Bob and Weave

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103rd Psalm Part 5: From the Pit

Posted by flyingbk on 11/14/2016

First, a plug for the Scripture Typer app. I use it regularly to memorize Bible verses. It’s awesome. I love it. Try it. It’s free!

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103, NIV)

We continue our look at Psalm 103 (Past entries: Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 3, Part 4). We’ve been looking at this psalm as a progression that gets better and better. We are now at verse 4. God forgives all our sin, and then heals all our diseases. Now we get to the pit.

In his brilliant book The Good Soldiers, David Finkel tells a story that well encapsulates the types of challenges soldiers faced during the Iraq War surge:

Still, on June 5, Kamaliyah was a long way from having sewers, which meant that the trenches were filled to their rims as a convoy pulled out of the COP on a lights-out mission to rendezvous with an informant.

“Go right! Go right!” one of the soldiers in the last Humvee yelled to a driver, who was fiddling with his night-vision goggles, or NODs, as they rounded a corner, but it was too late.

The Humvee began to slide into the trench. Then it flipped. Then it sank. Then it began filling up.

Four of the soldiers scrambled out a door and got out of the trench relatively dry, but the gunner was trapped inside. “He was yelling,” Staff Sergeant Arthur Enriquez would remember afterward, and if there was any hesitation about what to do next, it was only because, “I didn’t want to jump in the poo water.”

We’ve all felt like that gunner throughout the seasons of life. Trapped by despair and our insecurities. Wondering why we have to suffer, and if there’s really any meaning to it. Feeling like we’re sinking little by little, with hope slipping away.

Sometimes, it’s other people’s fault. So we make them easy scapegoats and blame them for all of our problems. But if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of where we’ve ended up is our own doing. I’m reminded of a quote I once shared before, concerning the Old Testament Israelites in exile:

In the case of the chosen people, who for nearly seventy years had been strangers in a strange land, and had drunk the cup of bitterness to is dregs, there was thus added weight to their sorrow–the conviction of their captivity being the result of their own impenitence and transgression. This is the bitterest of all–to know that suffering need not have been; that it had resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing; that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nestling of one’s own rearing. Ah me! This is pain!
-F.B. Meyer, Christ in Isaiah

(I actually shared this quote back in college for my school’s Christian newsletter. Yup, it’s still available online. Not crazy about my writing in that article, though.)

So then we feel stuck. We feel like we’re in the poo water (ew). But thanks be to God. He’s the one who can deliver us, and willingly does so. Finkel continues:

And then?

“I jumped into the damn poo water.”

Down he went, into the crew compartment, where the gunner was stuck in his harness straps, his head partly in the sewage water, which continued to seep in. Enriquez got one arm around the gunner and lifted his head higher, and with his other hand began cutting away the straps. Now he and the gunner were nearly submerged as he pushed the straps away and began pulling at the gunner’s body armor away. He squeezed his eyes shut. He wondered how long he could hold his breath. He felt for the gunner’s waist and began pulling. Everything was slippery. He tried again. He got the gunner to the door. He kept pulling, and slipping, and pulling, and now they were out the door, out of the Humvee, out of the sewage, and up on the bank, and that’s how this month of hopeful signs began for the 2-16, with two soldiers wiping raw Iraqi sewage out of their eyes and ears and spitting it out of their mouths.

That’s what Jesus does for us. He got down into the poo water, and emerged victorious. He paid the price that we couldn’t pay, he endured the physical suffering and relational severance that we couldn’t bear, he descended into hell so that we would never have to dwell there. He went down into the deepest, darkest pit so that he could forever lift us up: from literal hell, but also from the pit of hopelessness, of meaninglessness, of helplessness.

But, but, wait… there’s more! One way the devil attempts to discourage us is by saying this: “Well, so you got out of the pit, you got out of the burned-down house. But where you gonna go now?” So we immediately get down all over again, thinking about the next steps and the so-called uncertainty that lies ahead, and we fall back into anxiety and worry. But hello! We just got redeemed from the pit and saved from hell!!!

We actually have so much to look forward to, but instead we choose to ruled by fear, bemoaning what we can’t control. The good news is that not only does God save us, he also then crowns us… More on that next time.

*****

I finished Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star last night. I absolutely LOVED this book. The two main characters are Daniel, a Korean high school senior whose parents want him to go to Yale, and Natasha, a Jamaican who is trying to fight off her family’s impending deportation. They happen to run into each other on this fateful day (the novel basically spans only one day). Daniel is the poetic, sensitive type while Natasha is the already jaded, science-driven one who is all about the data. So yes, it can be a cheesy opposites-attract story at times. But Yoon interposes her narrative with delightful historical and cultural insights, and her ending is pitch perfect. Certainly, if you’re Korean, you’ll enjoy it even more (they spend quality time at a noraebang, naturally). There was a big smile on my soul, mixed with a tinge of pathos, as I read and finished this book. I enthusiastically recommend it.

*****

Pete Carroll became my favorite NFL coach last night. With 4:24 to go in the 4th quarter last night, the Seahawks took a 31-24 lead on the Patriots. I have been waiting for a coach to do the bold, right thing by going for 2 in that situation. Why? If you make the 2, you take a 9-point lead and the game is basically over. If you miss it, you still have a 7-point lead (Contrary to what Jack del Rio did in Week 1, almost no team is going for 2 when an extra point means overtime). The 2-point try especially makes sense when you consider that the extra point is no sure thing anymore (look what happened earlier yesterday!), and usually reliable Seahawks kicker Stephen Hauschka did this a couple weeks ago:

Bravo, Pete. Perhaps he learned something from that kick (the look on his face as he watches the miss is priceless), and there may be hope yet for NFL coaching.

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A Mets-Centric NL Wild Card Game Preview

Posted by flyingbk on 10/05/2016

I had two distinct but related dreams this morning. For both, the setting was me watching tonight’s National League Wild Card game showdown between the Mets and San Francisco Giants. In the first dream, Mets manager Terry Collins used a no-name pinch hitter for Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (the Mets’ best hitter in September). He strikes out looking on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end the inning. Then he used a no-name relief pitcher in the 7th inning with the Mets up a run instead of Mets’ fireman reliever Addison Reed. I think the relief pitcher was a Korean guy named Paul Yoon (??), and he gave up the 3-2 lead. I woke up briefly after this first dream, feeling quite angry and agitated.

I fell back asleep. The second dream was much shorter and sweeter: Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes hits a 3-run home run in the first inning to give the Mets a 3-0 lead, and the Mets are off and running. I woke up feeling well-rested and ready to tackle today.

*****

It’s safe to say that tonight’s game has been on my mind this week. It’s your cliched “winner take all,” “do or die” scenario. What makes baseball so beautiful is that there are so many different ways to analyze one game, and yet anything can happen in one stinkin’ game. Only in baseball is there a seminal, and yet super unlikely, moment like the one Dee Gordon had last week. With that having been said, here are a few things Mets fans should be looking for in tonight’s contest:

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1. Gulp, it’s MadBum time. Last year, the Mets won games in which they faced Clayton Kershaw (the best pitcher of our generation, and it’s not even close), Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester. So for an encore, they draw only the best postseason pitcher of the current decade. And even worse, from this link we have this stat:

Bumgarner has pitched in seven postseason games on the road. He has a 0.60 ERA in 44 2/3 innings, which, per the Elias Sports Bureau, is the lowest road ERA of any pitcher with at least 25 postseason innings. The Giants are 7-0 in those seven games.

Oh boy. Furthermore, the Mets lineup is not designed to fare well against left-handed starters. The Mets will be fielding three left-handed hitters tonight (Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and James Loney) who are much worse against southpaws.

It’s very unlikely that the Mets will be able to string hits together tonight. So their best hope is the hope they’ve relied on all season: the long ball. Bumgarner did allow 26 home runs this season, and the Mets lineup (save Loney) possesses power up and down the lineup (even catcher Rene Rivera has a career home run off MadBum). The Mets will need a well-timed home run or two to score runs off Bumgarner tonight. My subconscious knows this (read: my second dream), and Yo does, too.

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2. #THOR. The Mets possess their own ace. I’ve had many a conversation with other Mets fans, and I’m shocked by those who have been even remotely disappointed in Noah Syndergaard’s performance this year. Per Fangraphs, he was the most valuable pitcher in all of baseball this year. Dude is a freakin’ beast, and he was also quite good in the playoffs last year.

WFAN radio personality Mike Francesa coined a term during the Yankees’ postseason run of the late 1990’s: “The A game.” The A game was simple: Andy Pettitte would pitch for 7-8 innings, and Mariano Rivera took care of the rest.

In this game, manager Terry Collins must have his own version of the A game: Syndergaard for 6-7 innings, while setup man extraordinaire Addison Reed and closer Jeurys Familia take care of the rest. The Mets are carrying nine pitchers for this game, but if they have to use anyone but those three, it’s a problem. Like my first dream represented, I have a fear that Collins will end up using other relievers late. He could easily use a lefty reliever against the Giants’ many lefty hitters when Reed has been lights out against lefty hitters. Don’t do it, Terry. I beg you. Bring the A game.

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3. The more things change… When people asked for my prediction of last year’s World Series between the Mets and Kansas City Royals, my terse reply was: “It’s simple. If you hear about the Mets’ infield defense in this series, Mets lose. If you don’t, Mets win.”

I hate it when I’m right. (#humblebrag) The Giants offense is nothing special, but they are quite adept at putting the ball in play (they had the lowest strikeout rate in the NL). The Mets infield defense is shaky once again. Jose Reyes has done an admirable job at third base, but clearly doesn’t look comfortable handling bunt attempts. T.J. Rivera is a poor second baseman a la Daniel Murphy, and Loney is a woefully bad defender (this is a topic for another time, but it’s baffling how people think he’s good. He’s not good at anything.). Cabrera is sure-handed at shortstop, but his range is limited. There will be double play opportunities tonight, and the Mets must convert them.

The Mets outfield defense isn’t much better, either. Bruce is poor in right field, Granderson is stretched in center field, and Cespedes isn’t running at full speed and also refuses to dive. So let’s make a similar prediction: If you hear about the Mets’ defense tonight, Giants win. If not, it’s the Mets vs. Chicago Cubs this Friday night.

4. Enjoy it! Baseball’s the best. No other sport can match the drama, the tension taut with each pitch (and in between pitches). You have a matchup featuring two masterful starting pitchers (and representing cities with hidden meanings in their sports logos- NOTE: BEST. TWEET. EVER.), but the similarities end there. The Mets win via the long ball, a strong back end of the bullpen, and hope you don’t make it difficult on their fielders. The Giants put the ball in play and possess stronger defenders and baserunners, and are certainly looking for Bumgarner to go long and not force their bullpen to get too many outs.

And after the evening of August 19, a humiliating 8-1 loss to these Giants in San Francisco, the Mets fell to 60-62. Nobody (including me) had much hope at that point that the Mets would even get to this game. But instead, the Mets went on a rampage, going 27-13, the best record in baseball during that stretch. And they did it with Scotch tape and smoke and mirrors, with unlikely contributions from rookie pitchers and hitters. Consider: After that loss on August 19, the Mets were a full eight games behind the Giants. And now, they’re actually hosting the Giants for this game. Or, if you prefer in visual form:

This achievement is a tribute to the skills of Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. The Mets’ organization was paper thin and in complete shambles when he took over after the 2010 season. Now, they’re in the playoffs for the second straight season for only the second time in franchise history, and they did it in a year of catastrophic and comically bad injury luck. That speaks monumentally to the depth that’s been amassed over the last six years. Omar Minaya’s teams that collapsed in 2007 and 2008 had a bigger payroll, and never had this kind of depth. And regardless of how one game goes tonight, the future remains quite bright for the Mets and their fans.

So, win or lose, let’s enjoy this, Mets fans.

Oh, and here’s some some fun pregame reading about the Korean bat flip. Definitely looking forward to a possible redux of this (skip to the :13 mark):

The postseason is upon us. #LGM.

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O.J. and the Need for Validation

Posted by flyingbk on 09/19/2016

It was no surprise when The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story swept the Emmys last night, including its capturing of the best limited series award. I would also give it a slight nod over Fargo, a show that I absolutely love. The O.J. show was that good, and Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown, and Sarah Paulson were all very deserving. I’d have to think that the episode submitted for Paulson’s consideration is the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” one, which may be the best hour of television I watched all of last year. And I could watch Vance depict Johnnie Cochran all day long.

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2016 was unquestionably the year of revisiting the O.J. Simpson saga. Not only was there this fantastic FX TV series, there was Ezra Edelman’s documentary series O.J.: Made in America. When this series first debuted, I binge watched all seven hours in a span of two days. It was that engrossing, mesmerizing, informative. (If you haven’t seen it, at least watch the opening segment of the opening episode. I guarantee that your spine will feel all tingly. It’s an unforgettable moment that Edelman displays.)

This documentary series was the first time I saw clips of Simpson on the football field. Dude was ridiculous, the perfect mix of power and speed. No wonder he was the first player ever to rush for 2,000 yards. In the final game of that 1973 regular season, after Simpson reached the mark, he made sure to celebrate with his entire offensive line. The line was dubbed the “Electric Company” because they, of course, turned on The Juice. (That’s definitely one of the best sports nicknames of all-time).

In retrospect, that celebration displays the best and the worst of O.J. By many accounts, he was the most charismatic guy. He was the proverbial guy who, with his smile and demeanor, lit up every room he entered. When you watch interviews with him in the 1970’s, or see him featured on NBC’s NFL pregame show, or naturally, go down the rabbit hole of Hertz commercials on Youtube, O.J. comes across as instantly likable.

 

But the FX series and Edelman’s documentary both aptly portray that O.J. Simpson possessed a fatal flaw. It’s flaw that many of us struggle with: The need to be liked. Finding validation in people’s opinions of you. And at its worst, it can lead to codependency. It’s easy to revisit the footage of Simpson praising the Electric Company and see a man whose motive is not to give credit to where it’s due; rather, it’s to ensure that he remains liked by his teammates. It’s easier to understand why Simpson became an enraged, paranoid, jealous man toward his ex-wife to the point that he kept tabs on her and verbally ripped into her when he saw her with another man. It makes perfect sense when you see Simpson completely letting himself go and partying as much as humanly possible after the verdict of not guilty. Especially since many of his friends left him because they knew he was not innocent.

At the same time I watched the Edelman documentary, I also enjoyed David Simon’s miniseries Show Me a Hero. And I was struck by how the main characters of both shows desperately sought validation. Certainly that’s the human condition. But more on that next time, and I’ll look at how we can escape the trappings of our God-given (yes, He made us this way) need for validation.

 

 

Posted in God, Sports | 4 Comments »

The Antidote to Disappointment Management

Posted by flyingbk on 09/15/2016

Let’s rewind 20 years (sadly, it’s been that long). I’m a senior at Cresskill High School. It’s mid-December, and I’ve just been accepted early into Columbia University. Thus, the next couple months are marked by less working hard in school and more hanging out with friends- mainly in the form of supporting them at basketball games and wrestling matches, home and away. I’ve got a good jump shot, but yeah, I wasn’t on par athletically with most of my buddies.

Our basketball team was a small-school juggernaut. The Cougars won the league and the state sectional with breezy ease. I watched them win on the road against our arch rival, Bogota, by a score of 70-26 (an indelible score, and I still savor how dejectedly the Bogota players walked off the court). They even reached the Bergen Jamboree final, and were only down by six late to a Teaneck squad that featured guys who ranged from 6’0″ to 6’11’ (At least two guys, Michael Nurse and Peter Vignier, played Division 1 basketball). Our tallest guy was 6’2. In short, it was a season chock full of achievements.

Now, the wrestling squad. This was a group of guys who worked their butts off for the last six years. They exerted so much blood, sweat, tears, and chewing gum and spitting into garbage cans to help fashion Cresskill into a league contender. And this was their moment: Facing off against Becton for the league title. Alas, they fell short, but no worries for there was a rematch for the state sectional crown a couple weeks later. This victory would be the culmination of all their dedication and determination, and then we would all storm our home court in jubilation.

They lost that match, too. Afterwards, I walked into the locker room to see how my friends were doing. They sat at their lockers, teary-eyed and crestfallen. I’ll never forget the words of one of my good friends: “We worked so hard, and we have nothing to show for it.” Calling him inconsolable would be an understatement. In fact, the next day at school, he was present, only in bodily form. He literally didn’t say a word all day. That’s the result of an ocean of opportunity cost, lost and buried for good.

Last time, I wrote about why football coaches make poor decisions. And as is my wont, I tenuously connected the dots to decisions we make in life. Football coaches choose to punt or “take the points” because the fear of failure overwhelms. Therefore, better to manage the disappointment and trust in their (suspect) defense. Likewise, we massage our expectations and tamp them down. We forgo a variety of opportunity costs since few things are worse than putting in the time and energy and “losing.”

Therefore, as time goes on, many of us become deathly afraid of losing. We’re terrified of getting our hopes up for anything, and then being disappointed. We adopt the attitude “If it happens, great.” We excel in what I call “disappointment management.” We don’t want to live with hope because we fear loss and disappointment, and all the opportunity cost that comes with it. For some of us, it’s become so deeply ingrained that we couldn’t raise up our hopes– for that job or promotion, that dating relationship or improving our marriage, having another child, reaching financial stability or saving up enough for the future– even if we tried.

But thanks be to God. If we’re believers of Jesus Christ, we know the end from the beginning. The end is gold-medal guaranteed, as right as rain: God wins! God is victorious! The Bible says:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV

That’s why you and I can live our lives with great hope. Because Christ rose from the dead, and we know that we will live with him for eternity, we can take risks. We can fear no opportunity cost, no matter how time and energy-consuming. We can process and even mourn our losses and absorb great disappointment without allowing them to tarnish our outlook on life. We do not downplay or sugarcoat the trials, the tribulations, the struggles, the heartbreak, the pain. But we also don’t let them restrain the hope God has put in our hearts.

It’s still not easy; we’ve been conditioned for decades (exactly two for me, in fact). But I hope you’ll join me in actively fighting against the tide of disappointment management so that we can be that hope-filled people God has called us to be.

 

Posted in God, Sports | 2 Comments »

Why We Don’t Play to Win The Game

Posted by flyingbk on 09/13/2016

I’m a Chicago Bears fan. Allow me to explain why. When I was about seven years old, I picked the team who won the first game I watched in each sport. For the NBA, it was the Detroit Pistons, also known as the Bad Boys.

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I have henceforth switched NBA teams, which is a long story for another time. For college basketball, I chose the Georgetown Hoyas (right after the Patrick Ewing era, and just before the Alonzo Mourning/Dikembe Mutombo Twin Towers era). For baseball, it’s the Mets, of course. I vividly remember watching my first baseball game on TV, a game the Mets won in Pittsburgh, 4-2, in 1985. That’s how I became a Mets fan.

Here’s the thing, though. A few years back, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and find the boxscore of that life-defining first contest. I fired up Retrosheet with eager anticipation. I specifically recall the Mets scoring 4 runs on 5 hits, and the Pirates scoring 2 runs on 4 hits (with no errors for either club).  That’s because I remember thinking at the end of the game that the announcers kept getting it wrong; the Mets were actually winning 5-4. After all, doesn’t the “H” in R-H-E stand for home runs??

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That game doesn’t exist. I perused Retrosheet over and over, only gaining more certitude in each attempt that I would locate the right boxscore. The Mets did win in Pittsburgh, 4-2, in 1986. But that game was opening day, a detail that would be etched in my brain. And the hits and errors don’t add up, either. So: a) My specific memory is specifically wrong and it was a different game in 1985; b) The game I remember was actually opening day 1986; c) Retrosheet is wack. Yeah, it’s probably a or b.

Back to football. The first NFL game I watched (if my faulty memory is right this time) was Super Bowl XX, when the Bears trounced the Patriots, 46-10. Little did I know that when I chose the Hoyas, Mets, and Bears that ALL OF THOSE TEAMS would not win a championship since I’ve become a fan. It’s not likely to happen with Georgetown, and with the Bears, I’m not a die hard. I’m not greedy; I only want one Mets World Series title before I die.

All of this is a long-winded personal introduction to a play that took place in the Bears-Texans game on Sunday. The Bears led  14-13 in the third quarter and faced 4th-and-2 at the Texans 38-yard line. Bears coach John Fox chooses to punt, which is an absolutely horrendous decision. The Bears never score again (they don’t even cross midfield!), and they fall, 23-14.

Earlier in the game, Fox actually made the correct call. In the first quarter, up 7-0, the Bears faced 4th-and-1 at the Texans 31. He goes for it. Problem is, Jay Cutler fumbles the snap (it was most likely the center’s fault), and the Bears fail to convert. I’m speculating, but it is highly likely that this earlier failure colored Fox’s latter decision to punt. That’s simply poor decision making. The first call was right and even the sour taste of a fumbled snap doesn’t change that. Fox couldn’t stomach another failed decision; therefore he chose the safe route and punted.

Perhaps they lose anyway. But this kind of disappointment management, and hope and defense as a primary NFL coaching strategy that I wrote about yesterday, is so utterly pervasive in all sports. Watch any NFL game, and you’re guaranteed at least a couple preposterous punts and/or “take the points” decisions instead of going for a touchdown.

Two baseball writers, Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh, were given the opportunity to run an independent league baseball team (the Sonoma Stompers), and they wrote about their experiences in the book The Only Rule Is It Has to Work. It’s a terrific book that the casual baseball fan will enjoy and the nerdy baseball fan (like me) will devour. Late in the book, the Stompers are on the cusp of a championship and Miller muses about why he can’t escape the dread of losing:

Losing is the sad inverse of winning, and yet not so easily disregarded as an illusion; losing is ruining me. Why does losing cost me so much more happiness than winning provides? Because, I come to realize, losing is not only the absence of victory but also the expenditure of an opportunity for victory.

Ah, there it is. Losing is just the absolute worst. If you’re a sports fan, and your team loses, it’s devastating and you have trouble sleeping (I’m quite sure that I’ve still not over last year’s World Series). If you work so hard to land your dream job, and fail, it’s much more painful than the joy of actually getting that job. That’s because of opportunity cost.

Therefore, in attempts to ward off the specter of losing, we do whatever we can to manage the disappointment and downplay the opportunity cost. “It’s OK, I didn’t really want that job or to be with that person, anyway.”

That is precisely why NFL coaches make such passive and scaredy-cat decisions. Better to punt and forfeit the opportunity cost than to go for it and risk failure and loss.

That is precisely why I (and you) make poor decisions in life, managing my disappointment and often times being shy about any opportunity cost that may not lead to success. It’s an awful way to live.

More next time about this topic (yes, there is more, and yes, this is where I use the Bible).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Play to Win The Game! (Unless You’re a Football Coach)

Posted by flyingbk on 09/12/2016

If you’re even a casual football fan, you remember the following rant. Take it away, Herm:

 

Sadly, in today’s NFL, this truism is not true. Rare is the NFL coach that actually seeks to win the game. In abundant supply is the coach who abhors risking any kind of failure and opts for the safer option.

Take the Giants/Cowboys game yesterday. The Giants were up a point, 20-19. They now faced a 4th and 1 at the Dallas 37 with 1:12 left and the Cowboys out of timeouts. Convert the first down, and it’s victory formation time. Instead, the Giants chose to punt and put the game in the hands of their defense.

The conventional wisdom is to punt, and of course, Mr. CW himself, Troy Aikman espoused it. (Pro tip: Whatever Aikman supports is the wrong strategy 99% of the time.) The CW is certifiably insane, and completely wrong.

The game’s current rules make it ridiculously easy to march a good chunk of yardage in a short period of time in order to attempt a field goal. It happened in SIX different games already in Week 1: Panthers/Broncos, Raiders/Saints, Bengals/Jets, Lions/Colts, Patriots/Cardinals, and Giants/Cowboys. Now, the Lions were the only team to actually convert their game-winning try since the Panthers, Saints, and Cardinals all missed on their kicks. And Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a game-ending interception that gave Jets fans a bad case of deja vu. And we all know how the Giants/Cowboys game ended.

But, let’s take a step back. Today’s kickers are more accurate than ever before. The chances of the Panthers and Cardinals kickers to make their attempts were easily over 50%. If Terrance Williams properly makes a beeline for the sideline, the Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey is attempting about a 60-yard field goal. Quite a long distance, sure, but Bailey is one of the accurate kickers in NFL history and had perfectly split the uprights with room to spare on a 56-yard attempt in the 2nd quarter. Also, if Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar had been able to get out of bounds earlier in the drive, there would’ve been more time to get closer (basically, the Giants were saved by not one, but two Cowboys who displayed utter lack of game awareness).

You have one yard to get. You have a solid back in Rashad Jennings, and an offensive line that was winning the battles at the line of scrimmage. Shoot, forget running, you have Eli Manning and three receivers who had little trouble getting open. Instead, not only did the Giants punt, but they punted without any pushback from the announcers calling the game or any outcry on social media. And they only gained a measly 17 yards of field position as the punt sailed harmlessly into the end zone (courtesy of Giants punter Brad Wing, who had already failed to land two punts inside the 20-yard line).

So it came down to two choices: Gain a measly yard for 100% guaranteed victory, or rely on a shaky defense (that had rarely succeeded in applying quarterback pressure) and hope that an All-Pro kicker misses (or hope that a Cowboys receiver screws up, I suppose). And everyone’s impulse is to opt for the latter.

That’s insanity. But that is the state of football coaching (and fandom) in 2016. Disappointment management, don’t try to win the game, hope and defense as the best strategy in a league that actively seeks to give offenses as much an advantage as possible.

I’ll write more tomorrow about how pervasive disappointment management is in sports managing and coaching, and why. But for now, let me say that Jack del Rio is my new favorite NFL coach.

 

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