THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Super hero: Tony Dungy deserves a comic book
When I was a little girl, my comic books came from the local drug store. My collection was small (my brother and I preferred to waste our momma's money on Big League Chew and Reggie Jackson candy bars). It primarily consisted of Wonder Woman and Savage She-Hulk.
As much as I loved my female super heroes, Marvel and DC didn't publish my favorite comics. Spire Christian Comics has been basically defunct since 1982, but if they've been waiting for the moment to get back into business, it's now.
In addition to Archie and the alarming Hansi, the Girl who loved the Swastika, Spire published life stories.
Spires's Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys hit the shelves in 1973 and sold for 35 cents. In his own words, the coach illustrates how football has been his religion. Hello, I'm Johnny Cash (1976) focuses on drugs and depression. In both comics, the men find their faith and use it to bring hope to those around them.
In late April, former Colts' coach Tony Dungy revealed that he was planning to visit Michael Vick at Leavenworth– not to discuss football, but rather to talk about getting Vick's life back on track.
"I'm going out there to really talk about life, to talk about the Lord," Dungy told the Dan Patrick Show. "I know he [Vick] has made a profession that he has accepted the Lord into his life. [I'm going to] talk to him about what he's going to face."
Page two of Hello, I'm Johnny Cash shows the singer at one of his prison concerts, singing gospel music for a crowd of beaming inmates. The prisoners are filled with hope, uniformly transported by Cash's voice and message. It's a lovely image, but it's not quite the truth.
Johnny Cash's message of faith did change the lives of many prisoners, but the reality is most inmates preferred the blood and hatred of "A Boy Named Sue" to the promise of "Rock of Ages."
Tony Dungy knows firsthand that it takes more than fame and a sincere message reach a man's heart. When Dungy steps onto the dirt of Vick's Kansas penitentiary, he's going find a man who's one step away from being a contestant on Celebrity Boxing. Not only did Vick's 2007 profession of faith end with "and I think that's the right thing to do as of right now," only last month the suspended quarterback talked to a producer about a proposed reality show that would follow the newly released Vick on his quest "to make amends for his past."
When Dungy said, "Most people aren't going to accept [Vick] back," he wasn't kidding. Vick reeks of insincerity, and his reaching out to Coach Dungy just proves his duplicity.
But Dungy is no fool. He began his prison ministry back in 1997, when he was the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he knows Vick's game. When Dan Patrick speculated that ‘somebody from Vick's camp" thought it made sense to bring in Dungy, with his moral character and all he stands for, to help convince the public and the NFL commissioner of Vick's repentance, Dungy said, "I think that's true."
Of course it's true. You know it, I know it, Dan Patrick knows it, and Tony Dungy knows it. But that's exactly why Dungy deserves his own Christian comic book. Tony Dungy knows Michael Vick is insincere, but he wants to help him anyway. Dungy knows that Vick is motivated by self-interest, but that makes the coach more determined to set him on the right path. Dungy knows everyone hates Michael Vick, and he's resolved to make Vick face it.
If Spire Christian Comics suddenly cranked up its presses, I've no doubt Tony Dungy would be the subject of their first comic book. The first panel would show, much as Tom Landry's did, illustrations of a Super Bowl win. There would be balloons filled with Dungy's encouraging words and the grateful responses of his players. By page two, readers would learn Dungy's childhood home of Jackson, Mississippi, was home to the state's second largest prison, and by page four we'd learn about his son's suicide in 2005.
Round about page 30, there might be a panel showing Dungy at Leavenworth, Bible in hand, praying with an incarcerated Michael Vick.
But what would page 32 show? Dungy cheering Vick's re-entry into the NFL– or the coach's persistence even in the face of Vick's rejection? One thing's for sure: there may never be a Christian comic book about Tony Dungy, but there sure ought to be.