Sunday, February 6, 2011


Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and as I write this it is shortly after 1 o’clock and the temperature here in Miami is 81 degrees and the day is sunny, but with the usual clouds hanging around.

In Dallas, where the Steelers and Packers will play, it is 47 degrees (apparently it has warmed up) with snow and ice around.

Where would you like to be for the game?

In Indianapolis and New York, future sites of the game, it is 34 and 43 degrees, respectively.

Have fun there, guys!

But enough about the weather.

I would be surprised if this past week you haven’t seen a Super Bowl story that covers the topic of dumb questions asked during Super Bowl week. I haven’t, but then I have pretty much ignored the pre-game hoopla.

As Super Bowl lore goes, the dumbest question ever asked was this query of Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams:

“Have long have you been a black quarterback?”

How dumb can you get, right? That’s even dumber than the “What’s the dumbest question you’ve been asked this week?” posed to many players. The most common answer: “That one right there.”

The reporter who asked the question of Williams once worked for me, and he was one of the best around. A good reporter, a good writer, and a hard worker. He was thorough and accurate and a key member on one of the best sports staffs in the newspaper business at the time.

So why did he ask such a dumb question?

He didn’t.

At least not in those words.

What he asked was this:

“Doug, obviously, you have been a black quarterback all your life. When did it begin to matter?”

Frankly, I think that was an interesting issue.

I’m not sure what Williams’ answer was, but even now, over two decades since that question was posed, the answer is that it still matters. Or at least it still comes up.

Consider the flap Rush Limbaugh caused a few years ago when he simply posed the contention that he thought that the media’s wish to see Donovan McNabb succeed as a black quarterback when he was with Philadelphia had affected the way his performance was perceived.

Rush didn’t say that McNabb couldn’t be a good quarterback because he was black or even that he wasn’t a good quarterback. Rush simply wondered if McNabb was a bit overrated because of a wish to see him succeed.

It caused enough flap that ESPN, where Rush had asked the question, asked him to leave the show.

Interestingly, just last fall a national sports outlet postulated that most Philly fans knew at the time that McNabb wasn’t as good as the common perception.

I’m not going to get in that issue. I liked McNabb when I saw him play at Syracuse. He was about the only weapon Syracuse had when he played against Miami as a freshman, and he later led a 66-13 rout of the Hurricanes as a senior. I think he has had a good career in the NFL.

My thought is that if McNabb were in today’s Super Bowl, though, that the issue of being a black quarterback would still be around. Maybe not as big as when Doug Williams was playing for the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII in 1988, but an issue nonetheless.

Maybe some day it won’t be.

But I’ll bet the legend of the dumb question asked of Williams will never go away completely.

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