Monday, February 09, 2009

Mike Tomlin and Chuck Noll:
More alike than different?

This may be hard to believe but we have never read About three bricks shy of a load: A highly irregular lowdown on the year the Pittsburgh Steelers were super but missed the bowl written by Roy Blount Jr., and originally published in 1974. We actually were given a copy shortly after its paperback publication but never actually read it ~ perhaps the incredibly lengthy title or the stream of consciousness, droll treatment of the subject kept us from getting through it . . . we really cannot remember. Whatever the reason we never read it and now we are pretty glad that is the case.

A week ago we watched with rapt attention as Mike Tomlin met with the media to discuss his team's victory in Super Bowl XLIII, and made these (highly publicized) comments:
“[What] I’m going to sell to our football team is that we are not attempting to repeat. That special group of men in that locker room last night at the end of that game – that’s gone forever. There will be a new 53-man (roster). A lot of the faces will be the same, but nothing stays the same in this game. Few will come and go, those who remain, the roles will change. Some will ascend, some will descend. That’s the nature of today’s NFL . . . [w]e are going to roll up our sleeves at the appropriate time and start with a new group of men . . . and go about our business of trying to compete in ’09. You won’t hear me say words like repeat or defending because it will be brand new. This group will always be special to me, but sometime soon, that group will assume its place with others in history. It will be just that – history."
Blown away by the maturity and drive evidenced in that statement ~ we immediately scaled back our own celebration plans.

A few days later we picked up Mr. Blount's book (a first edition from a nearby library), and were struck by comments attributed to Chuck Noll concerning whether he celebrated the Steelers' first division championship in 1972:
"No not really. One thing I learned very early, you never have it made. You never relax, never rejoice very long. One thing I realized early in my football career, you play a game, it's a very emotional thing, you get all up for it, you work like hell, you get keyed up. Then when it's over, you take a shower and go out and sit down on the bus, and it's like someone stuck a pin in you. For me. For me, the doing is the pleasure, not the rejoicing therein. Once you get the goal, it's over" (64).
If we had read this book thirty years ago there would be no way that we would have remembered that passage, and there would be no way for us to realize that this new, young coach may just be more like the Steelers' old, new coach than we could have ever known.

For those of you who may not have read the book (or perhaps even heard of it before) click here to check for a copy at a library near you.

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