Prep football crystal ball reveals ... nothing

September 01, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

While I was watching Mercersburg Academy's football team practice last Thursday before interviewing head coach Dan Walker for Friday's Pennsylvania edition of our 2005 Football Preview, an assistant coach came up and asked which teams I'd seen so far would fare the best this season.

My answer: "Honestly, I couldn't tell you. To me, they all look good."

I can watch volleyball teams warm up 20 minutes before game time and have a pretty good idea what I'm going to see during the match. Same with baseball. And to a lesser extent, I can learn something watching soccer or basketball teams in the minutes before the game.

But football practices?

Not a chance.

There's two main reasons for this:

1. I'm amazed at the complexity of football, regardless of who's playing it or how good they are at it. So many things have to come together - the snap, the blocks, the runner finding the right hole or the quarterback finding the open man - that, as long as a high school team is at least competent during practice, it looks pretty awesome to me.


2. I've never played a down of organized football in my life, so I don't even pretend to be qualified to analyze how any team will fare, especially based on watching a single practice. After watching a team play a game or two, I could point out strengths and weaknesses (using statistical evidence, which tends to be a lot more objective). But after one practice? Maybe Big Sydney. Not me.

I've done 30 or so football previews in the last seven years, and every year, there's a team that I watch practice and think, "They're going to be pretty tough to beat." Then they go out and finish 2-8.

My point? Most times, sportswriters don't know any more than anyone else.

- Saying you're going to do something means nothing. Doing it means everything.

I wish I got that memo ... and also some discipline.

My plan to finish a 5K race in the area before the end of summer is dead. It's dead because I took the easy way out and didn't get my butt out of bed enough times to get in proper shape. I have no excuses.

I owe apologies to colleague Andy Mason and local running figures Mike Spinnler and Cindy Mease, all of whom took time out of their lives to give me advice and encouragement, all of which I wasted.

There was also someone who left a message in Mail Call saying that I should never have written the column in the first place. The caller was right. My apologies to that person, too.

Dan Kauffman is a sports writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at

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