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Deep thoughts

The Baltimore Sun

It's probably fitting that an introspective and candid figure like Tony Dungy elicits similar reaction from the people who try to write about him. In sports, we usually deal with the obvious by accentuating it with whatever flourish we can muster, whether it's the impressive excellence of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady or the delightful surprise of the New York Giants and Eli Manning.

However, Dungy is a constant reminder of a greater purpose in life beyond the sidelines or off the court. In fact, away from just about any job.

So when Dungy ended the short vigil being held in Indianapolis and around the NFL by announcing Monday that he would return at least for one more season as Colts head coach, it prompted the types of stories you don't normally see about such a decision.

ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli echoed the sentiment of many NFL fans and observers that we're lucky to have Dungy back for however long he chooses to coach, but that this is temporal, as all things are, and that once Dungy leaves the NFL stage, it is unlikely we will see him return.

Dungy's next move will be guided by his faith, and there will be no curtain calls, as in the case of the seemingly perennial re-emergence of Bill Parcells, to use one of Pasquarelli's examples.

"Dungy's life in general has been a victory tour of sorts," Pasquarelli wrote, "but one that he believes will culminate in a reward much loftier than the Vince Lombardi Trophy."

But there was another, more jolting take on Dungy's return from Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz. The hometown writer goes out on a limb in calling the hometown hero nothing short of a "hypocrite." Because Dungy's positions on parenting are so public, Kravitz is unable to reconcile the circumstances that Dungy's family has relocated to Tampa, Fla., and that Dungy has decided to devote his time to the consuming job of running a football team in Indianapolis.

Kravitz took up the matter with Dungy in public and in private before writing, so this wasn't a sucker punch. And it's clearly a tricky and unpleasant task for the writer as he alludes to the suicide of Dungy's son two years ago.

"I'm not saying Dungy is in any way lacking as a father. That would be wrongheaded and cruel, especially in light of the family tragedy two years ago, a horror that showed us again how little control even the most loving and attentive parents have," Kravitz wrote. "What I'm saying is, I see a troubling disconnect between word and deed here. I see someone who has used his pulpit to speak about family issues and specifically the importance of fatherhood, and someone who has made a decision that appears, at least on the surface, to be hypocritical."

After reading these columns, you realize that a guy like Dungy forces us to look inside ourselves and do self-examination. The laudatory Pasquarelli and the critical Kravitz reflect on their experiences in trying to articulate what Dungy's decision represents. Think about all the comings and goings of coaches. How many of those evoke such a reflection?

In that way, Dungy continues to accomplish what he believes is really his life's work.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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