Every year, nearly without fail, the Super Bowl Champion begins the defense of it's title in controversy. The champagne wasn't even dry yet when rumors about Bill Cowher's future started to surface last year for the Steelers. Then came the Roethlisberger accident, and the rest was history. It's tough enough to repeat without off-field distractions taking the focus of the organization off the field.
Now the Colts have their first distraction of the off-season, though if the media plays it's cards right the topic could get squashed. If you missed it, you can check out the background over at Stampede Blue, our Colts Blog. Here's a brief recap - Tony Dungy was at a banquet accepting an award from the Indiana Family Institute. Dungy is a man with deeply entrenched values and firm faith. The Institute is one of the leading organizations in the country fighting for an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same sex marriage in the U.S. Put two and two together. If Dungy is accepting an award from the IFI, it is probably a good bet that Dungy agrees with their point of view.
Dungy went a bit further during his speech, however, and that has Colts fans in a bit of a tizzy. "I appreciate the stance they're taking, and I embrace that stance," Dungy said. "IFI is saying what the Lord says," Dungy said. "You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I'm on the Lord's side." "We're not anti- anything else. We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote the family -- family values the Lord's way," Dungy said.
This has rubbed some football fans the wrong way, with many jumping to the conclusion that Dungy hates gays, or is discriminating against them. Others feel Dungy has no business making his feelings known being that he is the face of the Colts, and that should take precedence over all else. That's where I completely disagree.
Colts fans, football fans, want Tony Dungy to be solely about football. They want Tony Dungy to be a face, not a voice, unless of course that voice is one of no opinions. The problem is Tony Dungy is alot more than football, alot more than the Colts. If you want a guy that lives and breathes football hire Bill Belichick.
You see, the NFL needs guys like Tony Dungy, good guys, more than Tony Dungy needs the NFL. Dungy has always been more than football, and he won;t let football define, or more importantly, mold his thoughts or beliefs. Dungy is a deeply religious man, and it is his faith that is most important in his life. When his son tragically killed himself last season, with the Colts in the throws of a near perfect season, it wasn't football that Dungy leaned on, it was his faith, and his family. Faith and family define Dungy.
Whether or not you agree with his values or opinions is not important. The First Amendment gives Dungy the freedom to say what he wants. It does not, of course, save him from the repercussions of those comments. Will Dungy get fired?? Of course not. Would Dungy be sorry if it did? Absolutely not, becuase Dungy beliefs are more important than his standing as coach of the Colts.
This is where the Indianapolis media comes in. For the most part, they can make this go away. I spoke of distraction. If the media asks Peyton Manning, or Marvin Harrison, or any of the Colts team leaders questions about what Dungy said it takes the focus off the football field. Make no mistake, it has an effect. Ask the Steelers. Should they decide to let it fade away, the Colts can focus on what they need to be focussing on, and that's a season of having the bulls-eye on their back, of being every team's super bowl next year.
I have the utmost repsect for Tony Dungy. With all the flair and flash of today's NFL. With all the me, me, me we see in the League, Dungy is the ultimate team guy. Unfortunitely for Colts fans, his #1 team is faith and family, not the Colts.