What impressed me most about the first black coach to lead his football team to the national championship is not his color, but his personality.
But let me start at the beginning. When the Chicago Bears returned the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl for a touchdown, I turned to my daughters and said, “That’s it – it’s all over.” The Colts would lose, and it would be all my fault for watching the game.
A couple of weeks ago I said that whenever I root for a team and actually watch the game, that team loses. It was something I’ve noticed ever since I started following the Chicago Cubs, which might as well be a football team considering how well they play baseball. Still, I didn’t really believe I had that kind of power. Now, watching the first time in Super Bowl history that an opening kickoff led to a touchdown on the very first play, I started to wonder.
So after it became clear the Colts were going to be creamed, I decided to experiment. I picked up the Sunday newspaper, and for the rest of the game I never watched a single offensive play by the Colts, except when it was replayed. It wasn’t a fun way to watch a game, but pretty much everyone knows the results.
It seems I’m single-handedly responsible for the Indianapolis Colts becoming the world champions. Well, world champions in American style football, anyway. You think I can get a couple of endorsements for that? Maybe a commercial for Doritos, or something?
That wasn’t what impressed me most about the Super Bowl. It wasn’t the halftime program by the artist who’s now known again as Prince, either. Who chooses the halftime entertainment? Why the endless parade of once-great and now has-been rock stars? And why the scarf, which made him look like a 1920’s stereotypical housekeeper? I’m not saying he’s not a good performer, and I loved the backup dancers, but I just don’t get the connection to football.
On a related note, there was that opening ceremony with the balloons, and crazy dressed people dancing and whirling around. I walked into the room in the middle of this, turned to my daughters, and asked, “Where did you find a tape from the last Olympics?”
There were millions of people from around the Midwest and South staring at the TV with their mouths hanging open, muttering, “Huh?” It was a great performance, but football fans wanted real cheerleaders, maybe some bull riding and country western music, or a precision Playboy bunny drill team.
What impressed me most wasn’t the ads, although many were, as usual, as entertaining as the game. Some moron from The New York Times supposedly theorized that all the violence in this year’s ads was a result of the Iraq War.
It’s a friggin’ football game. Don’t you think the commercials were violent because they were tailored for fans of a violent sport? Or all young males? There was no war in Iraq when the Three Stooges started poking each other’s eyes out.
But never mind that. What really impressed me with this year’s Super Bowl was something that, more and more, people have a hard time associating with professional sports: Class.
The Colts won with class. The Bears Lost with class. There was no evidence of trash talk, no screaming at officials (and no bad officiating). No one on either side had anything but good things to say about their teammates or the people on the other side. Colts coach Tony Dungy, the first black coach to take his team to the top, has a reputation for never yelling. Never.
By the way, while I have concerns about Black History Month – history should be viewed in collective, interwoven terms, not compartmentalized – it says something about the progress of America that this February brought us two black coaches, not to mention a black halftime entertainer, for the big game. The only time race was mentioned was when the press brought it up – no threats, no boycotts, no racist whining. Class.
Dungy led his team with calm and dignity, and the Colts answered his cool headed approach by going all the way. The Bears responded in kind, showing true sportsmanship even when things went against them. Even the fans, with a few minor exceptions, avoided the stupidity of riots and property damage that some cities have suffered through after championship wins.
The only exception I noticed was when some fans booed a Chicago player named Muhsin Muhammed.
I kept waiting for someone to explain that he spit on the flag or refused to stand during the National Anthem, but as near as I can tell the only thing people held against him was his name. Web commentators are saying the fans were yelling “Mooooose”, for Muhsin, although it didn’t sound that way to me.
However, maybe they’re right. If it was booing, it didn’t fit in with the rest of the night, and sports fans have shown the ability to accept someone according to his skill, rather than his race, religion or origin. I’d like to think so, because then it wouldn’t be the only thing to mar a perfect night.
Nobody fought, nobody made excuses, nobody got electrocuted, and two teams from the Midwest got to play outside without suffering frostbite. But what impressed me the most was that the coach who some people claimed was too nice to win a championship proved that nice guys can finish first. He said going in that he was not only going to win, but win the right way. He did.
Dungy, like so many on both sides in this contest, showed himself a person who could be judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.