In four of the last five Super Bowls, an African American head coach has led his team out onto the field of play. Prior to 2007, when Bears coach Lovie Smith and then-Colts head coach Tony Dungy guided their respective teams in Super Bowl XLI, no black man had coached a NFL team in the league's elite game.
As racist as this thinking was, some actually thought that black men were incapable of accomplishing this feat. The same idiocy said that black men couldn't quarterback NFL teams to a Super Bowl. Then, Doug Williams showed up, and the narrow-minded stupidity of 'black people can't do X' once again slithered back under the slimy rock from whence it came.
This past Sunday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin coached in his second Super Bowl. In many ways, he did a better job coaching his team than Packers headman Mike McCarthy did. McCarthy won the game mainly because his quarterback played like a MVP. Tomlin's didn't.
As amazing as the play on the field was for Super Bowl XLV, even more amazing was the fact that not many people made a big deal about Mike Tomlin, a black man, coaching in the Super Bowl. Four years ago, you had articles like these almost on a minute-by-minute basis leading up to Bears v. Colts in Miami.
From Michael Smith, ESPN:
In the African-American community, the excitement of having Dungy and Chicago's Lovie Smith -- two of the league's six coaches who happen to be members of said community -- make history by becoming the first such coaches to reach pro football's biggest game (played during Black History Month, no less) is similar to when Halle Berry and Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx won Oscars for leading roles. The difference is that awards and elections are subjective. Having two coaches whose skin happens to be darker than most of their peers lead teams to the Super Bowl simply is the inevitable result of equal opportunity.
When asked repeatedly by reporters and media during the lead-up to the Super Bowl about the significance of two black head coaches in the world's biggest game, both men replied that the only accomplishment worth celebrating in regards to that would be the day no one cared that a black man was coaching a Super Bowl.
There's a lot of talk about hoping for a day when black coaches in the Super Bowl won't be a big deal, when we won't find it necessary to refer to a coach as a "black coach" (or any person by their race, for that matter).
What's wrong with that day being today? Dungy and Smith have made history, and we happily acknowledge it. As for our practice of categorizing NFL head coaches, let's make that history, too.
Last year, Tony Dungy's replacement in Indianapolis, Jim Caldwell (a black man from Wisconsin) coached his team in a Super Bowl. This year, Tomlin returned with the Steelers. Lovie Smith took his Bears back to the NFC Championship Game this season. Raheem Morris, coach of the under-funded and young Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a Coach of the Year candidate.
Despite all these tremendous accomplishments, no one made a big deal about these men being black. This is the legacy left by Smith v. Dungy in Super Bowl XLI. No one seems to blink an eye anymore, at least noticeably in the media, that African Americans are not only coaching Super Bowl teams, but doing so on a frequent basis.
This is a truly amazing accomplishment; much more honorable and noteworthy than any silver trophy named after some dude named 'Lombardi.'
"If you give enough people an opportunity, it's going to be just like everything else -- you're going to have some guys that rise to the top, you're going to have some guys that do well, you're going to have some guys that have to change situations. We're going to be no different than anybody else. Eventually there will be plenty of guys that get there."
Here's to plenty more getting there, and on one making a big deal about their skin color.