Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Charlie Brown For His Sports Futility

ESPN Classic viewers enjoy regular installments of the Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame… series, hosted by Brian Kenny. Each episode focuses on a player or organization that has been widely blamed for a notable sports failure. Examples include Mike Tyson for losing to Buster Douglas, Bill Buckner for the Red Sox’ 1986 World Series defeat, and numerous others. The show examines other factors contributing to the failure and counts down the top five reasons you cannot blame the subject for the unsatisfactory outcome.

The major shortcoming of this series is that it is overly focused on real-life athletes. To address this issue, I expanded the approach to take a deeper look at the athletic failures of fictional characters. Previously I chronicled the Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Apollo Creed For Losing To Rocky Balboa

Today I will turn my focus to Charlie Brown. Created by Charles Schulz, Brown endured constant disappointment as the central figure in Peanuts. His shortcomings were particularly exposed on the playing fields. In baseball, batters consistently knocked him - and most of his clothing - off the mound. Football also left him on the ground in agony, lamenting his fruitless attempts to kick the ball. Those lowlights were symbolic of his teams’ constant losing.

However, a closer examination reveals that numerous factors beyond Charlie’s control contributed to his futility. I may not change your mind about Brown’s role in his disappointments, but at least I hope to provide you with something to think about. Before I get to the top five reasons you can’t blame Charlie Brown for his sports futility, here are reasons that did not make the list – the “Best of the Rest”:

Kite-Eating Tree: By ruining Charlie’s kite-flying expeditions, the tree instilled a sense of failure that Brown carried with him into games. Only one other athlete appears to have been tormented by a kite-eating tree. Former NBA player Greg Kite was terrified by the Atlanta Hawks, knowing that Tree Rollins liked to sink his teeth into Celtics.

Jessica Rabbit: As an athlete, it could be argued that Brown was just like the sexpot from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He wasn’t bad, he was just drawn that way.

John Elway: The Hall of Fame quarterback had nothing to do with Peanuts. But when explaining sports disappointments for Browns, you have to mention him.

And now, the top five reasons you can’t blame Charlie Brown for his sports futility.

Reason #5: His Friends. Certainly Pig-Pen was at home on the infield dirt. However, Linus sucked his thumb and couldn’t go anywhere without his blanket. Schroeder was far more interested in playing Beethoven than baseball. So Charlie wasn’t exactly surrounded by manly types. Except for Peppermint Patty, who had her own team. With teammates like that, you could replace Charlie Brown with Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and still lose every time.

Reason #4: The Little Red-Haired Girl. Nothing can disrupt an athlete’s focus like an obsession over a woman. Already loaded with anxiety, Charlie put extra pressure on himself trying to impress the object of his affection. Brown’s opponents took full advantage, making sure the little red-haired girl was constantly around to distract him from the task at hand. Charlie’s failure to resist her charms was completely understandable. At least I assume so – I’ve never actually seen her.

Reason #3: Snoopy. Charlie Brown’s dog was loaded with talent and thrived on the spotlight. However, he was very much a diva. Snoopy frequently insisted on being called Joe Cool. He often disrupted team meetings by bragging about his glory days as a World War I flying ace. His me-first antics undermined any attempts by Charlie Brown to build team chemistry. Snoopy could always be counted on to do something that would land him in the doghouse. Or on top of it.

Reason #2: Lucy. Perhaps Charlie Brown could have been the Adam Vinatieri of comic strips. We will never know, because Lucy kept pulling the football away when Charlie tried to kick it. Clearly Lucy did not share Frank Beamer’s emphasis on special teams. Not only did she deprive Brown of countless scoring opportunities, but she also ensured that he would suffer from crippling back pain for the rest of his life. Not to mention the emotional toll her “blockhead” insults took on his psyche. Charlie did try to express his displeasure to Lucy on numerous occasions. However, she would consistently turn a deaf ear to his complaints, simply displaying a sign stating, “The Doctor Is Out.”

Reason #1: Lack of Coaching. Adults were in short supply in Peanuts. Whenever Charlie Brown asked a question to a grown-up, the response was always an unintelligible “Wa-waa-wa-waa-wa-waa…” Gibberish like that provided no guidance on hitting a line drive or fielding a ground ball. With no adults able to teach fundamentals or motivate the ballclub, Charlie himself had to act as his team’s manager. That is far more responsibility than should be expected from an eight-year-old. Predictably, Brown was badly overmatched – nearly as much as Rich Kotite was in the NFL.

So there you have it. Maybe I’ve changed your mind about Charlie Brown’s sports futility, and maybe I haven’t. But I hope I’ve at least given you some new perspectives to consider. Good night. And Good Grief!