Super Bowl XLI History in the Making Super Bowls, regardless of the teams playing and outcome, are always a moment in history, but history has been made before the game even takes place! No African American has ever coached a team in the Super Bowl. It took 41 years for a black head coach to make it all the way to the nations biggest sporting spectacle. On February 4th not only will there be two coaches making history, one will be changing the record books on so many levels. It's historic. And it's about time.
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith did it on a snowy January afternoon in Chicago. Within hours, his good pal and mentor Tony Dungy, coaching a team 90 miles up the street joined him. Regardless of the outcome, it cant be argued that these two coaches are two of the most decent, deserving men in the NFL. "I'm very proud of being an African-American. I'm very proud of Lovie." Dungy said. Subsequent to his win over the Saints, Smith stated, "We have to play someone and, in my perfect world, I would like to see the Colts be that team, he hasn't had a chance to coach in the Super Bowl. I would love to see it." Well Lovie, here's your chance, and all you have to do is look across the field!
It wasn't all that long ago that the NFL's most leading jobs were off-limits to blacks. Not to mention that three-quarters of the league's rosters were filled with black players or qualified black assistants. When the time came to hire a new coach, they were passed over, time and again. Meanwhile, non-black coaches who had done little to distinguish themselves in their previous jobs got chance after chance rather than handing it to someone of color who was equally if not more deserving. It was the old boys' network at its worst.
Over the last 20 years, things have progressed, and it took an active hand by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to pull it along. Art Shell and Dennis Green paved the way in the modern era, and Tony Dungy took it a step further. Dungy's low key, humble demeanor has helped him gain the respect of everyone in the NFL as well as the fans. He's not the type to get on a soapbox and complain about injustice, but he was honest about the league's inequalities, and knew that his success would go a long way in opening doors for others. One of the men Dungy has paved the way for is none other than Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, Dungy's protégé in Tampa Bay.
Whether Dungy knew it or not, he has always been looked at as a role model, and has set standards for coaches and players alike. He was just 25 when he became the NFL's youngest assistant, taking a job on Chuck Noll's Pittsburgh staff. Three years later, he was the defensive coordinator and was a favorite in moving to the next level. Despite endless interviews, somebody else, somebody white, always got the job. Smith's journey has been all too familiar as well. Stops along the way in his 20-year journey to become head coach included: Tulsa, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. But instead of whining about life being unfair, they have done their part to make sure those who come after them will have an easier path. Good things come to those who wait. Every coach's dream is to make it to the Super Bowl, let alone winning it and although the Saints were America's Cinderella team, I can't think of two teams and coaches who are more deserving. Any time you're the first person to do anything, regardless of your race or anything like that, it's special.
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