If you’ve ever seen any of my other writing here at Against All Enemies, or if you’ve ever listened to our podcast, then you know I’m big on intangibles. That is, the elements of a team or player that cannot be quantified by statistics. Rudy Ruettiger, of course, had high quality intangibles, but then again, so did Adam Sandler’s character, Bobby Boucher, in the Waterboy. They’re the things that lead an underdog to defeat an overpowered opponent. Without them, football would be reduced to a robotic simulation and whichever team simply has the best combine event stats and the smartest coach would win each game. Here are a few of the things that I find to be absolutely critical for Air Force in this department.
Playing in Falcon Stadium at 7,258 feet, far, far above that of West Point or Annapolis is difficult. While my very non-scientific background prevents me from making even an uninformed guess as to how much less oxygen is available in the air at altitude compared to sea level, I can tell you from experience that you can get dehydrated very quickly in Colorado and many stadiums in the Mountain West. So having a quality hydration specialist is paramount to a team’s overall success. Without someone ensuring that the Falcons and Coach Calhoun are drinking sufficient volumes water, we would have players and coaches falling out like Midshipmen at a parade in July.
The best traditions happen spontaneously. When they’re forced, it seems like they don’t really give the team the boost they actually need. The legacy of Air Force’s hydration specialists stemmed directly from spontaneity. The first hydration specialist (HS) to make a name for himself was the Blue Bolt. The Blue Bolt was a cadet during his tenure and a manager on the football team. His strengths were lightning fast speed and lateral quickness that had him hydrating anywhere from 8-12 players during a TV timeout. He would even go so far as to hydrate the referees, which could have garnered whispers of bribery, but was never pursued because his love of hydration was pure in its intentions.
Upon his graduation in 2015, a new HS would need to take the Blue Bolt’s place. Rising like a Phoenix from the ashes (or Vandenberg Hall) came the Khaleesi of Water, the Mother of Hydration, Sara Bertles. Her technique was a vast departure from the Blue Bolt’s. She worked methodically and her philosophy was that if you keep the coach hydrated, the rest will fall in line. She primarily saw after Coach Calhoun’s hydration, but spotting her on the broadcast each week provided a bigger rush than any Where’s Waldo book ever could.
Today’s water bottle hand off from the queen of hydration looks great on film. Very clean, no frills and back to the fundamentals. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and that’s what this was. Bring on Wyo and all it’s hydration needs. pic.twitter.com/RKakJJtbgd— Fast Neat Below Average (@FastNeatBA) November 11, 2018
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and Sara Bertles has graduated from the Academy. Now Air Force needs to find a new specialist. I tend to believe that you can’t find a great hydration specialist, they find you. There have been no rumors as to who will take over this season, but you can be sure they have big shoes to fill to help Air Force regain their CiC glory.
Flashy uniforms are something that makes every old school ball coach’s head spin, but undoubtedly provide a huge spark for fans and in the locker room. Air Force has a pretty good thing going with their legacy series. They’ve had Thunderbird uniforms, F-22 Raptor uniforms (not sure who approved those disasters), A-10 Warthog uniforms, and AC-130 Spectre uniforms. It’s an awesome homage to the active duty side of the Air Force and they’re generally done really well. The 2019 uniforms should be released any day now, seeing as how the announcement generally comes in mid-August, but I’m really interested to see what they will be. I think a throwback to F-4’s would be cool with a forest green and desert tan color way. They would have to be careful not to look too much like the Marine duty uniform camouflage pattern though, because as anyone who is unaware that the Marines fall under the Department of the Navy would tell you, the Marine Corps is the only military branch without a football team.
What I would really like to see is a throwback uniform nod to Joe the Falcon, my favorite Falcon logo of all time. If I were a betting man (which I am, just not on football uniforms), it’s not really in the realm of possibility for this season, but I suppose I’m just hoping to speak it into existence.
No matter what uniform Air Force releases this season, it could have the power to give the Falcons the secret sauce to take down some tough opponents. With one of their best uniforms to date last season being 2018’s AC-130 Spooky theme during a losing season, maybe they should stay away from special operations motifs for a while. Perhaps we could get some support career themes and maybe we’ll see some nice Logistics uniforms or Public Affairs themed kits.
Sometimes athletes need a little treat. It’s just something to reward yourself for a big play or a great game. Marshawn Lynch had Skittles, Ohio State has stickers, Ron Artest had Hennessey, and Miami had the turnover chain. These little incentives help athletes break down the huge task at hand of playing hard for 60 minutes into manageable goals on each drive.
Air Force adopted a turnover chain of their own, which a player could put on over their pads if they caused a turnover. I liked it a lot because the players seemed to embrace it, but if you sat down to watch a full slate of games last fall, it would probably be the fifth or sixth turnover chain you saw that day. It was in no way unique, and it’s a tough sell because it seemed like Air Force was just hopping on the trend. However, I like the thought process behind it. I don’t know if it will make a comeback, but I think there is something to the concept. Perhaps a WR could get a fighter pilot mask on receptions over 25 yards. Maybe the defense could have the Academy’s falconry team land Aurora, our live Falcon mascot, on their arm. The possibilities are really endless, but the use of a play-based incentive could be a useful tool.
Now that I’m near the end of this article, I’ve realized I didn’t exactly talk about any real intangibles. I didn’t discuss hard work, leadership, football IQ, or anything that a serious analyst would consider to be a true intangible. I’ve really just constructed a short list of things that I love about Falcon football and that I’m excited to see in the upcoming season. Because of Troy Calhoun and his staff’s tight-lipped nature on team happenings, it would be easy to miss these things even if you watch the games week in and week out, but these are the little things that keep football fun and remind us how absolutely awesome this game is.