Hey, reader, maybe you can help me out here. Tell me â€¦
Are human beings born with an aptitude for math and physics better candidates for NASAâ€™s space program than those who prefer to write poetry in their spare time?
Are people with 180 IQs more likely to find a cure for the common cold than a C student who would rather tinker under the hood of his automobile?
And speaking of automobiles, are cars with V-8 engines faster than those with six cylinders?
Is someone who has trouble passing Algebra I but makes straight Aâ€™s in English more likely to become a better writer than someone who doesnâ€™t know a noun from a verb?
Do beautiful blondes have a better chance of anchoring national television news broadcasts than their less-attractive counterparts?
Do guys who are 7 feet tall have a better chance of being a dominant center in college basketball than somebody whoâ€™s 5-10?
Is a 250-pound human stronger than a 100-pound human?
If you answered â€œyesâ€ to all of the above, go to the head of the class. We all have strengths and weaknesses and, like it or not, the numbersâ€”as in, statisticsâ€”donâ€™t lie. Fair or unfair, thatâ€™s life in the real world.
Now, do I owe an apology to poets, auto mechanics, six-cylinder cars, mathematicians, brunette women, 5-10 basketball players and 100-pound people?
Apparently, I doâ€”especially after Air Force Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry was chastised last week for saying that one reason the Falcons lost to Texas Christian, 48-10, was that TCU had more black players.
â€œ(T)he other team had a lot more Afro-American players than we did,â€ DeBerry said at a news conference, â€œand they ran a lot faster than we did. It just seems to me that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesnâ€™t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents canâ€™t run, but itâ€™s very obvious to me that they run extremely well. â€¦ (T)heir defense had 11 Afro-American kids â€¦ and they were a very, very good defensive football team.â€
And the Denver Post reported that DeBerry said AFA needs more minority athletes.
OK, so the term â€œAfro-Americanâ€ is as outdated as the polyester leisure suit, but DeBerry is 67 and when youâ€™re 67, itâ€™s easy to have a slip of the tongue. The essence of what DeBerry said was, simply, that on the whole black people run faster than white people.
It was a compliment, for crying out loud, not a condemnation! But based on the reaction, you wouldâ€™ve thought DeBerry had stereotyped blacks as criminals or something. He had to publicly apologize for what Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said was â€œa seriously, seriously inappropriate comment.â€
In its coverage of the story, Sports Illustrated magazine raised the question, â€œDeBerry was insensitive, but was he inaccurate?â€ The answer is â€œabsolutely not.â€
As previously mentioned, the numbers donâ€™t lie. According to the 2005 CIA World FactBook, the U.S. population is 81.7 percent white and 12.9 percent African-American. That is, one black person for every 6.3 white people. SI says that in the â€œspeed positionsâ€â€”tailback, wide receiver, cornerback, safetyâ€”among the top 25-ranked Division I-A college football teams, blacks outnumber whites almost 7 to 1.
There is one white running back among the top 25 rushers in 1-A: Colorado State tailback Kyle Bell. And, according to SI, in the past three decades there has been one white running back to lead the nation in rushing: Chance Kretschmer of Nevada in 2001, who, by the way, wasnâ€™t even drafted by an NFL team.
Whatâ€™s moreâ€”and you can look it upâ€”blacks dominate the running events in world-class track and field competition.
For the life of me, I cannot fathom what is offensive about saying that, with few exceptions, black people run faster and/or jump higher than white people. Such a statement means absolutely nothing else except that, and if anyone reads something negative into it that isnâ€™t there, thatâ€™s their problem.
What in the name of Jesse Owens is offensive about saying anybody is better at somethingâ€”something positive, no lessâ€”than somebody else?
Is it mocking out Italians to say they make better lasagna than anybody else? Am I ripping on Austrians if I say they are better downhill skiers than African-Americans? Would Cajuns be upset if I said their jambalaya was tastier than Iowansâ€™ jambalaya? Would the Japanese be offended if someone went public and said nobodyâ€™s sushi was as good as their sushi?
If Fisher DeBerry, or anyone else, stood up at a news conference and declared that white people can run faster than black people, my reaction, after I finally stopped laughing, would be, â€œIt was a nice thing to say, but who are you trying to kid?â€
Rick Woodsonâ€™s column appears each week in the Rochester Business Journalâ€™s print edition at www.rbjdaily.com. Listen to his weekly program, â€œThe Golf Tee,â€ at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280.