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SPORTS Bill Benner: Dungy gets career-and game-advice from above

January 28, 2008

Yes, Tony, I knew it was you. I'm God, remember.

Well, God, it's that time of year again. End of the season.

I've got you on my daytimer ... in pen. Same time every year. The job, Tony?

Yes, God, the job

with the Colts. Do I stay or do I go?

Well, Tony, as you know, I'm the Big Picture Guy. I can try to guide you, but I can't tell you what to do. It's that whole free-will thing. In the end, you have to listen to your heart.

Yes, God, I understand. But, you see, my heart is conflicted. My wife, Lauren, loves Tampa, mostly because of the warm weather. So she and the family have decided to move there. Yet my job is in Indianapolis, a thousand miles away. How can I possibly do justice to both?

Well, Tony, it starts with your faith, of course. For those who believe in me, all things are possible.

No one knows that better than I do, God. You've led me from humble beginnings to the top of my profession. You provided me with a loving mother and father who were the best examples of parenting. You've blessed me with an incredible wife and children. Even in tragedy, I have drawn strength and comfort from you. It seems that every step I've taken has been due to you.

Precisely, Tony. When you have knocked, I have opened the door. Or sometimes, I've closed one door so I could lead you to another. But you still had to have the courage-the faith-to walk through. By doing so, you have helped me. You serve as an example for those of lesser faith. You serve as an inspiration. A leader. That's all good, Tony. Your book, for example. You have glorified me in those pages. That pleases me greatly.

Well, I do desire to be your servant, God. I consider myself to be among your ministers here on earth. I want to be where I can do the most good.

And so the problem is ...

The problem is that I spend much of my time talking to others about the values of parenting, about how important it is to be involved with your children.

All-Pro Dad, Tony. I know all about it. The idea was mine, I just implemented it through you.

So, God, if I say faith comes first, family comes second, and football comes third, then I decide to physically separate myself from my family to do my job, it looks as if I might be seen as ...

A hypocrite, Tony?

Yes, God, a hypocrite.

Well, Tony, the Pharisees used to try to play the "gotcha" game with my Son, too. They were always trying to trick him, to set him up. Couldn't do it, could they?

Yes, God, that's true. But I'm not your son. I'm a mortal. A football coach.

That's because that's the path I have chosen for you, Tony. Look, many people in the world look to those involved in sports as false idols. And you know what my commandment says about false idols. But that doesn't mean I can't use your fame for my purposes, Tony. You set an example I want others to follow. You preach my word. You just do it from another kind of pulpit.

But the critics, God? What do I say to the critics?

First of all, Tony, I'm your only critic. You answer only to me. As for mortals, well, let's start with this one: Those who live in glass houses should not cast stones. Or how about, judge not lest ye be judged?

You're right God. You're always right.

So, again, listen to your heart, Tony. What are your priorities? The first is faith. Be true to your faith in me. Then the issues of family and football will fall into place. Have I ever steered you wrong?

No, God, you haven't. You are my rock.

And that's not going to change. Listen, Tony, I know you better than anyone. I know what kind of father you are and I know the strength Lauren has as a mother. And you certainly won't be the first father to endure separation from your children. You'll continue to love and nurture them, and they will continue to love you and draw from your guidance. As for the physical separation, well, that's why I invented airplanes.

Thank you, God. I know I can always count on you.

You're welcome, Tony. Oh, and one more thing.

What's that, God?

Next time, kick the field goal. You still had three time outs and the two-minute warning.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. To comment on this column, send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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