Coaches

Jaguars at Redskins 9/14/14

Reader Tabitha in Marin County, CA writes:

Always love your writeups on the Super Bowl coaches.  What do you think of Boy Wonder Sean McVay?

Thanks for writing Tabitha!  Most of what little I have to say about Sean McVay I got out on this week’s Great Debates feat. Mina Kimes.  To be honest, much like the Rams themselves, McVay seems to be: good but not interesting.  A sense of his vibe in this NFL.com article by Michael Silver:

As he greeted McVay in a room that would soon be vacated by Demoff, Snead and the other Rams officials present, Goff didn’t know what to expect.

“They left us alone for half an hour, maybe a little longer,” Goff recalls. “Afterward, I remember texting my dad, ‘If they decide to hire him, I’m all in.’ ”

Goff also texted an NFL Network analyst who, nearly a year later, would write a very long feature story about the league’s leading Coach of the Year candidate: “Loved him. Mini Gruden haha. Everything revolves around the QB… If McVay is the guy I’d be fired up”

Full disclosure: A few minutes later, I also got a text from McVay (who, incidentally, is not a huge fan of punctuation): “I loved him bro he is awesome”

This WashPo article compares him to other young leaders (profitlessly imo).

McVay’s grandfather John coached the New York Football Giants in the ’70s.

McVay’s girlfriend is Ukrainian model Veronika Khomyn, but a quick scan of her Instagram reveals no real insights into coaching philosophy.

Gonna give the edge here to Belichick, a special, unique weirdo.  We predict a decisive Patriots win.

Let’s hope both teams control their A. P. E.s

For philosophical consideration of the Super Bowl, we return once again to the remarks of Deadwood creator David Milch on the Super Bowl and Kierkegaard:


Coaches for Super Bowl LI

MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:

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Dear Helytimes,

Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?

So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.

Thanks for writing Abigail!  Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.

This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game.  In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.

This year comes Dan Quinn.

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He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure.  Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz.  Bumper stickers are a theme:

Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)

Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.

Don’t have much more to add.  In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:

We’ll see what happens in Houston.

At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:


Coaches, Part 2: Belichick

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(Part One, about Pete Carroll and Nick Saban’s memoirs, is here)

The most interesting character in this book isn’t Belichick, it’s Ernie Adams.

Ernie Adams

Photo by Stu Rosner from this Northwestern magazine article: http://www.northwestern.edu/magazine/winter2008/feature/adams.html

Ernie Adams, it should be noted, was a coach even before entering Andover.  he had gone to elementary and junior high at the Dexter School, a private school in the Boston area (where John F. Kennedy had gone), and being more passionate about football than the teacher who had been drafted to coach the intramural team there, he had ended up giving that teacher more suggestions than the teacher wanted to hear.  Finally the teacher, in desperation, had turned to Ernie and said, “Well, if you know so much, why don’t you coach?”  That was an offer Ernie Adams could not turn down, and he ended up coaching the Dexter team quite successfully.

At Andover he had already befriended another football-crazed classmate, Evan Bonds, with whom he talked constantly and with whom he diagrammed endless football plays and with whom he jointly did the senior project breaking down and analyzing all of Andover’s plays from the their senior season…

Bonds felt that although his own life revolved completely around football, Adams was already a good deal more advanced in his football obsessions, going off on his own to coaching clinics where everyone else was at least ten years older, collecting every book written by every coach on the game, the more technical the better, and collecting films of important games: “Ernie already had an exceptional football film collection, sixteen-millimeter stuff, the great Packer-Cowboy games, Raiders-Jets, films like that, which he somehow found out about through sports magazines, had sent away for, and for which he had enough primitive equipment that he could show the films,” Bonds said.  “It’s hard to explain just how football crazed we were, but the year before Bill arrived, when we were in the eleventh grade, and it was spring, the two of us went down to Nickerson Field, the old Boston University field, because BU was having an intra-squad spring game.  We were up there in the stands, taking notes, these two seventeen-year-olds – can you believe it? – scouting an intra-squad game at BU on our own, and I still have no earthly idea what we would have done with the notes.  Anyway, pretty soon a BU assistant coach came up looking for us, to find what we were doing, and why we were doing it.  So we said we were from Northeastern, as if that would give us extra legitimacy, and the coach said what we were doing was illegal, and we had to get out then and there.”

And then at Andover arrived young Bill Belichick, doing a post-graduate year, a kind of bonus senior year after graduating from Annapolis High, in the hopes of getting into a better college:

Adams was already as advanced a football junkie as Belichick: he had an exceptional collection of books on coaching, including Football Scouting Methods ($5.00 a copy, published by the Ronald Press of New York City, and featuring jacket quotes from, among others, the legendary Paul Brown: “Scouting is essential to successful football coaching.”), the only book written by one Steve Belichick, assistant coach of the Naval Academy.  The book was not exactly a best seller – the author himself estimated that it sold at most four hundred copies – nor was it filled with juicy, inside tidbits about the private lives of football players.  Instead it was a very serious, very dry description of how to scout an opponent, and, being chockful of diagrams of complicated plays, it was probably bought only by other scouts and the fourteen-year-old Ernie Adams.

That year, just as the first football practice was about to start at Andover, Coach Steve Sorota posted the list of the new players trying out for the varsity, including the usual number of PGS – the list included the name Bill Belichick, and Ernie Adams was thrilled.  That first day Adams looked at the young man with a strip of tape that Belichick on his helmet, and asked if he was from Annapolis, Maryland, and if he was related to the famed writer-coach-scout Steve Belichick, and Bill said yes, he was his son.  Thus were the beginnings of a lifetime friendship and association sown…

..”Because we were such football nerds, it was absolutely amazing that Bill had come to play at Andover, because we were probably the only two people in the entire state of Massachusetts who had read his father’s book,” Bonds said years later.

Adams has more or less been at Belichick’s side ever since, “Belichick’s Belichick,” aside from interludes on Wall Street.  Here’s a good profile on him, with quotes from Andover classmate Buzz Bissinger.  (Apparently Jeb Bush was in that class too).

So you can never really tell what is going on in his head. But I did get Carlisle to call Adams on Monday and ask for his five favorite books, hoping to get a window into the places a man like him goes for inspiration. Here is the list:

  1. “The Best and the Brightest,” by David Halberstam
  2. “The Money Masters of Our Time,” by John Train
  3. Robert Caro’s three-volume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson
  4. Robert Massie’s biography of Peter the Great
  5. William Manchester’s two-part biography of Winston Churchill

Adams also seems to enjoy not only watching greatness work, but also seeing it fail. Carlisle thinks the central message of Halberstam’s Vietnam classic appeals to Adams: that people incredibly well-educated and well-intentioned could be so flat-out wrong about something. It’s a helpful notion to keep in mind about the conventional-wisdom-obsessed world of football, where pedigree and tradition dictate many overly conservative decisions. Indeed, when Adams agreed to participate in Halberstam’s Belichick book, he did so with this caveat: For every two questions the journalist got to ask Adams about football, Adams got to ask one back about Vietnam. Did that trait allow Adams to make sure the mistakes of Belichick in Cleveland were not repeated? Maybe.

Most articles on Adams will include this detail:

When Belichick and Adams were together when the coach was in Cleveland, Browns owner Art Modell once said, “I’ll pay anyone here $10,000 if they can tell me what Ernie Adams does.”

Or:

A few years back, during a team film session, the Patriots players put up a slide of Adams. The caption read: “What does this man do?” Everyone cracked up. But no one knew.

Mysterious, rigorous, intense, scholarly dissection of football — that seems to be the Belichick way.  “Unadorned,” as Halberstam puts it:

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Belichick doesn’t seem like the kind of dude to write a book, least of all a peppy all-purpose motivational paperback like Pete Carroll’s.  This is the closest thing, a kind of biography starting with the arrival of Bill Belichick’s grandparents in America.  They came, like Belichick apprentice Nick Saban’s grandparents and Pete Carroll’s maternal grandparents, from Croatia:

FullSizeRender (1)Bill Belichick grew up in football.  His dad, Steve Belichick, spent the bulk of his career (33 years) as an assistant coach at the Naval Academy.  (As a young guy, a fellow coach advised him to get a tenure-track job as an associate professor of physical education, so he had job security even as eight head coaches passed through.)  Belichick’s mom seems like a great lady — she’d done graduate work in languages at Middlebury, and during the war she translated military maps.  She learned Croatian so she could speak to her in-laws more easily.

Though he never worked at Oakland, Belichick apparently picked up several things from the way Al Davis ran the Raiders:

There were important things that [assistant coach Rich] McCabe told Belichick about the Davis system that would one day serve Belichick well.  The first thing was that Oakland looked only for size and speed.  Their players had to be big and fast.  That was a rule.  If you weren’t big and fast, Oakland wasn’t interested.  The other thing was about the constancy of player evaluation.  Most coaches stopped serious evaluation of their personnel on draft day – they chose their people, and that was that.  But Davis never stopped evaluating his people, what they could do, what you could teach them, and what you couldn’t teach them.  He made his coaches rate the players every day.  Were they improving?  Were they slipping?  Who had practiced well?  Who had gone ahead of whom in practice?  The jobs the starters had were not held in perpetuity.

This is similar to stuff Carroll talks about — everyone is competing every practice.  After a stint in Denver:

That summer [Belichick] came home and visited with his boyhood friend Mark Fredland and told him he had found the key to success: It was in being organized; the more organized you were at all times, the more you knew at every minute what you were doing and why you were doing it, the less time you wasted and the better coach you were.

Halberstam likes Belichick, obviously.  They had become friendly because they both had houses on Nantucket, and Halberstam suggests that the gruff Belichick we see is part presentational strategy:

That persona – the Belichick who had never been young – was one he had either created for the NFL or had evolved because of the game’s needs.  Part of the design was more or less deliberate, and part of it was who he was.  For when he had first entered the League, he had been a young man teaching older men, and he had needed to prove to them he was an authority figure.  Thus, he believed, he had been forced to be more aloof and more authoritarian than most coaches or teachers working their first jobs.

Compare this to the young guy at Wesleyan with his frat brothers, sneaking a case of beer into a showing of Gone With The Wind (why that movie?  even Halberstam is baffled) under his parka.

Belichick

The best parts of this book are about Belichick’s relationship with Bill Parcells, when they were at the Giants.  The biggest issue there was how to handle Lawrence Taylor, who was supremely excellent at football, but semi-out of control on drugs and women, prone to nodding off in meetings though he would somehow intuitively understand what he had to do in complex plays.  A great anecdote — LT has injured his ankle:

So on his own, without telling the coaches, he went to a nearby racetrack and somehow managed to find someone there who was an expert in horse medicine, who had some kind of pill – a horse pill – and he took it and played well.

Belichick’s takeaway from dealing with LT was, apparently, never to bend the rules for anyone.

Parcells and Belichick needed each other, but they weren’t friends exactly:

There was one terrible moment, during a game, when Belichick called a blitz, and Parcells seemed to oppose it.  They went ahead with it and the blitz worked – the other team did what Belichick had expected, not what Parcells had – but Parcells was furious, and over the open microphones in the middle of a game, he let go: “Yeah, you’re a genius, everybody knows it, a goddamn genius, but that’s why you failed as a head coach – that’s why you’ll never be a head coach… some genius.”  It was deeply shocking to everyone who heard it; they were the cruelest words imaginable.

Not true, though.  Belichick got to be head coach at Cleveland, where he didn’t really get on with owner Art Modell or QB Bernie Kosar and had a tough time, going 36-44 there.  Halberstam almost seems to admire how bad/stubborn/unhelpful Belichick was with the media there.

And then he got to New England (taking over for the fired Pete Carroll).

As his friend Ernie Adams said, “The number one criteria for being a genius in this business is to have a great quarterback, and in New England he had one, and in Cleveland he did not.”

The stuff in Halberstam’s book about Belichick’s decision to go with Brady over Drew Bledsoe is pretty great:

But among those most impressed by Belichick’s decision to go with Brady was his father.  Steve Belichick thought it was a very gutsy call, perhaps the most critical call his son had ever made, because the world of coaching is very conservative, and the traditional call would be the conservative one, to go with the more experienced player in so big a game.  The way you were protected if it didn’t work out, because you had gone with tradition and experience, and no one could criticze you.  That was the call most coaches would have made, he said, under the CYA or Cover Your Ass theory of coaching. Many of his old friends disagreed with what his sone was doing, he knew, but he was comfortable with it himself.  When friends who were puzzled called him about it, he told them that Bill was right in what he was doing.  “He’s the smart one in the family, and I’m the dumb one,” he would say.

Steve Belichick

Brady seems like he earned it, surely, and he had the special thing Belichick needed:

There were some quarterbacks who were very smart, who knew the playbook cold, but who were not kinetic wonders, and could not make the instaneous read.  That was the rarest of abilities, the so-called Montana Factor: the eye perceiving, and then even as the eye perceives, transferring the signal, eye to brain, and then in the same instant, making the additional transfer from brain to the requisite muscles.  The NFL was filled with coaches with weak arms themselves, who could see things quickly on the field but who were doomed to work with quarterbacks who had great arms, but whose ability to read the defense was less impressive.  What Brady might have, they began to suspect, was that marvelous ability that sets the truly great athletes apart from the very good ones.  Or as one of the assistants said, it was like having Belichick himself out there if only Belichick had had a great arm.  In the 2001 training camp Brady would come off the field after an offensive series, and Belichick would question him about each play, and it was quite remarkable: Brady would be able to tell his coach what every receiver was doing on each play, what the defensive backs were doing, and explain why he had chosen to throw where he had.  It was as if there were a camera secreted away in his brain.  Afterward, Belichick would go back and run the film on those same plays and would find that everything Brady had said was borne out by the film.

There’s no secret in this book.  Belichick is obsessed with analyzing football, has been since he was at least seventeen, probably younger.  Even with that intensity it took luck and circumstance to get him five Super Bowl rings.  A lesson from the coaching careers of Carroll and Belichick might be perseverance, but I don’t think that’s even the word for this — it’s not like it’s any kind of choice with these guys, it’s nature.

I read one other Halberstam sports book a few years ago, The Amateurs, about Harvard rowing.  The theme of that book is similar: obsessive characters irresistibly driven, almost forced by their nature to be completely devoted, single-minded, unrelenting.  There was no end of it.  “The kind of guys whose idea of a day off is to drive up to New Hampshire and cross-country ski until you couldn’t stand up,” as a rowing coach put it.

The Amatuers

Most of us (me) aren’t this kind of guy, certainly not about football or rowing.  The compelling thing about the Pete Carroll book is that he seems semi-human.  He seems to find joy and fun in this pursuit.  Not that he’s any less competitive than Belichick, and who knows what eats him up in private.  But he can explain what he’s doing to others in a way that seems born out of enthusiasm and positivity rather than just some incomprehensible inner nature. Just being willing to try to explain it is something.

That’s not typical:

“Don’t do it, don’t go into coaching,” the famed Bear Bryant had counseled young acolytes who were thinking of following him into the profession, “unless you absolutely can’t live without it.”

There was a constant loneliness to the job, a sense that no one else understood the pressures you faced.  Each year, before the season began, Belichick would tell his team that no one else would understand the pressure on them, not even the closest members of their families.  The person in football who knew him best and longest, Ernie Adams, thought Belichick had remained remarkably true to the person he had been as a young man.  Adams was a serious amateur historian, and he was not a coach who threw the word “warrior” around to describe football players, because they were football players, not warriors, and the other side did not carry Kalashnikovs.  Nonetheless, he thought the intensity under which the game was now played and the degree to which that intensity separated players and coaches from everyone else, even those dear to them, was, in some way, like combat, in that you simply could not explain it to anyone who had not actually participated.  It was not a profession that offered a lot in the way of tranquility.  “My wife has a question she asked me every year for ten years,” Bill Parcells said back in 1993 when he was still married, “and she always worded it the same way: ‘Explain to me why you must continue to do this.  Because the times when you are happy are so few.’  She has no concept.”

(A good roundup of Belichick stories here.)  


Coaches

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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.  

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?

Inner Game

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.

When that happens, you enter a harmony.
You find your performance self makes adjustments unconsciously.
You don’t overtighten.  You find a flow.
’70s California New Age to the max, but it struck me. I told my friend how into this book I was.  He told me Peter Carroll had given a copy to every player on the Seattle Seahawks.
Here is Marshawn Lynch telling Coach Carroll he just read it:
That year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
That’s it, I thought, I’ve got to know everything about sunny, tripped out, California Zen NFL head coach Pete Carroll, so I went and bought his book Win Forever.
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Win Forever
What’s most amazing to me about Pete Carroll is that he’s cheerful.  He’s optimistic.  Don’t take my word for it.  Talking about his mother Carroll says:
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.
This seemed to me to be a kind of new attitude in a football coach.  Again, no expert on football history.  But what other successful coach is as chipper as Pete Carroll?  I like that in him, because I’m cheerful myself.  Remember that Jesus Christ himself told his followers “in this world ye will have tribulation, but be of good cheer.”
This is not the most popular Bible verse in New England.  Pete Carroll’s deal did not fly there, he did not succeed at the Patriots.  Maybe he has to be in a sunny climate.  Or barring that: in the weed-legal, interesting thinking, Jimi Hendrix country of Seattle.
His biggest inspiration, I think he’d agree, is John Wooden of UCLA:
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Look who else he’s into:
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“That cool reply stuck in my head.”  And, of course:
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Pete Carroll says that after his lack of success with the Patriots, he realized he wouldn’t succeed unless he found a system that was in line with his attitudes and values.  Once he found that, once he had a philosophy so clear he could write it up in under 25 words, he would “win forever.”
Now, I am not sure I understand all parts of Pete Carroll’s system:
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But there’s a lot in this book that made sense to me.  On language:
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Negative “self-talk”:

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He believes his main job is “orchestrating a mentality”:
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The Pete Carroll mentality is: positivity and confidence.
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Now, I do not know everything about Pete Carroll.  At Helytimes we don’t traffic in rumors.  But I dug this book, a voice with a clear vision rang through to me, and I understood it.
Coach Satan
I knew that people hated Nick Saban, but I didn’t really follow why (except that he kept winning).  My view may have been tainted by too much exposure to Auburn fans.
If you don’t know much about Nick Saban, I recommend this GQ profile by Warren St. John, which I found well-written, apparently fair, and full of the kind of detail about food habits I want in my profiles:
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.
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Weirdly I read this only after I read Nick Saban’s book.
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Compared to Win Forever, this book is garbage.
Even the physical size of it is wrong.
Large parts of it appear to be pasted together out of generic clippings from a folder marked “Inspirational”:
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What?  Or:
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This part I was like “what are you talking about Nick Saban?”:
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For a guy who’s determined to achieve excellence, I can only imagine that Nick Saban didn’t consider book writing to be a field truly worthy of his effort.  One way or another, he is responsible for a not good book.  That’s either lacking off, disrespect for the reader, incompetence/inability to assess how good a book is, or just inattention.  None of those are excusable.
That may seem harsh, but the way Nick Saban talks in this book, I assume he would expect nothing less:
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To offer an example that seems to tell you what kind of judgment Nick Saban has about values and standards, these are two companies he cites as excellent.  Both these companies have to be acknowledged to be “good,” I guess, at business, but do you like either Starbucks or Delta?:
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When people say Nick Saban is the devil, which they do, I think they mean it in the same way you might say Starbucks is the devil.
Meaning: sure, it does its mission, of giving people  a stimulant effectively.  That’s cool, I guess, but at what cost does it do it?  Does it do it with no soul, no integrity, no humanity?
What kind of soulless robot looks for examples of success and comes up with Starbucks and Delta Airlines?
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Nick Saban has a harsh, stern mentality.  Can we be surprised?  Nick Saban is from Fairmont, West Virginia. Here’s something Wikipedia says about that town:
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.
About that disaster:
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.
Here is a list of everyone who died, organized by ethnicity, including Slavish and Negro.  That monument to the disaster, pictured above in a photo from Wikipedia, is, I believe, in Italy.  (Saban is Croatian).
But that’s not all, Warren St. John reminds us:
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.
Perhaps more challenging than Pete Carroll’s boyhood in Marin County, groovin’ out to the Grateful Dead with his mom always reminding him something terrific was about to happen.  A student athlete at Kent State (after a tough decision not to go the US Naval Academy) Nick Saban just missed witnessing the 1970 massacre by the National Guard (an event I have to say he seems to describe with great balance and genuine reflection).
The hard edge of Saban’s book doesn’t mean it’s not full of wisdom.  For whatever reason this hit me:
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(Whether working out in writing my thoughts about two football coach memoirs is “spending” or “investing” I can’t say for sure but I tend to think the latter.)
This part of Nick Saban’s book seemed to sum it up in flinty style:
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That was the part of the book that rang truest to me.  It seemed like one of the few times when I was hearing the real guy.
And I have no question that this real guy deserves a tremendous amount of my respect.   Nick Saban struck me as an extremely  tough coach.  I bet he nodded along to JK Simmons speech in Whiplash.
Lord knows what it’s like to have him as your dad:
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But tally it all up.  Those kids of his are adopted, a fact I think I learned from the article, not the book.  People with adopted kids are heroes.  An example he got from his dad, maybe, whom Saban describes throughout his book as the big influence in his life.  St. John again:

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:

crimson tide

will defeat:

Ohio State

Alabama will then play:

oregon

who will defeat

noles

(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:

Crystal Magnates

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:

oregon

will defeat crimson tide

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:

Pat P

 will defeat
seahawks
(Puzzle Two: what’s the probability of just randomly picking this one right?  
What about the probability if you weight it with these odds?  
Any math whizzes who submit a right-seeming guest to helphely at gmail will receive a Helytimes tote bag). 

Coaching Matchup: Super Bowl LII

Beginning with a 2015 look at the positivist philosophies of Pete Carroll , we’ve written some on top-level football coaches and coaching philosophy here at Helytimes.

Our Reader found less charm in Nick Saban’s book:

but did learn what Nick Saban eats for breakfast.

The Super Bowl matchup between Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak proved one of the least charismatic coaching duels in memory but Our Correspondent found some points of interest in Rivera’s Control Your APE philosophy

King of Coaches is Bill Belichick.  We reviewed the best book on him back in 2015.

Last year’s Dan Quinn / Belichick matchup provided a political contrast, noted by Our Correspondent.

Jan 19, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles new head coach Doug Pederson is introduced to the media at the NovaCare Complex . Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This year Belichick faces goofball Doug Pederson, who once had his jaw broken while playing as Brett Favre’s backup:

Pederson never started a game with the Packers and threw for only three touchdowns in his seven seasons. Two of them came against the Vikings on Oct. 5, 1998, when he replaced Favre in a blowout loss. On the second of his two touchdown passes, Pederson suffered a broken jaw thanks to a hit from corner Corey Fuller.

He would need his jaw wired shut after the game, but he still took the field for the next play because he was Longwell’s holder on extra points.

“He kind of mumbled, ‘Something’s wrong with my jaw,’ but he got the hold down, and we made the kick,” Longwell said.

so reports Rob Demovsky at ESPN.

Can’t find too much of interest in the Doug Pederson literature, but I do think it’s cool that ten years ago he was coaching high school:

The former Louisiana Monroe graduate retired in March of 2005 and accepted a job as head football coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La., which has 900 students in the K-12 school.

“I thoroughly love it,” Pederson said. “I get a chance to share my faith with these guys and teach them things on and off the field.”

(from this Packers.com story by Jeff Fedotin)

Good luck to both coaches!


Control Your APE

Reader Kayla in Colorado writes,

Enjoyed your take on Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll last year.  Would love your read on this year’s Super Bowl vis a vis coaches (Kubiak vs. Rivera)

Thanks for writing Kayla!  As should be noted, I don’t know much about football but I’m interested in coaches and coaching philosophies.  So let’s take a look at Super Bowl Fifty: The Coaches.

In this year’s Super Bowl L, we have Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers:

Ron Rivera

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

against the Broncos’ Gary Kubiak:

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 29: Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wasn't happy when the team had to call a timeout on defense in the second quarter of the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Thursday, September 3, 2015. (Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO – AUGUST 29: Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t happy when the team had to call a timeout on defense in the second quarter of the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Thursday, September 3, 2015. (Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

Neither of them has written a book, nor have their personal philosophies been as parsed and examined as those of Belichick and Carroll.  Still, from what we have available let’s take a look.

Ron Rivera was born on Fort Ord, right here in California, and he went to Seaside High in Monterey.

Fort Ord

Fort Ord

Fort Ord

His dad was a Puerto Rican born Army officer and his mom is Mexican.  He’s not the first Hispanic head coach in the Super Bowl, though – that honor goes to Tom Flores of the Raiders:

Every week during team meetings, the 56-year-old Rivera chooses one pivotal play from the previous week’s game and plays the Spanish broadcast version for his players. Most don’t have a clue what the broadcasters are screaming about, but they holler in delight upon hearing the call.

So says this article in Citizen-Times.  Everyone seems to agree Rivera is a decent, focused dude.

“On one side I’m getting a strong and deep sense of family, tradition and culture,” he says. “On the other side I’m getting this discipline and pride that you get growing up and living on Army bases.”

He won a Super Bowl himself with the ’85 Bears, a game I myself watched with disappointment during, if I remember right, a snowstorm.

He could’ve been in the famous “Super Bowl Shuffle” video but missed his chance:

Rivera could have been a part of the video, and gone down in music video (and YouTube) history, but he chose to sleep in instead.
“Half the team showed up for it,” Rivera said. “Half stayed home and slept because it was a Monday night game. We didn’t get home until 4:30-5 o’clock in the morning.”
So says Fox 46 in Charlotte.  Here’s the closest thing I can find to a coaching philosophy for Rivera, from this article on Fox News Latino:
Pulling up his weekly presentations to the team, Rivera showed me how every one of them starts with a slide that says “Control Your A.P.E – Attitude, Preparation, Effort.” This emphasis on self-empowerment and responsibility has created a team culture of positive attitude, intense preparation and maximum effort.

On to Denver:

Gary Kubiak:

Amazingly, Gary Kubiak seems even less interesting.  He once had a Transient Ischemic Attack on the field during a game:
It’s only his first year as Broncos head coach — the last time he was head coach, of the Texans in 2013, he was fired in mid-season.
Maybe the most interesting angle to look at Gary Kubiak psychologically is that for most of his career, he was John Elway’s backup:
Gary Kub with Elway

Photo by Eric Lars Bakke, AP

That’s the perspective behind this article, “Gary Kubiak and the Tao Of the Backup Quarterback” by Footbyballs over on SI’s The Cauldron.

As a backup Kubiak was on the sidelines for three Super Bowl losses.  (He also won three as an assistant coach for the Broncos and 49ers).  Elway as GM/EVP of the Broncos is still Kubiak’s boss.

Says Footyballs:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Gary Kubiak is a Broncos’ franchise cornerstone. He played out his quarterback career. He did his job, stayed ready, and waited. Now, it’s his team to lead. The Broncos are doing just fine with the professional backup in charge, uneven seas and all. Maybe he’ll have a third career, as a writer, in which he gathers all his accumulated wisdom into a book of sorts. He could call it “Precepts of the Tao of the Backup Quarterback.”

I would definitely read that.

The more dynamic coach on the Broncos might be defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, himself a former head coach

wade

and the son of NFL coach Bum Phillips:

Bud Phillips

can’t find source

whose Quotes section on his wiki page is worth a look:

  • (20 years after playing Pittsburgh six times in two seasons) “Don’t take long to spend all the time you want in Pittsburgh.”[7]
  • (referring to Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula) “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”[8] He also said the same line about Bear Bryant.[9]
  • (referring to Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon) “That boy could throw a football through a car wash and not get it wet.”
  • (when asked about Oilers RB Earl Campbell’s inability to finish a one-mile run in training camp) “When it’s first and a mile, I won’t give it to him.”
  • (when asked by Bob Costas why he took his wife on all of the Oilers’ road trips) “Because she’s too ugly to kiss goodbye.”[10]

Here’s a little trivia coworker Zack calls to my attention: who did both Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak replace when they took over their current job?

Answer?:

NFL coaches play nice with 326th AS crew

John Fox

All things considered, this doesn’t seem like nearly the coaching duel of last year.

I give the psychological edge here to Rivera, and predict based on my patented Coaching Analysis System the Panthers will defeat the Broncos (and cover the six point spread).

As you can see here, my system has me at 1/3 total, but 1/1 on Super Bowls.

X factor: very possible the NFL rigs the game so Peyton wins.

Summer

Summer

Wait!  You can’t be shut down for summer!  I need my Helytimes!

writes reader Melanie in Nashville.  Aw, thanks!  Don’t worry, there’s tons to read… in the archive!

long room

There have been over 560 posts on Helytimes.  Here are the ten most popular:

1) Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot

Off the charts most popular post, because of people googling supposed inspiration/John Belushi partyfriend Cathy Smith

2) Great Debates

Those’ll keep coming over the summer!  

3) Cinderella and Interrogation Technique

Disney + Nazis will bring ’em in. 

4) The Story Of Cahokia

A personal passion

5) What was up with European witch trials?

Feel like this is my wheelhouse, summarizing dense history of the general reader, but it’s a lot of work to write posts like this. 

6) Ships’ Cats

I mean, for Convoy alone. 

7) Karl Ove Knausgaard

The “it man” of Norwegian literature! 

8) Finis Mitchell

Just a real great story.  

9) Losing The War by Lee Sandlin

This blew my mind, some of the best writing I’ve ever read on WWII. 

10) Coaches, parts 1 and 2.

About Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, and Bill Belichick

Now, here are just some personal favorites:

– Record Group 80: Series: General Photographic File Of the Department of the Navy, 1943-1958

Almonds and Water

Everything is Something

Fitzhugh Lane

O’Donoghue’s Opera

– Marc Isambard Brunel

Here’s stuff related to a current project:

The Conquest Of New Spain by Bernal Diaz

Tenochtitlan

Wade Davis

– Breaking The Maya Code

Here is some backstory on Donald Trump, lately in the news:

You can also browse yourself by category.  Probably the deepest holes are

America Since 1945

The California Condition

Music

– Painting and Art

See you later!


Conversational fodder for your Super Bowl party

Throwback to an old classic.  Milch spins Super Bowl –> Kierkegaard.  Starts around 0:41, meanders away by 3:40, pretty interesting again by 9:20 or so.

Good luck to both the Seahawks and the Patriots in returning to the spirit which gave them rise.  Stand by my Super Bowl pick.


Everything is something.

IMG_7241The bartender, a friend of my cousin’s, said that the drive from Fort Davis to Balmorhea – forty miles or so – was “some of the prettiest state highway driving in all of Texas.”

Sold, obvs.

IMG_7309

I don’t think my pictures do justice to the Wild Rose Pass.  In fact, I know they don’t.

IMG_7290

I was distracted listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, which I’d never listened to:

I would say “Atlantic City” is my favorite song on this album.  I was never super-into Bruce Springsteen.  But: respect:

Initially, Springsteen recorded demos for the album at his home with a 4-trackcassette recorder. The demos were sparse…

Springsteen then recorded the album in a studio with the E Street Band. However, he and the producers and engineers working with him felt that a raw, haunted folk essence present on the home tapes was lacking in the band treatments, and so they ultimately decided to release the demo version as the final album.

Complications with mastering of the tapes ensued because of low recording volume, but the problem was overcome with sophisticated noise reduction techniques.

“Nebraska” itself is an interesting song, about Charlie Starkweather:

The song begins with Starkweather meeting Fugate:

I saw her standin’ on her front lawn just a-twirlin’ her baton
Me and her went for a ride, sir…and 10 innocent people died

Springsteen was inspired to write the song after seeing Terrence Malick’s movie Badlands on television. The portrait in the opening lines of the girl standing on her front lawn twirling her baton was taken from the movie.

Starkweather himself was [supposedly] influenced by James Dean:

After viewing the film Rebel Without a Cause, Starkweather developed a James Dean fixation and began to groom his hairstyle and dress himself to look like Dean. Starkweather related to Dean’s rebellious screen persona, believing that he had found a kindred spirit of sorts, someone who had suffered torment similar to his own whom he could admire.

Charlie Starweather killed eleven people.  Ban movies, I guess.

Fort Davis:

IMG_7276

From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and the Chihuahua Trail …

During the Civil War,Confederate States Army troops manned the fort which was attacked on August 9, 1861 by MescaleroApaches. The native warriors attacked the garrison’s livestock herd, killed two guards and made off with about 100 horses and or cattle.

At Fort Davis they have an audio program, where they play announcements of the sort that would’ve been heard on the parade ground, years ago.  The day I was there the audio program was a list of ceremonies and salutes to acknowledge the death of former president Andrew Johnson.  Gun salutes every hour, and then at sundown.

In the reconstructed barracks, I came upon some National Park Service Personnel discussing the site, and the reproductions they’d used of guns and quilts and so forth.  They got quiet and respectful when I came in, and said if I had any questions they would answer them.  Then they got back to joking about how someday someone would sell the reproduced guns on eBay as “authentic!  from Fort Davis!”

IMG_7272

A poignant obituary:

IMG_7266

At lunch a guy came up to me and mistook me for Dave.  “You look just like Dave  – in profile!”

IMG_7268

A house I saw in Balmorhea.  I sat right down in the middle of the road to take a picture of it.

IMG_7284

In Balmorhea there’s a spring:

Between 20 million and 28 million US gallons (90,850 cubic meters) of water a day flow from the springs.

That’s crazy.

There was a sign nearby offering snorkel rental:

The cienega now serves as a habitat for endangered fish such as the Comanche Springs pupfish and Pecos gambusia as well as other aquatic life, birds and other animals.

I did not take a picture, because you can’t take a picture of everything.  But here’s one from the Texas Parks Department:

Balmorhea_HDR_0881

Later a friend of mine described the drive from Marfa to Austin, seven hours away.

“The first time I did it,” he said,  “I was bored because I thought it was nothing.  But then, as I got used to it, I realized everything is something.”

IMG_7264

In Fort Davis I wanted to visit the rattlesnake and reptile museum.  I walked in, and there was no one there.  So I walked around.  A Spanish language radio station was playing.  Then, as I was leaving, I realized it cost $4.  I only had two singles or a twenty.  I debated what to do.  I left the two dollars, and figured that was good enough since no one had been there to explain the various lizards and scorpions anyway.

But then, driving out of town, I thought, “Steve, you know better.  This man went to all the trouble of collecting these snakes.  All he asks is four dollars.”  In my heart I knew it was right.  So I got change and went back.  The snake man was there this time, and he thanked me for my honesty.  He’d been watching my car the whole time, he said.