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Daren Bascome’s Proverb Agency tells Boston’s uplifting stories



“Even though it’s still not a level
playing field, game on!”

The 2011 National Football League season is now underway. Over 17 weeks, 32 teams will compete to determine the champions of each of the two divisions, the American and the National Conferences. Then the Super Bowl will determine which of the division winners will be the national champion.

Football is fiercely competitive. Players will do almost anything to win, but there are rules. Officials on the field during a game are quick to penalize players with a loss of yardage for any breach. This makes scoring or preventing a touchdown even more difficult.

It is easy to dismiss football as just a game, but it is much more than that. The teams of the NFL constitute a valuable business industry. It was projected that if the threatened lockout had not been resolved, then every city with a team would lose $160 million and 115,000 jobs would be affected.

Since professional football is focused so intently on winning and profits, perhaps it serves as a useful metaphor for a strategy for African American success. Of course the hard core black nationalists and those who do not like football will insist that the analogy is invalid.

That could well be; but since African Americans have not yet developed a strategy for success, the football analogy might be helpful. There was a strategy for the civil rights movement, but after that, planning for the group seemed to end.

At the beginning of the season, every team hopes to be victorious. However, smart owners and coaches are usually astute enough to assess their teams’ talents and realistically determine the likelihood that they will play in the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, everyone will inspire their teams to play like champions.

Training camp provides an opportunity to select the best players for the style of play the team will utilize. There are rules for that process. Only 80 players can be brought to camp. By a stipulated date every team roster must be cut to 65. Then the official roster is cut again to 53, with only 45 being considered as active players.

This is a demanding model that blacks might use in developing improvement projects. First, there must be great clarity about the goal to be achieved. Then there have to be tough standards for the expected performance of participants. There should be no reluctance to eliminate from the roster those who lack the necessary talent or the ambition to strive to win.

There are also personal issues to consider for success. While there are many dress codes for various working environments, the younger generation is committed to constant casual. Some rules are subtle and not publicly stated. Nonetheless, violation of the dress code might incur demerits. For example, on game day, the NFL rules restrict the choice of numbers on the player’s jerseys. All quarterbacks, punters and kickers must have a number from 1-19. Wide receivers are 80-89, linebackers are 50-59. Every position has a range of numbers.

The fundamental lesson from the NFL is that victory is a team effort. While individual blacks across the country are accomplishing great things on their own, effective team projects are few. Will it be possible for African Americans to improve their socio-economic status without a number of well organized teams of citizens leading the way? The challenge is not so much to develop black leaders as it is for substantial numbers of competent African Americans to organize to work together.

Football demonstrates that there are winners and losers. Not every team gets a trophy. It is time for blacks to develop a game plan to achieve greater professional and socio-economic status for the group.