There are a quite a few important religion stories out there in the news right now. But let's face it, there is really only one story that matters to millions of people sitting on sofas right now clutching their remote controls. It's the game. Good vs. evil. Darkness vs. the light. Red city vs. blue city. The values of the heartland vs. an evil empire from big-money territory.
And, at the level of the coaches, it's, well, you know, the Christian vs. the Cheater.
You can see this good vs. evil storyline in quite a few places today -- there's an interesting-looking Chicago Sun-Times story out there, but the link is broken -- but we might as well look at the language in The Boston Globe, right there in the evil heart of the Northeast. The story is by Bob Hohler and it is, honestly, a good story. This is not a joke:
... (As) Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts guide their undefeated teams into a ballyhooed struggle today for midseason supremacy in the National Football League, they present a striking contrast in personality and management style -- a portrait of two leaders competing for a common goal by exceptionally different means.
At one extreme stands Belichick, portrayed by some as an autocrat so consumed by a will to succeed that he has cheated by videotaping his opponents' signals and, as one of his former players quoted him saying, elected to "coach through fear."
At the other edge looms Dungy, described by contemporaries as so inspired by his religious faith that he once considered walking away from football to launch a prison ministry and so opposed to leatherneck coaching that one of his former players publicly complained he was too "mild-mannered."
It is easy to focus, again and again, on the Dungy angle. I have to admit that what grabbed me in this report was the material about Belichick -- who does seem like a candidate to lead the franchise in some lower-ring city created by Dante.
Like I said, this is serious. Check this out:
Belichick and Dungy both endured professional and personal pain in their long climbs to excellence in the NFL. Belichick suffered a miserable run coaching the Cleveland Browns from 1991-95, clashing with the media and posting only one winning season. In the process, biographer David Halberstam quoted one of Belichick's friends as saying, Belichick developed "the hide of a rhino."
Belichick's work ethic took a sadder toll, contributing to his divorce from Debby, his wife of 28 years, in 2005. In his 2005 book "The Education of a Coach," the late Halberstam explained the divorce in part by concluding, "Belichick tried to lead a balanced life within a framework that was totally imbalanced."
That's sobering, almost Great Divorce-type stuff. Has anyone else seen a pre-game religious story worth mentioning? Good or bad, let us know. And has anyone seen any church-related info on Belichick?