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SU Football Is Like Your Little League

My final year of Little League I played for the Mohicans (all of the teams had Native American names...what can I tell you...). We wore these awful striped uniforms that had clearly been in use since the early 80's. The stripes were light orange, dark orange and brown and they kinda resembled this when put together. I get douche chills just thinking about it.

Our coach that year was a nice guy and he decided to implement the "batting order by way of the time you arrive" method of lineup creation. Hence, the earlier you showed up, the earlier you batted. Show up just before the game starts and you bat last. It's the kind of method that ultimately motivates you because despite the fact that you're 12 and when you bat doesn't make any difference, you are mortified of being one of the "double-digits," as if people are actually going to notice. Our coach also made sure that everyone got a chance to pitch and no one got more playing time at any given position than anyone else.

In theory, it's a lovely idea that removes the pressure and anxiety that can come with the sport and puts the focus back on just having fun. But they don't play Little League games in theory. They play them on poorly maintained baseball fields sponsored by local veterinarians and Elks Lodges. While we were Team Nice Guys, every team we played engineered a strategically-placed line-up, used their best players in the most impactful ways and employed strategies to manufacture hits and runs.

We finished the season winless and we were all miserable.

I bring this up because of what I read in the
Zach Schonbrun's Daily Orange article about Curtis "Seriously, What Happened To Boonah" Brinkley. It's a "redemption story" article about, well, how it's not redemption story article. And that's a good point. The time for redemptive talk is done. And Curtis knows it.

What caught my eye was the part about how Coach Robinson eventually decided to give the starting job to Brinkley.
If Greg Robinson decides as anticipated to whittle his running back contingent down to two, it may well leave Brinkley as the one left out. The head coach hasn't named anyone yet, and likely won't before the kickoff on Saturday. Yet it couldn't have boosted confidence when Robinson essentially made his vanilla decision to start Brinkley vs. Northwestern purely because of seniority.

"He's made a real effort, and that's why he ended up being the guy that started the game," Robinson said Sunday. "It was really too close to call on any of them, but Curtis was the senior football player. I told all three of them that was for this game and where we go from there will be determined this week."

For Brinkley, though, seniority may be a slight, a favor insulting. Concessions are for the fifth-year walk-on hoping to steal some playing time on Homecoming. They're for the third-string quarterback in a 40-point blowout. They're not for one of the greatest running backs to ever come out of a Philadelphia high school, who battled through two knee surgeries and a broken fibula in a 12-month span.
I finally figured it out. Greg Robinson coaches Syracuse football like he's coaching Little League. He's the nice guy coach who just wants everyone to have a good time, and if we win a couple games along the way that's great, but if we don't, no big deal. As long as you're having fun and everyone's getting a fair shake. When in doubt, just make arbitrary decisions based on what's the nicest thing to do rather than what's going to improve your chances of winning the most.

Not that I'm saying Brinkley isn't our best option, but as the article says, he should be the starter for that very reason and not because it's the nice thing to do for the senior.

And you know it's true because of the way it's rubbed off on some of his players (not Brinkley, clearly, who wants to scratch and claw his way to win so bad you can feel it). But Arthur Jones has been
talking positive about the Orange's effort all week as if just trying hard is totally enough to make things cool. It absolutely sounds like something Robinson would say and has probably instilled in some of them.

When they talk about a "culture of losing," it's no so much the actual losing that's the problem. It's when everyone involved gets so numb to the loss that they don't even mind it long as they tried hard. I don't think all of our players and coaches feel that way (clearly the running backs don't) but you cannot possibly deny that it's the culture Greg Robinson insists on promoting, even if its just subconsciously. And with every excuse and empty promise he makes this week, the culture's roots settle a little deeper.