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Outsiders vs. Insiders: White men can’t jump and black folks can’t swim – shouldn’t we just laugh?

Oh no, not the NFL again.

In a culture and society obsessed with skin tone is it ever okay to mention race, even if it’s through allusion and articulated semi-jokingly?

The question emerged recently due to an off-the-cuff comment made by former NFL superstar-turned-TV Sanders Apkecommentator Deion Sanders as he worked the highly media anticipated 40-yard dash competition at the annual NFL combine in Indianapolis.

To make a long story short Sanders was in the midst of an on-air conversation with fellow NFL Network analysts Mike Mayock and Rich Eisen when the hall-of-famer suddenly paused to gush over an aspiring player (Troy Apke from Penn St.) running for the clock right in front of him.

As reported by Frank Schwab (Shutdown Corner) on Yahoo! News, the conversation went like this:

“Oh man, he can run,” Sanders said...

“Why are you surprised Deion?” Mayock joked.

“You know why I’m surprised. I can’t say it on TV. But he can run run,” Sanders said. Yes, that’s (presumably) a joke about Apke being white and running fast.

“’You don’t see that much. Let’s call it what it is,’ Sanders said.”

Call it what it is, Deion? You mean a white dude running a 4.35 forty like only black guys should?

Sanders thought so much of Apke’s impressive performance he immediately walked over and gave the runner a hug. During a replay of Apke’s sprint one of the other commentators (I believe it was Eisen, who is Jewish and notoriously slow) said “I just wanted to make sure as you’re watching this on your screen, is there a proper white balance?” Funny. Sanders laughed as I’m sure anyone who watched it live must’ve done the same. It’s natural to chuckle at such things -- because they’re unusual.

You can see the brief blurb by clicking here. I didn’t see it as it was happening and the whole segment took less than a minute of what was probably hour upon tedious hour of continuous at-the-moment NFL combine coverage yet afterwards several news outlets singled-out Sanders’ observations as if to say, “Hey, look at that, a white guy ran really fast!”

Anyone who’s familiar with Sanders knows he’s kind of a hot dog with a quick wit. His lifelong nickname “Primetime” dates to his playing days and his unique capacity to excel through sheer speed and a could be interpreted as arrogant “you-can’t-touch-me” attitude. He puts on a “show” – almost like an entertainer. Sanders played for so many teams (including a stint with baseball’s Atlanta Braves as a two-sport athlete) during his NFL career that he’s probably not associated with any particular city, but everyone still knows him.

Sanders’ “humor” is therefore universal. Is this a big deal? No. Once upon a time Americans of all races could make funny quips about people of different ethnic origins and not be cashiered for them by the politically correct thought police. Sanders was merely referring to a stereotype that applies just as much to black athletes as it does to white ones – namely, black dudes are fast and white dudes aren’t.

(Note: Not so ironically all 10 of the media compiled “NFL’s fastest players of all-time” list are black. Anyone upset a non-black player didn’t make the cut?)

The Yahoo! report additionally noted Apke recorded an excellent 41-inch vertical leap at the combine. In other words, the young man (who looks like he could double as a choir boy in any church – another stereotype) has athletic talent in abundance. Seeing as he’s Caucasian and will be playing a position in the NFL heavily dominated by black players (defensive back) Apke will stick out like a sore thumb, probably inviting more race-based comments down the line.

Why didn’t Sanders draw rebuke from the liberal thought-police for his overtly racist comment? Was it even racist? Should he be fired? Where’s Al Sharpton when we need him? What if a white commentator covering Olympic swimming expressed tongue-in-cheek amazement that a black contestant swam a fast time? Would it be treated the same?

Professional sports used to be recognized for their distinguished place in shattering racial barriers. Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson being the first black player in major league baseball (recently immortalized by the Hollywood movie “42” starring Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey) and there are similar stories of non-white players proving they could not only compete with but beat the best in all sports.

Still, true racism does show up from time to time even today, as was the case last month when black NHL hockey player Davante Smith-Pelly (of the Washington Capitals) was taunted by “fans” in Chicago. In that incident the obnoxious spectators were appropriately ushered out and there followed the perfunctory “this shouldn’t happen and won’t be condoned” condemnations from league management and promises to be more “sensitive” going forward.

Occasionally an unusual racial presence in the sports world even causes a sensation such as the Houston Rockets’ 7’6” inch Chinese center Yao Ming (who was drafted first in the NBA in 2002 and achieved success in a sport almost entirely composed of American and European black and white athletes). Then, a few years back (in 2012) Asian player (born in California but of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage) Jeremy Lin led the New York Knicks back to respectability, causing a worldwide phenomenon known as “Linsanity.”

Granted Ming and Lin are good players, but would they really have stood out or attracted so much media adoration if they weren’t Asian contestants in a mostly black sport? Put more specifically, in an NBA ruled by black players, if Ming and Lin were black (or even racially mixed) would anyone take note of their unique personal stories? Whereas Smith-Pelly was singled out in a negative way by a few backwards hockey fans (because he’s a black man in an almost exclusively white sport), Ming and Lin drew positive scrutiny because of their eyelid shape, genetics and a lack of ethnic Asians playing professional basketball.

To further the point, the Chicago fans taunted Smith-Pelly with chants of “Basketball! Basketball! Basketball!”

Why is it considered insulting for non-PC white fans to associate a black hockey player with basketball whereas Sanders’ remarking on the “whiteness” of Apke running unusually fast in football is treated almost as a compliment? (Note: I think what those Chicago fans did was horrible and they deserved to be kicked out of the arena for abusive behavior not related to sport.)

Stereotypes develop over time, such as black people not being able to swim, whites being slow and lacking jumping ability and Asians being bookish, nerdy and non-athletic. There must have been some basis to all of these at some point – otherwise the labels would not have stuck. But are they still relevant today?

Back in the eighties I played high school football on a team that was over half black and I was the only white guy in a locker room row full of black guys. We all made fun of each other and no one got angry or recognized we were even supposed to be offended at the hard-hitting jibes. It wasn’t a whole lot different than what you’d see in movies of the time such as “Trading Places” or going a little further back, “Blazing Saddles.” Or how about the TV show “The White Shadow”?

The team leaders who stood out back then (and in my memories to this day) were black – they were the best athletes, including a couple that went on to play professionally. Did anyone care about race?

No. That’s the beauty of it. We could all razz each other like Sanders did to Apke and instead of feeling affronted and calling on the Southern Poverty Law Center to file a lawsuit the “kids” went about their own business and at the end of the day gelled into a coherent football team. That’s the America that’s missing these days as we’re constantly being goaded by the left into thinking we’re all separate and opposing interests -- something other than what comes natural.

Would Sanders say the same thing tomorrow if given the chance to see a white man run fast? One would hope so; his comments turned an otherwise mundane repetitive program full of football players running 40-yard times into something entertaining and dare I say it, humorous?

It's such a different attitude than the youth of today. Kids take each other way too seriously now – and then blame older generations for the problems they encounter without acknowledging historical perspective. Perhaps young folks should just be grateful because the world they’re inheriting really ain’t so bad.

Robert Tracinski wrote at The Federalist, “[T]oo many of today’s young people are not being taught to see and appreciate what has made the world as good a place as it really is for them. They have no idea who designed the large and complex systems that produce the peace and prosperity they enjoy, no idea how those systems work, and no idea how much they can foul them up by knocking out pins and levers and constitutional amendments just because they’re angry.

“The fastest way to mess up the world the older generations gave them is to think that they are all experts at age 17 because they read some lefty rhetoric and got ‘woke.’ You know who also thought that? The Baby Boomers. People my age — technically, I’m Gen X, but early enough in it that we never thought of ourselves that way — grew up with this.

“We grew up with smug Boomers like Phil Collins assuring us that, ‘My generation will put it right. We’re not just making promises that we know we’ll never keep.’ Spoiler alert: they didn’t keep those promises, and everything turned out just fine. But now the same people who were wrong about war, wrong about poverty, wrong about capitalism, and wrong about guns want to get the grandkids to give one more shot at fixing what isn’t broken.”

Well put. The media delights in singling out an articulate kid or two and present their views as representing the voices of a new generation. My high school aged daughter says many students are planning a walkout this week to protest guns and those who don’t choose to participate are forced into a quandary by opposing what appears to be the will of the politically correct majority.

It doesn’t have to be that way. As Tracinski suggested the kids don’t have a clue just how good they’ve got it in terms of general prosperity, relative peace and comparative safety.

In other words, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Yet on they march…

The world would be a better place if we could occasionally laugh and joke the way Deion Sanders did the other day at the NFL combine. There will always be occasions to treat these subjects seriously – but if we’re to survive as a people maybe we’d just better smile and get over it.

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Not Everyone

Some of us always do and always have smiled and accept racial differences without one single brain synapse. I am old now. Newer genrations seem to push too hard on every little detail, all these micro-aggression particles flowing through the ether. Bull. Come on. Get a life. It is never a good idea, I think, to lecture the whole world on racial matters. Some of us have never really had a problem. Final point there are a lot of race baiters out there. How about Obama, Maxine Waters, and the Black Causus. The baiters I try to ignore. Yes, sometimes it is hard. I never cared for know it alls, but that is not a race issue.Big subject which I just covered inadequately. Onward.