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What's Tony Dungy Saying?
Posted by Chris Liss at 2/22/2007 5:46:00 PM
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After winning the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy stated that being a Christian coach was as important or more so than being the first black coach to win the Super Bowl. (Both he and Lovie Smith). And I thought, that either means one of three things:

(1) He's glad both he and Lovie Smith were Christian by birth, i.e., born to Christian parents, and haven't converted to another faith.

(2) He's glad not only two black coaches made it this year, but two ethical and moral ones, i.e., those that have Christian values like caring about the poor and turning the other cheek.

(3) He's glad someone who literally believes Jesus Christ is the messiah and will return again at the end of the world competed in and won the Super Bowl.

(1) is blatantly bigoted, as it implies he'd be disappointed if a Jew or Muslim coach won.

(2) is benign enough, but if that's all he means, why use the word "Christian"? Why not just say: "I'm glad to be paired not only with another black coach, but also a great guy."

(3) strikes me as bizarre. Even if Dungy believes in that literally (and I have no idea if he does), why should Lovie Smith's beliefs about the end of the world impact Dungy's feelings about him as a Super Bowl opponent?

So even though I think (2) is mostly how he meant it, I think there has to be an element of (1) or (3) in what he said - otherwise, why use the word "Christian?"

Now, I don't care if Dungy said something politically incorrect, and I don't think he should be punished for it, or anything drastic like that. I'm just wondering what he meant by it, or whether he just has a screw loose.


Well, a person of Christian faith believes in #3 by definition, so that's a moot point if he's already professed his faith, which I think he has.

From all accounts, Dungy is a good man with good morals, but who really knows what's in a person's heart I suppose.

Doubtful that he meant anything negative towards other faiths, but who knows...
Posted by vtadave at 2/22/2007 7:58:00 PM
I think he was putting his faith ahead of his color.
Posted by jtopper at 2/22/2007 9:41:00 PM
Well put, jtopper. A strong Christian will identify
himself with Jesus Christ. That is his being. He
and Lovie have Jesus Christ in common, and that is
their strongest tie.
Posted by at 2/22/2007 9:58:00 PM
Right, but the significance of his color is that blacks were systematically denied opportunities as head coaches until recently. I don't get the significance of his religion in this context. In other words, there's a reason he's being honored for being the first black coach to win the Super Bowl (and he and Smith were honored for being the first two to get there).
Posted by cliss at 2/22/2007 11:42:00 PM
While I have no clue what Dungy is actually thinking, it seems as though Dungy just feels blessed that God gave him the opportunity to not only coach in and win a Super Bowl, but to also have the opportunity to have coached and played a game for a living. I agree with Topper and MJH...he feels that is his strongest tie to Lovie Smith, not race, which is why he brought it up after the Super Bowl. It seems like his way of encouraging everyone to look beyond black and white.

Posted by dvr9484 at 2/23/2007 8:13:00 AM
Right, but his strongest tie is that Lovie shares his religious beliefs. Not merely that Lovie's a good guy, or a deserving guy, but that he shares the same religion. Why look beyond race only to get stuck on religion? Why not just say, "More importantly, he's a great guy."
Posted by cliss at 2/23/2007 9:12:00 AM
Cliss is right! Your first post had it perfect. The reason it is a big deal at all is just because blacks have never had the opportunity before. So while Dungy might want to put his religion before his race, it is irrelevent because we care about their race, not Dungy and Lovie per se.
Posted by nayfel at 2/23/2007 10:17:00 AM
how else is dungy supposed to stop the spread of terrorism?

tho i kind of wish the follow up question could have been, "So why do you think Jesus hates Rex Grossman?"
Posted by stuccosalt at 2/23/2007 11:39:00 AM
His comments about Christianity could have the disastrous effect of emboldening the terrorists. And we don't want to do that, so we must continue to follow our saviour GWB :)
Posted by flutiefan at 2/23/2007 1:09:00 PM
This whole issue is one giant canard - he only responded to a question asked immediately after the Super Bowl asked by a reporter trying to pat himself on the back for the "social significance" of the moment. It wasn't a calculated "my religion trumps my race" position. He's a man of faith, he was expressing his faith, no more, no less.
Posted by Erickson at 2/23/2007 3:09:00 PM
He was expressing that he was glad two Christians were playing for the World Championship. That's not the same as professing your faith.

Imagine if Larry Brown squared off against some other Jewish NBA coach in the finals, and said: "I'm just glad my opponent is not only a great coach, but also a Jew." It would be apropos of nothing for him to say that.

Again, politically incorrect speech is fine with me, and I don't think he should get in trouble for it - just pointing it out because it seems utterly bizarre to me.
Posted by cliss at 2/23/2007 4:37:00 PM
You can look deeply into just about any comments and come out on the other side with the underlying negatives, especially those involving the powderkeg that is God.

What Tony was saying was he and Lovie are Christians and proved that you can win and do things the right way.

There is a cultural bias against Christians in sport. It might be more prevalent in baseball, where professed Christians are ridiculed as soft, but surely that extends to all sports, including football.

Being a black head coach of a Super Bowl champion was, frankly, just a matter of time. I was shocked it was such a big deal and was glad to see that Tony and Lovie acknowledged it but didn't pander to the media hype.

But, to be a Christian head coach of a Super Bowl champion, a guy like Tony has to get past some accepted cultural biases in sports.
Posted by jarnold at 2/24/2007 11:19:00 AM
"There is a cultural bias against Christians in sport. It might be more prevalent in baseball, where professed Christians are ridiculed as soft, but surely that extends to all sports, including football."

That's absurd.

The problem here is that "Christian" has become synonymous, over the last couple of decades, with the American right-wing fundamentalist Christian movement. Once upon a time it was a much larger umbrella term, and it's that co-opting of the word which leads people like Liss to wonder whether Dungy was just making a casual remark, or proselytizing.

For instance -- are Catholics not "Christian"? Because I'd guess that the majority of South American and Hispanic baseball players were raised Catholic, and I don't see any cultural bias in baseball against them being "soft".

And there's certainly no bias against your general run-of-the-mill American farm boy in baseball, who again were almost certainly brought up "Christian" even if they don't join a prayer circle before every game.

And how many players look to the sky and acknowledge their maker in some form or other after after scoring a TD / hitting a home run? Are those players not "Christian"? Does anybody consider those actions "soft"?

Twenty years ago I don't think anyone would have blinked at Dungy's comment. If stating that you're a "Christian" has become a political statement, it's because a certain segment of "Christians" have made it one, for better or for worse.
Posted by ESiegrist at 2/24/2007 3:53:00 PM
Absurd? Not historically. Heck, not even today.

There have been insider rumblings for years that the Kansas City Royals were soft because Mike Sweeney and other professed Christians were the team leaders, held Bible discussions, went to church together, etc. The team had too many milk drinkers is how manager Tony Muser put it.

I understand the politicalization of the term Christian, but not everyone who goes to church, points to the sky after a home run or even preaches behind a pulpit are Christians. And voting Republican or being raised in a Christian home has no bearing on it either. Those who truly are (in their own heart, soul and mind), choose to live in a certain manner to please God.

Tony was saying he was pleased that he and Lovie could be at the top of their sport while still making choices that glorified God.

As for the Liss list, I agree that Tony was probably meaning No. 2 and (potentially) hinting at No. 3. But why does he need to politically correct himself and say "great guy," when he means "he lives his life for the Lord"?
Posted by jarnold at 2/26/2007 7:31:00 AM
I think Liss was on point in asking the question about Larry Brown. I really don't understand what Dungy was trying to say. Are Christians the only people that "do things the right way"?
Posted by hainesbl at 2/26/2007 8:11:00 AM
Good point, hainesbl. Christians are not the only people to do things the right way. It would be wrong to say that. That's why I believe Tony was talking more about the cultural bias in sports against professed Christians than anything about being morally superior.

Christians are not superior. They have a tool (Bible) to help them with accountability in their right and wrong decisions, but they fail all the time.
Posted by jarnold at 2/26/2007 9:41:00 AM
I read the comment as an extension of the whole "Dungy and Lovie Smith are guys who don't shout and curse and berate their teams like R. Lee Ermey" story that was SO played out even before the Super Bowl. He might have expressed himself poorly, but I think you might be reading too much into it.

Besides... I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that nearly every Super Bowl coach to date... from Vince Lombardi to today... was some flavor of Christian. (Christian in the "believes in Christ" sense, not necessarily the "born again" sense. Lombardi, I'm assuming, was Catholic.) They've mostly been white American men, a good portion of them from the South -- on demographics alone, that makes the bulk of them protestants.

As for Christians being considered "soft" in the NFL, or having some negative stigma attached to people of faith... are you sure about that? Seems to me that there's some sort of prayer circle on the field after nearly every NFL game.
Posted by czegers at 2/28/2007 8:25:00 AM

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