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Shoot the messenger

I am in an odd position today. I sort of agree with Bob Kravitz. Let’s be clear. I think this article is a hatchet job by a man who sees the chance to grab the national spotlight. Bob will be called to do radio shows and interviews, and maybe even PTI(!) where he can spout his opinion. He’ll preen, and act like he’s uncomfortable. He’ll mention that everyone loves Tony Dungy (even though Bob doesn’t agree with him about everything!). Then he’ll quietly rip him and call him a hypocrite. I think that’s deplorable and opportunistic.

Having said that, I don’t think Bob’s questions are unfair. Tony opened himself up to this. Listen, I don’t know the details of his situation. I don’t know his family. I do know something of what Tony believes and advocates in a very public manner. I do know that Tony has put himself in a position to receive this kind of examination. It doesn’t come with the territory of being an NFL coach, but does with being any kind of spiritual leader in the Christian community.

I am also in a position where almost my top work related goal is to get men to be better husbands and fathers. It’s a mantra with me. Because of what I do, I recognize that this starts with me and my life. Tony and I live in very different kinds of places. I live in a dangerous slum; he lives in a gated community. This mere fact changes things for us. I have made it a life rule that I only travel twice a year without my family. I have kids under the age of 4, and live in a place where my wife lacks many conveniences (dish washer and clothes dryer, just to start). It wouldn’t be fair of me to say that my rules should apply to Tony. Our wives face different challenges each day. But I do know that if my job required me to be away from my family with great frequency, I’d quit. Tomorrow. I couldn’t be a good example to men of how to care for my wife and kids if I wasn’t there. And I can’t preach what I don’t practice.

Again, let me be clear. I’m not drawing a one to one comparison. I’m NOT saying that Dungy is a hypocrite, a bad father, or anything else. It may be that his family will be less stressed, more happy, and better off living in Tampa while he commutes. It certainly sounds like they have taken certain steps to ease the strain that would not be available to the rest of us. I AM saying that he has left the door to criticism open, especially should he continue on after this year. If this really is it, then I don’t really have a problem with his decision. If this is going to be a lifestyle, then I think it’s questionable.

Is it fair to question a man for his life choices? If he asks you to, then yes. I don’t think Kravitz has been fair; I think he’s slimy, but it doesn’t make him wrong. I’m uncomfortable too.

Demond Sanders: I think this is a bizarre column. Tony Dungy is a man who doesn’t make decisions lightly. He is doing what he thinks is right. That’s all I ask for out of a man. It is inappropriate for Bob Kravitz or anyone else to question how Tony raises his family.

You argue that because he is a Christian leader and works with the All-Pro Dad program he leaves himself open to criticism. I suppose that is true – he has put himself out there. But that doesn’t make it right when people take that opportunity to criticize him.

Would you like it if I used this space to criticize your parenting style? Or decisions you have made regarding your family? After all you have put yourself out there, like Tony has. Of course you wouldn’t like it. I could say well, gee, DZ it sounds like you put your family in a dangerous situation. That may not be best thing for the kids or your wife. But you are a man who doesn’t make decisions lightly. That’s all I ask of people. Only a cheap-shotting punk would publicly criticize how a man raises his kids.

If Bob really cared then he should have left it in private. Tony responded to his criticism by assuring him that he had carefully prayed and considered the issue. It should have been left there, but Bob has papers to sell. You could see this coming from miles away. Bob’s been pro-Colts for too long. He was waiting for a slip-up in the playoffs to go back on the attack. This is the second time he’s criticized Dungy’s fathering in his columns. I think the Star should make sure it is the last time.

DZ Replies: Wow, those are amazingly good points. And you’re right. Just because someone is open to criticism doesn’t mean you have a green light to commit character assassination. I feel bad for all the divorced dad’s who can’t be with their kids every day, who Kravitz just implied aren’t good fathers and don’t put their families first because they can’t be with their kids every day. I guess my problem has nothing to do with Tony as a father. I only question whether he can be an effective role model (a role he has invited). Dungy is living a life that is impossible to imitate for most men. Most men with job pressures can’t fly a private jet home. I’m certain that Tony is making the right choices for his wife and kids. Demond put it well; he makes serious decisions. If he hadn’t taken time off to think about this, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. He could have moved right on with his life, and most of us wouldn’t even realize the family had moved. Tony has tried to make his life about more than just HIS family, however. My question, and uncomfortability, lies with whether or not he’s putting in jeopardy his ability to serve as a functional role model. Not because he’s not a good father or husband, but because he’s living a set of circumstances so far removed from the rest of us, that no one could really try and live like him. That’s what makes me a little sad. We all, myself very very much included, need men to imitate and show us how to live.