John Kincade is fed up. ESPN radio's Sunday morning host of the John Kincade show has heard too much about the race angle and this Super Bowl. And, it's certainly true that sports media have given plenty of attention to the fact that Super Bowl XLI will be the first in history featuring Black head coaches. It's also true that Smith and Dungy are two of the most well-liked men in coaching, both regarded as strong leaders and as men of quiet integrity. So, maybe that angle has been played. And maybe Kincade was just ranting because that's a big part of what sports talk radio is all about - the rant.
But, Kincade's rant is worth a brief response. I heard it while driving to do my own radio show this morning and don't have the transcript. But, Kincade made three major points:
1) that Dungy and Smith's success have "absolutely nothing" to do with the fact that they're Black. This point was repeated numerous times in the ten minutes I heard.
2) good coaches are good coaches, period. Dungy and Smith are good coaches. So was Bill Walsh. Walsh's success had nothing to do with his being White. Ipso facto (Kincade didn't actually say: "Ipso facto'), Kincade's right when he says Dungy and Smith's race has nothing to do with their success.
3) No one is complaining about Norm Chow not getting a head coaching job, despite his credentials. Why isn't there a Chinese American coaches association complaining about that?
4) Kincade also believes there's age discrimination working against the likes of Chow (who's about 60), Eagles defensive coordinator Jimmie Johnson, and Tampa Bay Bucs' Monte Kiffin, whose 31 year old son just bagged the Raiders' head coaching job. Kincade asserted that age discrimination is a more relevant source of concern in hiring these days than is skin color.
It's tiring to even have to explain why one's Whiteness has been, historically, less of hindrance in getting ahead in executive and management positions than one's Blackness in American society. But, I assume Kincade would grant that, until relatively recently, that was undoubtedly the case in professional sports. How else would he explain the fact that there were no Black head coaches in the NFL until as late as 1989? Unless he shares Al Campanis' views on the matter, which I assume he doesn't.
If what Kincade meant to argue was that for a young Black coaching professional starting out in 2007, race will not be a hindrance to achieving top jobs in the NFL going forward, I'd be skeptical, but that'd be a worthy discussion. BUt, to suggest that Dungy and Smith had no more obstacles working their way through the ranks over the past 15-20 years than did Bill Walsh due to their skin color, is off the wall, really.
And, to back up for a second, I haven't heard sports media discuss how Dungy or Smith's success is due to their race. The focus of their stories has been on overcoming obstacles. Kincade's just being sloppy here.
On the third point, concerning Norm Chow and the absence of an outcry about the lack of Chinese Americans (his term) in head coaching ranks, Kincade's got a good point. After all, given the fact that 66% of the players in the NFL are Chinese-Americans, and there are dozens of Chinese American coaches with good credentials to be a head coach in the NFL, and given the history of discrimination, formal and informal, against Chinese Americans by the NFL and organized American football more generally, I can really see where the comparison makes all kinds of good sense.
That little stretch of Kincade's rant is one of the dumbest I've heard on sports talk radio in a long time.
On the fourth point, in contrast to the ridiculous point number three, Kincade does actually have an interesting point. Is there a "bias" against older coaches in the NFL? Are organizations increasingly interested in young, inexperienced guys, versus older guys with a track record? It should be pointed out that, of course, there are plausible performance-related reasons to pass over older coaches: they may not stick around as long as younger ones, they may not relate to today's players as well, and the ever-increasing demands of the position may be harder for older coaches to deal with. That does not justify ruling someone out just because they're 60 or 65 - it still ought to come down to whether a particular individual can get the job done. But, to repeat, there are legitimate performance-related reasons to at least wonder about the age issue. By contrast, there are no plausible reasons to argue that one's skin color, by itself, disqualifies someone from being a viable candidate for head coach. So, the fourth point is still missing some context, but the Kiffin family example was a good one.
I mostly chalk up Kincade's riff this morning to a slow news cycle in the middle of two-week pre Super Bowl hell. And, that pre- super bowl hype machine has a way of beating EVERY angle to death including, in this case, the race one. But, Kincade's really missing the boat. However much it has been changing, Blackness has been a unique marker historically in America. If Kincade doesn't know that, that's in part because he hasn't had to know it.