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NFL Coach Pete Carroll Plays 'Not My Job'

Pete Carroll
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Coach Pete Carroll's pretty good at winning; in his nine years as football coach at USC, he won seven Pac-10 titles, two national championships, and a lot of games. He's now the head coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, and he's just written a book called Win Forever.

Fine, so he knows everything there is to know about football. But what happens if we change one little letter? We've challenged Carroll to answer three questions about foosball.

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PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now, the game where we invite on winners and act like losers in front of them. In his nine years as football coach at University of Southern California, Pete Carroll won seven Pac-10 titles, two national championships - and just flat out won a whole lot of football games.

This year, he became the head coach of the NFL Seattle Seahawks. He's got a new book out, called "Win Forever." Fine, his approach works in big- time college football, but can he raise his game to our level? Pete Carroll, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

M: Hey, I'm ready, man. Let's go.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Let's go. Well, we've got to ask you some questions first. You know, this is - your philosophy, as you lay it out in your book, your philosophy, you call win forever. You've developed it over a lifetime of coaching. And one of your theories, one of your maxims is always compete.

M: That's the theme in the program.

SAGAL: Right. And it's obviously appropriate when you're coaching football at the college or professional level. Are there any places, any times when it's, like, maybe okay not to compete?

M: Well not if it - yeah, sure, that's what we hope the other guys are doing.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: One of the things you talk about is when you're dealing with your players and you tell these stories, is you try not to be negative. You try not to be the coach who yells and screams at their players. And that's been successful. But isn't that part of like, the coach sort of stereotype? The mean guy, the Bear Bryant who yells at the players - or in one case, hits them?

M: Well it's all in the tone, it's how and when you do it. There's times to yell. I get excited and have fun as much as anybody. But most importantly is we're teachers and we got to - what we transfer to them has got to help them learn. So if screaming is going to help them learn, then we'll scream.

But for the most part, helping them know what they need to do next, what the very next step they take, is more important than just letting out a big old, blurting yell. But there's times now, I promise you, we get after them pretty good.

SAGAL: Really?

M: Sure.

SAGAL: So you try to make it positive. Like hey, next time it'll be really great if you don't screw that up again, for example.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: That's it. There you go.

SAGAL: There you go.

M: You're starting. That's close. That's close.

SAGAL: That's close. I'm getting there, all right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Okay.

SAGAL: You are dealing with the elite athletes, both in college and in the NFL. These guys are either professional or going to be professionals, hoping to be professionals. These guys have been succeeding at a high level. What can you say, though, to make them give that extra mile? How can you get - I mean, you could scare the hell out of me because I'm small and weak. But how do you get them to...

M: No, here's the point. What you do - it's about the preparation during the week that gets you ready to play. And when you have guys that have put in their work, they've done their studying, the idea is to get them to feel that they don't have to worry about what's going to happen, they've been so well-prepared. So when it gets to game time, you're just trying to keep their emotions going so that when they get out on the field, they're at their very best.

It really isn't the last words you say, it's more the release that you give them to freely play because they're so prepared, they're so jacked up. These guys love to play. They don't need to be kicked in the butt in the way you're talking about, with a speech. They need to be prepared really well so that they're so excited to play, they go out there and play the game like they're capable. That's what's really important.

The worst thing you can do is tell somebody that they've got to play the best game of their life - and you don't know how to ever control that. We want our guys to play like they're capable of playing longer than the other guys, and outlast our opponents. And that's going to win a lot of games for you because you're not beating yourself when you do that.

M: Now you mention the players being jacked up. I remember - I have experience with football. I saw the movie musical "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," and there's a scene in the locker room where they're all getting ready and they're just jubilant. I mean, they're singing, they're dancing, they're really excited, and they go out on the field, and I don't know what happens at that point. But is that sort of what it's like?

SAGAL: Singing and dancing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: That's what they're like.

SAGAL: Okay, yeah.

M: Well, let him answer.

SAGAL: No...

M: You have a much better feel than the other guy does.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Yeah, yeah, fine.

M: As Amos Alonzo Stagg once said to Pop Warner, it's all the show tunes, people.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Now, the players, do they still do that thing where they put the black stuff under their eyes?

M: Yeah, you know, I never knew what that was all about.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

M: I'm glad you brought that up.

M: You know, because yeah, I always wondered. Because, I mean, do you put that on yourself or do you get a friend to put it on for you, or sort of like somebody on staff that's doing that?

M: It depends on the background of the guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Some of us bring our own.

M: That's right.

M: I never understood - it's such a waste of time. Whey don't they just tattoo a black square under each eye.

M: Well, as a matter of fact, they use - they tape them on now. I don't get it at all. It doesn't make sense.

M: They tape them on?

M: Yes.

M: Yeah, yeah.

M: With Bible verses and stuff.

SAGAL: Yeah, they do...

M: Well I just want to say - I mean, can I say something about football?

SAGAL: You can say whatever you want, Mo.

M: Right. That's what we're talking about, right?

SAGAL: He likes you best. Go ahead.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You can do no wrong when it comes to Coach Pete.

M: Well I just want to say that the one day I spent in JV football, I was very daunted by the big, tall, blue thing that you have to run into. And just - the words of Coach Fagan ring in my head, that when I ran towards it, and I guess I didn't hit it hard enough, and he said, I'm not your mother, and that's not your sister.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Here's your Seahawk play-by-play man, Mo Rocca, today.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Are you worried - I mean, you've handled a lot of pressure. You've been in the NFL before. You were at USC, which is a pretty high-pressure environment for a coach. Now you're going to Seattle, where the whole region is going to be pinning their hopes on you. They have been disappointed before. Are you worried about this? Are you worried about what might happen this time? Or how are you going to handle it if you are?

M: Bring an umbrella.

M: If I was worried about it, I wouldn't be doing this. I'm excited about the opportunity and looking forward to it, you know, and the challenges of it. This is the highest level of competition you can get. And the way they supported, you know, our change in the coaching staff and the way we're going after this thing, is really special and unique. So I'm really pumped up about it. And we're going to take it as far as we can take it.

SAGAL: And just on that note, when you moved to Seattle, did you rent or buy?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I learned a long time ago: Rent first.

SAGAL: Yeah, I guess so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: One of the things that's different in NFL than in college is in college, you're obviously responsible to an alumni community and the management of the university, the president and athletic director. With football, you're generally responsible to one, very rich guy who's gotten his own way his entire life.

M: You mean like Paul Allen, who started Microsoft?

SAGAL: For example, Paul Allen, who owns the Seahawks. You've dealt with other people - Robert Kraft, who owned the Patriots. Is there any strategy you need for dealing with extremely rich, powerful men?

M: Yeah, do whatever they say.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Coach Pete Carroll, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

CARL KASELL, Host:

"That Was a Great Monkey Shot With the Five bar."

SAGAL: You are an acclaimed and successful football coach. You know everything there is to know about football. But change one letter, and then where are you? We're going to ask you three questions about foosball.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Foosball?

SAGAL: Foosball. Foosball is the tabletop soccer game. You know, with the guys...

M: Gotcha.

SAGAL: On the stick you turn?

M: It was my minor in college, by the way.

SAGAL: Was it really?

M: Oh, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right. We're going to ask you three questions about that game. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their voicemail. Carl, who is legendary Coach Pete Carroll playing for?

KASELL: Peter, Pete is playing for Braxton Emme of Youngsville, North Carolina.

SAGAL: All right, you ready to play?

M: All right. Yeah, let's go, Braxton, here we go.

SAGAL: All right. The game is called foosball, mostly here in the United States. Over in France, where some say the game was invented, it is called what? A, Babyfoot; B, conjoined soccer; or C, hommes tres petits avec les boules tres petites - or tiny men with tiny balls?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: That's C, Bob, tiny men with tiny balls.

SAGAL: You're going to go with tiny men with tiny balls. You do spend time in locker rooms, I can tell.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, actually, it's Babyfoot - sadly, is what they call it. Babyfoot, they call it in France. That's no problem, you still have two more chances to go, and I know you thrive in adversity.

M: Okay.

SAGAL: Here we go. Like any sport, foosball has its own slang. When somebody scores a cheap point against you, you're supposed to say what? Do you say, A, I hear birds, because go cheap-cheap? Do you say, B, you dinked my rodbasket? Or do you say, C, clappertrapper?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I'd say spin this.

SAGAL: Aha. No, it's one of those.

M: I go C.

SAGAL: You're going to go with C, clappertrapper?

M: Clappertrapper.

SAGAL: Guys in frat houses all over America are yelling clappertrapper at each other? You think?

M: I don't know. I'm going with it.

SAGAL: You're going to go with clappertrapper?

M: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, I'm afraid it's, I hear birds. You say, I hear birds.

M: No way.

SAGAL: Because birds -

M: No way.

SAGAL: It's kind of a passive-aggressive way to complain but, you know, whatever. All right, you have one last question here - if you can get this right. There are all kinds of foosball tables available, including which of these?You can get one of these kinds of a foosball table: A, a one-to-one scaled table in which the men on the rods are actual men.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, a FIFA-inspired version in which the little men can fake an injury by randomly detaching from the rod at key moments.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C, a quote, hard-core version in which a goal results in a powerful electrical shock being sent to the opponent's hand?

M: I'm going with the flop, B.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the flop, that they flop over. That would be great, but actually it's A, the one-to-one scale, real life people. It's called human table football. It's a big, inflatable field in which 10 people are strapped to poles, and they try to kick the ball past each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's used as a corporate team-building event, coach, in case you want it for one of your practices. That might be great.

M: Wait, wait, so real people are strapped to the bars?

SAGAL: Yeah, basically, it's this huge thing; it's inflatable.

M: Can you spin them all the way around?

M: Yeah, I was going to say...

SAGAL: No, I don't think so.

M: Yeah, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I think that would be great if you could but no, they can't move, I think is the fun, and they have to just kick the ball where they can reach it.

M: Oh, geez.

M: How does this differ from stuff Caligula used to do, except...

SAGAL: I don't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, how did Coach Pete Carroll do on our quiz?

KASELL: This is one time the coach was not a winner, Peter.

SAGAL: Oh.

KASELL: He had no correct answers.

SAGAL: Pete Carroll is the new coach of the Seattle Seahawks. His new book on his philosophy is called "Win Forever." It's in bookstores now. Pete Carroll, thank you so much playing with us.

M: Thanks, guys, that was a lot of fun. See you.

SAGAL: Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

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