, Mahomes is half-white, so some might question his invocation of racial solidarity. However, it is perhaps not entirely wrong to suspect that the “streetball” criticism has some racial subtext. It could be pointed out, for example, that Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and Justin Herbert of the L.A. Chargers are both quarterbacks of the “athletic/mobile” type — capable of “extending the play,” as the TV commentators say, and scrambling for extra yards — but because they’re both white, they don’t seem to be targets of the “streetball” criticism.

Watching Mahomes this past season, I was very impressed with him overall, even though I’m not generally a fan of that style of play. The divisional playoff game between the Chiefs and the Bills was one of the most exciting NFL games you could ever hope for, a seesaw struggle down to the wire, decided in overtime, with both quarterbacks doing their share of “streetball.” Mahomes ran the ball seven times for 69 yards and a touchdown, while Allen ran 11 times for 68 yards. On Kansas City’s first possession, the Chiefs came up on a 3rd-and-6 at their own 40, and Mahomes scrambled for 34 yards, giving them a first down at the Buffalo 26. When you’ve got a quarterback capable of that kind of run, it creates real problems for the opposing defense — a problem the New England Patriots experienced in their two losses to Buffalo last season — so maybe “streetball” isn’t an entirely bad thing. On the other hand . . .

Over the long haul, the traditional dropback quarterback style wins more consistently. This year’s Super Bowl featured two traditional “pocket passers,” Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, so spare me your enthusiasm for the improvisational run-and-gun style as allegedly being the future of football, as if the traditional style were obsolete. And it should be pointed out that, in the AFC title game, where the Bengals beat the Chiefs in overtime, Burrow actually ran more (five carries for 25 yards) than did Mahomes (three carries for 19 yards). Why don’t analysts speak of Joe Burrow, rather than Patrick Mahomes, as the future of football? Isn’t it because many analysts are prejudiced in favor of the “streetball” style? Isn’t it because, as Rush Limbaugh once notoriously observed, most guys in sports media desperately want black quarterbacks to succeed, just to make some kind of “racial justice” statement? Therefore, if black quarterbacks do have a tendency toward the “steetball” style, most of the voices in sports media will be enthusiastic for that style of play, simply for political reasons. (Please notice the word “if” in that sentence.)

Who’s promoting stereotypes here? Is it me or Mahomes? Is it the anonymous defensive coordinator, or the sports media’s “racial justice” cheerleaders? It seems to me that some people are making an implicit argument for a double standard, where a more risky type of offensive approach must be encouraged, simply because this style of play is what black quarterbacks (allegedly) do best. Embedded in this implicit double standard is an apparent belief that black quarterbacks can’t succeed in the more traditional dropback “pocket passer” role. And so we’re in this hall of mirrors where it’s difficult to say that enthusiasts for the “streetball” style are less racist than critics of that style.

Can’t we just play football? Or is it no longer possible to have any area of human existence exempt from the madness of identity politics? Football fans ought to be able to cheer for our favorite teams without having to worry about suspicions of racism — “RAAAAACISM!” — lurking around every corner. Because I’m a Patriots fan, of course I want Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to lose, just as I’m sure Chiefs fans want the Patriots to lose, and for the same reason: Both teams are regularly in the playoff hunt in the AFC, so we want to see our conference rivals get taken down a notch or two. On the other hand, when the Chiefs are playing the Bills, it’s my duty as a Patriots fan to cheer for the Chiefs, because the Bills are our division rivals. Therefore, on Oct. 16, when Buffalo travels to Kansas City, I will be cheering for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, despite the “streetball” style of their tragic mulatto quarterback. (The phrase “tragic mulatto” is from a book entitled Dreams of My Father, by a certain politician you may have heard of). Perhaps, if the Chiefs beat the Bills — and thus indirectly help the Patriots in the AFC East standings — I will praise Mahomes as “articulate and bright and clean.” On the other hand, if the Bills beat the Chiefs, I might say something less flattering about Mahomes. Racism is strictly situational, you see.

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Say what you will about this win-at-all-costs mentality, by making victory the only standard of judgment, athletic competition tends to work against racism, because football fans only care about the color of a player’s jersey, not his skin. Patrick Mahomes ought to try to encourage this attitude, rather than leaping to suspicions of racism every time anyone criticizes him.




 

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