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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

everything that happens will happen today (or, an open letter to jeremy bates)



a few years ago, i agreed to coach my local YMCA's youth flag football team. we were undersized, undermanned, and underskilled. our only hope was to out-think and out-strategize our opponent. (note: i dont mean to suggest that i introduced "trick" or "gimmick" plays. no, i simply mean that our offense would function as a highly creative unit--less houdini, more macgyver.) the playbook i designed made the opposition think we were doing one thing, when were really doing something else. i would have us line up in these esoteric formations (with tons of motion before the snap), only to run a jazz standard for our tight end (five yard button hook). it was short throws, simple sweeps. the key to our strategy was keeping the opposition off balance. and it worked. our efficacy was borne out of nothing more recondite than creativity and deception. in the two years i coached the greenpoint YMCA rebels, we won back-to-back championships. i still have the trophies.

..."so what?" you're asking.

well...last saturday my world ended. the usc trojans, my raison d'etre, wildly succeeded in their mission to lose to the washington huskies--perhaps the aught's most inept college football program. how you ask? by committing what i call the "conservative fallacy" (formerly called "the reason why bill callahan is an idiot"). the conservative fallacy suggests that the way david beats goliath is by (a) doing nothing and (b) praying the giant finds a way to self-immolate. i find such an approach (literally) self-defeating and anti-intellectual. (IQ is decidedly NOT a prerequisite for playing sports--mel hall, jose canseco, anyone?--but erudition is key for managerial success--larussa, dungy, phil jackson, et. al.)

all of which leads me to this: against the huskies, the trojans were forced to rely on a quarterback (aaron corp) who last started a football game when he was a 17-year-old teenager at Orange Lutheran High School. and instead of building a creative and intellectually superior offensive around him, they handed corp the most vanilla, most "callahan-ian," most conservative, most "risk averse" game plan possible. as i watched usc run its offense last weekend, i had the sneaking suspicion that one of the jonas brothers was on the loose and posing as jeremy bates--our offensive coordinator. note: i am a raging atheist, but i love gurus--not the spiritual kind, but the bill walsh kind, the "gurus of the game" kind. and, well, jeremy bates, you are no guru. you doubled down on a "play not to lose" strategy (less is more) where even a simple roll out play (on 3rd and six from the seven yard line) was beyond your ken. your staid playcalling showed a contempt for your players and product. is aaron corp so bad that the word "offensive" is both logical and ironic? yes. but thats why we have coaches: to find a way to do more with less, not less with more. and so as i hope my (admittedly lame) anecdote about coaching a talent-deficient flag football team reveals: when you have an inferior product (aaron corp as starting qb), you dont hunker down and draw in your horns. no, you summon your inner bill walsh and discover how to succeed using your mentality, your creativity, and your ingenuity. more than anything else, usc's 13-16 loss to the huskies was a failure of imagination.
beg to diifer? we were 0-10 on third down conversions.
have a nice day.