New Orleans Saints tight end Ben Watson has branched out from being just a reliable target for Drew Brees on the field to being one of the more thoughtful commentators on race and social issues facing our country.
In an appearance on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney, Watson went beyond football and discussed his new book, “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us.” Watson, as you may recall, wrote a Facebook post last November about Ferguson that went viral. Never one to shy away from social matters, Watson addresses numerous issues in his book.
“Over the last year, I’ve kind of fleshed out a lot of my thoughts on not just Ferguson but on race in general – where we stand,” he said. “In each chapter, I talk about those different emotions that I had about being angry, about being sad, about being hopeless and hopeful, and ultimately about being encouraged that we can get to the unity we all so desire. But it’s not necessarily going to come from government making laws. It’s going to come from a chance of heart of each individual.”
Watson used the backlash following Cam Newton’s dance as an example.
“Whenever a quarterback like Cam does a dance and people have a great pushback against it or this reaction, a lot of black people think that it’s always about race,” Watson said, “but sometime it’s not always about race. But a lot of times we assume that it is. I think that part of the problem is that sometimes the black community assumes everything is about race and sometimes the white community assumes everything is not about race – when, somewhere in the middle, a lot of things are about race that white people just don’t understand . . . and they don’t understand why blacks feel the way that they do. So in the book, I kind of go back and forth and I try to offer a balanced approach. Even when you’re talking about something likes pro sports and the perception of the black athlete and the perception from both sides about this specific incident with Cam, it just really highlights how far away we are in understanding each other.”
There were, of course, also football matters to discuss. Such as Sean Payton’s future and whether or not it’s time for the Saints to consider a full-scale rebuild.
After stumbling to 4-6 and firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints could shake things up even further this offseason should the team miss the playoffs.
That includes letting go of Payton, who has been the Saints’ head coach since 2006.
“Well, there’s always some sort of conspiracy theory going on when you play in the NFL,” Watson said. “One thing you learn as a player over the years is you focus on your job. Those things are things that you can’t control. What you can control is how you perform, and so whether Coach Payton is here next year or not, that’s next year’s problem, not our problem right now. Right now, we have enough to worry about with our own team and with trying to get a win after losing two times in a row.”
It’s been an odd year for New Orleans, which started 1-5, won three straight and then lost two straight. The Saints have allowed 130 points in their last last games – an average of 43.3 points per game – and are currently the 12-seed in the NFC.
Still, the Saints aren’t panicking.
“(We have) to be real about where we are,” Watson said. “We’re not a very good football team right now. We’ve been good some weeks and some weeks not. So when you’re inconsistent like that, you have the record 4-6 where we’re at. We have to be real about where we are, but also be real about what we can become. All is not lost, but all is not won either. It’s not just going to happen. We have to really focus on the details and play a lot better football than we’ve been playing.”
Watson was asked point blank if the Saints will be broken up.
“It happens everywhere,” Watson said. “It’s just a matter of time before every single coach leaves, before every single team is broken up, before every single player retires. That happens all the time in the league, whether it’s after 20 years or whether it’s after five years. Again, that’s really not a focus right now for us. Our focus is on Houston.”
The Saints face the Texans (5-5) on the road this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Ben’s new book “Under Our Skin” is now available at www.UnderOurSkinBook.com