Tony Dungy Worship Has Gone Too Far

Bryan GoldbergSenior Writer IJanuary 12, 2009

This is the second time in as many years that I have had to write this article.

And, hopefully, I will not have to write it again.

But given how irrational the mainstream media acts when they discuss Tony Dungy, it's hard to know for sure...

Tony Dungy is a very good — though probably not 'great' — football coach.

He has won a Super Bowl, on the backs of superstars he did not draft, and has generally underperformed in the Post-Season. His tenure with Tampa Bay was successful, but another man was brought in to finish the job.

There is no argument to be made for him being a Top 10 all-time coach. I'd put him in the Top 25, though many would not, and they would have perfectly valid arguments. They might start with the fact that he has never been named Coach of the Year.

It is notable that he was the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, but other men have broken much larger racial barriers in recent years, both on the field (Art Shell) and off the field (Barack Obama).

In short, Tony Dungy is deserving of about as much respect as any other "very good" coach. His send-off deserves to be on par with Mike Shanahan's. How unfortunate that the former is leaving on his own dignified terms, while the latter was sacked.

And that is really the point of this article.

Stop treating Tony Dungy like he is the patron saint of great coaching.

This afternoon, after a friend mentioned the news to me, I dreaded the obnoxiously overdone tributes that I would find on the front page of the major sports networks. But Chris Mortensen exceeded even my greatest nightmares:

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.'"

Give me a break.

The first quote from Dungy is a self-comparisson to the apostle Paul!?

I was expecting all the tributes to figuratively compare him to a saint... not literally compare him to one. And if Dungy is a saint, then he surely does not embody the virtue of humility.

Although, we already knew that based on the title of his own memoir, "Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life."

So it sounds like I have a problem with Dungy. Actually, I don't.

I've got a problem with the way people who aren't Tony Dungy talk about Tony Dungy.

He's got plenty to be proud of. Every NFL coach does. Every Super Bowl winner is particularly notable. He has accomplished a million times more than I have.

But why can't we honor him with the type of praise that accurately reflects his level of accomplishment? Why was the headline about his retirement — "Mission Accomplished!" — so triumphantly displayed, as though he had not just lost in the first round of the playoffs?

And if he truly heeds the word of Christ — and I believe firmly that he does — then why must the media do for him that which his Lord would frown upon? Why can't we thank him for a job well done in Indy, and not recount his life story, laud his piety, and cite all the charities with which he affiliates (as though other, lesser coaches don't involve themselves in non-profit work and church life).

I conclude with a passage from Matthew 6:

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Mt. 23.5 otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 ¶ Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Tony Dungy, the man, the mortal, deserves to be treated with a level of respect on par with what he has done in his life.

The stories we read in the mainstream media are not in line with his objective level of accomplishment on the field, and the praise he receives for off-the-field work is almost ironically out of line with the very message he espouses.