Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dud Bowl

Unlike a baseball or basketball series (or the college basketball tournament), which have several opportunities for moments of greatness even if the overall event isn't great, the Super Bowl has just one chance to impress us. When I was a kid, it was almost always a lopsided affair. In fact, it became something of a running joke. Then in the late 90s, without warning, and with only two exceptions (Baltimore-New York in 2001 and Tampa Bay-Oakland in 2003), it turned into a reliably good game.

Enter 2006 and 2007. We can hope this isn't the start of another long-term trend, but last year's Pittsburgh-Seattle Super Bowl was one of the ugliest I can remember seeing. And tonight's wasn't much better. I'm just glad that (with any luck) everyone will shut up about Peyton Manning now. It was only right that he beat Rex Grossman, who had a nightmare of a game. (It's never a good sign when a team's fans are hoping that the quarterback continues to fumble snaps, because at least that way he can't drop back and pass.)

But forget the game for a second. Shouldn't be hard. What really made me irate were the two or three commercials that directly addressed the fact that both head coaches in the big game, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, were African-American. This was shamelessly played up by the media in the two weeks leading to the game, too. The ads, though, my lord -- from one Lay's ad, you would think it was 1964.

Dungy and Smith are really, really good coaches, and both have spoken passionately and rightfully about why it's important for young black kids to have role models in coaching positions, not just in uniforms. But, the emphasis on this has been ridiculous. Art Shell was named a head coach in 1989. And while that was a shamefully late date to have the first African-American head coach in pro football, and while there are still strides to make in front-office hiring, that was 18 years ago. But Art Shell, by general consensus, is a terrible football coach. It just seems crass to be trumpeting the racial angle only when coaches reach a certain level of success. Tony Dungy has taken teams to the playoffs for eight straight years. I don't remember any special Lay's ads before now. It makes perfect sense to celebrate the removal of an artificial barrier to a job. But to so loudly congratulate two great coaches on exceeding at jobs they already have strikes me as grossly condescending.


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