What I’ve been reading

Football Scouting Methods, by Steve Belichick. For a long time, this widely revered tome by Steve Belichick, Bill’s dad, was out of print — and so I never read it. But I recently realized that it had been re-released and thus the price came down from its prior astronomical levels to the very affordable $10. One of the Amazon reviewers helpfully includes the table of contents for curious readers:

1. A case for specialization in scouting
2. Preparations for scouting
3. What is expected of the scout
4. Worksheet forms and terminology
5. How to recognize the defense
6. Scouting the defense
7. Defensive analysis
8. Scouting the offense
9. Offensive analysis
10. The final report
11. Self-scouting and post game analysis
12. Tip offs

Surreptitiously filming your opponents red zone plays is, to my knowledge, not covered, but hopefully the wisdom herein will trickle into my writing here on the site.

More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite, by Sebastian Mallaby. First things first: Mallaby, who is a former writer for the Economist and whose prior book, The World’s Banker: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations (about Jim Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president), was excellent, has written a full-throated defense of hedge funds and hedge fund managers — a rather unique topic in today’s climate. But whatever your views on this “new elite,” Mallaby’s book is extremely informative and entertaining, as, unsurprisingly, the history of hedge funds is filled with quixotic characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this, even if, at the end, while the financial world was crumbling as a result of the risk taking of many, Mallaby’s book becomes something of a thriller where we wait to see if various hedge funds will blow up or survive. The fact that he can overcome such oddities is a testament to Mallaby’s formidable writing skills. For a sample chapter, check out this piece from the Atlantic, covering George Soros’s successful effort to break the British pound.

Hitch-22: A Memoir, by Christopher Hitchens. I have a very soft spot for Hitch, as his rhetorical prowess is such that he could say basically anything and, because it sounds so good and is said so well, you fall in for it, even if just a bit. (And sometimes you wonder if he doesn’t set himself up that way on purpose.) But when he’s on your side, there are few better or more forceful advocates. Hitch-22: A Memoir — which is not a memoir at all, but is instead just a roughly chronological series of stories Mr. Hitchens has chosen to tell about himself and his famous friends — is fun, pungent, and elegantly written; a perfect beach read for the Fourth of July, when I read it. It doesn’t do much to explain the man (or maybe it does?), but Hitchens has always been less about bracing complexity for complexity’s sake than acknowledging it (which alone differentiates him from many commentators), then choosing a side (thus differentiating him from the rest), and asserting the moral high ground until you concede or his position is no longer remotely tenable. A sample chapter on his friendship with Martin Amis is available from Vanity Fair.

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic, by Joseph Ellis. Ellis is maybe my favorite storyteller/historian on American History (there are historians and storytellers, and for some reason with American History few successfully manage both roles). Ellis charts early American history — post revolutionary war, in particular — through the men that made it and it made famous, though without deifying them in the process. A great text to help fill in the gaps and to give some much needed perspective on a now much discussed time.

  • Chris, your first “Football Scouting Methods” Amazon link is broken.

    It looks like an amazing resource for coaches.

  • Should be fixed now. Thanks for the heads up.

  • EasyRider

    I actually just ordered the Belichick book and received it yesterday. It does seem like a great resource on methods, but the only issue seems to be that it’s outdated. Most of the defenses are based on a 5 or 6 man front. This is probably a pipe dream, but I’d love to see a new edition augmented by someone familiar with his methods, say his son? I believe his thought process is applicable through time but a more practical updating with the new complex coverages and spread formations and what not.

  • Ha – great review of Hitch’s new book. I’d plan on getting it, too.

  • Eric Burke

    Belichick’s book is a great reference. The only negative I put on it is that you have to cut through all the superfluous language to get to the meat. Could be more concise. Otherwise there are great ideas in there that still apply today.

  • Bobby

    I think you’ve got Jim Wolfensohn confused with Paul Wolfowitz. Jim preceded Paul as President of the World Bank. Jim was appointed by Clinton, while Paul was appointed near the end of the Bush administration.

    The World’s Banker is about Jim, who was a popular WB president. Paul, while successful implementing anti-corruption measures, was not a popular WB president simply because the bank employees couldn’t get over the fact that he was the primary architect of the Iraq Invasion while serving as Deputy Sec. of Defense under Rumsfeld and is the face of the so-called “neocon cabal.”

    Extremely minor point; however, it just happens to be something in which I’m interested. Love your site.

  • Kevin

    I read the scouting book. I have adapted some sheets from that book and we them when breaking down film…some in the box during the game we are playing. I agree with the poster about getting to the meat, but the details are interesting too. If you can’t take something away from that book that you use, you shouldn’t be coaching now.

  • Ted Seay

    Chris: >while the financial world was crumbling as a result of the risk taking of many

    …not to mention the absurd and inevitably inflationary policies of the Fed, which started printing money like it was going out of style during the post-9/11 recession and has, if anything, increased its breakneck pace since then…

  • I have to agree with Eric Burke, the ideas in Football Scouting Methods are great, but Belichick was a much better coach than author. Still, the organization and detail of it all is good stuff. I’m about 3/4 of the way through it and am looking forward to applying it to the coming season.

  • WOHBuckeye

    The Hitchens memoir is really good, though I prefer his essays to his books. Sad given the timing of his memoir and his bout with esophageal cancer, which is a very low survival rate.

  • Paul

    I read Steve Belichick’s book about 3 months ago. I thought it was conceptually great in describing how to organize information. The offenses and defenses were different, but the challenge of collecting and organizing information remains……

  • Mark

    Joseph Ellis is an American treasure for our history. If you enjoy this, I highly, highly recommend American Sphinx, in which Ellis finds incongruities and contradictions in the character of Thomas Jefferson (i.e. descrying slavery and yet owning over 200 himself, praising the pastoral lifestyle despite it driving him deeply into debt, etc)

    Love the blog, keep it up!

  • scott

    a full fledged defense of hedge funds is a revolting concept. tool.

  • scott

    maybe you guys can find a book on ethics. all the fine things in life, like football, are no fun when your soul is rotten.

    Y’all found a great football blog, though.

  • scott

    don’t forget to pick up stock in enron.

    hasn’t anyone figured out a way to privatize peoples thoughts yet? is it too soon, y’all still trying to figure out how to get away with con jobs rather than earning a living respectfully?

    there are plenty of enrons out there if y’all wish, but it takes a lot more intelligence and courage to make money ethically. just think about it.