Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl 41: "The Lord's Way"

Did anyone else find the Super Bowl yesterday to be a bit … weird? The teams played mediocre at best. The camera lenses kept getting fogged up. The commercials were horrible. Prince didn’t dance. It was like a Super Bowl Twilight Zone episode.

And then there was the trophy presentation. Here’s what Tony Dungy said:

“I’m proud to be representing African-American coaches, to be the first African-American to win this. That means an awful lot to our country. But again, more than anything, I’ve said it before, Lovie Smith and I, not only the first two African-Americans, but Christian coaches, showing that you can win doing it the Lord’s way, we’re more proud of that.”

At first, that’s a nice thing: a kind of color-blindness that seems to befit the Gospel, and a simple example of a Christian man witnessing to his faith. But if you listen to his remark a few times, it just raises more and more questions than anything else. Here are some of mine:

1 - So, winning the Lord's way involves spotting the other team a touchdown on the opening kickoff, having the opposing quarterback to fumble all over the field, missing an extra point and a chip-shot field goal, having the opponents best running back get injured, and then running the most boring, conservative, dink-and-dunk offensive gameplan ever written? Give me a good Red Sea parting any day. Come on, even God was bored.
2 - He’s talking about football, right? So, is he claiming that the Lord actually cares one way or the other about who wins a particular football game? As if Jesus needs to be validated by the outcome of a sporting event. I am as big a fan of the game as anyone, but I’m not quite ready to say that God is quite that interested, and may have even had a few other things on the heavenly agenda for that day.

3 - This latest Super Bowl was the 41st one. If Dungy is right, why has it taken 40 years to “win doing it the Lord’s way?” Was it a modern day journey through the wilderness of other ways to win the Super Bowl, awaiting Moses Dungy to lead the NFL into the promised land of the Lord’s Way to Win?

4 - On the flipside of question 2, I wonder what all the other 40 winners of the previous Super Bowls think about Dungy’s claim that now, at last, he and Lovie have shown you can win it “the Lord’s way?” Let’s check in with Bill Walsh on that one. Somebody go ask Tom Landry what way he was winning, since it must not have been “the Lord’s way.” Vince Lombardi, care to comment?

5 – And on the flip-flipside of that, wasn’t Lovie Smith doing things “the Lord’s way” last Sunday? If Dungy and Smith are examples of coaches coaching “the Lord’s way,” why did God pick Dungy to win this one and not Smith? Did Dungy just pray a little bit harder that morning or what? Lots of grey area there. Gets to the whole theodicy question (our favorite seminary word!).

OK, OK - I know that Tony Dungy wasn’t trying to be all deep and theological when he was accepting the Lombardi Trophy last Sunday. He really seems like a nice guy, and I’m not trying to beat him up or anything. But his expression “showing that you can win doing it the Lord’s way” kind of makes my stomach gurgle a little bit. Not because of what it says on the surface level, but for the questions it raises underneath. I just think we need to be extra careful whenever we are claiming that God has favored us in a particular way. Often such a claim carries with it implications that we likely do not intend.
God loves us and all, but I'm pretty sure that by halftime, God had switched channels, and was watching Puppy Bowl III on Animal Planet.


Vinny said...

First, awful game, not helped by the rain. Watching the Bears during the regular season, they never seemed to have much of an offense or a passing game.

A lot of the ads seemed to have tipped the scale IMHO from funny to just plain disgusting, and I think you know I'm no prude (and the Rev. can vouch for that).

Maybe I need to listen to Tony Dungy's comments again. However, I much prefer his comments to those of Kurt Warner a few years back. Listening to Warner you got the impression that God was favoring the Rams because they had a Christian QB. I agree that the almighty could really give a flying freak about any sporting event.

I think Dungy was referring more to being able to succeed as an NFL coach while remaining true to his beliefs. The CBS bobbleheads talked about the way he leads his team - no fussing, no fighting, no cussing, no yelling - the antithesis of what you would expect in a modern pro-sports team.

Have previous Super Bowl champs been coached by someone who walked in "The Lord's Way"(TM)? Maybe, maybe not. Some folks keep their faith very close to the vest.

I mean, come on - Dungy and Lovie Smith posed TOGETHER with the trophy after the game!!! What would Vince "winning isn't eveything, it's the ONLY thing" Lombardi though of that? It was the Nice Bowl.

For me, it was nice (although boring from a dirt-digging aspect) to have two basically clean, thugless teams play for the championship without either side having to worry how many of their first-stringers would miss the game because of troublesome assault/abuse/drug/weapons charges.

Adam said...

I think what Dungy meant by "The Lord's Way" was not cussing and treating his players and staff with respect.

Let's not forget that his son committed suicide pretty recently, and he still gets up on the mic and praises God. Thats more impressive than winning a super bowl.

gavoweb said...

why is it that i find a theological breakdown of a coach's comments hilarious?

Andy B. said...

Gav - I will theologically breakdown just about anything, baby. Bring it ON!

Larry B said...

Alright Andy B., now your stepping on my toes :). (Warning: major rant about to spew forth)

First off, I am (until recently) from Indiana. so I feel like I'm intimately qualified to comment. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly to the Methoblogosphere, Tony Dungy's brother, Robert, was our District Superintendent at our old UMC in Indiana. Thus you can be quite certain that Tony Dungy's faith is as genuine as it can possibly be based on both firsthand experience with Tony and through his brothers accounts of Tony's faith. Let's just say that when Reverend Bob visited a church he usually didn't get to talk much about himself - because everyone wanted to hear about Tony.

Tony's statements aren't meant to be taken in the context that you have taken them, although it's certain that many will misunderstand them to be taken as such.

Tony is a true example of someone who has taken the core principles of his faith and applied them to every facet of his life, and yes that does mean football. No - God doesn't really care about football, but he does care about people, including pro football players and the organizations that surround it, and Tony uses his position as coach to convey that message.

By doing it the Lord's way he is referring to a coaching style that takes into account what Jesus has taught us about relating to others and specifically that means not denigrating people by yelling and screaming and berating them, but by building them up and lifting them up. Tony truly never harbors anger or malice towards anyone even when he was passed over for head coach jobs, or fired from his job at Tampa Bay. He never raises his voice in the locker room or on the sideline. He's truly a different kind of coach in that regard. When he walks into the locker room at the beginning of the season in a very measured voice he says you better listen closely now, because I will never be any louder than what I am speaking now. And he is true to his word.
He lives his life according to Jesus's principles. The fact that he's a football coach should make absolutely no difference in our judgement of the man.

True story - The colts players and coaches have only heard Tony use a swear word once. It was when he was looking through a list of media requests and he said, yes I'll agree to spend time being on the "Best Damned Sports Show".

Tony's stated value system is 1. Faith, 2. Family, and then 3. Football. Every one of his players will attest to that fact.

You can be certain that Tony feels no favor from God, he is completely humbled that God has allowed him to serve in the way that he does, and I'm quite certain that Tony has impacted more souls for Christ through his ministry of coaching and the extensive - and I mean extensive - charity and outreach programs that he conducts, in which he is unabashedly outspoken of his faith and belief in Jesus Christ, than quite a few of our own Pastors.

You also should understand that the owner of the Colts is a deeply Christian man as well and he follows the same principles of Tony himself. Now I understand there is some cynicism because he is a man of such wealth, but the entire staff and organization will attest to his committment to a life of Faith.

What is phenomenally amazing to me is how many of my own Christian friends are discomforted by his proclamations of faith. Here's a man who's not ashamed of Jesus and lives life according to Jesus's rule and we are getting all uptight and embarrassed about it. If you can't celebrate with someone who's accomplished a big milestone in his life by following Jesus's way what do you celebrate?

You probably aren't aware of what Tony does with his money and the work that he does precisely because he doesn't seek recognition for it and he gives from his heart without letting others know. If there ever were role models for the rest of us, he would be on the top of the list. It is sad that people are misconstruing his words and casting doubt and scorn his way.

Ok. I could go on but I think I should end my rant - it's not very Christian of me.

Larry B said...

Oh and one more parting shot

Maybe you just have sour grapes about the Colts absolutely shutting down your KC Chiefs in the playoffs hmmm.... maybe........


Pastor Dave said...

In response to #4, I had supper with Tom Landry at the height of his career. I was about 14. He was a gracious man who offered to say grace before the meal. He wore his faith on his sleeve and I would imagine he coached the Lord's way, with honesty and integrity.

Andy B. said...

Tee hee! Good one, Larry B. I feel duly chastised!

But you just had to throw that last little jab in there about the Chiefs, didn't ya? Way to kick a guy when he's down ... :(

Anonymous said...

There is a God and Larry B.! To both, I am thankful and grateful. Your rant was better and spot on than the one banging around in my noggin last night after reading Andy's post. May I add Lovie Smith as well. Congrats to your Colts. As an old Chicago boy, my heart was with the Bears. There is no honor lost in losing to a team led by Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning.
For further reading about Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith and their faith, please visit:

Dark Gable

RevErikaG said...

We watched the puppy bowl...because our dog is an avid Animal Planet kidding!
I think it's interesting in light on an article in the LA Times on Saturday that said that the NFL was cracking down on churches for showing the game-- because it adversely affects their ratings!

Larry B said...

Andy B,

So I went a little over the top on your original post, but I just can't admit that I was being unfair in pointing out the oh so unfortunate demise of the Chiefs this year. (I have to have at least a wee bit of fun this year - it's been so long in the making).

Oh it's a good thing I'm not still Catholic - I'd have to be in the confessional booth for quite a long time for all the fun I've been poking at the other guys teams since the Colts won.

Thanks for the link Dark Gable and good luck next year! (Oh I suppose good luck to the Chiefs next year too)

Kansas Bob said...

To wrap up, I liked these comments:

"I think Dungy was referring more to being able to succeed as an NFL coach while remaining true to his beliefs." - Vinny

" think what Dungy meant by "The Lord's Way" was not cussing and treating his players and staff with respect.

Let's not forget that his son committed suicide pretty recently, and he still gets up on the mic and praises God. Thats more impressive than winning a super bowl." - Adam

Men like Dungy who give the Lord praise when they succeed are a rare breed - even if everyone doesn't appreciate their courage in testifying for Him :)