The game of football is as close as any sport can ever come to being in a war. Sure, things like boxing or MMA are close in sheer brutality, but not so much in purpose. You see, football is a sport where eleven strong, highly trained men step onto a field with the specific purpose of defeating their enemy in any way possible. They are directed by a man who is older, more experienced, and who has access to more information than they do- the Coach. It's not the that eleven on the field aren't smart enough to handle said information, but that they must be more concerned with working as a team to directly defeat their enemy; they will not be able to take a step out of the action as it develops and see the overall picture like someone outside the battle can.
The Coach is the general, the players, the soldiers. The general tells the soldiers where to be and at what time, and the soldiers do the actual fighting. Seems simple enough, right? Well, it isn't. If you want a living, breathing picture of what can go wrong with this system, then take a look at the New York Giants.
I have been a Giants fan all my life. I've watched them since I was two months old, and my father used to sit me in front of a TV on Sundays, where I would contentedly watch Big Blue play for the full three hours. They were legends back in that time (for you old timers, I'm sorry, but I'm only talking about 1984-86). Lawrence Taylor ran around destroying backfields and clubbing quarterbacks, Little Joe Morris tore through opposing defenses, and Phil Simms would throw beautiful touch passes to old war horses like Mark Bavaro and Phil McKonkey. This all happened under the watchful eye of the man who was the absolute, clear cut authority on this team: Bill Parcells. He is famous for breaking troublemakers, for taking an old school approach to coaching the game of football. He who does not practice, does not play. If you suck it up in the game, you will be benched. If you mouth off, you'll be lucky to even get in the locker room to get your shit after you've been cut. His team was a disciplined, tough, blue collar type team that got three yards and a cloud of dust on every play, and did it well. Like the Army of the Potomac under U.S. Grant, they would simply pound you down until you were too tired to continue. Nothing all that fancy, just sheer guts and determination. With him, they won two Super Bowls, and fielded some of the most rugged teams the NFL had ever seen. Like
And oh, we lament how things have changed. The defense now is not as good as they once were; there are huge holes, and the guys themselves have barely played together longer than a month. The offense, however, has more talent than any former Giants offense has ever had. Though the young Eli Manning still is but a kid in a league of men, and Tiki Barber is getting a bit older, they still have more than enough talent to make a good playoff run that takes them to a Super Bowl. Of course, lack of talent is not where the true problems lie.
The problems lay with the attitudes of everyone on that team, including the glorious Coach Coughlin. The players are prima donnas of the worst type, between Shockey throwing his little bitch fit on the sidelines and then calling out Eli in the middle of the field because he was apparently open (forgive Eli for not having six fucking eyes, huh Jeremy?). He calls himself "emotional". I call him an asshole. He flouts the rules constantly, snipes at Coughlin, calls out Eli, and then he's the one throwing a hissy fit? Paul O'Neill was emotional; Shockey is a baby. To top it all off, he doesn't even produce. If you want to be like T.O. (minus the suicide attempt) and be a "tough guy", then you better put up his numbers. Otherwise, Jeremy, shut the fuck up and sit down (who knows, he might even read this, being as he's the arrogant pric type that searches his own name on Google every night when he gets bored). If I ever, ever hear anyone compare this punk kid to the warrior that was Mark Bavaro ever again, I am cutting someone's fucking throat.
Another one is Plaxico Burress. He didn't want to workout with the Giants this offseason, he wanted to go down to Miami with Shockey. Well, you can tell, because Plaxico is doing as much of a piss poor job as Shockey is. Yes, the second game was an awesome one. But he is another one who is a classic troublemaker, always making comments about things, the coaching, and whatever else crosses his mind, but he himself rarely puts up any numbers worth mentioning. Where were you the last eight games of the season, you 6'5 bastard? You should have been conspicuously hard to miss- instead, it was the old war horse Amani Toomer who stepped up last year, as he is doing again this year. And he's getting paid a lot less than you are.
So the soldiers aren't performing as they should. There are certain ones who are fleeing like rabbits from a fox, and yet I'm not really surprised. The guys talking shit are the ones who always have...and they are always the first ones to run from bullets (or footballs).
And what have we to say for the general? Well, Tom Coughlin is finally getting what's coming to him. Some men can pull off the Marine drill instructor routine, and they somehow inspire respect from their players because of it. The players know that this coach knows best, and, though he may be harsh, what he is telling them here will make them win the upcoming game. It is not unlike Patton or Stonewall Jackson- hard driving men who demand respect because they know how to win, and they know they know how to win, and you know they know how to win. Eventually, this inspires a rare kind of passion and strenght that becomes the backbone of most armies, and wins battles for those vastly mismatched.
But there is a point where this is useful, and a point where it is completely ridiculous. Coughlin doesn't just say, "Get to this meeting on time", he says, "Get here five minutes early". If you're actually on time for the meeting, but not five minutes early, you get locked out and fined $500. Are you kidding? That's not "disciplinarian", that's irrational. A boss like that will never keep any good workers under him- they'll quit in less than a year. In Vietnam, officers like that got fucking shot in the back, and often.
Now, I don't believe all of Shockey's bullshit about the Seahawks throwing all kinds of new things at the Giant, because it’s simply not true. Eli already said that it was nothing new, and Toomer said the same, except he was the only one to admit, “We just didn’t execute” (how about that one, Shock? A guy actually taking blame for not performing instead of dumping it onto the coaches lap.)
Yet, I do have to say that Tom Coughlin has got to stop treating the Giants like a high school team. Not only are these grown men that he talks down to so often, but they are professional athletes who kind of know what they’re doing. This isn’t the draftee army- this is the Special Forces. Don’t treat them like bumbling idiots off the street, or you won’t get anywhere.
Instead of inspiring respect, it has inspired hatred; in place of loyalty, disgust. Coughlin must get away from this tough guy persona and treat his guys like men. At the same time, the Giants need to listen more to people like Eli and Toomer, and start making an effort to shut assholes like Shockey up.
No army will fight if they don't respect their leaders, and no team will perform if they hate their coach. They'll do just enough to keep themselves alive, but certainly won't go out of their way to win. If things don't change, we Giant fans can expect another ten years of “rebuilding”... and Coughlin just might get shot in the back.