Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Deconstructing Dungy

I'm going to take the release of Coach Dungy's book as an opportunity to reflect a bit about his coaching legacy. From all accounts, his book is a meditation on his faith and character, and he certainly does not need any defense on that front from a couple of Internet yahoos. If you are interested to read Bob Kravitz positive, though at times slightly insensitive 'review' check it out here:

Again, I think that Kravitz has no business asking questions about how the Dungy family handled their son's death. Those kind of gentle accusations are biting, painful, and not the kind of thing that he has the right to call for answers for. He also mischaracterized Dungy's support of a gay marriage ban. But that is a topic we addressed here in an earlier post, and I don't wish to revisit such red herrings here and now.

As I said, Dungy the man has prepared himself to be judged by only One, and I think he cares little what you and I opine when it comes to his life and character. He's written a book to encourage and inspire others; I for one am anxious to read it and gain strength from his insights.

Dungy the coach is, however, fair game. He has long been considered an elite coach with few knocks on him. He has been criticized at times for being too conservative, but I hardly think that applies to his tenure in Indy. He was ripped for not winning 'the big one', which I think is always a baseless and ignorant charge that forgets just how hard it is to win even one Super Bowl. Consider some of the most high profile coaches in the NFL today. Holmgren? Won once. Reid? Zero. Billick? Once. In fact, of active coaches in the NFL, only Belichick and Shanahan have more than one Super Bowl. Win one, and you've really accomplished something in today's NFL. I consider Coach Dungy a Hall of Famer, an opinion that I base on the following criteria in order of importance:

1. Head Coaching Record-At a remarkable 114-62, Tony's winning % sits at a lofty .648. This is 7th best all time. He sits behind names like Madden, Lombardi (as in trophy), Shula and Halas. He did this as a head coach of two of the typically worst franchises in the NFL. In fact, the combined record of Tampa and Indianapolis without Tony is 265 and 314 for a .458 mark. Tony has led the Colts to 5 playoff appearances and 5 seasons of 10 wins or more. Under all other coaches in Indy, the Colts have a total of 5 playoff appearances and 2 seasons of 10 wins or more. He has made the playoffs in 9 of the 11 years he coached. He's won 5 division championships and taken his team to 3 conference title games. The bottom line is that Tony wins and wins in places other guys can't. Oh yeah, he won a Super Bowl too. If not for a bad call in the NFC championship game against St. Louis and a Vandershank, he might have won more.

2. Defensive innovation-More than just posting a great record, Tony also proved to be an innovator, helping to tweak the classic cover two to fit his personnel in Tampa. The end result was the much copied Tampa 2 in which the MLB drops deeper over the middle and the front four provide all the pressure, while quick, sure tackling LBs not named Gilbert Gardner hold the gaps. Tony wasn't just a manager of players, but an innovative game planner who left his mark on the way football is played.

3. A Successful coaching tree-Tony has produced a very solid run of coaches. This speaks to his wider impact on the NFL. The following men are all Dungy protegees: Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tomlin. Lane Kiffen of the Raiders is also the son of Tony's defensive coordinator in Tampa, Monte Kiffen.

4. Social implications-This is only fourth on the list. Tony has earned the Hall on the strength of his coaching resume. While the plaques of several men in Cooperstown mention being instrumental in Jackie Robinson's entrance to MLB, Jackie's plaque says nothing about him being the first black player. He got in on his own merit as a player. So should Tony as a coach. That being said, if anyone thinks his resume still needs a boost, they should remember that Tony is the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl; his plight and struggles to get hired in the mid-90s called attention to the struggles of African American coaches to receive a fair look; his coaching tree which has always had many black coaches in it, struggled to get started because of exactly that fact.

The NFL HoF selectors notoriously are told to not consider off the field issues or character in the selection process, so the kind of man Tony is doesn't factor in. The NFL Hall of Fame is for the greats of football, not necessarily the greats of life. I think that's just fine in Tony's case. From all I've heard about him as a man, he's not looking for our opinions about his character. He's the kind of person who lives with the words "The world was not worthy of them" ringing in his ears. I won't lessen his pursuit of that by lowering it to a footnote in a meaningless argument about the Hall of Fame.

Buy Tony's book. I think you'll be glad you did.


Anonymous said...

In what way did Kravitz mischaracterize Dungy's support of a gay-marriage ban? As I understood it, he simply said he supported the ban, which to me is quite bigoted. Did he not do so?

Deshawn Zombie said...

Kravitz questioned Dungy's stance saying "How does his faith square with legislation that would deny equal rights to a subset of the population?". This is completely inaccurate. Everyone, gay or straight, has the right to marry someone of the opposite physical gender. Homosexuals are not currently denied the right to marry. Likewise, everyone, gay or straight is denied the right to marry 'anyone' they want. No one can marry close relatives. No one can marry someone who is already married. No one can marry a child. No one can marry someone of the same physical gender. These things are equal. One's desire to do any of the things on that list, without any comment of the relative morality of such acts, is irrelevant. Everyone in the state of Indiana has the same rights under the law. Dungy’s position is: Marriage is not defined by the state. It is a preexisting institution established by hundreds and hundreds of years of religious and social norms. There is nothing 'bigoted' about saying that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is merely recognizing the history of the word. Marriage is more than 'an institution of love'. It's more than about sex. Even ancient Greek societies, which were very 'gay friendly', distinguished between marriage and sex (both gay and straight). To my knowledge, Dungy didn't oppose legal protections for gays (I don't know that he has made any statement about that at all); he didn't oppose 'civil unions', he merely opposes the Orwellian redefinition of words that undermines historical realities and places an undue burden on people of faith that have long and reasoned opposition to the homosexual lifestyle.
If marriage is just the legal 'shacking up' with someone you love for economic and social benefit, then I could understand the position that it would discriminatory for homosexuals to be denied that privilege. Marriage is, however, much more than that. According to Dungy's faith, marriage is a holy covenant established by God between a man and a woman that serves to reflect the unity and diversity that God Himself displays in the triune relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with tax breaks and insurance benefits. To define marriage in a different way is an affront to his faith.
A bigot is someone who hates another person because of a preexisting state that the person has no control over. Dungy's desire to have marriage defined in a way that is consistent with his faith is not bigoted, because I don't think he hates anyone. You can disagree with someone’s behavior, think they are wrong, even think they are a sinner, and not hate them nor treat them any differently. Dungy's faith says that everyone is a sinner and homosexuals are just like everyone else. They aren't special, and they aren't any worse. Everyone is broken in their own way.
We stated earlier this year, that Christians would be better served showing that they believe the State has no right to define marriage by refusing to get State issued marriage licenses. This would cost them economically for sure, but would make a much stronger case for their point of view than protests and rallies. If Christians 'suffered' the same 'hardship' as gays, they wouldn’t be prone to the understandable, but ignorant charge of bigotry. Instead, they argue from a position of power and privilege that makes them seem like oppressors. It's poor politics and worse theology.
If you want to assume that every opposition to homosexual behavior is bigoted and ignorant, that is your right. It is inaccurate. There are many reasonable people who love, care for, and accept homosexuals while maintaining that their behavior is morally and spiritually unacceptable. Such people often believe that homosexuals are born with their predilections as well. Christian theology teaches that everyone is born broken. Some people are born liars, some are born thieves, others are born arrogant, some are born angry, others are born homosexual. According to this teaching, how one is born and what is ‘natural’ does mean that such behaviors are inevitable or excusable.
This is a long way to explain my comments that Kravitz was unfair. I’m relegating this to the comments section, because this is a football blog and I want it to stay that way. I think a good many Christians are ignorant bigots. I also think a good many homosexuals are too. I don’t think that reconciliation between the two groups is necessary or even advisable, but I do wish that people could understand their opposition to one another’s world views without resorting to crass name calling like “fags” or “bigots”. I think Dungy has both the right to speak his mind on this issue in the way he did, and I don’t think he is under any obligation to explain himself in his book. Therefore, I think Kravitz’s comments were unfair and small minded.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Tolerence is the ability to hear the other guy out, thank him for his opinion with a hug and a handshake, consider well his arguments and maintaing the right to keep right on disagreeing. An intolerant person can't allow for others to see things differnently.

Anonymous said...

Interesting distinction, yet I fear most people haven't looked that far into Dungy's reasoning, and I've never heard him spell it out exactly myself. They simply value his judgement, hear that he supports a gay marriage ban, and then think then that his opinion must be the right one.

I disagree with his/your reasoning, though. Simply because it is a prexisting institution between a man and a woman is no reason to keep it so. That is merely an argument for tradition. We've abolished many unfair and prejudiced traditions in this country in the past.

I've never understood the religious community's opposition to gay marriage. Some would argue that the Bible says it's wrong, yet in the same breath it says that men cutting their facial hair, eating swine and shellfish, and having sex with a woman during her menstral cycle are abominations. I don't see how you can selectively live by the Bible. To me, this is a case of people hijacking religion to defend their own prejudices.

I'm very disturbed that a man with so much influence would voluntarily issue words that are so divisive and then maintain so much silence on the subject. My wife and I bought a house in Noblesville a year ago and there is a lesbian couple pushing 50 living next door to us. They are the only people who welcomed us to the neighborhood, played with our daughter, etc. Obviously, they are life mates, who have been together for many years, and I've yet to hear anything from Dungy that justifies denying this couple the same rights that the rest of us enjoy.

-SW (previous poster)

Deshawn Zombie said...

I respect your right to your opinions, and there are explanations for 'selective living' as you call it. In Christian theology, the law of the Old Testament was superseded by the coming of Christ. Christians are therefore no longer bound by the law, though the principles behind those laws are still important. Homosexual behavior was not merely condemned in the Old Testament, but also very clearly in the New Testament as well, which means that the prohibitions on it are still very much binding. Other laws, which merely pertain to ritual purification (eating of foods, facial hair, sex during menstruation, ect.) Christians were freed from clearly in Scripture. Most of the books of Romans and Galatians deal with such issues; Christians can't (or shouldn't) 'pick and chose' what to obey; the Christian Scriptures provide clear rules for such things. Again, the point of these comments is merely to illustrate that Christians’ opposition to homosexual behavior is not random, nor is it bigoted. It's a reasoned position that is clearly taught in Christian scripture. If one's doesn't accept Christian Scripture, that's one's right. But it is important to note they have reasons. True Christians don't claim that gays can't be wonderful people. They don't claim that gays aren't productive members of society. They merely claim that they are broken and flawed like every other member of society, including the Christians themselves. Being a nice person doesn't mean that every action you do in your life is justified. Those women who are your neighbors HAVE the same rights as everyone else. They are free to do everything anyone else can do. They want new and special rights. They want the power to force others to accept their choices and lifestyle regardless of the feelings, opinions, reasons, and faith of others. That is wildly intolerant. Again, I have long said that Christians are doing a terrible job making their point, largely because many are bigoted fools. Many of them are NOT however. And they have a right to their beliefs.

As far as 'defending tradition' goes, I think Christians would characterize it as 'defending reality'. Marriage IS the covenant relationship between a man and a woman. It isn't just a 'bond of love' between any two people. I worry about a society that thinks it's ok to just rewrite the meaning of words. Your argument should be: Marriage is an antiquated institution. It is not an inclusive enough idea to meet all the new realities of modern life. Therefore, we should abandon it as a society and create a new status-'legal consort' (or whatever). This would allow for people of a wider range of relationships to easily receive comparable benefits. But to just redefine marriage is insane. We cannot have a healthy and growing society if we just redefine what words mean whenever it suits us. This is why I called it Orwellian. If you don't think marriage works to protect everyone, create a substitute. Merely redefining it is not a good solution. To redefine it strips it of all it’s theological and historical meaning and creates a disconnect with the past. Better to abandon it altogether than just make it suit our needs legally.

I really appreciate the civil tone of your comments. I think the real tragedy in this discussion is that people too quickly resort to name calling and fail to try to understand. I don’t think these two groups should be forced to see eye to eye. They possess different world views and different values. Both sides have to learn to live in a world where the other one exists. You can be kind, civil, and engaged with people even if you radically disagree with their lifestyle and choices and opinions. That is true tolerance. Merely having everyone accept you and agree with every choice you make is mono-cultural and is the opposite of being tolerant.

coltsfanawalt said...

Deshawn zombie, great write-up on Coach Dungy! I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Also, I commend you for your two follow-up responses. Very true, and very well stated.

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