22.Aug.2012 The Art of War, and How it Relates to Football
Some people don't like comparing football to war. Those people should stop reading now.
I agree, they aren't the same thing, but there are similarities and lessons to learn.
On that note, I'm re-reading The Art of War in an attempt to understand what goes into a successful "battle" (let's call it a "football game" for the sake of this argument and blog). From Sun Tzu's masterpiece:
The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
- Moral Law
- The Commander
- Method and Discipline
The Moral Law causes people to be in accord with their ruler.
Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat.
Earth comprises distances, great and small, open ground and narrow passes.
The commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.
By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, [etc]
So let's relate these to football.
The moral law: basically, the players must respect their coach and unquestionably obey him.
Heaven: The Beavers could use things like the saturated air and rainy weather to their advantage. Oregon has done this brilliantly with their heavy run game and fast pace (an advantage in their native humidity but also a potential opponents' heat). Beavs should be a heavy run team with a short passing game–two things that excel in rainy conditions.
Earth: This would be the field. Since fields are standardized, it doesn't really apply, but I would argue that a grass field would give the Beav's an "Earth" advantage. Again, in damp conditions a muddy field would help the team familiar with it. By using field turf, it neutralizes that advantage over the opponent.
The Commander: Obviously, this is RIley. Wisdom (check), Sincerity (check), benevolence (check), courage (no), strictness (no). You can see why Riley is not the ideal leader.
Method and Discipline: This is where the Beavs most obviously fall apart. The correct players are rarely on the field or in the correct position to succeed, and the rank of "officers" (i.e. coordinators) is determined by nepotism, favoritism, and stubbornness more than rank.
Tzu goes on to say
By means of these [see below] seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat
- Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
- Which of the two generals has most ability?
- With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
- On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
- Which army is stronger?
- On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
- In which army is there greater consistency both in reward and punishment?
Again, let's quickly break these down:
- Moral law = player respect for their coaches. The Beavs have this.
- Riley is rarely the better general, but it's exaggerated against coaches like Chip Kelly (who epitomizes Tzu's writing).
- Beavs could have advantages here, but they have freely chosen to neutralize them. This shows lack of understanding in their "army"…
- Beavs have poor discipline.
- Beavs rarely have the "stronger army" due to poor recruiting.
- Players receive good training (i.e. coaching), but their skill level is usually less than the opponent. In other words, there's only so much coaching up for the Beav army…
- Beavs really suffer in this department. There is no consistency in punishment, especially on the field. Riley enforces off the field issues well…
Again, I'm trying to understand what is wrong with our program. I watch other teams, and everything is so much easier. Something is not right in Corvallis. I think understanding the rigid mindset required to win any battle helps shed light on the flaws in our program. Hope this helps others' see the light.