Game day: Let’s get it

Game Day

It’s game day. College season begins tonight. Grab a cocktail,* find a comfy chair, and settle in. The season is going to go by faster than you think.

In the interim, check out my column today for the NY Times Fifth Down Blog, about zone blitzing.

* I recommend a Tom Collins or an Old Fashioned, though maybe go easy if you’re not quite in mid-season form.

Tom Collins

  1. ice cubes
  2. 2 oz. dry gin
  3. 2 oz. lemon juice
  4. 1 teaspoon sugar (gomme) syrup
  5. soda water
  6. slice of lemon

Old Fashioned (two recipes, I think every man should know how he likes his)

  1. 2 ounces (60 ml) bourbon
  2. Splash of simple syrup or 1 cube sugar and just enough water to dissolve the sugar
  3. 2 dashes bitters
  4. Old Fashioned glass
  5. Place sugar (or syrup), bitters, and water in old-fashioned glass
  6. Crush sugar if needed and coat glass
  7. Add 2–3 cubes ice and whiskey
  8. Garnish with twist

And an old school version:

  1. Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey glass
  2. Add two dashes Angostura bitters
  3. Add a small piece of ice
  4. Add a piece lemon peel
  5. Add a (1.5 ounces or 44 mL) whiskey
  6. Mix with small bar spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.

Well, that’s one way to approach it

From Harper’s Magazine:

[Editor’s Note:] From a March email by Michael Kinahan, coach of a soccer team for girls aged seven and under in Scituate, Massachusetts, to the children’s parents. After parents complained to league officials, Kinahan resigned, saying in his resignation letter that the email was meant to be “a satire of those who take youth sports too seriously for the wrong reasons.” The email was obtained by the Patriot Ledger.

Congratulations on being selected for Team 7 (forest-green shirts) of the Scituate Soccer Club! My name is Michael, and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to coach what I know will be a wonderful group of young ladies.

Okay, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7” for scheduling and disciplinary purposes. Green Death is not a team but a family (some say cult) that you belong to forever. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer. We have some returning players who know the deal; for the others, I only expect 110 percent at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball, and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull.

Some say soccer at this age is about fun, and I completely agree. I believe, however, that winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the W in each game. Although we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseous), I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. As I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal-liability BS, which included a thirty-minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps and bruises, even bleed a little. Big deal; it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistles. My heckling of the refs actually helps them develop as people. The political-correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth are becoming fat, lazy, and noncompetitive because competition is viewed as “bad.” I argue that competition is crucial to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second-place trophies are nothing to be proud of. They serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Don’t animals eat what they kill? (And yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat—it isn’t grown in plastic wrap.) And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat, and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.


This post is about game planning and play-selection

Suppose first that you wish to cross a river that is spanned by three bridges. (Assume that swimming, wading or boating across are impossible.) The first bridge is known to be safe and free of obstacles; if you try to cross there, you will succeed. The second bridge lies beneath a cliff from which large rocks sometimes fall. The third is inhabited by deadly cobras. Now suppose you wish to rank-order the three bridges with respect to their preferability as crossing-points. Your task here is quite straightforward. The first bridge is obviously best, since it is safest. To rank-order the other two bridges, you require information about their relative levels of danger. If you can study the frequency of rock-falls and the movements of the cobras for awhile, you might be able to calculate that the probability of your being crushed by a rock at the second bridge is 10% and of being struck by a cobra at the third bridge is 20%. Your reasoning here is strictly parametric because neither the rocks nor the cobras are trying to influence your actions, by, for example, concealing their typical patterns of behaviour because they know you are studying them. It is quite obvious what you should do here: cross at the safe bridge. . . .

[Now s]uppose that you are a fugitive of some sort, and waiting on the other side of the river with a gun is your pursuer. She will catch and shoot you, let us suppose, only if she waits at the bridge you try to cross; otherwise, you will escape. As you reason through your choice of bridge, it occurs to you that she is over there trying to anticipate your reasoning. It will seem that, surely, choosing the safe bridge straight away would be a mistake, since that is just where she will expect you, and your chances of death rise to certainty. So perhaps you should risk the rocks, since these odds are much better. But wait … if you can reach this conclusion, your pursuer, who is just as rational and well-informed as you are, can anticipate that you will reach it, and will be waiting for you if you evade the rocks. So perhaps you must take your chances with the cobras; that is what she must least expect. But, then, no … if she expects that you will expect that she will least expect this, then she will most expect it. This dilemma, you realize with dread, is general: you must do what your pursuer least expects; but whatever you most expect her to least expect is automatically what she will most expect. You appear to be trapped in indecision. All that might console you a bit here is that, on the other side of the river, your pursuer is trapped in exactly the same quandary, unable to decide which bridge to wait at because as soon as she imagines committing to one, she will notice that if she can find a best reason to pick a bridge, you can anticipate that same reason and then avoid her.

The above passage is from here. Can you explain in what way this informs play-calling and gameplanning? Here’s an (incomplete) hint.

If Michigan violated limits on practice time, what might the NCAA do?

The Detroit Free Press reported that Rich Rodriguez’s Michigan football program blatantly violated the NCAA’s limits on when and how long players may practice:


Bad news.

The University of Michigan football team consistently has violated NCAA rules governing off-season workouts, in-season demands on players and mandatory summer activities under coach Rich Rodriguez, numerous players told the Free Press.

Players on the 2008 and 2009 teams described training and practice sessions that far exceeded limits set by the NCAA, which governs college athletics. The restrictions are designed to protect players’ well-being, ensure adequate study time and prevent schools from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

The players, who did not want to be identified because they feared repercussions from coaches, said the violations occurred routinely at the direction of Rodriguez’s staff.

“It’s one of those things where you can’t say something,” one current Wolverine said. “If you say something, they’re going to say you’re a lazy person and don’t want to work hard.”

That player was one of six current or former players who gave lengthy, detailed and nearly identical descriptions of the program to the Free Press.

“We know the practice and off-season rules, and we stay within the guidelines,” Rodriguez said in a statement issued Friday to the Free Press. “We follow the rules and have always been completely committed to being compliant with all NCAA rules.”

. . .

The players say they routinely are required to work out or practice many more hours throughout the year than the NCAA allows. They also say members of Rodriguez’s staff have broken rules by monitoring off-season scrimmages.

Rodriguez denies the Free Press’s report, but others are quickly corroborating it. Via twitter, ESPN’s Joe Schad added, “Former Michigan starter tells me he would put in 11-hour days on Sundays (4 hour required is max),” and further that “[a]nother UM player told me he was usually the facility on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The maximum allotment per day is 4 hours.”

Briefly, a word on practice limits. People do not realize it, but major college football teams are allotted less practice time than many high school squads, to say nothing of the 24/7 world of the NFL. In high school, teams have seven-on-seven passing leagues all summer, spring practice, time for two-a-days in the fall, and so on. In college, the NCAA strictly limits when players can work out, when and how long they can use the football facilities, and, most stringently, when coaches can be around. (This partially explains the rise of strength and conditioning coaches, who spend their summers with players and, because they do not focus on football, are allowed greater contact with players in the off-season. Note that I do not claim any great expertise in these matters.)

In any event, the Free Press ominously mentions that “[i]f the NCAA investigates and concludes that U-M willfully and repeatedly broke the rules, the NCAA could find major violations. That could trigger probation, loss of scholarships and loss of practice time.” What penalties, realistically, could Michigan be subject to if the Free Press’s report is ultimately borne out by an investigation (either by the NCAA or done internally)?


On Steve Spurrier’s schematic decline

Over at Dr Saturday, check it out here. Thanks again to the Doc, and be sure to read his excellent take on South Carolina here.

Bill Walsh on USC, Pete Carroll, Oklahoma and Stoops

After USC pasted Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl to win the National Title, Bill Walsh had a little column in the Los Angeles Times. I only remembered this because I happened to be in L.A. that week, and happened to buy a copy (I know, no one buys newspapers anymore). If you want to refresh your memory about what happened in the game, see the video below, but many of Walsh’s comments still resonate years later — and further, all of us are fans on some level.

So much for all the rhetoric that Oklahoma and that part of the country has the best football. . . . The Sooners looked good on their opening drive. But after that, it became obvious that USC was clearly a better football team in every facet of the game — from the coaching to the play-calling to the talent on the field and the confidence that they had.

The Southern Cal players just played smarter, more mature football. Oklahoma came unraveled after about 20 minutes, to the point where it wasn’t really the Oklahoma team we were looking at. The Sooners were a shadow of the team we saw this season.

I give a lot of credit to USC’s coaching staff for that. Pete Carroll is the most dynamic coach in all of football right now. He’s able to motivate men and bring them together, assemble a top coaching staff, and he has so much enthusiasm and energy. He also has incredible knowledge of the game. He’s been one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL, and he’s got a great football mind.

When you combine Pete with what Norm Chow does as USC’s offensive coordinator, it forms the heart of the best coaching staff in college football — and probably the best in all of football.

The best coaches take care of the smallest details. For instance, the slipping and sliding of some of the Oklahoma players was probably due to the wrong cleats on that surface. That’s how the details can kill you. Oklahoma gave away points because their receivers slipped. . . .


My breakdown of USC’s offense through Chow, Kiffin, Sarkisian, etc

My weekly bit is now up at Dr Saturday. Check it out there. And, after the jump, is a video clip I made of some quick game concepts USC used under Chow that got cut from the main article for space reasons.


Get fired up: Wide receiver video from Dub Maddox

Maddox is a coach at Jenks High School in Oklahoma.

A financial crisis bailout for Auburn football?

Auburn might be getting its own reality show, but it has much bigger problems. Colonial Bank, of which Bobby Lowder, Auburn trustee and booster, was CEO, failed, was taken over by the FDIC, and now is being sold by the FDIC to BB&T Bank. Lowder was no ordinary booster: He was the “most powerful booster” in America, and had effectively hired and fired every Auburn football coach (and University president!) since 1983. (As one minor example, Lowder used to use his private jet for recruiting trips.)

Bobby Lowder, Auburn booster

Bobby Lowder, Auburn booster

Indeed, all this was significant enough for the Wall Street Journal to ask the fairly difficult (and fairly silly) question: What Does Colonial Bank’s Failure Mean for Auburn Football? One answer, at least, appears to be a diminished role for Lowder, both in terms of hands-on involvement (probably good) and money (less so):

Lowder founded Colonial in 1981, building it up through 68 acquisitions in five states. For years, Colonial had a coveted franchise, one that attracted suitors, but Lowder repeatedly rebuffed overtures, pushing Colonial to keep growing. In 1983, Gov. George Wallace appointed Lowder to Auburn’s Board of Trustees. In that position, Lowder took particular interest in his alma mater’s football team. He used Colonial’s corporate jet to recruit for the Auburn’s football team, and he was behind the hiring and firing of every Auburn football coach, according to ESPN.

In fact, from those two posts, he was arguably the most powerful person in Alabama, ESPN writes.

That is no longer the case. Lowder was forced out of Colonial last month, and his rule at Auburn seems diminished. Writes Paul Davis of the Opelika-Auburn News:

“It is over. Bobby Lowder’s Colonial Bank is dead, along with his powerful control over Auburn University. That’s terrible news for the thousands of Colonial Bank employees but wonderful news for Auburn University.

“He had personally selected a majority of the board and almost brought the University down before he drove his bank out of business. The high-handed tactics at Auburn brought probation from the Southern Association of College and Schools for his micro-management of the University, for his shutting down academic programs and for stepping out of bounds in hiring and firing Auburn coaches.”

The WSJ even includes a cheeky chart showing Colonial bank’s assets as compared with Auburn’s record. Surprisingly there is a correlation, particularly in 1993 and 1994, when the Tigers finished 4th and 9th, respectively. (Though the numbers are odd, since Colonial’s assets exploded but then shrank rapidly, and didn’t really recover until the housing boom, and we know how that worked out.)

So what do you think? Is Colonial’s bad business bad for the taxpayer, but good for Auburn football? Did we collectively wrest control of the football program away from Lowder by helping shove him out?

Fall from grace: the Charles Rogers story

Reporting by Jemele Hill, hat tip to TNC. Video after the jump.