It's ironic that this particular Super Bowl features a pair of firsts, and that both are happening a year after another historic first. Last year, of course, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy both reached the Super Bowl, and the Colts' win over the Bears made Dungy the first black coach to win it. Now, the Giants feature the first black general manager in the game, Jerry Reese, in his first year replacing Ernie Accorsi. (Technically, the Ravens' Ozzie Newsome did not hold that title in the 2000 season, breaking that barrier officially later.)
Also, Mike Carey will be the first black referee in the game's history; he spoke briefly to reporters after commissioner Roger Goodell's state-of-the-NFL press conference this morning Arizona time, and talked about how sports has been such a great venue for societal change throughout history. Carey, of course, is part of Ravens lore, as Jamison Hensley wrote earlier this week, when he threw Terrell Suggs out of the penalty-laden game in Detroit in '06, for bumping him "with malice in his heart.''
The coincidence? This is the 20th anniversary of Doug Williams leading the Redskins to the Super Bowl XXII win over the Broncos. Williams will help present the Lombardi Trophy tomorrow night. Last night, he was honored by the Field Generals, the advocacy and charitable group formed by the NFL's retired black quarterbacks, at Scottsdale's Center for the Performing Arts. Lots of food, lots of checks from major sponsors and corporations to the Field Generals and to Williams' foundation, and a live band that, by night's end, had none other than former Vikings Hall of Famer Carl Eller dancing like a man far younger than his 66 years.
Meanwhile, to follow up on an earlier posting: In his annual players association press conference Thursday, Gene Upshaw didn't take the bait dangled by the Gridiron Greats that morning, choosing to focus on the issues of clearing the red tape that is denying benefits to retired players, and referring to the latest wave of accusations and insults as "water off a duck's back.''