CoachesPosted: January 1, 2015
A Chance Encounter With Pete Carroll
One Sunday afternoon, a few years ago, I was drinking in a bar on Hermosa Beach (I believe but am not certain it was The Poop Deck) when I saw USC Trojans head football coach Pete Carroll ride by the front door on a bike.
He was with a handsome woman, his wife I guessed, and as they rode along saw somebody they appeared to know. Pete and his wife stopped to talk to him.
From where I was in the dark of the bar, the sunlight in the doorway framed Coach Carroll perfectly, it was like the last shot of The Searchers.
We couldn’t hear what Coach was saying. But watching him talk was mesmerizing. Engaged, upbeat, demonstrative: I couldn’t look away. The whole scene was compelling. Who was this chilled out beach boardwalk motivator? What was his life?
The Inner Game
Some time after that I found a copy of The Inner Game Of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey at my friend’s house. The only times I’ve ever played tennis I embarrassed myself, but I like “inner games,” and reading about tennis, so I read it.
The book blasted my head open.
Here is a very crude summary of Gallwey’s ideas as I understood them: when you do something like play tennis, sometimes you can split into a self that’s doing the actions, and a self that’s observing, judging, intellectually assessing: critical. That second self can easily slip into becoming abusive. You screw up a shot and you’re like “dammit, so STUPID!”
When that happens, Gallwey asks, who is yelling at who? What’s going on here?
This struck me re: writing. (Or really, any creative work.)
You’ve got your creator self, and your critical self. You need them both: all one and you’ll write stream of consciousness garbage, all the other and you’ll never write anything. But how do you get them to work together?
Gallwey says: we will improve (and have more fun) when we get these two selves aligned. When the critical self isn’t pissed at the performing self, but instead simply, non-brutally observes what is happening.
She instilled in me a great curiosity about how the world works, along with an overall sense of optimism and possibility. She used to say: “Something good is just about to happen.” I still believe that today.
For breakfast, he eats two Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies; for lunch, a salad of iceberg lettuce, turkey, and tomatoes. The regular menu, he says, saves him the time of deciding what to eat each day, and speaks to a broader tendency to habituate his behaviors. Saban comes to this system by instinct rather than by adherence to some productivity guru’s system. When I try to engage him in a discussion of the latest research on habit formation, he hits me with a look his assistants call the bug zapper, for its ability to fry all who encounter it; he has no idea what I’m talking about.
The site of the first Father’s Day on July 5, 1908, originally celebrated in honor of the more than 200 fathers lost in the Monongah Mining disaster several months earlier.
The inability to clear the mine of gases transformed the rescue effort into a recovery effort. Only one man, a Hungarian by the name of John Tomko, was rescued from the mine. The official death toll stood at 362, but it is possible the number is much higher since mining companies at the time did not keep accurate records of their workers.
When they were teenagers, an explosion at the mine where Saban’s grandfather worked killed 78. (His grandfather was spared because he was off-shift.) It was a place where you knew not to complain; someone always had it worse.
Big Nick, the son of Croatian immigrants, also had a sense of fairness unusual for the place and the times. He took heat from some locals for treating black customers the same as whites at his Dairy Queen. And when he learned that an African-American player on the Black Diamonds named Kerry Marbury didn’t have a father around, Big Nick took him in. Marbury, who went on to become a star running back at West Virginia, says he was accepted so completely by the Sabans that he was effectively shielded from racism as a child. “I was very confused when I got out in the world and found out how much prejudice there really was,” he tells me.
Marbury and Saban became close friends as kids, and later, each served as the other’s best man. In the ’80s, after football, Marbury was busted for drugs, and went to prison for two and a half years for probation violation. The day he got out of jail, he said, Saban called and sent money to help him get a fresh start. Marbury went on to get his master’s degree and now serves as an administrator of public safety at a small West Virginia university. “I got where I am all as a result of him caring about me when no one else did.”
Respect for the man. Feel he is underserved by his book.
But maybe: that’s the point. Pete Carroll’s book is compelling because it’s about a guy wondering if there’s another way to do this, if he can adapt himself and his mentality to football success. He’s excited by the idea, he tells how he came up with it, and he pulls it off.
The point of Saban’s book might be: there is no secret. There is no trick. Discipline, hard work, drilling things again and again until you can do them the right way, focusing on doing everything right and not on results — it ain’t easy but it’s simple.
Good to think about.
Apologies if I made any football errors in this post, don’t let me fool you into thinking I know shit about the game compared to serious fans. With that said, here’s my picks for the BCS:
Alabama will then play:
who will defeat
(Oregon coach Mark Helfrich doesn’t seem that interesting, although it’s cool he’s from Oregon. Unless this actually is his memoir I don’t think I’ll read it. Can’t say I’m all that curious about Urban Meyer either, although it is interesting that both he and Saban are Catholic. Also interesting that Urban Meyer is the only of these coaches to be coaching his alma mater.
I did take a look at this Kindle book:
where the fact that Saban and Meyer both seem to “enjoy” coaching football or at least hate not doing it is described under the chapter heading “Hedonism.” I don’t think that’s an appropriate word for these mens’ lives.
I’d love to read Jimbo Fisher’s memoir. If I didn’t mishear, once watched him say Jameis Winston’s ability to not worry at all about how he’d been charged with sexual assault was a testament to his character.
Fisher earned the nickname Slim Jimbo because of his affinity for meat snacks. He has mentioned in numerous interviews that he wishes to launch an organic beef jerky company after he retires from coaching. The company would feature jerky made from animals native to both the Deep South and his native West Virginia, such as alligator, muskrat, and wild boar.)
Then at the national championship game on Jan. 12:
Puzzle: given that this is close to a random guess, although I factored in these odds (plus my feeling from reading Saban’s book) what are the odds I picked this right? 12.5%? I could be proven completely wrong in a few hours.)
In the Super Bowl: