Monday, May 11, 2020


Don Shula was not only the only NFL coach to go undefeated in a season, he was a man of great sporting integrity. Hall of Famer Larry Csonka tells a story about an ethical choice that faced the late Miami coach the season after their undefeated 1972 championship season:
“We went into Oakland on a Friday and we were gonna practice there on Saturday. But because of construction in the stadium, we had to use their training room. They had practiced earlier in the day, they cleared out, and we used their locker room. I picked [defensive lineman] Art Thoms’ locker, because I’d played with him in college at Syracuse. I was gonna leave him a note in his locker—dead fish or something, mess with him a little bit. So I’m sitting in his locker, going through it to find something to write on. I find the Oakland Raiders game plan. Now that can be construed a couple of different ways. Knowing what they’re going to do . . . it’s their fault for leaving it there. Is it the right thing to do? Unquestionably it’s not the right thing to do. Was it cheating? I don’t know. It’s a fine line. I went and handed that report, quite quietly, to [offensive line coach and Shula confidant] Monte Clark. He said, ‘What’s this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never seen it before.’ I walked away.

“Here’s the bottom line: We lost the game. Even with the game report, we lost the game. After the game, I’m riding on the bus. Monte Clark sits down next to me on the bus. I said, ‘Monte, what the hell did you do with the game report?’ He said, ‘I took it to Shula and when he asked what it was, I told him. He said, ‘Tear it up. If we can’t beat ‘em straight up, we shouldn’t beat ‘em.’”
That, even more than the man's undefeated season, is a legacy worth leaving behind.

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Blogger VD Bear May 11, 2020 8:55 AM  

Everyone likes to win but that doesn’t make everyone a competitor. Shula’s goal was to be the batter coach, field better team, and execute better game plan.

Blogger RandyB May 11, 2020 9:09 AM  

No surprise. I have no anecdotes to add. This has the ring of truth and is consistent with his reputation.

Thanks for this encouraging example.

Blogger megabar May 11, 2020 9:28 AM  

Love it. There's a difference between a war for survival and a game.

I understand why people cheat in sports. It's tempting, even for decent people. But what drives me crazy is when it's defended on airwaves as "being competetive", or "just wanting to win."

The Astros should've had their championship revoked, and every player found to be in on it should have their contract voided, and banned for a year+.

Blogger Jay Will May 11, 2020 9:54 AM  

The one two punch, live the right life but also have the courage to punish the cheats and liars. Too much "respecting the hustle" about. The little lies become big monsters, so every time a good man lets a liar off the hook the devil gets another brick for his pet project. You can't do the second without the first.

Blogger Latigo3 May 11, 2020 9:56 AM  

I remember hearing two things growing up, it can be applied to a lot of other situations in life: 1) Sports builds character, 2) Sports reveals character. As I have gotten older, I have noticed that most people under pressure don't notice number 2, so they never get to number 1.

Blogger VD Bear May 11, 2020 9:57 AM  

100%. The status of the individual seems to completely override the necessity to be a decent person. It’s true of any high status men, not just pro athletes. I learned this real fast when I was first exposed to the NSW community. I would say “man, John is a real hard to work with. Does he always treat people like that?” The answer would be some version of “well he is a navy SEAL...”. Then I would spend a lot of time with 4 others SEALs, all of them the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Turns out John was just not a good dude.

Blogger SemiSpook37 May 11, 2020 10:17 AM  

Have to say, definitely can appreciate the man more for taking a step like that, especially at that time in the history of the league.

Blogger Section 8A May 11, 2020 10:29 AM  

Another example of the Real America vs. the current Fake America.

Blogger NP_see May 11, 2020 10:56 AM  

The virtuous struggle for undefiled prizes.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia May 11, 2020 11:22 AM  

Reading that story, I have this question that comes to mind:

What would Bill Belichick have done?

The question answers itself.

Blogger Rough Carrigan May 11, 2020 12:15 PM  

Sorry. I don't believe it.

Al Davis, who ran the Raiders, was known for using every angle. If you were another team about to face the Raiders, would you just accept that, 'Oh, we found a copy of their game plan!' or would you be suspicious?

It's much more likely that this is quite reasonable suspicion coated in self congratulatory moral recounting.

And Don Shula is also the guy who ran the Dolphins with an iron hand, in charge of every detail and, somehow, the night before the 1983 AFC championship game against the Jets, a much faster team, overall, than his Dolphins, Miami 'forgot' to put the tarp on the field despite a heavy rain being predicted. The heavy rain fell and the field was a sea of mud the next day, blunting the Jets' biggest advantage.

Blogger VD May 11, 2020 12:24 PM  

Miami 'forgot' to put the tarp on the field despite a heavy rain being predicted.

That claim is total nonsense and has been known to be complete fiction since 1983. First, Miami beat the Jets all three times that season. Second, neither the Dolphins nor the Orange Bowl even owned a tarp to forget. From the NYT archives:

The constitution of the National Football League requires each team to have a tarpaulin available to protect a field from rain or snow.... But ever since the Dolphins began operations in 1966, they have not complied with that N.F.L. rule as if it never rained here. Another reason is that since 1976, the Orange Bowl field has been composed of what is known as Prescription Athletic Turf - six inches of natural grass over 12 inches of sand above two-inch plastic drainpipes over a plastic liner. Three other N.F.L. teams also play on similar fields - the Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. But all four teams have been advised that this turf would be damaged by a tarpaulin.

Because rain is supposed to drain quickly from such a surface, the Dolphins have never bothered to purchase a tarpaulin. The Dolphins' answer is that they're not responsible for the protection of the field, that the City of Miami operates the Orange Bowl.

Blogger Morrisfactor May 11, 2020 12:50 PM  

That is a great example of HONOR. And masculinity.

Blogger RandyB May 11, 2020 1:47 PM  

Honor *is* masculinity. Feminine integrity is expressed differently.

Blogger Mr. Naron May 11, 2020 1:57 PM  

My son just got hired by the school we play in our first game of the season. He's coaching DBs, and I'm coaching RBs and assisting the OC. During our last offensive install meeting, he's, coincidentally, outside my window painting the fascia. Titans fans.

Blogger JD Curtis May 11, 2020 3:55 PM  

I used to work next door to his steak house in Miami Beach

Blogger dds May 11, 2020 3:58 PM  

Any coaches in the NFL who would do this today??

I can think of a few who would clearly NOT do this.

Because they already demonstrated they haven't

Blogger Freddy Sea May 11, 2020 6:59 PM  

It seems that often times we never see the best in others. Letting your left hand not know what your right hand does is a very real part of Christianity and I find the acts I am most proud of are usually ones that very few people know about.

Blogger Tom d May 11, 2020 8:31 PM  

Espionage and covert intelligence operations using long distance cameras (i.e. Astros scandal mention) seem obvious code of conduct violations. What about using a simple algorithm via a smartphone app to decipher the 3rd base coach's signs that would be in plain sight? A quick search regarding the use of computers finds Ipads are allowed in MLB dugouts for the data and stats they contain - recording all the touches and taps a coach does on a tablet, followed by the offensive result, would quickly yield the opponents signs.

Blogger Rough Carrigan May 11, 2020 11:21 PM  

Well, I stand corrected in regard to the tarp. Though it creates the question of how the hell the field was so terrible at the Orange Bowl that day.

Blogger flyingtiger May 12, 2020 10:05 AM  

To use the playbook would not be cheating. Denver made the mistake and you just capitalized on it. This is real integrity.
Every so often, there are claims that the Baltimore Colts threw Super Bowl III. To have done so, they would have needed Shula in on the scheme. Does this sound like someone who would throw the Super Bowl?

Blogger tMmM! May 12, 2020 4:27 PM  

Thank you for sharing this remembrance of Coach Shula with us, Vox.

Listening sports radio down here shortly after his passing, I had the opportunity to listen to former WR Nat Moore speaking about Coach Shula. The upshot of what he said - and you'll hear this over and over if you talk to his players - is that if Shula brought you on to his team, it was because he saw something in you. And if he saw something in you, he was going to do everything he could to bring that out. I mention that story to tell this one.

I was speaking with former Dolphin (RB) Eddie Hill who related this one. Those who witnessed Coach Shula's training camps know about the excellence he ALWAYS expected from the players. His teams were invariably among the least penalized every year; and they were also among the best conditioned. One of the benchmarks of that was Shula's dreaded 12-Minute Run, which every player was required to complete at the beginning of each season's training camp. Depending on your position, you had to complete so many laps around the track and the Dolphins' St. Thomas University training facility.

For Eddie, this was never a problem; but it famously was for offensive lineman (and now Broward County criminal court judge) Ed Newman. For many years, Newman was not able to complete that run, until one year Eddie took him in hand and said "This year!" So every day in the immediate weeks prior to camp, Eddie paced Newman around the track. With them out there *every* evening, running laps, was Coach Shula.

That year, as Eddie tells it, Newman *finally* completed his 12-Minute Run, getting his requisite number of laps in with 40 seconds to spare, a bunch of his teammates escorting him in. Waiting at the finish, Coach Shula - to bust his chops about doing it again, next season ... and giving him praise on the accomplishment.

Coach Shoes, stern jaw and all, always expected excellence - and he didn't expect out of you what he didn't also expect out of himself. We're gonna miss him down here, badly.

Blogger Achilles May 13, 2020 7:34 PM  

Shula sounds like every limp-dicked conservative saying losing to Dems with integrity is better than fighting dirty. Glad all the Boomers are dying.

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