Monday, February 5, 2007

Miles Ahead

We went to my brother-in-law’s last evening to watch the Super Bowl and spend some time with their shiny new boy Wyatt, who’s just past one-year-old and as yet shows no interest in football but definitely likes music and also beans and green beans. The game was pretty fun—that is, it was close, and both teams were good, and the burgers and fries Libby brought back towards the end of the first quarter were a treat, as was my Heath Bar Milk Shake. She went to get the grub at a little place called the Cook Out, a small (I guess) chain, with branches here and there in the upper South (there’s one in Mt. Airy) and no ads as yet at the SB.

I thought the game turned out good for everyone but Rex Grossman, who is going to get rapped as having played up to his potential unless and until he pulls a Big One out, never mind that his team did make it to Miami. Manning, who’s carried his own monkey, flicked that sucker right off his shoulder, and I don’t think it will return. I hope he gets a few more big games in his career. It’s probably too bad it rained, and I was a bit afraid that Prince was going to be electrocuted by his axe, and I know I would have been demanding a plastic fiddle to think of doing that gig. What a bind for a musician—who plays in a downpour? Maybe Prince’s good sportsmanship to do that will save him from the Super Bowl curse that has afflicted so many other acts who’ve played the event thinking it was some kind of culmination of their career.

The ads, as has been pointed out here and there, were weird in their violence, and not just one of them, but a whole passel. Think about it: a personable robot who commits suicide, a guy who hits his friend in the head with a rock to get the last beer, a bank robbery somehow about E-trade Corporation (we already suspected they stole our dough), a snowman run through a shredder to make Coke. What’s going on? It struck me, before the big Event, that the SB has now peaked and is on the downslide. Walmart offers to stock your whole Super Bowl party in a thousand ads in the days before the game. How drear is that? Thank gawd the game was good and not a blow out.

And then there was the post game show. I know it takes something of a zealot to even watch the post-game stuff, but I enjoy seeing the interviews sometimes. This time, towards the end, there was a short commentary by some 40-something guy, a 3rd tier announcer I’ve never even seen before, that was really fairly appalling.

You may have heard that this years SB was memorable because it featured, for the first time, two black head coaches, either of which would have been the first black head coach to be in an SB. So it also featured the other obvious first, the first black head coach to have won an SB. All good, right? Not according to this unknown commentator. (And not according to Rush Limbaugh either, who spent last week continuing to grind his racist axe on the issue off and on with this and that sneer about quotas and whether women on the training staffs of NFL teams are being counted, and I don’t know what all as Rush really has become such a weeping sore on the AM dial that I can’t really do more than sample him for a minute or two any more.) No, according to this commentator the fact that these two fine coaches, Smith and Dungy, are black, was pointless and irrelevant, because the fact is, they made it to the SB because of their skills, not their skin color, and the skills of their players, and their great organizations, and etc. etc. etc. So, he concluded, people need to just shut up about the fact that these guys are black, give it a rest, move on, hope for a day when the NFL is entirely colorblind, errr, no, wait… forget that the NFL is still NOT colorblind, and neither is America.

And I wondered, what is this guy’s problem? Because absolutely no one is saying that Smith and Dungy got to the Super Bowl because they are black. The point of noting the fact that they shared this “First Black” moment is that it’s notable in American cultural history, and in Black history as well. Why is it notable—well, duh! Because they are the first, and we tend to notice firsts. And so the question is, why does this yahoo, 3rd string talking sports head, whatever his name is, get so exorcised about this fact that he wants to suppress it? Is he embarrassed for the NFL, that it took so damn long for this to happen, even though some 70% of the players in the NFL are black? Well maybe he should be, but still, I didn’t think anyone was making a big deal about that aspect of the first, that it exposed American racism yet again. Does this guy think we ought to just never admit that there is American racism, alive and well even in this new century. But surely then, this first is progress, at least, another small step, maybe even a giant step, towards a time when we’re truly color-blind about race. Or does it annoy him that a couple of black guys got this first, because it’s a first that has to do with their color and not their abilities? If that’s it, he didn’t have the nerve to just come out and scream it, because putting it that way would probably cost him his job.

Look, no one who noted this first made that big a deal about it, and absolutely no one try to say, as Limbaugh tried to say about McNabb, that either Dungy or Smith got where they are because they are black—that is, through favoritism. There might be some white coaches who’ve hung on too long because they were “made,” but that’s just not true of either of these men. So what’s the announcer’s problem?

I think it’s simple. He is just dumb.

Congrats to Tony Dungy and the rest of the Colts, and to Lovie Smith and the Bears too. Bring on spring training—pitchers and catchers report late next week.

–Bill Hicks