Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uncommon

I have been currently listening to Tony Dungy's follow up to his first #1 NYTimes Bestseller Quiet Strength. I'd last year read Dungy's first book, an impressive, thoughtful re-telling of his life story, from aspiring athlete to Super Bowl winning coach. The lessons had relevance far beyond the scope of football. It was a book about life and ultimate values. Uncommon is Dungy's sequel, an appeal to men as regards what it takes to live significantly in a culture that conspires to drag us down, make us one of the herd.

In his introduction he share two stories which prompted him to write this book. One is the story of a black man who had a promising life ahead of him, who through a momentary lapse of sense ended up in prison. The second is of a young white youth who likewise ended up in prison as a result of a temporary lapse in judgment. Both, from Central Indiana, each of them seeing all of their dreams erased by stupid impulsive decisions.

Dungy no doubt earned the right to get his first book published by winning a Super Bowl for the Indianapolis Colts. His story is compelling and original, a story of achievement while swimming upstream as an early black coach in the NFL. He makes no effort to conceal the Christian faith and values that sustained and motivated his aspirations to excel, not only as a coach but as a husband, father, and role model. Uncommon builds on this, echoing the challenges he faced.

Here's a review of the book from Amazon.com:

Super Bowl–winning coach and #1 New York Times best selling author Tony Dungy has had an unusual opportunity to reflect on what it takes to achieve significance. He is looked to by many as the epitome of the success and significance that is highly valued in our culture. He also works every day with young men who are trying to achieve significance through football and all that goes with a professional athletic career—such as money, power, and celebrity. Coach Dungy has had all that, but he passionately believes that there is a different path to significance, a path characterized by attitudes, ambitions, and allegiances that are all too rare but uncommonly rewarding. Uncommon reveals lessons on achieving significance that the coach has learned from his remarkable parents, his athletic and coaching career, his mentors, and his journey with God. A particular focus of the book: what it means to be a man of significance in a culture that is offering young men few positive role models.

Being a football fan over the years, I enjoyed the stories of coaches who were influential in his own development, especially Chuck Noll and Tom Landry. Noll led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships, and Landry transformed the Cowboys in to what became known as "America's Greatest Team." Anecdotally, in 1976 I briefly dated a girl from Pittsburgh and while walking through a suburban neighborhood near her home she said, "That's Chuck Noll's house." Instinctively I touched the mailbox, as if some kind of success karma would rub off onto my fingertips. As Dungy notes, success did not change Noll. He was an ordinary man who achieved extraordinary things, yet remained in his quiet suburban neighborhood and did not take flight to a hoity toity part of town.

As for the book, Tony Dungy's appeal is to each of us, but especially to young men with their lives ahead of them, to weigh their choices and to walk the road less travelled. Conscientious service-oriented lives not only prove more rewarding for ourselves but are necessary to make our world a better place. This is a man who knows whereof he speaks.

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