Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Football Coaches Are Running The World!

Perhaps typical for someone who would later become a philosopher, during high school I was on the debating team, student council and Reach For The Top. Perhaps atypical for such a young boy, I also played on nearly every school sport team. The teams were mostly comprised of the same jocks with only slight variance. For some reason football was considered the pinnacle of sport and the best athletes strived to make that team. The soccer team had more immigrant kids, the swimming and water polo team had more rich kids with swimming pools, the cross country team had more of the skinny kids that couldn't make the football team.

What differed from team to team were the coaches that volunteered to train and manage us. The coaches were ultimately responsible for the general environment that they created for us. The soccer coach was usually the guy with the British accent, most often Scottish and adept at yelling at us in colourful tones - "uuse yar left fuut lad". The basketball coach was always experimenting with sport psychology asking us to "visualize making that shot". Except for maybe each of them taking their respective sports a little more seriously than the players, the majority of our coaches generally let us have fun while encouraging sportsmanship.

The environment created by the football coaches was of an entirely different character. What they gave us were easily the most corrosive and counterproductive life lessons that adults can pass onto their wards. The lesson was always to win at any cost, regardless of what was right or wrong. Sportsmanship was for pussies and blatant cheating was even encouraged. They tore us down into scrap during training and fired us back into metal for the games. My coaches were less like Knute Rockne and more like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. They were failed men trying to live their overblown macho fantasies vicariously through us.

The metaphor was overwhelmingly militaristic. Hardness and leadership were emphasized over imagination and insight. Valued were quick decisions made with determined strength, whether they turned out to be right or wrong. I later realized that these people must also have been running the MBA schools since the corporate business milieu in North America has largely been a reunion of football jocks revelling in how they told the competition to "bring-it-on" and then "kicked ass and asked questions later".

When I try to understand what goes on in the minds of Bush's inner circle I sometimes find it useful to imagine the macho football culture within which I participated as a young boy. Then it all starts to make sense. Those guys are kicking ass even if they are forgetting to ask any questions at all. The football coaches of the world are now in charge!

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