When it comes to football, I am not a gifted player. Actually, I'm not much of a player at all. When I was a teenager I fit the nerd stereotype being the last one picked my church youth group played a pickup game of football.
I couldn't help it. I was usually the shortest kid in the vicinity and fit the definition of scrawny. Even when I did play, the ball was never thrown in my direction. I never tackled anyone as I couldn’t keep up with whoever had the ball. The closest I ever came to making a big play was when I jumped high enough to tip a pass in 8th grade PE; I probably would have intercepted it but I was horrible at catching things back then.
My brother had the privilege of playing sports with our dad. My father was able to teach Aaron how to throw and catch baseballs and footballs. They competed against each other in basketball and volleyball. By the time I was at the age where most dads are out in backyards demonstrating how to throw and catch and swing a bat or shoot hoops, my dad had suffered a back injury and was no longer physically capable of giving me the same lessons in athletics that he had given my brother.
That was OK with me. I preferred spending my time in the woods, climbing mountains and chasing wildlife. I found more satisfaction in art classes and drama club than in gyms and stadiums. My world was never destined for Sports Center.
Now as a parent with a child who loves just about every sport ever invented, I find myself ill prepared. I am learning how to play while teaching him at the same time. I might not know how I'm going to keep up with him as his talents grow beyond my skill set but for now, I am surprising myself.
Twenty-five years ago, I could never catch a baseball, but now it feels almost natural. Back then, I would not have been able to throw a football without an obvious wobble, but these days my throw frequently has a near-perfect spiral. Granted, I still demonstrate the athletic stamina and prowess of the typical comic book geek, but it is enough to impress my youngest son. I am starting to feel competent enough to fill the role of a backyard coach helping him run plays at the park next door.
Despite my nerdly ways, I am a devoted Seahawks fan. I might not be able to play but I can live tweet game commentary with the best of them. Last night's game is going to plague 12th Man memories like the unfortunate decision to draft of Brian Bosworth and the soul-crushing loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. I'm sure Arizona fans were not happy with the outcome either. In a game like that, the only true winners are pharmacies selling OTC antacids.
A day later, as real life carries on for fans of both teams, I want to reflect on statements from the two coaches: Seattle's Pete Carroll and Arizona's Bruce Arians.
The tied final score was the result of fierce defense from both teams and two failed field goal attempts in the final minutes of overtime. First, for the Cardinals, Chandler Catanzaro bungled an easy field goal attempt, kicking the ball into the upright where it bounced back onto the field.
Arians' response directed the brunt of his ire on his kicker. He was angry at the NFL for what he saw as bad officiating, but he also blamed the man who failed to score the winning points. In the press conference following the game, Arians had this to say about Catanzaro, "Make it. He's a professional. This isn't high school baby. You get paid to make it."
He did not have any kind words for Catanzaro but he did for the rest of the Cardinals. He praised the whole team, except for his kicker. "I think the defense played really well tonight. ... I thought our football team, other than the three plays in the kicking game, was outstanding. The offensive line battled all night. We put up those kinds of numbers, but not the number of points because of the kicking game."
Arizona's failed field goal attempt in overtime gave Seattle hope and those hopes were crushed a few plays later when Steven Hauschka also missed an easy kick, sending the ball way wide to the left.
In Carroll's statements, his tone was remarkably different than what Arians displayed. Much like Arians, Carroll praised the efforts of his team's defense. He also complimented the Seahawks camaraderie and Russell Wilson's continued efforts despite recent injuries.
When it came time to address the missed field goal that cost the team another win, Carroll chose to encourage Hauschka instead of criticizing him. "Steven will be OK. ... I can't remember a time we've asked him to kick a game winner when he didn't get it, so I'm counting on him doing it this week. He has been phenomenal for us. That's behind us and we've got to move ahead."
In yesterday's press conference, Carroll said Hauschka "made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didn't make the last one. He's been making kicks for years around here. Everything was in sequence. Everything went OK timing wise but we didn't hit it. But he's gonna hit a lot of winners as we go down the road here. ... I love him and he's our guy."
What a difference between the two coaches. One voiced no confidence in his kicker and the other expressed full confidence. One threw his kicker under the bus and the other extended grace. One refused to accept an error and the other accepts that everyone makes a mistake. One said “I blame you” and the other said “I love you.”
Can you imagine how it feels to be Catanzaro? To know that his coach thinks everyone except him did awesome. Compare that to how Hauschka feels knowing he will continue to have his coach’s support.
I might not play in the NFL, but if I did, I know which coach I would rather have as my coach. Given the choice between Arians and Carroll, I would choose Carroll every time. As JJ gets older and joins little league and school teams, I hope he always plays for coaches like Pete Carroll.