Black gifts: Maybe true, but you can't say it

MIKE ROYKO

July 26, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

I am going to make a statement. You tell me if it is racist.

Black athletes appear to be able to jump higher and sprint faster than white athletes.

I base that statement on two things:

(1) What I see with my own eyes. I see collegiate and professional basketball dominated by black players with great leaping and sprinting ability. In football, I see almost all positions requiring bursts of speed dominated by black players. In track, I see black runners dominating the shorter distances.

(2) Black athletes have been saying for years that they can jump higher and run faster than white athletes. In fact, they sometimes refer to the inability of white basketball players to jump as high as "white man's disease."

Can any sports fan dispute something so obvious? After all, the greatest stars of basketball aren't Michael Jordanski, Charles Barkstein, Scott Pipponi, and other white ethnics.

When was the last time you saw a fleet-footed white running back in pro football? How many wide receivers or cornerbacks -- the other leaping and sprinting positions -- are white?

This shouldn't even be a debatable point any longer. Any boob can see that at some positions in some sports, blacks appear to have greater abilities. And if you think otherwise, you are not a recruiter, a scout, a coach or a bookie.

Ah, but it is not only debatable, it is politically incorrect, improper, insensitive and maybe racist and bigoted to say so.

In some circles, that is.

For example, there is Michigan State University, which is currently looking for a new president.

One of the leading candidates for this job -- until a few days ago -- was Dale Lick, 55, president of Florida State University.

Lick appeared to have excellent credentials as a university administrator. Before going to Florida State, he had been president of the University of Maine.

But now, he appears to be in deep doo-doo because of something he said in 1989, while at Maine.

While talking to students about athletic programs, he said: "A black athlete can actually outjump a white athlete on the average, so they're better at the game [of basketball]. All you need to do is turn to the NCAA playoffs in basketball to see that the bulk of the players on those outstanding teams are black.

"The same is true for football. The muscle structure of the black athlete typically is more suited for certain positions in football and basketball."

Anything shocking there? Not to me. And probably not to most sports fans.

But here are the screaming headlines in Wednesday's Lansing State Journal newspaper:

"Comment Sparks Outrage

"Lick's '89 racial remarks rattle MSU trustees, campus leaders."

And prominently displayed was a statement by one of the university trustees, Dorothy Gonzales, who said: "In the best interests of the university, there is no way we can have this man as a candidate."

The long story contained other expressions of outrage at Lick for having once said what any sports observer -- and most black athletes -- would agree with.

Has this society gone stark raving politically correct? And when will this madness end?

If I wanted to do a long computer search, I could find newspaper and magazine articles that quoted famous black athletes on their superior leaping and running abilities. When they said it, nobody screamed "racist."

But this poor academic mope says the same thing, and he is going to be aced out of a job.

It isn't as if he said that blacks are superior athletes, period. If he did, I'd say he was a fool because it isn't true.

Blacks can't throw an object any better than whites. Look at baseball's star pitchers and football's quarterbacks. Race has nothing to do with tossing a pass or a fastball.

At knocking people down, white football players are every bit as good as blacks. Just ask anyone who was decked by Dick Butkus or Steve McMichael.

Nor is there any noticeable difference in the hand-eye coordination needed to hit a baseball for average or for home runs. The only edge blacks have in baseball is their speed on the bases and in the outfield.

So what is terrible about recognizing the obvious? Nothing, unless you are part of the academic world, the breeding ground of political correctness.

Universities are supposed to be symbols of open thought and discussion. But you can find more openness and enlightenment in your neighborhood saloon.

A minority lecturer can blatantly distort history. Louis Farrakhan can babble nonsense at student gatherings. And university trustees nod and say that we need all sorts of opinions, wacky as they might be.

But someone like this Dale Lick notices that Michael Jordan can fly higher than Michael Royko and he is a dangerous character.

OK, I'll go along with the academic joke. Blacks cannot jump higher or run faster. It's the shoes. They have little springs that make them bounce.

But that would be cheating.

See, you can't win.

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