Like me, you were probably weaned on the odd and mildly creepy similarities between the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. To wit: Lincoln’s assassin did the deed in a theater and hid in a warehouse; Kennedy’s killer shot from a warehouse and hid in a theater. Lincoln had an aide named Kennedy; Kennedy had an aide named Lincoln. JFK was shtupping Marilyn Monroe; Marilyn Manson once had carnal knowledge of a woman named Lincoln (or something like that).
Other Mansons are equally stunned
The 50th anniversary of JFK’s death got me thinking about other parallels in history, and in particular, those related to Michigan Football (though it might have had more to do with the empty bottle of Bullitt 95 Rye in my trash can than anything on the History Channel last night). Last week, Civil War generals were on my mind. This week, it’s the Soviets and their bolloxed up Race to the Moon….
Spooky, isn’t it?
#3 Sergey “Bo” Korolyov’s Dodgy Heart
In 1965, no one was more important to the Soviet space program than Sergey Korolyov. Although his title was merely “Chief Designer” to hide his real importance and role (out of fear that the U.S. would target him for espionage, defection or assassination) he was, in fact, the visionary powering the early successes against NASA. He was the principle force behind the USSR’s ICBM, Sputnik, Vostok, Voshkod and Soyuz designs, and had a major role in the planning and execution of the first manned mission into space and the first spacewalk.
Unfortunately, his ticker’s sell-by date was January 1966. Korolyov’s first heart attack, in 1960, led to additional cardiovascular, intestinal and endocrinal problems over the years and a warning from his doctors that he needed to “slow down”. In a response that would have made many a Michigan Football coach proud, he simply responded, “To hell with Necro Dread.”
Unfortunately for the Soviets, their succession planning was about as successful as Fitz-up-the-middle when Korolyov’s bravado wrote one too many checks that his body couldn’t cash. For, waiting in the wings, was….
#2 Vasily “I’ll-Make-You-Forget-Whatshisname” Mishin
Upon Sergey Korolyov’s death, Vasily Mishin – by all accounts, a competent engineer – succeeded to the title of “Chief Designer.” But much like Lloyd’s final few and Rich Rodriguez’s three years, or even Brady’s tenure so far, it turned out that Mishin was no Korolyov. He lacked Korolyov’s political authority and found himself mired in competition from others within the Soviet program. Meanwhile,
OSU MSU the Americans were quickly recovering from the disaster of John Cooper John L Smith the Apollo 1 fire and setting their sights on the B1G Championship Moon.
The final setback came during The Horror: four consecutive N-1 rocket launches ended in disaster, permanently ending the Soviets’ hope for a moon landing. In 1974, Mishin was finally relieved of his duties as Chief Designer by no other than
Dave Brandon Leonid Brezhnev when it became clear that new program leadership was needed. By then, the U.S. had successfully landed and returned six manned missions to the Moon and three more entered and returned from lunar orbit (Apollo 8, 10 and 13). While the Soviets would later launch Low Earth Orbit programs including two space stations (Salyut and Mir) the lustre was gone.
Of course, that didn’t mean the Soviets weren’t above “borrowing” a few ideas from the U.S….
#1 The Buran “Any-Similarities-Are-Purely-Coincidental” Shuttle
The Soviet-U.S. shuttle doppelganger
By the 1980s, the U.S. Space Shuttle program was the shiny new toy among the world’s rocket scientists. Much like Michigan’s dabbling in dual-threat quarterbacks, the read-option, inverted veers and slot ninjas, the Soviets deigned to have their own. After a decade’s worth of development (advanced in no small measure by a little espionage) the USSR had its Buran shuttle. Like the U.S. orbiter, it rode into space on the back of a really big booster, landed like a glider, and was carried on the back of a massive jumbo jet between pit stops on Planet Earth.
One, unmanned mission into space was all it got. By the time it flew, the nature of the military and civilian missions it was designed to support had changed so that it no longer served a viable purpose, the USSR was preparing for its date with the ash heap of history, and the Buran was carted off to a museum. Meanwhile, U.S. was taking a fresh look at
manball less complex vehicles that were more reliable.
Fortunately, Russia had a ready-made supply of 1960s-vintage Soyuz capsules with which it was ready to compete on the world stage. No word yet on how it fares against eight- or nine-in-the-box defenses.
Now that college football season is nearly upon us, and wildly inspired by Cracked.com’s Sunday article, “The 5 Most Creative Acts of Insanity by Modern Dictators”, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could get my creative, historical snark on and write up a tome on similarly bat-shit college football coaches. After all, this a world where Bo Pellini, Les Miles and Wil Muschamp prowl the sidelines.
The amazing thing I learned in writing this diary is that a coach need not be named “GERG” to engage in motivational hilarity, and that our former Defensive Coordinator’s pep talk with a fur-covered hand puppet didn’t even make my Top 5 (though it might have been #6 since we were all left asking “What. The.F-ck?”). Neither did Rich Rodriguez’s use of YouTube and ten gallon hats and Josh Groban.
Google “insane college football coaches”, and you’ll get nearly 2.8 million hits, and not one of them will mention so much as a sock monkey (go ahead and check – I’ll wait).
#5 Brian Kelly Tries to Recreate That Scene from “Scanners”
You know the one I mean. Against a mediocre South Florida team in 2011, Notre Dame head coach, Brian Kelly, went all Bobby Knight after his team coughed up its third turn-over of the game. Now, I imagine that he was just reacting as most ND fans did at that moment, what with the Irish deep in Bulls territory and threatening to score, and all.
Still, Coach Kelly managed to put the “A” in “apoplectic”, nearly having a stroke on the sidelines that was captured and replayed by media talking heads far and wide for the next week and on opposing fan sites long after. There are MGoUsers who actually have the photo of the key moment as their avatars, and they’re probably not the only ones.
#4 Lane Kiffin Holds a Press Conference for the Recruit That Never Was
Back in World War II, the British made Mincemeat of the Nazis by staging an elaborate ruse that involved a real dead man, a fake identity, a submarine and a clown car (I’m finding the last bit difficult to confirm) in an effort to make the Germans believe the forthcoming Allied landings in Sicily were going to be anywhere but Sicily. Everyone who has ever head-faked their dog by pretend-throwing a Frisbee knows how the trick works. The Allies were delighted to find that Hitler was a lot more trusting than a retriever, who sent his army chasing a stick out near Malta while the Allies were invading Sicily.
Evidently taking a page from British history (or not, Lane Kiffin doesn’t strike me as the type to open a lot of books) the coach decided to stage a fake press conference for nine recruits to Tennessee in 2009. Unfortunately for him, that’s an NCAA violation.
But Coach Kiffin didn’t stop there.
Continuing with the “World War II” theme, the coach channeled Humphrey Bogart and the end of Casablanca by installing a fog machine to simulate a “game environment” for those same recruits, which is also an NCAA violation. No word on whether he was also thinking about adding a disco ball and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
#3 Marshall Strength Coaches Think Kevin Bacon is a Pussy
Taking the term “hot seat” into uncharted territory, not only was the Omega house initiation apparently used as a how-to guide for motivating the Thundering Herd, but Marshall’s former staff upped the ante by lighting the paddles on fire.
With their breath.
Fortunately for Matthew McConaughey, none of the players on the business end seemed to enjoy lunches of double bean burritos and egg salad sandwiches. He’s done that movie once and his agent has probably insisted that he’s not interested in filming a We Are Marshall sequel, no matter how hot he is for January Jones.
#2 Woody Hayes Forgets That Size Does Matter
Speaking of wood, this story comes to us courtesy of Urbz himself, who claims he witnessed the event. I don’t normally speak ill of the dead but I’m making an exception in this case because Ohio State.
For those of you too creeped out to watch Urban Meyer (and who isn't?), I'll give you the gist of it. Evidently, Woody had advanced to that age where he no longer had a useful purpose for Little Woody, or at least one of the two that Nature most intended. So, just like in that heart-tugging ending from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, the old coach said “F- You!” to PETA, dug deep and pulled one out (of his pants).
After a humbling bowl loss, then-Buckeye head coach, Earle Bruce, asked Woody to come in and give a pep talk to the coaches on toughness. Immediately after berating the current staff on its lack of meddle, Hayes opened a box to reveal a snapping turtle, whipped his (apparently seldom used) baby maker out of his trousers, and demonstrated for Earle’s staff what a real man is capable of doing that they aren’t.
In case it’s not readily apparent what he did, I’ll let you use your imaginations or read the story yourselves. It hurts below my waistline to even write about it.
I feel awful for the turtle. Reptile or not, no species of plant or animal should have to do that for a Buckeye. And it got a poke in the eye for its troubles.
Thank God Bo didn’t bring every one of Woody’s lasting lesson with him to Ann Arbor.
#1 John L. Smith Tries to Get the Voices in His Head to Stop
What? You thought I wouldn’t remember this one?
In the raw vote (which I conducted solely inside my head) this episode of The Ball Coach Be Crazy Yo’ only finished second. But since this happened while he was still in the process of earning the Sparty No! Lifetime Achievement Award, and it was caught on camera by everyone, and it’s been replayed eleventy billion times, and he later went on to become some kind of Bat Shit Superhero at Arkansas, he’s earned the outright top spot in my list.
In doing the research for this story, I realized I could have written it as “Top 5 Reasons JLS is Insane”, but that would have been too easy. And it’s probably already been done.
As always, your mileage may vary.
Sales managers, and other people for whom salesmen work, like to say that "making the number" is not the only thing that's important when measuring annual performance. They'll point to the size of the funnel, the number of deals, how many calls (whether in person or by phone) have been made, proposals generated, etc. And, to a large degree, that's all true. Considering that in many businesses, including mine, less than about 5% of all leads generate a sale, the entire game boils down to those other metrics. But, at the end of the year, (in some companies, much earlier) the sales manager is going to have a serious conversation with his or her reps about whether quota will be or has been made. If you work for a company like Oracle, you get about one calendar quarter of "grace period" before the cash register had better start ringing. Often. Larry Ellison is not a patient man, and that attitude is pervasive in the Oracle corporate culture.
Its not for nothing that so much pressure is placed on sales people to make quota. People's livelihoods are at stake, and not just the sales rep's, or the executives. Most sales people, unless they truly work for themselves, are well aware of the responsibilities they shoulder. One of my favorite jokes about sales in the last 10 years was a send-up of Jack Nicholson's fiery tirade on the witness stand in A Few Good Men:
Sales: “You want answers?”
Finance: “I think we are entitled to them!”
Sales: “You want answers?!”
Finance: “I want the truth!”
Sales: “You can’t handle the truth!!!”
Sales (continuing): “Son, we live in a world that requires revenue. And that revenue must be brought in by people with elite skills. Who’s going to find it? You? You, Mr. Operations? We have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.
You scoff at sales division and you curse our lucrative incentives. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know: that while the cost of business results are excessive, it drives in revenue.
And my very existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, drives REVENUE! You don’t want to know the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at staff meetings … you want me on that call. You NEED me on that call!
We use words like comps, migration, discounts, flex licensing, global purchase agreements, up-sell. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent negotiating something. You use them as a punch line!
I have neither the time nor inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the very blanket of revenue I provide and then question the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you” and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a phone and make some sales calls. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”
Finance: “Did you expense the lap dances?”
Sales: “I did the job I was hired to do.”
Finance: “Did you expense the lap dances?”
Sales: “You’re goddamn right I did!”I think the sales profession is a useful analog for determining whether Rich Rodriguez is making progress with the team. While "sales funnel" and "deals closed" makes no sense in football, other indicators beyond wins and losses can demonstrate whether the program is moving forward or backward.
For instance, if superior talent generally wins the most ball games, then we need to look at his "pipeline" of recruiting classes as one indication of whether he's "doing the right thing," and can be reasonably expected to return Michigan to national prominence. Scouts Inc. reports that of the 20 verbal commits for UM's 2010 class, there are five 4-star, fourteen 3-star, and one 2-star prospects. Only one (Devin Gardner) is in the top 150 in the nation.
Compare these numbers to Ohio State's current 2010 verbals: seven 4-star, five 3-star, one 2-star. While there are only thirteen commits, four are in the top 150, and two are HS All-Americans. The Penn State 2010 class is just sickening. Among Joe Pa's 20 commits, there are 11 four-star, and nine 3-star prospects. Eight are in the Top 150, and there are four HS All-Americans. Of the eight in the Top 150, six play defense, including all of the All-Americans.
Its clear from reports on this board, as well as what I've read from Sam Webb, that Coach Rod is focusing like a laser on 2011 and beyond. We have one verbal for 2011 already, a CB, who is among the ESPN Top 150 (rated by Scouts Inc.). Those are very positive signs that the "funnel" is reasonably healthy. However, it will have to improve to consistently compete with OSU, USC, Florida and others. We won't know that for another 2-3 years at least.
However, talent is only one indicator. Penn State's recent classes (excepting the 2010 verbals) have not been especially awe-inspiring, yet they have put together two respectable seasons in 2008 and 2009. Notre Dame has had ridiculous classes, (on paper) on par with Ohio State and USC, and can only be considered to have underachieved.
What I'd like to see is a measure of how all that incoming talent is developed beyond the obvious "Ws" and "Ls", bowl appearances, etc. A possible indicator of the development of all that talent is where individual players and their squads (offense, defense, special teams) rank in the conference, and nationally, and whether they are moving up in rank, or down. This would be analogous to measuring how many deals going into the sales funnel make it through various deal stages toward a successful close. I won't do that here, since I see my diary is getting pretty long. I'll leave that to someone else. That's probably an imperfect metric, so perhaps "mathlete" or "jamiemac" have some better ideas. If there are any operations research folks in the crowd, they'll almost certainly be able to find a good KPI for the purpose.
Ultimately, though, all of that will eventually have to translate to wins, losses, bowl appearances and national ranking for the team. I think we're at least 2-3 years removed from that point. However, a good measure of the development of talent should provide a leading indicator of whether the program is advancing, or regressing.
I'm curious what others think.