The Secret Relationship Between the Blacks and the Jews

Talking in comments, I realized that I've taken Mike Tomlin's presence, as a black head coach in the Super Bowl, as unremarkable. I don't know that that's objectively true, but the fact that I haven't given it much thought says something.


I was joking that I'd actually been thinking about Aaron Rodgers Jewish ancestry, more than Mike Tomlin's immediate African ancestry. That sent me to Wikipedia's list of "Jews In Football (American.)" Does the fact that I laughed at the very existence of this list make me anti-Semitic? Somehow the fact that somewhere there's probably a "Blacks In Chemistry (Legal)" somewhere makes me depressed.

Oh well the list is pretty interesting--Sid Luckman, Lyle Alzado, Igor Olshansky, Andre Tippet, and my personal favorite, Ron "The Intellectual Assassin" Mix:

Because he had a Juris Doctor in Law degree, Mix was nicknamed "The Intellectual Assassin" for his physical play. Mix was called for a mere two holding penalties in ten years.

Greatest. Handle. Ever. Anyway, whenever Jews and athletics comes up I think about this hilarious editorial from the days when they dominated basketball:

New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico wrote in the mid 1930s that basketball "appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background [because] the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness." We see how qualities such as cunning and wiliness were posited as the keys to Jewish basketball success and how these kinds of statements were indicative of early 20th century America.

"Flashy trickiness" and "general smartalecness." Hilarious. It's really amazing how prejudice adjusts itself to the times. During the Civil War, blacks were thought to be--not just lazy and cowardly--but actually physically weaker then whites. Indeed, up until the turn of the century "scientists" were predicting that the frail and sickly black race would die out.

Then Jack Johnson utterly destroyed Jim Jeffries--and the myth of the hyperstrong, ape-like, black man was born. Suddenly whites couldn't compete because blacks were "natural" athletes, who degraded contests of skill and technique with brute athleticism. It's lasted all the way up to Marlin Brisco and Warren Moon. Somehow, prejudice finds a way. Until it doesn't.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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