Super Bowl coach set to make historyWritten by Dave Woolford | | email@example.com
The new possessor of the nation’s highest office has game.
We know President Barack Obama is an aficionado of athletics. He has some hoops skill, some hops, and what better way for him to utilize stress reduction therapy?
Bowling is out at the White House. The installation of a new basketball court is on its way. An occasional game of H-O-R-S-E, a little one-on-one or maybe even a pickup game will get on the president’s daily docket from time to time.
A number of athletes attended the inauguration on Jan. 20, including Muhammad Ali, Dave Winfield, Dikembe Mutombo, Tiger Woods and Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
It was Johnson who said he would be honored to shoot some hoops with Obama.When pressed further as to whether he might even trade elbows with the new president to the point that pain could be inflicted, Johnson, with his always-infectious smile, said, “I’ll take it easy on him if he takes it easy on my taxes.”
We know Obama has publicly supported a college football playoff, some saying it ultimately swung the election in his favor. (That’s a joke, folks.)
But while we try not to mix church and state, let’s hope we also stay away from political affairs and athletics. Let’s give the tyranny that is the Bowl Championship Series a presidential pardon for now.
Our new government representatives appear to symbolize hope that seems to have renewed the American spirit. That, too, filters down to the athletic world where Obama, the 44th president of the United States, will surely observe the 43rd annual Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
On that stage, in front of millions of people, as was our first black president, there will be a young coach who will attempt to become only the second black coach to win a Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, 36, is the youngest coach to reach the Super Bowl, where his Steelers will battle the Arizona Cardinals.
“It’s natural to link the inauguration with Tomlin becoming the third African-American head coach in the Super Bowl because you see the spirit of change is real, change is here,” said Ray Anderson, the National Football League’s vice president of football operations, recently told the Los Angeles Times. “Positive change excites all of us.”
Tomlin follows Chicago coach Lovie Smith and the recently retired Tony Dungy as the only other black coaches to reach the Super Bowl. Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts beat Smith’s Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Tomlin in no way wants to compare the task confronting him with that which awaits the new commander in chief.
“What we are doing here today pales in comparison to what’s going on in our nation’s Capitol with President Obama’s inauguration,” Tomlin said at a news conference Jan. 20 that he delayed an hour to avoid conflicting with the inauguration. “As a citizen, as a parent, the hope that he sells and we buy in, that he potentially is going to bring to the table, is exciting. The hope for the future, for our children is exciting. I am as excited about that as I am about anything going on right now.”
Steelers owner Dan Rooney also endorsed Obama and presented him with the game ball from the Steelers’ semifinal playoff victory against Baltimore. Obama confessed during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh in August that he rooted for the Steelers while growing up in Hawaii and would be a Steelers fan today, “if I didn’t live in Chicago.”
It didn’t take long for T-shirt slogan novelists to jump on the Obama-Tomlin connection. The latest cotton concoction consists of Tomlin’s face over Obama’s slogan, “Yes We Can!”
Former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, the only black quarterback to win a Super Bowl (with the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII in 1988), also recently assessed the topic of Tomlin’s accomplishment just two years after the Dungy-Smith Super Bowl encounter.
“I think it speaks volumes to the fact that, with Obama going in as the president and his slogan being, ‘Yes we can,’ given the opportunity, yes, we can [too],” said Williams, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers executive. “I played in the Super Bowl 21 years ago and [no black quarterback] has won it since. So Mike has an opportunity, within a three-year period, to have two black coaches win the Super Bowl, which I think is significant.”
Tomlin is in his second year as the Steelers’ head coach, hired away from Minnesota in 2007, where he was the defensive coordinator.
It was while he was the wide receivers coach at Arkansas State 10 years ago that Tomlin told his mother he planned to be an NFL head coach at the age of 35.
Even an adoring mother, while outwardly acknowledging her son’s imposing ambition, was probably inwardly jampacked with incredulity knowing the exclusionary nature of the NFL in regard to black coaches.
And maybe 10 years ago a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama might have entertained thoughts of becoming the first black president of the United States in, say, 10 years. Pure absurdity, we would have responded at the time.