When you think of faith in sports, you don't have to think too hard until you come to Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. Unfortunately, there are signs that Dungy may be moving on from Indy now that his season is over. No decision has been made, and one won't likely be made until after Dungy meets with team officials and his family, but it is worth reflecting on the impact Dungy has made on the sports world.
Call me biased (I live and grew up in Indy), but Dungy's life story and faith has been and continues to be one of the best out there, especially in the sports world. Not only does Dungy talk about his faith freely and honestly, but we have seen him live his faith, particularly after the suicide of his son James Dungy in 2005. His book "Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life" has been a big hit and received across-the-spectrum praise.
I watched today's game fairly closely, and the only thing that came close to a discussion of Dungy's faith was a comment near the end of the game when they were talking about the possibility of Dungy moving on. One of the announcers, forgive me for not knowing which one, said that Dungy was "a man of many interests."
That was it. Kind of incomplete if you ask me.
While the decision on Dungy's future has yet to be made, I wanted to mention this in order to highlight a tremendous column by Indianapolis Star sports columnist Bob Kravitz:
We had a conversation a couple of years ago.
I mentioned there were times when I thought my job was nothing more than an exercise in prolonged adolescence, and the time would come when I would do something more constructive and meaningful with my life. (As you may have noticed, that never happened.)
Dungy responded by talking about prison ministries, about how he didn't want to be defined or constrained by football, that he felt God had put him on this earth to fulfill a mission beyond winning football games.
From a purely selfish standpoint, I hope he stays forever and coaches until he's 80. He's the easiest NFL coach with whom to work. In a league of self-absorbed megalomaniacs, Dungy is an unqualified treasure.
From a broader perspective, though, I hope he leaves, and I say that because he will then have the chance to do even more public good, especially in the black community.
Whether or not this Sunday was Dungy's last game as a professional football coach, or whether he goes on to another Super Bowl or another season or another team, I have a feeling that we have hardly heard the last from him. Other "missions" remain for him to complete.
UPDATE: This is somewhat strange. ESPN.com has posted a John Clayton column on Dungy and the possible impact of his possible retirement on the game today. Notice anything missing in this piece?