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Tony and Lovie could be the mother of all Super Bowl sideshows

Tony and Lovie could be the mother of all Super Bowl sideshows

When Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl 19 years ago, the buildup to the game between his Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos was "all Williams all the time."
Including a question that has always been considered No. 1 on the list of wacky Super Bowl queries: "How long have you been a black quarterback?"
The racial angle will be back twofold next week as close friends Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears become the first black coaches in the game. That theme overshadows all others, including Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's pursuit of his first Super Bowl title and Dungy's quest for validation as one of the best coaches of the last decade.
Still, it's likely the coaches will be asked more about their skin color than about American football. And given the 24/7 nature of news these days, the Dungy-Smith matchup could be the biggest Super Bowl sideshow since Williams' trailblazing appearance, one in which he led the Redskins to a 42-10 victory in 1988.
"Nobody said the Washington Redskins against the Denver Broncos, which is what it really was," says Williams, who threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns and was the game's MVP. "It was me, a black quarterback, against the great John Elway."
Dungy and Smith will be more than a sideshow _ instead they're a significant event that demonstrates there is still a lot to be discussed about race relations in the NFL and, by extension, in the United States.
"This is one of the great moments in American history," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said this week. "It really is. It comes 60 years after Jackie Robinson broke through (the color barrier in Major League Baseball). It's an American feel-good moment."
There's more to this game, of course:
_Manning's high profile and his chase for a Super Bowl ring to add to a string of accomplishments in nine seasons, including two MVP awards and a single-season record for touchdown passes.
_The comparison between these Bears and their 1985 counterparts, the last Chicago team to make the Super Bowl.
_Any number of individual stories that for a week will turn obscure players into objects of worldwide scrutiny.
None of the craziness is new.
Back in the prehistoric days of Super Bowldom, when there were 300-400 media members instead of 3,000-4,000, the NFL still provided a week to fill up notebooks and tape recorders with any and every arcane detail.
The pregame frenzy remains the same, although there are more ways to speed the information overload on its way via the Internet and round-the-clock sports radio and television, including the league's own TV network.
Beyond the headliners, newly minted media stars come in all forms and colors during Super Bowl week, when questions range from the ordinary to the legendary, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"
Ray Buchanan, a talkative cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons, became the centerpiece in 1999 when, wearing a dog collar, he engaged in back-and-forth long-distance trash talk with Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe.
Or at least he was the centerpiece until the night before the game, when his teammate Eugene Robinson was arrested on charges of soliciting sex from an undercover policewoman.
"Embrace it, enjoy it, maybe a star is born," says Boomer Esiason, the quarterback of the 1989 Cincinnati Bengals, who lost 20-16 to San Francisco in a game decided by one of Joe Montana's signature drives. "Even the third-string tight end on both teams will be in the spotlight. It's their time to be front and center."
Esiason's Super Bowl was one of the more chaotic, capped by the failure of Bengals fullback Stanley Wilson to show up for a meeting and then the game because he was under the influence of cocaine.
Like this one, that game was in Miami. It was marred by riots in Miami's Overtown area. The most famous line that week came from the Bengals' Solomon Wilcots, helping perhaps to launch his career in television.
"I went to see a movie called 'Mississippi Burning,' and when I got back I saw Miami burning," Wilcots said at the time.
That, of course, was no joke. Neither is this week's theme.
Until Dungy and Smith advanced to the Super Bowl, both coaches were reluctant to talk about the significance of their potential meeting on Feb. 4. Now that they've reached the summit, Dungy is prepared to answer the questions. And perhaps, bring an end to them.
Indianapolis defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland spoke for many of the black players in a league that is more than two-thirds black when he noted, "It shows that for Tony and Lovie to come this far that there are at least some organizations that have confidence that black men can be head coaches. I hope it goes beyond that so we don't have to think of their race."
Williams agrees, saying the victories by the two black coaches, along with the hiring of Jerry Reese as New York Giants general manager and Mike Tomlin as Pittsburgh's coach, made last week the most significant for blacks in NFL history.
If that's true, then all of the questions about race they'll be asked next week can only increase the spotlight on minority hiring _ Williams' success in the Super Bowl helped pave the way for the Steve McNairs, Donovan McNabbs, and other black quarterbacks who today are taken for granted.
As long as no one asks: "How long have you been a black coach?"


Updated : 2021-07-31 17:39 GMT+08:00