Dear Black Folks Don’t Be A System QB

I fell in love with sports growing up for a number of reasons. A way to release pent up energy, a way to socialize and make friends, a way to gain confidence in self. It wasn’t until I got older that I truly learned about the transferable lessons sports offered that could be applicable in society as a whole. Sure, you learn about how to lose graciously, how to improve, how to work within a team, how to motivate, et cetera. But the most timely and relevant lesson is one about a system.

Football has a bunch: a 4-3 versus a Cover 2 or a spread offense versus a pro-style offense. Basketball too: a 2-3 zone, a full-court trap, the Triangle offense, this San Antonio Spurs/Phoenix Suns-esque system Golden State uses. People who may forget more about sports than I’ll ever know get paid millions of dollars to be able to identify and gameplan against these systems. They don’t pack it in and say, “oh man this Wildcat offense is too hard to crack, I guess the Dolphins’ll go 16-0 en route to a Super Bowl since they came up with this amazing unbeatable scheme.” But combatting it starts with understanding, hey, this is a really great system and it will take sound execution to be able to attack its weaknesses.

And so that’s where we’ll start here.

I wrote a freelance piece about how Black Americans went from the very outwardly system of slavery to a more covert system of Jim Crow and its lineage. The piece speaks of how as things became harder to blatantly spot, it is harder to fight because there’s no consensus on if it even occurred at all. Even as laws have changed, this hadn’t stopped the system because the system was created to not be identified. It was created to be your word against mine. This is the case for discrimination in the workplace, the denial of a loan for a mortgage, being pulled over for a “certain reason” but really just we don’t see your kind in these parts typically. It was also created to be plug-and-play. There’s not much thought that needs to go in here. Not a complex set of instructions to follow. It plays off concepts that are easy to understand and abide by. For many, its a fear play where you—the protagonist—are simply trying to go to work and support your family but there are these good for nothing leeches that may end up outnumbering you and causing you harm as if this is an episode of The Walking Dead.

If you want to play the game, it is probably wise to understand the system. Sorry, let me rephrase that, if you’re Black and you want to play the game, it is probably wise to understand the system.

Let’s use basketball as an example: you’re a hot-shot, sure-fire first-round pick and you’ve just finished your compulsory post-high school year needed to qualify for the NBA draft. Everyone is projecting you to be a lottery pick meaning you’ll be one of the first 15 people to be drafted to a team, the order coming from a lottery drawing of the worst teams by record the prior season. Not an exact science but let’s say for shits and giggles you go top 3, you’re going to a team that probably was not very good, may not be well run, and may have many holes on its roster. Yet, this is the team you’re drafted to and you got quite a while before you reach free agency and you have a say in staying or leaving. Sucks but hey, the game is the game.

If you hail from an inner-city you’ve seen it. You’ve seen the lack of resources, the lack of jobs, the lack of opportunity, drugs, gangs, violence, health issues, et cetera. You’re searching for your ticket out, longing to have a shot at taking part of the good ‘ol American Dream. Think of it as a ladder, you’re just climbing away at being able to leave “hell” and landing upon greener pastures and better living. To you, the possibilities are limitless. It’s called a glass ceiling for a reason, you’ve seen the commercials of the birds that crash into the Windex-cleaned screen doors I’m sure. This is just that scenario.

Yes, you may be able to ascend. You may be able to earn more money than anyone in your family has ever touched or been able to imagine. But then what? What’s next? I know, I know. It’s not your responsibility to fix the world. It’s not your responsibility to clean up a mess you didn’t make. But what actually improved from you reaching the top of the ladder? You got the white picket fence, the Golden lab, the BMW. LIFE’S GOOD! I’m not Black, I’m OJ 🙂

Black billionaires didn’t prevent the murders of Breonna Taylor or George Floyd. Hell, Black billionaires couldn’t even pay for justice to happen. Neither could a Black former President of the United States. Black celebrities with millions of followers on IG or Twitter also couldn’t do a damn thing. Truthfully, they can’t even prevent these things from happening to them. I mean sure, they’re maybe identifiable but all it really takes is for a state trooper with a subconscious bias against Black people that didn’t quite get picked up on before he landed the job to have “enough” of a reason to squeeze that trigger that’ll pump out bullets with QUALIFIED IMMUNITY etched in them and that’s it. So again, what did that really buy you?

Now let me pause to say people got bills and responsibilities to take care of. Again, the system is nearly flawless. It makes sure there are tangible obstacles for you to truly ever care to take it on. Brilliant, right? But no, I am not advocating that you don’t chase financial stability and upward mobility. Nice things are nice. We all want them. And they require working and earning a living to afford. The issue isn’t in that it’s the how. It is the blind obedience and assimilation in the system, for me. It’s the normalizing of a shit system that always seems to be predicated on someone being the loser, for me. I can’t find it at the moment but Deval Patrick has this whole bit on how businesses and corporations can still do good and be socially responsible or whatever the word choice he used while still bringing in the BIG MONEYS. If we’re going to be about this free-range capitalism thing, that is truly the only way to make a country sustainable or else the ones with the money run the whole thing and that doesn’t happen at all here in the United States of America…

Sports make me happy because through and through, sports continue to reinforce these values. The Miami Heat had LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh and only got 2 out of 4. Michael Jordan was the GOAT but needed Scottie Pippen—and dare I say Jerry Krause, LOL. I know as a Black person you wanna ball out like you see the white folks get to but hey this is the team you were drafted by, unfortunately. You gotta take this ragtag cast to the championship game. And that’s not by you scoring 50 a game and putting the team on your back, it is by operating as a team. Operating as a whole. Making everyone around you better. If you’re Black and you got some secret sauce you gotta share that shit. You have to. You don’t have the luxury of dying with this knowledge. You don’t have the luxury of getting to the top of the ladder and living like a king. Why? BECAUSE THE SYSTEM WASN’T MADE FOR THAT. Look at Kanye. Look at OJ. Look at Jay-Z. Look at Puff. These people have all had to come on back to Black after climbing that ladder, earning millions and getting to meet that glass ceiling personally.

This country, and system, is designed to operate in a silo. If everyone is solely focused on self and their dependents then this can run smoothly as you have stock in the status quo. The system also operates on you being either too unintelligent to spot it or too apathetic to care to make any changes if you do spot it. And while that certainly calls on every one of various “races’“ and backgrounds, this is all intended for Black people. You are the ones that predominately hail from communities that have the most need and the least likelihood of receiving such assistance from those that are in place to do so—the state and federal governments. You are the ones that make it out and have such vast wisdom and information to pass on, yet fall into the trap that the system desires—“individualism”. You are called to do this because this is the team you were drafted to. You, and/or your parents, battled against the system and you ascended to where you currently are. Shouldn’t that information be passed on to help those that may also want to climb the ladder? Shouldn’t your impact and legacy span further than the printed piece of paper that has seemingly established your “net worth”?

If you applaud the narratives and motifs of teamwork, growth, and development in sports then why can’t that be extended to the rest of your life?

What You Expect?