Lamar Jackson’s First-Round Selection Brings Joy To Frustrated (Black) Fans

Noted novelist and social critic James Baldwin is known for a famous quote.

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time…”

This line came from a response to a review of a Langston Hughes-penned poem, but the rest of the paragraph is what really sticks out to me.

“Part of the rage is this: it isn’t only what is happening to you, but it’s what’s happening around you all of the time, in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference, the indifference and ignorance of most white people in this country.”

When Michael Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered, I woke up and went to work like so many of us did: with frazzled energy and heavy hearts. When Colin Kaepernick took his knee to protest their murders (and many others), I woke up and went work like so many of us did: mad as hell for the lives lost and more upset at the ever changing narrative as if he was protesting anything but the murders of unarmed black men and women. When Kaepernick was blackballed from the NFL (or whiteballed àla Shannon Sharpe), I woke up and went to work like so many of us did…tasked with a choice. Should I boycott the NFL to show support for Kaepernick?

Being a black NFL fan hasn’t been since. Being a black man in America has never been easy.

My friend Steve put it like this: “Being a black NFL fan is like being a black Republican.” (I don’t think it’s THAT bad, but I’m not gonna Chance the Rapper myself).

The NFL Draft process has turned into a 24 hour news cycle. There are 2020 mock drafts out already. From the combine to pro days to team interviews, prospects have every opportunity for teams to pick apart their every word and action. The game tape is what it is at this point.

Lamar Jackson’s game tape was fantastic. One of a kind. If I was an expert at predicting quarterback success, I’d be making way more money doing that professionally. However, to my eye he’s been the most dominating quarterback in college football over the last two years, showing an unique combination of mobility and arm strength.

USA Today’s Luke Easterling makes the best case for Lamar Jackson as to why he’s as deserving of the top spot over anyone else.

“I’d rather ride or die with a player who could break the mold and become something the league has never seen before. Again, he’s not perfect. He still needs refinement, and he’ll have bumps along the way. There’s plenty of “boom-or-bust” to his game, but he’s absolutely no more of a risky pick than any other quarterback in this class.

“I’m not saying he will be a first-round pick. I’m not saying he’ll be an immediate NFL star, the next Deshaun Watson or a 10-time Pro Bowler who revolutionizes the position. I’m just saying he’s capable of everything we’re projecting for Rosen, Darnold and the rest of the bunch, if not just a little bit more.”

With this type of analysis from the league’s most influential prognosticators, it was infuriating to hear reports that Jackson had been asked to work out at receiver. His decision to only participate in passing drills was questioned by commentators, saying he should “demonstrate his strengths”, as if passing drills wouldn’t do exactly that. Did you all not see Jackson throw 57 touchdowns his last two seasons at Louisville?

Watching teams rumored to be linked to Jackson pass on him was excruciating. With every pick, my feelings changed. My Baldwinian rage started bubbling.

“ARE THEY REALLY GOING TO LEAVE HIM IN THE GREEN ROOM?!”

Every trade up became a prayer that teams were gunning for Jackson.

His play, in my opinion, would have had him as the first quarterback off the board. But, in my opinion, Kaepernick should be on an NFL roster. Clearly, NFL owners and general managers disagree with me. It was no safe assumption that Jackson wouldn’t be wearing the same green suit on Friday for Round 2.

Let the Lamar Jackson Era begin in Charm City. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Even Jackson was mindful of his suit issues after day one on Thursday, per the Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker:

“When I got to the last pick, the 32nd pick, I was like, ‘Man, I hope I didn’t wear my suit for no reason,'” he said, alluding to the green Gucci he’d worn for luck. “I felt my suit was kind of fly, if you ask me.”

That’s why we owe Ozzie Newsome a thank you, for giving the Baltimore Ravens a shot at a legacy pick with the 32nd pick of the first round. Never mind that you’re getting one hell of a football player, but for giving him the opportunity to have his moment, shake the commissioner’s hand and be welcomed into the NFL like I’m sure he’s dreamed of for his entire life. He deserved it.

When Lamar Jackson got drafted, nothing happened to me. But thank you, for just a moment, for making it easier to be a black football fan.

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