A first time for black coaches at the Super Bowl

I literally was hanging off the edge of my seat as I looked up to see the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots tied, 28-28. There was enough time left for the game to go in either direction, and it was close enough to go into overtime. Then Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw a perfect 32-yard pass to tight end Bryan Fletcher. The drive ended in the winning touchdown run by Joseph Addai, and I jumped up to celebrate only to quickly sit back down.

Though I thought the Colts had it in the bag, there was a minute left and it was possible for the Patriots to score again. I held my breath as I watched to see the Colts’ fate. Nevertheless, when free safety Marlin Jackson intercepted the ball with 16 seconds left, my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. Tony Dungy was going to the Super Bowl, and I couldn’t help but grin ear to ear.

Hours earlier, the Chicago Bears claimed their spot in the Super Bowl. I didn’t pay much attention to that game, but I heard a TV reporter ask Bears coach Lovie Smith how he felt about being the first black coach to go to the Super Bowl. I was proud of Smith, but what I really wanted was to see Dungy go. After being unceremoniously fired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and losing his son, the man deserved it. He worked hard, and he proved himself capable of producing a winning team, despite what critics said.

However, after the excitement, cheers and phone calls, it sunk in that not one, but two black coaches are going to the Super Bowl. For some, it’s just another Super Bowl, but for me and other blacks, it’s historical.

I began to think about how lucky I am to be alive to witness the advancements blacks have made in society. Oprah made great strides in entertainment to become one of the most famous and wealthiest women in the world. Tiger Woods and James Blake are also making their marks in golf and tennis, respectively – sports that used to be considered the domain of whites. Venus and Serena Williams, despite slowing down the last couple of years, are still history-making women. Blacks continue to excel in football and basketball.

Now, Barack Obama is making a play for the White House, and he has a good chance of becoming the first black president of the United States.

It all seems surreal. I believe wholeheartedly that racism and discrimination are still very prevalent in America, but I also see that blacks are able to achieve so much more now than ever before. It makes me less skeptical about my future, and I feel slightly relieved that my niece might not have to come into a world that will look at her skin and not her capabilities.

On Jan. 16, Delegate Frank D. Hargove of Virginia said slavery ended nearly 140 years ago with the Civil War, adding that “our black citizens should get over it.” Firstly, slavery did not end with the Civil War. Blacks were still treated less than human after they were free. Blacks couldn’t vote or use the same facilities as whites, and when blacks tried to defend the rights they deserved, they faced vicious brutality.

Still, my point is not to give a history lesson – it is that blacks are still affected by what happened more than 140 years ago. So pardon me if I don’t roll over and act as though slavery is not significant in American society.

Although I think I understand what Hargove was hinting at, he still said it with no compassion or consideration of the pain the subject elicits. What I think he meant was that the Super Bowl coaches, Oprah, Condoleezza Rice and Obama are all living proof that blacks no longer need to believe that being the best is hopeless. Granted, it takes blacks much more effort and determination to compete with their white counterparts, but it is possible to rise above adversity. There is no excuse not to succeed when so many others have.

Every day, blacks and other minorities are rising above prejudice and stereotypes to prove that the impossible is very possible. As I looked at my television, I never felt so proud of two men I’d never met. Both of them symbolize the hope that anything is possible as long as you are dedicated and have the drive to succeed.

The hope is that it’s not about being black, white, Hispanic or Asian, it’s about how you play the game.

Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass communications.