Sunday, February 03, 2008

Spy vs. Spy vs. Mike Martz

The magnificent military historian John Keegan wrote a book on the use of intelligence in warfare through the ages, and concluded that while knowledge of the enemy's intentions and capabilities was a helpful tool, there not been one battle ever fought, not one, where intelligence decided the outcome.

Keegan's deal-making case was the German invasion of the island of Crete in 1941. Thanks to the ULTRA device, British forces there had precise information on every aspect of the invasion, times, places, names of units, the whole deal. But the Germans had air superiority, and the knowledge did the Brits not enough good to change that monumental fact of the conflict.

Keegan hasn't examined the topic, as he's British, but I daresay that conclusion goes double for Super Bowls.

It was my good fortune to attend Super Bowl XXXVI, and its fundamental nature was summed up at halftime by one of the country's top football reporters, Ed Boucette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"What's happening here," Ed said as we waited in hot dog line, "is that one team is playing FOOTBALL, and the other team is playing like a bunch of sissies." (He didn't say sissies, but perhaps small children are reading this).

Just so. The Patriots came out and played defense with a rule-testing ferocity the Rams, except for Kurt Warner were unable to match. The Rams defense was completely gassed in the last minute of play, just as it had been in Super Bowl XXXIV, and the Pats took advantage and grabbed the win. Bill Belichick's game plan was a matter of trusting in the willpower and conditioning of his club, and the fact no zebra wants to throw the flag that determines a Super Bowl. It was macrocoaching, not microcoaching details of the opponents' play-calling.

This post is not an opinion on whether or not the Pats taped the Rams' final walkthrough. Since if they did so with malice aforethought, the tapes are long gone, and the issue will never settled. The issue need never be settled. It is irrelevant. It did not, and could not, determine the outcome of that game.

If I know my team is going to hit harder than their team, I'll radio every call I make to their bench, and I'll win anyway.


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