Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oregonian: Sentiment has no part in coaching

It's inevitable that in any pairing of opponents that features a friendship, a relationship, a past connection of any kind (their fathers played together in 1973!) there will be a moment in which the following question is posed:  Is it difficult going up against your friend/former colleague/brother/father/sister's cousin's former roommate?  And the answer, almost always, is no.

"No," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said Tuesday when asked about going up against California on Saturday, which is coached by Jeff Tedford, a former Oregon assistant.   There are exceptions. Earlier this season, the Bowden family said the annual clash of pop Bobby's Florida State team and son Tommy's Clemson team is hard and no fun. But these are still competitive people, and competitive people don't want to lose. Not to father. Not to son. Not to former offensive coordinator or former boss.  The problem with the question -- other than that it gets asked every year -- is that it forgets that the best coaches and players are really kind of heartless. How else would you describe the Ducks' offense the past four games. It's been chillingly efficient and brutally productive. That game plan doesn't change because a familiar face is on the other sideline, and Tedford's not going to pull DeSean Jackson aside pregame and say, "Hey, take it easy."  We once committed assault against a putter after missing a 3-footer. Against Dad. At a miniature golf course. Bellotti said when he and Tedford play golf they want to beat each other. And here comes the bulletin board material for the week.  Who wins?  "I'd say probably usually me," Bellotti said. "But it's close. He's competitive."  OK. It's bulletin board material for the country club locker room, but you see the point. There's nothing sentimental about a football game. It's a violent exercise in absolutes. Score or don't. Win or lose. And if you happen to beat a friend in the process, all the better. It'll make for good conversation over the next round of golf.


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