Christian McCaffrey has become something of a folk hero in my eyes. We hear over and over again that sports are supposed to be the ultimate occurrence of meritocracy. If you’re good, you’re supposed to be allowed to flourish and the only thing stopping you would be confidence in one’s own abilities, or lack thereof.
Yes, that would and should normally be the case if athletes were being judged in a vacuum. However, they are not. The evaluation of a player’s abilities is often subject to the prejudices, expectations and myopia of the observer. That’s when the measurements come in. Measurements that are supposed to tell the tale objectively. Numbers are supposed to be cold but unbiased.
McCaffrey, the son of former Denver Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey, broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of 3,250 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing with 3,864 yards. In the words of The Offspring, his numbers were “pretty fly for a white guy”, or a guy of any ethnic background.
He went on to finish second in Heisman Trophy voting to Derrick Henry, who many still believe is not as a good a player as McCaffrey. Christian’s numbers dropped a bit in 2016 but they were still enough to place him in the upper echelon of collegiate running backs.
His per game average of of 145.7 rushing yards per game were good enough to rank fourth in the nation while he piled up 1,603 total rushing yards. Additionally, his 284 yards rushing versus Cal are a school record.
He also became the first player to rush for over 100 yards (172) and have over 100 yards receiving (109) in a Rose Bowl game and set a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards.
McCaffrey has a fan in me. Last year I reported on him taking scouts to task for not taking him serous as a running back because of his race.
“When you read about white athletes these days and white skill possession receivers specifically, one word you’ll always find is tough,” McCaffrey told NFL.com. “You’ll rarely see explosive, athletic, stuff like that. … You get a little bit upset: ‘I ran the same 40 as this guy, and you’re calling him … .’ People do the eye test and underestimate me, so I do play with a chip on my shoulder.”
The eye test is where the problem comes in. The eye test says that Christian McCaffrey is a white running back. And, unfortunately, people still have preconceived notions about what he can do.
Recently he has caught a bunch of slack for refusing to participate in private workouts and skipping Stanford’s bowl game, but I don’t blame him. There’s only so much poking and prodding one can allow themselves to be subjected to.
He is currently predicted to be the first or second running back to be taken in the NFL draft and the same people that compared him to Derrick Henry last year are comparing him to Leonard Fournette. But here’s to McCaffrey ballin’ out and proving everybody wrong .
Why am I “caping” for a white running back who is being underestimated? Because racial assumptions made anywhere are an affront to fair play everywhere.