How wonderful to see the choice for the cover story at USAtoday.com–and on the cover of Monday’s print editions! Tony Dungy, former Super Bowl coach of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts made headlines not for what was happening on a football field but for what is happening in people’s lives.
“After the NFL, Dungy is still coaching,” proclaimed the headline. “His strategy now: Minister to inmates.” Dungy has become a frequent speaker to inmates in prisons and is leading or participating in several kinds of faith-based social change projects.
This story is a classic example of a mainstream media source choosing to step out from the norm in three specific ways: the story was positive news, it was faith-based, and it was above the fold (in print) and the website’s lead.
Mr. Dungy coached in a league where the post-game prayer ritual–where both teams gather for prayer at midfield after the game–is intentionally avoided by the networks. While broadcasters and print journalists debate over whether Coach Dungy will ever return to coaching, he has made the story a different one.
One excerpt from the story: “‘Sometimes when people come in, they won’t even shake your hand,” said (inmate) George ‘Big Country’ Edmonds.’ ‘But he’s out here in the middle of us.’”
“‘He could have absolutely been doing anything else but he decided to spend time with us,” said Traveguz Butler,” as the story continued, noting that “Butler is serving a 30-year sentence that extends to 2029 for carjacking, robbery and false imprisonment.” “‘It’s uplifting. I’m glad that he was able to lower himslf down to our level.’”
But Coach Dungy certainly wouldn’t see it as getting “down” to their level. To him, it’s a calling and a passion for him. Stories like this should be reported more. This one is a good read, as are his books, “Quiet Strength” and “Uncommon.” The first was a best-seller and the new one is destined to be. I also saw him recently as a commentator on “Fox News.” I wouldn’t call it must-see TV, but he certainly brings a combination of positivity, faith-based purposefulness, and social impact that is wonderful and I’m glad the media is finding ways to make it known.