Two basic kinds of stories have been written about the retirement of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. The first are about Dungy’s results on the gridiron, his record-setting 10 straight playoff seasons, and six in-a-row seasons of 12-plus wins. The second story is about Dungy’s faith and his personal impact on the world around him.
The New York Times came close to merging these two stories into one late in its article on Dungy’s retirement announcement, but for one reason or another seems to back off the subject at the last minute:
In an interview during the 2006 season, Dungy said that the accomplishment he was most proud of was proving to the N.F.L. that there was more than one way for a successful coach to behave. In a sport that venerates the sleepless control freak, Dungy was a man apart, unfailingly positive, eschewing the dour countenance so prevalent on the sideline.
He dined with Edwards the night before their teams met in the playoffs. He spoke openly about his faith and about the agony of losing a teenage son to suicide. His book, “Quiet Strength,” became a best seller. Dungy often worried about how much time coaching took him away from his family. They moved back to Tampa last year and they were intrinsic in his decision to retire now.
It was telling that when Dungy spoke Monday, he began by thanking those who had influenced him. He started with his parents.
The Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins almost seems to write-around the faith aspect of Dungy’s career in an article titled “A Champion of Decency.” We do get a hint of where Dungy’s decency came from in this paragraph:
There was a fundamental generosity to everything Dungy did in football. He made no secret of the fact he was a devoted evangelical who viewed NFL coaching as something of a pulpit and a ministry. But he wasn’t a holier-than-thou proselytizer or a do-right; he just lived his words, working with a prison ministry and mentoring program in the offseason.
I guess Jenkins views most evangelicals — whatever that means these days — as having holier-than-thou attitudes.
ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen has an excellent piece on Dungy’s retirement and it appropriately keeps Dungy’s faith in perspective throughout the entire article:
It was late Saturday night and the words flowed from Tony Dungy’s lips like water from a spring. He was quoting his favorite book; not his best-selling “Quiet Strength,” but, naturally, the Bible.
“I’m at a point, kind of like the Apostle Paul,” explained Dungy, “he said, ‘If I live, it’s good. If I die and go home with the Lord, it’s better.’”
I have not watched any television coverage of the retirement, but if any of you readers were able to catch Sports Center or any other television sports news on Dungy’s retirement, please let us know if any faith aspects of Dungy’s life and career were mentioned. Overall, ESPN.com’s coverage has been solid on the faith aspect, including this excellent side-bar story that tells a great story about Dungy’s personal character in action.
However, my favorite Dungy retirement article was by The Indianapolis Star‘s Robert King on how Dungy impacted the local central Indiana faith communities. It is a moving story that shows the extent to which Dungy will be missed off the football field here in Hoosierland:
The Rev. Clarence C. Moore considers the time Tony Dungy spent in Indianapolis, including many Sunday mornings in his Northside church, to be transformational — not just for a football team but for a city.
“Most of the time, cities are ready to get rid of their coaches,” said Moore, pastor at Northside New Era Missionary Baptist. “But in this case, it is almost like a funeral because we loved him so much and because the intangible presence of the man was larger than football.”
Nonprofit groups across the city were struggling Monday to explain how they would fill the void left by a coach who lent his name, time, money — and often his heart — to so many causes. When he came to Indianapolis seven years ago, Dungy said faith would come before football, and he has been true to his word.
I have a strong feeling Dungy is not going away. He has left football, but his impact on people and communities will go on and hopefully journalists will be able to continue covering his story.