Wednesday, July 3, 2019

True Lies

By John Turney
Can information that is accurate be misleading and give false impressions to those it is communicated to? 

Years ago I knew a United States Congressman and when he ran he touted that he was ex-military and that he'd been a pilot. However, in some meetings I attended and on his website, it was announced that he was a "Viet Nam era pilot". Still, to me, no problem.

Then after he'd been elected and there was a fervor among some veterans groups about public people, usually politicians were puffing up their military careers. Giving themselves credit or credentials they had not earned. This congressman ended up, along with many others, on a "Stolen Valor" list on a website that purported to track such things

Concerned, I called the congressional office to get clarification. And they reported to me that the congressman never claimed to be a Viet Nam pilot, only that he'd been a pilot in the Air Force in the "Viet Nam era". Apparently, he'd ferried jets around from base to base. Of course, this is 100% honorable service, and necessary and needed. If someone was in the military and was a cook or any rear echelon person it's honorable service and I salute them.

However, for the group that was outing people they accused of "stealing valor" (puffing of military resume) it was a problem because while true, his website left the casual reader (and I was one of them) with the impression that he served in Viet Nam. So, the words were 100% accurate but was it deception? 

The only fair answer is yes.

Recently, I got into a long debate with some Raiders fans who desperately want Tom Flores in the Hall of Fame. And they had several talking points or "nuggets" as I call them about Flores' career. All the nuggets were true and most were very helpful and captured Flores' great accomplishments.

However, one of the nuggets was the fact that Flores, along with Mike Ditka, were the only two people ever to have a Super Bowl ring as a player, assistant coach, and head coach.

That was the nugget I have an issue with. While it's not the backbone of the case for Tom Flores for the HOF (his two rings as a head coach is that) it's one of those true lies. It was presented as a bullet point or talking point as to the main reasons why Flores should be in the Hall of Fame. They gave maybe three or four reasons and that was one of them.

What the defenders of this nugget refused to accept that when you put that kind of thing out there it casts doubt on the rest of the information. It flirts with falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus or "false in one thing, false in everything" which can even be a jury instruction in our court system. It simply means it's reasonable for a juror or person to not believe anything a witness says if they think he's inaccurate about one thing. And if the jury of the HOF committee were to adopt that it could actually hurt Flores. I think they are smart enough to see that and dismiss it but you never know. Flores is worthy of the Hall of Fame but his case shouldn't be augmented on things that are misleading, in my view.

My thoughts in the debate were that it would be better to leave that out because while true, it carries no real meaning because Flores' Super Bowl ring as a player was in 1969 when he was acquired at midseason by the Kansas City Chiefs because they had injury issues at quarterback. Len Dawson was hurt, Mike Livingston was filling in so they needed a backup. Flores barely played in 1969. He was essentially third string for the Chiefs. He threw one pass. That hardly fits the meaning of an NFL quarterback "winning a ring".

"Winning a ring" is a phrase that has meaning. It denotes that the player contributed to the ring, especially as a quarterback. While accurate no one says Marc Wilson won two rings. They rightly say Jim Plunkett won two rings. Both are true, but one would not fit the actual meaning of the phrase.

In 2004 some in the media were trying to tout Steve Young as having three "rings". Well, yeah. But, no. No sale. Sports Broadcaster Jim Rome used to call the rings we are talking about (Flores, Young, Wilson) gravy-train rings. The only exceptions would be when a backup actually took over and drove the team home to ultimate victories like a Plunkett or a Jeff Hostetler or a Nick Foles.
As an aside, I don't think using Flores' playing career in any way enhances his HOF resume. He's being considered as a head coach, not some sort of combination candidate. His excellence was taking a Wild Card team all the way and then winning a second Super Bowl three years later.

Why would being a decent quarterback in the AFL help a HOF case? Did Don Shula's playing career help him one whit? Shula was a serviceable defensive back. Chuck Noll was a pretty good lineman. Tom Landry was a really good defensive back. All irrelevant. They are HOFers as coaches, nothing else.

Oddly, there are some things the 1980-86 Raiders did that were interesting and if articulated they would actually enhance his case in my view. These are football things, i.e. schemes and packages that they did that were unique and special. As the head coach, he would get credit for letting his coaches do them. But sadly, I've not seen one word written about them.
This is not the only time there have been misleading things presented to make cases for Hall of Famers. In the case of the Flores nugget, I don't think it was coming from HOF voter(s). However, when Fred Dean was being presented it was expressed that he was an "innovator" and his innovation was that he invented or was the first player to be a third-down rusher or designated rusher. This information was communicated to me on a couple of occasions by Hall of Fame voters.

This information was accurate. 

It was not malicious nor do I think the nuggets about Flores are somehow evil, it's not it's just deceptive. I think it's simply well-meaning people trying to achieve something and using all the things they can to get it done.

Back to Dean. Dean, in 1981 was not the first guy to come in and rush on passing downs. In earnest, it began in 1970 with Cedrick Hardman, though Paul Zimmerman once told me that Larry Cole may have done a little of it as a rookie. The Rams used it in 1969 when Roger Brown was nicked up and needed to be spelled, But Hardman was the first to do it for most of the season. There were other milestones in the next decade.

In 1971 Jimmie Jones who played for George Allen in Washington was the first to lead a team in sacks from that role. Harvey Martin was first to make the team in that specific role. In 1977 Pat Toomay was first to lead a conference (AFC) in sacks when he was the designated rusher for the Raiders. In 1980 Cedrick Hardman, now with Oakland, was the first player in that role to win a Super Bowl ring.

None of that takes anything away from Dean who was the first designated rusher to win a Player of the Year Awad, he was the UPI Defensive Player of the Year in 1981 and he was the first to be named All-Pro and to go to the Pro Bowl—all great milestones. But he didn't innovate his position with the 49ers. It could be argued he perfected it and in that part of it, he earned his HOF ring—being better than the rest. Was Dean a dominant rusher? Absolutely. Was he innovative in his position? No.

With the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class of 2020, there will be two coaches included. We would love to see Tom Flores be one of those two. We'd predict it, in fact, along with Don Coryell simply based on how close those two have been in the regular process in the last few years.

However, if the Committee chose Jimmy Johnson or some of the other two Super Bowl-win coaches or even Mike Holmgren or someone else, we'd have no issue. I have posted my thoughts on the coaches a few times. My take is simply that either all the two-win coaches should get in or none of them. I simply cannot separate them.

If Flores, with his being a pioneer as the first Latino coach to win the Super Bowl, is first then wonderful. He deserves it. Friends of mine who worked for the Raiders in the 1980s will be happy for him and I will be happy for them. I have never heard a negative word about the man. However, if he's not one of the two and the two that are chosen are worthy then I'd have no issue with that.

The issue is if I read before or after his election (which is inevitable in my opinion) that among Flores' HOF bona fides is that he is one of two people who have a ring as a player, assistant coach, and head coach then I will simply laugh because someone doesn't know the difference between the literal meaning of a phrase and the actual meaning of that phrase and that is a definition of irony. And the irony is usually funny.

This post was edited on 1/21/2003


  1. Jimmy Johnson is the best coach not in the HOF. He was great at talent evaluation and when he got to Dallas we sucked. And he took us to the promised land.

    Tom Flores took over a good team that was left in good shape by John Madden and Al Davis.

    Al Davis was brains behind Tom Flores.

    1. Jose Silveira ‏July 5, 2019 at 1:46 PM

      Tom Flores deserves HOF. If you think Johnson is better it's cause you are anti-Mexican

    2. Yikes on this thread. Tom Flores was better than the original poster indicates, not as good as the reply.

      Johnson really was the brains behind the Cowboy dynasty of the early 1990s. I'd have no problem with him going in as a result. You could also argue that his coaching career in the NFL at 9 seasons was too short.

      Flores took over a team that I believe was aging quite a bit at the time. He went all the way as a wild card with a (then) backup QB, and smashed a team that went 14-2 and had already beaten the Raiders than year in the Super Bowl. He also had a losing record after the first Super Bowl, his career in LA petered out with a 5-10 record in his last year and his teams in Seattle had atrocious offense - remember how bad the 1992 team was and Cortez Kennedy was Defensive Player of the Year?

      I would have no problem with either in or out.

      I'm not a fan of either team - I'm a Redskins fan and both of these teams had plenty of victories over my team. Trying to look at it objectively.

      With that said, Jose, that's a real leap to imply racism here. You know nothing about the original poster - it could very well be a Hispanic Cowboy fan. I'm married to a Mexican woman, so it's not bias on my part one way or another. Please refrain from that kind of a statement in the future.

  2. The thoughts on Tom Flores are valid, especially not being a HOF player, but I also feel that since Flores as an assistant coach or head coach, contributed to ALL three world championships for the Raiders, thus their WINNING HISTORY, that it could SUMMIZE into a HOF induction.
    Like you stated before John, Flores may have taken Madden's team and won a SB in 80, but he also helped develop Stabler and Madden's Raider offence on that 76 team. In 80 and 83, he won with a different QB and players, but without Flores, these championships don't happen.

    Jimmy Johnson and Buddy Parker both won two championships but wasn't the 95 Dallas champions or 57 Detroit champions still considered Johnson's and Parker's, teams ?
    Parker also won his division and lost to Cleveland in the 54 championship game and like Johnson,floundered coaching another team...same with Flores, but all three have great arguments.

    1. I understand the so-called development of Stabler. That's likely ture, but when you that though first come out publically?

      Not in the 1970s or 1980s. It was never talked about. I try to be skeptical about revisionist history or points being made now that were not a "thing" 20-30 years ago. Gives you the sense is it being exaggerated.

  3. From the books I read from John Madden, it seemed like he gave Flores a lot of credit because he knew Stabler, who called his own plays, had good communication with Flores, who was calm as well, during games, while Madden was an emotional wreck. Though he was a limited QB himself, from the films I saw of Flores, his coolness and play, reminded me of Bart Starr. I understand what you're saying though.

    John, what do you think of Buddy Parker ? Were voters turned off by his alcoholism and physical challenges to his players, or did Layne just seem to take rightful attention from him ?

  4. Whether Flores gets credit or not, it does not matter. The point is if people who want Flores is give him credit for that, they do the same for the other 2-win QBs.

    Seifert developed ROnnie Lott and perfected the "elephant" position with Dean and then Haley.

    If you want to talk QB development, 1 win, 2-loss coach Holmgren developed, REALLY developed QBs

    All I am saying as the point of this post is if one of these guys is HOF, then ALL of them are HOF.

    If you some someone promoting Flores or any of them over the others then you have the right to see if they are being fair or not,.

  5. You're right on Holmgren and Seifert. That's what I am saying, why can't the summation of a coaches career, get them in ? If Shanahan helps develop John Elway and Steve Young into champions, and then wins two titles as head coach with Elway, wouldn't the Hall consider his OVERALL body of work ? Or just his two titles ?
    Tony Dungy is like Flores, in that he is considered a minority success, but he has one title. Was it his winning pct that got him in ? Or his summation/overall body of work ?

    A player can be an example to. Kyle Rote was an excellent receiver who had no speed. However, he helped the Giants win, coming close to being part of four championships teams, or at least division winners. Then, he becomes a player union representative, who advocates for player rights and conditions, with or without influence. Then he joins the other side of the coin, and becomes an NFL Ambassador, by being an esteemed broadcaster, calling a historical Super Bowl III upset/moment.
    So even if he can't enter the Hall by his NUMBERS, can he enter for his full career or body of work, as a player and union representative, and NFL broadcaster/ambassador ?

  6. As the author of the SEP entry, I have to point out that the opening paragraph makes two mistakes.

    "Can the truth ever be a lie? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy it can be. It's referred to in their literature as "non-deceptionism". [False] Colloquially it can be called 'true lies'. What it means is that if some technically true things are presented in a way that is deceptive to a person or audience. [False]

    True lies are lies that don't deceive because the liar (unknowingly) tell the truth. Let's say I think my friend is at home, but I lie to someone that he is out of the country in order to make them leave him alone. Well, as it happens, he is out of the country. That is a true lie. I have lied, yes, but the lie (its content) is true. You are not deceived about my friend's whereabouts. (You may be deceived about what I believe, since you think I think he is out of the country and I don't, but that is a different deception). So 'true lies' are lies that don't deceive because they are actually the truth (unknown to the liar).

    The 'true lie' phenomenon has nothing to do with 'non-deceptionism'. Non-deceptionism is a position that people take on how to define lying. They believe that lies don't have to intend to deceive. They believe in non-deceptive lies (sometimes called 'bald-faced lies'). If, for example, a bully walks up to me and says "That's my money you have", these philosophers consider this to be a ('bald-faced') lie, even though there is no attempt to deceive me. Both the bully and me know that the money is mine. So a 'bald-faced' lie (according to them) is a lie that doesn't deceive because it is not supposed to deceive.

    It is possible to have a bald-faced lie that is also a true lie. But that would be extremely unlikely. Say, for example, unknown to the bully, I had stolen his money. Then, if he came up to me and said, "That's my money you have," that would be a bald-faced true lie. He believes it is my money, actually, and I believe that he believes that it is my money. But he is mistaken - it is his money. He is bald-faced lying, but what he says is true, unbeknownst to him.

    Finally, "some technically true things are presented in a way that is deceptive to a person or audience" is completely different matter. That is not a lie of any kind. That is what is called misleading. If, for example, you ask me where my friend is, and I say "This time of the year he is usually out of the country", which is true, even though I believe that right now he is not out of the country, then I am trying to mislead you, although I am not lying. I am asserting what is true, but I am trying to deceive you with it.

    If you want to talk about this action, however, then telling a "true lie" is the wrong name for this. It is simply called "misleading" (or attempting to mislead), not 'true lying' or indeed any kind of lying.

    1. I appreciate the input and will make changes. I certainly do not want to to be misleading in an article about being misleading. Clearly, I am out of my depth on the deeper meanings. Actually, as the movie poster indicates was trying a play on the title of the film. But since I didn't get the meaning of the entry originally a little education on my part was needed.