Just a month or so ago, I was struck by how the fans adored Tony Dungy. At the Super Bowl Victory rally, two of the people the crowd wanted to hear most from were the two who least wanted the microphone or attention: Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison. Coach Dungy, a man who walked in quiet dignity as well as with pride and humility, received more cheers than even Peyton Manning. And the thousands of fans who filled the dome, after seeing him suffer setback after seeming setback, we shared in his final victory. We were united and reveled in the sense of a mission fulfilled.

To me, it was a picture of Christus Victor, Christ the Victor, the passion story of God triumphing over the powers of this world and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin, death, and the unseen spiritual forces. That was then, this is now. Here’s a reminder of why Christ couldn’t get elected to political office:

CARMEL, Ind. — Colts coach Tony Dungy said he knows some people would prefer him to steer clear of the gay marriage debate, but he used a speech Tuesday night to clearly stake out his position. Dungy told more than 700 people at the Indiana Family Institute’s banquet that he agrees with that organization’s position supporting a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. “I appreciate the stance they’re taking, and I embrace that stance,” Dungy said.

Well, he certainly stepped into it now, testing the strength of his popularity among his fans. Several debates rage on around this issue, but the one that fascinates me is the idea of whether he is abusing his position by speaking on matters so far astray from why he has risen to celebrity status. We all know he has a right to say whatever he wants, the question is “should he?”

Just because someone becomes famous does that obligate them to stop being who they are? What good is a larger pulpit if you don’t use it? Actors/celebrities do it all the time to bring attention to their pet causes (to quote the great philosopher, Homer Simpson: “Rock stars. Is there anything they don’t know?”). So why should athletes and coaches be above this?

In this era of carefully controlled images and public personas, Tony Dungy is simply being who he is, does what he does, and believes what he believes. We don’t have to agree, but he is staying true to himself, however unpopular his stance may be. This might not be an abuse of his pulpit as much as his higher profile causing him to be under more of a microscope, with his every word and action parsed.

To a degree, the man will be largely bulletproof and this will all blow over. Let’s face it, in our world, a Super Bowl victory adds a bit of a Teflon coating. I’m just happy no one from the team was in the news for breaking the law. This week.

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