By John R. MacArthur.
Football aphorisms and analogies usually leave me cold—such “life lesson” clichés seem designed to pacify an already somnolent population of television-addicted zombies.
Even as a football-loving kid, I suspected there was something truly screwed up about Vince Lombardi's celebrated phrase, “Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.”
Probably none of this would matter much to me if I hadn't played football for Martin J. “Mac” McCarty, a coach who considered excessive sideline intervention anathema to his idea of education. Call it quaint, but Mac sincerely believed that football built character in adolescent boys—that is, if you let the boys play the game. We ran a very simple offense (with some audibles), and with few exceptions Mac insisted on his quarterbacks' calling their own plays in the huddle.
After he retired, in 1988, Mac would call me occasionally to chat. Sometimes our conversation would turn to the degraded state of modern sports and society. To his horror, even North Shore football had changed for the worse: His young successor was calling all the plays from the sidelines, in total contravention of Mac's mantra of independence and initiative. “Jeez,” he would say disgustedly, “the whole point was to learn how to think for yourself out there.”
So is the top-down control of football an apt analogy for the political arena? To be sure, said Robinson. “It's part of the culture. I'm sick to death of the [overly scripted, overly managed politician] not answering the question. But the media deserves the blame, too, because they tear down anybody who says what they think.”
Which led Robinson to President Bush and his latest advertising campaign: “I pick up the paper the other day and there's Bush and the 'Plan for Victory' in Iraq.” The old coach laughed, then added, with some irony, “I wish him well—but the Plan for Victory in Iraq?”
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