The Popcorn Stand: I don’t understand butterfly, but I’m all for it

Colorful football coach John McKay who became a legend at USC before taking over as coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided my favorite all-time sports quote when commenting on the struggles of his first-year team.

He was once asked “coach what do you think of your team’s execution” to which he replied, “I’m all for it.”

My second favorite sports quote came from Lou Holtz when he was an assistant coach at Ohio State for Woody Hayes during the 1969 Rose Bowl. At halftime when Hayes asked Holtz how USC’s O.J. Simpson could run 80 yards for a touchdown, Holtz replied, “That’s how far he had to go.”

Back to the quote about execution. The team or individual who executes the best wins and in the words of my favorite fictional sports character “The Cutman,” the team or individual who doesn’t execute as well “will almost assuredly lose”

The sport in the Olympics that really demonstrates what execution means to success is swimming. Just the slightest lack of execution could cost you a 1/10th of a second — the difference between gold or not winning a medal at all. Of course it helps when you’re 6-4 and the greatest athlete of all-time like Michael Phelps (a Popcorn Stand for another day).

What I don’t get are the swimming events. The freestyle, I get that. But the butterfly? The breaststroke? Who came up with the idea for these events. Who decided let’s race through the water using the most difficult strokes possible?

And the backstroke? It doesn’t really make sense to me when you’re trying to swim as fast through water as possible and you choose to do it backwards.

But I still love to watch swimming in the Olympics. So if great athletes choose to go through the water in ways I don’t understand, “I’m all for it.”

— Charles Whisnand


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