on Pete Carroll
There's an intriguing scene at the start of Joe Paterno's autobiography, in which he discusses his deliberation, in the closing days of 1972, over whether to accept a gilded offer from the Boston Patriots to become coach and part-owner and all-around czar of New England. He imagines the cottage on Cape Cod, the "high-tone" lifestyle, the advancement into a higher tax bracket ... and then he thinks about college football, and the marching bands, and the mascots, and he comes to this conclusion: In the NFL, you play only to win. "No other reason to play," he says.
Now, I realize that Pete Carroll is nothing like Joe Paterno--in the same way Montgomery Clift is nothing like Mickey Rooney--and I realize that Pete Carroll is also coaching in an era where winning has subsumed all other concerns even in college football, and I would prefer not to stand in moral judgment when a man chooses to accept millions of dollars and an unprecedented amount of power. But Moehringer's profile* did sell me on Carroll's singularity, on the notion that perhaps he was a throwback to the coaches of old, a man who was truly satisfied with his place in the world. I bought into the Carroll mythos, and even if it was all true--even if Pete Carroll really did want to curb gang activity in Los Angeles out of some altruistic instinct, and not just promote his own brand--that hardly matters anymore, because Carroll will now be viewed as something completely different: He is just a football coach again. USC will most likely go on probation soon, and he will have bolted just in time, and even if he succeeds in Seattle--and I don't imagine it'll happen, because it just seems that playing for Pete Carroll is kind of like watching Dead Poets Society, in that the core message gets progessively sillier once you turn 19--he will still be seen as the guy who constructed an empire and then destroyed it and didn't have the cojones to stay around and rebuild it again. And maybe that's unfair, but this was Carroll's doing; he set himself up as a man, like Paterno, for whom college football was a destination. Now he sets himself up as nothing more than football coach.
That's the funny thing: Pete Carroll had credibility. And simply by changing his mind, he has to chase it all over again.
*And it's still a pretty incredible piece of writing, regardless of whether it is fundamentally accurate.