Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica on comparing football to war

Every so often, people get to talking about whether war metaphors can appropriately be used in sporting contexts. It happened most recently in baseball, when David Ortiz declared war on the Rays, and David Price then said that was regrettable.

“He was mad. So I get it,” Price said. “We all say stupid stuff when we’re mad. Been there. I’m sure he probably wishes he wouldn’t have said some of the things he said. You can’t relate the game that we play to a war. Kellen Winslow got a lot of crap for saying he was a soldier. You’re not a soldier. This is not war. We have troops fighting for us that are in a war. It’s not a good comparison.”

That’s certainly the conventional wisdom, and athletes and sports reporters have dramatically reduced the war metaphors in recent years. But it was interesting to hear Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica discuss that issue during a Memorial Day interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Kotwica, in his first year with Washington, “spent eight years in the United States Army after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point,” according to the team. More:

His military career included operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Korea and Iraq. In 2004, he was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, serving as a Combat Attack Helicopter Commander and flying more than 1,000 combat hours in support of five maneuver Brigades within the 1st Calvary Division. During his service, Kotwica was awarded with the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star.

And now he’s an NFL special teams coach, so Kotwica was asked his opinion about using war terminology to describe football.

Well, yeah, I think that gets exacerbated at times, that analogy between war and football,” Kotwica said. “But I do think there are some core characteristics and some similarities between it. And I think that when I was in the service — and even on the football field — I think that if you can get a group of guys together, seeing the same picture, fighting for a common goal, there’s some similarities there.

“Just like in the NFL where you get guys from various backgrounds and various schools playing different positions, that’s what happens in the military,” Kotwica said. “When I was in the military I led soldiers who were from 19, 20 years old — right out of high school — to very experienced warrant officers and other soldiers that had been in for 15 or 20 years.

“So I think there is a common ground there, where you can achieve success when you can take a group of guys from various backgrounds — where they come from and such — and get them focused on a common goal,” he went on. “And one of the things that I always think about is when you get them fighting for some one – for each other —  instead of some thing, I think you achieve something pretty special.”

Then Kotwica was asked specifically about special teams.

“Yes, special teams does have some chaos into it, and there’s some craziness, especially in the kicking game,” he said. “But I would share with you once you’ve flown an attack helicopter about 50 feet off the deck, 200 miles an hour, at night, with RPGs and AK’s being fired at you and four different radios going off in the cockpit, I think that kind of prepares you to handle the chaos that happens on Sunday afternoons. So I think having success out there in Iraq with those type of situations and those type of missions prepares you a little bit for the chaos that happens on a Sunday afternoon.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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