Tuesday, January 09, 2007

archaic notions.

In a well-meaning attempt to take the popular view of coaches at all levels of football down a peg, Gregg Easterbrook, unsurprisingly, manages to fuck up several points crucial to his thesis. Here are the six he attempts to prove, with the fuck-ups bolded by me:

• The illusion of control.
• The abdication by politicians and intellectuals of the father-figure role.
• The exaggeration of insider knowledge.
• The illusion of special motivational ability.
• The winner-take-all of modern economics.
• The Walter Mitty daydream (loose translation: the "I could do that" factor)

3, 5, and 6 are all fine with me: there are too many analysts and commentators out there to make the coaches think they have an advantage when the most sly thing done in pro football coaching is the practice of the Hobo and his acolyte in New York doctoring injury reports. You can't be a genius watching games, but there are simple things you can gather, and analysts exist on shows like NFL Live in order to take out the rest of the insider knowledge (never mind newspaper beat writers and the cadre of people writing for Fox Sports and ESPN's web ops). Celebrity-obsessed society demands these men be paid: it's the same thing we do with CEOs and other business titans, but it's silly, and EVERY bastard out there (including me) thinks he could do better than the lunkhead coach on the field in the NFL.

The reason is that it accounts for the fundamental difference in NFL and college ball, which the Tuesday Morning Douchebag doesn't buy: in the pros, you aggregate talent and have to build the system around it, because NFL teams run some very similar systems; it's a conservative league because no one wants to lose his job -- but his "illusion of control" point is destroyed when going to college ball, even though a lot of college ball is the players. Since those players will always be temporal, spending a max of four or five years in your system, the system (and the coach) rules. Part of recruiting is convincing the kid that your system will benefit him in his drive to get to the NFL.

The second bolded point is ridiculous on its face, at least to me: coaches were revered at the college levels (if not as well paid) before politicians took a dive in popularity. Easterbrook then decides to take his shots at Nick Saban, which are the writings of a complete naif:

Saban repeatedly lied about interest in the Alabama job even as his agent was negotiating with the school. And sorry Jason Taylor, "everybody does it" does not justify such deceit. Coaches in big-deal sports are paid huge sums of money in a world of poverty and want, and one rationalization for their pay is that they are supposed to set good examples for the young. What kind of example did Saban set by repeatedly lying in public?

Whose rationalization is that? Part of the reason coaches aren't saints to at least the relatively informed of us is that they can, have, and will be just as temporal as the players, because in the pro and college game, they can be out on their asses long before their contracts have expired. Most Division I-A programs have become amazingly impatient with their coaching hires, and it's a chicken-or-egg question as to whether the programs got impatient before their hires started making millions or not. As for the high school kids they are recruiting, the premise relied on above depends on high school athletes and their parents being naive, thus preserving some sort of "pure" notion of big-time college athletics when the reality is likely anything but. Saban is only known as a sleaze because he left a track record.

A few generations ago, millions looked for life guidance to the examples of public-spirited intellectual figures such as Albert Schweitzer or Upton Sinclair. Today's intellectuals seem arrogant, money-focused and contemptuous of the average person.

I'd argue most of America left behind the concept of the public intellectual for a very nasty brand of anti-intellectualism -- just look at most of our politicians -- and they have more options for their free time, which is increasingly limited. If today's so-called intellectuals have some contempt for the average person, I can't slag 'em too much, and neither can you -- we all have a very low tolerance for stupid, don't we?

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