Month: January 2014

Random Thoughts

I heard Jay Z dropping a verse or two on a Justin Timberlake song today, and it made me sad. It was so hollow and meaningless. Not that Jay Z was ever a socially conscious rapper, but for over a decade his voice and verses spontaneously flowed in compellingly vivid images of life and one-upsmanship. What I heard today, was a half-hearted imitation of his former self, and of late this appears all he has to offer. Hip hop at it’s best is topical, authentic and beautifully desperate.

Richard Sherman is misunderstood. You are a football player and as fans it is not our job to understand you. If you are in fact something other than you appear, act that way. Methinks, however, the “act” is a money grab in a contract year and the positioning of a persona for life after football.

Ronaldo is a deserving winner of World Footballer of the Year, and the emotion he showed in claiming the award was moving. He has given all for club and country for several seasons running with the resolution of an iron man. His full realization as a player is so far removed from the prissy, selfishness of his youth and should be a model for all.

Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points and had zero assists. This is an appropriate accomplishment for Melo as it encompasses perfectly the single dimension of his greatness. Bravo!

Kevin Durant is much better. His greatness extends to team accomplishment. In the context of NBA basketball, greatness should be measured as much by anything as how many games your team wins if you are healthy and regardless of supporting cast.

As such, anyone remember any team Lebron has played for after his rookie year not making the playoffs? I may be old school, but until that happens, or something close to it, I am not ready to pass the World’s Greatest Player title to anyone else.

I temporarily forgot how cool Pete Carroll is. He wonderfully combines coaching acumen and people skills. He offers a constant alternative reflection of how the profession can be done. There is never just one way to succeed.

Mildly appalled that Jeremy Pruitt left FSU after one season for more money at Georgia. He was very good last year and has a bright future. He figured to be a short timer, and destined for a head coaching position, but I am not sure chronically underachieving Georgia helps him in anyway. Never liked Mark Richt either.

Lane Kiffin to Alabama is a very nice move all around. Kiffin is a football junkie and will probably flourish coaching football with a lower profile under Single Voice Saban. He will also provide strong fresh voice in the Alabama family which will have much to do as it develops a new quarterback.

Johnny Football is awesome and I wish him the best as a pro. I think his work ethic has been overlooked in light of his off-field behavior, and my primary concern is that he can remain healthy over the course of an NFL season.

I have not been able to engage myself in college basketball this season. I prefer the NBA game where players do amazing things on a nightly basis. Passion and pride are not enough to overcome bad basketball.

The Dilemma of the Slow Start

Over the last three games, my team could aptly be renamed the Gravediggers as we have conceded starts of 13-1, 15-0 and not to be topped 22-2.  As far as bad habits go, it isn’t good.  We have gone 1-2 during this stretch of play losing by a combined 7 points in the two losses.  It is a strange dilemma begging for a solution.  In all three games, my scouting report of the opponent proved accurate, and as a group we seemed energized and engaged as we left the locker room so what the hell is going on?

There is a difference between general knowledge and enthusiasm, and a lethal combination of both sheathed in execution.  In all three games, the opponents execution on the defensive end was superior to our offensive execution.  While I thought we were solid defensively, turnovers and poor shots on offense limited the possessions in which we were able to set our defense and force them to do more than attack our basket. 

Our biggest offensive impediment was slow and sloppy ball movement.  To a man, we held the ball too long allowing the defense to recover and re-establish it’s shape with each pass, and this was frequently compounded by soft and/or inaccurate passing requiring the recipient to wait for the pass and/or contort himself to catch the ball in such a way that he is not ready to attack the defense on the catch.  Critically, this is not a function of game planning or motivation, but one of technique and positioning.

Obviously passes must be accurate and timely to the receiver, but the receiver must work hard to create a passing angle and show to the ball strong and on balance.  The ball will move faster than any player and connecting a series of quick passes forces the defense to chase and scramble losing it’s shape and exposing it to clean shots.  This requires an aggressive offensive mindset, and five man basketball.  The players need to be focused on good shots over getting themselves involved individually.  If the ball moves freely, everyone will be involved by default.

Ball movement releases pressure because it makes the defense re-orient itself and in doing so creates gaps that can be exploited.  The release of pressure gives players more time to make a good basketball decision, and relieves the temptation to play hero ball.

Tonight, we will strive to move the ball with poise and aggression.

 

 

 

 

 

My Rant on Richard Sherman

At the end of the NFC Championship game, Seahawk corner Richard Sherman made an outstanding play contorting his body in coverage to deflect a ball that would ultimately be intercepted by a teammate to send his team to the Super Bowl.  A great play by the best player at his position in a huge moment.

Sherman is a trash talker, and in the aftermath of the play approached 49er wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, slapping him on the butt and running his mouth.  Crabtree pushes Sherman away with a hand to his face mask.

During a series of progressively more coherent post-game interviews, Sherman accused Crabtree of talking negatively about him during the week, and generally seems to have the incident dismissed as a heat of the moment excess.

I get it.  History is written by the victors, and tonight Sherman is a winner.

Get this.  He is a duechebag.  Watch again what Sherman does as Crabtree pushes him away.  He doesn’t push back, or even run his mouth more as a man might do, but rather immediately looks to the official trailing the play in a pathetic attempt to draw a foul in a game that has already been decided.

This is at best a petty, calculated, but meaningless act of gamesmanship, or at worst a blatant act of cowardice. 

Richard Sherman is an excellent football player, but a fraudulent person.

All In

I was reading Sports Illustrated’s issue commemorating Florida State’s National Championship season, and was struck by the following paragraph quoting senior linebacker, Telvin Smith:

“I used to look at the game and say, ‘I love to play.  I respect the game.  I’m going to play hard every time I’m on the field, but then I turned around and looked at it and said, ‘it’s not just a game to me.  This is everything to me.’  I stepped up my role as a man off the field and started going to class.  I [went to ] tutors.  When you start to line up that type of stuff [off the field], the on-the-field stuff takes care of itself.”

This quote reached me on many levels and affirmed several of my core beliefs.  First,  there is a connection between your conduct and habits off the field and how you perform on the field.  It doesn’t just matter, they are connected.  Being on time, handling your responsibility and managing your time build habits that serve your pursuit of excellence.

Second,  there are far more guys that love the game and play hard when they are on the field than those that give themselves to the game.  The smaller group is the special one.  The game encompasses their life not just the hours of practice and games.  By living the game, they find the difference making capacity of a proper diet, rest, visualization, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the accumulation of skill which is ultimately the difference between good and great.

59 Minutes and 47 Seconds of Misery Followed By Eternal Glory

I turned down offers to watch the game with other people, and as the knot in my stomach tightened as I left basketball practice, it seemed like the right call.  This whole season felt like a perfect game in baseball.  Somewhere in the middle thoughts of wonderment and genuine greatness began to percolate in my mind, but I resisted giving them a voice for fear it would all fall apart as autumn gave way to winter.  The last few weeks, I cheated and had a few discussion about just how perfect this season had been.  It was probably the guilt that ate at me most in the restless hour before kick-off.

The first drive looked about right.  A quick run, a third and 16 pass into field goal range, and three points followed.  Then Auburn dropped a sure touchdown….good, the moment was too big for them. 

Brent Musburger was already grating on my nerves as he has since 1988 when he caused me to spit on my TV during the Kansas/Oklahoma basketball final, and when FSU’s offense went into a five possession coma while Auburn amassed a 21-3 lead, I killed the sound and retired to a bedroom to watch the remainder of the unfolding debacle in dark silence.

Here, among a few other places, is where I diverge in thought from many.  As a fan in a silent dark bedroom 3000 miles from the game, I could do nothing, but anguish in the tumultuous cess pool of my emotions.  Generic cheering interspersed with themes of optimism and positivity, even prayer would have no impact on the game.  From 21-3 on, it was down to the guys on the field who had given of themselves 18-22 years of blood, sweat and dreams to be on that field in that moment.  It is that blood and sweat and those dreams that carried them there, and the lack thereof on my part that put me in the silent dark bedroom.

I was semi-conscious for the fake punt and mildly amused with the late touchdown to make it 21-10 at the half.  The coach in me started talking….another score makes it a one possession game.  The second half started better but was hardly the blitzkrieg befitting an epic comeback.  After fifteen minutes of football it was 21-13.

I was swinging between optimism and a sense of semi-inevitable disappointment.   PJ Williams picks Nick Marshall and Jameis throws a short touchdown to make it 21-19 with a chance to tie.  Then an absolutely absurd unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Devonte Freeman, who was gesturing and apparently talking twenty yards from the nearest player or official.  At that moment of a title game, even verbal threats of homicide absent proximity and action should be overlooked (see of course above where I differ from others).  FSU kicks to make it 21-20, which my tortured mind takes as conclusive proof it’s not going to happen.

Auburn brings this point home with a field goal making it a four point game, but on the ensuing kick-off Kermit Whitfield races 100 yards for the lead.  If I have one regret, it is that I did not have the sound on to hear the moment.  That said, I was laying flat on my back deeply certain Auburn would score in the remaining 4:31, and the only question remaining was whether there would be overtime, or enough time to comeback.

Auburn scored, and FSU came back.  Jameis Winston sloughed off a night of crap to find Rashad Greene for a big gain. From that moment until Winston hit Benjamin with thirteen seconds left my heart pounded violently in my chest.  I felt and heard every beat.  When Tre Mason was brought to the ground after a series of laterals, I got up and turned the sound on.

I spent the next 36 hours trying to process and reconcile what i saw and endured during the game.  This was Florida State’s greatest team and Monday night their finest hour.  Thank you as an alumni for your efforts, your faith and your accomplishments.

What’s Wrong With Blake Bortles?

I coached basketball at Oviedo High School during Blake Bortles time as Lion, and attended regularly attended home football games. Blake stood 6-4 with a lean, muscular build. He threw the ball accurately all over the field, and showed excellent mobility particularly for a player his size. By all accounts, he was an intelligent and thoughtful teammate. My thought at the time was, “this is what a division one quarterback looks like playing high school football.”

I did not know Blake personally though I comprehensively out-played him in the Senior/Faculty basketball game his senior year. I coached his younger brother Colby which requires a quick story. During a JV/ Freshman scrimmage, I was feeling a little gassy. Colby came out of the game, and made the curious decision to take a knee (football-style) on the side of the court. At a robust 6-2, he was positioned in the line of fire for a first rate crop-dusting. This lead to my favorite Colby Bortles quote of all-time, “Pink, you farted in my face!”

I was surprised when I started to hear that school’s were recruiting Blake to play tight end. What was he missing?

He signed with UCF to play quarterback….and was quickly bypassed on the depth chart by fellow freshman, Jeff Godfrey, a 5-8 quarterback from Miami. This was an especially grim scenario given that both players were in the same class, and at 5-8, Godfrey would not be leaving school early to pursue an NFL career. Blake resisted whatever temptation existed to transfer and kept working. Godfrey’s star began to fade, and Blake won the starting job. It’s worth noting that Godfrey briefly left the Knights himself, but returned in the role of wide receiver where he has become a integral part of the Knight’s offense.

Blake Bortles has not looked back. He was a solid season long starter as a sophomore, and this season made the “leap”. He led the Knights to a 12-1 season, a conference title, went 7-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, and took the school their first BCS Bowl. Last night, Bortles passed for 301 yards, ran for 93 and accounted for 4 touchdowns in a 52-42 upset of Baylor, who entered the game as a 17 point favorite.

Blake Bortles is now a legitimate NFL prospect and regarded by some as the second best quarterback in the draft and a possible top 5 pick. There is nothing wrong with Blake Bortles!