MIAMI -- The morning of Super Bowl XLI a man who will be considered one of the wisest and kindest human beings professional sports has ever seen got lost on a morning walk.
|Tony Dungy's Super Bowl day includes getting lost on a morning walk. (Getty Images)|
The problem was the team had changed hotels on Saturday night after staying in a different location for the week. So the walk with a friend in the morning turned into an adventure because of the unfamiliar surroundings. Instead of the hour he had planned for the walk, Dungy was gone for 2½ hours.
That walk was almost symbolic; indeed, as Dungy tried to find his way back to the hotel, the walk turned into a journey. He thought about the journey his life has taken, as well the journey of this Colts team.
Both Dungy and the Colts have seen their share of storms and that walk, those thoughts, actually turned into a portion of Dungy's pre-game speech to the team. He warned them that the game would feature some drastically low moments and if they could survive them, the Colts would be Super Bowl champions.
"I thought about just the journey," Dungy said of that now famous walk. "Where we were and how the Lord had kind of set this up with some struggles, with some ups and downs, and some hills and valleys, and just I really thought about the same way our team had persevered it would be a shame if we didn't win it."
"And I thought the game was going to be the same way," he said. "Where it would have some hills and valleys and it did. And that gave me the message to the team, the last thing I was going to say. I told them there was going to be some storms out there and we got to get through the storms and hang together and we'll be OK."
Notice he spoke of God. When he does, no one rolls their eyes. Because it is Tony Dungy. Because there is nothing but sincerity there and you know he will not talk of religion and several hours later go chase a few skirts as many people in his profession tend to do.
In a league where it seems turds and scoundrels reign, Dungy is a beacon. He has been able to pull off something extremely rare in professional sports and that is to be both talented and well liked. Few people in life are both.
Anyone who has ever known Dungy has liked him, actually, loved him. I have had many conversations with him over the years and heard and seen his frustrations over the treatment of black assistant coaches and their denial of opportunities. Yet Dungy never lashed out. He was always too classy for that.
"The disappointments that you have along the way," he said, "make you feel that much better when you get there."
When you get here, to the top.
This is a coach who lost his son to a tragic suicide, experienced many setbacks as coach in Tampa Bay, more disappointments as coach of the Colts.
Do you know what the first thing Dungy did when he reached the post-game podium? He thanked the black assistant coaches before him like Jimmy Raye.
It turns out, both for this game, and for this season, Dungy was the perfect man for this job. His calmness was a necessary steadying force when the Colts went through the one-time disaster that was their rushing defense. He never panicked. Then again, Dungy never panics.
Fans of Dungy -- and there are many people who are -- might want to get a good look at him. It is just a hunch and I could easily be wrong but I think he is going to quietly walk away from football sooner rather than later.
It will be a shame when he goes.
The sport will be worse off without him.