Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Warren Moon: Never Give Up on Your Dream

In 2006, Warren Moon was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, becoming the first African-American quarterback to be honored in Canton.

I never viewed Moon as anything but a great quarterback, and certainly never looked at him as a "black quarterback." In fact, I wore #12 in my youth league quarterbacking days in honor of my favorite player Randall Cunningham. To me, a great player was a great player. But to Warren Moon, this racial distinction was ever apparent.

With that distinction came many personal, emotional hardships that I or most HHR readers can never fully grasp. And while he comments several times that he never wanted to be remembered as such (a "black" quarterback), he spends most of the 250 pages of his autobiography, Never Give Up on Your Dream, reminding readers that he is a black quarterback.

Literally, nearly every page makes mention of this.

Granted, Moon clearly uses the book as a therapeutic devise to get things off of his chest that he's held in for decades. Unfortunately, some of his arguments about his race contradict other things that he points out in the text.

For instance, Moon notes that despite his high school success, he was never actively recruited as a quarterback by a major D-1 program. In the same breath he notes that his senior year he stood a Flutie-esq 5'11", 165 pounds. Not many big-time recruiters are looking to fill their QB position with someone of that stature.

When finally getting a shot at the University of Washington, he noted that the offense catered to his strengths, moving the pocket, rolling out. He found a fit where the program was willing to change to meet Warren Moon's desires, rather than he himself changing to meet those of the programs he was looking to lead.

Moon rolled the dice, signed with the CFL out of college - a league whose wide-open field and spread offense favored Moon's skill set. While he signed north of the boarder, an NFL team could still have drafted his rights, albeit as a gamble. Moon expresses shock that this didn't happen. Of the fourteen QBs drafted in 1978, Moon noted "It stunned me that I wasn't included in that group somewhere...Although I knew I wasn't going to get drafted, it was still a major shock when my name wasn't called." This statement doesn't even make sense and tells me Moon is either being disengenuous with him memoir or realy has a warped sense of reality - he had just signed a 3-year deal with Edmonton.

Moon notes at the time of the draft the difficulty of being a black quarterback, that most bolt to the CFL and others become wide outs or d-backs. Yet, Doug Williams of HBC Grambling was the first quarterback selected that year.

Truth be told, like Tim Tebow today, it was Moon's ability and skill set that befuddled pro scouts and coaches, as much as his skin color. Neither Tebow nor Moon are/were viewed as "pro-style" quarterbacks.

When Moon finally signed the richest contract in history to land in Houston, the entire offense was adapted to him, incorporating 4 wide receivers and a spread set hardly seen anywhere in the NFL.

The first 200 pages of Never Give Up... are really a recap of Moon's career, with very little revealed. By the time Moon gets around to talking about his missteps - his failed first marriage, domestic abuse accusations, DUIs - they are brushed over in a manner that seems Moon, while saying he accepts responsibility, more paints the incidents as misunderstandings for which he was wrongly characterized.

This isn't to say that the combination of his race and position weren't accompanied by bias or predjudices, but I question Moon's motives, both now and in his playing days. While Moon was always viewed as a person of high character and class, always managing to say the right things as a player, perhaps this was a carefully-calculated approach to not rock the boat and for self-perserverance. With his legacy now secured with a bronze bust in Canton, he is more at liberty to speak his mind on social issues still relevant in the League than he was prior to his enshrinement.

I feel this book was more written for Warren Moon himself, rather than the football fan/reader.

Super Bowl title or no Super Bowl title, Warren Moon was one of the best quarterbacks of his or any era. Few will ever be able to comprehend the added scrutiny that being a black quarterback presents. But Moon doesn't do readers any justice by helping them to understand. Few examples can be viewed as anything other than the author's personal assumption and/or speculation. He could have really pounded home some tangible examples with additional testimony from others in the picture. But rather, Moon internalizes and focuses on #1.

Follow us on Twitter@HHReynolds or Click Here to get HHR in your inbox.

No comments: