The class of the league

For what it’s worth, I’m rooting for the Colts in the Super Bowl this Sunday. This has nothing to do with my growing up in Indianapolis, or starting my own football career there. In fact, if my Optimists Club youth football league experiences had any bearing on this I would hate the Colts because the team I played for (the Mini-Packers) missed out on an unbeaten, untied season when the star running back for the Mini-Colts scored the game-tieing touchdown after the whistle was blown by his father, the referee. Thankfully, I’m over that now.

However, while I otherwise have fond memories of Indianapolis and still have many family members living there, my rooting interest is centered around the Indy coach, Tony Dungy. While it’s all too easy to believe the media hype and images of this “genius” coach or another, I have heard and read enough about Coach Dungy’s personal character — and over several seasons seen enough of the way he handles himself on the sidelines under extreme circumstances — to come to the belief that he really is what he seems to be: a great coach and an even better man.

I especially appreciate his faith and I attribute his peaceful attitude and helpful actions to his being able to grasp and keep a long-term perspective even in the midst of perhaps the most intensively short-term focused public environment. Even as he was being passed over for head coaching opportunities he was emminently qualified for, or getting jobbed by replay calls (while coaching Tampa Bay in the play-offs), he has maintained his composure and helped others to see that it’s not all about him. Of course, that’s what the NFL wants us to think about Tony Dungy because it’s a good “story”, but it’s not hard to see what a deep and sincere respect and affection playes and other coaches have for the man. This was never more clear than last year when his son died just as the Colts were about to enter the play-offs. Even in that trauma, where it was obvious he was truly stricken and grieved, he continued to exude peace and class while focusing on the needs of others. What an example and inspiration he is to the rest of us, whether we have anything to do with football or not!

Finally, in a league where people go to great lengths to secure even the tiniest advantage for themselves, and where one high-profile, brilliant mastermind publicly and pointedly snubs his former assistants, Coach Dungy has promoted and championed his assistant coaches for other jobs, even though it might have made things more difficult for himself. In fact, one such disciple or protégé is now the head coach of the Bears and will be one of the key factors trying to prevent Coach Dungy from winning a championship. Somehow I don’t think he’d have it any other way.

Update:

“I’m proud to be the first African-American coach to win this,” Dungy said during the trophy ceremony. “But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”

(HT: Lassie at Freedom Dogs)

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