All you have to be is white (to be credited with Super Bowl victory)?

From the movie Being There:

Louise (the former housekeeper, watching Chance on television): It’s for sure a white man’s world in America. Look here: I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-ant. And I’ll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between th’ ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now! Yes, sir, all you’ve gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want. Gobbledy-gook!

I’m not a football fan but I enjoyed watching this year’s Super Bowl at a friend’s house. To my untrained eye, the most critical point in the game was Patriot Malcolm Butler’s interception of a pass from the Seahawks quarterback during, literally, the last minute of the game. How did the New York Times describe the game? The summary on the home page:

With a late interception, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won their fourth title, making them one of the most successful combinations of a coach and a quarterback in pro football.

So it was one of these two white guys who intercepted the pass? Clicking through to the full article contained some information about Butler, but not until the third paragraph (Belichick and Brady were mentioned in the first).

Did I miss something? Why doesn’t Malcolm Butler, who happens to be black, get the first credit?

17 thoughts on “All you have to be is white (to be credited with Super Bowl victory)?

  1. Answer to all your questions is “White Mans’ Burden”

    but seriously do you thing Disney or whatever sponsors
    what an unknown doing their MVP commercials.
    NFL is the most politically motivate corporate entity.

  2. Butler entered the game late and had one play and prevented a loss. Brady and Belichick had already put up 28 points – the Patriots were winning. It would seem a bit off if the guy who came in last minute got the credit for the win.

  3. Malcolm Butler made a great play at a crucial moment to stop a Seattle win. Malcolm will get his fair share of credit. Belichick and Brady get the credit for giving Malcolm Butler the opportunity to win a Super Bowl. If Malcolm can perform like that for the next 15 years, then you’ll see his name in the first paragraph.

  4. I didn’t see the game, but based on your description, the late interception didn’t win the game… it just perhaps helped avoid a loss. It sounds like a big play (interceptions usually are), but its proximity to the end doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bigger than other turning points in the game…. though, without much game to follow it, it certainly leaves its emotional impact on the viewer.
    It may well be a case of “… on the shoulders of giants”.

    Had the interception been by a white player (or poor player, or whatever irrelevant metric you’d like to use) and the main force behind the team been whatever the opposite is, would you have been equally mystified?

    I didn’t see the game, so maybe I’m off.

  5. I think its traditional to credit the quarterback, though sometimes they really deserve the credit and sometimes other players do.

    Note that in baseball the win is usually officially credited to the starting pitcher, though in this case the media likes to focus on offensive players.

  6. Probably the same reason that CEOs get all the credit or blame in the business world.

    Theoretically, it’s the strategy that wins or loses. We know that’s not always true, but it makes for a simpler narrative. And if readers want anything, they want simple.

    Also, the leaders and figureheads are generally more familiar and camera-ready. That might feed back into your assertion of discrimination.

  7. For the same reason Malcolm Butler wasn’t harangued for the past two weeks over one pound of pressure in the previous game’s footballs.

    Belichick and Brady are the face of New England patriots, in good times and in bad. If you want to make that into something racial, that’s up to you.

  8. Butler prevented one touchdown. Brady threw passes for two touchdowns. Brady wins 2-1.

    If Seattle had won, the same accolades paid to Brady would be paid to Russell Wilson and his coach. That is usually how football works.

    Right now, Seattle’s white head coach is being eviscerated for calling the worst play in Super Bowl history. Instead of calling for a black quarterback to hand off to a black running back, he called a play that asked the black quarterback to throw to a black receiver. So the white guy is getting blamed for what black guys did on the field. Is that fair?

  9. I’m not a football fan either and I also enjoyed watching.

    I’d say the answer to your question is that Bellichick and Brady deserve first credit for the 28 points scored by the Patriots, and (maybe) Bellichick for the defense that held the Seahawks to 24 points. What most most impressed — as opposed to excited — me was the first-down machine operated by Brady.

    I think the Times’s summary is thus a holistic appraisal rather than a key play ranking.

  10. How do you define what is an MVP?

    Is it the defensive back who works hard all game to prevent his man from touching the ball? Is it the kicker who makes the last second kick? The quarterback who leads 2 drives in the 4th quarter to win (without either the interception is meaningless). Is it the last person to make a play? What about the Tightend who drew double coverage to help open other people up?

    Butler absolutely was a huge factor in winning the game; nonetheless, as successful entrepreneur how would you name a single person to be the MVP of a product. Do you just give the system admin credit for coming in last second to rescue the day. Do you name the lead programmer? Do you name a junior programmer who raised their game? A business development person who saw a great opportunity?

    I’m not saying this isn’t a white man’s world; however, this doesn’t seem to be the example of this. Without Brady the Patriots would not have been this contender. I agree with you that there are a disproportional amount of white quarterbacks in the NFL.

  11. Let’s say you write a software package that has 10,000 lines of code in it but there is one bug that causes the package to bomb out. Another guy finds the bug and fixes it, which take him 30 seconds and your package goes on to be a commercial success. Do you get the major credit or the guy who fixed the bug?

    Let’s say you are flying across the Pacific and you hit a major storm. At some point one of the engines flames out. Nevertheless, you get thru everything safely, but by now you are past your limit so you call the relief pilot (who was sleeping during the crisis) forward for the last 30 minutes of the flight, which are totally uneventful (you have managed to restart the engine). Does he get the main credit for saving everyone’s life or do you?

    If Brady was black and Butler was white, I don’t think it would have been any different. I don’t think the NFL is exactly a hotbed of racism. The NFL is 68% black and 28% white. I understand that it is natural to look for racism in American life because there is a long history of it, but you have to be careful not to see imaginary patterns like an image of the Virgin Mary appearing in a grilled cheese sandwich.

  12. If it wasn’t for Jermaine Kearse juggling catch [1] Malcolm Butler would not have been at the right place at the right time to make that winning catch. This is all about luck and Malcolm knows it [2]:

    “It’s the best feeling ever,” Butler said. “I had a feeling I was going to make a big play.”

    There is no credit / racial issue here.



  13. To bring up the baseball comparison again, the reason the best starting pitcher on the winning team’s roster is not routinely named World Series MVP is that in a four to seven game series, he will not pitch a majority of the games or be on the mound in a majority of the innings. The MVP of the series will tend to be someone who has played every day. However, in the NFL the player in the most important position will be in the game whenever the offense takes the field, unless he gets injured.

    There is still a strong case that Edelman should have been MVP.

    One cognitive error I see people make is to focus exhaustively on the last play that tipped the score in a close game. This occurs outside of sports too. Of course lots of things had to happen to get the Seahawks in a position to win, but only if the last play went a certain way.

  14. To be fair, George, it was Butler who tipped the pass that Kearse juggled. Butler did everything right on that play, but Kearse made a ridiculous catch. In probably 995 of 1000 similar situations, Butler tips the pass, Kearse drops it, and we have a completely different outcome.

  15. Another way of looking at it is that if Butler had tipped the pass a little better, there would have been a zero % chance of Kearse still catching it. So Butler went from the guy who lost them the game to the guy who won them the game in the course of a few seconds.

  16. Aren’t you burying the lede here by not suggesting that the Patriots’ MVP should be whoever on the Seahawks was responsible for throwing the ball over the middle instead of giving Lynch 3 tries to gain a yard?

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