Had the New York Jets beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, Mark Sanchez would have been the second Latino quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the Super Bowl. He wasn't, and I don't follow football closely enough to get into the reasons why or what a faulty headset might have had to do with it. But the coverage surrounding Sanchez this weekend in relation to his ethnicity was interesting enough.
On Fox News Latino, sports reporter Maria Burns Ortiz, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' sports task force, wrote:
Much was made when, as a quarterback at the University of Southern California, Sánchez wore a mouthguard depicting the Mexican flag. But as much as some people want to believe, it wasn’t a political statement any more than the average high school kid wearing a Ché T-shirt, or a young woman carrying a handbag bearing the image of la Virgen de Guadalupe.
It was a nod to his heritage, but it wasn’t an all-encompassing declaration of who he was.
He grew up speaking English, but speaks decent Spanish and understands it pretty well. In other words, he’s just like literally millions of other U.S. Hispanic millennials.
He’s the face of the Latino quarterback for a generation who doesn’t remember Joe Kapp or Jim Plunkett. Or, let’s be honest, for kids who don’t even realize the aforementioned players are Latino.
Which is interesting, as I didn't realize this either. Two-time Oakland Raiders Super Bowl champion Plunkett is also of Mexican descent. The Los Angeles Times ran a good profile of Plunkett this weekend, though his ethnic background wasn't part of the story.
Some of the ethnicity-related reports on Sanchez were, um, awkward. A groan-inducing headline in The Independent, of the U.K., referred to him as a "Mexican gunslinger." Not intended to be offensive, most likely, but good intentions count for little.
The groan-inducing lead:
Hear the word "ole" and you instantly think of bullfighting, flamenco dancing, or a teasing passage of play by the Barcelona football team.
But if Mark Sanchez takes the field, "oles" may conceivably ring out in two weeks' time at a most improbable setting: that ultimate fest of North American manhood known as the Super Bowl.
Hijole. Other stories were of the inspirational variety, like a nice piece in Newsday that featured the former USC football star's influence on Roosevelt High player:
Three years ago, Neftali Henderson's football coach took him aside, sat him down and told him there was something he needed to see.
There was this kid out of the University of Southern California and the NFL scouts were buzzing. He was poised, he was accomplished, and he was almost undoubtedly headed to the big show. He was Mexican.
On Friday, a short piece in Latina magazine quoted Sanchez:
“I don’t know how many Latinos or Mexican Americans have won an AFC championship, but I know I hope I’m the next one.”
It didn't happen, but his fans hold out hope.