We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, August 28. 2012
With the new football season only a week away, I started gearing up for my fantasy leagues. I'm usually in at least one, sometimes two, because I love the science of football. I love any sport that is highly quantifiable, and football has recently begun to have more than its share of statisticians break it down.
To learn as much as I can and prepare, I've studied the game closely. The best sites I've found are Football Outsiders and Advanced NFL Stats (I'm open to more if anyone cares to share). Call them sabremetricians for football, and as Bill James' work revived my love for baseball, these people keep my enjoyment of football very high.
The real value of fantasy leagues are the communication which takes place between the participants. It tightens the bonds of friendship and improves the vibe in an office. People who once had only work in common suddenly have much to talk about.
The old saw that you don't discuss religion or politics in polite company should probably be revised to include sports. Specifically fantasy sports, but sports in general can be very messy. Many of us have had disagreements and arguments over sports. Regardless of quantifiability, the question of who the greatest players are will always be fraught with emotion rather than pure reason. Barstool logic tends to predominate these discussions.
One could say barstool logic predominates most emotionally driven discussions.
My favorite coach of all time (many peoples' favorite), Vince Lombardi, was often called upon to share his opinions on business, politics, and religion. Vince was a devout Catholic, a very tough taskmaster, but he was known to have a heart of gold. His views on the relationship between success and work for the achievement of victory continue to resonate through the years. He was a man who took control and didn't place blame, he inspired people to perform a job.
His final speech is one I believe should be taught to all seniors in High School. You could build a class around this speech. It has various themes, but all tie back to the same main point. Lombardi had a knack for making sure there was only one message, but he found a variety of ways to get that message across. His message was never accept anything but the very best, and push yourself to achieve the very best.
He never belittled losing teams, never made fun of people who couldn't live up to his high expectations, but he used his toughness as well as his tenderness to motivate people to work harder and meet those expectations. After losing the NFL Championship to my favorite team in 1960, he promised his players they would never again lose a championship game if he was coach. They believed him, and lived up to that promise.
Vince Lombardi never had a losing season as a head coach. He finished first in his division in six of his ten seasons as a head coach, and second in three others. He recognized defeat was part of the game, but used it to motivate for victory.
What made Lombardi unique was the fact that he won with what was handed him. He didn't blame his predecessor for problems, he took over a downtrodden Green Bay team, and making only a limited number of personnel changes, had them in a championship game in two years. He didn't look at the team and say "we're going to overhaul this", he told the men they were winners and they could win with what they had if they took the right attitude into each game, and worked hard. Despite a five game losing streak in his first season, Lombardi knew he had the core of a winning team. He knew it was just a matter of finding the right individuals to play the key roles. He found one in Bart Starr.
This is what politics is about. Lombardi recognized something intrinsic in humans which most politicians do not, and certainly Obama cannot. What he realized is the coach can't, and shouldn't, do the work of the individual parts of the team. The best he can do is help them prepare themselves, and motivate them. He realized that as much as this was a team game, it was a team game made up of individuals. His job, as coach, was to get the individuals to focus on themselves and their jobs, so that each one could make the team, as a whole, better.
Our nation is a team of individuals. It's a team that, regardless of our beliefs and differences, will still stand behind a person who is willing to lead with valor and a sense of conviction. There is a reason why Democrats today may not like Ronald Reagan or his achievements, but have a deep sense of respect for what he did for the country. They may not have supported him, but they know success when they see it, and it's very hard to reject how the country improved while he was president.
A good leader will find a means to inspire. This is why great teams have coaches who are in demand. Everybody wants to understand the nature of success. Many people try to provide shortcuts to success, but there are none. Edison pointed out that he didn't find 700 ways to fail, but rather just 700 ways that didn't work. Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt both have quotes pointing to hard work and perseverance as the means to attain goals. So did Vince.
So as the football and political seasons progress, it's worth looking toward Lombardi as a guide for what to seek in a leader. I hope someone will finally step up and grab the reins in a manner which is consistent with the values of this nation, and use the opportunity both inspire and guide us to a better place.
And I hope my Philadelphia Eagles finally put it all together. I'm getting more than a little tired of underperformance in politics and football.
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one of the very real problems in america is those who add value to grown men playing a GAME with a little ball
Depending on your point of view, yes, it is.
If you're referring to the emphasis put on sports over academics, particularly at the collegiate level, I'd agree.
But I don't know many people who don't have some kind of interest in something which is either entertaining or enjoyable outside of academics and politics. So if the issue is just that of people spending money to be entertained, then I'm not going to agree with your statement. We spend money to be entertained at the movies, at theatres, at sports events, on TV/Radio, at National Parks, camps, and a variety of other places.
Entertainment is important, though the amount we consume is outsized primarily because we're lucky enough to live in a nation which allows us to have plenty of free time to consume it.
So a natural extension of this consumption is simple, "What do we get out of this entertainment?"
Which is why I wrote this. There are lessons to be learned in many things we enjoy, and those lessons can be applied in many places, in many ways.
It's not just about grown men playing a game. It's about dedication, perseverance, effort, trial and error, and a host of other life lessons which people can apply outside of the sport itself.
You're in Yankee Stadium. Sunny summer day, trying to figure out what the next play should be, having a beer and two hot dogs, a green field, life is beautiful.
Then you suddenly think "Why am I sitting here, watching adults playing a childrens' game?"
Then that passes, and you're back in the game.
One of the REAL strategies we could use to correct our problem with academia is to remove football and basketball from the academic environment. In that context these sports and all that attends to them cannot help but corrupt the "education" part of the system. Sorry folks, but many many other countries love their "football" (the OTHER football). And, as wildly committed as they are to that game--they keep it off campus. Football teams and clubs are separate entities--either private, or community owned--but not connected to education!
How other countries manage their academic facilities or sports may work for them, but isn't necessarily better than how we do things.
It's just different.
I agree the emphasis needs to shift back to education, but in doing so money the universities need will be lost. Which will impact education.
The question is, what's more important? Having a small percentage of your student population being academic underachievers but pulling in massive sums of money for the school at large, and acting as a recruiting magnet for some of the best and brightest? Or only focusing on providing an education to the very best and very brightest at an inflated cost for the fewer numbers who attend?
It's a trade-off. My son would've gotten a great education at a less expsensive Division III school. But he wanted to attend a mid-sized Division I school. School pride counts for something. Miami of Ohio has a great hockey team, a decent basketball team, and a mediocre football team. But it's enough to keep them in the mix with kids who want a good education AND have good sports to go along with their college experience.
I've got some ideas of my own on how to improve the college sports experience for both the schools, the student-athletes (such as they are), and the NCAA. Ideas that can roll back the veneer of 'unpaid amateur' enough to be honest about how things operate, but still keep the focus on education as well. These ideas will never fly primarily because it will mean the NCAA has to admit many things are true about how they run the business that they simply aren't interested in admitting. C'est la vie.
I'm not going to go crazy over that issue any more than is reasonable. A friend of mine has a daughter who was waitlisted at an excellent university despite her excellent academic record, while their other son who is a standout athlete and an OK student got a full ride to the same university. The way they justified it? "There are some things that large numbers of people retain an interest in, and those things drive massive sums of money. We can't explain it, and even if it bothers us, there isn't much we can do about it."
"It's kind of hard to rally around a math class."-Bear Bryant
Another good football blog is Smart Football. It deals in detailed offensive and defensive strategies and breaks down popular plays and discusses trends. Great site for those who like to go deep in football.