Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bill Walsh, 1931-2007 : "The Genius"

“Here’s my game plan.” This is what Bill Walsh reportedly told a friend of his upon giving him a copy of Carl von Clausewitz’s, On War. According to Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, Bill Walsh read anything that might help him win more football games. Brown continued, “Walsh read extensively about the Civil War. Though the details of the carnage depressed him, he found the military strategy fascinating. 'The goal is to attack the other side with clean, sharp blows while you're moving faster than the opposition. That was Wellington. That was von Clausewitz,' he once said. 'I don't relate football to warfare other than in those dynamics, but the military axioms of von Clausewitz about people under stress, about the individual soldier, make it the best book on football.'"

I had heard and read that Walsh was a Civil War buff, and that he incorporated anecdotes about generals from various wars in his talks (big on Patton, for example). I wrote letters to try to get him to attend a local Civil War Round Table, to no avail. I had to satisfy myself with watching his teams rack up victory after victory every Sunday. And man oh man, it was satisfying, and remains satisfying in memory.

The passing of Bill Walsh on Monday morning was an emotional blow for 49ers fans, the Stanford community, and serious fans of the NFL everywhere, to say nothing of his family, associates, and friends in the wider spectrum of his rich life. Thanks for all the memories, Mr. Walsh. I will take pleasure in them for the rest of my days.

For anyone interested, there are dozens of fascinating articles in today's (July 31) SF Chronicle and SJ Mercury News by the beat writers who covered the 49ers, and who knew and followed Walsh closely throughout his remarkable career. There are some great stories and lots of personal insights into this intriguing man.

People from all over the country left condolences on the Chronicle’s web site the last couple days. I like this one, from Philip Poulos of Dallas, and I know my misguided Cowboys friends will appreciate it too:

Now you can out-coach Landry once again. Rest in Peace.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post on a sad topic, David. I'm a long-time 49ers fan (back to the days of John Brodie and Gene Washington) way out here on the east coast, but I didn't know Coach Walsh was a Civil War buff. Too bad you didn't get him to attend a RT meeting - that would have been some meeting...

dw said...

Thanks Sean. Had I tried again to invite him in more recent years, when he was hanging out at Stanford and maybe a little more flexible with his time, he may have responded favorably, but I had stopped participating in CWRTs myself by then.

As a 49ers fan, you'll be happy to note that the team is on the upswing again. This season looks promising. All season, the team will have a little football-shaped emblem on their helmets with Walsh's initials, and hopefully that "BW" will inspire them to prevail in some tough situations.