Errors LO12281

Benjamin B. Compton (
Thu, 30 Jan 1997 08:42:31 -0700

Replying to LO12270 --

I have been really distracted the last few weeks, and as a result I
haven't followed the conversation on the list very well. The last two
days, however, I've been reading all of the posts. I'd like to make a few
observations about errors.

When I was younger I loved to play football (American football, although I
also played soccer and rugby). I started off life as a middle linebacker,
and later moved to running back. The last position I played was saftey.

As a running back I would often run sweeps, which means I would run along
the line of scrimmage toward the sideline, and when the "hole" opened up
and I would take it. In this type of play the guard would pull out and run
in front of me to clear the end. He would either hit the defensive end or
the defensive back, depending on the defensive formation. We would
practice this play hundreds of times. We would run it with just the
offensive team on the field, just so we could get the mechanics down. Then
we'd bring the defensive unit on the field and run it to practice our
blocking schemes, and give me an opportunity to practice finding the hole.

The guard I ran behind wasn't nearly as fast as me. When I ran it I would
put my hand on his butt, so when the hole opened I could push him out of
the way dive into it. He never learned to like those gentle pushes, but
they allowed us to score more than one touchdown.

My point is, however, that no matter how many times we ran this play in
practice, mistakes were still made in games. One time the guard tripped,
pulling out of the offensive line, so I had to run to the corner all by
myself. Other times the defense would dodge my guards block, and I'd get
stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. And sometimes I'd make it around the
corner, pick up five or six yards, and have my head torn off by a
frustrated linebacker. And sometimes the entire defensive line would break
through the offensive line and tackle me before I got anywhere near

Sometimes the defense would make mistakes. One game the defensive end came
across the line of scrimmage, was in position for containment, and didn't
see my guard pull out. I got the ball from the quarterback and watched
that defensive end get smashed. After the play was over and I was walking
back to the huddle, the poor guy was laying flat on his back staring at
the sky. I said to him, "You OK man?" He just laid there. I said to him,
"Can you hear me?" He just laid there. I waved at his bench and the
trainer came on the field. He had been hit so hard that his entire body
had gone numb. He was out of the game for a few plays, but came back in.

I'm sure that defensive end had practiced reading sweeps hundreds of
times. He knew what to look for, and how the play would unfold. He should
have known we were sweeping. He misread the play, and got dinged up pretty

My point is that practice doesn't make perfect. It just reduces the number
of errors. In a football game the team that makes the fewest mistakes has
the greatest chance of winning (assuming, of course, the other team
doesn't pull of some pretty phenomenal plays). I think that's the whole
point of business: The organization that makes the fewest mistakes has the
greatest chance of winning. . .unless, of course, the competition pulls
off some pretty phenomenal things.

Another important lesson I learned from football is how important everyone
is. I always felt bad for the linemen. They worked harder in practice than
anyone else, and when we won people would think it was the obvious
performers (quarterback, running back, etc.) that had won the game. I
can't tell you how many times I was able to get in the end zone because
one of the offensive linemen made a great block. All I had to do was run
to the hole, I didn't have to make the hole. I had the easy job.

To this day I can't go to a stadium and watch a football game without
getting angry. I can't stand sitting next to fans that yell and complain
at the players, when they have no idea what is happening on the field. I
said to one guy, who was particularly obnoxious, "Do you have any idea
what it is like to run into the line of scrimmage and try to get a few
yards, when the guys in there are 6'8" and way 300 lbs? Do you know what
its like to be tackeled and have over 800 lbs of human flesh piled up on
top of you? Do you know what its like to try and run a sweep against a
team whose outside linebacker wieghs 230 lbs and runs 40 yards in 4.5

I still remember my very first sweep. I scored a touchdown. We were on the
5 yard line. I got the ball, and I saw all these guys running after me. I
can still see this one linebacker. We locked eyes and I knew he wanted to
kill me. I ran past my guard, and got to the corner of the end zone
without anyone touching me. I was running for dear life. And I got in
trouble for not following my blocker!

Ben Compton
The Accidental Learning Group                  Work: (801) 222-6178
Improving Business through Science and Art

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