Monday, November 10, 2008

Legacy Of A Referee -- Obama's Political Pedigree

African American NFL Official Set The Stage For Obama Historic Presidential Victory

NFL official Mike Carey became the first African American to referee the Super Bowl when he served as the HEAD official in Super Bowl XLII between New England and New York in Glendale, Arizona.

Mike Carey's acclaimed rule on the football saw him judge over Super Bowl XLII. The historic nature of his stewardship of the Super Bowl followed the recent history made in Super Bowl XLI, where the American nation added to its legacy of becoming the only race neutral society in the world, when the nation witnessed a Super Bowl coached by two African American coaches. Mike Carey solidified the American social journey into the promised land by becoming the first African American to referee a Super Bowl.

On the heels of Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith marshalling their teams to the Super Bowl – Dungy’s Colts won – with MIke Carey as referee of Super Bowl XLII, America was finally ready to receive and select a Black man at its head.

Mike Carey's ascendacy is more significant than great African American athletes such as Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods capturing the imagination of the country, because Americans have been cheering for the athletic prowess of Blacks since slavery yet this lauding did not translate into political power for African Americans. It was only after the celebration of Mike Carey did the nation trascend its taboos and arrive at the mountain top.

Referees are rarely the center of attention during media week, but Carey’s elevation to Super Bowl referee – a pioneering move – changed all that. Mike Carey became more than a mere referee, he personified the greatest aspects of American society -- its ability to change and move forward -- tenets, which the US Constitution foresaw and embeded within its four corners.

It is not perplexing that we have seen Black coaches and Black quarterbacks lead their respective teams to NFL glory. We have seen Black athletes embarass our greatest enemies as was done to Hitler by Jesse Owens in the Olympics of 1936. We have witnessed Black athletes dominate most of our sports. However, we have never seen a Black man entrusted with the prestigious assignment to oversee a Super Bowl. With the appointment of Mike Carey as supreme judge of the Super Bowl, America was then ripe for an African American leader--even a president.

“I think of the social revolution going on and the social position of the world,” Carey explained, “and you can see change happening right before your eyes."

Yes indeed, and Obama ran with this theme of change and rode the oscillating social wave to an unprecedented victory to the whitehouse.

Mike Carey Inducted into Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame

"We are extremely proud of our alumnus who has gone on to achieve great things," said Roxanne Spillett, president and CEO of BGCA. "His story is very different, but he started out the same - with life-changing programs, caring and attentive staff, and the fun and safety of a local Boys & Girls Club. This inductee represents the power and impact a Club has not only on character and development, but also on civic engagement," continued Spillett.

“I’m proud of being the first, although there were others, like Al Jury and Johnny Green, that paved the way for me. I appreciate them and I’m humbled.
“I think people are learning to look through the transparencies of our outside. After last year (Dungy’s breakthrough), I want to believe that we are getting to the place where people will judge you by the content of your character.”

Added Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and architect of the Rooney Rule that requires at least one minority be included in the interview process before an NFL team can fill a coaching vacancy: “It (Rooney Rule) took a lot of people to buy into it for it to happen. We knew we needed to do something to change the pattern. I’m happy to see Mike get this opportunity and just maybe the spirit of the (Rooney) Rule is soaking in.”

The Rooney Rule sunk in deep and impressed itself into the psyche of the American people. Mike Carey, in his 18th year as an NFL official, was notified by the NFL front office that he would be Super Bowl XLII referee following the conference championship games. He said he was more excited than surprised. Neither was the American electorate when a Black man, Barack Obama, was presented to them as their next president.

America became familiar and comfortable with seeing Mr. Carey make crucial decisions every Sunday as they drank their beers, ate hot dogs, laughed and cried with friends over the fate of their favorite teams.

“When I got the call, I felt great,” Carey remarked. “It took a while for my feet to hit the ground."

“What really touched me was the camaraderie of the officials. I got so many e-mails and text messages of congratulations. The general theme was that they were all honored to see me at this point.”

Carey noted that he wasn’t really surprised because he felt that he has been a competent official. Americans saw in Mike Carey the greatest ideals of their democracy--his success meant their growth and transcendance from darker days of discrimination. Americans were prepared to move forward with Mr. Carey as he blew his whistle week after week during the NFL season.

“You always hope something like this will happen,” he explained. “Each year you have to feel like you were good enough to get the call.”

Well, just as the NFL finally agreed and Carey found himself in referee pioneering lore, so did Obama find himself as a political pioneer --- the ground work having been founded in the stardom of Mike Carey -- Mr. Obama was now ready too.

The officials at the Super Bowl are chosen on merit, with the highest-ranked at each position getting an assignment at the Super Bowl. Carey has been among the NFL’s top crew chiefs for a decade, but has never been the referee, or even a position official, at the Super Bowl.

Left: Mike Carey and Ed Hochuli, two of the most familiar referees, commanded the most positive votes, with eight apiece. None of the other 15 regular referees who worked games in 2007 commanded more than three votes of support from coaches. Having Carey as one of the top referees in the NFL paved the way for Obama by sofetening the American public to the probability of African Americans in positions of power

We selected Mike based on his record,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “He has been working hard at his craft and he has earned this select opportunity.”

Mr. Carey said he hopes his effort inspires other minorities to consider officiating. However, he said there is no easy route to reaching the pinnacle of officiating. Obama saw this hope and made it a central point in his campaign to win the elections of 2008 -- hope and change for sure.

Beginning his officiating career in 1972 working Pop Warner football games in the San Diego, California. area, Mr. Carey became an official in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 1985. The NFL then hired him in 1990 as a side judge and promoted him to referee in 1995.

He was only the second African American official to become a referee – Johnny Grier was the first in 1988.

“I never dreamed of being a referee,” said Carey, a former running back at Santa Clara University. “When my friend asked me if I wanted to try officiating, I said, ‘I don’t like those guys; why would I do that?’ ”

Now, 36 years later, Carey, whose brother, Don, is also an NFL official (back judge), is respected for his thorough pre-game preparation, professional demeanor and fair play. Now Americans all over the country were inspired to a man who like Mr. Carey started his political career as a community organizer who too, never dreamed of the highest political position in the nation. Nevertheless, Mike Carey forged the course for Barack Obama to take the baton and cross the finish line thumping John McCain as winner of the 2008 elections.

Mike Carey Reacts To Obama's Coal Comments 02:28

As for Super Bowl XLII, Carey said he wasn’t nervous.

“I was not afraid of making a mistake,” he said. “I’ve been trained to do this and I just called on my training and instinct. As we (officials) always say, ‘expect the unexpected!’ ”

Left: Mike Carey was the first African- American to referee a Super Bowl. Carey, in his 18th season as an official, signaled the readiness of America to accept African-Americans at the pinnacle of its society.

Super Bowl XLII left us with some incredible and historic moments, and the game was won fair and square by the players. America noticed Carey's leadership during the game, and to them, that meant a Black man can lead with fairness. The stage was therefore set for a possible Carey archetype leader -- namely Barack Hussein Obama.

In addition to his NFL career, Mike Carey co-owns Seirus Innovation, a snow sports accessories company he founded with his wife Wendy, in 1979.

Many pundits have forwarded the thesis that Obama's historic victory was due to a long line of African American pioneers in every area of discourse including Civil Rights activists that paved the way for his election -- they placed his achievements in solely a dynamic of the past. These talking heads propose that Obama's success began with historic notables such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Dubois, Rosa Parks and Ms. Tubman to name a few. The view is that African- Americans have contributed to enlightening and improving not only the United States but the world into realizing the aptitude and excellence of African- Americans.

These African- American figures existed and agitated however, there were no Obamas until Mike Carey's coup of the American imagination in the Super Bowl. Many successes occurred in the past, but these were unable to move American society beyond a certain level of mobility for African Americans. It was the essence of Mike Carey as an American icon, which propelled Obama's success and made it possible for the majority of white Americans to accept a black man as their leader.

We must be careful not to allow this pontification to define not only our success as a socitety to move beyond race but also reclaim our unique history, values, character and legacy as a race neutral country that Mike Carey personifies--Our culture and tradition of rewarding excellence. Our Constitutional mission is embodied and highlighted in the distinction of Mike Carey whose many achievements set the stage for an African-American president.

The National Football League in recent years has sought officials who are able to explain their rulings more thoroughly, for the benefit of coaches and fans. The idea is to eliminate confusion while instilling confidence in the referee, his crew and the process. Beyond seeking officials who get calls right, league officiating director Mike Pereira also looked for referees with strong leadership skills and the ability to project confidence.

Mike Carey is a great orator, his keen pronouncements on the field command respect in a definitive manner. His assertions are clear and concise and the players, coaches and the American crowd applaud each decision precisely, because of his elocution and elucidity in the language.

How does he project himself when the camera is on and when the microphone is on? At the moment of decision making Mike Carey has no equal in those respective skills--he overwhelms the camera and dominates the microphone with an unparelled clarity.

I do believe that if people have confidence in the referee, then they have confidence in the whole system, in the government -- It then becomes possible for an Obama figure etched on the legacy of Mike Carey to draw on the skills and star qualities exhibited by this iconic figure, Mr. Carey, and be able to woo the American public into the voting booth.


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