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Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Catch III – NFL Championship Game Preview

Evan though law school classes resumed this past week, it doesn’t seem appropriate to talk about them considering that the San Francisco 49ers are playing tomorrow afternoon for the chance to go to the Super Bowl. On that note, and in light of last week’s clutch, epic win against the New Orleans Saints, here is a post dedicated to the game-winning touchdown catch and the two catches that come before it in 49ers lore.

Video Compilation of all three catches.

The first and most infamous catch is “The Catch” by Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1982 NFC Championship game at Candlestick Park on 3rd Down and 3. Like the two catches that came after it, it was not the last play of the game, but capped a great drive and took the 49ers to their first Super Bowl where they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals.

"The Catch"

In 1999 the 49ers faced the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs and needed a touchdown with :03 seconds left to defeat one of their biggest rivals. Steve Young dropped back, tripped, stayed upright, and fired a strike right down the middle of the field into the heart of the Packers defense where Terrell Owens caught and hung on to the ball as he got hit at the goal line, scoring the winning touchdown and stunning the Packers. Owens got up from a vicious hit, running over to Steve Mariucci and hugging him while sobbing. The iconic image solidified Owens as a young star wide receiver and gave Steve Young his last real glory moment.  The best part of the video is Brett Favre’s stunned expression immediately after the score.

"The Catch II"

This brings us to last Saturday when Alex Smith completed the game-winning TD pass to Vernon Davis to defeat the New Orleans Saints in stunning fashion. Not only did this pass end a stunning game and perhaps one of the best NFL Divisional Playoff games ever, it is eerily similar to the Catch II.

"The Catch III"

You can’t measure what each catch did for the franchise, both good and bad. Each catch came on 3rd Down and 3 at Candlestick Park and left less than a minute on the clock in each game. For such a storied franchise, these catches represent the great players that have played for the organization and what they have meant to the fans. Sure, The Catch II doesn’t happen if replay is used to rule that Jerry Rice fumbled the ball a few plays earlier. The Catch III required clutch offensive plays and poor defensive plays by both teams in the 4 minutes that preceded it. Either way you cut it, without “The Catch” there is no The Catch II or The Catch III.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s NFC Championship game, the 49ers should beat the New York Football Giants in what I think will be a wet and muddy game. Defense and rushing will be the keys to the game. It would not at all surprise me if Special Teams plays a very large role. I think a slick field and slick ball will more adversely affect the Giants than it will the 49ers. Regardless, the 49ers should prevail 23-13. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

“Seeing the Stitches on a Fastball” – Rush Limbaugh

This afternoon Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh discussed his personal belief of what will happen in the Republican primary and his prognostication skills in picking the winner months ago and how the Republican “establishment” will react to Mitt Romney. What caught my attention was not what Rush was saying, but what he meant. When he said that he sees “the stitches on a fastball” he meant that his experience and knowledge allow him to have confidence in certain predictions or decisions. It is not surprising that such a public and popular political pundit would think so highly of themselves or their intelligence; however, it is how he said it that stuck a cord with me.

I couldn’t help but think of this after I played basketball today and how clear it is when one player demonstrates their superior talent through distinct play. Every basketball player has different levels of talent, skill, and ability. Generally, with experience skill and ability improve and can distinguish a player from his peers. Whether it is a crisp, precise pass in traffic or knowing how to smoothly fit into the flow of the game, experienced players become evident early in a game because of the small things they do. Sure, someone like Lebron James can wow you with an athletic dunk. However, what makes him, and others, great is their ability to excel at the small things in a game that make a big difference. Many times that is passing, how a player sees the game, their defense, and how they lead their team. This is comparable to law school where over time each person develops and improves their legal skills and can differentiate themselves based on their overall ability or by specializing in a particular field.

That said, I think the best sports comparable to law school is that of Minor League Baseball. Think about it, when you begin law school and have no clue what you are doing, it is as if you are in Rookie Ball. Sure, A Ball is the lowest level, but it also is where you either make the cut or you don’t. There are no second chances at that level. Teams are willing to wait some time for higher level prospects to develop, but will not wait for a rookie to develop if it is clear that they cannot make the initial cut. As you move through the first year, you progress through A Ball from low-A to high-A. You begin to understand what it required of you to succeed and what to expect at that level. Even though everything is new to you, you have to adapt to survive. If you survive, then you move up to AA and continue your development.

As a second year student you are most definitely in AA. By this point there is no excuse for not knowing what is expected of you and what you have to do in order to continue developing and moving toward the Major Leagues. AA is all about focusing on further developing certain skills in the hope that you will have the opportunity to display them in the Majors. That is not easy but with hard work it can become a reality. Perhaps where the comparison really becomes more apparent and real is in the summer after the second year of law school. That is when students earn and acquire an internship that they hope will lead to a full-time job once they graduate law school. This is just like a September Call-up where a baseball team will give certain minor league prospects the opportunity to be exposed to the Majors in the last month of the season. Usually players come up for a few weeks and receive minimal playing time. However, they gain valuable experience which they can then use to help improve in the offseason. If they play really well, then they might play in the Majors the next season. That is rare. Instead, most players will return to AA or AAA for another season before they become ready for the Major Leagues.

After that, it is time for the third year and AAA. This is the last stop before MLB and the last opportunity to improve on critical skills before making to The Show. The players who differentiate themselves are the ones who have multiple “tools” or skills that make them better players. The same is true for law students who make have a higher GPA, be on law review or moot court, or be involved in particular prestigious and respected organizations. Regardless of the activity, it is the same as a baseball tool. The typical baseball tools are fielding, throwing, hitting for power, hitting for average, and base running.  Ultimately, the goal of law school and minor league baseball are the same. They both strive to develop and improve people for the highest level of their profession with the hope that they will achieve that pinnacle and perform at a high level.

To go back to Rush’s quote, it is not about what you think you know, it is about what you have learned through experience and how you apply that experience to your profession and life. That certainly is the goal of law school and of any profession. No one is fully prepared when they begin working in a particular area. However, with time and experience, they improve and can become stalwarts in their field. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions (and Goals)

Given that it is now 2012, it is time for my New Year’s Resolutions. Because I have not blogged in five months, the very first resolution is to blog at least once a week. I’ve been disappointed in myself for not blogging all of my first semester. I don’t have a good reason why I didn’t other than I got lazy with it and let it slide. That said, I do NOT want that to happen again so I am going to make a point to continue blogging and use the blog for what it was intended, a forum for my thoughts as I progress through law school, and not as a waste of space.

Rather than posting a long list of resolutions, I want to reflect on resolutions and what they mean. I believe it is important to have goals, not necessarily resolutions. New Year’s Resolutions are essentially goals we give ourselves on January 1st and pledge to accomplish them by December 31st. That doesn’t really seem like a resolution. A resolution should be something you start because you believe it will help you break a bad habit, change your habits, or solve a deficiency you believe you have. Sure, resolutions are good and important because we should all strive to improve ourselves and become better people, but we shouldn’t stop there. A New Year’s Resolution should not stop on December 31st, it should continue. Therefore, this year I am creating both resolutions and goals for myself.

The goals are things that I want to accomplish and reach by the end of the year, such as radically altering my diet and committing to workout goals and reaching them. My resolutions are behaviors like to stop procrastinating and being more communicative with those around me with what I am going through and to elicit their help in solving my problems. I am not going to call everything a goal or a resolution because the truth is that they are different and we have to embrace that distinction. If I called everything I am determined to do this year one or the other I would be lying to myself about what I want to accomplish and how I will measure my success.

With a goal, progress and success are clear because you either meet it or can measure progress through clear means. With a resolution you cannot look at a number or in a mirror and necessarily see whether or not you have changed. Instead, you have to stay committed to them for a long time in order to see the changes.
One of the things that has just jumped into the forefront of my mind right now is that we each measure success differently and need to be comfortable with whatever success or failure we achieve or endure. These goals and resolutions are not set in stone for all eternity, but they determined for this year and are something that I do not take lightly. The reason for that is because I am of the mindset that there can come a time when you have to be serious about certain things and determined to change yourself for the better. Not everyone has the same resolutions or is of the same mindset, but I am.

I do not want to make resolutions this year and do nothing about them. It may help that one has a financial motive. However, I no longer want to look at myself in May and realize that I have failed to accomplish what I set out to achieve in January. Failure is not an option.

I love having balance in all aspects of my life and I see my resolutions and goals as a way to provide more structured balance that will promote my wellbeing.

Whatever your resolutions and goals are this year, commit to them and don’t back down. Too often we set goals for ourselves only to hit the snooze button once March rolls around and forget about the gym membership or book club. Resolutions and goals should make you happy.

So, given that I plan to blog at least once a week, there will be more posts coming very soon. Also, I certainly do plan to use this as a forum for my law school experience, so those posts will be coming once the semester begins anew in a few weeks.