- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Jesse Jackson, the former Shadow, is wielding his political hucksterism on the NCAA.

He sees a dearth of black head coaches in the Division I-A football ranks, and so he would like the suits in Indianapolis to use their influence to rectify this glaring condition.

The former Shadow merits an audience wherever he goes, usually because he rhymes with the best and the burned-out relics from the '60s are conditioned, like Pavlov's dog, to salivate in his presence.

All the principals eventually will die of old age, fortunately enough, and with it their outdated views, and soon, a new generation of thinkers will be empowered to provide the air freshener.

These silly, little exercises are so much bean counting, hardly reflective of much, because the marketplace, not just in sports, often works in strange, untidy ways.

Of the 115 head coaches in Division I-A football, only five are black, which means blacks, who make up 12 percent of the nation's population, are underrepresented. Blacks are overrepresented on America's playing fields, if that means anything, and perhaps it does if your mind works like that.

Just guessing, but blacks as well as whites appear to be underrepresented at local 7-Elevens, taxi stands, construction sites and grocery stores. English seems to be the second language in these venues, if a second language is ever used. What does all this mean? Beats the bean counters. Explaining why a group of people feel inclined to gravitate to one area and not another is politically tricky stuff, best left to researchers and social scientists.

In the ever-subjective hiring process, with all variables being relatively equal, employers tend to hire like-minded sorts. Employers don't intend to discriminate. They just do. Sometimes they discriminate because of a person's ample girth or lack of hair on top or lack of taste in clothes. Sometimes they discriminate because a person is too old or too young or because a person is not attractive.

Humans make a zillion calculations in first meetings, not all of them accurate or fair, but that is what makes humans what they are. They only pretend to be nonjudgmental, not caught up in class, status and material wealth, because snobbery is another form of discrimination.

While on the subject of selectivity, let's not forget to throw the old people out with the trash, as if the old have nothing to offer.

The former Shadow is stuck on 115 head coaches, as if 115 of anything amounts to much statistically in a nation of 283 million. If the NCAA's house is imploding and it is the former Shadow is worried about the photo album.

One opportunity denied is another granted. America is a fairly simple place if you're willing to show up each day for 40-45 years. You don't have to be especially smart. Why, you can be an idiot, and America will grant you some kind of employment, possibly even your own talk show.

The former Shadow raises the complexion of the 115 head coaches, black and white instead of red and yellow, if only because sports, overemphasized as they are, are a big seller.

The need for more black head coaches rallies the troops better than the need for more black brain surgeons. Sometimes you don't even know you need something until a telemarketer has finished the pitch.

Sports are celebrated entertainment vehicles that occasionally make a small and overhyped social point, and God bless those who can make a career out of it, first as players and later as coaches. But if you're looking to advance a cause in a significant way, major college and professional sports are probably the last place to look, given the limited numbers.

Thank goodness for the NBA, a predominantly black enterprise that is absolved of the bean counting, racial politics and annoying whines from those who measure fairness on a percentage basis.

Life isn't fair, as recent immigrants to these shores attest in a manner that should embarrass Americans. Life is there to smack you around at times, which is the challenge.

To his credit, the former Shadow has turned the truism into an art form, an industry, really, seeing gross inequities in numerical imperfections.

The spiel still plays well among the tired crowd of the '60s, because it is easy, safe and familiar.

It also beats working for a living.

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