Category Archives: sports

in which ESPN teaches me something about football

It’s football season here in the United States. Still. So my dad’s been watching a lot of it (and every other sport on the planet; it’s also basketball season and hockey season and the Australia Open just started up).

This morning, I woke up to find the TV still tuned to ESPN. First Take was on. Skip Bayless and Kordell Stewart (I think) were having a debate about whether it was time to repeal the Rudy rule. I had no idea what it was, but Kordell was for keeping it in place. And so was Skip, but his argument got to be a bit like nails on a blackboard when, speaking of Blake Griffin, he wondered why black people were allowed to be “proud” of biracial athletes for being black, but he couldn’t be just as proud of them for being white. And then Kordell had to explain that, no matter Blake Griffin’s actual racial makeup, he is seen as a black man in the eyes of the world in general. I’m not sure whether this was a pre-scripted conversation meant to illustrate a point about race relations or if Skip really hadn’t picked up on this fact, but the race conversation was a bit much for first thing in the morning, so I changed the channel and decided to do a little looking-up later.

What I learned:

It’s actually called the Rooney Rule. It requires NFL teams to interview candidates of color for senior leadership positions. (It started out applying only to black candidates and head coaching positions, but was recently updated.) No requirement to hire them, but just to make sure they’re included in the candidate pool.

I’d been wondering why there were suddenly so many black head coaches and I guess this is the reason why. I still remember the days when even a black quarterback was a novelty. Well, days are still like that, but a black head coach was pretty much unimaginable [to me] back in the days of Warren Moon.

This despite the fact that the NFL actually had its first black head coach back in 1921. His name was Fritz Pollard. He was one of the first two black players in the NFL in 1920. And, in 1926, he and the nine other black players in the league were booted. I wonder how long it was before another black player debuted in the league?

When dad came out of his room later, I asked him if he thought the Rooney Rule had lead to the sudden [to my eyes] upswing in the number of black head coaches in the NFL. He agreed that the Rooney Rule probably had something to do with it. He also credited Bill Walsh. (I should have expected that. With dad, all football roads lead back to Bill Walsh.) Bill Walsh apparently hired/mentored a good number of today’s successful coaches.

So there’s my football history lesson for the day. Now I’m all set for the Super Bowl.

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