It’s not easy being a public figure. Just ask Martha Stewart or Roger Clemens or Rod Blagojevich. The press is always looking for a story, especially when someone makes a mistake. And if it is something that creates embarrassment, an endless bombardment on one’s personal life will ensue. With today’s technology, it only takes a matter of hours, or minutes for an indiscretion or questionable decision to be made known around the world.
On a more positive note, Tony Dungy, the coach of the NFL Indianapolis Colts announced his retirement last week. Dungy, led his teams to the playoffs ten years in a row, and in 2007, became the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl. While Dungy experienced success and notoriety as an athlete then a coach, the respect and admiration he has attained in his career as a public figure runs much deeper than a list of achievements in the sports world.
One columnist said that Tony Dungy is a better person than he is a coach. Another commented that on a scale of 1 – 10, he would give Dungy an 11. Other comments include: “Dungy will be remembered for being a man of grace and quiet forcefulness.” (N.Y. Times) “Dungy should be remembered less for his wins than for how he handled his struggles, including the suicide of his son.” (Jeffri Chadiha, ESPN.com) “Dungy won games without losing his humanity.” (The Star) “He’s touched so many people’s lives. He’s unbelievable. He’s the best. I just can’t say enough about him.” (Tampa Bay defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin)
Tony Dungy has always been open, not obnoxious, about his faith in Christ. Perhaps the title of his book, Quiet Strength, gives us the best window into his character. The way Tony Dungy has conducted himself as man, a husband, a father and an NFL coach has made a powerful impression not just on family and close friends but on players, coaches and fans nationwide.
His legacy reminded me of another public figure from 2,500 years ago, long before newspapers or the internet. Although he was deported from his homeland as a teenager, Daniel set himself apart in a foreign land, by his excellence, integrity and faith. The King appointed young Daniel for a strategic role in his administration. The Bible says that “Daniel began distinguishing himself . . . because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to governmental affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” (Daniel 6:3-4)
Now Tony Dungy is not a perfect man, nor was Daniel; yet both of their lives have been characterized by integrity and Christ-honoring character. Though few of us will be famous, you and I are also public figures who live in the public domain of the marketplace. Whether it is your family, neighbors, friends or associates, impressionable people are watching. What are they saying about you?