William Hamilton: Let’s hear it for the warrior spirit!
December 14, 2011
There are times in life when the news is so wonderful that, based on previous experience, it is difficult of belief.
For example, what is one to think when the old home team, after so many dismal seasons, goes undefeated and even wins the state championship in its division? The home town’s stars and planets must have come into an alignment so perfectly that one is tempted to borrow Shakespearian prose to describe it.
Because to play football well requires physical courage, mental alertness, and character, football is often used as a metaphor for life itself. During World War II, Army Chief-of-Staff General George C. Marshall (himself a 1901 graduate of Virginia Military Academy) famously requested: “I have a secret and dangerous mission. Send me a West Point football player.”
The planning of a successful military operation and the fielding of a successful football team have a great deal in common. First of all, the only valid military mission is to win the battle. Even losing football teams can harvest some of the intrinsic values of football such as character-building humility; however, in the immortal words of General Douglas MacArthur, “There is no substitute for victory!”
Therefore: The mission is to win. Unfortunately, during the Vietnam War, the civilian leadership in Washington was more or less determined “to not lose.” That approach (which obviously did not work out very well) accords with a trend among certain politically correct, public-school educators that winning is “bad” because it means that the other side must lose and that could harm some innocent psyches. Obviously, those who win state championships are not worried about bruising the psyches of the other teams.
Nor was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill when, in 1940, he told the world: “You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of the terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
After deciding that winning is the mission, the successful commander or coach must look at the “troops available” and tailor his or her “system” accordingly. Too often, we see college or pro-football coaches who think they have invented (or stolen) their own “system” that must be imposed upon the available talent.
In 2004, Nebraska brought in a new head coach and an athletic director who decided to “flip” Nebraska’s highly successful football culture and impose the forward-passing “West Coast Offense” on talent that had for years and years been recruited to run the football. The result was four years of football disaster, resulting in the well-deserved firing of both the coach and the athletic director.
Too often we see commanders or coaches who try to micro-manage field operations. Coaches being too “clever” with their substitutions often cause penalties for too many or too few players on the field. Delay-of-game penalties are often the result of coaches dithering about which play to send to the quarterback rather than letting those on the field play the game. Micro-management diminishes the “warrior spirit.”
The successful commander or coach inculcates the “warrior spirit” in his or her troops or team. The warrior spirit is hard to quantify; however, you can actually see it manifested in the Denver Bronco’s Tim Tebow when he inspires his teammates to play at a higher level. That kind of spirit can infect entire commands and even entire civilian communities in a positive way.
As Shakespeare wrote: “There comes a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a venture we are now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our venture.” Go Warriors!
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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