Sunday, May 01, 2005

Race and football

In the NFL, the quarterback position is usually played by a white guy, while almost all the running backs are black. My guess at explaining this involves subtle racism at early levels. When a highschool coach sees a good young black athlete, he thinks "running back", while a comparably good white kid is more likely to be put in the more mind-intensive quarterback position. Perhaps the kids themselves have different aspirations for which position to play, though I didn't see any evidence for that on the playground in high school.

It seems to me that there's a less-explicable difference among linemen. I have no real data here, I think I've seen way more blacks on the defensive line and more whites on the offensive line.


Anonymous said...

Tim Duncan may be an exception. I think I've heard him referred to as the "Cerebral Assassin". Granted, the man is 7'1''. But what most people believe makes him great is his intelligence. In a way, he is the quaterback of the Spurs since the offense runs through him. The Spurs expect Duncan to make the right decision (e.g. take the shot, kick it out to a guard, etc.) to create the best shot possible.

Another stereotype of black athletes (at least of black basketball players) is that they lack an understanding of the fundementals of basketball, e.g. passing, defense, boxing out, etc.). The implicit criticism with such a stereotype is that black athletes rely purely on their athletic ability. They do not ever bother learning fundemental basketball because there athletic gifts render such skills obsolete. Once again, Tim Duncan proves to be an exception. Sports commentators frequently refer to him as "The Big Fundemental" and credit his success to his mastery of fundemental skills.

This, of course, proves little. I can't really think of another black athlete who is portrayed in such a way even though I think any successful athlete cannot perform at the high levels they do without intelligence. How sad.

Blar said...

Stereotypes about black and white athletes show up in controlled experiments, too. In one study, college students listened to a 20 minute audio tape of the play-by-play for a college basketball game, and they were asked to rate the abilities of one of the players, "Mark Flick." Beforehand, they'd been told either that "Mark Flick" was white or that he was black. They rated him higher in hustle and basketball sense when they had been told that he was white, and as having more athletic ability and playing a better game when they thought he was black.

Source: Stone, J., Perry, Z., & Darley, J. (1997). "White men can't jump": Evidence for perceptual confirmation of racial stereotypes following a basketball game. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 19, 291-306.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I posted this more to learn stuff from comments than to put any of my ideas out there. Thanks, guys.