Sun Tzu: The Seahawks.NET Interview

In the never-ending Qwest to find new and refreshing angles on all things Seahawk, columnist Greg Renick recently conducted an exclusive interview with none other than Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu is author of "The Art of War", an immensely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy.

Recent discoveries of hidden messages embedded in the text of that seminal volume have revealed that he may have also been foretelling the secrets to success in the National Football League.  He was also considered one of the earliest "realists" in international relations theory.  A realist assessing the Seahawks?  That's yang and yang (no offense, Mr. Tzu).

Since Sun Tzu lived in the 6th century B.C., this interview was particularly challenging.  In no small measure of irony, most all of Sun Tzu's answers are actual passages from "The Art of War."

Greg Renick: Most honorable Sun Tzu, I would first like to thank you for your graciousness in accommodating this interview. 

Sun Tzu:  Why of course. 

GR:  I'd like to address the Seattle Seahawks’ major weakness last season -- how do they beat their arch rivals (no pun intended), the St. Louis Rams?

ST:   I do not understand "TV show".  But to answer your query, the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

GR:  So it really is a mental thing -- the team has to decide to overcome.

ST:  The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.

GR:  Falcon?  Why worry about Atlanta? The Seahawks beat them last season. 

ST:  To see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.

GR:  I can't be sure, but I think you just took a swipe at my cognitive reasoning!  Moving on, how would you help the Seahawks to improve?

ST:  The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.

GR:  Oh, you read the letter Tim Ruskell sent to the team as well?

ST:  What is a Tim Ruskell?

GR:  He is the new President of the Seahawks.  You don't get out much, do you?  That wasn't nice, I forgot you have been dead for several centuries.

ST:  (begins fumbling with his sword)...Next question please.

GR:  After six seasons, head coach Mike Holmgren has an overall record of 50-49 -- including losses in all three playoff games his team has played.  How do you evaluate Holmgren? 

ST:  Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is complete at all points the State will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.

GR:  So you would fire him?  He has had a lot to deal with -- injuries, dropped passes, questionable draft picks, Bob Whitsitt.  By the way, nobody uses "bulwark" these days -- great word.

ST:  Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision; concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy.

GR:  I thought you'd say that.  What is the key to winning games in the NFL?

ST:  The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.  These are (1) Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.

GR:  That might be a little too much to absorb for armchair football fans -- can you bring that to our level?

ST:  (1) Offense; (2) Defense; (3) Special Teams; (4) Injuries; (5) Camaraderie.

GR:  Got it!  After evaluating the defensive struggles last season, what can you suggest for improvement?

ST:  To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken - this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.

GR:  So you think the blitz packages and coverages are suspect?

ST:  Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

GR:  The Seahawks roster has never been deeper.  Do you expect a fierce level of competition and correlating difficulty the coaching staff will have during training camp in determining the final roster?

ST:  The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men; it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.

GR:  Are you going to make it out to Cheney to watch training camp?  I'll buy you a beer.

ST:  But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

GR:  Ahh...I can take a subtle hint.  Do you think defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes can get the job done?

ST:  Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.  Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength.

GR:  So in essence, you are saying that...

ST:  (interrupting) ... to lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength.

GR:  Autumn hair -- is that some cool Chinese metaphor for the grass on a football field?  You do know that Qwest Field has FieldTurf.

ST:  No.

GR:  How do you like Tivo?

ST:  Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means whereby the ears and eyes of the host may be focused on one particular point.

GR:  And you can fast forward through the commercials!

ST:  (begins fumbling with his sword again)

GR:  Uhh...just a few more questions, Sunny.  With all the off-season changes and a revamped roster, can Seahawks fans look forward to their team winning a playoff game for the first time since 1984?

ST:  The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm of a thousand fathoms.

GR:  That's deep.  Literally and figuratively.

ST:  Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

GR:  Easy now, does someone need a hug?  Maybe some lithium?

At this point, Sun Tzu slides a piece of parchment across the table to me.  It is a very graphical series of Chinese characters arranged in some kind of logical sequence, and it appears to be a message for me.  The pictures resemble a large pig with a flaming spear sticking out of its hind end, and what can only be described as a turtle smoking a herbal cigarette.  I interpret that as "clear and present danger" and decide to wrap things up.

GR:  Now that we are acquaintances, instead of Sun -- can I call you "Big Fiery Ball at the Center of the Solar System"?

ST:   In order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.

GR:  Rewards?  You mean like the Lombardi Trophy?  That's what it's all about.  Any final thoughts?

ST:  Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.

GR:  I have no idea what that means, but it sounds prophetic.  I can do you one better --  "All we are is dust in the wind..."

The interview terminates abruptly as Sun Tzu begins to don his battle armor...

Greg Renick is a writer for www.talkhawks.com, and his articles are syndicated to Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact Greg at renickg@nwc.navy.mil.

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