Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 14 November 2006 18:00If everything happened as the experts expected, sports wouldn't be nearly as much fun. If the more talented team always won, why bother playing the game?
Sometimes it's hard to say which team is more talented, and games generally are more competitive and interesting when the talent level is relatively even.
But there are times in which the more talented team doesn't always perform as well as an overachieving less-talented team.
One of the great coaching challenges is getting athletes, amateur or professional, to make smart decisions 100 percent of the time, where quick decisions are the norm.
No one plays his or her best all of the time, although the athletes and teams who rise to the top perform closer to that level on a consistent basis.
Every so often you see an athlete make a poor decision. And those decisions have caused more than one coach to age prematurely.
Professional athletes should make fewer mistakes than high school and college athletes, but even they go brain-dead occasionally.
Take Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen. All he had to do in a game against Seattle was to go down to one knee, and the Chiefs victory was assured.
But rather than go down voluntarily, Allen tried returning the first interception of his career for a score.
He said, "I get the ball in my hands, maybe once ever. I was going to try to score ... I was out there having fun."
It turned out to be a dumb play because Seattle wide receiver Deion Allen caught him from behind and stripped the ball away. That gave Seattle one last chance to tie the game in regulation, and Allen was on the doorstep of Chiefs coach Herm Edwards' doghouse.
"You've got to get down," Edwards said. "Know your skill level.
"For some reason, he's a wild horse rider. He thought he was riding his horse at this point. He should have taken the saddle off and given him some water and sat down. He didn't want to do that."
Fortunately for Allen, the Chiefs kept Seattle from scoring, although it got a little interesting. And while Allen knows better, I think his decision is one most athletes and fans can appreciate.
Allen acted on his instincts. Who can blame him?
They say, whoever "they" are, that you should trust your instincts, or go with your first instinct. But they aren't always right.
Coaches try to teach athletes to do what's best for the team, and sometimes that means acting contrary to your instincts.
"Yes, you're supposed to go down, I know that," said Allen. "But when you get a pick (interception) in the NFL, you're probably not going to go down. You're caught up in the moment. It's like a kid getting a brand new bicycle. You don't even think about putting a helmet on, you just go ride it, right?
"Why do people run out of gas? Because they try to stretch it to the next gas station. They don't feel like stopping. If it happens again, I probably won't go down again. I might think about it."
Uh oh. Going with his instinct and making a bad decision is one thing.
Saying he would repeat it is another.
Can you see why coaching is so much fun?