NFC North: Condoleezza Rice
It took a few days, but we're back with the second part of our post on Condoleezza Rice's talk at the NFL owners' meeting last Sunday. One of her messages was particularly applicable during draft season.
Rice urged owners and other team officials to "have a sense of history's long arc." In other words, she said, it's helpful to remember that instant reaction to decisions aren't always reconcilable with the way history ultimately metes out judgment. A choice made for short-term consequences won't always prove the wisest over time.
"If you're always chasing the day's headlines," Rice said, "you won't always do the right thing. Or, at least, you won't do the difficult thing."
The message applied during Rice's diplomatic career and in creating foreign policy, but it also is another way of looking at all sorts of decisions that NFL general managers and coaches make each day. Should you draft the player who is ready to contribute right away, or take the one with less refinement but higher upside? Do you impact your salary cap by paying a veteran large sums of money? Or do you spread the wealth on younger players who could be part of a longer building process?
Both Rice and NFL employees face similar obstacles: If they devote too much of their attention to the long-term future, they could face the short-term consequence of getting voted out or fired. But ultimately, Rice urged NFL types to ignore the lure of instant gratification and take, well, the road less traveled.
DANA POINT, Calif. -- Just got a rare and welcome opportunity here at the NFL owners' meeting: My ESPN.com colleagues and a number of other reporters were invited to hear a keynote address from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a self-avowed football fanatic.
Rice covered many of the topics in her personal spectrum, ranging from her passion for the game to its prospects for international expansion to the impact of lower oil prices on the Russian economy. My plan is to drop bits and pieces of her talk into the blog this week for a little variety. For starters, I'll focus on how rare it was to hear someone of her academic and diplomatic background speak so passionately about our brutish game.
In my experience, it's much more common for the intelligentsia (and pseduo-intelligentsia) to favor baseball, the more "civilized" and "sentimental" game. Really, really smart people like Condoleezza Rice -- and, trust me, she's smarter than you and me and everyone else who regularly patronizes this here blog -- typically look down on the Black and Blue violence of football.
When considering this dynamic, I'm always reminded of the phrase coined by late Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory: "Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become." In other words, baseball was king when we were a smarter and purer nation. Football, on the other hand, now represents our louder, dumber and less subtle society.
Many of us who are all about football -- and I don't mind including myself in that group -- consider it quite a condescending thought. Having covered both sports for many years, I can tell you the average football game is more complicated and at least as nuanced than the average baseball game.
But this isn't to argue whether football or baseball is better. Gosh, let's not go there. The only point is to pass along how refreshing it was to hear a highly-educated American refer to football as "America's Game" and describe it as the "greatest game ever created." At its essence, Rice said, football is about consistently accumulating territory -- which has obvious symbolism in her former role in the State Department.
We'll touch on a few other football-related topics Rice covered here Sunday night, but this one is resonating most with me right now.