Bigger Than the Ring: Rooting for Tony Dungy

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Bigger Than the Ring: Rooting for Tony Dungy
IconThere are two reasons my heart bleeds for Tony Dungy.

Only one of them has anything to do with football.

Last year, in the span of about a week, Dungy went from living a dream to living a nightmare. First, on the verge of a perfect season, Dungy's Colts were defeated by the San Diego Chargers. That loss paled in comparison to what came next: On December 22, Dungy's son James was found dead of an apparent suicide.

I'm the father of a three-year-old son, and I cried the first time he got his shots because I couldn't stand to see him in pain. I cannot fathom ever having to place him into the cold earth, and to walk away knowing that I'll never see him again.
 
No loving parent deserves to outlive a child; it isn't the natural order of things.
 
But in today's world, what is natural anymore?

Dungy returned to the sideline two weeks after his son's death, and the Colts ended their season by losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the eventual Super Bowl champions, in the AFC title game.

This Sunday in Miami, the team and the coach have a chance to make good on last year's disappointment.

The truth is that Super Bowl XLI could have been, and maybe should have been, Tony Dungy's second shot at a ring. In 2002, Dungy was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and replaced by Jon Gruden, who led the Dungy-built Bucs to a Super Bowl victory in 2003.

To Gruden's credit, he did acknowledge that Dungy engineered the championship team in Tampa.

Upon moving to Indy, Dungy found the road to the Super Bowl almost impassible thanks to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The Pats won three titles in four years, and twice used the Colts as a steppingstone en route to a ring.

As a result, the bridesmaid tag was hung on Dungy and the Colts. Some critics went so far as to say that the coach was too nice; he needed a 'mean streak,' the logic went, to get over the hump.

People used to say the same thing about Tom Landry, before Landry won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.

Like Landry, Dungy is a man of unbelievable faith. In his darkest hour, he relied on the hand of God to lead him and his family back to the light.

Now, a year later, Dungy is in the Super Bowl facing his good friend Lovie Smith, and one of the two men is poised to make history as the first black coach to win an NFL championship.

Taken together, the last 13 months of Tony Dungy's life hearken the story of Job, in which God allowed Job to lose all that he had in order to prove to Satan that Job would not curse his maker.

In return for Job's faith, he was rewarded with tenfold what he had lost.

A Super Bowl victory will not bring James Dungy back to this world. But for a man of Tony Dungy's faith, I'm sure that a moment with the Lombardi Trophy would be a welcome thing indeed.

Even better: Win or lose on Sunday, Dungy has reaffirmed my faith in that most hopeful of maxims.

Sometimes, nice guys really do finish first.

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