I found two items at my local bookstore.

I like bookstores - especially used ones. Scores and scores of lines of the combined cerebral outputs of dozens if not hundreds of minds, preserved in a slowly decaying medium that gives of a faint scent of vanilla. 

In my local, which also houses VHS tapes and DVDs, heralding them as soon-to-be dead mediae, I found two related things which intrigued me, so I bought and consumed them both.

One was a DVD by Mike Ditka, "Get coached!" featuring his belligerent-looking, flat-topped self being aggressive and stereotypically "coachy" to the camera. I didn't really pay too much attention to it. It was what I expected: basically a "tell it like it is" sequence about how you, yes you, can work on the fundamentals, get out there and achieve success, and... *click*

The other, which I found more intriguing, was a book by Sean Payton, the coach who took the New Orleans Saints from being a 3 win a season team and a basement-dwelling NFL joke, and turned it within three years into a team which won an emotional Super Bowl upset. (Unless you are a fan of the Minnesota Vikings in which you say they stole it, didn't deserve it, and really should just give the trophy to the Vikings right this minute.)

Why I found it intriguing was because it was the story of a man who took on a head coaching job: not the one he wanted, namely, a job coaching the successful Green Bay Packers, but the fallback position when the Packers went with someone else. It was the story of how a coach who was overlooked by the Packers found in a quarterback who'd been written off by the San Diego Chargers and given only a "we'll pay you if you work out" deal with the Miami Dolphins (which he refused) a kindred spirit with whom he rebuilt a team.

From staying at a hotel falling apart with a must smell so bad it betrayed the fact that the furnishings in the room were rotting apart, to trying to convince good players to come to the city even as the stadium was unfit for habitation and was being rebuilt, to gambling that a guy who'd had a 360 degree labrum tear could ever throw again when most doctors would have been happy to see basic function restored - this was the slow, methodical buildup of a guy whose first battle was convincing his wife and kids they'd be okay moving to a literal disaster zone.

When he arrived he saw players so disillusioned with their lot that one of them had brought a Barcalounger into the locker room so that he could literally lounge after practice. Payton put it on the loading dock with instructions to either take it home and understand why, or leave with it. Brees turned out to lead by example: running through drills doing everything but throwing, working as hard as the rest of the team even though his arm was in a sling post-surgery. Salvageable players were kept: Steve Gleason, one of the old guard, had good heart and was trainable and blocked a key kick against the Atlanta Falcons giving them their first touchdown in the new Dome. Aaron "Backwards Pass" Rogers was shown the door. 

Throughout Peyton refused conventional wisdom: he certainly didn't take any guff from anyone but he led, he didn't bark orders. He inspired, he didn't pull rank - unless he absolutely had to. What he did instead was gave the players who worked for him a shared vision, one that he believed in enough to uproot his family and move into an area where weeks before corpses had floated in the streets. So much so that after the Bountygate scandal former players called him to assure him they had NOTHING to do with whatever was transpiring and desperately hoped that their genuine and personal friendships weren't affected.

What was truly special as well was the fact that he extended the idea of "team" to include his customer base. They built houses on their day off for displaced Yats. They signed autographs whereas other teams whisked their people away in limos. When they finally won the Super Bowl and brought the trophy to the parade, Peyton leapt off his float and brought it to the crowd so they could see it up close, and touch it. And though the NOPD got nervous nobody made off with the trophy or did anything other than offer a tearful thanks for redeeming their faith in their team, just as their support had justified his in the city. 

I didn't really watch the Ditka DVD. I didn't see the point, and it rubbed me the wrong way. All about me, me me me. What I can do. How I'm the focus. Ditka at one point was thought to be the force that would turn the Saints around, though he never did. When Peyton was suspended for a year his absence was notably felt. His book was about how he got people to work together.

It says something that the guy who inspired teamwork is the one who got the job done, whatever personal pecadillos or tawdry revelations have since come out.

There's a lesson in that somewhere.


This would be the day of the year
The desert flowers bloom
While the mutants exultant
Crawl from their holes.

Like Mary fat with Jesus
There were few beds to be had
In Austin last night
Second ACL weekend.

J. mentioned seeing two couples
In full sleeping bag order
Camping out tentless
In a batting cage by the Y.

They will have stories
To match pictures of festival mud
The Statesman will post
This morning over coffee.

Apocalypse weather
Is tailored to its geography
London gets fire
But for Texas sin is in the flood.

Bodies unblistered will drown
Wearing insufficient raincoats
While the Devils of the western earth
Shimmer in the mean and laughing wet.

There is nothing to be done but waiting
Here where the churches
So many and so very different
Are all now damp and full.

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