Is talking about God news?

dungyIn predictable fashion, the Indianapolis Colts sloppily walked all over the Chicago Bears last night and Colts head coach Tony Dungy gave God the credit for the win. The big question for us here at GetReligion is not whether Rex Grossman should be allowed to remain in the National Football League, but how and when the media should highlight Dungy's comments. In the spotlight, before a huge percentage of Americans and thousands of people in the stadium, Dungy said this, as reported by NFL.com:

"This is a great time for both of us," Dungy said. "I'm so happy Lovie got to the Super Bowl because he does things the right way. He's gotten there with a lot of class, no intimidation, just helping his guys play the best they can. That's the way I try to do it and I think it's great we've been able to show the world that not only can African-American coaches do it, but Christian coaches can do it in a way that you know we can still win."

A piece by Associated Press football writer Barry Wilner excludes all reference to Dungy's religious comments, which has some readers of this blog, especially Michael Eisenberg, not so happy. Eisenberg writes that Wilner's piece misquotes Dungy, but from what I can tell, the article uses a different quote, offered either exclusively to Wilner or to a group of reporters.

In general most media outlets got the religion angle. This AP story by Steven Wine includes the quote in its entirety, and John Branch of The New York Times includes a reference to Dungy's faith in the second paragraph of his piece on the two coaches:

MIAMI, Feb. 4 -- In the midst of the rain and confetti falling on Dolphin Stadium on Sunday night, two men embraced near midfield and held on tight.

They were linked by football and friendship, faith and success. But Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith also shared a broader distinction: being the first African-Americans to coach a team to the Super Bowl.

My problem with this paragraph is that it is not factual. It is opinionated. The opinion, in fact, is not shared by at least one of two subjects, Dungy, who challenges the idea that his race matters more than his faith. As quoted in the Times:

"I tell you what, I'm proud to be representing African-American coaches, to be the first African-American coach to win this," Dungy said. "It means an awful lot to our country. But again, more than anything, I said it before, Lovie Smith and I, not only the first two African-Americans, but Christian coaches showing you can win doing it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that."

dungy gets dumped onI have not been able to account for the differences in the two quotes. If my memory serves me correctly, the Times version is more correct, but in this age of digital tape recorders and Tivos, messing up this quote is really inexcusable.

Is what Dungy said here news? He seems to insinuate that he and Smith are the only two Christian coaches to have ever won "doing it the Lord's way," but I really do not think that is the case, knowing that Dungy has a deep appreciation for the game and would know of the many other "Christian Super Bowl coaches" who came before him. How about some sports reporter covering the aftermath of the game asking him at the next press conference?

Art Stricklin of Baptist Press broke some news in reporting that CBS announcer Jim Nantz believed it was OK for Dungy to talk about his faith. But Nantz's feeling that way isn't the big story. The story is that "some people" were questioning whether faith was a fair thing to talk about:

MIAMI (BP) -- When CBS announcer Jim Nantz asked Colts owner Jim Irsay and head coach Tony Dungy for comments after winning the AFC title two weeks ago, each man gave credit to God before a national TV audience.

"I had some people ask if I didn't already know what they were going to say about their faith, but I thought, 'What's wrong with them expressing their beliefs?'" Nantz said. "We allow everybody else to say what they believe, why not them?"

... "Have we gotten so jaded in this country that we can't stand to hear the good about a person? If you think that's corny or hokey, then I really feel sorry for you," Nantz added.

Good for Nantz and the several other reporters who caught onto the faith story, including the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice and CBS SportsLine.com National Columnist Mike Freeman. While Freeman just mentions the God factor and Justice seems to recognize in his piece that the source of Dungy's decency, calmness and classiness is his faith, I have yet to see a piece fully explore that aspect of the game. Here's hoping that happens before this story goes cold.

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