Mmm...in the food groups of content, race-baiting columns have got to be up there with circus peanuts for nutritional content. Terence Moore of the AJC's made a living off selling them, especially to outraged and oddly attentive Georgia fans (see any column involving David Greene and D.J. Shockley for an example.) Our favorite Moore columns include "Why Hasn't the Kentucky Derby Had a Black Champion?", "The Hidden Racism of Sumo Wrestling," and "Peyton Manning is a Teeny-Weenied Cracker Who Couldn't Hold Mike Vick's Tremendous Jock."
Mike Freeman of CBS Sportsline could be accused of taking the same route with his latest piece on Chris Leak and his evolving, ambiguous reputation among Florida fans by quoting a whole lot of anecdotal evidence in his piece accusing Florida fans of letting race dictate their attitudes regarding the former blue-chipper and standard bearer for all that has gone right and wrong with Florida football over the past four years. That is, if he didn't have a few quotes from Curtis Leak, CL's father:
"I think the Gator Nation as a whole is behind Chris, but there are some fans who are not. They will never support him because of his skin color.
I also can't help but think it is difficult for Chris to be a black quarterback in the SEC. You have to be blind to see that is still tough for blacks in general in that conference. The fact you have had only one black head coach in the history of the SEC, which has been around for 100 years, says a lot."
We honestly can't think of any fanbase this couldn't be said of, since there are fans who root for people based on the number of consonants in their nickname. (And they dig players of Slavic descent like you wouldn't believe.) Doesn't seem too outrageous a statement to make, though, especially when Leak does play in the SEC, which has a nastier past in the department of race relations than anyone would care to admit.
Yet building a whole column around the idea that Leak is unfairly slammed on message boards (who isn't?) because he's black seems forced, especially to someone who's watched Leak bear the brunt of the blame for the tumult of post-Spurrier Gatordom. Freeman essentially welded together the wacko email he'd get in response to columns with hearsay, a few talk radio calls he half-remembers, and a few mild quotes from Curtis Leak into an indictment of a sliver of the fanbase most fans would agree should be shot from cannons rather than granted access to the stadium. It's a formula you could install neatly into almost any story involving a black quarterback in any setting:
"I remember when I'd write columns and people would respond with hateful letters calling me a (insert ethnic slur/gag about facial deformity/mocking joke about public and painful divorce.) It always rang true for me because (I worked there/knew a guy/read a book about the place and man, it sounded fucked up.) I've heard people say things in the stands to the same effect. (For best results, repeat until satisfied.)"
The funniest thing about the column is how wrong Freeman is about the basic tenet of the article: that a small group of Florida fans hate Chris Leak because he's black. This couldn't be further from the truth: a small group of Florida fans hate Chris Leak because he's Jewish, something Freeman could have known simply by looking at the Swoosh-bedazzled Nike athletic yarmulke Leak wears between plays on the sideline. Holy unobservant journalism!
That's not the guy Freeman's talking about--surprise!!!