Guest MMQB (cont.)
1. I think Adrian Peterson's fumbling problem -- he did it more times last year than any other running back -- is an outgrowth of what makes him so effective. He runs more viciously than any back in the league. Adrian should watch some film of Jim Taylor, the Packer Hall of Famer. Like Peterson, he perceived every play as an examination of his manhood. He spat, elbowed and battled his way to five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in the 1960s, and he fumbled less than any top back of his era.
2. I think football practices are notoriously boring -- unless you have the access that we at NFL Films have on "Hard Knocks." For a filmmaker, training camp is a laboratory of emotions. Funny things happen, unfortunate things happen, unpredictable things happen. That's what makes our HBO series the most challenging show we produce -- we don't know our storylines until the day they develop. It's like building an airplane in flight -- and with Rex Ryan and the New Jets this season, fans better buckle up because it's gonna be a rough and tumble ride.
3. I think my favorite football movie is still Brian's Song. Every football team is a group of men joining together to pursue a dream. Brian's Song followed that dream, and from it grew a special friendship that become more meaningful than the dream itself. Brian's Song was Brokeback Mountain with football helmets instead of cowboy hats -- and minus the scene inside the tent.
4. I think this was the quote of the week: Last week, my 94-year-old father and founder of NFL Films, Ed Sabol, visited our studios in Mt. Laurel, N.J. A young intern put his appearance in the proper perspective when he said, "It was like being in Mt. Vernon and seeing George Washington walking the halls."
5. I think the obscurity into which 49ers running back Hugh McElhenny has fallen is both puzzling and shameful. I couldn't believe he wasn't selected as one of our Top 100! He ran with a style and kind of joyous Úlan that made his long runs delightful to watch. Sports are supposed to fill you with wonder. Hugh McElhenny was the first football player who did that to me.
6. I think emotion is an overused word and overrated factor in the NFL. Everyone in football is charged up, but emotion is a commodity with a notoriously short shelf-life. You can't replace preparation and execution with emotion and hope to make it. There was a lot of passion at the Alamo, and they all died.
7. I think many coaches today magnify turnovers and use those plays as a reason for losing. By turnovers, they mean, "My staff did everything right, our game plan was sound but our players screwed up." In 1979, the Steelers led the league in turnovers yet won the Super Bowl. In 1981, the 49ers had six turnovers in the NFC Championship game but still beat the Cowboys.
8. I think we have seen some of the most exciting NFL seasons in recent memory, with closely contested division races and postseason thrillers, but it comes with a cost. The NFL now is all about competition -- that's its appeal -- but not necessarily greatness. In today's era -- with the salary cap and free agency -- you can't build super teams (like the '62 Packers with 10 Hall of Famers or the '79 Steelers with nine) that dominate all phases of the game. Those days are gone. Everybody has flaws. Each year we have four or five really good teams, but no great ones.
9. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. The best advice I can give to aspiring filmmakers is get a good opening and a good ending and get them as close together as possible. I think everything today is too long. Movies run over two hours. High Noon, the greatest western ever made, ran 84 minutes. TV opens and teases are overproduced, overcut and repetitive. After-dinner speeches are interminable. Pregame shows are like telethons. I think this article is getting too long.
b. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller influenced how I live my life. It taught me to approach every problem, no matter how difficult or disheartening, as a potential source of humor. The world belongs to those who can laugh at it.
c. My aggravating/enjoyable travel note: The only thing I dislike about my job is the travel. The planes are dirty, often late and the service is lousy. I have travel anxiety. I call it tripidation. But, on my last trip to San Francisco, a flight attendant began our journey with a good laugh:
"Good morning everybody. It will be our pleasure to serve you breakfast. Our choices are a cheese omelet and Belgian waffle. Because it is not possible for us to board exactly as many of each meal as we may need, we apologize in advance if your first choice is not available. Please do not be upset, however, as both entrees taste exactly the same."
d. The two most underappreciated things in life are a good bed and a comfortable pair of shoes. If you're not in one, you're in the other.
10. I think I'd like to close with this: Erma Bombeck once said, "If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally brain dead." I say, "What a way to die."
More Special MMQB columns:
Matt Ryan: How to become a better NFL quarterback
Eric Winston: Five ways to change NFL, plus 2010 predictions
Nnamdi Asomugha: Advice for rookies on adjusting to life in NFL
Maurice Jones-Drew: What separates great players from good in NFL
Roberto Luongo, Panthers get best of Cory Schneider, Devils
Ducks score six goals in the 2nd period to beat Avs in wild game