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Tuesday, February 2: Ah, Media Day

Posted by Matt Terl on February 2, 2010 – 10:48 am

Well, it’s Super Bowl Media Day, when every reporter for every news outlet on Earth gets to ask really stupid questions of the players on the two Super Bowl squads. Should be even more scintillating now that it’s being broadcast live via TV, Twitter, NFL.com, and everything else.

But there are certain stories that need to be told at certain times every year, almost ritualistically. Like the Passover seder, or telling the story of Christmas, or watching Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day, only for football. If you’re a Redskins fan, that means that it’s time to go back to the Media Day before Super Bowl XXII, when Redskins quarterback Doug Williams wasn’t actually asked one of the stupidest questions of all time.

People came close, of course. Heck, it made up most of the opening four grafs of Paul Zimmerman’s game story in the post-game issue of Sports Illustrated:

For two weeks leading up to the Washington Redskins’ 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, Doug Williams was asked the same question. Often it was disguised by another question, or buried in a mass of them, like a tin whistle in a Cracker Jack box. But it was always there.

At one interview session it wasn’t even put as a question. A newsman merely said, “Black, Doug.” Williams smiled and said what he had been saying all along: “[Coach] Joe Gibbs and [general manager] Bobby Beathard didn’t bring me in to be the first black quarterback in the Super Bowl. They brought me in to be the quarterback of the Washington Redskins.”

The 32-year-old Williams had put up with much adversity in his nine years in professional football, but all week his press conferences in San Diego were filled with friendly faces. Indeed, how could you not like Williams, who treated every person with a microphone or a notepad, as well as every fan, with kindness and consideration?

He chose his words carefully. He said that both on and off the field he thought he was a role model for young players, white and black alike. “I’m glad if I’ve opened doors for young [black] quarterbacks like Rodney Peete [of Southern Call and Don McPherson [of Syracuse],” he said.

But the really stupid question, the one that’s still quoted today … that wasn’t actually asked. Jeff Merron of ESPN.com retells the story with respectable efficiency.

The dumbest question in Media Day history came prior to Super Bowl XXII. You’ve probably heard the story. A mediot actually asked Redskins quarterback Doug Williams the following: “How long have you been a black quarterback?”

Can it get any worse than that? Probably not. Here’s the thing, though — the question was never asked. After Williams suffered through countless queries about being the first black QB to start a Super Bowl, Butch John, a reporter for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, seemed to have had enough. So he said, “Doug, it’s obvious you’ve always been a black quarterback all your life. When did it start to matter?”

John’s statement and question were jokes. Most reporters there got it, and they laughed. And then it was printed. But it has been twisted around and repeated, in the form it takes in this story’s first paragraph, ever since.

And every Media Day, Redskins fans everywhere continue this age-old tradition.

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