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father moon
Leigh Montville
September 27, 1993
At every stage of his carefully plotted life, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon has shown wisdom beyond his years
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September 27, 1993

Father Moon

At every stage of his carefully plotted life, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon has shown wisdom beyond his years

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He did not. He explained later that he did not need gestures or even words to win the argument. What he did on the field and in his life was his answer. That was how he treated all doubters, all detractors everywhere. Judge him in the end for what he did. Flipping the bird was not to be part of that judgment.

"If you know Warren, you know he wouldn't do that," Thelma says. "If you know Warren, you know he couldn't do that."

He didn't.

He always has known the right move to make at the right time....

Life in Canada was not bad. It was very good, in fact. For the first time in his football career, he felt that race was not an issue. He felt that way from the moment he signed with the Edmonton Eskimos. It was curious that he had had to go to another country, to an overwhelmingly white city, to feel that he was just a player, good or bad, color not involved. That was the way it was.

He had left the U.S. with all of the old stereotypes unresolved. The NFL basically had rejected him as a quarterback. He was the Pac-8 Player of the Year, the quarterback of the Rose Bowl champs (Washington was a 27-20 upset winner over Michigan), yet there was no interest in his talents. The mumbled word was that "he didn't have an arm." Didn't have an arm? That was the one thing he did have. His height at 6'2" might be average, and he never was the quickest runner, but he always thought he could throw with anyone. Not one NFL team had expressed serious interest in him. The talent hunters in their stay-press slacks had little desire to see the Pac-8 Player of the Year throw the ball. What was the (black) Player of the Year to think?

His agent, Leigh Steinberg, after making various calls, estimated that Moon would be drafted between the "fourth and seventh" rounds. Moon thought the fourth was being generous. Doug Williams, a black quarterback from Grambling, was projected as a certain first-round pick, but Moon did not think that fact eliminated the possibility of racism in his own case.

"Williams was a can't-miss guy, about 6'4" and coming out of a pro offense with some great statistics," Moon says. "I've always said the racism doesn't come with the obvious can't-miss guys. It's the guys who have to be developed, who have to sit on the bench for a while, who are affected. The NFL teams won't wait for them, for the black quarterbacks, to develop. They say, 'Go to Canada, then come back when you're ready.' The white quarterbacks sit on the bench in the NFL and learn."

He went to Canada. He never even waited for the NFL draft, signing early enough with Edmonton to be passed over by every team in the NFL in every round. He was quarterback on a Canadian team that won five straight Grey Cup championships. The football was free-form and fun with the wider field of the CFL. The practices were gentle enough that half the players were able to work outside jobs. The camaraderie was the best, the players and their families trapped together in this cold-weather city, almost forced to become closer friends. In 1981, still not having told Felicia "otherwise," they were married. He bought a house, his first big purchase, even before he thought about buying a car. Wouldn't any man who grew up with seven women, who always shared a bedroom with at least two of his sisters, buy a house first? Joshua was born in Canada, where, thanks to socialized medicine, the bill totaled $5. Canada was great, but....

There was interest at last from the NFL. The USFL had been born in 1983, and the two leagues were fighting for talent. Here in Moon was measurable, successful talent. A free agent. He announced his availability and entertained suitors. He visited six cities, talked with officials, researched teams and environments and two-minute offenses. In the end his choice was Houston. The contract was $6 million for five years. He became the highest-paid player in the game. Just like that.

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