Stanback had told the local press that it was only because he was black that people felt he should make the move to WR. The Washington coaches hadn't been bringing it up, but many fans had thought it could help the team out. The game paused for a timeout, and an interesting conversation ensued.
Here is how it transpired:
I said, "If Stanback was promised that he could be a QB, then he should be kept at QB".
"Exactly," said the other writer.
"But on the other hand, if Stanback could have helped the team by moving to wide receiver, then he could have tried to help out."
The other writer leaned forward: "But Isaiah did help out last year. He played receiver. He came to Washington as a quarterback, and that's where he wants to stay."
I wagged my finger for emphasis. "But if until now Stanback has been the 3rd string QB, and has been so erratic in practice that he hasn't been given the chance to play, wouldn't he have wanted to get on the field?"
My acquaintance shook his head. "Look, his patience has paid off, because he just entered the game here. Besides, would you say the same thing about Carl Bonnell? Would you want to move him to receiver?"
I hesitated. "I can't see them ever moving Bonnell to wide receiver, because that might get him hurt . . . . . and I'm starting to see your point."
" So why is it OK to have Stanback switched to wide receiver? Why wouldn't you be as worried about him getting hurt?"
"Well, with Stanback's size and speed, he is bigger and stronger than Bonnell, and better suited to play receiver. It has nothing to do with the fact Stanback is black." I shifted in my chair before continuing.
"But let's add another equation to the mix. Someone that Stanback reminds me of is a young and erratic Mark Brunell, and I can honestly say that there is NO WAY Brunell would ever be moved to receiver."
"Exactly!" said the writer.
"Which makes me wonder if I am thinking in terms of a stereotype." I looked at him blankly.
"Derek, did you hear (former Husky basketball player) Eldridge Recasner being interviewed by Softy, Millen and Baird a couple of weeks ago?"
"I did," I replied.
"Recasner was talking about how a former Husky football player who was a friend of his. The guy's name was Eric Alozie. Recasner said that Alozie was moved from QB to receiver in part because he was black. People are quicker to ask black players to move to receiver than white players."
I cleared my throat. "I also remember either Baird or Millen bringing up Warren Moon to Recasner, that the University of Washington has had black QBs", I stated. "I was also talking recently with Chuck Knox, and we were speaking of James Harris, his former QB with the Rams in the 1970s. Knox was saying what a difficult time that was, when a black QB was an anomaly in the NFL... Knox took a lot of heat for sticking with Harris, in the same manner that Don James took heat for sticking with Warren Moon, and in the same manner that Oregon's Rich Brooks took heat for sticking with Reggie Ogburn."
"Well, times have certainly improved since then," my acquaintance said.
"Yes, they have", I said. "But do you remember former Husky Eric Bjornson? He was moved to wide receiver in 1992. And it was no big deal because there was no way he was going to see the field as a QB because he was a distant third string. Like Stanback, he was big, strong and fast. He ended up in the NFL for several seasons- as a receiver."
"That's a good point," he said.
"Now that I think about it, if Stanback had been 1st or 2nd string, I wouldn't want to move him to receiver because we might need him at QB. I think it is because he was 3rd string and a big, athletic guy with speed that I felt he could really help out our injury-riddled receiving corps… I was concerned for a minute there that I had some sort of hidden prejudice or stereotype in my mind, but it was just a knee-jerk response drummed into my psyche by the social beat of political correctness… As Chuck Knox said, there are no colors on the football field, just muscles, sweat, helmets, equipment and brains."
"And if the Stanback's play early on here is any indication," he said, "then it will be a moot point because he WILL be the starting Washington quarterback. What an arm! What speed and athleticism!"
"If he can become consistent," I added. "Because I know his frequent errors scare the hell out of the coaches."
"Well they're coming back from the time out," the writer said to me, looking out to the field. "Have we solved all the world's problems?"
I shook my head. "If we had, the Huskies wouldn't be losing at home to Oregon State."
Derek Johnson can be reached at email@example.com
A Dialogue on Racial Stereotypes
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