Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Man With Soul And A Devil Of A Man

What do former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and ex Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld have in common? Apart from both being featured in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (see A Coach's Faith and 'From Lehman's Wreckage, New Lives'), I think there is little common between them.

I admire Tony Dungy. I detest Dick Fuld. When I saw Dungy and his Indianapolis Colts take Super Bowl XLI (41) in 2007 I was so thrilled. He and I are about the same age. He has much more top level playing and coaching experience than I do, but we share some important values, I believe. Dungy is a faithful man, and he knows his Bible. I am someone who has strong faith but I do not read the Bible often. I try to apply what I have as faith to many things in life--I'm a sinner and have not yet risen to be any saint, be assured.

But for me, Dungy is important because he shows his faithfulness in an arena so fraught with pressures to be faithless—that world of the professional athlete: win at all costs; cheat; finagle; etc. Yet, he seemed to stand above that. He also had gentility in a sport known for brutishness. In the Caribbean, I’m sure he would have been labelled as gay. The man is strong but slight. Smart but not smug. Able to let those who can do what they will—made easier with a sporting icon like Peyton Manning at quarterback. But what a happy coincidence that was.

What about Fuld.When Lehman collapsed last mid-September, it was the first time that this man came into my consciousness. When I saw him testify last September I almost threw up with the attitude he displayed. His holdings of Lehman stock were valued at US$145 million at the start of 2008. The day after the bankruptcy, he sold 2 million shares and netted US$525,000. He stayed on as CEO for 90 days after bankruptcy. He had to explain to Congress Lehman’s collapse. He complained that the US government had pulled the rug from under his firm but saved Bear Stearns and bailed out AIG. Whatever he thought, Congress saw him as ‘the villain’. He resigned and moved from executive with a US1 billion net worth and US$40 million remuneration to—well, still 'getting by' in that rich person kind of way. Bit by bit he sold assets and also transferred a US$13.75 million to his wife for US$10!!!—to shield his assets? He’s now named in over 50 lawsuits many alleging securities fraud against Lehman and its executives. He’s now on the way back with a new firm offering advice from crisis management to fixed income. He is moving back more in recent months.

But whereas Fuld seems all about himself (he has managed to say "He's sorry"), Dungy is largely about other people.

Dungy retired as head coach at the end of the 2008/9 season and has recently been instrumental in getting Michael Vick rehabilitated from convicted dog fight arranger and dog killer back to NFL quarterback after 19 months in jail. The Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick for US$1.6 million (about the cost of a Fuld room?). Dungy wanted to know where Vick wanted to go ‘from here’. Vick had blown his first big chance at role model. Dungy came from a stable middle class, alcohol and drug free family environment. He cam across alcohol and drugs at college, at the University of Minnesota. When he went into professional sport he saw amongst players what family breakdown and missing fathers had wreaked—something that Vick feared he would add to.

Dungy did not have a stellar professional career and after 3 years as a back up moved to coaching, becoming the youngest assistant coach in the NFL at 25. He set some awesome records—and note that he is a black man in a sport only now realising that black men can coach too—including 10 consecutive play off appearances (a record) and the first coach to beat all 32 NFL teams. He mentored 3 assistants into head coaches, including Mike Tomlin (another black coach/former player), who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Super Bowl this year.

Dungy's favourite verse from the Bible? Matthew 16:26: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul” I wonder if Dick Fuld knows that passage? In the commentary on Fuld, the words faith, belief, and God do not feature. Should I blame the reporter for that omission? Or is the man in the article at fault for not correcting that? Maybe he is lying in the water just waiting to drown.


Sargeant said...

Talk about an ego; why didn’t you stop at the same age comparison rather than bring up coaching experience? I also think that what Caribbean people would think of him is so out of left field. Anyway I will admit that I was also thrilled when he won the Super Bowl at Indianapolis especially when Tampa Bay won after he was dismissed.. However Dungy has earned my greatest respect for the way he handled his son’s suicide and for the way he was able to walk away from the game at the top when many in his position can’t resist the lure of the almighty dollar

Dennis Jones said...


If I understand correctly, my points of 'contact' with Dungy explain an affinity, no more. In analysis, one often looks for where a line touches more than two points to determine if it is a valid point of reference. I wrote elsewhere last year about how Tony Dungy handled the devastating suicide of his son. Thanks for the reminder.