December 12, 2006

Another Visit to Page 2's Twilight Zone

Look out, everyone, Jemele Hill is at it again. (I should probably find a new hobby horse instead of picking on Jemele all the time, but she's such a rich source of material, I can't help myself.) This time, she begins her column thus:

Serious question: If Michael Vick was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, why can't Troy Smith be?

I have no idea why she felt the need to begin with the phrase "serious question." Did she figure we'd think she was joking? One sentence in, and I'm already confused.

Serious or not, though, the question she raises is a reasonable one. Smith won the Heisman Trophy, and has done a fine job quarterbacking Ohio State this year. Why shouldn't he be considered a top-flight pro prospect? (As an aside, I don't follow football closely enough to know whether Smith is actually considered an elite prospect or not. For all I know, Smith will be the #1 pick in the draft, and this idea of him being "overlooked" is only accurate in Jemele World. But I'll do her a favor and assume her premise is correct here.)

She then runs through a long list of reasons you're not allowed to think Smith won't measure up:

"Don't say Vick is superior because of speed...Don't say the freak factor. [Ed. note: What?!] This isn't a PlayStation game...Don't say passing...Don't say decision making...Don't say body of work..."

Incidentally, Jemele's tactic is a neat debating trick, if you can get away with it. "Okay, tell me why Thomas Jefferson was a better president than George W. Bush. Don't say intelligence... don't say decision making... don't say the Founding Father factor... don't say body of work..." Okay, what's left? Jefferson had better hair?

Jemele then proceeds to conclude that Smith is being overlooked, unfairly, because of his height. She compares Smith to Drew Brees, who is the same height as Smith (approximately 6 feet) and slid to the second round of the draft, but seems to be doing pretty well for himself. She wonders why Smith is considered a lesser prospect that Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, who is 6'4", but has a much less impressive body of work.

Fair point. But you know who else is only 6 feet tall? Michael Vick. The same Michael Vick who went #1 in the same draft where Brees slid because of his height. What's more, Jemele mentions this in her column. So, your point was...?

Of course, I'm not sure her real point is about height. Take this passage:

It never fails. Every year one player's flaw takes on a whole new level of ridiculous importance. Last year, Vince Young annihilated virtually every defense in college football, but his Wonderlic test all of a sudden became stupidly significant.

Yes, Young's astoundingly low Wonderlic score made big pre-draft headlines. And, of course, both Young and Smith are black, and each had a big-name white rival to contend with (Matt Leinart and Quinn, respectively). So maybe that's her point, that NFL front offices look for any excuse to downgrade a black QB prospect.

Except, of course, that Vince Young was the 3rd pick in the draft last year, while Leinart slid to 10th.

And, of course, Michael Vick is also black, while Drew Brees is white.

So I still have no idea what her point is. I'm not sure that she knows, either. All I know is that if Troy Smith is one of the top 5 picks in the draft, this column is going to look even sillier than it already does.

P.S. Today's Jemelism:

Most human beings concede Vick could probably outrun a Concorde jet.

(1) This sentence is very poorly written. My high-school journalism teacher would have red-penned it.
(2) A Concorde jet? That's the most up-to-date reference she could make? I thought she was supposed to be the young and hip one.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at December 12, 2006 08:50 AM | TrackBack

No snarky comment to add here. I'm just enjoying this Jamele Hill series. Good post.

Posted by: PapaShaft at December 12, 2006 02:05 PM

Malcolm Gladwell thinks we're in a new golden age of sportswriting, but that was before Jemele hit Page 2.

Posted by: PG at December 21, 2006 04:59 PM
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