I cracked up when I saw this Kowalski story/audio clip on Mlive.com. It concerns the infamous series of pictures taken of Matt Stafford doing his Georgia days, partying with a couple of friends at Talladega. First of all, to see those pictures posted at a "real media" site like Mlive is funny enough. Second, it kind of pokes at something that's been crawling around in the dim, dank regions of my head. Killer notes that these pics have made a positive impression on the fellas in the locker room, because they now know he's one of them: Golden Boy, 5-star recruit, $70M contract, comes from a ritzy suburb of a city where the word "ritz" still has some meaning . . . but ahhh, here he is lifting a keg with an SEC co-ed straight out of central casting! He IS a real man!
One of the toughest things for me to take about Joey Harrington's failure in Detoit is that from the get-go, I really identified with him. One of the classic daydreams of the sports fan is to imagine, "Man, what if I was born 6'-4" and ripped and could throw a football through a cow?" One of the classic delusions that follows is, "Then I'd play just like Brett Favre!" For me, I realize that if I were born with an athlete's body, but had the same heart, brain, and soul, I'd be like Joey Ballgame. Besides his well-documented musicianship (I play bass and sing), and his above-average intelligence, there's something inherently self-aware about him that I feel an affinity for. Brett Favre played with juvenile joy and abandon; Joey played with a cerebral understanding of exactly what was at stake on every down. Brett Favre played like it was all great fun; Joey played with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
It's evident that some guys are book-dumb but football smart; I know from playing pick-up football that I'm more like the other way around. The coordination of sensory input, concious mind, and physical reflexes needed is overwhelming; it's like playing a game of chess with your entire body as fast as you can run. I always felt like Joey had a touch of the same problem. Even though he probably had more grey matter between the ears than anybody else on the field, he just couldn't call the play, line up the offense, make presnap reads, make adjustments at the line, take the snap, read the defense, remember his footwork, check his second option, keep an ear out for the blindside blitz, make a decision, and throw with good technique all at the same time. Just too much stuff to keep up with, too much pressure. Goalies in hockey, pitchers in baseball, and perimeter shooters in basketball all have this strong emotional component to playing their position: confidence, momentum, rhythm, and feeling like you've "got it tonight" are all crucial components of success. These pressure positions require a degree of mental tenacity above and beyond most other positions on the field. I've often wondered if, instead of a higher IQ or wonderlic score being an indicator of success at these mentally taxing positions, too high of an IQ is actually detrimental? Overthinking it, so to speak? Perhaps with so much running through your head, "paralysis by analysis" is inevitable?
Such is clearly not the case for Pittsburgh Pirates' righthander Ross Olhendorf.
A brilliant mathematical mind and Princeton graduate, who wrote his senior thesis on the average expected ROI for rookie signing bonuses in baseball, Olhendorf is living proof that having an extraordinary analytical mind is no barrier to consistent clutch performance. So then, what is it? What is that X-factor--the ability to analyze on-field action, react appropriately, and maintaing composure, technique, and execution--and does Matt Stafford have it?
My friends, if I knew that, I wouldn't be blogging for a living.
(PS: I do not blog for a living.)