Sunday, February 07, 2016

A Super Bowl recalled

I remember that game. Super Bowl XXII in 1988 between the Washington [Racial Slurs] and the Denver Broncos was the year of the hype about the first time a contending team was led by a Black quarterback. There was no question who I was rooting for: the presence of Doug Williams decided that.

Sportswriter Peter King interviewed Williams for his pre-SuperBowl essay this year, asserting that Williams' leadership of Washington to 35 points in the second quarter might be the greatest quarter in the history of the often snooze worthy final game. Williams offers a play-by-play of that 15 minutes, 18 plays in five drives -- and much more.

“Let me tell you this: In my whole life playing football, that was absolutely the best practice week I’ve had. Coaches had to call us off each other. We were so physical, and so ready. They didn’t want anyone to get hurt during the week. We knew we were ready.

“Late in the first quarter we were down 10-0, and I hyperextended my knee. They had just put new turf in at the stadium, and I guess there was a section that was damp, because the sun hadn’t really hit it, and my right foot slid out from under me. I was laying on the turf and the trainers came out. But I said, ‘Don't touch me. If I can walk, I am gonna finish the football game.’...

“I don’t consider there was any pressure on me that day. I always figured I wasn’t going to ever put pressure on myself to perform, so I certainly wasn’t going to get anyone else put pressure on me from the outside world. But I did understand what was at stake. I wasn't gonna play this game because I was a black quarterback. I was playing this game because I was the quarterback of the Washington Redskins who happened to have earned the job quarterbacking in the Super Bowl.

“I was very much aware of the atmosphere around the game. I grew up in Louisiana during segregation. The street where I grew up runs from Baton Rouge to Mississippi. There were two intersections, a crossroads. And every Friday night, there was a cross burning at that intersection. That’s just the way it was. The Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan lived a few miles from where I lived. Integration didn’t happen until my ninth grade year, and even when I got to high school, it was still mostly black because the white kids who should have gone to the school got pulled out and went to private school. I only played with two white guys in high school. But basically I never worried about it. Then when I went to Grambling, coach Rob [Eddie Robinson] never preached black and white. He was only about the American flag. I don’t know anyone, ever, who could out-American Eddie Robinson. Anyway, with coach Rob, it was all about performance. ...

“At halftime, we’re up 35-10, and Buges [offensive line coach Joe Bugel] comes to me and says, ‘Hey, Stud’—that’s what he always called me—‘Hey Stud, I think we got this. You don’t need to come back with that knee.’ I told him, ‘I started this game, and I’m gonna finish it.’ My knee had really stiffened up. But the doctors got out their needle, and we did what we had to do, and we got the job done.

“We traveled the road less traveled and won the Super Bowl. After the game there was nothing to say. The game itself was the best statement.”

Now I had two questions for Williams.

Does this quarter get enough attention as the best quarter in Super Bowl history?

“No, but there’s not anything I can do about that. It’s not my job to blow my own horn. You control what you can control.”

Have you ever wondered whether it would be more celebrated if John Elway scored 35 points in one quarter?

Williams chuckled. He paused. Long pause.

“That’s the only answer you’ll get from me on that.”

Full story here.

Washington defeated Denver by 42-10; Williams was voted the Most Valuable Player. After his professional career ended, Williams went on to coach football at Grambling and much later to work in the Washington team's front office.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

I don't know about reparations but I'm sick and tired of blacks being used as permanent scapegoats.

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