Anyone who has ever played competitive sports will tell you that it is a key factor in any athletic endeavor. Teams get up, teams get down. Mid season blues, coming down after a big win or a big loss, there are many factors that go into a win.
Which is why this year’s Fiesta Bowl will be a testament to both coaches and their style of play. How fired up their players are will be of utmost importance.
Unlike the professional leagues, in college emotions run much closer to the surface. These are, after all, 18 to 23 year old kids, most of whom are on the biggest stage of their life. And, in this Plessey vs. Ferguson Bowl, both teams had to be disappointed with their opponent. No disrespect…they each know how good they are from last year’s Poinsettia Bowl …but disappointed that they won't get a crack at Florida, Cincy , or even Iowa .
Motivation is a funny thing …sometimes it can be subtle, sometimes over the top. I’ll never forget one of the great motivational jobs I experienced, as a rugby player a few years back.
We had a veteran team that had been talked into playing a college side as a pre-season warm up. It was lousy weather, none of us were excited to be there, and we were generally flat before the game. In the meantime, the University kids were going through their pre-game paces with enthusiasm and verve. It had all the marking of an upset in the making.
Then our coach, a crusty West Texas guy, brought us together. “Look at them thar fellas, sure are full of energy , ” he said. We all nodded along, not really paying attention. Then he said “Boy, they sure got some purty girlfriends who came to watch em ,” at which point we all looked over and saw a coterie of typical college co-eds; pretty, vivacious, slim young women who , to our middle aged eyes, looked like manna from the land of milk and honey. Finally the coach just looked over and said “ah…them boys don’t even realize what they have there, do they fella’s? Well, have a good game .”
This perked us right up. With righteous indignation, we proceeded to demolish these poor guys, beating them by 50-0, or some such score. Nothing like tapping into a bunch of guys approaching middle aged angst to fire them up. To this day, the best motivational job I’ve personally experienced.
I tell this story because both Gary Patterson of TCU and Chris Petersen of Boise State have a big motivational job on their hands. And the coach who does best will, I believe, come out on top in this contest.
Petersen may have a bit of an advantage. Boise has been here before and, even better, was shut out of the BCS dance last year despite an undefeated record. And they were looking at getting frozen out again this year until Oklahoma State screwed the pooch against Oklahoma. Therefore, their disappointment may not be as profound.
Add to that is the fact that they will be playing a higher ranked team with TCU. And, as a final piece of bulleting board material, the Mountain West pretty much dissed the WAC when they split off from it several years ago. So they have several motivational buttons that can be pushed.
The Frogs, on the other hand, were severely disappointed at the match-up. I know Patterson is saying all the right things (what the heck else is he supposed to do?), but reports from the campus community indicated that the players were bummed out , to say the least.
Patterson, however, has a much more fiery temperament and approach to the game than his counterpart in Idaho, and will likely use a “chip on the shoulder” approach to fir up his troops. Still, this may be a challenge. Fortunately for him, the long lay over to the game should work in his favor, allowing the distaste of the chosen opponent to fade and be replaced by the hoopla that the big game entails.
My call? Patterson will remind his players that the team in Orange who plays down in Austin has loudly proclaimed themselves the “champion of Texas ” after they beat A&M on Thanksgiving.
That the lack of respect is so profound, that they do not even consider the Frogs worth their consideration. And that by performing at a high level, on a national stage, they can show a lot of fans from the Big 12 and SEC that they do, indeed, belong to be under consideration when people talk about “best teams in the nation."