September 14, 2009
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The Sports Philosopher

The Sports Philosopher



by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher


      I’ve been watching football games for a long time.   Longer than many of you LVO-ers have been alive, I reckon.   And I think, therefore, I have paid my dues as a College Football fan and NFL Football fan right up to where some of the opinions and conclusions I have come to can be considered downright valid.   Yes, perhaps even past the point of encouraging dispute.  

      And with that in mind, I think I can say that there is one tenet of football, one phenomenon that occurs in every football game that more often than not overrides all other contributing factors and ultimately determines the outcome.

      It all comes down to one thing.   One word.


      That’s right, stupidity.   Not who has the best quarterback or which team has the most depth or key matchups or X’s and O’s or pass rush versus pass protection or turnovers or any of the other time-honored theories as to what—during a football game—most often tips the scales of victory toward one team or the other.   It’s also something you never see talked about in print, something rarely if ever bandied back and forth between gridiron philosophers and pundits.   But as far as my two brothers and I were always concerned, it’s everything.

      Put it this way: You’ve all heard the terms Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator, right?   Every team has one of each.   But my brother Chris and I were always in lock-step with each other, in suggesting that every college and NFL team should also employ a “Stupidity Coordinator” as well.   Just to ensure that a team would avoid doing the mindnumbingly dumb stuff to lose a game that routinely makes fans want to stick a sewing needle in their ear.

      What exactly is “football stupidity”? you might very well be asking right now, as opposed to the general-run-of-the-mill-everyday-we’re-all-human-blah-blah-blah kind of stupidity.   Fair point.   To wit, for purposes of this discussion and in this space, football stupidity shall be hereafter defined as: “Any act, decision, or individual strategy or play committed during a football game, by any coach or player, the moronic quality of which is so severe and so diametrically opposed to any interpretation of the accepted precepts of common sense as to make any intelligent observer of the Human Condition believe the offending act was committed by someone with an I.Q. under 75.”   I think that will do.

      You see crimes of this nature committed every week in college football, and every week in the NFL too, where you’d think that that sort of thing had by then been weeded out.   Players lining up offsides.   Needless personal foul penalties committed six feet away from the ref, just so some guy can feel tougher than the guy who just creamed him.   Quarterbacks throwing passes to some guy wearing another jersey standing right in front of them.   Running up the middle on 3rd-and-one every single damn time.   Getting penalized for showing off, i.e. taunting your opponent after scoring a touchdown.   You never know in what disguise football stupidity will come a-callin’.   Heck, in last Sunday night’s Bears/Packers game, my beloved Chicago Bears tried a fake punt on their own 26-yard-line on 4th-and-11, and they were leading the game at the time!   Was it one of the coaches or the long-snapper who called the play?   Doesn’t matter.   (It has taken virtually all of my willpower to avoid dedicating this entire column to football stupidity violations committed by my Bears, and that’s all I am going to say about that.)

      But of all the offenders, of all the folks who commit flagrant acts of unconscionable stupidity during football games, the worst offenders are, naturally, the head coaches.   Because they should know better.   They are hired, presumably, because they have risen to a level of competence and maturity which, theoretically, would preclude them from ever doing the kind of dumb stuff defined above.   But sadly, we see it all the time.

      I wanted to point out the most glaring example of someone doing something really really really dumb that took place during last weekend’s games.   It happened in college football as it so happens, in the UCLA/Tennessee game.

   Tennessee was at home, and heavily favored, yet amazingly UCLA (a team that won a grand total of four games last year) led 19-13 late in the game and was trying to run out the clock.   There was only about 1:50 to go in the game, UCLA had the ball on its own 1-yard-line, and Tennessee had only two time-outs left.   The obvious strategy was to run up the middle twice, thereby exhausting Tennessee’s two time-outs, and then, on 3rd down, run up the middle again to exhaust the 40-second clock, which would bring the time left in the game down to about 50 seconds, and then on 4th down take an intentional 2-point safety by having the punter run around in the end zone for a few seconds like a decapitated chicken before stepping out of bounds, thereby running the clock down to 45 seconds, and then the ensuing free kick would burn up another five or so seconds, which, then, would give Tennessee only about 38 or 39 seconds to travel 65 or 70 yards for the winning score they almost assuredly would thus be unable to achieve.   It was the only acceptable strategy, especially on the road in a noisy stadium with a young quarterback.   The announcers were laying out this very strategy even before UCLA ran up the middle on 1st and 2nd down….

      And yet, for some inexplicable reason, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel decided to have his quarterback fake a hand-off and then roll out to the right, as if looking for a receiver to throw to (as if he would ever risk an interception or clock-stopping incompletion by letting him throw a pass in that situation) before finally running upfield.   The problem with this idea, is that by having his QB retreat five yards into the end zone Neuheisel was running the absolutely needless and very real risk of having his QB getting tackled in the end zone for the safety and having the clock stopped, rather than being able to cross the goal line and advance his way into the field of play and have the clock run down those aforementioned 40 seconds.


     image0013 Which is exactly what happened.

      I couldn’t believe it.   I was stunned.   I don’t know why I was stunned, though.   I have been watching this sort of mindless moronic thing since Nixon was president, but for some reason it never creases to amaze and confound me.   By not sneaking up the middle UCLA virtually gifted Tennessee not only those 40 seconds but also the five seconds they would have burned by having the punter run around in the end zone on 4th down.   Tennessee now had a minute and 35 seconds in which to score, not around 38 or 39 seconds as they would have had if Neuheisel and performed as if he knew anything about football.   The announcers were as equally stunned as I, but while explaining the mistake to their viewers they managed not to roast and ridicule and freely demean Neuheisel personally for coming up with this master stroke.   More restraint than I would have shown.   And Neuheisel is a former quarterback, and a good one.   He knows better.  (I think.)

      The most amazing thing about the play is it didn’t cost UCLA the game.   Fortunately, Tennessee’s offense is a tad pathetic, and they failed to capitalize on this early Christmas present.   Final score; Bruins 19, Vols 15.   I do not know why the football gods were so kind.

      But it doesn’t excuse Neuheisel.   It was the dumbest thing any player or coach did all week, as far as I could tell.   Because his strategy had virtually no up-side whatsoever.   All it could possibly have accomplished was make the inevitable safety take place one full down and 45 precious seconds too soon.   Which is exactly what happened.

      Beyond dumb, folks.   It was the very definition of football stupidity laid out in bolded italics above.

      I wonder what examples of football stupidity you wonderful readers of this column have witnessed in the past, or expect to witness this year.   I hope to hear from you about it.   For myself, beginning with this Neuheisel thing (and yes, that fake punt by the Bears, which I evidently can’t help mentioning one last time), I am going to start keeping a list.   You haven’t heard the last from me on this issue, I promise you.

      And Rick Neuheisel, if you’re out there and see this column, please write in so we can discuss your condition.   Fact is, I have the cure right here.

      Hire yourself a Stupidity Coordinator.   You’ll feel better instantly.   







  1. Great article. I agree with you about the UCLA game. You left out the Notre Dame game. Weiss has the ball with 3 minutes and Michigan has 2 timeouts. Make them use them with that rookie quarterback. No, he throws two incomplete pasees and Michigan gets to keep the timeouts which they use to win the game.

    The third down pass, the Notre Dame received was wide open for a first down and Clausen misses him entirely. He missed so many open receivers it was sad!! I think NOtre Dame has better players, but not coaches tnan Michigan.

    The Ohio State coach messed up the end of the first half as well. He is up by 3, USC has no timeouts and he throws 3 inclomplete passes, kicks it back to the Trojans and they go down and kick a tying field goal that eventually was the difference. Another bad coaching decision.!!


  2. THE TIME HAS COME FOR A STUPIDITY COORDINATOR (or, if you prefer, an anti-stupidity coordinator) by Brad Eastland, Your Friendly Neighborhood Sports Philosopher

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