Hoover and the Great Depression
by J.B. Cash
2 November 2004
Just as the Federal Reserve System, during Herbert Hoover's administration, acted to increase the effects of the Great Depression, so too does the National Football League act to "depress" the number of white players at running back. They do this through the use of the "caste system," which discriminates against white running backs and thereby inflates the value of black running backs.
Carolina Panthers fullback Brad Hoover was recently elevated to the starting running back position due to injuries to nearly every other black runner on the roster. Hoover got a chance and made the most of it, rushing for 99 yards in a 17-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Hoover has always been a good running back. He was his college team's featured runner and in his rookie season gained 100 yards rushing in a Monday night TV game. Wow! 100 yards on Monday Night Football guarantees an opportunity to get some touches in the future right? Um no. Mr. Hoover is, unfortunately, a Caucasian, and according to unwritten NFL rules because of that he is exempted from getting a fair shot at the featured running back position. So Mr. Hoover has labored in obscurity for several years. His job is to block for a succession of black runners (many of whom have not carried for 100 yards in a season let alone a game).
Fate however intervened, and an unlikely series of injuries depleted the running corps of the Panthers to the point of where they actually had to -- gasp -- let a white man run the ball for them. This unfortunate occurrence happens every year or two in the NFL but is easily remedied in the off-season when a new crop of black runners fresh from the NCAA I-A plantation arrives in the NFL and the racial "balance" can be restored. Oftimes there is another black runner available from the waiver wire or in semi-retirement, or out on bail, to replace those other injured black runners.
This season however there has been a rash of injuries to black running backs which has caused an avalanche of white running backs to appear. Well just two actually, but that constitutes an avalanche in the NFL. (And no, the rash of injuries to black running backs has nothing to do with Ricky Williams' retirement and the absence of any "medical" marijuana Williams may have supplied to his fellow runners.)
So Brad Hoover, thrust into the unusual spotlight of starting runner, acted unlike a starting running back by saying: "I was excited to have the opportunity to carry the ball. I'd be more excited to have the two other guys back. But run, catch, block - I'll do whatever they ask me to do."
No, no, and no. Running backs that want to run have to let it be known that they WANT the ball. A coach may say. "He's done an outstanding job for us. He's playing fullback and tailback for us at this point, and I appreciate his efforts," as Carolina head coach John Fox said, but what he really wants to hear is: "Give me the ball, I am the man and I want to run that damn football." And until a white running back says it -- and means it -- he will be shuttled back to the blocking position at the first opportunity. Really, if you were a coach and you had a guy that said, "I like to run but I would rather block" and another guy that says: "I am a running back and I want to run the ball, not block" -- who would you play as running back?
It's all well and good to act like a good team player and say the right things like "we're a team" and "I'll do whatever the team wants," etc. etc., but it is also essential to show that you have the determination to be a featured back. If a white running back does not show confidence in his ability to run the ball then neither will the coaching staff. Such a back may get a start or two until a black running back comes along with a little skill and a lot of confidence and sends him back to the fullback position or the bench.
Another obstacle to success for a white running back is tied to the success of the team. No matter how well a white running back performs if his team doesn't win he will lose his job. Hoover is a good example. He runs for 99 yards, plays well, but the Panthers only score 6 points and lose again. The headlines: "Lack of running game dooms Panthers." A black running back that runs well on a lousy team is never part of the problem; he is a key to future success. A white running back on a losing team is someone who needs to be replaced for the team to become a winner.
Also, the white running back has to have one good game after another. No bad games are allowed. At the first sign of a slow start or a few bad carries he is out. The experiment is over and it is back to the bench. Never mind that even the greatest backs will have games where the defense keys on them and they are only able to average a few yards a carry. Many times they carry futilely for three quarters then burst out at the end of the game as they find their rhythm and the defense begins to wear down. A white runner does not have that luxury. Run for good yardage right away and keep doing it game after game or you are outta there.
Thus the formula for success for a white running back is to catch on to a team as a blocking back, be elevated to a starting running back when 3 or 4 black runners ahead of him are seriously injured, run well on every carry in every game and hope that the team he plays for is winning. This is, of course, an impossible requirement, which explains the current number of featured white running backs in the NFL - zero.
Note that whenever a black fullback excels in the running position he immediately becomes a "power" tailback. Rueben Droughns is the latest example of this. A blocking back for many years he had some running success and now he is the featured back for Denver, no questions asked. In fact the NFL is full of black running backs that would have to be fullbacks if they were white. Ron Dayne and T. J. Duckett for example.
The difference with those fellows however is that if they are moved to fullback they will perform poorly, because they consider themselves running backs and that is the only position at which they will put out 100 percent. Therefore white runners are actually being punished for being "team players" and doing whatever the coach wants. So the NFL essentially has a policy that punishes white players for doing what the coaching staff wants and actually rewards black players for intentionally playing poorly. Welcome to the NFL 2004.
In the case of Brad Hoover the following game confirmed this analysis. The Panthers were losing so Hoover's previous achievement's meant nothing. Hoover did not rack up big yardage in his first few carries so he was gradually replaced by a rookie who ended up with more carries. The Great (White Running Back) Depression continues.