Did you know there’s a theory being batted around that the Worst Play Call in Recorded AND Unrecorded History was made because of racism?
Well, now you do. The theory is that “they” – which I guess means Pete Carroll, but maybe the Seahawks front office too; who knows – wanted to promote the fortunes of lighter-skinned, well-behaved, presentable Russell Wilson (the Seahawks quarterback who threw the interception), and marginalize darker-skinned, troublesome, flamboyant Marshawn Lynch, the running back who was basically left out of the play.
(And he was left out of the play. Might as well have hung out a sign that read “Mr. Lynch is in a different zip code at this time. Please focus your attention on Mr. Wilson.”)
The Nation’s Dave Zirin packages this theory, which he reports having verified from sources in the Seahawks locker room, as a new chapter in a long history of American conspiracy theory. That comes off as a stretch to me; I think it’s really no more than what it looks like: psychotic racism paranoia. At any rate, here’s his outline:
The theory goes something like this. Russell Wilson is your young clean-cut God-fearing media-perfect quarterback. If one was creating a superstar face to market for the twenty-first century, chances are they would look, sound and basically be Russell Wilson. He’s Derek Jeter with a Bible, someone who comes across like he has never spoken out of turn in his entire life. Marshawn Lynch is… Marshawn Lynch, and if you haven’t figured out what that means after the past two weeks, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The theory goes that there were major financial, public relations and football reasons for Russell Wilson and not Lynch to be the one who ends the game in glory. If he throws that touchdown for the victory, Wilson is almost certainly the Super Bowl MVP. He gets the commercial. He gets to stand with the commissioner. And oh, by the way, he also gets his new contract, one that will fasten his prime, at only 26 years old, to the Seattle franchise. Marshawn Lynch is also due a new contract. Marshawn Lynch, had he punched that ball over the goal line, would probably get to be the one handed the MVP trophy. Marshawn Lynch also maybe gets on the mic to say Lord knows what.
Zirin quotes his source (emphasis in original):
I contacted someone inside that locker room and they said to me as if on repeat: “Can’t believe it. We all saw it. They wanted it to be Russ. They didn’t want Marshawn to be the hero.”
Zirin goes on to predict that the racism theory will “find purchase in the months ahead.” Perhaps, if he has anything to say about it, it will. His post as it stands now concludes with this fascinating footnote, added after he made a change to the original text in the passage alluding to Derek Jeter:
…the original text quoted and hyperlinked the movie The Other Guys where Derek Jeter is tearfully called a “biracial angel” as a reference to the way some sports fans adore Wilson. Yes. I know – and knew – that Wilson is of African and Native American descent and not biracial but thought the context of The Other Guys scene made the reference work. Hyperlinks don’t work as context in writing however so I made the change. I was wrong and I apologize.
I’m curious as to how combined African and Native American descent is not biracial. Just because there’s no white European in it? To the extent that we humans are racially differentiated, Native Americans, originating from Asia, are racially differentiated from Africans, according to the most recent reckoning (which remains what it has been throughout my life; i.e., there are three races).
But the larger question is why we spend so much time talking about all this. Genetic researchers have determined, as I understand it, that all of us carry African genetic markers, just because we’re human. Yay! I look around and I see people of great character and accomplishment from every race, as well as people of sloth and bad temper. Double yay! (Well, the sloth and bad temper need some work.) All three of the potential Super Bowl MVPs on the Seahawks side — Wilson, Lynch, receiver Chris Matthews (a long shot) — are black. Yay! The potential MVPs on the Patriot side — Tom Brady (the official MVP), Julian Edelman (my MVP) — are white. Yay! The guy who will be remembered for losing Super Bowl XLIX with his no-good play call is white, with a lumpy, garden-variety Northern European mug (and apparently a rep as a 9/11 Truther). Boo!
Empirical observation, as much as philosophical belief, would give us reason for hope, good cheer, and what we used to call “perspective.” Are we really going to obsess over this nonsense forever? Don’t most of us have, you know, day jobs?