Media coverage of black quarterbacks, take two

The comment was wrong. McNabb is an unquestionably talented quarterback and team leader, and he does not get special media treatment. Philly, with the exception of New York, is the city known to be toughest on its players. McNabb was booed on draft day and through much of his first season. His throwing accuracy has long been the subject of scrutiny. McNabb is a terrific quarterback who occasionally struggles with imprecision. None of this has anything to do with his skin color.

The reason I raise the subject is that about two weeks ago, on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” co-host Mike Wilbon castigated journalists who note Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Michael Vick’s athleticism but question his throwing accuracy. Essentially, Wilbon said that because Vick-who is remarkably quick and dynamic outside the pocket-is black, the media subjects him to unfair standards for throwing accuracy. This is the Limbaugh situation in reverse. The statement is just as misguided, in my view. The media’s scrutiny of Vick’s arm has nothing to do with his being black. The point is this: even if I am wrong-if Limbaugh is right and the media gives McNabb special treatment, or if Wilbon is right and the media subjects Vick to unfair standards-we should all hope for the day when every quarterback and every player is judged by merits and not at all by color.

Until that day, comments that allege “special treatment” or racism in the media should be carefully and honestly evaluated. I am troubled by the fact that Limbaugh’s comments forced his resignation while Wilbon’s generated no response. Our obsession with political correctness-our reflexive willingness to agree that a black quarterback is unfairly treated but to dismiss the possibility that he is overrated-will push the entire discourse in the wrong direction.

To successfully remove race as a factor in player evaluation, we have to take both Wilbon’s and Limbaugh’s arguments seriously. That is to say, we should ensure that the media is neither giving “special treatment” nor subjecting a player to unfair standards based on skin color-or, for that matter, any other factor that should be entirely irrelevant to our assessment of a player.

Early NBA surprises

I have to admit that I was looking forward to writing about the winless Knicks this week, but they spoiled the fun by notching two wildly improbable road wins in Utah and Sacramento. They crushed the Jazz in dramatic defensive fashion, setting a franchise record by holding Utah to 62 total points. The Knicks (2-5) enter a nationally televised showdown tonight with the Lakers. Before this week’s victories, as the winless snowball accumulated and rolled steadily down the mountain from 0-1 to 0-5, everything seemed to be unraveling for the Knicks. The media all but sealed their miserable fate, indicted their supposedly intractable roster and counted the days before Larry Brown began to ship out Stephon Marbury and Isiah Thomas’ other acquisitions.

Maybe this team can work after all-if Marbury distributes the ball, if Jamal Crawford continues to pitch in as Quentin Richardson searches for his shooting touch, if Eddy Curry clogs the paint on defense and if Brown’s defensive mantra permanently takes hold. As all hell broke loose in the Knicks’ first five games, perhaps the most telling sign was Brown’s reaction. He made sure to let everybody know that he is working with a ragtag, inexperienced roster and that the rebuilding process will be indescribably arduous.

Some things haven’t changed. No matter the destination of his current sojourn, Brown covers his own ass. Such is understandable considering another of his well-known traits-a tendency to leave when things go bad or when he feels the need for a new atmosphere. Personally, I’d rather play for a coach who blames himself, not the roster. If you’re going to blame the players, at least wait until the third week of the season, Larry.

Other NBA surprises at this early point in the season: the Wizards, Clippers and Warriors. Washington, after losing Larry Hughes, put up a ridiculous 137 points to beat Seattle last week and topped the defending champion Spurs the following night by a 15-point margin. Gilbert Arenas is entering the upper echelon of NBA point guards and Caron Butler is averaging a career-high 18 points per game. The Cassell-Mobley backcourt has the Clippers atop the Pacific Division and looking serious for the first time � ever. Finally, the Warriors are making noise at 5-3, with an impressive win over the surging Milwaukee Bucks.

First place makes for better t-shirts

A few observations concerning the events of this past weekend in Williamstown, Mass.: no matter the arbitrary and superficial nature of the rankings, we need to reclaim the number one spot on the “U.S. News and World Report” college list, if only to be able to compete with Williams in t-shirt designing. The sheer variety and humor of their myriad slogans disparaging Amherst was astounding. Being number one is useful if for no other reason than to be able to logically compare the number two college to waste material.