Moving on with the story

dungyI returned to Washington from Indianapolis this afternoon/evening and expected to be reminded that the story of the death of Colts coach Tony Dungy’s son was a local one. Sure, I thought, if Dungy retires due to this tragic event, people outside the community are going to take notice, but front-page stories on the funeral will be hard to find outside of Colts-land.

But I forgot. Dungy was a man who left a mark wherever he went that must have included journalists based on the tremendous stories that have flowed out of the Florida papers and even in Minnesota where was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Vikings.

Indianapolis Star sportswriter Phil Richards covered the event masterfully, catching Dungy’s key quotes and portraying the scene of deep family sadness:

Tony Dungy had a message for all.

“I urge you not to take your relations for granted,” Dungy told the gathering of about 1,500. “Parents, hug your kids each chance you get. Tell them you love them each chance you get. You don’t know when it’s going to be the last time.”

James Dungy, 18, died Thursday in what authorities said was an apparent suicide.

Tony Dungy last saw his son at Thanksgiving in Indianapolis. James was in a rush to return to Tampa. Goodbyes were hurried.

“I never got to hug him,” Dungy said. “I knew I was going to get to see him pretty soon, so it didn’t bother me a lot.”

The faith-theme so prevalent in earlier coverage largely disappeared from the headlines starting Monday, but sub-themes were still there with stories on Dungy’s impact on players as fathers started making their way out of Florida.

As a fill-in for Dungy, Colts assistant coach Jim Caldwell has had the tough job of balancing this team’s needs to support their coach, attending to their own family matters over the Holidays and two road games in the final two weeks of the season. Again Richards nails the spiritual element that is flowing out of this sports-related story:

It’s a reflective time and Caldwell has done much reflecting. The words that keep coming to him are those of Oswald Chambers, a Scottish minister, teacher and author who died in 1917.

“Chambers wrote that so he could serve the Lord in the best way, he would like to be broken bread and poured-out wine,” Caldwell said. “I think that’s a great description of Tony and his family: He and Lauren are broken bread and poured-out wine.”

Caldwell believes that in closing ranks around its leader and his family, an already close team has been welded even tighter.

The spiritual angle of this story is ripe for the picking for any number of Christian publications. Give Dungy and the team some time and a great God-beat story could be told by any number of journalists ready to listen and understand.

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  • Tom R

    Colby Cosh (a conservative/ libertarian, an atheist, and a Canadian journalist) has an intriguing response to this at http://www.colbycosh.com/#sstd:

    “… Well, pardon me for playing the village atheist here, but how the hell does anybody know what shape and course Tony Dungy’s grief is going to assume? I’m afraid this sort of talk is distasteful to me even coming from people who know the coach well. He’s going to come back even stronger in his religious faith? He’s going to grow ever closer to God? How do they know this? Is it because nobody ever has a crisis of belief when their kid dies of a drug overdose? Is it because James Dungy’s suicide so elegantly expresses the fine Italian hand of a loving creator? Is it because the idea of humans as frightened, outnumbered primates struggling through an impersonal, chaotic world somehow seems less probable at times like this?

    And how are these people going to react if Tony Dungy comes back to Indianapolis and says–as might well be expected–”Don’t talk to me about God. We aren’t on speaking terms.” Will it be disappointing to them? Are they going to feel somehow let down by their paragon of virtue?…”


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