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Teacher Appreciation Week: NFL Edition

"Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle, Aristotle taught Alexander the Great"¦" That's how Mary kicked off mental_floss Teacher Appreciation Week.

A logical follow-up post would be one that extended this chain. A less logical one would jump ahead about 2300 years and trace the lineage of famous NFL teachers. Since I just read an excellent piece by Stephen Edelson on the latter, let's turn down that road.

You can trace many of today's successful teachers back to Cleveland Browns legend Paul Brown. After joining the NFL in 1950, Cleveland appeared in six straight NFL title games, winning three. The father of modern football was also a stubborn S.O.B. After being criticized for passing too much in a win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Brown refused to throw the ball once in their next meeting (another win), the only time that's ever happened since the advent of the forward pass. Brown went on to coach the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, where he begat Bill Walsh.

Bill Walsh spent seven seasons under Brown, and would eventually take over the lowly San Francisco 49ers. With Joe Montana, Walsh would win three Super Bowls, including two over his former team in Cincy. He retired after the 1988-89 season. Here's where the coaching tree branches out.

Walsh's successor in San Francisco, his defensive coordinator George Seifert, won the Super Bowl his first season. Mike Holmgren, the quarterbacks coach under Walsh and offensive coordinator under Seifert, went to two Super Bowls as coach of the Green Bay packers (winning one), and brought the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL last year. Seifert also begat Mike Shanahan, who won two titles with Denver, and Pete Carroll, who didn't find success with the Jets or Patriots, but has dominated college football, winning two national championships at USC.

Back to Holmgren -- it seems like his entire Packers staff went on to coach their own teams. His branch is a big one: Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, Ray Rhodes, Marty Mornhinweg, Mike Sherman, Steve Mariucci, and Dick Jauron.

Minnesota coach Brad Childress worked under Reid in Philly; Houston's Gary Kubiak comes from Shanahan's Broncos. And going back directly to Walsh, his assistant Dennis Green (Minnesota, then Arizona) begat Brian Billick (Baltimore).

That's a lot of mentoring. I could go into the Bill Parcells tree, or the Marty Schottenheimer one. But I'll save those for next Teacher Appreciation Week. Class dismissed.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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