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'Win just one for the Gipper'

Writing with a Friday deadline, I'm not afforded the luxury of hindsight, or the ease of instant replay-styled NFL game recaps; and, in my first column, I promised there would be no Monday morning quarterbacking here.

This morning, instead, I'll provide a soundtrack and sound-bites to be played as accompaniments to the Sports section's substantive articles about the weekend's results from around the world of football.

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And so, cue up Explosions in the Sky's "Your Hand in Mine" — the theme song to Friday Night Lights — to accompany the high school football results and stories; the Foo Fighters' "My Hero" as you read the results from the weekend's NCAA games; and/or The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" to give emotional depth, either good or bad, depending on how the Ravens played in a given week.

And, to get you charged-up to read, or to take on your own week ahead, (I offer) a few words from some famous football coaches; most of them fictional; one of them telling a tale that has become fan-fictionalized.

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"Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn't let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn't one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentlemen — you're perfect." –Coach Gary Gaines ("Friday Night Lights")

"Clear Mind — Full Heart — Can't Lose." –Coach Eric Taylor and the Dillon Panthers ("Friday Night Lights" TV version)

"On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose. The point is, can you win or lose like a man?" –Coach Tony D'Amato ("Any Given Sunday")

[Halftime Speech #1] "I want you to take a moment, and I want you to look each other in the eyes. I want you to put each other in your hearts forever because forever is about to happen here in just a few minutes. I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to think about Boobie Miles, who is your brother. And he would die to be out there on that field with you tonight. And I want you to put that in your hearts. Boys, my heart is full. My heart is full." –Coach Gary Gaines ("Friday Night Lights")

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[Halftime Speech #2] "Before this game started, Kilmer said '48 minutes for the next 48 years of your life.' I say '[the heck with] that'… Let's go out there, and we play the next 24 minutes for the next 24 minutes, and we leave it all out on the field. We have the rest of our lives to be mediocre, but we have the opportunity to play like gods for the next half of football …. If we go out there and half-ass it 'cause we're scared, then we'll always wonder if we were really good enough. But, if we go out there and give it all we've got … that's heroic. You guys wanna be heroes?" –Jonathon "Mox" Moxon ("Varsity Blues")

"You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game — life or football — the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half-step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half-second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. … Because we know when you add up all those inches, that's gonna make the difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!" –Coach Tony D'Amato ("Any Given Sunday")

"Well, boys … I haven't a thing to say. Played a great game … all of you… I guess we just can't expect to win 'em all. I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. … And the last thing he said to me — 'Rock, sometime, when the team is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper." –Knute Rockne

Well, what are you waiting for?

Matt Laczkowski is a former Division I basketball player, and coach, whose column appears every Monday in the Times. Reach him at coach@with-character.com.

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