Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This is not just a sports story

Indianapolis is mourning the loss of Coach Dungy, who formally announced his retirement at a tearful press conference yesterday. Those of you who don't follow football may not realize how big his impact has been, and will be on society as a whole.

It's not just that he was the first black head coach to win the Super bowl. It's not the legacy of public service he leaves, though that's considerable- from the Indianapolis Star : "Nonprofit groups across the city were struggling Monday to explain how they would fill the void left by a coach who lent his name, time, money -- and often his heart -- to so many causes. When he came to Indianapolis seven years ago, Dungy said faith would come before football, and he has been true to his word.
In the past year alone, Dungy has made public service announcements urging people to become adoptive parents or foster families, promoting job fairs for ex-felons and speaking out against gun violence.

He has raised money for causes including Riley Hospital for Children, Crossroads Bible College scholarships and the Emerging Eagles Program, which provides Christmas presents for the needy.

He paid for eight weeks of lunches at his Near-Northside church's summer day care. He helped a fundraiser for the Overseas Council, an international ministry that trains people in foreign countries to become church workers in their own lands."

Many other big men have lived their faith, and given much; this was not his greatest legacy. He taught a lesson that goes beyond sports, one that leaders from all walks of life need to learn: you don't have to be a bastard to win!

His way was not profanity laden temper tantrums, no flinging of equipment. No dirty play permitted, no skirting the rules. He coached and maintained discipline through strength and dignity; he expected the best effort, and his players responded. When they didn't, he made them understand that they hadn't let him down, (he didn't try the personality cult thing), they hadn't let the team down, they had let themselves down. He taught them that when they were the best they could be, then the team would be the best it could be... and his teams responded with the longest string of playoff appearances in history- two different teams in two different cities, it must be noted.

I suppose it's only fitting that the lesson of winning through decency and basic human dignity came through Indiana, given that we had previously given the world Bob Knight. Be that as it may, I hope the lesson is noted in the halls of power everywhere.

Read more about Coach Dungy in the Indianapolis Star- I especially recommend He won the right way and Farewell, Tony

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