The Super Bowl is back in Miami!
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 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 they were?
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. He was also 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 "#1 Athlete in the Nation" designation from Rivals.com and his football prowess saw him named "#1 Overall Prospect in the Nation" by Scout.com and The Sporting News.