Third Day of Black History Month: Being First is much easier than Getting in position to be first

Today, when all the hype finally dissipates and Big Blue and the Evil Empire gathers in the middle of the field to FINALLY play the damn game, history will shine on one man.


The short story is that Mike Carey will be the first African-American to referee the Super Bowl.

The long story is that he didn’t just roll up on this prime gig overnight.

He got his start refereeing Pee Wee games back in 1972.  And he took the long road to history.

I know people think that this kind of thing happens overnight.  Fool around on YouTube today and six months later the Head Coach of the University of Wisconsin Basketball team is Supermanning dat OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOh.

you thought I was lyin, didn’t you.   Nope…it’s easier to tell the truth nowadays.


Today’s lesson, good folk, is that when you see a first, remember the work and sweat that went into making that possible.

Ask Mike Carey

John Smallwood: Carey is taking his Super step in stride

PHOENIX – Until there is the first, you can’t get to the second, the third or, most important, the point where it no longer matters.

So when Mike Carey steps on the field tomorrow for Super Bowl XLII, he will do so with great pride knowing that he is the first African-American to be the referee of America’s greatest sporting event.

“Obviously, it means a lot to me,” said Carey, who is in his 18th season as an NFL official. “I’m proud, honored, humbled, blessed to have the


“The thing about sports in America is that it is a lot like our politics. It’s really a window to the social atmosphere of our country. What we’re seeing is that everybody is capable of

accepting anybody with competence.

“It’s the erosion of one more stereotype that all of us know should be gone. Someone asked me if this was groundbreaking. I said it’s ‘ground paving,’ because it’s just what is going to happen in America and the world. You can’t deny it.”

Carey is an official, and officials are at their best when they do their jobs without being noticed. So, no, this has not received the amount of attention that Doug Williams did in 1988 when he became the first African-American quarterback to play in and win a Super Bowl.

And it’s not like last year, when the Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith and the Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy became the first African-American head coaches to reach the Super Bowl.

But this is significant in its scope.

In 1965, Burl Toler became the first African-American official in the NFL. Johnny Grier was the first to work his way up to referee in 1988; Carey is the second.

“I may be the first [to referee a Super Bowl], but I’m just part of that path,” Carey said. “You’ve got to remember Johnny Grier, Al Jury. There are a lot of superior African-American officials who paved the way for this to happen.

“The community of officials is such a tight brotherhood. I’ve been getting e-mails, voice mails, and text messages of congratulations. Being able to represent them on that stage is humbling.”

Carey, 59, who was a running back at Santa Clara University and graduated with a degree in biology, began officiating in 1972 when a friend suggested he

officiate Pop Warner games in his native San Diego.

He worked his way up to

junior varsity high school games, varsity high school games, junior college and small-college games in the San Diego area.

In 1985, the Western Athletic Conference hired him. The NFL hired him as a side judge in 1990 and he was promoted to referee in 1995.

“You can’t get to this level unless you start with the little Pop Warner kids and work your way up,” said Carey, who was an

alternate official for Super Bowl XXXVI. “At every level, I was

fortunate enough to be athletic enough to get to the right positions to make good calls.”

(Click here to get the your Paul Harvey On)



  1. LadyLee

    I was VERY happy to see him officiate the game last night. I remember thinking “Has an African American ever officiated the game?”

    So he’s the first. Definitely won’t be the last.

  2. jameil

    i didn’t know that! sometimes it really annoys me how long its taken for us to get to the simplest milestones. blacks have been on the field for decades but couldn’t get in the biggest game to make the calls. ridiculous. that supaman video was the last story in sports on a major network am show a couple of months ago.

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