Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Distraction is, well, distracting

Then Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy led a movement a few years back. He believed one could coach professional football without cursing the players. Controversy splashed on everyone. Darn, or something like that.
After winning a Super Bowl championship and being extremely open about his faith as a Christian, Dungy helped noted dog killer and gambler Michael Vick at least attempt to find forgiveness and a second chance in the NFL.
This week, Dungy's comments (made in an interview conducted several months back around the time of the NFL draft, according to Dungy) about Sam, the first gay man to play in the NFL surfaced. Dungy said he wouldn't draft Sam because "I wouldn't want to deal with all of it. It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."             
And oh, have they happened in the past couple days. Sam was drafted in the final round of the draft, near the bottom of that round, by the St. Louis Rams. Dungy's comments, again made months ago, pointed out that Sam's "coming out" was going to be a distraction at the Rams' camp. Anyone who saw the wall-to-wall coverage on the final day of the draft would have a very difficult time arguing that wasn't too much of too much.   
GLAAD president and CEO Sara Kate Ellis told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that, "talent is not a distraction. Michael Sam is first and foremost an excellent football player." Well, at least an excellent football player who was drafted in the seventh and final round of the draft. Just saying.   
I submit a couple things. One, Dungy knows enough about football to have won a Super Bowl as coach. Two, Dungy is a really nice guy, propelled by his Christian beliefs, but also by a maturity and gentleness uncommon in NFL coaching. Honestly.
His beliefs, including one presumes that loving one's enemies thing, are part of the whole Dungy deal. I've never seen nor heard him go out of his way to speak loudly about his beliefs, by the way, but he is a level-headed, loving gentleman.
But, when Dungy talked about gay players being a distraction, well, things went crazy. Slow news day, if you ask me.
Now, nearly as I can read, Dungy, said nothing particularly mean nor terrible. A distraction? Heck, Jimmy Graham has been one for the Saints till he signed the contract. I’m not sure at all why that was so terrible.
But Yahoo Sports Columnist Dan Wetzel and others certainly had more words to use. Wetzel wrote that if Dungy "were to say that he wouldn't have drafted Michael Sam because the Bible that Dungy believes in condemns Sam's lifestyle that would be ... well, that would be ridiculous, hypocritical and wrong also, but at least it would seemingly jibe with Dungy's sometimes expressed beliefs." Wetzel called Dungy a homophobe and a bigot.  Because Dungy said Sam would be a distraction. Sometimes a bigot must know one when he or she sees one.
Wetzel wrote, "Dungy is an outspoken conservative Christian and if he were to say that he wouldn't have drafted Michael Sam because the Bible that Dungy believes in condemns Sam's lifestyle that would be ... well, that would be ridiculous, hypocritical and wrong also ..."
"Still, at least it would be some kind of principled (if misguided) stance." Wetzel wrote.
And finally, Wetzel wrote, "This isn't even worth arguing. Caving to the most ignorant and obstinate among us is an EMBARRASSMENT and should never, ever, be the basis for anything."  
I’m not certain, being ignorant and such, but I think that was a shot against anyone who might believe the Scriptures.
CBS Sports' Will Brinson wrote, "Dungy is allowed to have whatever stance he wants on sexuality, Religion, freedoms, belief systems, yada yada. But this is a disappointing stance from the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl who dealt with racially-based backlash for he and his family at times."
Really? If Dungy is allowed to have whatever stance he wants on sexuality, then why all the name calling?
USA Today accused Dungy of being fake. He is anything but.
A USA Today blogger wrote, "Of course, Dungy's comments come as no surprise and are not rooted in logic but ideology instead. He's raised money for anti-gay causes before, and said he doesn't agree with openly gay NBA player Jason Collins' 'lifestyle."
 Many are pointing to Dungy's 2007 support of traditional marriage. At the time, Dungy said, "We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. We’re just trying to promote traditional marriage.”
Don’t be mistaken. Dungy does not believe same sex marriage is appropriate.
But USA Today blogger Chris Chase insinuated that Dungy was using his beliefs to discriminate. Chase used the analogy of "sharpening a pitchfork' to describe Dungy's attack on Sam.
Sweet goodness, would someone please find and point out in Dungy's statement anything unkind, anything even remotely wrong.        
Wetzel's calling Dungy pathetic, however, showing a stunning lack of anything close to compassion. Saying something or someone might be a distraction is certainly not as bad as calling someone pathetic, is it?
Here’s the real point here. It has become very evident that one can't have an opinion contrary to same sex marriage or one is a bigot or worse. I guarantee you that Tony Dungy is a lot of things, but a “pathetic homophobe” is simply not one of them. Anyone writing that is wrong on many levels.       
A columnist, a national columnist, who writes in that manner isn't worthy of even being involved in the conversation. Without question we are split deeply over the subject of homosexuality. Without question we need to have deep and meaningful and even loving discussions.
It's what we do with the discussion that matters. I'll simply say that if someone as nice as Tony Dungy can't make a "football" statement about a gay football player without this nastiness ensuing, we might be in trouble.

       Having looked at it all, listened to it all, watched it all, it's clear ... we ARE in trouble.