Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Insanity: The "I Played Football So I Know" Factor

As an addendum to my previous post, I recently listened to an exchange with Trent Dilfer and Merril Hoge about the Titans Terrible Towel Incident.

It is absolutely no surprise that the former players joined in on the "it gives the Steelers extra motivation" parade. And of course, their experiences as NFL players give them examples that they can draw from that prove this point.

Dilfer yammered on about how a team is supposed to win with class. Yep, the same Trent Dilfer who was on that tremendously classy 2000 Ravens Super Bowl squad where Brian Billick uttered those famous thought-he-was-off-camera remarks, "Fuck the Titans," after their playoff win in Nashville. The same Billick who was also caught on camera saying, "Fuck you," to the Titans sideline after a Jamal Lewis TD. The same lawless Ravens with Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis. The same one with Shannon Sharpe talking shit after every game.

I would also add that before that particular playoff game, the Titans' fans were treated to a pre-game video, here documented by the Baltimore Sun:

A pre-game video galvanized the Ravens and backfired on the Titans.

As the teams prepared for the opening kickoff, the Titans' video board showed Ravens coach Brian Billick making several statements about the Titans. None was inflammatory or derogatory, but the Ravens became incensed at the obvious motivational ploy.

"It kind of fed into our game plan," said quarterback Trent Dilfer. "We wanted this game to be a fistfight. We didn't want flash and glitz. We wanted this to be a straight-out street brawl.

"When they did that, that's what it became. You saw smiles on our sideline, because everybody recognized this is going to be a fistfight, this is going to be a brawl. This is old-school, 1940s football, and we feel very comfortable with that style."

Billick said the video was "totally classless" and emphasized that he had said only complimentary things about the Titans last week. "It was a great motivator," he said. "I went up and down that sideline and said, `Guys, you've got to back me up.' Every single one of them came and hugged me after the game. They said, `Coach, we've got your backside.' "

Billick exonerated Titans coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Floyd Reese and President Jeff Diamond from blame in the affair.

"I've known them for years, and they're class guys," Billick said. "There's no way anyone could ever convince me that they know about that. I'll be very, very surprised if they're not upset about that as much as I am."

Fisher's response: "They went down 7-0. I don't think the video had anything to do with it. It wasn't my video."
I remember one quote that was in that video, it was after the 24-23 win the Ravens had in the regular season over the Titans. The Titans were on the Sports Illustrated cover that week and with the "best team in the NFL" curse-like statement SI is known for. Billick held up this issue after the game and said, "Maybe they are...but not today." I don't think you can blame anyone for showing this clip before a game. It gets the fans excited, hopefully your team excited, but extra motivation? Hardly.

There are a lot of interesting things about that 24-10 Ravens win that day. As you can see, even then Dilfer was spouting nonsense about "feeding into our game plan," and whatnot. The Ravens, on offense, were limited to 6 first downs and 134 yards. Even if you can argue that the Ravens defense was motivated (they did, after all, block a field goal and returned an interception for touchdowns in the 4th quarter, the difference in the game...which I will turn around and say, "What took them so long?"), what kind of bullshit is Trent Dilfer talking about? His offense didn't do anything that proves his point.

You'll see, also, Fisher doesn't exactly buy all this "extra motivation" stuff either. What I feel like, and probably Fisher does too, is that once the game begins, you forget all this stupid stuff and play the game. You need to think about your assignments and your playbook.

Merril Hoge then discussed his experience with extra motivation, citing the 1989 season with the Steelers. The Oilers had beaten the Steelers twice that year, and apparently Oilers coach Jerry Glanville rubbed it in their faces. So Hoge, with absolute clarity and definitiveness, remembers how the Steelers beat the Oilers in the playoffs that same year, clearly possessed by the lack of respect the Oilers showed them. Ummm...does a 26-23 OT win justify this reasoning?

It's like this (in as random a way as possible):

I say, "The Steelers are going to win this game because they drink Gator-Aid."

Then, the Titans come out to a 17-0 lead. They command the game for 3 1/2 quarters, allowing only two field goals. Then the Titans shank a punt and give the Steelers the ball on the 35 yard line, easily score a touchdown, make it 17-13. Then a series of penalties stalls the next Titans drive, and the Steelers get it back with good field position, and they score another touchdown with no time left on the clock. They win 20-17.

I say, "You see? Gator-Aid."

I say this without knowing whether the Titans sideline also drank Gator-Aid, and I say this without giving credit to other determining factors. I am also giving a lot of credit to Gator-Aid without knowing the true effects of it. It's a cousin to "the ends justify the means." Just because I say "Here's a factor," and the team I'm picking to win does win, doesn't mean I was right about the way they won.

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At 12/23/2008 10:18:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

You are so right. They're just babbling. I remain convinced that sports analysts--especially football analysts... and especially former players--just yammer.

To me it's a lot like rap battles. I don't for a second believe that even the greatest street rap battler is actually making up stuff on the spot. He is, instead pulling from a huge list of memorized rhymes, mixing and matching them to make them appear to be off the cuff.

Similarly, football analysts are just spewing textbook cliches. I guarantee you every one of them prays to God Almighty the second they start a sentence that they will actually end up making sense when that sentence is done. That's why they say the word "football" all the time. They're just regurgitating crap they heard, crap they've said, and crap they've read.

And all that leads to puffed up controversies that don't exist and theories that have no basis in fact.

I think "motivation" in football is a lot like fights in hockey. I hate when I hear a hockey player or coach talk about how some teammate fought with an opponent and "really provided a spark." Because the other team's guy fought too... and provided a spark to his team. So all we really have are two teams who both just got a spark. Nobody has an advantage there, which really makes the whole thing pointless.

Honestly, we could spin off an entire blog just about mindless sports cliches and annual meaningless stories--we've already been inundated with a mess of "will they regret resting their starters" stories that we see every year.

All that "bulletin board material" can do is make an individual angry. And anger doesn't make every player better... it makes some more distracted and mistake-prone.

I think I'm willing to go out on a limb here and say that no one--not one person ever in the history of man--succeeded in a sporting event because they "wanted it more."

At 12/26/2008 11:07:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I stomp a terrible towel every morning, and nothing ever happens to me. But, I also write motivating messages every day about how much I HATE other Healthcare Purchasing Groups, and I think it helps my Excel work. Fuck you Premier Healthcare Alliance!

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