The Tony Dungy Fumble

DungySam

Former head coach and current NBC Sports analyst Tony Dungy has created a bit of a stir in both the political and sports world with these comments about Michael Sam–the first openly gay player who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams:

“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.

“It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’

There’s no denying the fact that whichever team drafted Michael Sam was going to endure some distraction.

The press, some teammates, political and sports pundits, and others will follow Sam’s development in training camp to see if the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year will make the team’s final roster.  Having Sam in the locker room might create a “distraction” that some coaches and organizations wouldn’t want to “deal with all of it.”

And that’s where Tony Dungy disappoints.

Tony Dungy is a smart person.  Tony Dungy is a Super Bowl champion, both as a player and as a head coach. I don’t think there’s a football player, coach, fan, reporter, or historian who’d say Dungy doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the sport that made him famous.

It’s because of his football acumen that the late Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll hired Dungy to be an assistant coach at a time when there were very few black coaches in the NFL.  Noll saw Dungy’s football intelligence when Dungy played for him as a defensive back.

Noll accepted the "distraction" of having Dungy on his coaching staff.

Noll accepted the “distraction” of having Dungy on his coaching staff.

You don’t think Noll understood the ramifications of hiring a black man on his staff?  You don’t think Noll comprehended the historical significance of such a hire, and the “distraction” that came with it?

Dungy benefited from Noll’s courage to take whatever ridiculous comments were thrown his way.  Noll was prepared to take the heat because it benefited both the team and society.

You don’t think Noll understood the ramifications of hiring a black man on his staff?  You don’t think Noll comprehended the historical significance of such a hire, and the “distraction” that came with it?

Yes, Tony Dungy is a religious person, which gives him the right to practice his religion the way he wants to interpret it.  He can be against gay marriage to his heart’s content.  He has that right, no matter how wrong I think he is, and how wrong I think history will view him.

But would he have felt differently had Sam been a projected first-round player?  Would he have felt like it was a hassle, then?  I wonder.

Dungy didn’t mind the hassle of rebuilding convicted dog-killer Michael Vick’s image.  Even more, he tolerated the “distractions” revolving around his former player’s legal issues as a head coach, like when wide receiver Marvin Harrison was being investigated for murder.

Oh, he accepted those challenges head-on!

And do you know what?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Everyone deserves a second chance at life, and Dungy enjoys being a mentor to troubled young players and he tries to offer stability in their lives.  Celebrate the man for tackling such noble causes.

Dungy has every right to cite his Christian faith as one reason why he wouldn’t want to deal with the supposed Michael Sam “distraction,” but I wonder if Dungy accepts other Christians who say his interpretation homosexuality is dead wrong.  I believe, judging by the polls, there are many devout Christians who accept homosexuals in their daily lives, and even support gay marriage, for that matter.

Dungy deserves all of the hoopla and criticism that’s being levied his way right now.  Instead of judging Michael Sam as a football player, and only a football player, Dungy sounded like voices from the past who didn’t want his kind mixing with white players.

If Michael Sam makes the Rams squad, I predict the hoopla will fade rather quickly, and life will move–on as usual.  So, while Dungy’s correct that Sam might be a “distraction, that will fade quickly.  Just look how much we lost interest in Michael Collins after he became the first openly gay basketball player.  I believe the Brooklyn Nets had far many other problems to contend with other than Collins’ sexual orientation.

I also find it hard to believe that someone as smart as Dungy would rather draft Johnny “Mr. Distraction” Manzel over an openly gay player.  Really, Tony?  Are you saying Michael Sam’s causing more distraction for his team than Johnny Football is in Cleveland?

I suspect Dungy and Sam will have a meeting soon in an attempt to soothe the firestorm.  However, thanks to his open disapproval towards Sam’s lifestyle, Dungy has caused quite an unwanted headache for the NFL and NBC.

Call it a “distraction,” if you will.

UPDATE: I like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.  He says what’s on his mind in a clear, concise fashion.  I disagree with his point of view, but I’ll add it here for you to hear the other side.

patbaseball

There’s No Crying In Baseball!

Baseball is sport.  Sport is competition.  Sport is strategy.

Colby Lewis hates strategy, and thereby hates sport:

In the eyes of Colby Lewis, Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus sure could use a lesson in baseball etiquette.

The Rangers starting pitcher exchanged words with Rasmus during the fifth inning of Texas’ 4-1 loss Saturday. Lewis was irked when Rasmus laid down a two-out bunt single with the Blue Jays up 2-0 and the Rangers playing the shift.

“I told [Rasmus] I didn’t appreciate it,” Lewis said, according to MLB.com. “You’re up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don’t think that’s the way the game should be played.”

Lewis, who fell to 6-7 with the loss, felt Rasmus’ bunt was a selfish act.

Managers are instituting more defensive shifts this year to stop the opposing team’s hitters from getting on base.  A defensive shift is where the third baseman plays shortstop, the shortstop moves to the right field side of second base side, and the second baseman plays in short right field.  This takes away most hitting lanes for a left-handed batter prone to pull the ball towards right field.

So, teams are instituting the defensive shift at a greater rate this season in order to achieve a competitive edge.  That’s fine.  That’s what sport is all about.  You try to take away your opponent’s strength by using strategy.

Colby Lewis and other pitchers are benefiting mightily thanks to the defensive shift.  Colby Lewis is now upset that Rasmus took advantage of the situation given to him by bunting the ball for a base hit.  He’s mad Rasmus hit the ball to the part of the field that had been vacated thanks to the dreaded shift.

Rasmus used strategy to get a competitive edge!

If I were a manager, and opposing teams instituted a defensive shift against one of my players, I’d tell my player to bunt, bunt again, bunt some more, and bunt even more!  If teams are giving up the third base line, then there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with a batter taking advantage of that glaring weakness.

Colby Lewis says it’s poor sportsmanship to bunt to beat the shift, but isn’t the shift itself an example of poor sportsmanship?  How about this: Let’s ban the shift!  Every team will have to play straight up, and it will once again be a battle between pitcher and batter.

May the best man win!

Then, we’ll have no more crying from players like Colby Lewis.

Until then, I implore all batters facing defensive shifts to…BUNT!!!

Read Eric Holden’s argument on why the defensive shift should be banned.

pat@wsgw.com

How I’ll Always Remember James Garner

James Garner was one of those actors who commanded the screen, be it in movies or television.  As numerous obits have noted, Garner became a household name thanks to successful TV shows like The Rockford Files and Maverick.  He also had some fantastic and memorable movie roles, such as his supporting role in Marlon Brando’s 1957 film, Sayonara, and his Academy Award nominating role in Murphy’s Romance.

JamesGarnerBut for me, I’ll always remember Garner as the hilarious sheriff in Support Your Local Sheriff (1969).  It was a brilliantly written comic-Western, and wonderfully acted as illustrated by the following scene featuring Garner and the indelible Bruce Dern.

R.I.P. James Garner.

Monday Music Minute–R.E.M.

Let’s get the week started with a Hilary Farrell “Monday Music Minute.”

REMDuring our Sunday First Day show on WSGW, Hilary wanted to honor the 45th anniversary of the Moon Landing by playing R.E.M.’s 1992 classic, “Man on the Moon,” from the Automatic For The People (Dr. Heather’s favorite R.E.M. album, incidentally).  So, that made your song a good pick, Hilary.

Click the link to hear Hilary intro the song from our show, and then I’ve provided the song in its entirety at the end of this post.

Enjoy!

Monday Music Minute with WSGW’s Hilary Farrell:  R.E.M.’s “Man On the Moon.”

Wednesday Indie Music Day–Phox

Phox have gotten my attention of late, and it’s easy to understand why.

PhoxThe pride of Baraboo, Wisconsin is quickly receiving recognition and praise from artists and critics, thanks to songs like the one I featured on last Sunday’s First Day with Pat Johnston & Hilary Farrell on WSGW.

“Slow Motion” is delight with a mix of pop sensibility with a variety of instruments leading the way at various stages of the song.  But it’s Monica Martin’s serene voice that ties it all together.

To pick up their self-titled debut album, visit Phox’s website and Facebook page.

Enjoy!