Maybe you’ve already heard this, but there was this little football game played Sunday out in Arlington, Texas. It came complete with Roman numerals attached to it’s name, the Black Eyed Peas played during it’s one and only intermission after Christina Aguilera sang our National Anthem beforehand.
In the end, it was the Green Bay Packers getting the better of the Pittsburgh Steelers by the score of 31-25. As such, the Packers will return home with the trophy named after their great, late coach…Vince Lombardi.
As I watched the closing moments, my thoughts turned back to our hockey team and wondered if Lombardi…one of the greatest coaches and personalities in all of professional sports… would have had any words of advice and/or encouragement to offer up to the Thrashers were he still with us. They are struggling through some very difficult times and if there was ever anybody who might be able to properly motivate this squad, I’m sure he could have.
To the players themselves, Lombardi might remind these guys that, “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit”.
Too many times this winter we have witnessed a number of players in Thrasher blue mentally fold up their tents and break camp long before the final horn. This usually happens sometime in the mid-to-latter stages of the second period when faced with adverse situations. As such, all it takes is s bad goal or an ill-advised penalty to turn a 2-1 game into a 9-3 or 6-1 disaster.
Maybe these guys are of the mindset that they have to play a perfect game in order to win. Thus, when one mistake, miscue or bad break occurs…they allow that to become the beginning of the end. But, as Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”.
Chasing excellence. Now that’s a fine model to use as an example, I’d say. It sure beats the heck out of what they tend to chase now… forwards who just beat them with the puck while carrying it through the defensive zone. And if they did actually apply this to their work ethic, then maybe they’ll find out for themselves what Mr. Lombardi discovered so long ago, that “the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender”.
“Winning isn’t everything”, Lombardi also once said. “But the will to win is everything”. And if coach Craig Ramsay feels he has anyone on this squad that lacks such will, then they should never see the ice in a Thrashers uniform again.
Speaking of the good coach… Like Lombardi half a century ago with the Packers, it’s his duty to actually lead and motivate this Thrashers team. In the latter half of his first season as an NHL head coach, Ramsay seems to be having his share of difficulties getting 60 minutes of play from those suiting up for games and maybe some words of wisdom could be of help here as well.
”Coaches who can outline plays on a chalkboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate”, Lombardi opined. And I’m sure that’s true for coaches on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field as it is for the man behind the bench near the frozen ice of Philips Arena.
On more than one occasion, Ramsay has indicated that the biggest stick he has to get his players attention is ice time. You work hard and give full effort, then you play more minutes. Logic would dictate that the opposite is true as well. But given some of the recent mid-game surrenders, threatening to place them on the bench for more minutes than usual doesn’t seem netting the desired effect from some.
Coaches must be good motivators. And it’s a part of the job that I feel coach Ramsay needs to find a new sense of enthusiasm for if he’s to be successful at his job here. If not, then another quote by the former Packers coach could come into play.
“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm”.
To general manager Rick Dudley, I think the best piece of advice that he could draw from Vince Lombardi is “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have”.
Now, at face value, that might seem like I’m saying the Thrashers GM should expect this team to find it’s ay back to winning with the players currently on the roster. But that would not be less than correct.
In fact, it is painfully clear that even with the return of such key players like Toby Enstrom and Jim Slater, this Thrashers team needs some help. It’s the kind of help that can only come via a trade and Dudley simply must find a way to sure up the defense and bolster the offense.
But Dudley and Co. are limited in the fact that the current ownership is hardly the kind to open up the checkbook and give the man they’ve charged with icing a contending team the full means to do just that. Like the man who held the post before him, Dudley will have to find a way to make due with the resources availed to him…which is much akin to trying to dine at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on a Burger King budget.
Regardless, he simply must get the job done…and done to a degree far better than his predecessor.
Impossible, you say? I’d remind you of another phrase credited to Lombardi: ”We would accomplish more things if we did not think of them as impossible”.
And finally, as for the owners we in Thrasherville have been “blessed” with…maybe Lombardi could have dropped this little piece of 411 on their collective consciences.
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
See…the most aggravating part about being a Thrashers fan during the current reign of the Atlanta Spirit, LLC, (Lies, Lawsuits and Contempt), is that they don’t seem to have entered into this business with the will to be winners. To any sports fan, that type of apathetic disposition is simply unacceptable.
After all, “If it doesn’t matter who wins and loses, then why do they keep score?”
Adding to the spirit of angst toward the ownership cluster is the info-bomb that was dropped on Thrasherville just last month. In the filing the paperwork for their latest legal excursion, they admitted that they have looked to sell…or to use their words, “dispose of”… the Thrashers for six years.
Of course, the only thing around here that needs to be disposed of and kicked to the curb is this out-of-touch, sue-happy cluster-flop of an ownership group. But I digress…
However, as long as they do hold the title to the Thrashers, I don’t think it’s too much for what’s left of the paying fan based they haven’t yet chased away to expect…no, demand…that they actually display an ounce of intestinal fortitude required to be in the professional sports business. They need to man-up now and allow Rick Dudley to make the upgrades needed for this playoff push…even if that means parting way with some of the money stashed aside for their lawyers.
I know that runs counter to what the Spiriteers seem to think professional sports franchises are purchased for, buying and then quickly flipping them for a quick profit. But hockey fans…like basketball, baseball and football fans… all share the belief that sports are played to win. And owners who lack the testicular fortitude to do whatever is required to see to it their teams are winners need to find something else to invest in.
Deal with that, Mr. Levenson.
By: Bill Tiller – AJC.com Thrashers Fan Blog