Fighting from The Guard
When it is "fun to win the ball back"


The guard is a ground grappling position where one combatant has their back to the ground, while attempting to control the other combatant using the legs. In pure grappling combat sports, the guard is considered an advantageous position, because the bottom combatant can attack with various joint locks and chokeholds, while the top combatant's priority is to transition into a more dominant position, a process known as passing the guard.  

The guard is a key part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where it is used as an offensive position. - Wikipedia


The operative idea here is:

  • The winning side has more points ... but
  • Its priority, at the moment, is not to attack ... whereas
  • The losing side DOES wish to attack ... so
  • The losing side has the initiative (the greater ability to threaten) ... and
  • The blow landed by the losing side will probably put it in the lead


One application of this Grand Theme is in soccer.    In the English Premier League, the "most dangerous score" is considered 2-1.  Probably you were up 2-0, which is a huge lead, but ... then you gave up a goal.  And now guess what?  The losing side "has its tail up" as the limeys say, and the winning side is scared spitless.  If they botch this, they'll really be in for it the next day.

I spent the last five years watching the Arsenal Gunners take 2-0 leads, then give up a goal, and ... go catatonic the rest of the game, waiting for the death blow to fall.


This year, it feels completely different.  Arsenal went up 1-0 on Liverpool this weekend, and ... confidently struck for a 2-0 lead, and ... closed the game out with 'elan.

In the booth, an analyst (a former EPL defensive star) said that Arsenal looks much better now, but "You'll never be a great team until it is fun to win the ball back."

In soccer, it's not a lot of fun to chase the ball around, when a better side is knocking it about, playing keep-away on you.  (Dr. D has played a little bit.)  But the analyst was saying .. hey.  When you can frustrate them, when you're really good at absorbing punishment, then when you take away the kill shot (time and again) they start to get frustrated.  That can be fun too!

Aaron Ramsey (middle above) is #1 in the league in assists, and #3 in goals scored -- from midfield. That's sort of like a shortstop leading the league in home runs.

But guess what else Ramsey leads in?  He is #2 in the entire league in defensive tackles.  The top 20 in tackles is a list of defenders and holding midfield players, except for Ramsey.  He scores more than the strikers do -- and tackles more than the defenders do.

He loves to track back and harass attackers.  That's kind of like LeBron James leading the league in diving after loose balls.

It can be fun to "attack" from an inferior position...

The punch line is, Ramsey's entire career is a metaphor for "fighting from the guard."  Two years ago he suffered a Joe Theismann injury, and the Arsenal faithful have been merciless in their criticism of him as he regained his game.  But now, with his back on the canvas, he has applied the elbow lock to the Premier League...


The Seahawks had never, in their 37 years, overcome a 21-point deficit to win.  They'd never, in their 37 years, been very good at fighting "from the guard."  But this time?  It felt like, down 21, they were scripted to win.

Russell Wilson is the reason.  The man is a stone-cold killer.  And I flat enjoy watching him play.


In baseball, there are certain pitchers who enjoy throwing 3-1 pitches.  There are hitters who actually like to hit when they have two strikes; they take pleasure in fouling off the pitcher's best offering, and watching him get frustrated.  Rickey Henderson used to enjoy it when a pitcher would throw over to first base, eight times in a row.


There are a lot of pitchers who enjoy pitching when the sun is out, the temperature is about 75 degrees, they have their best stuff, and they're throwing a 3-hit shutuout.

Felix Hernandez, he is down by a score of 1 to 0 against the Angels in the 6th, that man pitches exactly the same way from the guard.  He's a hero.

Takes a whale of a lot to impress me in sports.  Character-wise, I mean.  Russell Wilson and Felix Hernandez, I'm glad to have 'em around.

Banner seen in Chicago in 1987:  "Please send more Walter Paytons.  The first one played perfect."  That'll do for Felix too.


It's a life philosophy.  We'll never be great at anything, until it's fun to play from behind.




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