It’s the kind of conversation the so called “black bourgeoisie” loves to talk about — ‘how far we’ve come.’ And this Sunday as Super Bowl parties get under way, folks will find a way to rationalize the good things that have happened with the black coach in the NFL.
Everyone will smile. The conversation will be light. Phoniness will ooze throughout the room. And the ancestors, who made Black History Month possible, will not be talked about. I suspect that Tony Dungy will be held up as this “nice” Christian man who worked within the system to break down barriers. How great does that sound?
The talk will go like this: “It was just the right thing to do.” Hiring black head coaches that is. “You see, I try to tell people that Rome wasn’t built in a day, you can’t fight City Hall, and you have to go along, to get along — that’s if you want to break down barriers.”
Of course I’m being facetious here. The reality is this, sometimes you have to kick in the door, to get where you want to go. And Dungy is the rule vs. the exception.
Call it what you will — Karma or poetic justice — but Dungy maneuvered the system by being The Spook Who Sat by the Door vs. Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery. When he had an opportunity, he hired a bevy of African-Americans while serving as head coach in Tampa Bay and became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007. Keep in mind; he was essentially forced out of Tampa Bay. But things have a way of coming full circle, especially when you’re good.
And when Dungy and the Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith became the first African-American head coaches to lead their respective teams to the Super Bowl in February of 2007 — it was not only historical for America, it was different. It was new. It was special. I wonder how many of us sat in front of our television sets, with the same pride that our great-grandparents sat in front of their radios when Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling in 1938.
“The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it,” Dungy once said. “Vision will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life. ”
Dungy has provided us with a group of African-Americans who are not only head coaches in the NFL, but are thriving. As we know by now, Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has already won a Super Bowl and should be favored to win a second on Sunday. Although for some strange reason Green Bay is favored. Considering, Tomlin is the youngest head coach ever to win a Super Bowl at age 36. And the first coach in the history of the league to take two teams to the Super Bowl before the age of 40. He’s 38. This is extraordinary!
The Dungy’s coaching tree goes like this: Smith was his linebackers coach in Tampa Bay. Tomlin coached his defensive backs. Jim Caldwell was his assistant head coach and is now the head coach in Indianapolis and Leslie Frazier, who is the newest member of the head coaching fraternity in Minnesota, was his defensive backs coach in Indy.
It took Dungy countless interviews before he even became a head coach. But once he got the opportunity, he took huge advantage. And now that he’s retired and resting proudly on his accomplishments, he should be able look back with great pride and watch as his disciples continue to take teams to Super Bowls on a consistent basis.
Can you believe it? We have been blessed to see an African-American coaching in the Super Bowl the last four years and Sunday will make it will five. For half a decade now this has been the norm. Thank God, it’s no longer a big deal. It’s no longer an anomaly. Dungy kicked in the door.
Ironically, in the introduction of Dungy’s book Quiet Strength, there’s a quote from Washington that says: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
Black president! Black Secretary of State! Black Attorney General! Black Super Bowl winning coach! All accounted for. Doug Williams should be proud.