Tony Dungy's mystery faith

The article by Matthew Kaminski, a member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, sports a clear, concise headline: "A Coach's Faith."

And the opening paragraph leads readers to believe they are in for an in-depth look at the beliefs of one of pro football's most respected figures, who begins analyzing games for NBC's "Football Night in America" tomorrow:

Tony Dungy's favorite verse in the Bible is Matthew 16:26: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?"

But readers (including Paul, who e-mailed us about the article) learn little about what Dungy believes and how these beliefs animate his life. Readers learn instead about Dungy's life story (which in this telling is surprisingly devoid of faith), his work with troubled quarterback Michael Vick, and his predictions about who will emerge victorious this season in the NFC and AFC. We actually learn more about Dungy's beliefs about teams than his belief in God. Maybe the article should have been entitled, "A Coach's Odds."

Along the way there are tantalizing hints that Dungy must believe something. For example, Kaminski tells us that Dungy is "a best-selling author of inspirational books." Then it's on to these two vague sentences:

In his case, faith and family provide direction. For years he has worked through his prison ministry and mentored kids and families, dads above all, and naturally his players.

But that's the last we hear of "faith," which isn't addressed again in the remaining 1,600 words of the article. Did a copy editor slap the wrong headline on this piece? Or did Kaminski intend to explore Dungy's soul, only to lose track of this goal or decide later that he would change course and pursue other topics?

If the Journal published an interview with a CEO but neglected to name his company or describe his previous corporate experience, readers would rightly feel ripped off. So why does the Journal bait-and-switch its readers by teasing them about Dungy's spiritual background only to drop the subject before delivering the goods?

Both Paul (who complains that Dungy's "religious beliefs are never mentioned except for some boilerplate about 'how are you gonna make the situation better?' ") and I would like to know more about Dungy's faith:

- Is he a Christian? - If so, what kind of Christian is he? Does he belong to a church? If so, which church in which denomination? - Does he sing in the choir? Does he teach Sunday school? Is he an elder? - Was he raised in the faith or did he come to faith later in life? Why? What were the circumstances? - What does Dungy say in his "inspirational" books? - What does his "prison ministry" do or teach?

These questions -- all of which could have been addressed in one detailed paragraph of 100 words or less -- would have delivered on the promises made in the headline and the opening sentence. Without this, Dungy's faith remains an utter mystery, at least in this report (as opposed to plenty of others).

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