Due to the advent of the college football season, we thought we would take your minds off the NCAA’s current woes in respect to high-priced-tattooed-prostitute-abortion scandals and such1 by taking you back to a more innocent time when locking a concussed player in a dark electrical closet was still considered a controversial action for a coach.
The following is a relevant excerpt from the preface to the classic treatise on college football, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to NCAA Football, followed by the entirety of Part 3 Section 25.
In Plato’s Laws, sports are referred to as a gift from the gods. If we are to unpack his meaning, we must reflect on how sports have in them certain principles that are instrumental in developing a view of justice.
In childhood, we learn unchanging rules of the game which stand as the metric of all fairness as it relates to the sport. This allows us all to see justice on the field. In life, there are too many variables for us all to agree on a singular vision of justice. On the contrary, what we think of as the fundamental “rules” of the universe depend entirely upon our fundamental axioms, which for some people constantly change and for all people constantly contrast. Consequently, we tend to develop very polarized notions of justice when we think we see it out in the real world. In the game, justice is visible to all. We don’t disagree when we see someone exhibit excellence because we all know the rules. Even when the player exhibiting excellence is an opponent, sometimes you just “gotta give it to ‘em, though”.
To the ancients, sports gave mankind the ability to watch excellence in a most pure form.
PART 3. WHY WE WATCH
SECTION 25. CRABTREE’S COMMENTARY
On November 1st, 2008 Michael Crabtree communicated directly with the gods.
As much as The Intelligent Woman’s Guide dislikes the overuse of the word epic, no other term can fully denote the nature of the closure to one of the best football contests of the last decade, the 2008 Texas vs. Texas Tech matchup2.
With eight seconds left in the game, Tech trailed by a point and had the ball thirty yards away from the end-zone. With no timeouts, they needed to gain yards and get out of bounds so they could kick a field goal to try to steal the game back. The whole crowd was thinking the mantra of the announcers, “this is where they want to catch the ball and quickly get out of bounds”. The best receiver in the nation, Michael Crabtree, had something else envisioned.
There is a phenomenon where an elite subset of the archetypical dumb jocks can be really quick at picking things up, as long as those things they are picking up have something to do with a ball. Some scientists claim that it has to do with having learned the kinesthetics for one sport and having the similar skills carry over into other fields, some say it is the confidence from having excelled in one athletic endeavor already. Whatever way you slice it, it doesn’t fully explain how a select few can be so incredibly mentally slow with everything else, yet instantly pick up complicated things in the physical realm. These dumb jock geniuses are a mystery we may never fully understand3.
Many people try to put Michael Crabtree into the simple category of dumb jock, in spite of the fact that he was a quarterback in high school who converted to the wide receiver position and instantly became the best receiver in college football.
Static intelligence tests are certainly a questionable metric for measuring the dynamic cognitive capabilities of a human individual, but for what it’s worth, NFL teams have decided that with so much money on the line, they would like their prospective players to perform above a certain modicum of intellectual aptitude on a test they conceived for football players called the Wonderlic.
While an average football player usually scores around 20 points, when the test was given to miscellaneous people, it was observed that the average participant scored a 24. Examples of the average scores from everyday professions include:
- Chemist – 31
- Programmer – 29
- Journalist – 26
- Sales – 24
- Bank teller – 22
- Clerical worker – 21
- Security guard – 17
Not to say there are not smart football players. Several NFL standout intellects have scored high enough to take their Mensa exams: Benjamin Watson, 48, Greg McElroy, 48, Mike Mamula, 49, and the only ever perfect score, nerd punter, Pat McInally, 50. Crabtree’s score also stands out in a different way, as he scored all of 15 on his Wonderlic Test which places him five points below renowned canine abuser, Michael Vick. That also puts him well below the average intelligence score of the average security guard. We may question the Wonderlic’s ability to predict success in the NFL, but it is probably not a stretch to assume that if Michael Crabtree were not a football player, he wouldn’t necessarily get a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, either.
In those final 8 seconds, Tech QB, Graham Harrell, noticed man-to-man coverage on Crabtree from Longhorn cornerback Curtis Brown. Brown had his eyes on Crabtree as he chased after the speedy receiver sprinting down the sideline near the five yard line. Harrell threw the ball behind Brown with seconds left and left the rest up to Michael Crabtree. Crabtree turned around and didn’t lift his hands in the air to catch the ball until the last possible second to fool Brown into not turning back. Pretty tricky for a 15. By the time Brown turned around, it was a tenth of a second too late. Crabtree had the ball in his hands. Now with only 3 seconds left, the fans and the announcers all cheered and squealed that Crabtree must step out of bounds to set up the easy field goal. Instead, Crabtree risked it all and dashed for the end zone as though someone told him to.
It may not have been the most book-smart decision for Crabtree to try to turn up the field and go for the end-zone down by one with no time-outs, but he did it without hesitation. As a chess master sensing the counter-intuitive forks before they open up on the board. That night the Longhorns could not deny Michael Crabtree the end-zone. After his clever tactical gambit paid off, Crabtree became world hero for the night, and our planet was treated to a divinely inspired speech during his post-game interview4.
In the post-game interview, Lisa Salters did what sports interviewers do best, and asked Michael Crabtree the most hackneyed question she could think of, “What was that last play like?”. Twice. He didn’t catch the nature of the not-so-unique inquiry immediately, but once it sunk in, something magical happened5.
Our word for genius comes to us from the latin word for daemon, which the Greeks saw as a spirit that communicated directly with the gods and tried to guide their protectee, much like judeo-christianity’s more familiar, pilfered notion of guardian angel. Crabtree may have had just enough cracks in the proverbial ego face-mask that the light couldn’t be held inside. In one of the most brilliant game commentaries of all time, Crabtree answered plainly, truthfully, and honestly. He replied to Lisa, “aw Man, I didn’t want to say nothin’ but I DREAMED it! The same way… it’s crazy!” “Oh, you did not!” was the skeptical, salty reply from Salters. Crabtree wasted no time retorting, “I did! I dreamed it in my head!!” He went on to explain, “You know how you dream a little in your head before every play?”
The so-called ‘strong zen-state’ called joriki is defined as a dynamic power or state of mind exuding excellence that enables us even in the most sudden and unexpected situations to act instantly, without pausing to collect our wits, and in a manner wholly appropriate to the circumstances.
When Crab is in the flow, he exudin’ some joriki. (While the preceding sentence is not the kind of phrase young ladies should hear uttered on a first date, it is wholly appropriate under the current context.)
It has long been known to free-throw shooters, golfers, and the like, that you get better results if you just visualize your successful performance right before you do it. However, Crab gives us some insight into just how far the best can take it. In the midst of the crazy antics of the clock running down with no time-outs and the offense sprinting down the field in a frantic no-huddle hurry up, you would think that visualization might fall by the way-side. Not so with Crabtree. Not only does he find time to visualize his performance before every play, but the reality of those visualizations are so ideal that he names them dreams in your head.
Dreams have long been revered by diverse cultures as profound gifts from the gods. Even the most ardent modern has to admit that occasionally while they are in the dream, the vision has such verisimilitude that they take it to be waking reality.
Crabtree’s excellence may have come through his hard, consistent work in practice, but his flow state of mind is something that even the zen masters can’t teach. It is in that state of mind that our daemon can best implant prognosticative dreams into our mind.
- The University of Texas Longhorns were considered the best team in the nation on that Saturday as they boasted the nation’s coveted #1 ranking. They were undefeated and on a course to the National Championship game. On that night, the Texas Tech Red Raiders prepared for the biggest game in their school’s history as they looked to upset their arch-rival by way of a high-powered offense that had elevated the Red Raiders all the way to #7 in the polls. Texas started out flat, and the Red Raiders jumped to a 19-0 lead before the sleeping dragon awoke. Texas legend Colt McCoy then led his team on a second half comeback as the Tech squad played like a team trying to hold on to their big lead. Their defense could not stop Texas anymore, but the offense was still scoring some points. Colt led his team in the waning minutes to finally take the lead and put a possible game winning dramatic score on the board as they went up 33-32 with little time left. ↩
- While much of this piece hints at some questions regarding special intelligences, for deeper insight into the more esoteric complexities of a professional athlete’s mentality, see: Athletic Artistry by Paul Shirley ↩
- Crabtree’s Famous Game Commentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQvFO9OEeDs ↩
- Not magical in an ironic, this is something to laugh at way, but magical in a profoundly inspired way most football fans missed when they merely mocked it. ↩