Jesus Christ said he was the Son of God and that he was sent to save mankind. Claims don’t get any bigger than that. Author C.S. Lewis correctly identified three possible truths for the life of Jesus – either He was Lord, as He claimed, or a liar, or a lunatic. That neatly sums up the options, and while the stakes are significantly lower, those same three potential truths can be now said about Earnie Stewart.
As fan disillusionment with Jim Curtin reached it’s apex, Earnie Stewart stepped up the mic with Taylor Twellman to defend his coach. In short, he said that Curtin is under no pressure internally, called him a “brilliant people manager” and compared him to Bruce Arena. “I don’t think there are many people out there close to [Arena], and I think Jim is one of those guys,” said Stewart.
While he’s not claiming to save the world, that’s a pretty bold statement to say that a coach on a fourteen game winless streak is right up there with the greatest coach in American soccer history. And following C.S. Lewis’ logic, Stewart is either bullshiting, batshit crazy or Jim Curtin is the second coming of Bruce. Only time will tell the final truth and Earnie Stewart will either be the villain or the saint.
But his statements go beyond earthly concerns, and open himself up to thee final judgement. By absolving Curtin of any blame for leading the team to last place, and in fact extolling his virtues, Stewart puts full responsibility upon himself. Bear with me as I walk through the logic.
There are five steps to winning a game – the first is to acquire a good distribution of talent, and the second is to prepare the talent to win. Next is the need for the players to put effort and focus into the game. The fourth step is that the players must execute on the field. But you can think of execution as just a function of the first three with some luck thrown in. If the players are talented, prepared and put out effort they will be in a position to execute. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and there are bad calls and bad bounces, and people like to attribute that to bad luck, but more than likely one of the first three steps let the team down. The fifth step is in-game management – the ability to adjust the plan on the fly given what the opponent is dictating.
If Stewart is saying that Jim Curtin is doing a good job then he is clearly preparing the team to win and managing in-game decisions well enough. Parts two and five of the process are clearly on the coach. As for player effort, Curtin has repeatedly defended the players and said that the effort is there, so that can’t be the issue. Jim Curtin would never protect his players for the sake of them, would he? But clearly the execution is not there and so what we have left to blame is talent or lady luck. It’s hard to be unlucky for fourteen straight games. In fact, if games were decided by coin flips the Union’s current streak would be at 460 to 1 against winning a single game.
And so Earnie Stewart has left only talent to take the blame. Can Stewart come out and say that he didn’t acquire the talent to win? Of course not, that would undermine the players that are out there putting in the effort. Such a statement might also incriminate the ownership group who are considered cheap and have only ponied up for one million dollar player in eight seasons. That wouldn’t be wise either.
No, Earnie is now all alone in taking the hit for this troubled squad. That is unless he is right, and Jim Curtin is close to being Bruce Arena. In which case Union fans need only to sit back and watch the MLS Cups roll in….