Her father, John Rice, passed his obsession about sports on to little Condoleezza at an early age. The NFL was daddy’s thing: Fall Sunday afternoons at the Rice house in the 1960s were spent watching whatever game the networks carried. Her father became her coach, explaining defensive coverages and offensive plays. They bonded over trap plays and blitzes. Before the season began, they’d always buy a copy of Street & Smith’s preseason NFL magazine.
Her indoctrination into the game was intense.
Her father told her the Washington Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate, so the Rices never pulled for them.
Though living far away in Birmingham, father and daughter latched onto the Browns because of Jim Brown, the team’s star player, and Paul Brown (no relation), the team’s Hall of Fame coach.
On Thanksgiving, after watching the Detroit Lions’ game on TV, the Rices would play touch football in their front yard.
Football was their deal. Her passion for the game traces its origins to that living room in Birmingham. Her 2010 memoir, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People,” makes that unmistakingly clear.
Yet today, there are knuckle-dragging morons who are reacting to Rice’s seat on the college football playoff committee as if it is biblical heresy. It is the trifecta for those who (a.) think women should stay in the proverbial kitchen, (b.) women should stick to “women’s” sports, and (c.) those who think you have to suffer the rigors of two-a-day practices to have an informed, cogent opinion about the game.
Pat Dye, the former Auburn coach, is a knuckle-dragger.
“All she knows about football is what somebody told her,” he told WJOX in Birmingham, “or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.
“I love Condoleezza Rice and she’s probably a good statesman and all of that, but how in the hell does she know what it’s like out there when you can’t get your breath and it’s 110 degrees and the coach asks you to go some more?”
David Pollack, former Georgia player and current ESPN talking head, also is a knuckle-dragger.
“I want people on this committee that can watch tape, that have played football, that are around football, that can tell you different teams on tape, not on paper,” he said.
Under this logic, presidents who haven’t served in uniform, on the battlefield, shouldn’t decide when to send in America’s military. FDR did OK for himself, nonetheless.
Under this logic, members of Congress have no business advising the president on what he should do — since they’ve never sat behind the big desk in the Oval Office.
Under this logic, journalists aren’t qualified to cover politics unless they’ve been in politics themselves.
Under this logic, school board members must be former teachers and hospital board members must be retired doctors and nurses.
Under this logic, decision-makers must be, with only a few exceptions, white males who reside safely within the traditional power structure. No one from outside the circle — no one who doesn’t look like us, sound like us — is worthy of consideration.
What complete, utter bunk.
Granted, and in fairness to the knuckle-draggers, fandom isn’t a qualification; that Rice is a lifelong follower of the game — college and pro — doesn’t make her committee material.
What does qualify her are her unmistakable skills: wisdom, intelligence, a broad knowledge of varied topics (including college football), and the experience of making difficult decisions on a rapid, daily pace that are heavily scrutinized.
This is apples to oranges — a horrible comparison — but what do you think is more difficult: voting on which four teams should play in a college football tournament, or advising the leader of the free world that he should consider military action that would undoubtedly lead to loss of life?
The knuckle-draggers’ stance is so laughable, so offensive, that it’s not worth any more of our time.
College football is a quasi-professional, multi-million-dollar sport that’s trying to reinvent itself for the better. At its helm must be smart, open-minded people who aren’t trapped in the old-boys’ club of preserving outdated tradition at all costs. Rice, and others like her, will be good for the game we love.
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.