The 56th Super Bowl was played in 2022, and it was the first major Super Bowl since the pandemic.
It was also a Super Bowl of feats in many other ways, including being the first Super Bowl to be held at SoFi stadium, the first halftime show to feature hip-hop artists, and the first Sports Emmy win for a Black woman for the NFL 360: Ode to South Central short documentary, which paid homage to Los Angeles's iconic neighborhood and aired during the big game.
The Dick Schaap Outstanding Writing Award for Short Form went to Marcia McKenna, who made history by being the first person of color to win a Sports Emmy for writing. She defeated Aaron Cohen and the famous Bob Costas. Journalist and commentator Mary Carillo was the sole female recipient of a Sports Emmy for writing before now. Marcia was unprepared for the historic victory. She describes the feeling as being out of body.
“It's incredibly humbling. I'm grateful and gratified,” she said.
Despite being a seasoned professional in the entertainment sector with experience writing scripts for cinema and television as well as working in story development and copy editing, McKenna still had doubts about her ability to provide what the NFL Network was looking for. The only instructions she had were to pay tribute to South Central and include a sporting theme. McKenna wanted to give her previous neighborhood a voice in order to humanize it because she was raised there and is aware of its history. The winning copy was finished in approximately fifteen minutes of writing.
Although her short received an abundance of praise and love, it wasn't without its share of detractors. Some people failed to grasp the significance of the football connection. But to the girl from the Crenshaw area, sports and South Central were one in the same—representing all the gentrified, redlined metropolitan communities across the United States and the fortitude and perseverance they embodied in both good times and bad, much as in sports. Sports serve as a social glue, according to McKenna.
One aspect of athletics that McKenna has always valued is the fact that race is irrelevant. "You are a team, and whether you are white or black, you are all working together to accomplish something. There is a lot more about us that unites us than divides us. In sports, you are evaluated on a separate level based on your physical prowess, your leadership skills, your capacity to recover from injuries, and your capacity to endure discomfort. These are therefore the characteristics of all people.
The South Central that most people are aware of is the one that is portrayed in gangster movies or by rappers who vividly describe violence and devastation. Despite the area's justifiably terrible reputation, McKenna believes her hometown to be more than that. She intended for the video's subtext to reflect history prior to the violence. Families that moved to Los Angeles from the South to own homes and work in industries are just as much a part of the city's fabric and foundation as any other group. generations that still reside there are Black, Hispanic, and Asian. Compton, Inglewood, Watts, and Crenshaw are just as much a part of it as Beverly Hills and Malibu, and it reflects the United States as a whole.
McKenna shares some of the credit on the short, showing true teamwork. NFL 360: Ode to South Central's production was a collaborative effort, much like playing football is. The creative director Julian Gooden, the Emmy-nominated Black-ish star Anthony Anderson, Stephanie Yang, who earned an Emmy for editing, and—most importantly—the NFL for wanting to honor and celebrate the real South Central are all given credit by the author.
McKenna wants to see more female sports journalists because her late grandma instilled in her the belief that being a woman is the strongest and best thing you could be. According to her, writing with emotion and from the heart makes her stronger rather than weaker. The South Central homage is grim, but the sentiments are kind.
In McKenna's opinion, a male could not have composed Ode to South Central in the same manner. "I don't think a man is going to relate things the same way a woman would, even in sports' behind-the-scenes situations. Men have restrictions that women do not, and some stories simply require the feminine touch. Being a female writer is something I like.”