That Ndamukong Suh managed to take the NFL by storm comes as no surprise to anyone who’s seen him play while he was a student at Nebraska. And to be frank, Ndamukong Suh is one of a new breed of black NFL players – a new generation that defies age-old stereotypes by speaking great English and being all around just plain smart. Much smarter than the mostly older and white male media that covers them.
That fact came to my attention after interviewing a number of players at the 2010 and 2011 NFL Draft, and watching how they interact with the media. This is the first group of players for which I can say if I closed my eyes listened to them talk, I’d have no idea what color they were. Am I saying they “talk white” like I’ve been accused of doing for all of my years? Yes. The difference is they’re in their 20s and I’m in my 40s. I’ve seen a lot of how America treats black men it considers falling into a common African American stereotype – badly.
That’s why it’s too bad Mr. Suh elected to go King Kong on Green Bay Packers Offensive Lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving Day – it plays into all kinds of images of the big, dangerous black guy. images that the media has done an excellent job in advancing, as any truth-telling member of the media (see Mike Silver) will tell you.
But what Ndamukong Suh did says nothing for the person he is, and he did finally issue an appology. This space may joke about how Ndamukong should hook up with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Melissa Kellerman (and that’s partly serious), to get help in managing his anger, but it’s all in fun. Ndamukong Suh’s real objective is to try and make his position of defensive tackle just as important as quarterback, at least in visibility. Arguably his Thanksgiving Day kick went a long way toward doing just that.
But it doesn’t say anything for the man who’s an engineering major – something not only not mentioned in well over 90 percent of media on Suh, but at the NFL Draft one reporter I will not mention tried to downplay his major as almost a joke (How did you find time to do that and play football at a high level?) This blogger stepped in and said “because he’s smart,” and I did so because in the interview you could see how Suh was getting a tad annoyed at some of the questions.
Here’s the video:
Look, let’s be real honest here. There’s a large under-tone of racism at play because you have mostly black players being covered by white guys, the vast majority who didn’t play a lick of football, let alone know how to look at a game from a coaching perspective. (At least I can say I made my own playbook and went out to play in high school.) But, and I argue because of the cultural and racial issues at play, more often than not the players aren’t being represented as whole people, but as young men one step away from prison.
Take the constant focus on who gets arrested versus which player has a charity and what work that organization does? Never hear about that from anyone other than the NFL itself.
Maybe that’s why the NFL Network’s a good thing. It may be the only place to get a good, real view of NFL players for what they are: human.
This space is not condoning Ndamukong’s King Kong act when it goes as far as ripping Andy Dalton’s head off, but look, football is a violent game, and we do seem to want it that way, don’t we. Still, it doesn’t mean that Ndamukong Suh the person’s a bad guy at all. He’s not. Suh’s certainly young, smart, immature, but also knows he can have the biggest impact on the NFL of any defensive player in decades.
Given how smart he is, I’ll be all of this was part of a plan, and we’re all just playing our roles.