The Lobotomy

In education, business, politics, sports, you name it, when mired in the deepest mess, the strategy that will be successful most consistently is the lobotomy.

titans-saintsChapter 1

NPR’s All Things Considered recently ran a story about what has worked and not worked with the educational reform program called No Child Left Behind. Short version: When nothing else works, a school must develop a restructuring strategy. The most common strategy — and the one that most consistently works — is called by education pundits, “the lobotomy.” It means, simply, firing the person in charge. With school, it’s the principal.

Why is the lobotomy the only thing that consistently works? It’s hard to say.

Tom Ahn, a University of Kentucky professor and leading researcher of No Child Left Behind Ahn points out that, to be forced into restructuring, a school had to be considered failing for six years. “There’s something seriously wrong with the way the school has been run,” Ahn says.

This doesn’t necessarily the principal is bad or incompetent.

Says Ahn, “When leadership change occurs, basically there’s a sea change.”

Not only is there an improvement in student performance, but also in teacher satisfaction surveys.

Chapter 2

I’ve thought of “the lobotomy” several times since hearing about it in that story. But I’ve been thinking about it being appliedcin other contexts than No Child Left Behind.

John Boehner
NFL Coaches Joe Philbin (Miami) and Ken Whisenhut (Tennessee)
Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri President
A Parade of Executives at Volkswagen
And-on-and-on

Moral of this story

In education, business, politics, sports, you name it, when you want a sea change, a lobotomy may not always work, but it’s more likely to work consistently than other choices.

Boring Events Like the NFL Draft Work Because of Twitter

Watching the NFL draft on TV is ridiculously boring without Twitter

Watching the NFL draft on TV is ridiculously boring, despite everything the NFL and ESPN do to focus on back-stories (dipping into ABC’s creation of the “up close and personal” documentary approach to turn sports like curling into emotional personal stories of victory over adversity), punditry and more big data than the NSA collects on the leaders of foreign governments.

However, Twitter can turn boring events into an entertaining event fueled by back-channel quips, snark, insight and, my favorite, “irrational hate.”

Read more “Boring Events Like the NFL Draft Work Because of Twitter”

Why I love this year’s Tennessee Titans more than any before

Vince Young to Chris Johnson VY-CJ

CJ & VY (I shot this last month at the Titans vs. Bills game.)

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[A note to fans of CJ and East Carolina University. I apologize for my late-night blogging and for including the word “State” in the name of your fine university. I should fact-check this blog better (but why start now?). We are all of one accord: CJ is great.]

(Note: Before I launch into this sports-related post, here’s a reminder for those who don’t regularly read this blog: While I confess to hero-worshiping certain athletes, such worship is limited to their accomplishments within the boundary lines of their chosen field, court, course, etc. I’ve learned (haven’t we all?) to pigeon-hole my admiration for accomplishments of human beings. When it comes to athletes, even the swiftest of feet can be made of clay.)

On the day my “home team,” the Tennessee Titans lost the sixth of its first six games of this year’s season, a game that also holds the record for the being the worst routing of a football team in modern NFL history, , I wrote the following:

“This year, I’m learning what it’s like to be a fan of an NFL team that has bad coaching, no team leadership and no soul. I’m learning what it’s like to be a fan of a team that sucks. And not just any sucking — but sucking of Titanic proportions.”

As I wrote that day, I really hated everything about that team. From head coach on down, they were a bunch of losers.

But the reason I love sports, and especially the NFL, is this: the difference between the best and worst in the league is not really raw talent — it’s what coaches and players can do with their raw talent verses what coaches and players on the other team can do with their’s.

Those times I love sports the best are the rare occasions when a team that sucked in September turns into a team that soars in December. Like this year’s Titans.

Today, a team that has no resemblance, except the uniforms, to the 0-6 team hit the .500 mark. The 0-6 team set records for being incredibly bad. The 7-1 team has set records for being incredibly good. The 0-6 team had a quarterback who seemed lackluster and uninspiring. The 7-1 team is led by another quarterback who was written off two months ago, but who is now looking like a shoe-in for “come-back player of the year.”

This year’s Titans season has two stories, either of which is reason enough for me to love it more than ever.

1. The VY Story: We’re talking classic movie sports drama with this one. Here’s the plot:

At the beginning of last year’s (2008) season, an incredible athlete, Vince Young (VY), who has dominated every league he’s played in since middle school, hears his first fan “boos” and is devastated by the experience. He suffers a crisis of confidence that balloons into a full blown “situation” during which friends and family call 911 with warnings that he is suicidal. He is relieved from his starting position and his backup wins 13 games straight. Young’s career is written off by everyone who knows anything about football (except team owner Bud Adams). During the summer, the father-figure in Vince Young’s life, Steve McNair, is killed in a bizarre murder-suicide that leads Young to reexamine his life — and commit anew to his career. Still, no one believes he’s got what it takes to come back. Alas, after his team starts the season 0-6, the team’s owner practically orders the head coach, who has written Young off, to give him one last chance.

The story plays out from there like every movie sports drama since Knute Rockne, All American.

If the Titans make it to the playoffs (an extremely long shot, but statistically possible), Vince Young will have provided the plot for one of the greatest sports dramas of all time: adversity, breakdown, murder, inspiration, redemption, victory. I’m buying a box of Kleenex just thinking of it.

2. The CJ Story: I love it when athletes become so famous they are known by their initials — and the Titans have two such players this year, in addition to VY, they have CJ, Chris Johnson. Here’s his story: A speedster running back from East Carolina University is passed over by many teams in the NFL draft until the 24th pick in the first round, the Titans, select him. Last year, his rookie season, despite “sharing” running back duties with another player, he has a rookie of the year season (except a quarterback for another team actually wins the award). Now, in his second season, CJ becomes the most loved Fantasy League player of all time (well, at least by those who have him on their fantasy teams) while in pursuit of some incredible rushing records. Besides that, his running style complements the versatility of VY, making them a threatening pair.

With both VY and CJ, the 2009 Titans Team is a team of redemption, if not destiny. And it is a team with stories that provide a deep well of metaphors regarding the ability to come back from failure.

For example, the team was up by 18 points when the Miami Dolphins came roaring back during a fourth quarter surge (due, in no small part, to the game-ending injury of Titans linebacker Keith Bullock) that tied the game in the final moments — sending it to overtime. In overtime, the Titans win, continuing their still extremely long-shot at a playoff birth.

Sure, statistically it’s possible: this year’s Titans may make it to the playoffs. But no matter what, the team that played during the second half of the 2009 season will be one of my favorite Titans teams ever.

Record-breaking badness

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In the early days of this blog, I wrote a lot about my NFL home team, the Tennessee Titans. Being a fan is part of who I am. And, frankly, it’s always been easy to be a fan of the Titans because even in their bad years, I comprehended why they were bad. Salary cap issues, I understood. Injuries, I understood. But even in the bad years, the decisions of Coach Jeff Fisher, while I didn’t always agree with him, I always respected.

That was before this year. And today. This year, I’m learning what it’s like to be a fan of an NFL team that has bad coaching, no team leadership and no soul. I’m learning what it’s like to be a fan of a team that sucks. And not just any sucking — but sucking of Titanic proportions.

The Titans are 0-6 and today received the worst beating in modern NFL history, losing 59-0 to the New England Patriots.

Without a doubt, it had to be the second-most humiliating game in the Titans-Oilers franchise history. The most humiliating award goes to the 1992 Oilers, who played in a game that will forever be called The Comeback, an AFC playoff game in which the Oilers were beating the Bills 35-3 in the third quarter, and lost 41-38. (I’ll remind Patriots fans that seven years later, the Bills had to experience the agony of defeat in another playoff game.)

Sure, today’s game was in the snow. And there were injuries. And whatever and whatever. But 59-0? In the NFL? This team is not only bad. It is breaking record in badness.

I will continue cheering for my home team. I will continue to be a fan. I will still wear my blue and keep believing. I will still go to the games, even if I’m the only one sitting in my section. But it sure would be nice to have players and coaches who seemed willing to try something, anything to not embarrass themselves.

(One sidenote of dubious note: At least they were wearing a throw-back Oilers jersey today, and not a Titans uniform. Someday in the distant future, when they are showing highlights of the worst teams ever in the NFL, this year’s Titans will appear to be the Oilers.)

Bonus link 1: The Tennessean’s David Climer – Suddenly, Fisher’s on hot seat.

Bonus link 2: Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ ProFootball Talk, says it all:

“The Tennessee Titans had been called the best 0-2 team in league history. 
And the best 0-3 team in league history.
And the best 0-4 team in league history. 
And the best 0-5 team in league history.
They’re now simply a crappy 0-6 team that has by all appearances given up after an embarrassing 59-0 whitewashing on the white field at Foxborough.”

Tennessean.com finally gets the blogging thing

Since I’ve complained for several years about the stumbles in using new-media by my local newspaper, the Gannett-owned Tennessean.com, I feel compelled to provide a shout-out this morning to their blog, Titans Insider. As I’ve long said on this blog, the best writing in the Tennessean, and most local newspapers, can be found on the sports pages. I’ll explain why (and it’s important) in another post one day, however, it’s especially true at the Tennessean.

The Titans Insider blog is giving the sports staff an additional platform to display why they are the leading source of insightful and informed knowledge, not just the kind of ranting one often is subjected to on talk-radio and social-media when the topic is sports.

Another kudo to the Tennessean: They’re trying hard with Twitter also. Who knows? Maybe they’ll get there.

(Standard note in these kind of posts: My complaints with the Tennessean have never been with journalists, but with the clueless people for whom they work.)

P.S. Unfortunately the Titans lost in overtime. I think they displayed, however, that they have the potential to be playing well into January.