Pagano, like Tebow, capturing audience beyond football

November 5, 2012
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The story of Indianapolis Colts Coach Chuck Pagano is quickly becoming one of the biggest of this NFL season. And that's because it's about more than football. A lot more.

It seems every NFL season delivers a story that’s a bit bigger than the game, about a little more than football.

Last year, it was Tim Tebow, with his prayerful kneeling and his unlikely rise from bench warmer to successful starting quarterback.

Tebow wasn’t the best quarterback and his Denver Broncos wasn’t the best team last year, but they certainly did capture the imagination of much of the football-watching world.
Tebow-mania was infectious, and even if you didn’t care about the guy or his team, many couldn’t stop watching. That may be partly because ESPN and other networks wouldn’t stop dishing it up, but it had more to do with the compelling nature of the story.

This year, that larger-than-the-game story is quickly becoming the tale of Pagano, the Colts rookie head coach. The Colts, like the Broncos a year ago, are turning out to be better than expected. In the Colts’ case, much better. They’ve already won as many games as the majority of pundits thought they would all season. It’s difficult to imagine this team was 2-14 a year ago.

The Colts, like the Broncos a year ago, seem to be finding a way, and the will, to win.

Any other year, and the focus would be more on Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the unbelievable numbers he’s putting up. But this year, the spotlight is shining brighter each week on Pagano.

That’s because Pagano’s story is one that encompasses more than football. Last month, Pagano’s fight to turn around a losing football team turned into a fight for his life when he was diagnosed with leukemia. His impact suddenly expanded from the Colts locker room and sidelines to a much larger world of leukemia and cancer patients past, present and even future.

While Tebow fought a tidal wave of naysayers and struggled with a lack of skills required to be a prototypical NFL quarterback, he faced nothing like Pagano is staring down this season. There's nothing more sobering than the type of life-threatening illness that Pagano is facing. And there's nothing more inspiring than watching the human spirit thrive under those circumstances. That's why I think Pagano's story has the potential to reach greater heights and have a broader impact than Tebow's. Though the final chapter is far from written on either man's story.

Pagano’s and the Colts’ 2012 story now has a much broader audience than merely football fans and sports aficionados.
Pagano’s heartfelt post-game speech on Sunday about his plans not only to hoist the Lombardi Trophy some day but to also dance at his two daughters’ weddings reached people on a level that has much more to do with humanity than football.

The Indianapolis community has been quick to support Pagano. As of Monday, the Colts have sold 9,735 ChuckStrong T-shirts for $20 each and 11,080 ChuckStrong bracelets for $2 each. The proceeds going to benefit leukemia research at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

There are bigger on-field stories this year. Atlanta’s quest to stay undefeated, Peyton Manning’s return to the field—in Denver, and the Giants’ drive for a Super Bowl repeat are all arguably bigger football stories than the upstart Colts.

But in terms of pure humanity, those pursuits of gridiron greatness pale in comparison to Pagano’s desire to dance at his daughters’ weddings.

And some day, if Pagano hoists the Lombardi Trophy as a cancer survivor, that will be a football—and human interest—story for the ages.


  • Good Luck to Chuck
    What is going on with Chuck is unfortunate and saddening. I wish him the absolute best. Mentioning him with the overblown media affair with Tebow is unnecessary. Furthermore, you crack on the media for reporting on Tebow so much, then you do it. Wow, really?
  • No slight intended
    Jack, I'm sorry you feel being associated with Tim Tebow or the media attention he was afforded is a negative. I don't feel that way and I didn't intend for the post to convey that. I merely pointed out that Tebow's story last year and Pagano's story this year have an appeal that goes beyond football. Frankly, that appeal is why Tebow got so much press last year. And that to me, is 100 percent fine. Both men, I'm certain, have their positive characteristics. Thanks for reading.
  • Why mention Tebow?
    Did you know that Tebow openly endorses the company honoring the PAGAN GODDESS NIKE around the world? As a NIKE endorser... he also promotes A TON of evil messages associated with NIKE.
  • Nike?
    I believe he endorses NIKE, the sports apparel company, like half of America that wears their shoes. Not the GODDESS Nike.
  • Fruits, Nuts, Shoes
    Well Anthony, your feel good story doesn't feel good to everyone I apprently should not have mentioned Tebow at all because he is over-exposed, and that is your fault by the way...and then of course, Mr. Tebow was too busy doing positive things to realize that he was honoring a false God and that Mr. Hubbard has damned him to Hell. This may have been the funniest reaction to an article you have drawn yet, assuming that either of the responders are actually serious...there are so many important things that Christians could be questioning, or better yet, they could be real Christians and be a positive force for humanity (remember that Jesus guy...he was always doing that "hate the sin, love the sinner" thing which just totally fouls up a lot of these evangelicals who love to judge and damn people). Nike's are darn comfy shoes...I actually prefer Adidas, but I, like you Anthony, am a distance runner, and have had several pairs of Nike's over the years...they haven't caused me to worship graven images, speak in tongues, or sacrifice any goats in the 45+ years I have been running, so I am going to go out on a limb here and say that although they are supposedly the preferred footware of cult leading kooks everywhere, the problem with those guys (Jones, Koresh, Dough, etc.) was not the shoes they wore. Phil Knight is an odd, very rich dude, who has done some innovative things with footware with the help of people of lots of creative and talented engineers, coaches, and athletes. His shoes don't make people worship the devil or join a cult... I liked your article Anthony...Mr. Pagano's speech was emotional, uplifting, and transcends football, which is the point I think you might have been trying to make, not realizing everyone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today (It has to be these last minute election ads, they are making people nuts!!). I have to go now...gotta lace up my Nike's and run over to meet up with some Wiccan friends...they say they have some unfinished business from Halloween...something about tricks??
    • Nike
      I am fairly certain that Mr. Hubbard was joking.
    • No he isn't
      Sorry Cynthia...Hubbard isn't joking...look him up if you don't believe it.

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