In every writing workshop I ever had–or the one’s that were worth a damn at least–the professor would make a general comment on the first day of class along the lines of this: “Leave the disclaimers out of your work; don’t put one in your piece, and don’t give us one before you read it aloud.”
Will someone please relay that message to Tom Coughlin?
Earlier in the week, grumblings from the land of not-quite-Giants found its way into my ear canals containing this disheartening piece of information: Coughlin was strongly considering resting numerous Giants starters against the Patriots this Saturday. His logic: their playoff spot is locked and they could use the rest for a few banged up players.
Well f_#@ that.
It’s a big, ugly disclaimer. Coughlin knows as well as anyone who’s been near SportsCenter this football season that Eli Manning, et al ≠ The Patriot’s kryptonite. The Giants will lose this Saturday, starters or not. But copping out before game day, check that, before Thursday? No wonder the Giants perennially fold this time of year.
Before you tell me to read today’s headlines, let me just say that I’ve read today’s headlines, and it changes nothing. The breaking news states Coughlin is leaning toward playing his starters. Burress even took a few reps in practice yesterday! Yay! And the Giants players, get this, want to play. Jacobs says he expects the same proportion of activity in the game.
But the damage is done. Once the disclaimer hit, all the glory of perfection went the way of a Barry Bonds home run (circa 2001 on): it became asterisked (or double asterisked, depending on how much you dislike the Patriots and are willing to overlook the fact that many NFL teams also “steal” calls).
Having laid his plan bare and for all to see, now, when the game gets out of hand, and it most definitely will, Coughlin can furrow his brow, talk into his Motorola headset (did you know that both Las Vegas AND the Motorola logo on NFL headsets can be seen from space?), and pull his players of worth. And then I’ll have to listen to ESPN jack-asses discuss the validity of the Patriots’ undefeated season for the length of their playoff run. (As a side note: if I ever run into Skip Bayless on the street, I plan to ask him which way north is, insist it is the opposite of whatever direction he says, implore him to convince me otherwise, wholly disagree with each and every word he speaks, and then backhand him before smugly telling him he’s “off the Budweiser Hot Seat.”)
Esquire’s latest issue (Esquire is the best magazine on the planet, and you should read it) features a compilation of the best “What I’ve Learned” interviews from the past ten years. Among the hundreds of gems comes this quote from a 2006 “What I’ve Learned” interview with Buck O’Neil, a Negro League baseball player for the Kansas City Monarchs and the first African American coach in Major League Baseball with the Chicago Cubs:
“No, you’re never gonna see that again. Oh, no! I mean, nobody is going to pitch to Barry Bonds in the World Series. You walk him. You don’t walk batters to get to Barry Bonds. But that’s how it was. That was a different era—an era of personal competition. You lived to pitch to Josh Gibson. Why do you think Babe Ruth hit so many home runs? They weren’t pitching around him. When Walter Johnson was on the mound, he felt it was his job to get him out. This is how I get my kicks—pitching to the best.”
It certainly is a different era, an era where the Coughlins of the world can wave the white flag before the battle even starts, and feel completely dignified in doing so.
From me to you, Tom Coughlin, I hope you choke on your disclaimer, that you injure yourself waving that white flag, and that you have to watch the game from your locker room while the boos for Eli leak through the ceiling above you and your starters are made to look like blocking dummies while the Patriots perfectly dismantle your “Giants.”