Let your pants do the talking

November 04, 2008

Looking, I guess, for a fresh angle on the salty, smelly presidential campaign, The Washington Post posed the question last week: What football coach would make the best president?

Football coach? I guess you could have gone with, "What ice skating star would make the best president?" But football coach works just as well, I suppose.

The answers were fairly predictable -- Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Tom Landry. In this frame of reference, Bush would be Wayne Fontes.

But to my mind, there is no question that the best coach/president would be Mike Singletary. The great former middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears was named head coach of the miserable San Francisco 49ers a couple of weeks ago, and since that time, he has done nothing but demonstrate pure leadership.


First, he kicked one of his malcontent players off the field in the middle of the game in his first game as head coach. But the most dramatic move came at halftime when, in the middle of an emphatic speech to the team, he dropped his pants.

That's leadership.

The pants dropping was said to expand on his point that the team was getting its tail kicked. Or that it was supposed to show them how vulnerable they looked. Or something.

But it doesn't matter why, the point is that someone in a position of leadership took that "last full measure of devotion," as Lincoln put it, to a whole new level. Dropping your pants just says "I mean it" in a way that wagging your finger never could.

Remember the campaigns of the '90s, when so much less seemed to be on the line, and we could afford to ask the presidential candidates about their underwear preferences?

Singletary answered the boxers or briefs question right off the bat. Really, I've heard about coaches giving their team a dressing down, but this is ridiculous.

But it's just crazy enough to work.

Think of other critical points in history, and consider how this tactic might have changed the course of the world.

FDR: "The only thing we have to fear is (drops pants) fear itself."

Reagan: "Mr. Gorbachev, (drops pants) tear down this wall."

Churchill: "We (drops pants) will fight them on the beaches."

Kennedy: "Ich bein ein (drops lederhosen) Berliner."

I don't know why dropping your pants makes such an impression -- it just does. It's the ultimate punctuation mark. For all the ink Khrushchev got for pounding his shoe on his desk at the United Nations, had he dropped his pants, the Cold War might have been there for the taking.

Henry Paulson might have gotten his bailout package through Congress on the first try with a well-timed pants dropping.

Parents who are frustrated that no form of discipline seems to have any effect on misbehaving teens might consider this method. At the very least, they might assume that "dad's really lost it this time," and fall in line out of fear.

So I think we all owe Singletary a debt of gratitude for introducing the pants-dropping paradigm to public discourse. So next time you find yourself in a tight spot, give it a try. Asking the boss for a raise? Drop your pants. Making your case to the divorce judge? Drop your pants. Want faster service at the MVA? Drop your pants.

I feel sure that this act will reap you some positive results. But not sure enough to drop my pants.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at

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