Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jan 2013

Mandatory Monday: One More Time

Notes from my trip to Balmer to see Ray Lewis' final home game. A reminder of why option plays have limited NFL usefulness, as if we needed a reminder after watching RG3 double over. There is also a Saturday article over at Sports on Earth with a goofy Dragnet parody.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 07 Jan 2013

28 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2013, 9:53am by dbostedo


by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 9:12am

The section on Ray Lewis is really good, reminds me of the kind of thing Dr Z used to produce. I'm of the opinion that there's a classic american writing style that is very different from the British tone I'm used to. Not to make any judgement as to which is better on the whole but the US style seems to work better for sports and travel journalism but perhaps not as well for politics. It's difficult to define, succinct without brevity, direct without becoming brutish and carefree while retaining sufficient gravity, lifting easily from the page without being lightweight. I think Tanier hits it here, a really nicely written piece.

by Flounder :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 10:25am

I nominate you for a Poseur Alert.


by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 11:51am

I was trying to describe something that I found difficult to express, next time I won't bother.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 12:31pm

Naw, I get it, there's an reflective introspection to that piece. While much will be written about the significance of the moment vis-a-vis persionality and career that preceeded it, what Tainer wrote may be the only piece on what it felt like.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 3:08pm

The paragraph was attempting to describe a particular style of american writing that Brits don't do well. Probably the most prominent examples would be Fitzgerald or Hemming way though I think Bill Byron and his father the baseball writer both display this style. Hunter Thompson wrote beautifully at times:

"So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

The style is difficult to describe but you don't see it from British writers.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 8:37pm

I think I understand what you mean, but I think you overstate the case a bit. Tanier is a treasure among sports writers, but I think it's because he was trained in a field other than sports writing. You would be lucky to find one in a hundred sports writers that could deliver the same content. All you have to do is compare Tanier's writing with the self-indugent mishmash of George Will to distinguish the difference.

My experience is that is plenty of good British writing, but it's largely by expats, and it's decidedly not about sports.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 10:04pm

I wasn't saying that Tanier always writes like that, just that he hit that particularly american style in that first section on Lewis and that British writers don't use that style. There are good British writers but I struggle to think of any good sports writers, probably because our narratives are so polarised between triumphalism and defeatism.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 11:03pm

Hugh McIlvanney

by David :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 6:36am

There are lots of good British sports writers - for example, almost everyone that has historically written about cricket, from Neville Cardus through to Christopher Martin-Jenkins. The Spin (and OBO) writers on the Guardian, whilst not brilliant stylists, write very well about the game without lurching between triumphalism and defeatism. Simon Jenkins (of the Times) is a stylist, though personally I find him very wearying.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 9:44am

Cardus is hardly contemporary, though he was brilliant. I did actually remember that I enjoyed Simon Hughes autobiagraphy and history of cricket and that I neglected Andy Zaltzman, who is a little variable but can be superb.

I will miss CMJ on TMS.

It's also possible I'm failing to see past the legions of footbal writers and boorish rugby articles.

by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 9:57am

Ugh, Zaltzman is awful. By-the-numbers "comedy" writing. By far the best current cricket writer is Gideon Haigh.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 1:20pm

Let's just say Flounder isn't your audience. He also doesn't read FO very much, or he'd be giving out those awards at every grammar debate that breaks out.

I also enjoyed this piece, but sometimes recently I've felt that Tanier just comes across as so much a cynic that he doesn't seem to enjoy the game anymore. I didn't get that bitterness when he was writing here.

by Tim R :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 2:11pm

Well I think the Eagles sucking this year may have something to do with an increase in bitterness.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 2:16pm

given the craft spirits movement going on, someone should make an Eagle Bitters with a picture of a crying walrus in silver ink on a green bottle.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 8:55pm

That's... simply brilliant.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 11:15pm

I think I know what you're getting at. Actually I quite liked it. I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery was really particularly effective. Interesting rhythmic devices too, which seemed to counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the football-ness of the author's compassionate soul - which contrives through the medium of the sentence structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other; And one is left with a profound and vivid insight into whatever it was the article was about.

I think that under Tanier's mean callous heartless exterior, he really just wants to be loved.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 8:54pm

I think Mr. Tanier would tell you that he writes football articles to throw his mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief... Although his language does bring the foonting turlingdromes quite vibrantly to life.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 01/09/2013 - 9:53am

Yep... seems like a guy who always knows where his towel is.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 11:03am

Theard title nake think of Daft Punk song. Best daft punk vjdoeo had guy on city street with dog mask on head. Don't remember what happened after that But it was good

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 8:56pm

Always full of surprises.

by Todd S. :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 3:17pm

"Ray Lewis danced before the final home game of his career joyously and carelessly"

He danced in a corybantic manner? (Can't resist working in that word whenver I get a chance.)


by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 4:28pm

Hmmm, yes, I would have said joyously and blithely (rather than carelessly; more carefree than careless).

by Bobman :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 1:24am

This is coming from a graduate of a small liberal arts college where classes meant sitting at round tables with your professors (all called by first name) and a dozen other students, chatting very carefully about concepts. (Most often, it was a dialogue between prof and the only student who did the reading: me.) Please please please get back to football before my eyes bleed.

Todd S, thanks for the new word; must use it sometime. D'oh! Now I am going to start doing it. Now I love Tanier as much as anybody not also named Tanier, but remember--focus on the football. On Ray Lewis who may or may not retire. On Andrew Luck whose entire back is now artfully tattooed to represent the turf in Baltimore? What you say? That's not a tattoo? And the 99 superimposed on his chest... that's real too? As Samuel Jackson might say, Shiiiiit. Even focus on Bruce "The Accidental Retiree" Arians who is still in the hospital (what's with the water cooler at Colts Central? If I worked there I'd start wearing a bio-bubble just in case.) Of the fifteen comments above, a solid dozen focus on the writing and not the analysis, players, coaches, or games. That's just weird.
It's a 25-year flashback to Sarah Lawrence College that I'd just as soon avoid. ;-)

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 1:38am

There are two main issues that Tanier touched on: That offense leads to your qb getting killed- that offense is a crutch. Like training wheels to the real big boy conventional passing game. Read option is great and all, but no one learned to throw with timing and anticipation, with ability to read blitz schemes, inside leverage, single high or two deep, overnight.

The shannahan's are going to have to come to grip with the reality that sooner or later, they will need to grow more into conventionality than they probably would like.

by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 9:24am

You say that, and you are right. But it's amazing how often, and for how long, NFL coaches can be seduced by "dual-threat" QBs. Look at the time invested in Michael Vick.

I guess it's like boy racers and fast cars. Give them a Ferrari and they can't resist driving it as fast as it will go, even if that makes a crash very likely.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 10:23am

"You say that, and you are right. But it's amazing how often, and for how long, NFL coaches can be seduced by "dual-threat" QBs. Look at the time invested in Michael Vick."

It was commented in the GB-MIN game that only Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick have run for at least 200 yards in five consecutive seasons, although I think this is an active streak.

Aaron Rodgers and Steve Young are the two highest-rated QBs in NFL history. Steve Young ran for 400 yards in a season 5 times. He finished with 4000 yards rushing, or just 700 fewer than Gale Sayers.

But clearly guys like John Elway, Fran Tarkenton, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Bobby Layne, and Rich Gannon were schmoes who were wasting everyone's time. The only "running" QB who really prospered only after giving up running was Randall Cunningham, who could do one or the other, but never both. Favre is sort of an example. He had three career peaks, only the first of which came as a scrambler. That first peak was probably his brightest, though.

by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 10:44am

It's dumb to compare Griffin to guys like Rodgers, McNair and McNabb (let alone Favre and Gannon). They could move the chains, but they weren't running 10+ designed runs per game in the way Griffin is, and early-career Vick was.

Far from being "system schmoes" the point is that those QBs enjoyed success by being pocket passers and using their running ability in key situations when it was worth the risk. Tanier's (correct) point is that Shanahan and Griffin should be aiming to recreate that, not using him like a college QB over a 20-game season against NFL linebackers.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 1:59pm

Including scrambles, Griffin has 120 rushes in 15 games. That's a typical season for Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham, or Michael Vick.

It's also not atypical for Daunte Culpeper or Steve McNair, and on about a per-game rate for Gannon or Young, before they got old. At 95 rushes, this is exactly the group Russell Wilson is mixed in with. McNair and Young ran more often than you remember.