The eve of war is upon us... The Jaguars' NFL season about to begin. I am a warrior by nature, and I feel like Caesar as he gave his command to his troops, "Come back carrying your shield, or being carried on it". That is how I view life, win and reap the spoils, lose, and you are never forgiven, ever. The problem is I know this isn't right, and that is what makes my friendship with John so valuable. He sees things through his soul. When I see a statue of Jesus with the large heart on the exterior, I think of John. He knows the real truth. I texted him last week and here is the transcript.
Terry - John, help me get in the right frame of mind for the season.
John - To forgive and forget is how we should live.
John - But if we refuse to forget, did we ever truly forgive?
Terry - ????
John - I am beginning to forget last year.
Terry - You are?
John - That is what you wrote! Let it sink in and call me later in the week.
As usual, I wanted to call him and ask the answer, but I knew he wouldn't tell me, so I had to figure it out. I went through my recent articles and found that one sentence. The one at the end of the post after the Eagles game titled, "I think I am in love". I let the thought roll around in my head.
When I realized what he meant, I was embarrassed. I held Jack Del Rio responsible for last season. I blamed Jack and Shack, and the entire team. The Miami preseason game reminded me of last year and I reviled against it. I wanted Jack gone by half-time, and the specter of last year still defined how I looked at this season. But, does Eben Britton remember last year? Does Derek Cox, or Sean Considine, or Tra Thomas, or Torry Holt? No. They just want to play football. For me to be in the right frame of mind for this year, I had to not just forgive last year, I had to forget last year. I let that thought sink in for a few days.
When I let go of it, and I mean really let go, I was happy and excited for this year. This is a new year, a new team, and they are ready to play. I was now ready to call John, which I did, and explained what I realized.
"Now we can talk and maybe you can write again" he said.
"So, if I drop the baggage John, what should I watch for?" I asked.
"In simple terms, watch for these things" he said.
Receivers dropping passes; last year they dropped a lot of ball, if they hang on to them this year, it isn't last year. Pay attention to the QB to receiver connection developing.
Running the ball; if they can run the ball this year, it isn't last year. Eben Britton won his job not for pass blocking but for run blocking. John reminded me of the play against the Redskins when Rashad Jennings got 8 yards and set up the Walker touchdown pass. He ran behind Britton, who opened a monster hole. Watch the running game develop.
Defensive yards allowed: John reminded me that teams that hold the opponent to 300 yards or less go to the playoffs. Follow the progress of the team in yards allowed. See how they adjust week to week.
"It won't be perfect", he said, "but watch those three things and you will see the big picture". "Remember this" he continued, "The Titans watched Adam Vinatieri kick a 46 yard field goal at 2 below zero to keep them out of the Super Bowl in 2003". Then, with the same team the next year they went 5-11 and then 4-12" he said. "Rebuilding may not be a one year ordeal".
"So, how do I keep calm like you" I asked.
"Buddha said suffering comes from two places" he replied. "First, you aren't getting something you want, or second, you are getting something you don't want" he finished.
"Um, how does that translate to me?" I asked.
"Simple", he said, "It is your expectations that create your suffering". "Buddha said everything is in harmony except your view" he added. "When you are really upset about the game, you need a clue to help you settle down. I'll send you a song you can play whenever you are upset." he offered. Here is what he sent. Song by Jay Unger Molly Mason
So I listened to the song and got what he said. I need to let go of wanted and start watching. But I still felt like something was missing. I didn't have a good methodology from which to evaluate a game, I only had emotion. "John, I really need something deeper from you" I said. "I want the complete and definitive road map on how to evaluate the game I am watching and thus the season. Take me up a level". I demanded.
"Look, if you are a warrior, then watch the game through the eyes of the master, watch as if you are Sun Tzu" he said.
OK, now I am confused which means he is telling me something real. "A little help?" I asked with a question in my voice. "Sun Tzu???" I quizzed.
"Sun Tzu wrote the definitive book on winning battles. His words have guided military training for thousands of years. In the "Art of War", Sun Tzu distilled all battles down to the seven critical factors that determine victory" he replied. "Watch the game with these thoughts in mind, watch through the master's eyes" he said:
Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? In football, this means will the players follow the coach without question. Are they really "all in". Dissention on the team leads to failure. This is why Terrell Owens is not a welcome figure.
Which of the two generals has most ability? Are we being out coached? Jeff Fisher seems to have our number, but he can't beat San Diego. See if the loss or win was because of coaching.
With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? Home field advantage is sometimes true, weather conditions can make or break a team, or just blind luck determines the outcome. A team at home for two weeks facing a team travelling coast to coast has an advantage. Decide if somehow conditions made the difference.
On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? Did they win or did we lose? Did we play smart football? Who was ready to play the game and disciplined enough to get the job done. Who had the least penalties? Who stood strong when things were falling apart? In 2007, the Jaguars held Larry Johnson to something like 10 yards rushing and he began yelling at his offensive line during the game. The Jaguars had it in the bag as soon as that happened.
Which army is stronger? In football, this is primarily in the trenches. Are we getting beat because we can't measure up, or are we dominating the other team and they are scrambling for an answer?
On which side are officers and men more highly trained? Peyton Manning has skills that few match. Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald. On some teams, the skill and training have been highly honed. Watch for how we are developing and how developed the other team is.
In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment? In football, this means are we playing the best players. Do you earn your way on to the game or are some players treated special? Kerry Collins starting over Vince Young is the best example of this. If David is having a bad day, will Luke come in? If Troy has a bad day of the drops, will Nate Hughes come in for him? Will Derek Cox play whether he gets beat or not? Watch for this in the team.
"Remember Terry, it is for your ENJOYMENT they play" he said, and with that he hung up.
Wow, he really delivered the road map on how to watch the game and the season just as I asked. I could use my logic instead of emotion to see the game. So all of you already know what John said, you have been saying this to me for months, I just needed more time. Forget last year, most of this new team doesn't have any knowledge of it anyway. Watch the team develop. Learn the game at a deeper level. Watch the game from Sun Tzu's seven critical elements. Evaluate based on progress as Zoltan said.
I am now ready for the Colts game and the season, thank you, John.
- Terry O'Brien