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ACTION’S BOOKCLUB: WINS, LOSSES AND LESSONS

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WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF

It’s the offseason, and now that college football has gone to rest for seven long months, it’s time for us to tend to the parts of our lives that we’ve neglected during the season. Eating healthier, exercising, saying hello to our loved ones... and scratching the intellectual itch. That’s right, it’s time to catch up on our reading!

Now, there’s plenty of good things to read out there. Paul Reiser’s books. Garfield omnibuses. I’ve heard good things about Harry Potter. But I’m not going to fully disconnect from my love for college football in these long winter months. I’m going to work my way through an untapped oeuvre: the long list of books written by college football coaches!

[checks a stack out from the public library while barely making eye contact with the librarian]

Anyways, (thanks to a suggestion in the Shutdown Fullcast Reddit thread), I’m starting with the autobiography of former NC State / Arkansas / Minnesota / Notre Dame / South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz: Wins, Losses and Lessons.

[cracks cover]

[sighs deeply] oh I regret this idea so much already

CHAPTER TITLES OR FORTUNE COOKIES?

It’s Not What You Have, It’s Who You Have; Success Is A Choice You Make; First Impressions Have Lasting Results; A Day Without Learning Is A Day Without Living; Setbacks Don’t Define Your Goals, You Do; Greatness Starts With Belief and Total Commitment; Leading Is Easy When People Want To Be Led; You Only Get What You Give; A Halfhearted Commitment Is Worse Than No Commitment At All; What Behavior Are You Willing To Accept?; Bad Things Sometimes Happen For A Good Reason; Getting Rid of Excuses; Success Is a Matter of Faith; Perfection Is Possible If You Accept Nothing Less; All You Can Do Is All You Can Do; Everyone Needs Something to Look Forward To

Okay, some initial thoughts:

  1. This is too many chapters.
  2. I did not make any of those up. Okay, I made one up. “You Get What You Give” is a 1998 hit by the band The New Radicals. The rest are all Lou Holtz.
  3. Lou Holtz wrote this book at Panda Express.
  4. I’ve made a huge mistake.

HOW MANY PAGES DOES IT TAKE BEFORE HE QUOTES AYN RAND?

Six, but that’s only because he spent too much time getting there while describing the 2002 Outback Bowl. Happens to all of us.

HOW MANY PAGES BEFORE HE MAKES AN INCREDIBLY PLAYED-OUT COMPLAINT YOUR GRANDPA WOULD MAKE ABOUT MODERN SOCIETY?

Eleven pages. “People’s priorities were different two or three generations ago. Not a news cycle goes by today when someone isn’t complaining about a violation of his or her rights. Spill coffee in your lap? Sue the restaurant that served you.”

This is where I’m just going to recommend you watch the documentary Hot Coffee instead of reading a book by Lou Holtz, or at least read the Wikipedia on Liebeck vs. McDonald’s Restaurants.

Anyways, that’s great, Grandpa. [checks watch, realizes Golden Corral doesn’t open for another hour] Why don’t you tell a story about one of your football friends?

IS THERE A STORY ABOUT A GENUINELY CRAZY PERSON THAT’S PORTRAYED AS A CHARMING QUIRK AND NOT THE SIGN OF A GENUINELY CRAZY PERSON?

“In that first meeting, the staff and I broke up a physical fight between Coach (Woody) Hayes and an assistant coach over a student’s academics... the assistant respectfully disagreed, and Coach Hayes went after him, grabbing him by the shirt and starting a tussle... Breaking up the fight was just for starters. Later Coach Hayes got mad over something else and picked up the projector and hurled it through the glass door.

[several paragraphs of this later]

“Sure, he had a volatile temper; you never knew what was going to happen when he was around. But he was also a brilliant tactician.”

You know who else was a brilliant tactician, Lou?

BOBBY BOWDEN WAS NOT TEACHING YOU A LESSON, LOU, HE’S JUST ENJOYING HIMSELF

He tells the story of then-West Virginia head coach Bobby Bowden, whom he’d gone on his honeymoon with, leaving his starters in a game they had well in hand over Holtz’s William and Mary. “Bobby, why did you do that? We’re friends.” “It’s your job to keep the score down, not mine. If you don’t like the score, either recruit harder or coach better.” “I knew he was right.”

It’s a hell of a thing to write an autobiography and leave me liking one of the other characters more, Lou.

INCREDIBLY INCORRECT ASSERTION THAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH LATER IN A BOOK LIKE THIS BECAUSE ANYONE WHO’S MADE IT THIS FAR IS TOO WEAK TO CHALLENGE YOU ON IT

“If we could have brought prospects to campus in the summer, we would never have lost one. Notre Dame in July resembles paradise.”

DOES HE TELL AN ANECDOTE WHERE HE ENDS UP USING BOB HOPE’S SHOWER?

Yes.

PAUL HARVEY-ESQUE STORY WHERE HE REPRIMANDS SOMEONE WHO TURNS OUT FAMOUS

Lou shares the story of catching a player napping for 20 minutes during class, and sentencing him to running at dawn for 20 days straight, with less than 20 days left in the school year. The player still ran the extra days at home, “in case Coach Holtz found out”. That young man? Bill Cowher. And now you know... the rest of the story.

DOES HE BRING UP A LONGSTANDING GRUDGE AGAINST THE MEDIA?

Yes! He is still mad, as of the writing of this book in 2006, about an unflattering portrayal of his Notre Dame team in the 1989 book Under The Tarnished Dome. It’s a hell of a thing to write a book and make me think I should’ve read another book, Lou.

OKAY I’M OUT OF STEAM, HOW DO YOU RATE THIS?

It’s utter pablum, but unlike some of the other books I’ve got in my stack (god help me), it seems reasonably possible that Holtz wrote at least some of this book himself. It’s not particularly enlightening on anything, but doesn’t have any major scandals to elide either.

I rate Lou Holtz’s Wins, Losses and Lessons:

Three and a half Regional Sales Managers.