Saturday, January 26, 2008

We Still Remember - Tony Dungy and Negro Bowl I

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."- Theodore Roosevelt

Like most Howardites entering the university in the fall of 2005, I had a smorgasboard of goals for college. I wanted to serve my community, live for Christ, gain acceptance from my new peers, and balance precariously on the unstable line separating my inner Steve Urkel and Stephon Urquelle. Basically, I wanted to leave my personal seal on Howard University. I wasn't looking to be greedy and tat up the political scene as a HUSA President, or dominate the press releases as the next Zora Neale Hurston over on P Level in the West Towers (The Hilltop). After my stroll across the red and blue stage in May 2009, I was determined that my legacy would impact the lives of others and cause a reverberating effect for the years to come.

Looking back at the declaration I made sitting in room 222 of Charles Drew Hall, I realize that with the help of Jesus, I've accomplished some great things in my life. I never would have imagined that scribbling a couple of jokes and catchphrases down about my life as an intern on a legal pad at my internship in the summer of 2006 would lead to an opportunity to work alongside a great company during the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. My wildest dreams never caused me to envision entertaining an early December graduation over the expected May setup. (Don't worry, I'll be here until May 2009.) As I look at Super Bowl XLII and picture the younger Manning slinging darts against an undefeated Patriot defense, I realize that things in life don't always work out in the way you think they will.

Case and point: Last year in football, I didn't believe that the Indianapolis Colts had the ability to run the table and reach the Super Bowl. After all, the strongest teams in the AFC were the San Diego Chargers (following LT's breakout year) and the Baltimore Ravens (with an fierce defensive combination and a rejuvenated Steve McNair reliving his glory days as the catalyst for a Billick-coached offense). There was no way that a Colts team that lost after Mike Vanderjagt shanked a field goal on their home turf last season and allowed a pesky 5'8'' running back from Jacksonville to have a Herculean game leading up to the first round matchup was going to have success in the playoffs, especially with the league's second-best running attack (Kansas City Chiefs) poised to snag a victory in the RCA Dome.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Over the previous five seasons leading up to the 2006 playoffs, I, like most obnxious journalists, had given the credit for the Colts' resurgence to their offensive surgeon, Peyton Manning. Manning stood atop a record-setting Colts offensive and consistently lead his team to victory, regardless of the faults of an inept defensive system. I never understood why Tony Dungy was considered by my peers to be an brilliant tactician. I mean, I knew he created an entirely new defensive system, the Cover 2 defense, and used a rotten initial core of talent to build a successful franchise in Tampa Bay, but still wasn't sold on the idea that he deserved a spot of the mantle of the great NFL coaches. Though I acknowledged Dungy as an successful African-American coach in a league that is controlled by a handful of "old money" owners with covert racist tendencies, I believed him to be the black Marty Schottenheimer...a guy who just couldn't win the big game.

As I sit in front of my computer screen and reminisce about my feelings about Tony Dungy and his career in the NFL, I realized that I suffered from the disease of indifference. I believe that as a community, black folks have also allowed the seeds of indifference and complacency to fester like a sore in our lives. As the majority of African-Americans slid into the unfamiliar waters of the middle class, we failed to notice the aura of complacency that took hold in our community. The strength that we garnered as a collective body during the Harlem Renaissance and the black movements of the Vietnam era was compromised when folks started asking the damning question..."What's in it for me?" Nowadays, people are too concerned with defining themselves as individuals amidst an era of confusion rather than uniting under one umbrella to champion great causes just as our forefathers did during the heat of our untelevised revolution. Basically, we've got too many punch line rappers and not enough cats ready to make global change.

As Peyton Manning's Tony Dungy's team deleted the
Chiefs, Ravens, and Pats en route to his first Super Bowl opportunity, I jumped headfirst into the bandwagon. Even though I was hoping Lovie Smith would tie Rex Grossman to a speedboat in the Everglades before touching down in Miami for the "Soul Bowl", I was elated to see two great guys represent African Americans in our country's single largest entertainment event of the year. I was grinning from ear to ear as Tony would later lift the Lombardi trophy and make his signature statement that will forever echo in the annals of history, "Two black coaches, doing it the right way, doing it God's way."

Tony Dungy's Super Bowl victory was not only an overt fight against the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, but an covert fight to allay the jeers of an unforgiving white world and to scourge the unbelief of a discouraged black one. In a confused society that looks to guys like Jay-Z as the new models of leadership, allow me to point in the direction of the honorable Tony Dungy. Though Negro Bowl I has now become a footnote in the essays of history, let's remember and apply Dungy's mantra of brotherhood, love for Christ, compassion, righteousness, and hope to our daily lives. As Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes' character) profoundly stated at the end of White Man Can't Jump, "if [we] don't look out for [our] brothers, who will?"

Thanks Tony...for helping me to believe again.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, TTK.

    Well said.

    --Drew Hall, 5th floor