Monday, March 09, 2009

The Jerk Theory

Yesterday, I said this:
"North Carolina has just enough jerks on the team to actually win six games. Their most valuable player: Ty Lawson. It's not even close."

Today, I think it's worth explaining what I meant by the phrase "enough jerks on the team to actually win six games."

I can do that. But I'll need to tell you some things about Mr. Tar Heel first.

Tyler Hansbrough is Mr. Tar Heel. But not for his career accomplishments. No, he is Mr. Tar Heel because of his personal constitution. And here is what his personal constitution says:

"I am physically and mentally gifted. I work extremely hard. I am profoundly honest in word and deed. I obey all the rules. I defer to my teammates and coaches. I do everything the right way. I expect to be rewarded appropriately."

Tyler Hansbrough is a nice kid. That's exactly what the average North Carolina Tar Heel is. It's a living tribute to Dean Smith. A long-living tribute that also helps explain why Carolina only won two national titles during Smith's legendary tenure.

Mr. Tar Heel is a loser. He's not a loser because he is nice, he's a loser because he doesn't know how to not be nice.

Remember that famous game against Duke when he had his nose cracked open and blood gushed all over Dean Smith's court? Do you remember the look in his eye?

It looked like he was enraged. And he was. It also looked like he was stunned. He was that, too. His aghast anger drove him to behave rather crazily. As if he couldn't believe anyone would play the game in any way other than the way he plays it. For him, like the average Tar Heel, there is no other way to play. That's another part of the long-lingering tribute to Smith. And, you guessed it, it is the program's tar-splattered achilles heel.

Every winner has a little bit of jerk in him. Some simply are jerks. For those who are only jerks in part, the jerk part is what allows them to disconnect from their sense of honorable/fair play to take what they want when the moment to seize a victory arises. They may win the right way. They may win the wrong way. What matters is that they take what they want and they win.

Sometimes, you can simply be superior to everyone else and that's enough to cause you to defeat your opponents. Other times--like when your opponents are at your level or maybe even a little better--you need to know how to be a jerk in order to snatch a W.

Mr. Tar Heel doesn't know how to be a jerk. Few Carolina kids ever do. Of the ones who do, they're forced to compete against the culture of their own program in order to let their jerk out. That system--Smith's legacy--is why Carolina has four national championships since he was hired instead of, say, 12.

Let's be clear about one thing: All jerks are not winners. Just like all winners are not exclusively jerks. But when the sucker punch of life puts an opponent in front of you who wants to rip from your clutches that reward you believe you are entitled to, you can't respond psychotically. You can't operate irrationally. You have to be able to hold on to your shit. You can't let them take it from you--by force or by virtue of your own incapacity to fight back effectively.

You have to know how to be a jerk. That's what champions are made of. Just a lil bit.

And if you're Tyler Hansbrough, you need to be thankful that Ty Lawson is on your team. 'Cause that's someone who has a little bit of jerk in him.

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