If you were listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show yesterday morning around 8:50, you heard Tony Dungy come on the air and make his case for the remergence of Michael Vick on the active player roster of an NFL football team. Dungy felt that there was a very, very strong possibility that Vick would be signed within a week.
As SI.com's Peter King put it a couple of weeks ago, Dungy made it clear that he has one overriding goal with Vick over the next few months. "I've told Michael, 'My hope is that you play again, but if you don't, I really don't care. It's more important that you get your life right,'" Dungy said.
I guess Tony Dungy is the Colin Powell of the NFL, with the same unflappable personality, the same clean as a whistle background, the same taciturn manner in which he greeted friends and foes alike. I would imagine that Dungy is the guy the league goes to when they want to hear from a black man they can trust about a black man they don't.
It looks like Dungy is well aware of this phenomenon himself, which is why, after answering the obligatory intro questions yesterday from radio host Tom Joyner, he patiently explained why Michael Vick should play again in the NFL this year. The longer I listened, the more I felt like I was listening to a defense lawyer who was pacing back and forth in front of a jury, detailing item by item the kinds of positive and uplifting activities his client was involved in these days - activities, Dungy asserted directly, without equivocation, that signaled Vick was a changed man.
Dungy knew he wasn't just talking to the Tom Joyner Morning Show audience - he understands first hand the political side of the game of football, the one that takes place before the first player hits the locker room, a world that is scrutinized by sports analysts and sports reporters waaay, waay more thoroughly than political reporters examine our government.
The veteran coach knew exactly how these scribes would rush to slice up his commentary, all of them in a mad rush to break a story. So when Dungy said "I've been getting calls from numerous coaches who wanted to know 'what I saw in his eyes, in his body language'", he was pushing back hard against the conventional wisdom dominating sports media that says no one wants to risk picking Vick.
I applaud Tony Dungy, a man who has lost a son of his own to suicide, for not shying away from the Vick controversy. I applaud him for remembering that beneath the highlight reels, behind the dog fighting, and after the jail time that Michael Vick is more than a fallen football player.
Michael Vick is a fellow human being.