SOB’s, The South, and College Football

Old Number 97 after he was Crimson

Last week, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue used the term “son of a bitch” to describe that once-nationally revered object of desire, the professional football player.

I think we all recognize, of course, that the NFL is not composed mainly of white people.

I don’t know what you think of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. When he first hit the San Francisco scene, I didn’t like him because I hated seeing the NFL adopt what I call the “Gus Malzahn” type of offense, the zone read. Maybe I hated it because Gus is Auburn’s coach now and was its offensive coordinator when Cam Newton quarterbacked Auburn to an epic comeback over my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide in 2010.

Kaepernick hadn’t done anything to me personally, except that like Cam, who adopted the gesture of Superman peeling his Clark Kent clothes off every time he scores a TD, Kaepernick paused and posed and flexed one of his long and impressive biceps every time he scored a TD.

That’s right Cam and Colin: you did it all by yourselves. Forget the 10 other Panthers and Niners out there. It’s all you.

So when Kaepernick started speaking out politically and then took to his knee during the playing of the US National Anthem, I was suspicious: just more attention for Colin, I supposed. I have since rethought that position. I might not have protested in the way Colin did and I still might not love his ego, but I admire his guts and think the issue he is protesting is valid.

The issue of how Black men are treated in the streets and neighborhoods of our land — an issue that raises more ire and outrage in some than does the reality of Neo-Nazis carrying tiki torches, shouting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”

It’s amazing that in the multi-billion dollar world of pro football that no one is willing to hire Kaepernick to quarterback his/her team. C’mon, not even the Titans or the Jaguars? Colin and Cam might be SOB’s but it’s not because of their politics. It’s their Me-Ism that gets me. No one is bigger than the team, right? No one’s head should outweigh, overshadow, another’s on that same team, right? We aren’t supposed to worship the quarterback, the man, or any human. But it seems we do. These athletes are amazing players and I might very well want them on my team, too.

Like I would want Tom Brady, though I think his decision to deflate footballs, or at least to know about it and not tell anyone and continue to play with them smacks of privilege and that old neighborhood will to cheat. Of course, I could still just be mad at Brady because his Michigan team defeated Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl by one point. Alabama missed an extra point, not that I remember it vividly. I also don’t like those spats and leggins that Brady wears at every game. But then, fashion is important to his immediate world.

I also don’t care for current college hottie Baker Mayfield. I’m not sorry that he and his Oklahoma Sooners killed Ohio State a few weeks ago, because OSU coach Urban Meyer is a schmuck and was afraid of competing yearly against Nick Saban while Meyer coached Florida. But when Mayfield decided it was a good idea to plant the Oklahoma fight flag right in the middle of the OSU logo on the fifty-yard line, even I thought, “Whoa, settle down boy.” Apparently, Mayfield apologized later, which to me is like the attorney who says something he knows is inadmissible and will be stricken from the court record but does it anyway because he also knows that those words will remain lodged in all jury minds forever.

Mayfield followed up his flag-planting by taunting Baylor’s football team last week, saying that their “daddy was coming to town.” Hasn’t Baylor been through enough recently? Do its remaining players deserve Mayfield? I was glad Baylor almost beat the guy last week, because isn’t the entire Oklahoma team only one guy, Baker Mayfield?

Also last week, a North Carolina State football player, after he single-handedly defeated the entire Florida State University Seminole football team, decided it would be smart, and roundly applauded, were he to go to the FSU logo, again at midfield, and spit on it. So he did, and yes, he apologized later.

Are any of these apologies sincere? Who knows, but unlike the guy who gets his mail at 1600 Penn AV, at least these last two players went through the motions of apologies, those sonuvaguns.

I know it’s piling on, but now there is Rick Pitino who was not dismissed from coaching the Louisville basketball team because he decided one night to have sex with a woman who was not his wife on a table in a closed restaurant. I just read a story about Pitino on ESPN.com, quoting the legendary coach as saying “’Some unfortunate things happened. She opened up my pants.’ Pitino also says the sex lasted ’15 seconds.’” http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/20835750/rick-pitino-career-line

Now I feel better.

I can’t begin to explain why Pitino has been fired now, but I think it has something to do with tennis shoes.

Now, the Auburn and Alabama basketball programs might be in trouble, words I know that mean so little because when did they ever mean much? I don’t know what will happen, but I wonder if this is all coincidence: the football protests; the ongoing racial strife; the rise and appeasement of Neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists. The continued States’ Rights apologies.

Our state of national disunity has been resurrected and aggravated since we elected a man who just might know what “States’ Rights” are, but has no idea how or why to unite us in the common cause of making our country a place where we are all really seen and treated as equals. No matter what our hair style is; no matter who our parents were or are; no matter what our first or second language is; no matter what our concept or non-concept of how we came into being is; or who it is that we most like and are welcomed to kiss. We are Americans despite the state we’re in.

I know that all of this is not wholly Trump’s fault. But he isn’t even helping us deal with those things he can’t help. Those things that have happened beyond his control in places like Puerto Rico especially, where today he is claiming that the Puertan Rican mayor who is speaking her frustration about the slow ness and inadequate help coming is showing “poor leadership.”

Really.

I know we all have our parts to play, so I want to end with this seemingly insignificant anecdote.

Nate Northington, do we remember?

This weekend marks the anniversary of the first Southeastern Conference football game played by a African-American athlete. He played for The University of Kentucky, and his first game was against the University of Mississippi. The date was September 30, 1967, and the player’s name is Nate Northington. There were three other Black players on that Kentucky team: Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg. I heard on the national ESPN broadcast last night of the Alabama-Mississippi game that Ole Miss has brought Northington back several times to honor him, which is truly heartwarming, especially considering what the feeling about him there must have been in 1967 when he took the field.

The NFL had integrated teams in the 1920’s and 30’s, as if anyone cared. By 1933, there were no more Black players in the league and it remained so until 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed two African-American players. It took two more years before another Black player signed with a team, the Detroit Lions.

Just for fun, which was the southernmost NFL team until the Falcons were brought into the league in 1966? (See bottom for answer)

History works even in sports.

As an Alabama Crimson Tide fan, I own two Bama football jerseys: a crimson #12 all cotton jersey that I bought from Stallings and Dean, which described it as a throwback Joe Namath jersey; and a white #3 mesh jersey with “Richardson” sewn on in crimson across the back shoulders. A jersey honoring former Bama running back Trent Richardson. These guys are two of my favorite all-time Alabama stars.

First game, 1971, against USC Trojans

I wanted a #12 all my life, but only obtained it when my non-native born wife bought it for me back in 2000. When I was a kid, I had other jerseys including #22 for former running back Johnny Musso, the “Italian Stallion,” from Bama’s undefeated regular season 1971 team: The first Bama team to welcome a Black player to the field, defensive end John Mitchell who helped lead us to an SEC championship. In 1971, even if I had wanted the #97 that Mitchell wore, had I gotten one, had I been allowed to get one, someone and perhaps many people, would have called me a “nigger-lover,” or some such variation and might have tried to beat some racial sense into me. I know this as sure as I know that lynching, segregation, Jim Crow, slavery, and “separate but equal” all occurred in my homeland.

Old #22 Diving on bum ankle

The southland.

The place that despite its problems, hypocrisies, and stubborn refusal to admit, much less atone, for its sins, I still love.

(Answer: Dallas Cowboys, 1960. Before that it was likely the Redskins. Of Washington)

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