Often times during a game, whether football or basketball, I’ll get a call from my mom, who, as a result of me playing sports growing up, has turned into a pretty solid sports fan. Most of these calls come at the end of the quarter or at halftime to “see if I’m watching.” Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not, but I take the calls anyway to make it appear as though I’m interested. One of the funny things about my mom’s fandom and many other “old schoolers” alike is that no matter whether they are familiar with the team or not, as long as there is a black coach on the sidelines, they’re pulling for that particular team.
Exhibit A: The 2008 NBA Playoffs
Last night after the Hornets were eliminated by the Spurs in the Western Conference semis, my mom called and was sad. She said: “Well, another one of my teams as been eliminated, so I guess I’ll pull for the Celtics now.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle because this has been going on for the last month. When Dallas was eliminated and subsequently Avery Johnson was fired, you would have though all hell was about to break lose. And now that Mike Brown and Byron Scott’s teams are no longer in it, there’s only one of “us” left — Doc Rivers. And for my mom and others who are loyal supporters of the black coach, it’s their only hope.
While I support the black coach in any sport, it’s not as serious as those in my parents and grandparents generation. If you really think about it, you can understand their position. In their day and still somewhat today, it was rare to see a black coach in any sport. “We” were considered not smart enough or not skilled enough to be a coach at the highest level. Al Campanis in a famous interview, said blacks didn’t have the necessities to be a manager in Major League Baseball.
We’ve definitely come a long way in leadership in professional sports. You can find black coaches in every sport at every level. The lesson I took from observing my mom is that people of all races should be proud of the advancement and success of black coaches, but not get comfortable and forget to support them, not matter what team they represent.