Monday, April 27, 2009

Until NPR mentioned it . . .

it never occurred to me that Mark Sanchez, the USC quarterback drafted by the New York Jets in the first round of this weekend's draft (no. 5 overall), is "Mexican-American."

I watched USC a few times last season. I certainly recognized the last name Sanchez as being latino. But I never viewed him as a "Mexican-American quarterback" or a "latino player." That type of thinking, to me, is foolishness. He's an American. He's a football player.

Giving NPR the benefit of the doubt, I think the angle it was trying to take by discussing, in detail, Mr. Sanchez's ethnicity was to highlight that it apparently has significance in the latino community of southern California.

I'm not sure why, though, that would be especially noteworthy. It is not as if Mr. Sanchez is the latino Jackie Robinson of football. He's hardly the first latin player in the NFL. As of the 2007 season, there were no less than 24 latinos in the NFL.

He definitely isn't the first high profile latino in American pro sports. Latin American players essentially dominate Major League Basesball.

My favorite baseball player as a kid (who played a bit before my time) was Roberto Clemente. Not only was he Puerto Rican, he was of African descent. I think I was drawn to him because my Puerto Rican father was a big fan and told me stories about what a great player he had been. But I wasn't drawn to him because he was Puerto Rican. Had he been a lousy player, he would have gone unnoticed.

Which brings me back to the point. If we truly want to be a "color blind" society, we should stop looking at people as members of an ethnicity and, instead, look at them as people who have things to offer society. Mark Sanchez will succeed or fail on the field regardless of his last name or the country from which his ancestors came. He'll either be a good quarterback or he won't be. He'll make us all proud if he works hard and does his best.

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