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Uncommon-A Book Review

Tony Dungy would like a word with you.

His newest book, Uncommon, differs from Quiet Strength in a number of ways. Whereas his first book was more of a memoir about his life, this new offering is more like a pastoral chat.  Let me begin by saying that I have no ability to be objective about this book.  As both a Colts fan and a Christian, I find it impossible separate my affinity for this man and his mission from my reaction to his book.  As a general rule, we don’t discuss issues of religion or politics on 18to88.com except when they interact with football.  In that sense, Coach Dungy has made it veritably impossible to separate faith from football with this newest book.  As someone who spends most of his time delivering the same messages that Tony does in this book, I found it familiar and encouraging, though it wasn’t surprising or challenging.

It reads like a summary of the Biblical book of Proverbs, offering wise advice (principally to men) about living “God’s way”.  The book is rife with references from Scripture on every page as well as a nice array of quotes from authors and world changers.  The book pulls no punches, and while it is primarily an effort by Dungy to use his fame to communicate good news about life and how to live it, it is not a preachy book.  Its tone is warm and gentle, and reads much like a conversation with a concerned friend or uncle. It’s primary audience is men, especially young men and young fathers.

Dungy focuses on a wide variety of topics including ones not tackled often enough.  With chapters on failure, sex, the treatment of women, and submission to authority, Uncommon bears little in common with any other book written by a football coach.  In it, he talks about some of his most painful experiences and greatest victories with exactly the same tone.

There are many interesting insights into various events in the last several years for football fans.  No one can read this book and not be impressed by the effect of Chuck Noll and Art Rooney Sr. on Dungy’s life. He uses advice and examples from both men’s lives regularly.  He talks about his hiring of Mike Tomlin, and the role he played in Tomlin’s hiring in Pittsburgh.    Tony reveals how devastating certain losses were for him, such as the 41-0 loss to the Jets and the 2005 loss to the Steelers in the playoffs.  He also explained in depth his decision to move his family to Tampa last year, while he worked in Indy.  He went into great detail about the whys and hows of the decision, as well as revealing that it was something his own father had to do for a time while he was growing up.  His answers are honest and unapologetic.  Indeed, he has nothing to apologize for.

The biggest insight one can gain about Coach Dungy from reading this book is to understand his decision to walk away from football.  He unquestionably loves it, and loves coaching.  He has said many times that he doesn’t feel tired or burnt out.  He does have more important things to do.  This book reads as if Dungy was thinking, “I’m famous and influential.  What are the most important things God would want me to say to the men of America?”  He then went out and wrote those things down.  It was fascinating to watch Dungy handle certain aspects of a changing culture with his players.  His discussion of the ‘respect ethic’ was revealing.

Uncommon is full of mistakes and regrets by Dungy as well.  He uses his failures and disappointments to serve as object lessons and encouragements to himself and the others around him.  At the end of the book, there is a sort of question and answer section dealing with the topics of the book.  It is one of the most enlightening and interesting parts of the book.

If you come to Uncommon for Quiet Strength, Part Two, you’ll be disappointed.  If, however, you want to know what is important to Tony Dungy, what he lives for, what he’d die for, and what he quit coaching for, this book is for you.  Many people will call Dungy’s vision of life naive, old fashioned or impossible.  It is none of those things.  It is also not a vision that is unique to him.  A lot of people will think Dungy a fool to walk away from the NFL to do work with troubled kids and convicts.  Maybe he is. Ultimately, the Apostle Paul summed up Tony’s message best:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.