Jimmy Lorrichio came into the quiet of the coaches office shaking his head. His mentor sat in the dark silence with his hands in his face.” Don’t worry about it coach, one decision or call does not decide a game.” Minutes before, with the score tied , four seconds left , and the ball under their own basket the opposition scored the winning basket as the buzzer went off. Instead of laying back and heading to overtime the coach had called for the full court press hoping to create a turn-over bucket and grab the victory in regulation. The aggressive pressure up court allowed the opponents to go over the top of the defense for a easy lay-in victory. The more than questionable coaching decision turned victory into defeat.
Sunday as I was watching the Super Bowl that repressed memory rushed back into my head as hard and punishing as a Marshawn Lynch run from scrimmage. Pete Carroll, of big time coaching fame, had just made the coaching blunder of the Century. Not only might it have been the worst call in sports history, it was executed on the biggest and most viewed stage that exists today. A half a yard away from immortality, and “Beast Mode” on his side ready to roar Coach Carroll decided to be fancy instead of prudent and elected to throw the pigskin for the win. The result will keep the Monday morning quarterbacks talking for a lifetime and destroy Carroll’s coaching legacy.
The coaching faux pas I made back in 1987 came under the scrutiny of about 300 people. The only implication I heard that my decision had cost us the game came from that one player in my office. My poor judgment is long forgotten by everyone except myself, where as coach Carroll’s will be discussed as long as the game of football is played. The Super Bowl was watched by 330 million viewers all over the world, of which at least half were Seattle Seahawks rooters, and Pete Carroll had to publically answer to them. I have in perspective this was just a football game and not a summit designed to create world Peace and extinguish famine from the planet. Although this year’s Super Bowl is only an annual sporting event and not a as critical as to being wrong about countries possessing weapons of mass destruction it did present a great opportunity to see how individuals respond when they are caught with their pants down. Unfortunately there is more talk this week about not running the beast than there ever was about President Bush being wrong about the threat of nuclear weapons in Iraq.
My interest in all of the above is not as much as the errors made, but the accountability, or lack of such, that people demonstrate in the immediate times after the mistakes in judgment have been made. Here’s what Pete Carroll should have said:” I don’t know what I was thinking, I should have given the ball to the best power back in football and game over. If I had it to do over again we would have won or lost this game on the back of Marshawn Lynch.” That simple concession and 150 million people would have cut him some slack. It is difficult enough to admit miscues on the sports field let alone missteps that result in losing lives. Coach Carroll post game explanation was filled with rationales and defenses of a his major screw up. Fourteen years later President Bush justifies the war in Iraq and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary still nods and says ” yes , the weapons are there.”
I guess we all have trouble confessing to our poor decisions we make under pressure. The day after the Super Bowl “Johnny Football” (Manziel) checked himself into a rehabilitation center because of problems related to alcohol use. The analogy may not be perfect, but unlike the three above mentioned Manziel is taking accountability and responsibility for his actions. It takes tremendous courage to be 23 years old, have millions of dollars and admirers, all having tremendous expectations for you. By admitting to having a problem a label will be tagged on you to carry around the rest of your life. Owning who you are and your short comings is not an easy thing, especially at such an young age. Alcoholism is a disease that causes your life to become unmanageable. Surrendering to it is far different than conceding you made the wrong call in a football game.
It took until me a very long time to say to myself what I should have said that night back with my point guard Jimmy L. ” It was a stupid decision to gamble at that time and call for the press. I cost us the game and a chance to win in overtime.” I was too young and head strong, and was not wise enough to be wrong about things I was sure I was expertise at.” I was 26 years old and the head basketball coach at New Paltz High. I thought then that teaching and coaching was my passion and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That night I did not point the finger at myself and it started me thinking about how I pictured myself spending the rest of my life. It was the moment I began thinking that playing games and coaching games was not how I wanted my time on this earth defined. My glory days were behind me and I wanted to be identified as so much more than a jock. Something that was always inside of me jumped out . There was much more to staying young and being a glory boy than winning and losing games. Athletics had been my priority up until then . I had gotten all I wanted out of them and needed and desired to move on to real life and figuring out what else I had in me.
We all make mistakes and we all at times question our identity. Pete Carroll is football coach , always has been , always will be, who got embarrassed right before he was walking into immortality. On a smaller scale Rich Siegel got too big for his britches and saw it as an opportunity to open a door to a new way of thinking. It was the beginning for him coming to terms with the fact he was the an artist and entrepreneur trapped in the body and mindset of a sports jockey. “Johnny Football” was born to shine on the gridiron but to do so he is going to have to fight off some deep rooted demons. Admitting he has a drinking problem gives him a chance to continue to chase those dreams. As for George W. Bush, no one is ever as dumb or smart as they appear. Who knows what President Bush was motivated by when he decided to attack Iraq after terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center. We can all be fooled in one way or the other. Do we recognize it and do we do something about it is the key. After all what did Bush famously say. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice and……….. shame on Pete Carroll for not releasing the beast.