Dear Mainstream Media...Please Stop Patronizing Tony Dungy

Bryan GoldbergSenior Writer IJanuary 21, 2008

Please stop patronizing Tony Dungy.

Please stop acting as though the NFL would hold a moment of silence were the man to retire in sunny Florida, spend more time with his family, or pursue other interests.

It's called "patronizing," and it's exactly what a lot of pundits are doing right now, just as they did it when he took his team to the Super Bowl last year.

Tony Dungy is a football coach who, if we are to be objective, falls into the category of either "very good" or "excellent". And that's the level of praise that he deserves to receive.

He is not Bill Walsh.

He is not Bill Belichick.

Many would argue that he's not even Bill Parcells.

He lead his team to a Super Bowl win, putting him in elite company to be sure, but can we please approach his life and career in a somewhat even-handed manner?

The Colts do have a reputation for under-performing. Similarly, the Bucs never went all the way under Mr. Dungy's leadership. Does this mean he's a bad coach? No way. A lot of teams would love to taste the AFC or NFC Championship on a regular basis.

But he's no Vince Lombardi, either.

And, on a personal level, he is a good man. He commands more respect than most coaches, and his very face expresses a message of care and seriousness.

But he is also a complex person. He is large, and he contains multitudes.

His deep faith and traditional views regarding, for example, homosexuality, surely clash with ESPN and the rest of the Disney Family's effort to be politically correct. And after his son's tragic suicide, did the mainstream media suggest that the coach should re-focus his priorities on something more important than football?

No they did not. Because Tony Dungy is an untouchable figure who may not be discussed or treated as though he were a mortal human being.

To put it another way, if a politician's son committed suicide during an election campaign, the media would immediately cry for him to retire and spend time with his family. But Tony Dungy has always been a stained-glass figure of perfection in the eyes of the media. So that wasn't allowed.

They've treated him with an aura of adoration that transcends any human being—and that's wrong. Nobody is perfect. Few men are near-perfect. Tony Dungy is neither. This is not healthy for anybody.

Let me put it into perspective like this:

I'm not saying that all of the guys who work for ESPN and live a Hollywood existence are, by definition, Blue State liberals who laugh at religion. I've heard people stereotype the 'Leftist Media' in that manner, but it isn't fair.

Still, on the other hand, you won't hear a lot of ESPN columnists saying things like this about Pat Robertson's approach to faith:

"For one more year at least, perhaps even a little longer than that, Dungy will continue to moonlight in those pursuits, to address with great purpose the duality of his life, and to chase both his ultimate vocation and his higher-profile avocation..."

Yes, that was from Len Pasquarelli, who has evidently mistaken a football coach for Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

He's a human being, Len. He's pretty good at his job, and he's a complicated, but generally good person.

That's it.

The praise that Dungy has received is not undeserved. But it has been diluted.

When people write stuff as pretentious as Mr. Pasquarelli, it necessarily undermines not only the praise that Dungy deserves, but it also undermines all of the objective discussion pertaining to the coach's career.

He's a football coach, a public figure. His victories and failures are supposed to be the topic of dinner debates and dormitory discussions. I'd like to think that my friends and I can have good-natured arguments over Tony Dungy.

But as long as the bar is being set as high as Len would like, then there will be no debate. Only a one-upmanship contest to see who can say the nicest things about the man.

When was the last time a TV commentator criticized Tony Dungy, even in the nicest words possible? It may happen on rare occasion, but I don't remember hearing it.

Peyton Manning gets criticized a lot. People love to call a certain Patriots' coach "controversial," despite the fact that he is irrefutably better at his job than Dungy.

But I'm committing a taboo by even implying such sinful words.

Maybe I should just shut up now, before the Moral Authority arrests me for having the wrong opinion.

But heck, as long as people are going to talk about this coach's "ultimate vocation" vis-a-vis his "higher-profile avocation," I'd rather just turn off my brain, watch re-runs of ESPN Hollywood, or see how many plasma televisions fit into C.C. Sabathia's 'Crib'.