February 28, 2008
With tongue in cheek, a good friend of mine once told me “I’d never lie to my wife unless I had to”. That’s actually not far from the truth for a lot of us. It’s a case of doing what you have to do to get by or out of a jam. In the case of Roger Clemens and trainer Robert McNamee somebody is flat out lying. Either Clemens used steroids and human growth hormones or he didn’t. Or McNamee is lying. I saw a survey the other day in which 57% of the people polled believed that Roger Clemens lied at the congressional hearings.
It’s just an accepted part of our culture these days. We had a president of the United States who once looked us all in the eyes and said “I never had sex with that woman”, and said it so convincingly that he probably talked himself into believing it, or certainly rationalized it. Tell me that didn’t affect the minds of people across the country, especially young people.
But again, we live in a culture where there are no absolutes. You can justify running through a stop sign because it’s late at night and there’s nobody around. You have the New England Patriots secretly video taping other teams, because it’s “hey, just getting an edge”. In racing the old line is “if you’re not cheating, you’re not racing”.
How do you find and edge in recruiting if you’re a college coach? You figure the “other guy is doing it so you better keep up” and then, if you get caught, just deny it until you’re blue in the face even if you’re convicted.
Character is what you are when nobody’s looking and there’s no greater showcase for character than the world of sports.
February 26, 2008
It’s nice to get to the top of the mountain, but how do you stay up there? Tennessee Vols basketball coach Bruce Pearl is having to juggle that hot potato now that the Vols have knocked off the University of Memphis and are on top in the AP rankings for the first time in school history.
You can preach consistency and dedication all you want but human tendency is to let down.
If it takes a fiery personality like Pearl’s then the Vols are in good hands. But then how do you explain a low key coach like John Wooden somehow motivating his legendary UCLA teams to win 11 championships including 8 in a row?
We get caught up in the “hype” method of motivation these days. John Wooden would tell you it’s individual discipline in practice. After that the game and the pressure of being on top takes care of itself.
February 25, 2008
Look at it this way. At a college football game you’ve got two teams on the field and the fans in the stands pulling for either one of them. At the recent Daytona 500 there were 43 teams all on the field all at the same time. What does that do to your chances of winning.
The crew chief is the head coach sitting in the pits with a head set on planning strategy and telling everybody what to do. The guys on the pit crew are hand picked for their physical skills. Tire changers are quick agile guys like linebackers. The jack man is a lineman and so is the guy carrying the gas can.
The driver is the quarterback. He gets the glory or he gets the blame. And don’t tell me that he’s not an athlete. His life is on the line. He can’t afford to lose concentration for a second during a 3 hour race and he’ll lose 5 to 10 pounds doing it. And he’s got to have the nerves of a burglar and the guts to stick his nose 6 inches between cars at 190 miles per hour.
On top of all that they all know that their sponsors, who’ve invested 20 million dollars are sitting in the stands, second guessing their every move and not just hoping, but expecting them to win.
Don’t tell me racing isn’t a sport.
February 22, 2008
The point that grabbed me in the clip with Tennessee Vols basketball coach Bruce Pearl was when he said he wanted players that weren’t afraid to fail. I remember Michael Jordan making that statement in explaining why he succeeded so often in clutch situations. You’ve gotta play loose and you can’t do that if you’re uptight with fear.
Do you have to be born with that or can you learn it?
I think we all have the capacity to learn it. But it starts early, way before coaches. It starts with supportive parents who build you up and allow you to fail. You have to get used to being in pressure situations over and over again. Tiger Woods’ dad did that to him when he was young. By the time a coach gets hold of a young athlete, he or she has already been there to some degree . Now it’s just a case of putting it in a structured content. All of a sudden, as Pearl said, you’ve got a player who’s not afraid to fail.
I think there’s the ability to succeed in the clutch in all of us.
February 22, 2008
I read where Bill Belichick is a humorous, carrying, sincere, thoughtful guy when he’s away from the football field. The trouble is that 99% of us never see him in any setting other than on a television screen and on television he comes across like he’s been sucking on too many lemons and doesn’t care a thing about anything or anybody else. I’ve been at live press conferences with him and that attitude just oozes from him. Don’t give me this business that he’s a no nonsense sort of guy.
What he did by walking off the field before the end of the Super Bowl was a slap in the face of sportsmanship. He knew exactly what he was doing. And if he didn’t he could have apologized for it in the press conference afterwards, but it never crossed his mind. But then again he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks or the impression he leaves on others. It’s a shame, but if you act like a brooding child you ought to get spanked, in this case by the NFL with a healthy fine.