Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weiss was the white man for the job

The collegiate bowl games were recently announced. The once proud Fighting Irish of Notre Dame certainly won’t be participating. Unlike last season Weiss’s team will be home for the holidays. The Irish are no longer the “gold” standard they once were-the season was a disaster-they’ve sunk to an all-time low epitomized by losing to Navy, a team they’d beaten for 43 straight years. I guess there’s always next year.

Remember when Notre Dame football really meant something? Gone are the days of Knute Rockne winning one for the Gipper. Lost is the legacy of winning championships like the Frank Leahy, Ara Parsegian, and Lou Holtz did. I find this year’s Irish team to be similar to the 1956 squad that went 2-8 after going 8-2 the previous year. At least that team played hard produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Paul Hornung who would later lead the Green Bay Packers to prominence in 1960's. No Heisman hopefuls on this years’ 3-9 squad that’s for sure.

Three years ago Charlie Weiss, the offensive guru who helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls, was hired to right the ship Tyrone Willingham was abruptly thrown overboard from. Weiss was given a ton of money to work his magic he crafted in the NFL as offensive coordinator and show the kids how it’s done. This year he hasn’t shown much.

Plain and simple the Irish suck and so does Weiss. The Irish suck so bad NBC cancelled their last two televised games. Following a loss to Air Force NBC head Jeffery Zucker stated, “The Irish aren’t a good fit for lineup right now.” Pretty sad considering Notre Dame football has traditionally produced high ratings for the peacock network.

The bottom line is delivering victories. Neither Weiss nor his guys are got it done. First of all, Weiss wasn’t the right man for the job. He wasn’t the head coach of those Patriot teams that won Super Bowls-he was just a coordinator. Weiss didn’t have any head coaching experience on any level. Weiss can be viewed as the bridesmaid of coaches-he’s great as a side-kick but hasn’t handled being “the” guy very well up to this point. Yes, Weiss had some success last year but those were Willingham's players not his.

Speaking of Willingham I think he got a raw deal to begin with: he was the only coach in Notre Dame history to not finish out the remaining years on his contract. Even the likes of Jerry Faust and Bob Davie were not let go until their five-year contracts expired. Willingham compiled a 21-15 record during his three-year stint at Notre Dame. After three years Faust had an 18-15-1 record while Davie was 21-16 after three years.

As you can see Willingham, Faust, and Davie share similar records but Faust and Davie got to finish what they started and Willingham didn’t. Weiss is currently 22-16 and looking forward to next year while his predecessor was forced out. What’s the deal? I feel Willingham was held to a higher standard because of skin color. The expectations for him were high as the sky and the leash was certainly short. How else can one logically explain how the coaches share nearly identical records to date yet Willingham was not allowed to finish what he started?

Irish officials could have hired Willingham from the jump but they didn’t want to. Remember George O’Leary? He’s the guy the Irish really wanted and what they got was a fraud. Five days after the Irish hired him O’Leary resigned because he lied about his athletic and academic accomplishments. Many felt Willingham was a better fit for the job even if O’Leary hadn’t lied. Days later the desperate Irish hired the guy (Willingham) they really didn’t want.

Willingham was the first African American head coach in any sport at Notre Dame. In his inaugural season Willingham became the only head coach in Notre Dame history to win 10 games in his first year. Pretty good stuff considering icons like Rockne, Leahy, Parsegian, and Holtz never did better in their first year on the side lines.

After going 6-5 the in the third year of five-year deal the ride was over for Willingham. The athletic department informed Willingham they needed to go in a different direction because the team wasn’t performing well. If 6-5 isn’t going in the right direction what do you call Weiss’s 3-9? Willingham was held to a higher standard and let go for the same reason-skin color. Willingham motivated his players, had a great inaugural season, and he didn’t lie about his credentials like O’Leary. But I guess Willingham couldn’t make the connection because of his complexion.

Willingham didn't have a season like Weiss is completed yet I don't hear anyone clamoring for Weiss to be ousted. I’m not hearing the infamous “we need to move in another direction” speech from anyone at Notre Dame.

Gee, I wonder why.

In my opinion Weiss isn’t doing a better than job than the man he replaced (Willingham) nor is he facing the type of scrutiny his predecessor did. Time will tell whether Weiss will turn things around: looks like he’ll get the chance that Willingham wasn’t allowed to have.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

United States much recognize it's racist past

Heritage High School officials recently reported the student who found two letters littered with racial slurs allegedly lied. East Allen County Schools officials said there was only one letter found, not two, and it was in a classroom lab table rather than left in a student’s locker.

Citizens of Monroeville and others believe the student should be expelled. Their wishes have been granted as the student has been suspended for a week as the investigation continues.
Suspensions shouldn’t stop there. School officials need to produce the author of the racist letter and deal with that accordingly. Only time will tell how situation will end as new information continues to unfold.

Racial incidents occur more than we care to acknowledge. The media typically don’t care to shed lengthy attention to racism because it’s a touchy topic for most. Few care to adopt the open mind necessary to hammer away and make change. The only way to advance forward is to not deny the presence of racism and deal with it head on.

When the Heritage High School story first broke, it brought back unpleasant memories for me. I’ve had racial slurs hurled at me. I’ve been called a nigger by racists.

I particularly remember two incidents that occurred my freshman year at Indiana University, Bloomington. I walked my girlfriend to her dorm room in Wright Quad. I lived in a neighboring dorm (Wilkie), which was about a mile walk. As I walking solo that fall evening, I encountered a group of white male students who gave me dirty looks and proceeded to hit me with a litany of racial slurs. After being called more “niggers” than I cared to hear, I struck back verbally. I proceeded to my dorm room wondering what had I done besides be African American to induce such a racial tirade.

In the second incident, I was walking down the street after class near Read Hall. I noticed a car full of white males had slowed down to match the pace I was walking. The male in the passenger side rolled his window down and said, “hey you f------ nigger,” then proceeded to spit at me. His words solicited universal laughter from his cronies as I tried to make sense of what transpired. I stood on the sidewalk as the car sped away, extremely angry and confused.

Twenty years ago I couldn’t really understand why the color of my skin could arouse such hate. I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with such occurrences because I simply didn’t know how. I didn’t fully understand the historical development of this country and how racism has played an integral part in shaping American history like I do now. Through a combination of life experiences and increased intelligence I now have the ability to articulate the complex feelings I experienced.

How do you deal with racism? First, the key to ridding a problem is to first acknowledge one exists. Secondly, the root cause must be clearly identified.

Centuries ago Americas “founding fathers” erected a perennial system of oppression that still reigns supreme. They planted the initial seeds of racism via legislation and allowed American slavery to thrive. Those initial seeds of hate have now fully blossomed as racism continues to meticulously divide this country socially, politically and economically.

The founding fathers created many of the racial slurs that exist; they coined the use of the word nigger and all of its derivatives. Yes, hearing the N-word hurts, but to me it’s not so much the word itself as it’s perceived meaning. When an African American is called a nigger it implies inferiority, it means your place is second class, it means you belong to a subordinate class of beings who lack rights and respect from white America. In essence it means you (African Americans) are nothing.

Racists utilize their lingo to oppress and break the collective souls of African Americans. Racists embrace the notion they are superior. They believe they have a sense power and entitlement that’s been handed down from Americas’ original brain trust. That’s why the late Marge Schott, who once owned the Cincinnati Reds, felt she could refer to two of her players as “million dollar niggers.” That’s why a shock Jock like Don Imus can call African American women “nappy headed ho’s” and simply get another gig.

Looking at the Heritage High School situation, the two incidents I encountered and beyond I believe neither the victims nor perpetrators are at fault. The American system that initially produced such hate and social division is at fault. There’s no way around it – America cannot progress until the initial seeds of racism planted are acknowledged and addressed with an open mind.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hank Aaron: A career to remember

Barry Bonds is set to break one of the marquee records in sports as he closes in on Hank Aaron’s mark of 755 homeruns. Despite his arrogance, steroid allegations, and “all about me” attitude Bond’s rightfully deserves his due-but so does Hank Aaron. Aaron quietly had one of the best careers of anyone who ever played the game. Not until recent years has Aaron begun to receive the acclaim he’s richly due.

In 1974 Aaron broke arguably the most sacred record in baseball held by icon Babe Ruth. Babe hit 714 homeruns during his Hall of Fame career. Known as the “Sultan of Swat,” Ruth was the marquee athlete during what’s referred to as Golden Age of Sports in the 1920’s. Ruth’s personality, homerun power, off the field exploits, and swagger induced admiration from fans from all walks of life.

Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama February 5, 1934. Aaron grew up poor. He lived in a home built with scrap materials by his father. The house wasn’t equipped with inside plumbing or electricity. Aaron’s family was subject to segregation and overt racism in Jim Crow country.

Inspired by Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues, Aaron set his sights on being a professional ballplayer. In 1947, at age 13 he began working on his game with a fierce purpose. Aaron would later quit high school as he committed himself to mastering his chosen craft.

In 1952 Aaron played briefly for Indianapolis Clowns before being sold to Milwaukee Brave organization for ten thousand dollars. In April of 1953 Aaron was one of five African Americans in the minors who played in the first integrated game in the South Atlantic League. Playing second base for Jacksonville Braves, Aaron hit a homerun in his first at bat. As the ball cleared the fence white fans began throwing rocks at Aaron resulting in the game being stopped. Aaron, reflecting on the situation said, “The fans were just about like the players were. They just didn’t care for you being around.”

Despite consistent bouts with racism Aaron batted .362 with 125 runs batted in. In 1954 Aaron’s dream was realized as the Milwaukee Braves called him up to the majors. In 1957 Aaron won his first and only Most Valuable Player Award while hitting 44 homeruns: the Braves went on to win the American League Pennant and beat the mighty New York Yankees in the World Series in seven games. Aaron played for the Milwaukee Braves until the team relocated to Atlanta in 1966.

Aaron was smashing home runs with such ease that his accomplishments went largely unnoticed. By 1970 he eclipsed 600 putting Babe Ruth’s mark in sight. Aaron ended the 1973 season with 713 homeruns-just one bomb shy of tying Ruth.

As Aaron embarked upon eclipsing Ruth he was with one of the must ruthless onslaughts of racism endured by an athlete-all because he was to break the record of a white legend. Aaron received consistent death threats and was often told he’d be shot dead on the field of play if he broke Ruth’s record. Aaron needed a personal secretary to sort the pounds of hate mail he received. The season prior to breaking Ruth’s record Aaron got more than 3,000 letters a day-more than any American outside of politics.

Aaron needed FBI security and a private bodyguard to help ensure his safety. In an interview with ESPN several years ago Commissioner Bud Selig said, “I saw a lot of the mail and it was heartbreaking-just horrifying.”

A sampling, "Dear Nigger Henry,You are (not) going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it. ... Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. . My gun is watching your every black move."

April 4, 1974 was an opening day to the Major League season filled with anticipation and irony. The date marked the sixth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. The venue, Riverfront Stadium, was where Jackie Robinson made his last public appearance on a baseball field in 1972. Aaron used the occasion to hit his 714th homerun tying the Ruth for the career lead. Four days later in front of a sell out crowd in Fulton County Stadium Aaron eclipsed Ruth and lived to talk about it.

Most are aware of Aaron’s homeruns, but many are unaware how great a player he was. He won three batting titles and had a career batting average of .305. Aaron collected 3771 hits (3rd all-time) and was named to 24 all-star teams and won three gold gloves. Aaron is first all-time in total bases, extra base hits, and runs batted in. He was the first man to amass 3000 hits and 500 homeruns. Also, for a record 17 consecutive years during his career he collected at least 150 hits. Because he made the game look easy; wasn’t seeking the limelight like stars today; and played for small market teams; his accomplishments as a player have flown under the radar.

When Barry Bonds hits number 756 it should be about him. Bonds will go down as one of the greatest players of all time-but because of his rocky relationship with the media, alleged steroid use, and arrogance his record will be somewhat tarnished.

Aaron’s legacy is in tact: he played with class, endured bitter cruelties during his illustrious career, and is well respected amongst his baseball peers. Yes, Bonds will ultimately own the homerun crown but in my opinion Hank Aaron remains in a league of his own.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where have you gone Jackie Robinson? Inequality still dogs sports, society...

Today, April 15, 2007 marks the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in Major League baseball. Robinson became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues when he suited up at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson was more than a baseball player; he was a pioneer, activist, and man who ignited change in American sport and society despite racism.

Jackie Robinson was an exceptional baseball player. He played his entire career with the Dodgers from 1947-1956. In his first year with the Dodgers Robinson was named Rookie of the year in the National League. In 1949 Robinson had his finest season where he had a .342 batting average and was named the Most Valuable Player. In 1955 the Robinson help lead the Dodgers to a World Series title in 1955 over the perennial American League power New York Yankees.

Before gaining notoriety as being the first African American to break baseball’s color barrier Robinson served in the military and was a four-sport star in college. Robinson went to Pasadena Community College for two years and then to UCLA. In two years at UCLA Robinson lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track.

After leaving UCLA in 1945 Robinson played baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs Negro Leagues. Before Robinson African Americans were not allowed to play Americas Pastime because of racism so they formed a league of their own. It’s difficult to phantom that during this time period African Americans could fight and die in World War II abroad yet not be permitted to play professional baseball with whites America because of racism.

The societal conditions were less than ideas for African Americans in 1947. Racism was rampant in society and American sport. African Americans were subject separate and unequal treatment in American sport and society. Robinson breaking the color barrier came seven years before Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus and the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision; it was sixteen years before Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington DC and the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Richey knew Robinson would endure racism on and off the field. He would also endure racism from many of his white teammates. Several white players on the Dodgers signed a petition because they didn’t want him on the team. There was also a league-wide boycott where players of opposing teams threatened not to play if Robinson took the field April 15, 1947.

Robinson played for a Triple A club in Montreal before being called up to the Majors in 1947. For the first two years of his contract Robinson wasn’t allowed to retaliate against any verbal and physical abuse he’d be subject to. Most cities Robinson traveled to as a member of the Dodgers he was routinely called nigger; had watermelons, black cats and bottles thrown at him by white fans. Opposing white players also routinely spit him on. Sad but true.

Many current African American professional athletes and citizens stand on the shoulders of the likes of Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Kurt Floyd, and Muhammad Ali. Without their sacrifices and championing for causes larger than themselves the opportunities that exist today would be far and few.

Robinson consistently took advantage of his status in speaking out against racism in the Major Leagues and society. Robinson spoke out against racism while he was athlete with Dodgers and as a citizen in American society. Unlike most African American stars today, Robinson didn’t opt for silence when faced with inequality and racism.

Robinson was asked to attend and speak at the 1972 World Series by commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Days before his death he issued the following before a packed house at Riverfront Stadium. “I’m extremely proud and pleased to be here this afternoon, but must admit I’m gonna be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at that third base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball.”

Robinson’s request wouldn’t be honored until 1975 when Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was named player/manager of the Cleveland Indians.

Facts are facts. Major League baseball historically has denied African Americans access in terms of ownership opportunities, executive level posts, and managerial positions.
When Jackie Robinson integrated Americas Pastime in 1947 there were no African American owners, no General Managers, or Field Managers. Sixty years later there’s no African American sole ownership; one African American General Manager (Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox) and two African Americans Field Mangers (Willie Randolph of the New York Mets and Kenny Washington of the Texas Rangers.) African Americans account for a mere 8.4% of the players in the Major Leagues which is the lowest percentage in 27 years. How can the numbers be so disappointing sixty years after Robinson?

Yes, Robinson broke the color line in Major Leagues but his legacy shouldn’t be confined to integrating Americas Pastime-when I think of Robinson’s legacy I think of the bitter cruelties he endured because of racism; I think of him speaking out against savage equality and being a man’s man. I think of him and other African Americans who sacrificed their lives, careers, and money to make things better for everyone. I also think of how much work needs to be done in terms of attacking the ills of society such as racism. Few athletic stars today fear taking stands because of the potential ridicule and societal backlash. If pioneers of the past were afraid of the establishment would we be where we are today as a nation?

Many know Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues-but there was a lot more to his legend than simply breaking the color barrier. Robinson was a champion on and off the field. Robinson, along with other African American athletes and citizens during his day, endured bitter cruelties because racism and skin color. Racism wasn’t enough to silence the likes of a Jackie Robinson. His talent as an athlete and courage as a man wouldn’t allow him to bow down to racism.

Yes, there were better baseball players than Jackie Robinson; but was there anyone more important who played? I don’t think so?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tiger hits one out of bounds by not taking a stand

Last Friday while discussing Tiger Woods dominance on air with analyst Nick Faldo Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman suggested the young players on the PGA Tour should “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley” to increase their chances of winning.

The following day Tilghman issued what she deemed an apology to Tiger: "I have known Tiger for 12 years and I have apologized directly to him. I also apologize to our viewers who may have been offended by my comments."

Tiger’s agent Mark Steinberg said Tilghman and his client are “friends” and it’s a “closed case.”

I’m sorry. “Friends” don’t make statements like that on the air and this situation is far from a “closed case” in my mind.

White media personalities feel they can make racist comments and essentially get away with it. Don Imus makes his “nappy headed ho’s” statement and he’s behind the microphone eight months later.

After internal discussions the Golf Channel decided on January 10th to suspend Tilghman for two weeks. Two weeks? She should be canned.

Tilghman’s statement resonates with racism-much more than Imus’s blunder. Essentially Tilghman is suggesting Tiger should be killed so he can’t continue to stake his claim in the white world of golf.

Lynchings are something you don’t joke about especially in front of millions of mostly white viewers. Many African Americans post-slavery well into the 1960’s were lynched for demanding the rights their white counterparts enjoyed.

I gathered info on lynchings from Tuskegee Institute. From 1882 to 1968 there were 3273 reported lynchings. Many more African Americans were slain but were not documented.

Many of those racist who administered the lynchings walked free. It’s hard to comprehend why Michael Vick gets sentenced 23 months for killing dogs yet many whites never saw a jail cell for lynching human beings.

I don’t believe Tilgman’s statement was a mistake. Her idiotic comment had to come from within. I seriously doubt it was entailed on her script for millions to witness.

If she talks about lynching African Americans on the air I wonder what she says during station breaks.

I think Tilgman’s comments echo what some whites in the golf world feel but are afraid to say publicly: they can’t stand to see an African American dominate a sport that’s historically been a whites-only club.

Now the controversy he’s rigorously tried to avoid has finally claimed Tiger. He can’t dodge this slur because it was aimed straight for him.

I’m disappointed in Tiger. Oh, I’m sorry, “Uncle Tiger.” I know he doesn’t want to be but Tiger is an African American male in white America. Charles Barkley, a friend of Tiger’s, suggested he needs to take stands because, “Asians don’t get hate mail.”

Tiger went the MJ route. He’s cut from the same accommodating cloth as Michael Jordan: neither had the guts to take social stands.

Tiger stands on the shoulders of many African Americans who came before him. African American activists in society and sports paid the price for the success Tiger now enjoys. He can make changes across this country that’ll be thunderous but he’s not willing to sacrifice huckstering Buicks and making Phil Knight rich at Nike.

Today there are no Jackie Robinson’s, Muhammad Ali’s, or Jim Brown’s to lean on. Pioneers sacrificed so the new-age African American athlete can flourish today.
They wouldn’t accept statements like Tilghmans’ and turn the other cheek like Tiger.

In my opinion Tiger not taking a stand is comparable to the Golf Channels unwillingness to fire Tilghman. In both instances the lynching statement is being endorsed by both parties because no real action has been taken.

Tiger will ultimately go down as the best golfer of all time- it’s just too bad his greatness will probably not extend beyond the golf courses he now dominates.