White America’s Team: The New England Patriots

Tom Brady and Wes Welker: This eras Montana and Rice

What do you call a  team led by a quarterback selected with the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft; a wide receiver that only one college offered a scholarship (God Bless Mike Leach) to out of high school and that was not drafted by any of the 32 NFL teams upon a record-setting collegiate career; a running back who was the Division II player of the year for two straight seasons, but was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and (of course) wasn’t drafted; a tight-end who enjoys taking pictures with prominent adult entertainment stars when he isn’t out-running defensive backs; and a former college quarterback who now plays both receiver and corner back, in between being a special teams demon.

You call them America’s team. White America’s team You call them Patriots. Nothing more, nothing less. Just as the 1980s Boston Celtics were an NBA franchise paced by outstanding white athletes, the dynasty that the New England Patriots have started in the NFL has largely been built on the shoulders of white athletes that other NFL teams weren’t interested in signing.

Tom Brady, a quarterback who recently said, “I’m the best decision this organization has ever made,” is the signal-caller for a franchise that millions of fans across the nation openly root for, noticing that the Patriots have a record-breaking offense that doesn’t look anything like that of the other 31 NFL teams (well, save the Indianapolis Colts who under Peyton Manning also tend to start a fair number of melanin-deficient athletes): The New England Patriots are America’s team, and the white athletes who were overlooked by all of the other franchises represent what the NFL could look like (just as Tim Tebow showed you the type of character all of the athletes could have, the type of real role-models sports could provide).

Wes Welker, the record-setting white receiver from Texas Tech who went undrafted only to find sanctuary in the New England after showing glimpses of super-star ability on the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. White men can run, and Wes Welker is one of the primary individuals responsible for proving this in an era when they are constantly told they can’t.

Just as Welker was given an opportunity to blossom into the NFL’s best receiver in New England, white running back Danny Woodhead has shown that the talent he displayed at Chadron State wasn’t an aberration. Woodhead produced big-numbers in 2010 (overshadowed by fellow white running back Peyton Hillis) and has played an integral role in the Patriots outstanding 2011 season.

Rob Gronkowski was expected to be a major contributor to the Patriots offense when he was selected in 2010. But few could have anticipated he’d become perhaps the NFL’s second best receiver, trailing fellow white teammate Welker’s unbelievable 2011 numbers by only a few catches:

Gronkowski owns a number of tight-end scoring and receiving records, including the single-season records for tight ends for most receiving touchdowns (17), most total touchdowns (18), and most receiving yards (1,327), all set in 2011.

For the 2011 Pro Bowl, only Brady and Welker received more votes than Gronkowski in the entire AFC.

Woodhead, Welker, and Edelman: White guys can only be Patriots

And Julian Edelman was an option quarterback at Kent State. Now, he’s the type of white corner back William Rhoden uses in trying to ascertain why so few Black people become pilots.

Edelman’s outstanding pro day at Kent State was enough to get him elected with the 232 pick in the seventh round in 2009:

Edelman was not invited to the 2009 NFL Combine; at his pro day, he recorded a 20-yard short shuttle time of 3.92 seconds, which was the fastest time of any player at the Combine.

That outstanding speed helps Edelman goth both ways, playing both offense and defense for the Patriots.

Few other franchises would give these athletes the time of day (maybe the Colts), but the Patriots have put together a team of white athletes that remind observers like Jason Whitlock of those white Boston Celtics from the 80s:

RavensPatriotsTom Brady vs. Ray Lewis — is a cultural war of the highest order.

It’s offense vs. defense. It’s the most valuable offensive player of the new millennium vs. the most valuable defensive player of the new millennium. It’s Brady, Gronkowski and Welker vs. Sugar, Sizzle and Safety. It’s rock ’n’ roll vs. hip-hop.

It’s Bird vs. Magic, Marciano vs. Ali, Jack vs. Tiger, Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils vs. Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels, Spearmint Rhino vs. King of Diamonds, and “Mad Men” vs. “The Wire.”

Oh, man. I really love that “Mad Men” vs. “The Wire” analogy. Gisele’s beau and Bridget Moynahan’s baby’s daddy, Tom Brady, is the skirt-chasing Don Draper.

Friend-to-porn star Rob Gronkowski is the irreverent, prostitute-buying Roger Sterling. Wes Welker is the squirrelly Pete Campbell. “The Wire” characters are even easier to identify. Ray “Sugar” Lewis is Avon Barksdale. Ed “Safety” Reed is Stringer Bell. And Terrell “T-Sizzle” Suggs is Wee-Bey.

“The Wire” is my religion. But I really enjoy “Mad Men.” Magic Johnson is my all-time favorite athlete. But I’m an Indiana native who reveres Larry Bird. Give me Ali and Tiger. But I completely get why some people prefer Marciano and Nicklaus. Well, I did root for Duke over UNLV, and I’d give Rhino a slight edge over KOD based on decor, parking ease and tattoos.

Look, we can tip-toe around it, ignore the big beautiful elephant in the room, or we can embrace the fact that Sunday’s AFC Championship contest is soaked in the white-black racial component that has driven American sports passion at least since Jack Johnson whipped James J. Jeffries.

The stakes are high this Sunday.

Brady leads an offense built in his image. In a league that is predominantly black, Brady directs a high-flying offense that is predominantly white and relies on a deep cast of white playmakers.

Lewis leads a defense built in his brash image. Nine of the 11 Ravens defenders are African-American. To compensate for Baltimore’s inconsistent offense, Lewis’ defense not only takes risks to create turnovers, they take even more risks trying to convert those turnovers into instant points.

The cliche is “styles make fights.” This is the ultimate clash of styles and football cultures. This is Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers racing with the basketball for 94 feet vs. Larry Bird’s Celtics brutalizing an opponent on the defensive end with elbows and cheap shots and demoralizing the same opponent on the other end with precise halfcourt sets.

Brady vs. Lewis. This is better and more significant than Brady vs. Manning. The QB duels are a reality-TV creation, a byproduct of rules being influenced to keep our attention. Soon, the TV networks will be telling you that Brees vs. Rodgers is better than Brady vs. Manning.

On the basketball court, we may never see anything as compelling as Bird vs. Magic again. And this is likely our first and only shot at seeing Brady vs. Lewis on the biggest stage they can share. Enjoy.

I love Tom Brady. Other than John Elway, he’s the quarterback I respect the most. But I’ll be rooting for Avon, Stringer and Wee-Bey. “The Wire” is my religion.

Gronk: Might be the NFL’s best receiver

 Brady. Welker. Woodhead. Gronk. Edelman. White men (outside of Gronk) that few NFL teams held any interest in when they were coming out of college. Now, they form the nucleus of a team that is on the threshold of another Super Bowl appearance.

In a league that is 67 percent Black (epitomized by the Ravens, a franchise that can best be described as “Black America’s” team), the Patriots – like Tebow – shame almost every other franchise for daring to pass on talented white athletes. Their combined unselfish play and talents have enabled a replication of the Boston Celtics whiteness of the 80s to appear on the gridiron of this century.

Fitting that the Baltimore Ravens, representing one of those dying American cities where Black crime makes every day a war zone there, are paced by Lewis. It was back in 2000 that he was a suspect in a murder:

Sunseria Keith had been looking forward to Pro Bowl week for a long time, so she was really excited on Jan. 31 as she checked into the Ihilani Resort and Spa outside Honolulu. Her son, Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, would join her in a few hours. He’d be flying in from Atlanta, where he’d attended the Super Bowl.

A phone in Keith’s hotel room rang. “Mama,” Lewis‘s familiar voice crackled into her ear, “I’ve got to talk to you.” It was the second conversation between the two that day.

Earlier Lewis had told Keith that police had questioned him in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men early that morning outside a nightclub in the Buck-head section of Atlanta, but he’d assured her that everything was fine. Now everything wasn’t fine. Lewis was phoning from a friend’s house outside Atlanta, and police had shown up at the house to arrest him.

Lewis dropped the phone, but the line stayed connected. This is what Keith says she heard next: “Hey, don’t do that! Don’t put those handcuffs on me, man! I didn’t murder nobody! I didn’t do nothing! You got the wrong guy!”

Lewis never picked the receiver back up. He was taken to the Atlanta City Detention Center, and as of Monday was the only suspect being held for the stabbing deaths that took place near the posh Cobalt Lounge. An Atlanta police affidavit charged that the 24-year-old Lewis, “along with others,” killed Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, both from nearby Decatur, “by punching, beating and stabbing them with a sharp object.” Citing information that Lewis wasn’t involved in the crimes, Lewis’s lawyers last Friday tried unsuccessfully to convince Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard that there was just cause to release Lewis on bail. It appeared that Lewis would be in jail until at least Feb. 14, when a bond hearing is scheduled.

The memory of the aborted phone conversation still haunts Keith. “They have nothing on Ray,” she told SI last Thursday night at her Atlanta hotel. “Nothing. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s sitting in jail for what somebody else did. All he did was be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Lewis, the Ravens‘ biggest name, could claim that he has been wrongly accused on several occasions. Four other times in the last six years, dating back to his college days at Miami, he has been cited by police as a possible participant in a brawl or named in incident reports of battery or charged with assault. He has never been convicted of a crime, however; in fact, he has never even been tried.

Just as Lewis has never been tried for any of the crimes he has been convicted of, what franchise outside of the Patriots would have tried out Brady, Welker, Woodhead or Edleman? Better yet, one franchise has given them all a chance to shine.

And that’s it all takes. Just give these white guys a shot. And guess what? They become America’s team. It should also be pointed out that the jersey’s for Brady, Welker, Woodhead, and Gronk are some of the most highly sought-after in all of the NFL.


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