Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Did Pat White talk his way off Heisman ballots?

Sometimes we all have those moments where you just blurt something out without looking around to see what’s really going on. Pat White had one of those moments last week, making an issue of the West Virginia baseball team having few African American players, and claiming that it’s because coach Greg Van Zandt prefers it that way. There could be truth about Van Zandt or none at all, but the numbers really shouldn’t be shocking. There has a been a steady decline of African American baseball players for years and at all levels. If White looked coast to coast, he would see that it’s not just West Virginia with deflating numbers.

But the West Virginia quarterback made his statement and later issued and apology, and I wonder if it’s too late and damage done. White is an early Heisman contender, and represents the key figure in the Mountaineers’ offense. Although he wasn’t a Heisman finalist in 2007, he stood a better chance this year. But the Heisman is more than performance on the field. It judges character and community achievements, as well.

It surprised me that Colt Brennan was able to make the trip to the Downtown Athletic Club last December, having his legal troubles in Colorado, before heading to Hawaii. But there was obviously time to allow those negatives to blow over, and voters accepted the new Brennan. Pat White’s statements won’t go away. In fact, If someone would promise me a dollar for every time his summer words surface during telecasts this Fall, I could probably buy myself a decent meal. When it comes to the Heisman, those words will swirl and weigh on football achievements, sticking in the minds of eligible voters. In other words, his words may have cost him a shot at one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports.

It’s funny, though. Because every time I think about the tongue lashing, I’m reminded of a scene from Spike Lee’s “Do the right thing”, where a boycott of Sal’s pizzeria is being planned, because he has no African American heroes on the wall of his business that sits in a minority neighborhood.

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