Yo No Quiero Señor Boomer’s Analysis: Mark Sanchez and the Politics of Race

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images North America)

No man should be called out of his name

During a sport’s talk radio interview Boomer Esiason continued the widespread criticism of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.  Reflecting on fan dissatisfaction, Esiason commented on the prospects of the Jets acquiring Peyton Manning:

Everywhere you look, that’s what they’re saying. But first of all, we don’t even know if Peyton’s able to play. If Peyton is able to play and the new general manager and whoever they hire to run that team out there decides to go without Peyton Manning, then I’m sure that the Jets will be sniffing around.

Because that’s what the Jets do. They’re trying to find their Tom Brady. They’re trying to find their Aaron Rodgers. And I don’t think in their mind they think that they feel like they’ve found the kid.

Esiason’s argument that Sanchez is neither Brady nor Rodgers is anything but controversial.  The success and greatness of those quarterbacks rests with their being head-and-shoulders above other quarterbacks in the league.  Yet, Esiason didn’t stop there, offering the following:  “If you watched Mark Sanchez the last month of the season, he was like a Chihuahua standing on Madison Avenue and 36th Street entering the Midtown Tunnel, eyes bigger than you-know-what, and just so shaky.”

As I was driving my car listening to the radio, I heard a report about Esiason’s criticism and I was taken a back.  Did a commentator just “rip” the most recognizable Mexican-American quarterback in the NFL with Chihuahua analogy?  Did a nationally known football analyst and ex-quarterback really “call Mark Sanchez ‘skittish’” via the Chihuahua card?  Of course, he did, this is the America of the declining significance of race.

While some may call it a coincidence that Sanchez was likened to a dog, a dog that is racialized within the hegemonic imagination, why did he not invoke a Pomerania, a Poodle, or any number of small dogs?  Why did he go to the place popular culture has gone so often in regards to Latinos? Why did he invoke a dehumanizing analogy that gives life to a history of racism?  According to José M. Alamillo, Associate Professor and Coordinator Chicana/o Studies Program at Cal State Channel Islands, the comments are both offensive and a part of a larger history of racial meaning: “Boomer’s statement about Mark Sanchez as acting like a Chihuahua dog is quite offensive because it associates people of Mexican descent as being spastic, conniving, yapping, hyper-sexual, yapping and having anger management issues.”   Similarly, Alexandro José Gradilla notes that his analogy “falls inline with similar ‘ready made/easy to use’ themes to characterize Latinos in general.”  According to the Associate Professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Cal State Fullerton, “The criticism is ‘hybrid’ form of exclusionary and derogatory discourse that uses race to belittle ones manhood. Sanchez was not an attack dog or a loyal dog but a small annoying…more bark than bite small trendy accessory.”

While others will focus on intent (see here for example) and argue that Esiason was merely trying to describe his play by invoking a “dog analogy” the racism denial card once again misses the point.  Given the common practice of racializing and demonizing people of color through tropes and representations that depict “nonwhites” as subhuman and animals, it is hard to ignore this disturbing analogy.  “It amazes me that sports commentators feel they have to interject race/ethnicity into their critique of an athlete’s play.  Referring to Sanchez as a Chihuahua only invokes ethnicity as if the sporting critique needed some deeper level of explanation – when in reality it need not be mentioned at all,” notes Adrian Burgos Jr., Associate Professor of Latina/Latino Studies at University of Illinois.  “For those who say, oh no the PC police are overreacting, my question is, why did Boomer feel he had to go there in the first place? Did he feel his criticism of Sanchez’s play would not been accepted otherwise? What did his mentioning a Chihuahua add to his critique of the sporting play?”  The racial language adds nothing to the critique, except a continuation of racial language and images that have long plagued American culture.

Whether or not Esiason was conscious or not, whether he intended to make the link or not, is irrelevant.  The power of the white racial frame and the power of white racial privilege helps explain why he didn’t think about the meaning and potential reception of in his choice words. Either aware of the embedded racial meaning or unaware, his comments reflect the power of white privilege.

David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He has written on sport, video games, film, and social movements, appearing in both popular and academic mediums. His work explores the political economy of popular culture, examining the interplay between racism, state violence, and popular representations through contextual, textual, and subtextual analysis.  Leonard’s latest book, After Artest: Race and the Assault on Blackness, will be published by SUNY Press in May of 2012.


24 Responses to “Yo No Quiero Señor Boomer’s Analysis: Mark Sanchez and the Politics of Race”

  1. TC says:

    Great column – yeah given the dearth of Mexican-American QBs in the game, it’s completely uncalled for to liken Sanchez to a chihuahua. As you say – why not any other dog? The unanswered question sits awkwardly in the ether – baiting one to answer. At best it’s a completely idiotic metaphor coming from Esiason – at worst it’s race-baiting of the most craven sort – coming as it does with such a huge audience.

  2. Miranda says:

    Mizzo, A friend told me I had to watch Kordell Stewart on Firsttake from yesterday. I found the clip and listened. Hugh Douglas speaks first, then lets Kordell come in – its around the 50 min mark – very profound.

    http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=7423656

  3. Corin Brown says:

    Boomer’s comments might be offensive to Latino folks but what about to chihuahuas? Our dog is a chihuahua mix and she’s way tougher than Mark Sanchez. She’s a better passer, too.

  4. Temple3 says:

    Boomer Esiason hasn’t changed one bit since that clown left Long Island to go to Maryland. Bum!!

    For his hype and regular season statistics, Esiason is in no position to be talking dog shit about anyone in the playoffs:
    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/E/EsiaBo00/gamelog/post/.

    Ickey Woods, James Brooks, Stanley Wilson, Eddie Brown, Cris Collinsworth, Tim McGee…nice crew. The Bengals had a supporting offensive cast that was a lot like these New Orleans Saints — except that Boomer was no Brees.

  5. GrandNubian says:

    @Miranda:

    I think this is the ESPN First take episode:

  6. ryan mishap says:

    Great article, thanks.

  7. Yeah I’m sorry Miranda. I really wasn’t going to comment. I was going to post the link GN posted and the T. Suggs one also, but the whole thing rubs me the wrong way because the discussion is so damn primitive. We have more informative discussions here and I’m sure you all do elsewhere as well.

  8. eric daniels says:

    The Jets problem is that Sanchez lost his speed at WR when Brad Smith and Braylon Edwards left via free agency. And considering on defense the Jets never have drafted that Terrell Suggs type LB to put pressure on the QB along with Kris Jenkins and Damien Woody’s retirement left the Jets flat at many positions and Plaxico Burress was never a speed WR and was at least a year away from being himself again. The Jets were an 8-8 team at the beginning of the season and played like it.

    The racism amongst the New York sportswriters is no surprise but I think Sanchez doesn’t even realize he’s the subject of a racial witch hunt because he’s a white latino and that brings it’s own sort of Hispanic racial baggage. The Jets have many needs mainly a Trent Richardson- type RB, Resign Braylon Edwards and draft a pass rushing DE or LB like Suggs because your secondary regardless of how great it is will not carry you to the Super Bowl unless they fix it. Sanchez is not a franchise QB but a Brad Johnson- like QB a caretaker who can succeed if he has great talent.

  9. TC says:

    I never felt Kordell got the amount of opportunity a comparable white QB would have got. Always liked his game and that was some heartfelt insightful comment on the topic.

  10. Miranda says:

    True Mizzo….very true.

  11. [...] The Starting Five Bangin’ and Scorin’ Every Trip Down the Floor « Yo No Quiero Señor Boomer’s Analysis: Mark Sanchez and the Politics of Race [...]

  12. burundi says:

    @Eric Daniels

    The problem with the Jets is that Sanchez is not the answer at QB and, that perhaps Brad Smith, who was an ’05 bowl-winning QB at Mizzou beating the Spurrier-led South Carolina Gamecocks with a scintillating performance, I might add, would have been a better QB than Sanchez, had he been given the opportunity to be the signal-caller rather than merely an all-purpose Flanker.

    Funny, Big Ben had great success and no significantly publicized problems with Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, who caught the game-winning touchdown for the Giants against the Pats in ’07, yet people make excuses upon excuses for Sanchez when he’s not getting it done with this stellar receiving corps. Even some sorry Jets 3rd string QB from Alabama who deserves to remain nameless and who was injured (thumb) in the pre-season had the unmitigated gall; the stupefying audacity to disparage a Super Bowl MVP and accuse him of anything. Rob Parker said it best that the Jets should can this moron, asking what has he done to earn the right, in so many words, to criticize a Super Bowl MVP in Santonio Holmes?

    Interestingly, it’s ok for a white Super Bowl MVP QB to go off on a WR who isn’t getting it done, but it’s not okay for a Super Bowl MVP WR who is Black to go off on a QB who’s not getting it done. Ultimately, Rex is to blame because a) Rex didn’t stand behind said SB MVP whom he made captain by virtue of his success and, b) Rex didn’t go out and sign another QB to compete against Sanchez when that nobody from Alabama went down. He could’ve and should’ve taken a page out of the Raiders book and signed another QB (oops, only black QBs get treated [read: defecated on] like that. As an aside, does anyone wonder why Oakland didn’t give Pryor a shot as Denver gave Tebow?) Hell, Rex could’ve gone out and got McNabb who would’ve probably worked wonders with those wide-outs. I know many will cite the 4 playoff wins attributed to Sanchez. However, I argue that a better QB would’ve won a Super Bowl with those teams, period.

    Rex needs to admit that he dropped the ball in terms of pushing/developing his QB and his SB MVP WR was well within his rights to get in his QB’s grill for simply not getting it done. Holmes is proven, Sanchez is not. Furthermore, Bradshaw and Namath (the only other Alabama QB of note)both need to be told that they would never have had a problem with Holmes (except Namath who could be erratic at times) because they could sling the rock so they should consider that before they succumb to their preternatural bigotry. I mean, how has Holmes morphed into T.O. all of a sudden and, how is he all of a sudden viewed as being slow?

  13. Burundi says:

    Do you think any team drafting RGIII would trade him for Sanchez, straight up?

  14. Burundi says:

    I, mean, how egregious is it that that Turnover Machine, Jake Delhomme, is still actually playing and McNabb is on the street?

  15. Temple3 says:

    @ Burundi:

    First things first. Any list of Alabama QB’s has to include Bart Starr and Ken Stabler, as well as Namath. Bradshaw, by the way, went to school in Louisiana. He’s from Shreveport. And, any conversation of Jets QB’s with Alabama roots has to include Richard Todd.

    Brad Smith is a very good player. He’s one of the best dual threat QBs that I’ve seen. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but if the Jets offense revolved around him the way that the Panthers or Broncos offenses revolve around their QB’s, he could likely produce a 4,000 yard composite season (passing + running). Overall, he’s a much better and more mature football PLAYER than Sanchez.

    With that said, I still like Sanchez. I’ve seen him play very well in big games. In 2010, the Jets lost at Pittsburgh because Rashard Mendenhall ran all over them for a half. Sanchez made every throw he needed to make in the 2nd half, but when the game was decided, that defense couldn’t get off the field.

    It’s almost impossible for look past Brian Schottenheimer’s complicity in all of this. He is a notoriously predictable OC. The fans have been groaning for years because everyone knows what’s coming. The O-line had injuries and was not as strong as last year. The defense has not been stout against the run since Kris Jenkins left the team. The national media doesn’t talk about that because they don’t actually watch the games. The Jets missed the playoffs because they lost to the Broncos because they refused to contain Tebow — and they let him score touchdowns by running to the outside. Could the Jets have beaten the Texans? Probably not — because they couldn’t stop Arian Foster. The Jets are a mediocre TEAM with a weak offensive game plan. They failed to exploit their strengths during the season. Instead of running and using play action to get Holmes and Burress good looks deep down field, Schottenheimer was calling conservative dink-and-dunk game plans that never amounted to much. Sanchez had some terrible games this season, but the die was cast for this team very early when the Raiders delivered that Road Map beat down earlier this season. It seemed like every back on that team had 100 yards.

    As for Holmes, I have no idea what the issue is with him, but I know that he cannot expect Sanchez to make the same plays that Roethlisberger makes. He doesn’t have the arm strength or the physical ability to take big hits to extend plays. The Jets offensive game plan has to be more disciplined because of the physical limitations of Sanchez, relative to Roethlisberger.

    That means the receivers have to be more consistent in terms of route running, downfield blocking, etc. Last season, Holmes and Sanchez were winning games with explosive plays. This season, it all fell apart and an honest appraisal of the team, in my estimation, requires looking at that defense — and the play-calling. Even though Boomer said that Sanchez is skittish — it is a fact that almost all look skittish when getting pressure up the middle. Sanchez made some inexplicable throws…and last year those were “growing pains” now its evidence that he sucks?

    The receiving corps was mediocre coming out of the gate. No Smith, no Cotchery. Burress for Edwards. Continuity was sacrificed for some unknown reason. Shonn Greene barely rushed for 1k. A messs all around.

  16. Burundi says:

    @Temple

    Ah, one too many Gin and Tonics during and after the Lions debacle had me egregiously forget about Bart and the Snake. For shame, for shame – but back to the central matter at hand. Be that as it may, like the movie, “Groundhog Day,” we’ve had this discussion before. Two seasons ago it was clear to me that the Sanchise wasn’t and I told you so. You, of course, disagreed.

    Now Boomer has joined the chorus, albeit with racist overtones.

    Of the 34 QBs listed below, Sanchez not only has a worse completion percentage [CP] than Rex Grossman this past season 56.7 to 57.9, respectively, but only 6 QBs had a worse CP than him. Of those 6, there was only one other 3rd year player in the cellar, if you will. That was Painter, who only had 243 passing attempts in relief of Peyton Manning in Indy. And, if you eliminate all rookies thru 3rd yr relief QBs with less than half of Sanchez’s attempts, Mark Sanchez comes in dead freakin’ last. Last!

    Also, his career CP is 55.3% and his TD to INT is 55 to 51

    Come on, man, lol!

    http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/player/_/stat/passing/sort/quarterbackRating/seasontype/2

    http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?archive=false&conference=null&statisticCategory=PASSING&season=2011&seasonType=REG&experience=3&tabSeq=0&qualified=false&Submit=Go

    I’ve watched Jason Campbell during my 5 years in DC and he seemingly had a different OC every year. Despite this fact and him often running for his life on plays due to having a porous O-Line, more often than not, in his 7 years, Campbell still has a 60.8% CP and he has only thrown 50 INTs to yo boy’s 51. If Sanchez has been relegated to dink and dunks—and with his TD/INT ratio, it makes sense—one would think that he would have a higher CP than 55.3%? And, that’s on the OC, hunh?

    Wait a minute, to get all the way in the mood, I may as well put on Jamie Foxx’s “Blame it.”

    Where was I? Oh, yeah, Sanchez’s propensity to throw picks. Did you know that some thoroughly disgusted fan/statistician, based upon his Eye Test, crunched that Sanchez led the league in ’10 in dropped INTs?

    http://thebiglead.com/index.php/2011/04/13/nfl-draft-phil-simms-boomer-esiason-on-stats-vs-the-eye-test/

    In this piece, Phil Simms gets Sanchez’s back by citing on-the- road wins against Pitt, Indy, and the Pats, but that was with a defense playing lights out. This year, Sanchez was exposed.

    Here’s some other grist for the mill:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ycn-10798721
    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ycn-10778797
    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/01/02/green-lantern-sanchez-needs-to-speak-on-behalf-of-jets-like-he-gives-a-damn/
    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/jets/category/_/name/joe-namath
    http://newyorksportsbum.com/

    Dude, I leave you with this gut busting quote under the last link under Pithy, Postulating and Prognostications dated 8/23/11:

    “Mark Sanchez must be the most overrated QB in the game. He has Dilfered his way to the AFC Championship game the past two years, only to come up short both times. Rex doesn’t have Vernon Gholston to puff up anymore, so he’s moved on to trumpeting Justin Beiber’s BFF as an “elite QB.” 29th in the league in completion percentage, 19th in TD’s, and 27th in QB rating. Face it Jet fans, he’s no Joe Namath, in fact he’s not even Ken O’Brien.”

  17. Burundi says:

    @Temple

    Stumbled upon this gem and the title says it all:

    http://www.nesn.com/2011/11/mark-sanchez-booed-in-new-york-leading-jim-leonhard-to-call-out-jets-fans.html

    Evidently, many Jets fans see what I saw, but, hey, this Forum does support your contention that the OC is a problem, which I truly do not dispute, based upon the Jets allowing/hoping that he gets the job with his latest interview. However, peep the name of the forum:

    http://www.talk-sports.net/nfl/sucks.aspx/Mark_Sanchez

    Lastly, Julie Hayes of Yahoo Sports, whose link is the first listed under the aforementioned “grist for the mill,” asks a question with her title that many of Sanchez’s defenders will be hard pressed to refute:

    Why Does Mark Sanchez Get a Pass with New York Jets Management? a Fan’s Take

  18. Burundi says:

    @Temple

    Disregard what I’ve written cuz if Tebow could lead the Broncos past your beloved Steelers then I suppose that Sanchez can still prove himself in the remaining years of his contract—if fans are patient.

  19. Temple3 says:

    Sanchez may, or may not, be the guy. I think fans are right to question his leadership and maturity. When he’s on the sidelines, he always seems to be doing the wrong thing: eating a hot dog, wiping his nose on Brunell’s coat, or whatever. He improved this year in some respects and regressed in others. He’ll probably have only one or 2 more years to prove himself. After that the Jets start looking for a new guy.

    Off the field, Sanchez is good for business right now, so that’s going to forestall any premature ejections by management. If they don’t win (and perhaps Rex gets fired), that all changes.

  20. Burundi says:

    The plot thickens. Management will have to deal with this issue now, whether they want to or not. While not quite mutinous, it appears that the players have had a back-channel a vote of no-confidence regarding Sanchez.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2012/01/jets-players-rip-mark-sanchez-as-lazy-entitled-and-want-peyton-manning/1?csp=hf

    Lazy and entitled, wow!

    The funny thing is that when I read your words intimating that Holmes and Burress would have to run better routes, I could almost see and hear you going ballistic were you Holmes (Plax was just chill and happy as hell that he’s no longer in the joint, lol.) You know your outrage has had me literally rolling on the floor on many an occasion. The above piece thankfully validates what’s been pretty obvious to me—and, I expected it eventually. Someone had to have Holmes’ back.

  21. Jerry says:

    I hear you all talk about Wr’s , play calling, defense but nobody seems to mention the problems at offensive line. Sanchez has been sacked 39 times. Thats tells you there is something wrong there. The whole team needs upgrades at every position. I just don’t see all the things being fixed this offseason. I’m not having high hopes for next season.

  22. Burundi says:

    Tavaris Jackson, Big Ben, and Alex Smith have each been sacked 42, 44, and 40 times, while each still completed at least 60% (60.2, 63.2, and 61.3) of their passes, respectively. Thus, Sanchez wasn’t the only one with perhaps a porous O-Line that needs improvement. The issue is Sanchez’s role in the team’s stunning demise and whether Santonio Holmes has earned the right as a SB MVP (read: proven winner) to get in the Sanchez’s ass for grossly under-performing and regressing without having his criticism deliberately ignored/misconstrued as being selfish and disruptive.

    Here’s another nail in the coffin that validates Holmes’ right, IMO. LT seemingly hits the nail on the head by conceding the fact that Sanchez has been pampered and, thus, given a pass on his inability to get it done:

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/ladainian-tomlinson-rips-new-york-jets-mark-sanchez-pampered-locker-room-turmoil-011812

  23. Burundi says:

    Simply put, Mgt, including Rex, failed to keep a fire under Sanchez and, hopefully, if only tacitly, they need to acknowledge that Holmes was correct. However, unfortunately, I don’t expect such to be the case considering how the racial dynamic implicitly posits the WR in the subordinate position, which often compels folk to attempt to save face despite reality.

  24. Temple3 says:

    It’s not that deep to me.

    If you think we can conclusively close the book on Sanchez…do that and move on. I think the kid can play because I’ve seen him play very well in playoff games at New England and at Pittsburgh. He still has a 60%+ completion pct in the post-season, and a career passer rating of 94.3 (for your Stat Jones).

    He’s just not that far removed from high school. That’s why I mentioned his maturity and leadership before…but he was 3rd in the AFC in touchdowns – behind Brady and Rivers. So, I part company from others in saying that I believe the talent is definitely there. I think he’ll be a productive player going forward — and you don’t…nor do you see any possibility of such…just for the record.

    So, we’ll see or we won’t.

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