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Go by what Barry Switzer means and not what he says

Switzer has no filter. He says what’s on his mind. That’s not the same as saying what you really believe. Some of us sometimes talk without thinking, and Switzer does his share of that.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 9, 2014


photo - Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame member Barry Switzer at the banquet, Monday, August 5, 2013. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame member Barry Switzer at the banquet, Monday, August 5, 2013. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman

Barry Switzer has no filter. He says what’s on his mind.

That’s not the same as saying what you really believe. Some of us sometimes talk without thinking, and Switzer does his share of that.

Which is how he came to declare on a Nashville radio show that he’s “always said I’d never recruit a white quarterback.”

Switzer drew the predictable response from the what’d-he-say? crowd and from the reverse-racism crowd.

It’s difficult to have a serious discussion about race in America these days without riling up some faction. Not that Switzer was seriously discussing race.

He was kidding around, folks. He was just talking. That’s what makes him such a good interview. A quarter century after his final OU game, almost 20 years after his Super Bowl, Switzer remains more interesting and in some ways just as relevant as 90 percent of the guys still coaching football.

You just have to remember that you can’t always go by what he says. You have to go by what he means.

The idea that Switzer wouldn’t recruit a white quarterback would be news to Kelly Phelps and Troy Aikman and Mike Gundy and a horde of other Caucasian optioneers. Heck, Switzer made Aikman a wishbone quarterback and started him against Miami and Texas.

If you’ll permit me to play dime-store psychologist for a minute, I’d guess that Switzer thinks in terms of race less than almost anyone I’ve ever met. He sees race. He knows who’s black and who’s white and who’s purple-and-pink striped. He just doesn’t consider it all that much.

When Switzer says he’d have to have a black quarterback, this is what he means. He’d have to have a black-style quarterback. Admit it. If we think of a run/pass quarterback, an athletic quarterback, we imagine a black QB. That’s the way our minds have been trained, especially those over a certain age.

“My offense is a quarterback/fullback offense,” Switzer said, which by the way was true in the ‘80s but not in the ‘70s. Who knows what Switzer’s option would look like in the 21st century? And who knows what his quarterback would look like? But we know what his quarterback would have to do.

“I’d have to have a Jamelle Holieway, J.C. Watts, Thomas Lott,” Switzer said. “Those guys are gonna be my quarterbacks. They’re great runners, they’re great ballcarriers and … able to pass, complete some, and those guys could. Those guys could throw and run.”

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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