Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

As you might have heard from a media outlet or two, this is a historic Super Bowl because it features two African American head coaches for the first time. The odds are good that this might be a topic over the next 10 days.

We decided to dig deep into this story, rather than just let it simmer at surface level, so we asked our friend The Assimilated Negro, author of the Ghetto Pass column for Gawker and occasional Free Darko correspondent, to file a series of reports about the Negro Bowl, its significance and whatever else might tickle his proverbial fancy. This will run in four installments leading up to the Super Bowl. And here's the first one. The graphic is by the great Jim Cooke, by the way.


Thanks Will. I feel very privileged that you could send keep me here in NYC, far away from Miami's distracting hustle and bustle, to provide ongoing coverage of Negro Bowl I. Surely the hot days and hotter nightlife would have led me astray, and as NY enters the coldest point of the year, I look forward to the focus only the most frigid of temperatures can induce. This will keep me honed in on the stories of most importance as we head into the big game, because we all know this game is not about horses and bears. Or Peyton Manning cementing his legacy against a defense that was vastly overrated even before their best player was lost for the season. Nor is it about watching T-Rex (T stands for Terrible, of course) gross us out with his Philistine approach to the art of quarterbacking.

No, this game is about NEGROES. Of course the NFL playing field always runneth over with black people, but for once we're also running the show. This is what the urban marketing folks call "Cultural Synergro." Who'dathunkit? Quick Pop Quiz for you: Excluding the QB's, name two white position players on either team. Three... Two... One.... No, Marvin Harrison doesn't count. See, I told you: It's Negro Bowl I baby!


(More after the jump)

I remember the events of Sunday evening like they happened four days ago. When the Colts intercepted King Brady the tears streamed down my face. I held my right fist in the air, proud, defiant, held high and closed tight. My girlfriend asked if this meant the Mets had won; I ignored her. My eyes sneaked a peek at the Obama poster hanging over the television in the living room, a poster that promises more historical victories on the horizon, then the moment was almost ruined by me catching a glimpse of Sienna Miller on the cover of Esquire and needing to reread the interview about how she's single and looking for a black blogger to mingle with.


Luckily I turned back to the television; Manning was being interviewed, and the storm clouds in my brain thundered out a revelation: "This landmark moment in African-American history was brought to us by quite possibly the whitest QB ever. Now on the Mount Rushmore of Melanin there's Martin, Malcolm, Wesley Autrey, and Peyton Manning." And it wasn't long ago we were all thinking Michael Vick might be our savior.


The hype around two African-American head coaches going to the Super Bowl has been impressive and appropriately reverent. I bet the first two white guys who coached in plain-jane Super Bowl I (no Caucasian research-links during Negro Bowl) are wishing their people endured three hundred years of ostensible and institutionalized oppression so they could bask in this multicultural media afterglow. Now this is what racism is supposed to be about! Good people of good character doing good things; plus they're black!

Both coaches are well-deserving of the accolades, Lovie Smith, a Jesus/Dungy disciple, has turned the Bears around the way the great ones do it, with a firm hand that leaves indelible fingerprints of success on your fine ass franchise. Or something like that. This Negro Bowl appearance demonstrates the Bears are Lovie's team, more than Urlacher, Tommy Harris or, um, Brian Griese.


As for Tony Dungy, only some literary hybrid of Langston Hughes and Mario Puzo could do justice to The Spiritual Godfather of this black head coaching ring. Possibly the most beloved individual in the league, Dungy could kill your children, sleep with your significant other and send your grandparents to die in Iraq and you'd still well up and kiss him on both cheeks, while he's in your bed eating crackers. Later, while brushing crumbs off the sheets, you'd scold your better half, "You slept with Tony Dungy?!!? (beat) Well, I wasn't even positive he was a sexual being like that, how was it? Did he run the Cover 2? Did his clock management leave a little to be desired? Regardless, that Tony Dungy is a great man; if he decides to have you again you better treat him right, girl."


I'm sure there are some enlightened, color-blind individuals out there who say the race angle here is irrelevant; race is likely a construct they deconstructed long time ago. They may believe that any hubbub related to this story only shows our lack of progress; they'd consider it news if it were two Asian head coaches in the Super Bowl (Go Norm Chow!). Or better yet a Puerto Rican (Go Ron Rivera!) and a Native American (Go Joe Gibbs!); then maybe you could color them silver and black impressed. To those people I say, "Hi, and welcome to Negro Bowl I!"

Color-blind or not, this is an opportunity to embrace a race moment. It's a reconditioning of our muscle reflexes. It's an opportunity to celebrate the fourth horseman of the Negrocalypse, Peyton Manning, our ironically postmodern African-American Trojan Horse carrying us past the gates of the so called "patriots" who would deny our place in history. This day belongs to everyone, but especially us.


So I'm embracing the racism. The tears are streaming. The fist is held high. I'm black and I'm proud. And goddammit, so is Peyton Manning. He and I both know that on February 4 there will be a great day of football where two teams play and nobody loses.

TAN's coverage of Negro Bowl I continues next week.

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