Another football season just started. From novice young beginners to professionals through high schools and colleges, the oval ball will fly on every field for the next couple months.
On a side note, let’s remind ourselves that for youth in high schools and colleges, the season has also started for another “football.” In this football the ball is actually passed from one foot to another. A handball is a serious infringement of the laws of this “football” — we know in the U.S. as soccer — that can cause a team to lose the game. I grew up in the soccer culture and have been involved in various capacities as a player up to my old age. I have moved from the professional area, and now limit myself to officiating youth, high school and college games, and in mentoring young referees.
When I moved to the U.S., I was quickly attracted to American football. Watching the game on TV increased my culture shock at various levels. The number of players was impressive. In my football, I was one of 18 players, including substitutes, and each athlete played offense and defense. While the oval ball did not bother me too much, this football was basically played with hands. I did not understand why in the world someone would even call this “foot” ball. Lastly, my biggest culture shock focused on this important player around whom all sequences of the game started: the quarterback. Everyone on the opposing team wanted to hit this person on the ground.
About 20 years ago, almost all the quarterbacks were Caucasians. I sincerely thought that being white was a criterion to be quarterback. It was during an exciting cultural and language practice topic for my high school French class project titled Les Sports du Monde (world sports) that my students taught me about American football. I learned then that about 96 percent of quarterbacks from college to professionals were white.
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Additional information surfaced: The players who fly from nowhere to catch the ball for a touchdown, the wide receivers, were predominantly black.
I was. and am still today, always amazed to observe the different reactions of quarterbacks and wide receivers on the field, especially after a touchdown. When the quarterback — most likely a white man — throws a perfect ball and a wide receiver —most likely a black man — catches it for a touchdown, the TV cameras always show the following reactions:
First, the referee is shown with arms up indicating a touchdown. Then the cameras turn to the wide receiver. We observe an extensive celebration expressed by a dance and other carnival-like gestures. Next, the camera turns quickly to the quarterback. His celebrative move is often limited to a fist or an index finger in the air. Who would suggest that the quarterback is less happy than the wide receiver? I do not even believe someone who explained that difference by stating, “It’s because quarterbacks can’t dance!”
This difference is based on the natural physical response that is more physically expressive in the black players than in the white players.
Lastly, the cameras turn to the crowd, the side whose team just scored.
All the men and women, old and young of all races, are celebrating in diverse ways, high-fives, shouts and more. At that specific time, no one in that happy crowd is thinking that a white man threw a ball that a black man caught it.
They are all celebrating a combination of diverse skills and competencies of a white and a black, which led to a great achievement, the touchdown. That is inclusion! Because diversity is more than race, gender and age, we should think of taking diversity to the levels where differences don’t make a difference anymore, just as we do in football.
Emmanuel Ngomsi is president of All World Languages and Cultures Inc., a training and consulting corporation specializing in intercultural communication, diversity education and training, team-building facilitation and language services in more than 50 languages. He can be reached at 888-646-5656 or visit his website at www.universalhighways.com