- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Another reason why there's not much talk about a players' strike around here is that we're all talking about a coaches' strike. You see, we open the preseason schedule Saturday in Canton, Ohio against the Colts in the Hall of Fame game, and it turns out that while the players get extra money for this game the coaches don't, and Bud and his staff think that's wrong, so they've been saying that maybe they'll have to strike. Don't take this lightly. Bud Grant was like the original free agent—he jumped to the Canadian league from Philadelphia when the Eagles wouldn't pay him enough.
So today I was interviewed on the subject, and I said that since I was the oldest veteran, if Bud struck, then I thought I should take over and be the first black coach in the NFL. Now I was speaking tongue-in-cheek and I went on and said we'd have chicken and watermelon for the pregame meal. But my straight remarks got picked up and went out over the wires, and obviously, from the reaction, I must have hit some kind of a nerve.
It's pretty hard to excuse the fact that, in a league where about 50% of the players are black, there are no black head coaches—not even any black offensive or defensive coordinators. Trouble is, it's a vicious circle. Because there aren't any black head coaches, then potential black head coaches shy away and go into some profession where they feel they have a chance. The whole problem is further compounded because some teams feel obliged to hire token black coaches, and likely as not some of these guys aren't qualified—I had one like that in college—and so the white guys on the team only experience an unqualified black coach, which further reinforces the assumption that there just aren't any qualified blacks around who can coach.
You asked me once, Frank, if I didn't feel proud, as a black man, that in pro football, as in so many sports, a disproportionate number of the players are black. I've tried to remember, and I honestly can't recall any time when a bunch of us blacks sat around and gloated. I'm in competition against so many blacks that if I stopped to be proud of us as a group I'd lose my job as an individual.
The one thing that does get my dander up as a black in this game is the way [Tampa Bay Quarterback] Doug Williams is singled out for criticism. I think he takes a helluva lot more heat than he would if he were a white quarterback. I can't believe it when I hear people saying Williams throws the ball too hard. You never hear that about Terry Bradshaw or Joe Ferguson. And it's nonsense to start with. I'm paid to catch balls. Saying a quarterback throws a ball too hard is like saying a wide receiver is too fast.
I swear, I believe I'd rather have some out-and-out racist deal with me than be patronized. I'm reminded of a joke that I once heard: What's the difference between a black man and a nigger? And the answer is that a nigger is a black man who just left the room. I think one of the reasons that the drug problem in the NFL went undetected for so long was that the league had this ridiculous arrangement where they sent two guys to talk to the players. One was a white man who dressed in normal clothes and talked in a normal voice, while the other was this very "hip" black fellow who spoke all this put-on soul language. I didn't understand him half the time. Let me tell you: If I had ever had a drug problem, there's no way I could've gone to the NFL for help, because it was apparent to me that the white drug rep wasn't supposed to deal with blacks, and that street-wise black rep could have absolutely no rapport with me. Somebody ought to advise the NFL office that not all of us black football players grew up in the ghettos of New Jersey.
A personal note for you today, Frank. There's been a running back named Doug Paschal on the team the last couple years. Very nice guy. He went to North Carolina, and I don't have to tell you that your novel, Everybody's All-American, was about a North Carolina running back: The Grey Ghost of Chapel Hill. Doug had read your book, so Dils and me and a couple other guys who are reading it now started calling him The Ghost. Which he loves. So, just thought you'd like to know you're here in Mankato in spirit, which is the best way to be here.
TUESDAY, AUG. 3: Drugs
Tommy Kramer has issued an ultimatum to the press: No more questions about his alcohol problem and his rehabilitation. I think that's fair. The subject has been talked to death, especially since I never thought Tommy had as much of a problem as it was made out to be. There's a tendency to scrutinize athletes too closely. On top of that, anything a quarterback does is blown even further out of proportion. And Tommy is an extrovert, too.
Tommy has a fondness for singing country and western songs. One time last year he'd had a few drinks and he stood up and started singing with the band at one of the biggest hangouts in Minneapolis. You can imagine what that did to his reputation. I told him later he just couldn't do that sort of stuff, and while it certainly showed how seriously he took the situation when he agreed to treatment last March, I think what really rehabilitated Tommy was a pretty lady named Carrie he married in June. America's sweethearts: the handsome quarterback and the blonde beauty. Tommy'll be all right now.