Paul A. Moore, a Miami Public School Teacher, reporting from Super Bowl XLI to Super Bowl XLIV. This is a heartbreaker and should be a call to action. . . if anybody besides parents and teachers cared.
The Indianapolis Colts are back in the Super Bowl.
The CBS Corporation broadcast the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI from then Dolphins' Stadium. CBS cameras will be trained this time on a Colts vs. New Orleans Saints match up in Super Bowl XLIV from the same stadium, now renamed for the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. The game is described with Roman numerals to reflect the grandeur and spectacle of it. The Roman Empire had nothing on the NFL.
Family and friends of Rod K. Williams say he wanted to play football someday. But Rod was shot and killed two days before the last Super Bowl in Miami. His corpse was wrapped in plastic garbage bags and left in a Little Haiti-area dumpster. The body decomposed in the shadow of the stadium while the game was played. Five days later the smell attracted attention to the dumpster and the body of Rod K. Williams was finally discovered. No one had reported the 14-year-old boy missing.
An estimated one billion people kept track of the score of the score of Super Bowl XLI on television or radio. Tony Dungy's charges beat Lovie Smith's Bears to claim the Lombardi Trophy. Dungy was lauded after the victory as the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. While Peyton Manning was named the game's Most Valuable Player, many of the "skill players" on both teams were Black men. They made spectacular plays that shook the stadium. The Bears' Devin Hester returned the opening kick-off 92-yards for a touchdown.
Three young Black men who survived Rod K. Williams were probably watching Hester's electrifying runback. They all played football well enough to dream. Their minds likely wandered to the kind of fame and adoration and glory and respect for themselves one day. And where else had they ever seen such effusive praise for African-American men not much older than them?
If the inmates at Georgia's Burruss Correctional Training Institute had television privileges, then prisoner #1187055 likely watched Super Bowl XLI. He had played football with some distinction at Douglas County High School. He was the Homecoming King there too. But after a New Years Eve party to bring in 2004, 17-year-old senior Genarlow Wilson, was arrested and charged with sexual crimes. At trial he escaped rape charges but the jury forewoman wept as she read the guilty verdict for aggravated child abuse. His "child" victim had been a 15-year-old female high school classmate.
455 men have been executed for the crime of rape in U.S. history. 405 were Black.
Draconian mandatory sentencing guidelines condemned Genarlow Wilson to ten years behind bars in 2005. The State offered a plea bargain after the verdict. He could receive a reduced sentence if he registered as a "sex offender" for life. Under those terms he would have been forbidden contact with his 8-year-old sister until she came of age. He rejected the deal saying, "It's all about doing what's right. And what's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong. And I'm just standing up for what I believe in." The prison sentence dashed the hopes of Ivy League schools Columbia and Brown and their football programs for Genarlow Wilson. But it fired a world-wide movement for justice that blocked out racism's defenses. Genarlow Wilson ran to freedom's daylight and the arms of his family on October 26, 2007.
So Genarlow Wilson will watch, or not watch, Super Bowl XLIV as a free 23-year-old man. Maybe he will watch the game at his mother's home next to his little sister. Then again maybe he'll watch the game in Atlanta. He's a "Morehouse man" now. Morehouse College, the iconic institution that helped mold the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, is where he studies history, education and sociology. "Genarlow Wilson is representative of many of our young black men who must overcome incredible obstacles before finding a place -- like Morehouse -- where they are valued, mentored and given the opportunity to reach their full potential," said Morehouse President Dr. Robert M. Franklin.
As he lived alongside Super Bowl XLI, Myron Rolle was basking in the glow of a successful season at Florida State University. It is rare for a first year player to start for Bobby Bowden's football powerhouse. Myron Rolle had done it. So advanced academically he enrolled at FSU as a sophomore. His success came as no surprise to the people back home in Princeton, New Jersey. They had watched the teenager excel in every facet of life from school and community leadership to the arts and from the classroom to the playing fields. His two-sport athletic exploits earned him Ă˘€ś#1 Athlete in the NationĂ˘€ť designation from Rivals.com and his football prowess saw him named "#1 Overall Prospect in the Nation" by Scout.com and The Sporting News.
The recruiting battle over Myron Rolle was intense. Football programs from Miami to Michigan to Oklahoma to USC pulled out all the stops. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent around the country to curry favor with him. After all young men like Myron Rolle could mean TV time and a BCS Bowl birth and millions of dollars to a university. Institutions of higher learning are under tremendous pressure to fund their educational mission. The University of Florida alone must find $7 million each year now just to pay Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan, two of their more renowned professors of sports technology.
One day when Myron Rolle was a senior in high school he got a cell phone text message. Florida Governor Jeb Bush wondered if he could hangout with the young man on his next visit to Tallahassee. The text message might seem contradictory until the importance of FSU football to the former governor is taken into account. After all, Jeb Bush engineered the demise of all affirmative action programs in Florida's colleges and universities and drove minority enrollment to modern record lows. Jeb Bush fashioned a standardized test into a weapon. He dropped the FCAT like a cluster bomb on tens of thousands of 9 and 10-year-old Black children, nipping their potential self-confidence in the cradle. He lobbed it like a grenade into inner-city high schools and smashed the hopes of a thousand Myron Rolles. They got a piece of toilet paper called a certificate of completion rather than a text message. Then again, none of them was 6'2" and ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.53 seconds like the governor's young friend.
Myron Rolle returned from Oxford University to play in the Senior Bowl last month. Going into Super Bowl XLIV he is a Rhodes Scholar, the first major-college football player of his generation to win what is considered the world's most prestigious postgraduate academic scholarship. He plans to play on a Super Bowl winning team some day. He also plans to be a doctor and open a clinic for the indigent in the Bahamas. His pal in Tallahassee, Jeb Bush, is now the former governor of Florida and a former member of the board of Lehman Brothers. While still governor Bush put Coleman Stipanovich in charge of making decisions for the multi-billion dollar Local Government Investment Pool and the Florida Retirement System.
The now resigned Stipanovich made $1.5 billion in bad investments, $842 million of them purchased through now bankrupt Lehman Brothers. The pension fund now holds $756 million in worthless paper related to the housing market meltdown, almost 8% of its cash holdings. The state's short-term investment fund is faced with similar losses. Jeb Bush won't be losing any sleep over it though because the vulnerability has been dumped on Florida's 1.1 million current and retired state workers, hundreds of school districts and local governments, the state-created Citizens Property Insurance, and the state treasury.
Around the time of Super Bowl XLI Darnarius Green met Miramar High School head football coach Damon Cogdell. He began participating in Miramar's spring practices, traveling each day from his home school to the one across the county line. He was a good enough football prospect to be recruited.
Although he was only 16-years-old Darnarius had already been arrested four times on gun related charges. President Bush and the Congress allowed the ban on the sale of assault weapons to expire in September 2004 and they were easy to come by. At most parties of the day young men like Darnarius would pose for pictures brandishing guns and later post them on mySpace pages. In the three years prior to Super Bowl XLI scores of children and youth of color had perished violently in South Florida, the victims of such weapons. In 2007 the hometown of the Chicago Bears recorded 31 murdered children during the school year. Arne Duncan, then-CEO of public schools, expressed disappointment. "If that happened to one of Chicago's wealthiest suburbs -- and God forbid it ever did -- if it was a child being shot dead every two weeks in Hinsdale or Winnetka or Barrington, do you think the status quo would remain? There's no way it would," he said.
When Darnarius Green left his home one night he asked his little brother to pray for him. He got into a van with others and drove away. Ironically, Coach Cogdell was driving by Opa-Locka's Bunche Park moments after Darnarius was found there. The Miami Herald reported that according to police, "It was unclear if that is where he had been shot or where his body had been dumped."
The Damon Cogdell coached Miramar High Patriots made an historic run to the school's first ever football State Championship this season. The team will be honored as part of Super Bowl XLIV festivities. Chicago recorded a new record number of school-aged children killed, including the brutal beating death of 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert on the sidewalk outside his school, Christian Fenger Academy High.
The year before Super Bowl XLI Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, killing an estimated 1,600. Over 700 residents are still unaccounted for. Most of the lost were without the means to escape. Those who did leave are scattered across the country in a Diaspora that still endures. In a very real sense the New Orleans Saints will play hard in Super Bowl XLIV to heal the city. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was recently quoted as saying Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New OrleansĂ˘€Â¦"