Monday, February 2, 2009

The Superbowl and New Definitions of Black Men

In all of the praise heaped upon Coach Mike Tomlin of the Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, not one reference that I heard referred to the fact that he was an African American coach. Although Tony Dungy, Tomlin's mentor, was the only other African American football coach to accomplish this feat, the only reference to Tomlin's demographics merely mentioned that he was the youngest coach to win in this 43 year old popular event. Mike Tomlin is a very impressive leader, possessing at the relatively tender age of 36, rare insight, wisdom, professionalism, and character which immediately commands respect from all who come into contact with him.

Tomlin gives some of the credit for his opportunity as head coach to the 2003 Rooney Rule, which was put in place to address the lack of diversity in the NFL coaching ranks. There have been 11 black head football coaches since the rule's inception. While Rooney may have opened the doors for other minority coaches to enter the NFL, it is no secret that NFL teams with coaching vacancies are looking especially for those coaches black or white, that fit the Tomlin mold - young, professional, principled, focused, competent, and articulate.

One of the unintended benefits to the Steelers Superbowl victory may be that it has brought mainstream recognition to an additional image of contemporary black masculinity which counters the thug/gangsta/hypersexualized/urban predator expression. The success in combating anti-social behavior, low educational performance, high incarceration rates and the negative ways that young black males perceive themselves and are perceived by the mainstream media, may be achieved not just by boycotting or protesting against hip-hop culture and pop appeal alone, but by continuing to provide alternative positive images of black male expression such as that of Tomlin, President Barack Obama, and others.

The solution to many of our social and economic problems may come about merely when blacks are no longer a curiosity in positions of authority and institutions where their presence has been a rarity.


underOvr (aka The U) said...

Yesterday, I found myself waiting....all week long...still, no mention of Mike Tomlin's color was discussed by the media. It was almost as if his being Black would provide a legitimate reason if the Steelers lost. His color never came up, and I admit to being relieved.

Why must a person's color dictate their skill and competence? It should not!

Like you, I welcome the day when we are defined by what we do and not how we look.

Thanks for sharing a well written post.


Kim said...

I really don't think the wounds of slavery and segregation will be healed, at least not in my lifetime.
I don't like football and don't keep up with it but the first thing I thought when I saw him was that he was a brotha and he didn't have a uniform on. He is the coach right?

On another note, Mike Tomlin is much cuter in a baseball cap.

jjbrock said...

Rev, what an awesome article and so powerful: "When blacks are no longer a curiosity" WOW!and Hallelujah!

MilesPerHour said...

Very cool post. No longer are we having the rarities we once saw, be it a black QB or coach.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Reverend.

In Tomlin's interview (I think it was on 60 Minutes) he made one remark that saddened me. He said that when he was a young boy he hid the fact that he was an honors student.

The time has come for both the athletic and black community to embrace intellectuals and not make them feel "other".

Revvy Rev said...

@Rutherfordl: I think that things are just starting to change along those lines and we are going into a new era where those kids are now starting to feel a sense of pride for intellectual accomplishments, thank God.

@Annie, you are a gem!

@The U, change is here - YES!

@Kim, can't help you with "cute." Sorry. But never say never. Yes, he is the coach. I'm looking for minorities who are owners to be a common thing.

@Miles, first QB, now the sky's the limit.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rev.

"The solution to many of our social and economic problems may come about merely when blacks are no longer a curiosity in positions of authority and institutions where their presence has been a rarity."

That right there says it all to me. Excellent post.

Hey Shae! said...

Rev I'm not going to hold my breath when it come to the local news. They will mention race even when it's not called for. I'm surprised they didn't mention Tomlin's race... were you watching sports networks?

Lisa Renee said...

I really hate to disappoint you Reverend, but there were quite a few articles out there in the media that mentioned Tomlin's race, from the Pittsburg Post to USA Today even over in England.

That said, there is still I think some hope that a good majority of your post will be proven true, and you are not alone in thinking that way, as this one article from by Roy Johnson shares some of the same thoughts you did.

Revvy Rev said...

@ Lisa. Thank you! I was careful to add the qualifier at the outset concerning the remarks that "I heard." Yet I think that the main issue is that Mr. Tomlin brings an image of a strong black man that is usually absent from the center stage of the mainstream media.

Lisa Renee said...

I think your larger point has merit, it's clear that even those that did focus on Tomlin's color primarily focused on what he was "first" on which was being the youngest coach. I saw very few news pieces related to Tomlin that mentioned his being black and did not mention the age factor.

We as a society seem to focus on the first, both positive and negative, that "first" always seems to have to through a much harder rite of passage that at times is not reflected by those who come after.

As a p.s., thanks for visiting my other blogs, I found your blog when I was sitting down last night to write up a review on The Sojourner's Truth for Glass City Jungle, I read your column there, and thought I'd take the opportunity to be able to visit and discuss. You've done a really nice job here.