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Posts Tagged ‘American Football’

I like rom-coms and I like fantasy movies.  Today’s reviews are for two movies which combine the rom-com and the guardian angel (fantasy) genres:  “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” and “Heaven Can Wait“.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan  —  movie review
This movie came out in 1941 and (as far as I know) was one of the first movies where the idea of an angel or guardian angel featured as a prominent plot point in the film.  The movie stars Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton / Bruce Farnsworth (a boxer and the “hero”), Rita Johnson as Julia Farnsworth (Bruce’s wife and “bad-guy 1”), John Emery as Tony Abbott (Farnsworth’s personal secretary and “bad-guy 2”), James Gleason as Max Corkle (Joe’s friend / trainer / manager), Evelyn Keyes as Bette Logan (the love interest for Joe / Bruce), Edward Everett Horton as Messenger 7013 (the angel in training) and Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan (the main angel in charge).
The premise is a convoluted “love will find a way”, “angels make mistakes too”, and “our fates are predetermined but the details are flexible”.  Basically, a boxer dies before his championship fight because the angel takes his spirit out of his body to avoid the person suffering the pain of death.  But, somehow, the person (Joe) wasn’t supposed to die and so he needs to go back to earth to complete his destiny (becoming champ).  The problem is his friend (Max) has had his body cremated so there is no body to return Joe to.  The head angel (Mr. Jordan) assumes control of the case and places Joe in another body of someone physically suitable.  The “someone” is Bruce who has been recently killed by his wife and secretary.  Blah, blah, blah, laughs ensue; the guilty are found out and love blossoms.  And, of course, Joe wins his title and lives happily ever after with Bette.
This is a black-and-white film which is overacted and simple to follow, but also genuinely funny and enduring.  I am quite certain I’d seen this movie in my youth, but I have no idea when it would have been.  I watched this with my wife, (who likes old movies but doesn’t normally like comedies,) and she both enjoyed it and actually laughed a couple of times.  You could knock me over with a feather…  Her reaction:  “This is the kind of movie I would have watched with my nana when I was young.”  Final recommendation: strong.  While not intended to be a “period piece”, this certainly is one – and it’s a pretty good one on that alone.  Throw in the rom-com and you’ve got a movie worth watching with your family.
Heaven Can Wait  —  movie review
This movie came out in 1978 and is a pretty straight forward remake of the original with minor character changes.  The movie stars Warren Beatty as Joe Pendleton / Bruce Farnsworth (a American football quarterback and the “hero”), Dyan Cannon as Julia Farnsworth (Bruce’s wife and “bad-guy 1”), Charles Grodin as Tony Abbott (Farnsworth’s personal secretary and “bad-guy 2”), Jack Warden as Max Corkle (Joe’s friend / trainer), Julie Christie as Bette Logan (the love interest for Joe / Bruce), Buck Henry as “the Escort” (instead of “Messenger 7013” – the angel in training) and James Mason as Mr. Jordan (the main angel in charge).  I have no idea why two Brits were chosen to play the main angels in both films.  I think it was for the accent – to make them sound more heavenly.  (LOL)
The premise(s) remain a convoluted “love will find a way”, “angels make mistakes too”, and “our fates are predetermined but the details are flexible”.  Basically, a quarterback dies before his championship game (the Super Bowl) because the angel takes his spirit out of his body to avoid the person suffering the pain of death.  But, somehow, the person (Joe) wasn’t supposed to die and so he needs to go back to earth to complete his destiny (winning the Super Bowl).  The problem (again) is his friend (Max) has had his body cremated so there is no body to return Joe to.  The head angel (Mr. Jordan) assumes control of the case and places Joe in another body of someone physically suitable.  The “someone” is Bruce who has been recently killed by his wife and secretary.  Blah, blah, blah, laughs ensue; the guilty are found out and love blossoms.  And, of course, Joe wins his Super Bowl and lives happily ever after with Bette.
This is a color film which is somewhat overacted (particularly by Cannon and Grodin – for laughs) and not as funny as the original (Warden isn’t as funny as Gleason), but it was nominated for seven Oscars (including Best Actor and Best Picture) and won one (not one of the main Oscars).  I saw this movie in my youth during its original release.  I did not watch this version with my wife who felt she didn’t want to “spoil” the memory of the original by watching the updated version.  Final recommendation: strong.  While not quite up to the original, it’s a pretty good remake.  And, again, a family film.
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On This Day In:
2017 All Greek To Me
2016 Judgment
2015 I Love Bacon, Too
2014 The Wee Bit
2013 Reading Rules
2012 Cadet Prayer
2011 Easy To Tell
2010 A NEW Lion In The Senate (Channeling Mr. Smith)
Inception Redux
A Quick Hit Of Stats

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Chasing Perfection: The Principles Behind Winning Football the De La Salle Way”  (2015©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “Chasing Perfection” written by Bob Ladouceur with Neil Hayes.  The book is about coaching American Football at the high school level.  Ladouceur was the head coach of the varsity football team at De La Salle High School here in Concord, California.  His teams are the owners of the all-time longest winning streak in high school history (151 wins between 1992 and 2004).  To put that into some perspective, the next longest streak is 109 games!
There are lots of different types of sports books.  There are coach and player biographies.  There are league and team histories.  There are greatest games, greatest championships and greatest dynasties.  My favorites are those which discuss – in depth – schemes and techniques (in any sport).  I enjoy them because you get a chance to learn the why’s and how’s of the game which then allows you to see and understand why something is working as it is happening on the field (or court).  As such a book, this is perhaps the best book I have ever read about football – specifically, football techniques.
This is not really an “X’s” and “O’s” play diagram type of book.  It IS a “we want the tackle to have his inside foot here, his outside foot there, four to six inches back and heel no more than one inch off the ground, with this much weight on one hand” book.  That, literally, is the detail provided in the explanations in this book.  And, I love it!!
I haven’t been this excited about reading a football book — WHILE reading the football book — since I was in high school and just learning how to play.  Back then, I read a book on defensive football written by Dick Butkus and another book with chapters on various players and I was completely enthralled by Raymond Berry at wide receiver.  Berry is NFL Films #36 greatest players of all time and Butkus is, well, Butkus.  I learned more from that book and that chapter than I have from a host of other books I’ve read about the sport of football – at every level.  And this book is as good as if not better than both of those.
Every part of organizing and building a team is covered: offense, defense, special teams, nutrition, weight training, scouting opponents, game planning.  You name it.  It’s here.  Now, realistically, is it encyclopedic?  No.  But, then it’s less than 300 pages.  If you want a book with “X’s” and “O’s”, this isn’t the book.  But you can find dozens of those which still won’t add up to what you’ll learn from the reading (and re-reading) of this book.
Final recommendation: VERY highly recommended.  Not only did this book explain things I didn’t know about, it also explained the reasons why some things I used to do instinctively actually worked.  This book is so good, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to coach any sport at any level.  It is that good…
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On This Day In:
2017 We Can Figure This Out
2016 Just Enough
2015 Bourne Bond
Springs Eternal
2014 Brains First
2013 Not Listening Anymore
2012 At Your Marks!
2011 We Are Not Alone
Underlying Rationality
2010 Is the Obama Administration Failing?
In Other Words…
Quite Please!
In A Hostage Situation…
Are We Done Yet?
In Order…
Flip-flopping…
Proof of Choice…
On “Leading” A Democracy To War…
Actually, It’s All About Me…

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Today’s review is for a DVD I picked up for old time’s sake.  The movie is titled: “Diner” from 1982 and was directed by Barry Levinson.  This was his directorial debut and was one of four movies he made about life in his hometown: Baltimore, Maryland.  It’s is supposed to be a “comedy / drama”, but I didn’t find much to laugh about in the movie, so I guess it’s supposed to be a “black comedy”, which, in turn, means it’s “disturbing” and not funny.  Levinson is supposed to be a big deal producer / director, but I don’t follow that stuff (directors) much, so I’m not really bothered about it.  With the exception of Hitchcock and Spielberg, I don’t really “go” to a movie “because” of its director.  I guess I’m unusual that way, as it seems to matter to people I know (friends and family) a lot more than it’s ever mattered to me.  And, although I did see this movie during its original release, I have no recollection of the other three movies in the “Baltimore series”.
Anyway, this movie is kind of an adult / older version of a coming of age story.  I usually think of “coming of age” stories as teen-to-adult, not “Oh, shit!  I’m an adult.  Now what do I do with the rest of my life.”  Well, this is the latter.  It’s the story of six male friends (and the wife of one of the friends) who come together for the wedding of one of the other five (the friend played by Guttenberg).  The movie was a launching pad for some folks who later went on to have pretty well known careers for the rest of the ’80’s, including: Steve Guttenberg (the guy getting married), Daniel Stern (the guy already married), Ellen Barkin (his wife), Mickey Rourke (playing a macho hairdresser, unlike Warren Beatty in “Shampoo“), Kevin Bacon (as a young alcoholic with surprising intelligence jerk), Tim Daly (as the handsome guy in the group), Paul Reiser (as the “I have no idea why this guy is in this group of friends or this movie” character).
Now, you may be asking, why did this movie make Kevin’s list “for old time’s sake”?  Well, growing up, I used to follow the American football team based in Baltimore – the Colts – because I really liked their quarterback (Johnny Unitas) and one of their wide receivers (Raymond Berry).  The hooks (for me) in this movie are: before the Guttenberg character will marry his fiancé, she has to pass a test of knowledge about the history of the Colts and the NFL; the music played during the bride’s procession to the altar is the Colt’s theme / fight song; and, the wedding colors are Colt’s Blue and White.  The best line in the movie is when a female / spouse complains to one of the wedding guest characters about the wedding colors and he responds: “Hey, she should be grateful he doesn’t support the Steelers.”  For those of you who know little to nothing about American Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers colors are black and gold.  The “gold” has always looked more “yellow” to my eye, but it is supposed to be gold.  The fiancé narrowly fails the test, but he marries her anyway.  In my head, I can see a Steeler fan telling his fiancé their wedding colors will be Black and Gold…  Heck, I can see that now, let alone back in 1959!!
I don’t know if Americans “come of age” while sitting in diners anymore.  Perhaps they – diners – (like my own youth) are a thing of the past in these days of malls and franchise restaurants, but if you want to see a little slice of “Americana” as it was in earlier days (at least it is similar to how I remember late nights and early morning hours from my late teens and early twenties), then this is a pretty accurate snapshot and you should check out this movie.
Final recommendation: moderate recommendation.  A darker and more East Coast version of “American Graffiti“, without the cars / crusin’.  Good music, good writing and good character actors.
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On This Day In:
2013 Judgement
2012 Stuck In My Mind
Life’s Hope
2011 Just Getting Up
Directions Please

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Today the San Francisco Forty Niners won their wildcard playoff game against the Green Bay Packers by 23 to 20!  Go Niners!!
While I am obviously happy with the result, I am increasingly frustrated by watching the “game”.  Not just this game – all NFL (National Football League) games.  It really seems to me as if the refs (League?) have decided not to play the games by the rules.  The most egregious of these “no-calls” is pass interference.  Basically, a defender is allowed to butt/jam an offensive receiver once during the first five yards from the line of scrimmage (where the play starts).  After that, anything but “incidental” contact is considered “pass interference” until the ball touches the offensive player.  There are also a couple of ancillary rules, for example, a defensive player must “play the ball”.  This means the defender cannot watch the offensive player and then knock the ball away while making no attempt to see where the ball is.  Another rule is that both players have the right to catch the ball once it is in the air.  This also means an offensive player cannot strike the defensive player while the ball is in the air.
What is actually happening is that both teams’ players are now fighting each other in and after the 5-yard zone and before and after the ball is in the air.  And the Ref’s are letting them (the players) “play on”.  “Letting the players, play” is TV commentator speak for players breaking the rules and the refs doing nothing about it.  It has gotten so bad that at least one team (the Seattle Seahawks) coaches their team to “play aggressively” (i.e. ignore the rules) because they “know” the refs won’t throw a flag on every play.
The problem, of course, is the coaches are correct because the League allows it, not because the refs won’t do it.  In reality, if the League instructed the refs (and advised the teams) that these tactics are in violation of the rules and penalties should (will) be enforced from the start of each game, then the refs would comply, the coaches and players would recognize the rules are being enforced and they would then stop breaking the rules.
Now before any Seattle fans get all bent out of shape by my comments, let me just say: I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that the Niners have begun to play the same “aggressive” game.  I am not excusing my team, just as I am not accusing the Seahawks, in specific.  My accusation is against the NFL.  You either have rules and throw flags when the rules are violated or you get rid of the rules which you don’t want to consistently (and fairly) enforce.  It seems like a simple choice to me…
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On This Day In:
2013 Spoiling For Fame?
2012 How Many?
2011 Too Tired To Chat Much
2010 I Must Be Crazy!!

 

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The Receiver
The senses keen;
The muscles loose;
The wait, the acceleration;
The break, the freedom,
Jumping, extending;
Touching, holding!
Running! Racing!
Free!  Free!  Free!
[This was part two of my reminiscing about playing pick-up football games at the park, back in my teens.
On offense, the players know the intent of the play.  The wide-receiver stands away from the fray.  His job is to elude one man (sometimes two), catch the ball, and then run to the end zone for the score.  Sometimes, it happens that way.  More often than not, it doesn’t.  But running free – ball in hand, away from the defense, remains the “dream” of every receiver.
For the defenses “view” of the play, see yesterday’s “Glory Days (Part 1)“.  —  KMAB]
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The Linebacker
Slow, precise, close;
Waiting, anticipating, reacting.
Accelerating, moving, hitting;
Crashing, recoiling, falling.
Rising, smiling, knowing.
The waiting, the thrill, the movement;
The hit, especially the hit;
The rising, especially the rising;
The knowing, especially the knowing:
Especially the knowing.
[Back in my teens, I used to play a lot of pick-up football down at the park.  Because you played with the number of guys who were there, you typically had to play both offense and defense.  On defense, I liked to play linebacker.  Defense is very reactive.  You never really know what the offense will do, but sometimes it doesn’t matter.  If you can get “in the zone” where you are reacting practically as fast as the offense is moving, you can (in essence) seize the initiative and become the aggressor.  When this happens, time slows down and the tackle becomes effortless – an extension of your life force.  And when you stand up, you feel as if you were born to this act – the tackle – and could do it all day.
By the way, the title to this post comes from the song “Glory Days” as performed by Bruce Springsteen.  The song is about adults living in the past or perhaps just longing for their youth – depending on your mood.  I’ve always found the song amusing as I’ve been both the listener and the teller of these same “tall tales” about way back when.  Tomorrow, the offensive side…  —  KMAB]
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Players must execute.  They can’t depend on emotion to win.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to win the game.  Everyone in the NFL is intense.  It’s foolish to think we can out intensity them.  The bottom line is: Can we execute a series of plays almost flawlessly?  Only through repetition and experience with those plays can each player complete the necessary assignments.  If you want something too badly, you can throw yourself out of sync trying to make a play that isn’t really achievable.  It’s not the attitude or the personnel that does it.  It’s how well you do things.  Don’t count on heroics.  Count on execution, on the things we have practiced and are good at.
   —  Bill Walsh
Former 49er Head Coach
As quoted in “The Genius“, written by David Harris
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The critical factor whenever people work together, is that they expect something of each other.  It’s not just that the coach expects a lot of the players — it’s the fact that the players expect a lot of each other.  We establish a standard of performance here where each man is an extension of his teammates.  We prepare for every contingency and through all of this there is a single thrust — sacrifice for your team because you infinitely care.  You are truly a Forty Niner when you aid and assist each other, when you believe in each other.
  —  Bill Walsh
Former 49er Head Coach
As quoted in:  “The Genius“, by David Harris
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Well, there’s something to be said for consistency…
So far, since I’ve started making predictions about the Super Bowl on this blog, I’ve picked the wrong team winning three times on the run.  The only “really” bad part of all this is that this time, it was my favorite team – the San Francisco Forty Niners – which I picked (and who lost).
Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens for the victory!
The pain is still too fresh to offer much more analysis.  So I won’t bother…
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 We Ain’t Afraid

A No

Birds!!!

Go Niners!  Beat the Ravens!

Go Niners! Beat the Ravens!

 Go 49ers!!

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For the last two years, about this time, I make my Super Bowl predictions.  I try to pick the winner, predict the score and explain why.  So far, I’m zero(0) for two(2) on my picks.  However, I’m not so easily deterred that I won’t try again.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure I will have to admit that I am a lifetime San Francisco Forty Niners fan.  This means my “normal” sense of objective reasoning will have to be set aside for this posting.
I believe the 49ers will easily win the Super Bowl to the tune of something like 34 to 13.  That’s correct!  We will score four touchdowns and two field goals and they will score one touchdown and two field goals.
The 49ers met the Baltimore Ravens last season on Thanksgiving night and they defeated us 16 to 6.  They scored one touchdown and three field goals to our (only) two field goals.  The difference in the game was nine(9!) sacks of our quarterback (Alex Smith).  This was very much a defensive battle and Ray Lewis, the Ravens middle linebacker did not play due to injury.  This year, neither team has as good a defense as they had last year.  I personally think the age (and related slowness) of the Ravens linebackers will prove to be their downfall.  The Ravens other great linebacker (Suggs) has been slowed by injury this year and is not his pass rushing best any more.  Not to take too much credit from the Ravens that night, the fact is the game was played on a short week (for both teams) but we had to spend a day travelling to Baltimore.  I honestly feel it they had had to come to us OR if the game was on a normal Sunday, we would have prevailed.
On the other side, our new quarterback (Kaepernick) is much more athletic than our quarterback from last year (Smith).  Kaepernick is also a much better deep thrower than Smith.  I believe Kaepernick will open with runs to draw the Raven linebackers close, then throw to Vernon Davis (our tight end) in mid-range, and then go over the top (and center) to Randy Moss.  With the Ravens thinking center and deep, Kaepernick will switch to shorter routes (in and outside) to Michael Crabtree.  With the Ravens dropping back to protect the pass, the 49ers will interweave the ground pounding of Frank Gore.
The Ravens offense is a mirror of the 49ers, but not as good.  Flacco is a good deep thrower, but we have a better pass rush than they’ve seen in a while.  Pitta is a large target as a tight end, but he is not as fast as V. Davis and our linebackers are better pass defenders than the Raven’s are.  Reed is their best pass defender, but he has lost a step.
So, this will be a VERY physical game, but the 49ers should win handily…
The Genius” — Book Review:
About a month ago, I picked up: “The Genius” by David Harris (2008©).  The sub-title is: “How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty“.
To be honest, I was expecting another “puff-piece” about how great and good Bill Walsh was.  (Walsh passed away 30 July 2007.)  The reality is (was) that he was not a particularly nice man – even if he was a great head coach.  Walsh is made to seem almost bi-polar and manically depressive in this book.  I don’t question this impression.  I just wonder that twenty years after the fact, so much of this is “new” to me.  I bought this book expecting to “re-live” some of the good-old days.  The book is a very fast read (which I didn’t expect) and was perfect to squeeze in in-between our winning the NFC Conference Championship and going on to the Super Bowl.
If you are looking for a book to advise you how to build a winning football (or sports) program, this one won’t be of much use.  If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of the “West Coast Offense”, sorry, still no joy here.  If you’re looking for how to evaluate college players for drafting to create a winning team, nope.  How to create a game plan or manage an actual game, nope and nope again.
So why is this book “good”?  (I highly recommend it!)
Because it reminds of what must be sacrificed in order to reach the top (of any profession) and stay there.  It is a cautionary tale of an intelligent, forward looking and forward thinking man who could not separate sports losses from personal failures and suffered terribly / emotionally for it.
Although I enjoyed every Walsh (49er) victory, I also found his personnel actions disloyal and sometimes despicable.  This was true “back in the day” (when they were happening) and more so as I read this book.  That’s not to say Walsh wasn’t doing these things for the good of the team.  It’s just I found them morally objectionable.
It seems, for the last chapters, that Walsh, after his own retirement, made a concerted effort to try to befriend the players he treated so badly during their careers.  I’m happy he was able to convince them there was nothing personal in his intent while he was coaching.  It is stated that many former players came to have great affection for him, even a sense of love.  I think this a “common” response among people who feel someone tried to get the very best out of them – even more than the person themself felt they had to offer.
It’s a shame that a “truer” genius could not have found a way to be both a great coach and a better person at the same time.
In conclusion – Go Niners!!  Beat the Ravens!!
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I’ve been mostly in bed all week (since last Friday) with a flu-like bug which has morphed into an inner-ear infection which has resulted in pretty bad dizziness (vertigo), a hacking cough, sinus headaches and all-around misery.  Sunday and Monday I was running a pretty good fever which finally crested at 102.5 and then broke about 10:00 PM on Monday night.   If I could just get rid of this dizziness, I’d be feeling pretty decent today.  Still, I shouldn’t complain.  I’m a lot better than I was…
Today was my first day back on my feet for any real length of time.  I went to the doctor’s office yesterday, but that was getting driven to and from (by Hil) and then sitting in the front office chair until they squeezed me in.  Then straight back to bed…  Anyway, this morning I was up long enough to make myself some new “Green-Juice” in my juicer.  I don’t know if it’ll help me get better, faster, but it was nice to move around a bit.
I’m trying out a new “blend” today.  This one isn’t near the hodge-podge I’ve been throwing together.  This one is: 1 bunch Kale, 1 bunch Celery, 1/2 white onion, 2 in of ginger, 2 apples, 8 large carrots – all juiced, with a bag of spinach and a bag of salad greens (mostly Romain lettuce) blended in.  I then added a slosh of lemon concentrate, a cup of apple juice, a cup of lemonade and a cup of orange juice.  This made two 64 oz bottles of “Green-Juice”.  The taste is a LOT better than the last batch I made which included various greens, radishes and beetroots and it doesn’t taste like dirt.  It DOES taste a lot like freshly cut and blended grass with onion and a twist of lemon.  …Which isn’t too bad actually!
You just have to keep telling yourself, “It’s good for me!”
I also made a 64 oz bottle of fruit juice from apple juice, four apples, two ripe bananas, lemon concentrate, lemonade, and orange juice.  That’s blended (not juiced) and it has a nice banana smoothie taste and texture.
It all took a while, because I feel like I’m moving in treacle, and I pretty much collapsed into a chair for rest afterwards.
So, now I’ve struggled over to my desktop to do this bit of blogging…
Believe it or not, I’ve managed to plough through three books so far this week.  The are: “That First Season“, “Marshall” and “Introducing Mathematics“.   Now I don’t promise my recollection of them to be all that great a week from now, but today I feel like I still remember the gist of each of the books.  So, here goes the review for each:
That First Season” is written by John Eisenberg (2009©).  The book traces the 1959 season of the Green Bay Packers.  This was Vince Lombardi’s first year as a head coach in the National Football League and how he turned his team around from the worst team in the league the prior year to a competitive team (they finished with a record of 9 wins and 5 losses).
The following decade, the 1960’s, was the Packer’s dynasty which included winning the first two (ever) SuperBowls.  Looking back, Lombardi was probably (definitely) one of the dominant professional coaches of my youth.  His supposed quote: “Winning isn’t the most important thing.  Winning is everything!” is probably the most iconic quote from my childhood years.
This book is about the year when it (the dynasty) could have gone another direction (and never been).  Obviously, it didn’t go the other way and this book attempts to capture the spirit of the man, the team and the town as the dynasty is created.  And, I must admit, does a very good job of it.  I’ve read several books about American football over the last couple of years and this is definitely the best of the lot.  This book is NOT about “X’s” and “O’s”, but you can, in fact, pick out quite a bit of theory if you read carefully.  Instead this book is about a time in history and a sport, a man, a town, a team and a season.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sport, leadership or even as a study in chaos theory – where a small change of a starting factor can have a profound impact on a larger event.
The second book is “Marshall” (2010©), written by H. Paul Jeffers with Alan Axelrod.  This book is one of the “Great General Series” about “Lessons In Leadership“.  The book traces the life and legacy of General George C. Marshall.  Marshall is probably the greatest strategic, diplomatic and effective logistician America has ever produced.  In addition to being the top non-civilian commander throughout World War II, he was also the prime architect of the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after the war.  For his plan (the “Marshall Plan“), General Marshal, who was then U.S. Secretary of State was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.  He remains the only military commander to have been awarded the Peace Prize.
What follows is a mixed review.  That is because this is a very good book about a great man, however, I struggle to describe anything which makes it useful as a lesson in leadership.  General Marshall was an extremely private man, so merely tracing his life does little to provide insight into how he became a leader or what he considered in making his decisions.  One is left with simply observing the decisions and actions and attempting to derive the leadership lessons from the observations.  For some, this is more than enough.  For the General, I do not get this sense.
What is the reader left with then?  (This is redundant…)  A very private, dedicated man striving to achieve personal excellence in order to protect his nation; a man who returns to service for his country despite the petty attacks from those who are unfit to polish his shoes (Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin); and, a man who is the ultimate logistical problem solver at a global scale.  It’s too bad there wasn’t more information on how he did things or the what he thought about things before deciding to do them.  This is the second book I’ve read (recently) on the General, and unfortunately, I don’t believe there is any such work.  I already own another biography (so far, unread) on Marshall and am contemplating purchasing the four volume “Forrest Pogue” set which is considered the definitive version.  Why?  Because the idea of such a great leader and also such a great American …  fascinates me!!  Again, a very good read and highly recommended!
The third book is: “Introducing Mathematics”  (1999©) by Ziauddin Sardar, Jerry Ravetz and Rorin Van Loon.  This is another in the “Introducing” series which hopes to bring an overview of any given topic via a series of pictures and brief sentences/paragraphs about the great people and ideas related to the topic.  This time, the topic is math and the explanation covers from the dawn of civilization to the present and all of civilization (Eastern, Western, Egyptian, American Indian, Arabic, etc) too.  If you want a broad based overview of a lot of the main topics under math – including the people and timeframes – this is the book for you.  If you’re looking for in depth coverage and knowledge, it’s only a springboard.  In either case, it’s more than satisfactory and I highly recommend it, too.
How’s that for an unlikely trilogy?  Three high recommends…
And now, back to bed I stagger… (whew)
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It’s always fun to spout off before the SuperBowl.  It gives you an annual chance to go out on a limb and then eat a major portion of crow…  So here’s my prediction.
Patriots in a surprisingly easy win (Pats: 37  Giants: 17) and despite the score, it isn’t that close.
I think Brady will have a hot day.  I think he’ll get rid of the ball quickly and be on target.  This is where a Hall of Famer becomes a legend – equaling Bradshaw and Montana in SB wins (4).
The same is true for Belichick.  Although already considered a great coach, four SB wins elevates him to Knoll status.
Why?
Simple.  Both teams are surprisingly similar.  Good to great scoring offenses and defenses which have struggled throughout the year, but which rounded into form and then have played well in getting to the SB.
Neither team has a great running game.  The Giants strike me as bigger and and more lumbering.  This helps in the cold and wet – the game is indoors – so this doesn’t help.  The Pats seem quicker and more productive – not a lot, but football is a game of inches.  If the Giants can get a late lead and pound away, they win – but I don’t think the former will happen, so neither will the latter.  The Pats will balance the running and throwing better and win.  The Giants threw a LOT against the Niners and barely won.  I don’t think they’ll be as effective against the Pats, which will put more pressure on their running game, which will cycle back to Manning throwing more.  Against the Niners, the Giants threw 58 times!!  Even given the additional tosses during the extra period, that’s normally a signal you’re losing the game.
Everyone loves the Giants pass rush – and it does appear fearsome, however, the Niners mostly contained it and I think the Pats have much better weapons than the Niners, so I see Brady having time and being able to step into his throws.  If he can, he’ll eat the Giants secondary alive short (5-10 yards) and deep (15+ yards).  This is how the Pats control the opposing defenses.
The same is not true for the Giants.  The Niners tore them up with multiple sacks (6), quarterback hits (12)  and additional hurries.  As I said earlier, the Giants will throw often and that means they’re behind and losing.  The Niners should have had two picks and a fumble recovery.  Eli’s luck runs out and the Pats make those picks (at least two, probably four).  The key is the pass rush up the middle by Wilfork.  If he has two sacks and two hits at the end of the 1st half, the Pats win.
There’s no question in my mind that the Giants have the better wide-outs, but I don’t think it wins the game for them.  The problem they have is they don’t throw that well short.  They stretch the field and use that to create gaps at the 7-15 yard level.  The Niners could not stop those catches, the Pats will.
The Pats have two tight-ends.  The Niners only had one.  The Giants shut down our (the Niners) wide-outs and said, “You won’t win with just Vernon Davis.”  Davis had a great day, but we (the Niners) didn’t win.  I don’t think the Giants will get pressure on Brady.  I don’t think they will shutdown the Pats wide-outs.  And, I don’t believe the Giants can shut down both of the Pats tight-ends – even with Gronkowski’s injury.
Bottom line: 1st quarter – Pats 10, Giants 0
2nd Quarter – Pats 24, Giants 7
3rd Quarter – Pats 34, Giants 10
4th Quarter – Pats 37, Giants 17
So now we’ll see…
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Last night the Forty Niners lost the NFC Championship game to the New York Giants by the score of 20 to 17.
The early reviews are we blew the game with a couple of poorly executed special teams play – a muffed punt and a fumbled punt.  It would be easy to blame the kick returner as a focal point of disappointment.  The truth, unfortunately, is rarely that simple.  Is it likely that without those two errors we might have won the game?  We’ll never know.  But the simple truth in football is that it is a team game and one play and one player is almost never the single deciding factor.
On this day, the Giants were the better team – as determined by the final score.
Thank you Forty Niners for an enjoyable and exciting season!
Keep your heads up!!  We’ll get ’em next year!!!
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Every morning on my drive into work I hear the same thing on sports talk radio: “How many people thought the Niners would have a winning season, let alone make the NFC Championship game?”
Well, I was one…
When the folks at work asked me how I thought the Niners would do, I pulled up the schedule and made my calls. I predicted 11 wins and 5 loses.
Needless to say there was a loud round of laughter…
Obviously, I was wrong. We finished 13 – 3. Now 14 – 3!!! So much for the “one and done” predictions against the Niners in the Saints game.
Here’s my notes (click on image for full size):

2011 Regular Season Prediction for SF 49ers

2011 Regular Season Prediction for SF 49ers

Go Niners!!! Beat the New York Giants

My prediction: SF 30 – NY 13
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