Wednesday, August 29, 2007

an nfl story that's not about michael vick

I was born into a football (American) household, so please allow me this philistine indulgence. No matter how hard I try to carry around books, like technology, and use the word philistine -- I'll always succumb to gameday Sundays.

Through chance, I became a fan of the Washington DC team with an unfortunate name, because it was the only NFL team near the town where I grew up. It was my dad's favorite team and thus it became mine. Football was a bonding thing, and it still is today (to give you an idea, upgrading dad's nosebleed season tickets was the first thing I did last Halloween).

I caught a preseason game two weekends ago and was reminded by a fellow fan of a sad fact: "In 1961, the Redskins were the only team in professional football without a black player."

The team's owner, George Preston Marshall, was an avid bigot. Incidentally, he'd also been the man who changed the team's name from the Braves to the Redskins. Integrating the franchise of our nation's capital turned out to be quite an ordeal, as the above ESPN article details.

Sitting there, watching the starters take the field, I couldn't help but wonder what the team would look like if ol' Marshall had his way. So as part of this thought exercise, I thought I'd list the starting lineups as they are and as they would be without black players.

Needless to say, it be pretty hard to fill a roster these days with such narrow guidelines (although it could be done, the team wouldn't likely be going to many Super Bowls). On that note, fans would be quick to point out that Washington was also the first team with a black quarterback (Doug Williams) to start the Super Bowl (they won, by the way -- Williams was named MVP). Ironic, no?

Granted, coaching staffs are still remarkably homogeneous on most teams, but even this is finally starting to change as we get blatant reminders about how immaterial race is to winning (see Tony Dungy). Everyone from the owners to the fans just want to win. Except Eagles fans. I think they actually enjoy losing.

Now if only we could divert all this attention (and money) we spend following football to something more productive or meaningful...