Sometimes the fact that something is chosen as a news story is in and of itself newsworthy.
Take for example recent stories popping up in sports sections around the country that have examined from every angle Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, the respective head coaches of the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, the two teams that will meet in the 2007 Super Bowl. The reason these two masterminds are making headlines (aside from the usual pregame hype) is that both coaches are black — the first time a black head coach has ever guided a team to a Super Bowl appearance.
That this is a story worthy of so much fanfare shows that the United States has not come as far from the days of Jim Crow as most of us would like to think. If race was as much of a nonfactor as many people say it is, the fact that a black coach is finally coaching in the Super Bowl would be no news at all.
But it is news, because racism and racial barriers still exist. Opportunities for the average Caucasian in the U.S. far exceed those of the average Latino or black American. This usually has more to do with socioeconomic standing than anything else, but it would be unrealistic to say that race plays no role. The root cause of our unequal society involves many factors like education, family structure, geographic location, available monetary resources, other available resources like personal power and social connections, and a litany of others.
But we know race is one of those factors because by extolling the breaking of a racial barrier, the press has implicitly acknowledged that many such barriers still exist.
Football fans, however, might be one step ahead. When they watch Sunday's game (I'll be one of them) they won't be remarking about how that black Tony Dungy is managing the game with a no-huddle offense or how that black Lovie Smith made excellent halftime adjustments on defense (trust me, both of these game strategies will happen). They'll simply be nodding their heads or shaking their fists at the strategy in play, the fruits of the coaches' labor, or, as Martin Luther King Jr. might have said, the content and character of their game plans.
Football fans get that the accomplishments and successes (and failures) of these two coaches have nothing to do with their skin color. The question is, when will we know the same thing goes for everyone else?