The 2011 National Football League season ends Sunday February 5, when the New England Patriots play the New York Giants for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLVI. Last year, the Superbowl game broke television rating records, with more than 111 million people watching the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Fox. Football has unmistakably supplanted baseball as America’s new “national pastime”.
The popularity of the NFL is due to various factors. The regular season consists of only 16 games, meaning it’s not impossibly time-consuming to follow your favorite team or player. And the NFL has instituted revenue-sharing from the awe-inspiring television contracts it has signed with networks like Fox, NBC, CBS, and ESPN, imposing a variant of socialism to ensure all teams have the same salary cap—the amount of money available to attract players. This creates a level financial field for every team—and means the NFL is more of a horse race (so to speak).
In contrast, professional baseball doesn’t have a salary cap. That’s why a team like the New York Yankees has a payroll of more than $202 million in 2012, compared to the Kansas City Royals’ $36 million. And when you can buy the best players and sign quality depth, a baseball team can basically mortgage the future of the franchise for a World Series victory. Indeed, the Florida Marlins have done this twice, in 1997 and 2003.
Still, Moneyball (book by Michael Lewis book, movie with Brad Pitt) is the definitive account of how Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s idiosyncratic but imaginative general manager, was able to turn a franchise with one of the smallest payrolls into one of the most competitive teams in baseball by finding what economists would call market inefficiencies in how talent was evaluated by scouts.
Beane’s idea, according to Lewis:
What he believed was what Paul Volcker seemed to suspect, that the market for baseball players was so inefficient, and the general grasp of sound baseball strategy so weak, that superior management could still run circles around taller piles of cash.
Beane sought more effective metrics for evaluating talent, assembled a team of supposed nobodies, and turned them into a ruthlessly efficient machine for winning games.
It worked. The A’s competed successfully with big-market teams flush with huge piles of cash, like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, repeatedly making it to the playoffs and winning 20 games in a row in 2002, breaking an American League record.
Beane had proved that market inefficiencies existed and revolutionized how baseball players are evaluated.
Of course, the situation is more complex in the NFL. Managers don’t have quite as free a hand, because the concept of a level-playing field is the unofficial mantra of the league—the team that finishes with worst record automatically gets the best positions in the NFL draft that year.
But the amazing success of the New England Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick, now competing in their fifth Super Bowl (they’ve won three), shows that market inefficiencies also exist in NFL scouting.
And significantly, under Belichick, the Patriots have consistently fielded one of the whitest rosters in the sport. When you consider that the NFL has been 67 -70 percent Black over the past 15 years, it becomes increasingly clear that something strange is happening in New England. Why?
Only one MSM sportswriter, the remarkable Jason Whitlock of Fox, has had the audacity to broach this subject. As a black guy, he can get away with writing about race.
Back in 2007, Whitlock argued bluntly that the abhorrent culture predominant in black America would eventually turn off white American football fans from black athletes (it happened in professional basketball) and, worse, damage the Black role in the game:
You get one NFL Truth today. Watching Chad Johnson and Larry Johnson undermine their respective head coaches, Marvin Lewis and Herm Edwards, on Sunday gave me a singular focus, forced me to contemplate an uncomfortable truth.
African-American football players caught up in the rebellion and buffoonery of hip hop culture have given NFL owners and coaches a justifiable reason to whiten their rosters. That will be the legacy left by Chad, Larry and Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, Terrell Owens, Michael Vick and all the other football bojanglers.
In terms of opportunity for American-born black athletes, they`re going to leave the game in far worse shape than they found it.
It`s already starting to happen. A little-publicized fact is that the Colts and the Patriots are the league`s model franchises and are two of the whitest teams in the NFL. If you count rookie receiver Anthony Gonzalez, the Colts opened the season with an NFL-high 24 white players on their 53-man roster. Toss in linebacker Naivote Taulawakeiaho "Freddie" Keiaho and 47 percent of Tony Dungy`s defending Super Bowl-champion roster is non-African-American. Bill Belichick`s Patriots are nearly as white, boasting a 23-man non-African-American roster, counting linebacker Tiaina "Junior" Seau and backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez.
For some reason, these facts are being ignored by the mainstream media. Could you imagine what would be written and discussed by the media if the Yankees and the Red Sox were chasing World Series titles with 11 African-Americans on their 25-man rosters (45 percent)?
We would be inundated with information and analysis on the social significance. Well, trust me, what is happening with the roster of the Patriots and the Colts and with Roger Goodell`s disciplinary crackdown are all socially significant.
[NFL truth: Hip-hop culture hurting NFL by Jason Whitlock, October 25, 2007]
Whitlock wrote about the racial dynamics of the Indianapolis Colts again in 2010, pointing out that the Peyton Manning-led offensive unit played 10 whites (out of 11 available positions). The lone black player on the field was a running back. As he said:
“The unwritten rule in sports writing/journalism is we’re only supposed to mention racial progress when it involves dark-skin minorities. Obviously, I don’t care about rules.”[NFL Truths: Colts offense has white stuff, Foxsports.com, Sept. 30, 2010]
And a recent Whitlock column on the Patriots’ game with the Baltimore Ravens—the winner was to go on to the Super Bowl—was perhaps the most racially combustible of his career:
Look, we can tip-toe around it, ignore the big beautiful elephant in the room, or we can embrace the fact that Sunday’s AFC Championship contest is soaked in the white-black racial component that has driven American sports passion at least since Jack Johnson whipped James J. Jeffries.
The stakes are high this Sunday.
Brady leads an offense built in his image. In a league that is predominantly black, Brady directs a high-flying offense that is predominantly white and relies on a deep cast of white playmakers.
Lewis leads a defense built in his brash image. Nine of the 11 Ravens defenders are African-American. To compensate for Baltimore’s inconsistent offense, Lewis’ defense not only takes risks to create turnovers, they take even more risks trying to convert those turnovers into instant points.
[Ravens-Patriots is ultimate cultural clash, by Jason Whitlock, Fox Sports, January 20, 2012]
Obviously, the Patriots won.
The Patriots’ All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady has consistently had five white offensive lineman protecting him (take a look at this famous 2005 Visa commercial with Brady’s lineman) during the team’s unbelievable run in the 2000s, where they set the NFL record for wins in a decade.
But of course, we can’t talk about this (outside of VDARE.com). Michael Holley recently published an excellent book, War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team,, on the machine that Belichick has built in New England. But, typically, he didn’t mention the racial aspect of the team even once.
However, recently-retired former Patriots white fullback Heath Evans, whose career was rejuvenated by New England after he was waived by the Miami Dolphins, was devastatingly frank in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Jeff Duncan
"You have some teams that are racially divided. You have some teams that are positionally divided. Some teams divided between offense and defense. Everyone has to buy in and be on the same page."
Nurturing such an environment in the "me generation" can be difficult. If not managed properly, the wealth and fame associated with the NFL can be hazardous to a locker room`s cultural health.
"I believe the difference between winning and losing, between first and last place, is this much," Evans said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. "Not every team has great leadership."[Saints make effort to limit culture shock, August 02, 2009]
Evans got his chance to start at running back for Belichick’s Patriots —something he was denied at Auburn University, which he attributed it to his whiteness. And he ran for 84 yards on 17 carries, and caught three passes for 18 yards, in a game against the same team that had just cut him.
Similarly, the key contributors to the 2011 Patriots offense have primarily been white players overlooked and undervalued by the other 31 franchises—until they were all signed by the Patriots and allowed to mature as a team together.
For the 2011 Pro Bowl, only Brady and Welker received more votes than Gronkowski in the entire AFC.
Belichick’s New England Patriots have developed a system of evaluating talent and finding the right balance of athletes to produce a cohesive team that can play together over a grueling 17-week regular season.
And they have found that signing white players, whom other franchises discard, is key to creating a winning team
Paul Kersey[Email him] is the author of the blog SBPDL, and has published the books SBPDL Year One, Hollywood in Blackface and Captain America and Whiteness: The Dilemma of the Superhero.