I have a tattoo, a band of sharks around my upper right arm. It reminds me of California, and mornings surfing along Malibu, Manhattan Beach and occasionally San Diego.
Obviously I don't live in California anymore and as I started writing about football full time, had to start taking the kids to weekend activities and, well, life happened, I don't get out to surf anymore.
So my tattoo reminds me of the days when I used to get up at 5am, hop in my car or truck (depends on the year) and sat on a board in flat water and watched the sun rise or set. Of surfing with dolphin pods and seals, of my wedding day when I kicked things off with a short trip to El Segundo with friends and family, some of whom had never touched a board, and spent the morning surfing.
So you can imagine how I took the idiocy that was David Whitley's incredibly wrongheaded, stupid and racist column at Sporting News about Colin Kaepernick and his tattoos.
Unlike some, I'm not going to say Whitley is a racist. I think he fell into some racist traps, spouted some really stupid crap and thought he was being funny. Maybe he thought he was turning the whole thing on its' ear and it was satire—but satire needs to be so far over the top that there can be NO denying it is, indeed, satire.
Instead it's just offensive and stupid. I guess, according to Whitley, I can never be a CEO because the thought of a tatted CEO made Whitley's monocle pop out. I suppose I, like Kaepernick, must have more in common with Federal Prisons across the country because, you know, TATTOOS.
What is truly sad is that somewhere in that execrable excuse for a column is a very fascinating discussion about perception, about surface assumptions and the changing landscape of sports and media.
Whitley robbed us of that though because hurr hurr hurr biker gang tats.
I'll be honest, I always consider the fact that now that I'm on camera multiple times a week, I have to present a face which appeals to the widest group possible. People want to dismiss my opinion because that's what we do with folks who we disagree with. So why give them an easy out by coloring my hair green or having tat sleeves?
I'll get more tattoos, but i'll never get them visible while on camera. I've wanted to color my hair more than once, but I'm not sure that would fly well right now. Maybe one day, but probably not right now.
So I acknowledge that, while Whitley said it with as much ignorance as any one human can muster, that a wider point can be made about Kaepernick's tattoos, or more directly, quarterbacks of any race's tattoos versus the expectations we have of them.
We have had a perception or view of what a quarterback looks like and let's be honest—until the last decade (maybe more recently) that face has been white and 'clean cut' (whatever that means).
That has changed, is changing and will keep changing.
Along with that clean cut image comes a distinct lack of tattoos, especially ones visible to the naked eye.
So this is where the issue gets thorny. See, I don't see that as a race issue because I've always known people who had tattoos and race never entered into it. However, it clearly is a factor in the minds of many people, especially generations slightly older than myself.
Which means what exactly?
That's a great question. Around CHTV, Footballguys and Bleacher Report I haven't run into a great many people who care about the race of thier quarterback—just that he completes passes. I haven't met a ton of folks who, unlike Jerry Richardson, give a damn that Cam Newton has no tattoos or Kaepernick does.
We seem to care about one thing—can he ball? Can he play and carry our team to victory?
Think about your quarterback—for many of you here, Aaron Rodgers, but for those straggling in off Twitter or Facebook, maybe it's Cutler or Sanchez or Cassel or Stafford or Griffin.
Would it really bother you if they started sporting a sleeve of tattoos? Would you really avoid buying their jersey? Going to State Farm or Papa Johns or buying Under Armor?
Would you care beyond 'he's winning'?
This, to me is similar to a point I made about a month ago, about guys like Chris Kluwe stumping for Marriage Equity.
What the heck do we care if they look different, think different or believe different if they do their job?
Ultimately, that's the other dirty secret here.
We don't like 'different'.
We fear 'different'.
It makes us different and we dislike that a ton.
I have always thought that the vast majority of humans live in fear of being found out that they are unlike the general public around them, never realizing that everyone is different than everyone else. And that's OK.
We fear different because we're afraid that if we're different maybe we're wrong or something is wrong with us.
Fear is, and this is just me talking, the base, bottom line reason for an awful lot of hate and intolerance in the world.
I believe that to be true in just about everything, from Mitch Albom's 'I hate stats' rant a few weeks back to racism to just about any 'ism' you can find.
Now again, I think Whitley was trying to be funny. He's clearly completely inept at it, but I think he was goinjg for satire.
But even then, there's a grain of truth in there about how he feels about the whole subject.
He chooses not to talk about the religious aspect to Kaepernick's tattoos. He doesn't talk about his upbringing, how pleasant a person he is, how hard he works.
Just 'he has tattoos' with some disturbingly soft undertones of 'and he's black'. Add in 'and he replaced a reasonably nice white kid' if you want to feel really dirty.
It's a new world folks. It's a world where our pure sport of football has been tainted. Our quarterbacks are no longer looking like us! (and I say that with a tongue planted in cheek because 'us' means many different things to my many different readers of various religions, genders and races)
Here's what matters about Colin Kaepernick:
-He throws the ball harder than Alex Smith
-He can throw the ball further than Smith
-He can be more accurate over longer distances than Smith
-He works damned hard
-He can play the game
All the rest of it should be so much noise.
Of course, to old men like Jerry Richardson and hacks like Whitley, it's the book jacket that matters, not the story.
I had a lot more to get to today but this is already long so, we'll table thinks like is Suh a dirty player next time.
I bet he has tattoos though. Just like them jerks in San Quentin.
Now excuse me, I have to get a giant tat of Kaepernick giving the middle finger to Whitley on my back.
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