They called the week of the game. They said that the USC Trojans “couldn’t play any coloreds, that the races couldn’t compete at the same time.” Those are the recollections of the recently passed C.R. Roberts. He was a black running back for USC, and its 1955 team had an away matchup against the University of Texas.
Ahead of the game there were death threats. So worried were USC’s coaches according to a New York Times obituary on Roberts, they “initially suggested that he not travel to Austin with the team because of the race issue.” Roberts made it clear that he would prefer to quit over missing the game, plus his teammates were firm that they wouldn’t travel unless Roberts, along with black teammates Louis Byrd and Hillard Hill, did too. And so they went.
The hotel that was supposed to lodge the Trojans would not allow Roberts, Byrd or Hill to stay. The team found another hotel.
Texas fans and players learned the hard way what fans, players, and business types have been learning the hard way for as long as there’s been competition: don’t insult the opponent. Don’t discriminate for idiotic, surface reasons. When you do, you provide the insulted with the ultimate fuel. Texas fans did that for Roberts. He ran for touchdowns of 73 and 74 yards against the Longhorns, on the way to a record-setting, 251-yard day. The record stood for 19 years.
Let’s call the discriminated against the fortunate ones. They’ve been handed the extra fuel that we all yearn for. Really, what greater joy in life is there than to prove the doubters, the haters and the just plain wrong, wrong?
Tom Brady’s childhood dream was to play quarterback for USC. He even secured a football scholarship to the school, only for then head coach John Robinson to win a commitment from a much more highly regarded quarterback out of Illinois. Brady’s scholarship was rescinded, and he wound up at the University of Michigan where he was similarly overlooked at various times by coaches who couldn’t not play can’t-miss qb Drew Henson. Most who know about Brady know that he was picked 199th in the NFL draft. If you don’t think those past slights didn’t motivate Brady, you’re willfully blind.
Michael Jordan was famously cut from the basketball team he went out for as a freshman in high school. The word on Jordan is that throughout his remarkable NBA career, his relentless desire was fueled by past and present slights, real and perceived.
Peter Thiel was on the path to a career in law, only for him to be turned down for a Supreme Court clerkship. It’s not documented, but the speculation here is that when “billionaire” became a descriptor for Thiel, and realistically before “billionaire,” the previous slight came to mind on his path to otherworldly success and prominence.
The simple truth is that “I’ll Show Them” has powered exponentially more progress and success than education, the right coach, or being “discovered” have. Realistically, it’s not even close.
It's something to think about as conservatives and libertarians cheer the Supreme Court’s “ban” of reverse discrimination by colleges and universities. Not only does the ban trample on property rights and the right to free association, not only does it smack of way-too-big government, it robs us of – yes – the good fortune of being discriminated against.
Back to Roberts, USC’s coaches pulled him in the 3rd quarter against Texas. It was the ultimate middle finger to opposing fans, players and coaches. Readers know why. Blessed are those discriminated against, for they’ve been given fuel.