When The NFL And MLB Collide

Although it was certainly a strange World Series, I was fortunate to attend Game Four on Sunday night. That was the night it was 60 degrees and weather was not the top story surrounding the Fall Classic. Although my eleven-year old son’s ears received quite an education from the Phillie faithful (f-bombs were in plentiful supply), we nonetheless enjoyed the evening – and the mild conditions, unlike the rest of the games in Philadelphia – immensely.

I mention my going to Game Four of the 2008 World Series because I was fortunate enough to attend Game Four of the 2007 World Series between the Red Sox and the Rockies. As fate had it, the Packers were playing the Broncos in Denver in a Monday night, the same night Game Five of the World Series was to be played. No one could have forecast that the two events would not only be on the same night but in the same location (albeit different venues).

When it became clear the Rockies would be hosting Games 3-5 of the Series, I moved into action for tickets. I called Gene Mato, the agent for our tight end Bubba Franks, who was the agent for Manny Ramirez, and asked about the possibility of tickets. Gene – and Manny – came through and a friend and I were on our way. Thus, soon after arriving in Denver on Sunday afternoon, I walked over to Coors field to see what could be a Series-clinching game for the Red Sox.

At Coors Field, the scene was electric with the Rockies trying to extend the Series and avoid a sweep. If there were 45,000 fans there, there were probably 44,800 rooting for the Rockies, with me and my friend smack dab in the middle of the 200 that were there cheering for the Sawx. All around us were Red Sox family – Coco Crisp’s, Manny’s and the Varitek brothers. They initially gave us some odd stares as we were a bit out of place not being family or significant other of Red Sox players, but eventually they took us in as part of the larger family.

As we know, the Sox won, Papelbon jumped and threw his glove, and the tiny slice of Coors Field in which I was sitting went nuts. I was getting hugged by lots of player wives, girlfriends, and the Varitek brothers as if I was one of the crew (truth be told, even though I lived in Boston for three years a while ago, I cannot claim part of Red Sox Nation). I returned the hugs and played along, getting swept up in the moment.

As further coincidence with our trip, we were staying in the same hotel as the Red Sox, as the Denver Westin rocked that night with the Sox championship party. Our players were on curfew so they could not witness the celebration, but many of us staying on that side of the hotel heard the bass of the band all night.

It was interesting to see all the players – the Packers and the Red Sox – the next morning with each other. Our players were like kids meeting some of the Sox stars, and vice versa. The mutual respect and admiration of these two groups of players with national fan bases was a treat to watch.

Our game, which began as scheduled rather than an earlier start time had the Rockies won Game Four, went down to the wire, with us winning with a long touchdown pass to Greg Jennings in overtime. A nice finish to a thrilling sports weekend.

Having been to the last two, I must make it a date to attend Game Four of the 2009 World Series……

Coaches: Fiery Can Fade

The dramatic outburst by newly appointed head coach Mike Singletary on Sunday displayed a fiery and vivid personality that will be memorialized on YouTube for weeks to come. Some will say that is the attitude needed to instill passion from players and to achieve success on the highest level of football. I disagree.

While I applaud Singletary’s treatment of Vernon Davis in sending him to a personal timeout in the midst of a game – Davis was clearly not used to consequences being applied to his actions – I don’t think the shouting approach will be effective in the long run.

The NFL is a grind. It is a sport that gathers its coaches and players for half a year of continuous and constant interaction. Coaches and players don’t have to get along but there has to be mutual respect and there has to be an element of trust. When one side loses that, there are inevitable problems.

The “fiery” coaches have a hard time in the long run. I know about the success of the snarling Mike Ditka and the always-perturbed Bill Parcells, and I have heard many stories about the temper flares of Mike Holmgren, who left the Packers after much success a month before I arrived. However, an NFL season is certainly not a sprint, and not even a half-marathon; it is a true marathon for which much endurance is required.

Coaches that go up and down through emotional roller coasters present potential damaging issues for themselves and for their team. As for themselves, stress is obviously already a part of what they do; adding to it with large swings of emotion exacerbates the issue for them. Coaches are legendary for not eating right during the season; that combined with long hours and abnormal sleep patterns are a dangerous combination for their personal well-being.

As for the team, the message that emotional and fiery coaches give out may work for a period of time, but it is likely to flatten over time. By the time they reach this level, NFL players have all had the yellers and screamers as coaches in the past; there are few expletive-laced tirades that they have not heard or seen. The drama of a chewing-out may have its desired effect for a while, but likely not for long.

I watched Mike McCarthy last year while we were having success in amassing a 13-3 record. His message to the team was always one of caution about getting satisfied with success. Similarly, when we had a bad loss, there were no tirades or invective-laced screaming. Mike had a good emotional intelligence about his team; a trait that continues to serve the Packers well.

Some of the best coaches appear to be the most capable of maintaining an even keel. We do not see large mood swings from Tony Dungy, from Dick Jauron (who just received an extension), from Lovie Smith, from Bill Belicheck, and – much to the charging of Philadelphia fans always looking for some passion – from Andy Reid. In many ways, these coaches are flatliners – they will maintain their demeanor and their nonemotional appearance no matter what the situation. And, in my opinion, that is an optimal demeanor for the profession that they are in.