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 PHOENIX (AP) - The first black referee picked to work a Super Bowl didn't need a platform. Instead, Mike Carey stood off to the side and talked about his historic assignment.
``Sports is like politics. It's the window to progress,'' he said Friday.
Carey met reporters after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell delivered his state of the game speech. The crew chief routinely attends the annual address, but rarely speaks to the media.
Given the significance this time, Carey spoke for about a half-hour. He saw his appointment for Sunday's game as ``another step in the erosion of stereotypes we all know should be eroded.''
There have been several dozen black officials in the Super Bowl - two other blacks are on the crew for the game between New England and the New York Giants. Carey stood by as the alternate referee for the 2002 game in New Orleans when the Patriots beat the Rams.
He praised the black officials who have gone before him, notably Johnnie Grier, the first black referee in the NFL and now an assistant supervisor of officials, and Al Jury, one of the league's top officials for two decades.
Carey will be on the field a year after Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith became the first black head coaches in the Super Bowl. Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts beat Smith and the Chicago Bears 29-17.
Carey's spot was officially announced Wednesday, although word got out two weeks ago. It almost got in his way of his preparation - officials study almost as much tape as players and coaches.
``I got so many e-mails it interfered with my concentration for a while,'' said Carey, who runs a ski equipment company.
Carey is familiar with the Giants and Patriots. He was the referee when the teams closed their regular season. New England capped its 16-0 mark with a 38-35 win at the Meadowlands.
``That first game was phenomenal,'' he said. ``It's what we all look for in football. There was never a time when we knew what was going to happen. There was never a time when it was clear which team was going to win.''
Carey never expected to be in this position - his roots were on the field. But after he left Santa Clara, where he played football, a friend asked him to help officiate Pop Warner games.
``My first thought was, 'I don't want to be one of those guys. I always hated those guys,''' he said.
Instead, he became one of those guys, working his way up to high school junior varsity and varsity, junior college and then college in the Western Athletic Conference. He joined the NFL in 1990 as a side judge on the crew of one of the top refs of that era, Pat Haggerty.
Five years later, he became a referee himself. Now, he'll handle the biggest game of all.
``It's something I've been preparing for my entire career. It's certainly the peak,'' he said.
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