"If I'm Reggie Bush, I give back the trophy," Tony Dungy said yesterday in his capacity as football's freelance moral compass. This is all he does anymore: intone some insufferably pious crap that's just aching to be cross-stitched onto a decorative pillow.
Here's what Dungy said, in full:
If I'm Reggie Bush I give back the trophy and say you know what, I was the best player in college football. You know that. And I know that regardless of what may or may not have happened off the field, I was the best player. So here, you take the trophy but you won't take the memories.
As with everything Dungy says, there is nothing outwardly objectionable about the remark, except that it is so thickly virtuous that just about every word rings with harp music and singing eunuchs. The whole thing is quintessentially Dungy: Not only is he demanding more righteousness out of football players than their sport will ever deserve, but he's pulling the lame trick he always pulls, which is to wrap his halo around the prerogatives of football's establishment while pretending to speak for its wayward souls. (We all know you were the best, Reg. Now give the gentlemen their trophy, OK?)
Dungy has built a very successful second career for himself out of being publicly righteous. That particular trait has made him a decent football analyst on the television — he doesn't have the manufactured opinions of, say, all those overgrown Phi Delts yukking it up over on Fox — and it has made him a sermonizing blowhard everywhere else. In the past year, he has kibbitzed about everything from Rex Ryan ("If I'm Rex Ryan, I watch my mouth") to Michael Vick ("If I'm Michael Vick, I stay out of the kennels") to Mike Locksley ("If I'm Mike Locksley, I stop choking my assistants"), and it's worth remembering that Dungy interceded on Locksley's behalf only after a PR firm asked for his help, suggesting not only that Dungy's halo is for hire but that, as the Daily Beast's Bryan Curtis noted, his ministry is as much about repairing images as it is about saving souls.
But maybe that's unfair. Maybe the Moral Compass is serious about this stuff. Maybe he really does believe he is so contagiously virtuous that he could've saved Michael Vick with one eight-hour fishing trip. If so, I can think of a sports figure who by all accounts is more sorely in need of salvation than either Reggie Bush or Rex Ryan, a guy with an ominously metastasizing God complex who raises money for terrible people with terrible causes and justifies it by saying, terribly, "I'm on the Lord's side." But how would Tony Dungy counsel Tony Dungy, one wonders? Here's a thought: If I'm Tony Dungy, I think I shut the hell up.
Image via 30fps