White Man's Disease is neither overtly about race nor a disease. So why that title? You find out midway through the book, but p. 1 details where I first heard the phrase. The 1st chap is called "This is Not About Basketball" (which the book is not about even though it contains chaps called "Dr J" and "Magic")
The point guard quickly pushed the basketball up the court to catch the opposing team on its heels. Fortunately for the defenders, not everyone was lackadaisical about getting back on defense after the basket. Their star defender, a sinewy, deceptively quick 6-foot-5 guard with a wide wingspan, demonstrated why he was perennially among the league leaders in steals. Like a cat reaching for a plush toy dangled by its owner, he swiped the basketball from the point guard. In the corner of his eye he spotted his teammate, a seven-foot center who had barely started up the floor to the defensive end following his team’s made shot. In one continuous motion he half-rolled, half-tapped the ball ahead to the center for an easy, undefended shot. The 7-foot 280-pounder caught the ball on the run and without letting it hit the floor took off from just below the free throw line. His leap was awkward—he probably should have been whistled for a traveling violation—and he seemed to take off earlier than he intended. As he floated in the air toward an uncontested dunk, the home crowd murmured in anticipation. Suddenly the murmur turned into a collective groan. The ball clanged off the front of the rim and bounced straight up, coming down in the hands of an opposing player trailing the play. Don Criqui, CBS’ legendary, smart, witty, irreverent sportscaster then delivered a line that I’m sure caused double-takes in millions of homes and sports bars nationwide: “He missed the dunk! He missed the dunk! He must have white man’s disease!”
...The term is suggested in the title of a major motion picture, 1992’s “White Men Can’t Jump,” which stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as two basketball hustlers who exploit the commonly accepted belief about white man’s disease. White man’s disease. A catchphrase that would forever become part of the basketball vernacular, especially on the playground. But for me, it means something else...
Dr. Paul Thornton is currently a university administrator. In the past he has been a professor, small business owner, and corporate executive.