Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Sep 2005

Where are All the Black Centers?

LeCharles Bentley of the Saints is the only black starting center in the NFL. Why? What is it about center, quarterback, punter and kicker that makes them predominantly white positions, and what is it about football that makes the rest of the sport predominantly black?

Pete Prisco writes about Bentley but doesn't really answer any of those questions. "There are no white cornerbacks starting in the NFL, but that's for skill reasons. Nothing else," Prisco writes, without offering any evidence. What makes Prisco so sure that blacks have skills that whites lack when it comes to playing cornerback? And what makes him equally sure that whites have no skills that blacks lack when it comes to playing center? He doesn't tell us. Still, it's an interesting read.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 16 Sep 2005

74 comments, Last at 19 Sep 2005, 7:10pm by Mr Shush

Comments

1
by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:18pm

As a white man who's always been held down by the man I am patiently waiting for the article on the lack of White Running Backs in the NFL.....and no Brock Forsey, I haven't forgotten about you already......

2
by skins r us (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:32pm

Where are all the black owners? Why isn't there a black commisioner? Where are all the black editors of sports magazines?

3
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:35pm

Prisco mentioned Damien Woody. The funny thing about that is, Woody was a Pro Bowl center for the Patriots before switching to guard in 2003.

He stayed at guard after leaving for Detroit last year, but I'm pretty sure he could switch back if the Lions needed him too. I'm also pretty sure Woody got the big money because he could play both, allowing the Lions not to keep a backup center on their roster

Just how good is Dominic Raiola, anyway?

4
by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:39pm

Raiola is OK. He's one of those guys you don't notice a lot because he's not driving defensive tackles backward but he's also not giving up sacks. I think Woody has been a bit of a disappointment to the Lions. For the money they gave him he should be one of the best guards in the league, but he's actually been average.

5
by a-dam (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:40pm

i wonder what tmq would think of the name lecharles.

what does he mean by "skill reasons"? that white boys can't run and jump?

6
by a-dam (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:41pm

what? woody is playing worse in detroit? no way. you mean his great year in 2003 might have something to do with the offensive line schemes in new england? i don't believe it...

7
by Colin (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:42pm

since it's the nfl, and there's only 32 teams, the significance of this is hard to really see. Looking at college and high school programs would probably be much more interesting. Maybe black kids just don't want to play center. Maybe white kids don't play cb/rb/wr because they aren't trying, and if it looks the same in high school and college that sort of explanation would make sense because the talent premium isn't there. Since high schools can only recruit local kids usually, black areas should have black centers and white areas should have white centers, and a rigorous analysis would show if the best white centers were better (or not) than the best black centers. I remember my high school team had a white running back and he was really good, and my college (maryland) had a white running back last year (sammy maldonado).

8
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:47pm

5: Yes, that's about right.

I used to run track, and black men run faster and jump higher on average than white men. Period.

In positions (like QB, K, and P) where running and jumping aren't as important, there are more white players, 1) because they can't play anywhere else, and 2) because there are more white people in the US than black people, by at least a 4:1 margin.

Oh, and all the black centers are playing LT, and making three times the money.

9
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:48pm

For the money they gave him he should be one of the best guards in the league, but he’s actually been average.

I think Woody has always been better at center than guard. He got bumped in New England, not because Belichick, Weis, and Scarnecchia were itching to start 5th-round rookie Dan Koppen (who turned out to be very good, but you can't bet your season on that), but because they were running out of guards, and thought Koppen C, Woody G, Hochstein on the bench was better than Woody C, Hochstein G, and Koppen on the bench.

Then Woody got injured, so we got to see Koppen C, Hochstein G in the 2003 playoffs.

10
by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:54pm

Click on my sig for visual evidence of Woody's problems with Detroit.

11
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 3:10pm

re 8: "On average" is a strange phrase to use when you're talking about the top .001% of atheletes, such as the guys who make it to the NFL.

If you want to talk about real stastical anomalies, look at the dang Samoans.

12
by Independent George (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 3:14pm

It's a bit strange to take a discrimination angle by saying African-Americans are being shut out of the lowest-paid position on the line, and forced to take more money as tackles or guards.

13
by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 3:25pm

May I suggest a book? (Click my name for link.)

Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It by John Entine.

14
by PF (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 3:34pm

At least in NE, Woody had to be switched to guard on all shotgun plays, as he was unable to do a shotgun snap. I haven't kept track of him once he decamped to DET, so I don't know if he has the same problem there.

15
by juventud (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 3:56pm

Well centers are supposed to be "smart" since they have to make line calls and adjustments and all that, so this is just another version of the latent racism that kept black QBs down.

16
by bobby mozitis (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 3:58pm

Here's a link to an old New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point. The article is called "Why Blacks are like Boys and Whites are Like Girls". Doesn't address this issue exactly, but it's an interesting read, and some of the points fit in this discussion. (Gladwell himself is West Indian)

17
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:10pm

By "on average", I'm not talking a small correlation. It's huge. Slow black men are faster than the fast white men, and fast black men are really, really fast.

The fact that, if you listed the fastest 75 players in the NFL, the only white guy that would make the list would be Tim Dwight, would seem to prove my point.

In our public high school, it was maybe 92% white, 5% black, 3% hispanic. Of the fastest ten people in the school in a 100m dash, 8 or 9 of them were black. Every year. At the state championships for events like the 100m dash, black kids would outnumber white kids 8 or 9 to 1. And the white kids would generally get trounced.

The Samoans are very similar to black athletes, just replace "speed" with "strength".

There are always exceptions. But, at every level of track, and every other sport I've seen, I've never seen anything that would convince me that black men aren't faster than white men.

18
by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:19pm

Whatever0, there's a nugget of truth to what you're saying, but when you rely solely on anecdotal evidence and misuse words like "average" and "correlation," you damage your argument. Clearly, the majority of people who are fast enough to be Olympic sprinters or NFL defensive backs are black. That's a long way from saying "Slow black men are faster than the fast white men."

19
by Ibbieta (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:31pm

Although I think the evidence does NOT suggest that blacks are better all-round athletes than whites (or Asians or whatever), I think there is good evidence that some good numbers of blacks are naturally faster than most, if not all, members of other races. It seems, at a cursorily glance, that the "speed" gene has diminished as peoples migrated from Africa.

All athletic achievement is not speed, it just seems that way because Americas favorite sports are speed-driven (that’s not even true, look at baseball and car racing). There is hand-eye coordination, reflexes, stamina, etc. In football, the closer the players play to the ball before it is snapped, the less speed matters. Right in the middle, especially on offense, speed is probably one of the least important factors of success (still nice to have, though).

What next, a discussion on black punters? Do whites just naturally have stronger legs and therefore can get more height and distance on kicks? Discussions about race in football might have some place if we were talking about glamour positions, like quarterback, or leadership, like head coach, but it gets silly when it focuses on long snappers or whatever. I doubt coaches are even subconsciously putting a white player at center instead of a black player. “Snap? Good. Block? Good. Now more important matters like who will be my third-string running back?�

20
by Tally (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:32pm

So if I'm reading this guy correctly, he's saying that there's no redeeming quality skill-wise to playing center and that the least skilled lineman pretty much has the job of letting the QB stick his hands under his crotch on every play?

21
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:36pm

That's what happens when you don't proofread things enough and you can't edit. Sorry if it was a little confusing.

By correlation, I meant that the more african blood you had, the more likely you were to be fast. I really shouldn't have used "on average" there, I was just trying to tie together the posts in a way I probably shouldn't have.

Let me rephrase the slow black men/fast white men argument. Let's say you were to pick ten youg males of african descent at random, and ten young white males at random, then have them run a 100m dash. I'd be willing to bet that, more often than not, the seventh or eigth best black runner would beat the second best white runner more often than not.

I'm using anecdotal evidence since I couldn't find any studies based on speed. I never said that I was certain, just that I've never seen anything to disprove that idea, at any level of competition.

22
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:39pm

Ignore one of the "more often than not" in my previous post. I can't seem to get a post right today.

23
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:59pm

By correlation, I meant that the more african blood you had, the more likely you were to be fast.

Which is why you get all those gold-medal sprinters from Morocco and Tunisia.

Race is a social construct to begin with, so I'm not sure that's a good place to start one's analysis of differential athletic performance.

24
by Led (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:26pm

Re: #16, that Gladwell article is interesting. I have a problem with his section #3, however. That's the section where he argues that girls' attributional styles when it comes to math performance inhibit their success at the highest levels and the same thing applies to whites and sports. I don't dispute the importance of attributional styles, but he doesn't go back and explain the social causes of those attributional styles. If he did, the comparison would break down. It makes total sense that girls would tend to attribute their success at math to effort and their failure to lack of ability because, historically, girls were exprected to be intellectually inferior to boys. The same is not true of whites and sports. In fact, the contrary is true. Up until fairly recently (maybe the latter half of the 20th century), in the U.S. blacks were believed to be athletically inferior to whites (as they were expected to be inferior in other ways). So, the increasing dominance by blacks Americans of certain sports in the last several generations would seem to be even more significant because it occurred in the face of opposing societal assumptions. The level of athletic success by black Americans has be so great that it has, in fact, reversed societal assumptions 180 degrees over the course of just a few generations. Impressive and interesting. I'm not qualified to even have an opinion on the explanations for this, but I would guess it's a complicated combination of social and biological factors that might be impossible to understand completely.

25
by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:31pm

#21: That's nonsense. If you're picking young males at random for this race, you could be pitting 160 lb, fit white guys against 300 lb, lazy black guys. There's no way the results would come out as you say.

"The fact that, if you listed the fastest 75 players in the NFL, the only white guy that would make the list would be Tim Dwight, would seem to prove my point." Do the words correlation does not imply causation mean anything?

Also, I find it strange that this topic is based on such small smaple size as others have said. I mean, we're limiting this to starters. The Steelers backup center (Chukky Okobi) is black, and there may be others.

26
by MKEPack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:34pm

Corollary contrary argument: The Packers have had a black long snapper for a long time, Rob Davis. Also, Dermontti Dawson was a star center in the league for years.

I think Prisco, like 90% or more of the current sports "journalism" world, is looking to get a rise out of people. There is no coach or GM in this league who would say no to a black center if he was the best player available. I say there's no issue here, just an anomaly.

27
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:41pm

It seems like whites also tend to predominate at Fullback and Tight End, as well as Center, Quarterback, Kicker, and Punter.

28
by Kachunk (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:58pm

"Do the words correlation does not imply causation mean anything?"

That's not entirely correct. The correct version would be "correlation does not necesarily imply causation." If, in fact, it is true that 74 of the 75 fastest men in the NFL are black, I'd think it would be very very difficult to deny that race has SOMETHING to do with it.

I think the fact of the matter is that African society did not develop in the same way that European society did. African society was hunter-gatherer based for much longer than European society. In that context the genes for fast twitch muscle, endurance, and other qualities that make great athletes are much more advantageous, so they are displayed much more prominently by someone who has descended from that gene pool.

European society relied much more on farming and other means of subsistence than hunting and gathering, where "athletic" traits weren't as important, and weren't selected for as strongly as they were among Africans. Seems like a pretty simple evolutionary argument to me.

29
by Kachunk (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 6:01pm

it would be good, if, when I'm correcting someone, I used proper spelling. "Necessarily," for example.

30
by carl s (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 7:10pm

My name has a link to an article that Charles Murray of Bell Curve fame wrote on this basic topic, and some of the expiriments he talks about have to do with the question of "athlete" vs. "skill" positions.

When it comes to pro sports, basically we are talking about the very high fringe of the distribution of athletes, both in terms of pure physical ability and in terms of game intelligence. We are dealing with pretty small numbers (the best couple hundred athletes in a country with 100+ million adults), and if there really were small differences in the skew of the distributions between races, pro sports are really the place we would expect to see it. If it is really just a difference in skew at the tail of the curve, I would expect that at lower levels the race difference would not really show itself, and it seems to me that is the case. In college and high school there are plenty of black qbs and white rbs (more in high school than in college), but once you get into the highest levels you start to see a seperation.

31
by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 7:10pm

Let’s say you were to pick ten youg males of african descent at random, and ten young white males at random, then have them run a 100m dash. I’d be willing to bet that, more often than not, the seventh or eigth best black runner would beat the second best white runner more often than not.

One distinction that is made in Entine's book that I mentioned above is that it is not simply a matter of black/white, but a matter of where in Africa a black person comes from. I believe it is mainly western (I could be wrong on this) Africans that are the ones who are dominating sprinting-type sports, but these same athletes generally are not good endurance athletes. The endurance athletes come from mountain villages in Africa or Mexico and the like. It's not simply black=fast. It's "people from this particular region are fast (based on genetics of those peoples) and they happen to be black."

32
by Moses (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 7:44pm

It's all about the performance curve. For the average white, black, yellow, red kid the differences in performance are trivial.

But if you take 4,000,000 HS football players (freshmen through seniors) and distill them into 1,700 professional football players (average 4 year career), the slight difference on the bell curve has HUGE consequences that are otherwise completely irrelevent for the large populations.

33
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 8:22pm

Good points all around.

23: While I understand the "race is a social construct" idea, I don't think it applies here. Race is obviously a fluid, not solid, boundary, but that doesn't mean we can't pick out a group of people (in this case, african-americans in particular) who share certain fairly identifable outward characteristics (dark skin, face shape) and are more likely to have a certain other set of characteritics (in this particular case, speed).

25: I'm not saying every time, I'm just saying more often than not. More often than not, only 2 or 3 of the ten black people picked will be fat and slow, and a slow man by black standards can beat the pants off of most faster white men. I din't say it would happen 100% of the time, I'm just saying I'd be willing to bet on it, since I think the black kid would win more than half the time. I could quite possibly be wrong, given that I only have anecdotal evidence, but that's the way I think it would turn out. At every level of competition (h.s. big and small, college, professional, pick-up, frisbee in the park, tag, etc.), there really is that much difference between the black and the white men in terms of speed.

31: That makes a lot of sense. You can correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't most african-americans from western africa? I need to change my points to apply to people of west african descent only then. Thank you for pointing that out.

I'm not saying black = fast. I'm just saying that there's a group of people who are fast, and happen to also be black. It's not a "race" deal, it's just that black people have this odd habit of having black babies, and some physical attributes have genetic causes.

34
by Theo (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 8:24pm

c'mon, that a colunmist touches the subject, but doens't show the balls to actually burn his fingers, along with all the comments in the article, just says to me that America is still full of political correct racist shit.

And Bentley is my starting center in Madden.

35
by Theo (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 8:28pm

"I would take more pride in being the best, rather than just the best black center," Bentley said.

That pretty much sums it up.

36
by Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 9:01pm

Dermontti Dawson, former All-Pro center for the Steelers.

37
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 9:37pm

For what it's worth: while he might not technically be starting, Andre Gurode is expected to get about half the playing time at Center for the Cowboys.

38
by Pat F. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 9:37pm

RE: 31 I was going to make a similar point. Whites *may* not be quite as athletic as blacks because they generally have a different body build. Africans tend to be longer and leaner, particularly in low-lying equatorial regions, because that body type disspates heat more easily. Whites tend to be shorter and stockier -- it's colder in Europe than in most parts of Africa. There are similar trends in Asia too.

Again, we're still talking about relatively small trends. I think it's illuminating to look at the MLB, which has a race breakdown that most closely resembles that of the US in general. Off the top of my head, the fastest guys in the game are Joey Gathright(black), Rocco Baldelli(white), Ichiro(Asian), Jason Tyner(white), and Chone Figgins(black). Granted it's not an exhaustive list(Carl Crawford(black) and Grady Sizemore(white, also a highly recruited wide receiver), and Wily Taveras(Hispanic) might belong as well, and I'm sure there are others), but it's rather interesting. Maybe 74 of the 75 fastest guys in the NFL are black, but that's got to be largely due to the fact that the NFL is largely black itself. I'd bet that if you were to somehow be able to select the fastest members(or best jumpers, or swimmers, or whatnot) of every ethnicity and have them compete, they'd all fare pretty much equally. Along the way there's some sort of selection bias(not necessarily racism, though that may be involved.) that produces the sort of things that Whatever0 has mentioned seeing.

39
by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 9:38pm

31: That makes a lot of sense. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most african-americans from western africa? I need to change my points to apply to people of west african descent only then. Thank you for pointing that out.

Yes, I believe the bulk of African-Americans descend from a specific part of Africa. But it's nothing I'm an expert about.

40
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 10:21pm

I think it is more than just the environment that causes people of differing races to do well in certain positions.

For example:

-Positions that require fantastic speed and agility: defensive back, nba positions (except center), sprinters, center fielders, running back, etc tend to be dominated by black athletes.

-Positions that require more specialized abilities: quarterback (throwing), pitcher (throwing), punter (kicking), kiker (kicking), shotput throwers/javelin throwers (throwing), shootng in basketball (some exceptions but generally whigher percentages in 3 point % and free throw %)and most sports that involve swinging (tennis, golf, hockey).

*Obviously some environmental and cultural factors play a role in the selection of a sport as well as economic factors. However, the fact that glamor positions like quarterback and pitcher have so few standouts definitely raises some questions. Additionally the majority of the successful Black Qbs are not nearly the prolific passers that white qbs are but are much more prolific in terms of scrambiling/athletic ability (Obviously a few exceptions exist: Steve Young/Warren Moon, but they are by far not the norm)

41
by Zac (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 11:08pm

Let's go to the ultimate source. This year's Madden. I'm just kidding, but let's do it anyway, just for fun.

Fastest players (in terms of speed, not acceleration):
Randy Moss, Laveranues Coles, Bethel Johnson, Champ Bailey, Fabian Washington, DeAngelo Hall, Will Allen,
Phillip Buchanon, Jerome Mathis, Dante Hall, Allen Rossum, Donte Stallworth,
Michael Lewis, Joey Galloway, Santana Moss, Michael Bennett, Lee Evans, Jonathan Carter, Dunta Robinson, Marvin Harrison, Adam Jones, Tatum Bell, Steve Smith, Drew Carter. So according to Madden, the fastest white guy is the 24th fastest player overall.

But articles like this are pointless. Each player plays at the position the scouts feel he is most suited for. A fast college QB with bad accuracy will become a WR or a RB. A big WR who can block well might become a TE. A fast undersized DE might become a LB. The ratio of players at any arbitrary position is irrelevant, because the players who have the best skill set for the position (or in the case of some positions, lack of skills that would make them more valuable somewhere else [a slow QB can only be a QB, he can't do anything else, in contrast with a fast QB as listed above]).

42
by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 11:32pm

Dermonti Dawson....The Greatest Center Of All-Time.........

43
by roger (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 12:03am

Drew Carter is at least somewhat black (see link). Without actually going to the trouble of booting up my copy (now I'm too lazy to play video games. Great), I'd guess Tim Dwight is the fastest white guy in Madden. Matt Jones might be up there.

44
by Browns Dude (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 12:30am

Kevin Curtis is fast!

45
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 12:59am

38: I think, in baseball, you've got a different selection bias. You've got the fastest guys: who also have other skills (hitting, etc.)

I'm confused as to what the selection bias is in a sport like track. Do you really think that there are a ton of fast white guys who just don't want to be olympic runners, or something? I'm just curious what you're reasoning is. I know it's only anecdotal evidence, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who's coached or ran against/with mixed race track teams that doesn't agree with me, to some extent.

My point being, from my experience, it's not a small trend that's magnified at the end, it's a very large trend noticeable at every level of competition.

I found a link, too. It explains alot of whats already been discussed, including west african vs. east african, and how the traits we're talking about are population-specific, not race.

Here's a quote from the essay that backs up my points: Over the past decade, the 10 second mark in the 100m has been broken 200 times - but not once by a white athlete. Nor is it just at the 100m that whites are so noticeably absent. Every men's world record at every commonly-run track distance from 100m to the marathon now belongs to a runner of African descent.

46
by marc (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 6:43am

Whether intentional or not there is still plenty of racism in America and the NFL is one are in which you can see it in action. Only recently have black coaches been on anywhere near equal footing with whites,(and on a side note the NFLs required minority interviews are almost as offensively stupid as the racism that brought them about), only recently have black QBs been prominent stars and even when McNair won the MVP he had to share it with the whitest man on earth, Peyton Manning, and fast white players are almost universally moved to WR based mostly on sterotypes. Once you factor in media stereotyping (Tiki Barber is one of the good ones since he's "articulate" while Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, and Javon Walker are lazy greedy cancers because they dare to be individuals) the NFL looks like a microcosm of everything wrong with american race relations. Blacks do all the work on the field, while whites sit back and cheer for the Redskins to beat the Chiefs and then rant about why Clinton Portis needs to shut up and do what he's told like a good little... well I'll let you fill in the blank

47
by LnGrrrrR (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:28am

Wow Marc. Interesting views you have there, and let me say, maybe a lil bit over the top. Just a lil.

ANd anyways, TO and Moss are looked at as cancers because they cause disruption and take plays off. I don't know of anyone who's called Chad Johnson or Javon Walker a 'cancer'. Chad is a lil immature, but he's pretty lighthearted, and he seems to work very hard. Can't say I know much about Javon.

As far as your 'blacks do the work on the field'....woah. What? Last time I checked, QB's needed WR's to throw to, and CB's need someone to defend...and they make thousands/millions doing. Can we not compare them to slaves? Please, no need to get kneejerk and start over hyperbolizing.

48
by Kanye West (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 9:21am

O-Line coaches don't care about no black centers!

49
by Moses (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 9:29am

Wow, Marc. Nice fantasy land you live in. Never heard of Ryan Leaf & Jeff George? Two of the all-time team cancers. George can't even get a job as a back-up QB and he actually has skills! Leaf is an all-time joke, even more than Moss & TO.

As for the "discrimination issue," the predictions of the underlying biology found in Taboo say, basically, that whites (due to the WIMP gene and Type 1 fast-twitch muscle fiber) will be at a proportional disadvantage to West African blacks (who lack a significant penetration of the WIMP gene in their population and possess Type 2 fast-twitch muscle fiber) in the ELITE STRATIFICATION of athletic areas where fast-strength & speed is required. This doesn't include the physiological differences in the heel, calf, buttocks and lower-back which I've omitted.

And you know what? That's where it is. Left OTs have to fire out quickly and deal with speed rushers. What race is the dominiant race of L-OTs in the NFL? Right OTs typically require strength and less speed/agility. What is the difference in proportional representation in the NFL between the left and right? Corners require both speed and quickness. How many starting white corners do we have in the NFL? Runningbacks - how many starting white runningbacks?

When does the OBVIOUSNESS of it all hit you?

How come that there are virtually no white RBs & CBs in the NFL isn't racism? Why are whites being stuck with the lower-paying positions on the o-line? Or other lower paying positions such as ILBs, safties? While being shut out the more lucrative RB opportunities? Or being shut out of being CBs?

Where are you and Pete Prisco in demanding 70% of all NFL players must be white?

And as for the coaching argument, that still remains stupid. Coaching doesn't require athletic talent. Right now we have TOO MANY black coaches to population demographic. We need to cut some of the black head coaches and bring in some HISPANIC and ASAIN head coaches who are the true victims here.

50
by marc (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 10:50am

The part of my post that seemed to upset you guys the most wasn't too clear. The latter part of my post was mainly dealing with the latent racism and reactionary over political corectness that the media and sports fans have. I don't think the NFL is actually like that, other than the part you guys missed where I pointed out that they have the Redskins battle the Chiefs for our amusement. My main point was that the predominantly white world of fandom and the media projects their prejudices onto the field whether they exist their previously or not.
Actually the biggest problem in regards to latent discrimination in the NFL is with regard to women: in the most brutal sport in America a player that gets injured is referred to as a "little girl"? That bullshit actually gets printed and quoted openly all over the media too.

51
by Giant Haystacks (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 12:55pm

re 43

That is lazy. You are now our leader.

52
by roger (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 1:26pm

I don't know, man. Leading sounds like a lot of work.

53
by noahpoah (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 2:47pm

RE: #28

The correct version would be “correlation does not necesarily imply causation.�

If A implies B, then B necessarily follows from A. Your modified version means the same thing as the original.

...I’d think it would be very very difficult to deny that race has SOMETHING to do with it.

Correlation doesn't imply causation because, if X and Y are correlation, X could cause Y, Y could cause X, or both could be caused by some third, unmeasured variable.

Race may well have something to do with speediness, but it seems much more likely to me that skin color and speediness are caused by some third, unmeasured, genetic variable.

I think the fact of the matter is that African society did not develop in the same way that European society did. ....Seems like a pretty simple evolutionary argument to me.

Not every morphological characterstic was selected for. It could be that real population differences in athletic ability that correlate with race are just side effects.

Or, if you really want to stick with selection, it could be related to sexual selection instead of 'natural' selection (due to differences in societal food acquiring practices).

At any rate, your evolutionary argument seems like a 'just so' story to me. Maybe plausible, but not very likely, and definitely in need of corroborating evidence.

54
by What about gray? (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 6:26pm

Wow, lots of crazy back and forth here.

However, with the exception of a brief discussion of Samoans, nobody is pointing out that with all this talk about rascism, we are only considering two "races" white and black. (Note that the discusion of minority hiring for head coaching positions is always surrounding finding black coaches)

What about Asian players? How many are there? Kailee Wong, Dat Nguyen...

What about players of Indian descent?

Hispanic? Native American? Why are there no Eskimo head coaches? I demand an investigation!

55
by ian (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 12:16am

re: the principle question, the Seahawks used their first round draft pick this year (#26) on Chris Spencer, a black center.

re: the issue of race in general on atheletic performance, it seems that #49 covers all the basics. The Soviet Bloc was able to coax some championship caliber performances out of their caucasion sprinters, and the Chinese seem to be going in that direction with Asians, but the heavy weights of speed and strength are those who fit the critera that Moses is talking about in #49.

About the only other consideration one might want to bring to the table is that of extended generations in what could be called a 'natural survival environment' - one in which strength and speed were critical to daily survival, as opposed to the skilles valued by European, Islamic, Indian, and Chinese cultures that had adopted heavy agriculture, and (relatively) stationary social life far ahead of Sub-Saharan African tribes, thereby shifting the emphesis of survival from physicality to economic and social skills (which, of course, isn't to say that physicality no longer mattered, only that it wasn't primary). The issue of slavery may be seen as artificially extending that condition for its victims, if you desire to, I suppose.

In anycase, _why_ one demographic has a higher frequency of the particular atheletic physiology is only important if we make it important.

56
by smithly barnsfield (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 12:35am

Brett Favre is part Chocotowah Indian. OMG RACISM.

57
by lowguppy (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 12:46pm

Correlation is just that, correlation. While the observation "black people are generally faster than white people" may be true, it does not mean that black people are faster by virtue of being black. Post #31 hit the nail on the head, its more likely that other factors like geography are the cause of speed or endurance traits and that skin color is simply coincidence.

58
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:55am

"Africans tend to be longer and leaner, particularly in low-lying equatorial regions, because that body type disspates heat more easily. Whites tend to be shorter and stockier – it’s colder in Europe than in most parts of Africa. There are similar trends in Asia too."

Oh no. As a former resident of Africa, might I dispel some terrible myths (and by "terrible," I mean "verging on racism").

There is very little of that paragraph that's even remotely true. It's some of the worst junk science I've ever seen.

Current research is exploring the fact that a small distribution of very elite athletes of West African descent are particularly good at sprinting.

Race as a genetic marker is really misleading here. The emphasis is on other genetic traits that MIGHT have become established in a certain region of the world. That the African diaspora took many of these peoples to the West Indies and U.S. is one of the sad legacies of the slave trade.

There was some promising research in this area conducted some 20 years ago by Claude Bouchard at Laval University (Quebec) involving needle biopsies of thigh muscle. Men of West African descent had, on average, more of what laymen would call "fast-twitch" musculature, which would aid in sprinting.

But, again, this is NOT a well-researched area.

Other researchers are intrigued by a distribution of elite "slow-twitch" East African runners (Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania) who are very good at long distances. But so are other peoples, but on the continent (Tunisia and other North African countries), Mexico, Finland, etc.

But there are cultural causes at work here, too. Training at high altitudes help. So do economies that stress running for children rather than sitting on school buses. A high-carb maize-based diet might factor in. So too a training cycle that makes NFL camp look like a ballet recital.

Oxygen intake, the early research shows, is what's important here, NOT some quasi-racist notion about "hot" latitudes and the ability to dissipate heat.

To be an elite long-distance runner, it helps to be short and thin. So much for the absurdity of "tall" Africans in comparison to "short" Europeans who are, on average, much taller than most "Africans."

There are a lot of "hot" countries. If you knew Africa, you would realize that these mountainous areas that produce world-class runners are hardly hot. I find them cold. But I'm a warm weather kind of guy.

Bengt Salin of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre in Denmark has been the lead authority here.

Because I've raced against them, I can assure you that I once feared anyone from the Kalenjins tribe in Kenya. Why? They make up 1/2,000th of the globe's humanity, but win two out of every five high-stakes marathons.

Since I trained in New Orleans and they in a climate more akin to Seattle and still competed at the same level, can we dispel the stupid notion of "heat dissipation" once and for all?

I think what most disturbs me about that post is this essentialist notion that all "Africans" are alike. If you drive from Conakry, Guinea, through Sierra Leone to Monrovia, Liberia (a mere three hour drive, perhaps, on an American freeway), you would travel through a good 10 or 11 bands of tribal affiliation.

Some of these cultures have languages and lifeways as unlike each other as, say, the U.S. and China. There is no "Africa." There are hundred and thousands of "Africas," with peoples of very great difference, both culturally and genetically, living on a very large continent.

Race is but one genetic marker in humanity, and a young life spent in Africa will quickly disprove its importance in understanding other people.

59
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:27pm

Thank you, Carl.

BTW, let's look at another sport that is similar to football: Rugby. In the rest of the world, people play rugby and soccer, and the fastest players in those sports aren't always black guys. Culture and exposure are more important than skin color.

60
by C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:34pm

My belief has always been socio-economic. Those that have grown up poor have always been disportoinately represented in sports. In the early part of the century even into the 1950s, Irish and Jews dominated boxing and other contact sports. I think this is especially true for sports that expose participants to physical injury, such as football. How many white kids out there are "steered" away from contact sports from over-protective parents? Also, parents from higher socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to encourage their kids to study and focus on school than practive football or work out.

Another part that involves racism, to some degree, is that some white kids may actively participate is sports where they don't have to deal with kids not like them, such as hockey, skateboarding, golf, etc.

A better question is: how many black NFL/NBA/MLB players grew up in educated households? I'm sure there are a few, and Donovan McNabb leaps to mind, but I bet the majority are more in the Michael Irvin/Warren Sapp/ Curtis Martin mold that grew up in extreme povery and saw sports as the way to a better life.

61
by Trevor (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:46pm

I can explain the black kicker/punter phenomenon by saying most black high schools don't teach/practice/have close to deceent kickers and punters. Those 2 guys without any coaches just go over there by themselves and try to teach them how to kick. Watching my cousins games in Atlanta (as well as the state playoffs), I couldn't count 1 time where a kicker made a 30 yard FG from a black high school. Maybe clinics would help?

62
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:59pm

C, there's ongoing demographic research about elite athletes. This differs by sport, of course, but so far the sociological survey of NFL players is intriguing.

The most important marker isn't so much "race," but geography. The majority of players in the NFL are from actually a fairly small region in the U.S., the suburban and exurbian south.

This is true both for "white" players such as the aforementioned Brett Favre as it is for the African-American players.

Now, no one is going to argue that Dixie has evolved a super-race of "high-twitch" muscle freaks over the past 400 years of immigration.

Rather, one could make a more plausible argument that culture in the football-crazy south might have a role here, along with a climate that allows for two football "seasons," unlike what's found farther north.

In the south's sport mono-culture, football is stressed for male athletes. With such competition for roster spots extended throughout the young male population, and the infrastructure in place for selecting and developing elite athletes, there's a reason why various sub-regions produce very gifted athletes.

It also explains why coaches in NCAA programs spend so much of their per diem in places like Hollywood, Fla., Sugarland, Texas and the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn.

Had these same athletes lived in, say, the suburbs of N.Y., they might have gravitated toward other offerings, such as lacrosse, hockey, soccer or baseball, where whites tend to dominate the ranks of players.

Sociological research finds that the majority of NFL athletes are African-American, but, more importantly, from towns in the exurbs or suburbs, most often large high schools. As NFL pros, they tend to support a large family with their paychecks, far larger than most "white" players with very different cultural notions of "family."

This wouldn't necessarily be any more enlightening than, say, a study of NASCAR drivers, which also would point to a large number of men from the south (and Indiana) who grew up in communities that stressed participation in a certain sport (say, oval dirt track racing), with participation often determined by kinship links to the sport itself.

I'm not sure anyone would argue that certain men had "evolved" to have particularly heavy right toes and an odd-shaped pair of hands that better molded to a steering wheel.

But one never knows.

63
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:04pm

By the way, MaryJo Sylwester at USA Today did an absolutely fascinating survey of state high school championship programs. Her research found that elite programs didn't follow race, but rather MONEY.

Championship trophies were distributed overwhelmingly in wealthier areas, where there's enough time, cash and coaching on hand to turn Junior into a very competitive player relative to his peers in the less tonier schools.

I prefer this kind of research to some of the discussion about the NFL because, at the pro level, you're talking about a very small distribution of people to analyze.

64
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:35pm

I've covered a pretty large number of sports now. So I like to answer this question:

"A better question is: how many black NFL/NBA/MLB players grew up in educated households?"

I don't so much care about the households in which the players grew up. Rather, I'm more interested in the intelligence of the professional athlete.

Getting beyond "jock speak" is important here. Once you do, you will find that the vast majority of NFL athletes are brighter and more intellectually rounded than those in other sports. Part of the reason is more than four years of college (thanks to the practice of "red shirting") for many of them and the intellectual rigor of the sport itself.

As I've tried to explain to people for years now, the one thing that truly separates the highly successful NFL player from the draft day stud who never panned out isn't physical. It's mental.

The fact that even "non-skilled" professionals now have to memorize playbooks the size of the Chicago Yellow Pages (complete with tacit geometric and probability theories that would baffle many math teachers) should dispel the notion that there is little formal learnin' inherent to the game.

Let me give you some anecdotes because everyone in here likes stories.

Jerome Bettis became the player he is not simply because of endless hours on the track and in the weightroom. He's a true historian of the game of rushing. He studied footage of Larry Csonka from the 1970s and patterned his ability to deflect at the last second from the head-on blow on that style of running.

To make an apt comparison, that's like a dancer who studies cinematic evidence of Nureyev's steps to teach himself how to leap, twist and land, over and over and over again, to perfect the art of the dance. It's not only physical, it's painfully mental and, ultimately, a highly intellectual way of envisioning movement through space.

He also studies, iteratively, old game films featuring Riggins and other players. His Notre Dame scholarship, you see, ultimately made him a rigorous student of the application of brawn, speed and grace to the violent chaos that is the NFL.

There's a reason he's stayed so durable, and that durability has its roots in a nearly Trappist study of how to avoid hard tackles, evolving his conditioning and field work to match models of previous past practices.

It's how a guy who really isn't the most gifted athlete on the field because a Hall of Famer.

Another example from the same team is Hines Ward. There's a reason the Steelers like to draft very gifted, intelligent athletes who toiled as quarterbacks for other positions -- they "see" the field better.

By "see," I mean they understand the complex, chessboard shifts in players on a linear graph, and can process that information very quickly.

I use "chessboard" intentionally, because that's exactly how Ward studies the game. And by "study" I mean exactly that. Mornings and evenings after practice and games are spent decoding game film, stat work-ups and player profiles so he can best estimate when it's best to run farside or nearside, block or feint, head for the flat or hook left.

Had he never touched a football, Hines Ward would be on his way to leading the Joint Chiefs of Staff because he's a brilliant tactician.

Jerome Bettis, I believe, would have become an architect or developer. He has that kind of brain.

That he spends a great portion of his off-season erecting a $300 million commercial development should surprise no one.

I can give numerous examples from other teams, but I happen to really admire these guys and the Steelers won big yesterday, so I might as well appease FO's Pittsburgh fans.

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:54pm

Carl:

Haven't you previously said that the forced college football tenure imposed by the draft is a bad thing, though?

It seems like what you're saying there is it's a good thing. If football is mostly mental, then anything that helps you learn will help you play. You don't go to college to learn about art history, you go to college to learn how to learn.

I couldn't agree with you more about football players, though. The ones I met have always been quite bright.

66
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:21pm

Pat, I'm opposed to artificial employment barriers on their face. That's a philosophical argument. I believe that if a kid can join the Marines and fight in Iraq, he can enter the NBA draft and fight against Shaq and KG.

The question you pose is a good one, but I think it's beside the point.

Mostly because I don't think a college is any better or worse of an institution for "maturing" a potential professional player. Basketball is an intellectual pursuit, too, and the best NBA players tend to be very, very bright (my favorite is Jalen Rose).

The reality, however, is that all the statistics on player development show that the NBA teams do a better job (!) of creating elite athletes out of high school stock THAN THE COLLEGES. That's why a TMQB's arguments fall so flat (just as really anything he writes about the economics of sport, pro basketball or the CBA seems so uninformed).

Now, if I want someone to become a civil engineer, I might want him to attend a four-year, degree-granting institution rather than serving an apprenticeship with a dam building company. But what if that same dam building company had an overseas subsidiary that produced very fine, equally competent engineers in by making them apprentices?

Makes you wonder, eh?

My point about player development in the NFL isn't that I think the NFL would do a worse job than Division I colleges at turning out a finished product. In fact, I could bet you that a developmental squad run by New England, Pittsburgh or Indianapolis -- just like other parts of their operations -- would produce a highly superior athlete.

The question for them, however, is one of cost. Why should a NFL franchise do that if Texas or Virginia Tech will expend a great sum of taxpayer money doing it for them? Basketball economics not only suggest but DEMAND that teams take an early interest in the development of young players, just as they do in elite soccer programs or organized baseball.

Part of this is because the size of the teams are different, along with the omnipresent injury issue for football, but the other reason is because certain NBA/MLB/Soccer enterprises are particularly good at this and realize they're ultimately going to produce an athlete just as smart but likely far more intellectually able to tackle the professional game than anyone else.

Frankly, I would love to see someone like Jerry Jones start up a ranch of paid teenagers he could develop into dominant players. It might be the next step in finding that competitive edge.

67
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:22pm

I really need to start proofing what I write before I hit the "post" button.

68
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:29pm

Part of the pressure on MLB, soccer and basketball teams to find, train and retain young players, of course, comes from the reality of globalism. There is a highly competitive, worldwide market for talent in these sports among billions of people.

Take a look at the NBA All-Star roster and see where everyone is from. It's an eye-opening experience in the power of globalism.

The NBA not only searches worldwide for young talent to train, but the league has to compete against other professional leagues in other countries for the talent!

See also MLB and top-level global soccer.

Football has the luxury of being confined to North America. It's not as if there's some 15-year-old tight end prodigy in Hunan Province honing his skills at the drop-catch.

Or a Brazilian tyke who really wants to blow up the wedge.

While I believe whole-heartedly that the NFL player is very gifted, very bright and very tough, he's still not the "best" athlete playing in America.

That honor goes to the highest ranks of basketball and baseball, where a global pull of talent has been winnowed to the best of the best.

69
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:36pm

Pat, I’m opposed to artificial employment barriers on their face.

Yah, I kinda got that. I'm not. I've always been of the opinion that a more educated general populace is far more valuable than anything else.

There's a reason that kids go to school instead of being allowed to work before 16 (or 14, in some cases, although washing dishes for crap pay for 2 hours really sucks). In my mind, forcing college sports before professional sports is exactly the same.

The reality, however, is that all the statistics on player development show that the NBA teams do a better job (!) of creating elite athletes out of high school stock THAN THE COLLEGES.

Wouldn't a perfectly good counterargument to that be that the NBA teams should start assisting the college games? There's plenty of interaction between college football and the NFL.

I mean, you're comparing playing in a developmental NBA league that just prepares you for the NBA versus playing at college which prepares you for much more. For the players that make the NBA, you're right. But a developmental NBA league can never do as much as college can, but I don't really think the opposite is true.

There's a very, very scary statistic that I heard recently - that something like 60-80% of athletes in inner-city schools believe they'll play professional sports. You've got to find a way to channel that unrealistic expectation into something realistic.

70
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:51pm

From my blog entry of 12/23/2003: This is rather interesting, at least to people like me who believe that the emphasis of college athletics, particularly in sports with a high percentage of minority participants, should be on academic success. I define success as earning a degree and actually learning something, not getting a degree in basketweaving and other "jock majors" at your football and basketball factories. There should also be more career and life counselling available to these kids. Actually, that should start before they get to college.

Why am I saying this? Check out the link in my name for the NCAA study.

In total, .129% of seniors (1,035 out of 798,900) make it to the pros in basketball (men's and women's), football, baseball, hockey, and men's soccer. If you include all athletes in those six high school sports (not just seniors), for every one hundred thousand, 37 (not in a row) will make it to the pros.

I'm very tempted to take salary and career length into consideration and compare that to a career working with the rest of us wage slaves. I wonder what the disparity would be between expected earnings...

I'm not saying that kids shouldn't reach for the stars and follow their dreams; rather, I contend that education is very important, and is NOT a "fall back".

71
by heavyjumbo (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:27pm

Generally speaking, I believe the black athlete is better than the white athlete. But, QB is not necessarily an athletic position in the Pros.
High school and college coaches main concern is to win. They have a short window with the same players. An excellent athlete at QB can help his HS or College team win even though he is not a good passer. You go with what you know.
The underrated Warren Moon, who threw the prettiest ball in football-imo, was a passer while Vick is a runner. Moon could read defenses, Vick cannot. Cunningham, looked at 1 receiver, if he was covered he ran. Vick was taught the proper technique on how to throw a football while with Atlanta.

72
by Jim A (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:55pm

I just wanted to second Richie's recommendation of Jon Entine's Taboo. Although I don't agree with all his conclusions, it's still the most thorough investigation of this subject published for the mainstream public. Entine has gotten some negative press for some of his more controversial conclusions, but the majority of the book is a politically neutral study of the historical, sociological, and biomechanical factors of race and sports. But even Entine agrees that we can probably never completely separate the nature vs. nurture effects, as they are greatly intertwined.

Also worth reading is a Scientific American issue a couple years ago devoted to the subject, including several reviews, pro and con, of Entine's book from prominent researchers in relevant fields of academia.

73
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 6:28pm

The only thing, JimA, is that it's important to remember that Entine's surveys are for a general audience, and they're not without some controversy.

It's very important to remember that there is a real paucity of information here, although there's a growing body for East African athletes (thanks, largely, to European scientists).

I get very nervous when I see Entine tossed into arguments to justify Bell Curve-like conclusions.

There is much he's right to highlight, such as the research being conducted on long-distance runners that we can see in peer-reviewed publications, and mere anecdote.

As for West African immigration to the U.S., this becomes very complicated. Yes, certain African markers appear strongly in the African-American gene pool. But some don't.

Slaves were taken from throughout Africa. Whether "Arab" or indigenous, slave raiders and traders ventured far inland for the men and women bound for European colonies and Zanzibar.

Slave ports extended along the coast from Senegal to Mozambique. That's a good outline of the continent. At one point, peoples close to the sea became part of the global traffic in human beings.

Let me give you an anecdote that actually illustrates something. My old digs in Freetown were near what's called "Congo Town." The neighborhood (see also "Congo Cross") was so named because slaves bound in chains from the Kingdom of Kongo were interdicted by British warships and set free in Sierra Leone (like America's Liberia, a homeland for freed slaves).

That men and women from deep inside the Congo basin would have been imported to North America tells you exactly how large the diaspora was.

As I mentioned before, Africa is not some monolithic construct. These are peoples very different from each other, as you are from an Inuit or Bedouin.

So I caution people to be very, very careful about the conclusions they draw about athletes based solely on their skin color. The explanation is often murkier than we want to believe.

74
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:10pm

"The correct version would be “correlation does not necesarily imply causation.�

If A implies B, then B necessarily follows from A. Your modified version means the same thing as the original."

Actually, I'd be tempted to take "correlation does not necessarily imply causation" as a claim to the effect that there are possible worlds in which correlation does not imply causation, without speaking in any way to the question of whether the actual is one of them. I suspect this was not the poster's intention.

Rugby and soccer have been mentionned, so like a good Pom I'll stick in my two penn'orth on those two. It is quite true that the fastest rugby players are not black. This is because almost no rugby players of any kind are black, because most rugby-playing countries (Australia, NZ, SA, Fiji, Samoa, Scotland, Ireland, Wales) have very small black populations. The two exceptions are England and France. Now, I can't speak for France, but in England, the black population is concentrated in the South, and in the South, rugby is a game for poncy public school types like myself (in the UK, "public school" means "fee-paying, all-or-predominantly-male, probably boarding school - because back when they were set up, really rich kids had private tutors, and poor kids had more productive things to do than going to school, like ploughing). Not many black kids go to public school, so not many black kids play rugby. Soccer-rugby-cricket in the UK is not really a good analogy for basketball-football-baseball in the US, because rugby and cricket are minority sports (cricket is played by the same people as rugby, plus Indians and Pakistanis), while soccer is all-pervasive.

UK soccer, however, is an interesting point of comparison for the NFL - speed and athletic ability are primary, and in a country where (I believe, ballpark) 90% of the population are white and less than 5% black (most of the rest have parents who will not allow them to be obsessive about any sport other than cricket at an age early enough to be picked up by a professional club's youth programme) the Premiership has roughly 75% white players and 25% black. I have never seen a breakdown by position, but I am sure that if one were done it would show very few black goalkeepers (speed almost irrelevant), and fewer black central midfielders (speed of secondary importance) than might be expected but more black strikers (speed very useful). Of course, the huge number of foreign players in the Premiership make the proportional comparison unhelpfully complicated, but the parallel seems strong enough all the same.

Whew, that was long-winded.