Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

01/13/2008

Developing A Possible Romance Between Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg

Unconventional Pairing: Buffy and Willow
The idea of Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg transgressing from friends to lovers is an idea that is firmly planted as unconventional, except in the world of literary fan fiction. While there are other couple pairings that are more popular: Buffy/Angel (Bangel), Buffy/Faith (Fuffy), Buffy/Spike (Spuffy), and Willow/Tara, the relationship between Buffy and Willow could be just as natural a pairing. The following seasons and scenarios will be thought through based on conventional canon (i.e. no alternate universe stories).

While Willow/Xander seems easier to see, especially in the early seasons, Buffy and Willow have their own argument in the early seasons and even into season 4 and 5, although 5 (and the later seasons of 6 and 7) provide more of a problem in making the pairing work.

The big complication, of course, is the fact that Buffy isn’t a lesbian (or even bisexual) however, we see that not only is she accepting and later supportive of the relationship between Willow and Tara, but never outright denies any ideas of her being gay with Willow as will be noted later on.

Season 1
Season 1 is the easiest way to have the Wiffy (Buffy/Willow) pairing come to the forefront although it doesn’t come without its problems. With Buffy’@ �Xnydale, she is the vampire slayer and as such has not revealed that role to Willow or Xander until the end of episode 1, Welcome to the Hellmouth. One of the biggest factors in starting such a relationship in WTTH is the canonical fact that Buffy silently rejects Cordelia’s invitation into the circle by not only talking with Willow during lunch but also sitting with her at The Bronze. We also see that Buffy has no interest in the male counterparts either. She literally walks away from Xander and calls Angel, “Dark, gorgeous in an annoying sort of way” and also proclaims “I really didn’t like him,” when telling Giles of the news Angel gave her. Although saying gorgeous in describing Angel, she also calls him annoying and will make mention of his ability to be cryptic when offering information throughout this season and future seasons.

With Willow, Buffy not only tries to support her self depreciation by telling Willow that she isn’t the single dullest person alive but also offers Willow advice on dating (namely, her own personal philosophy). Another telling sign is that Buffy announces to Giles that it’ll be a here and there thing in regards to slaying vampires but instantly goes into motion when she realizes it’s Willow that’s been targeted (and notice how she doesn’t sense Darla with Jesse).

As Season 1 progresses, we see Buffy’s friendship with Willow further deepening with each episode. In The Witch Willow is quick to offer her support to Buffy with “Well, we’re behind you” in the face of Giles’ disapproval. Along with numerous simultaneous glances and smiles we also see evidence of physical connecting as seen with the hand holding at the end of The Pack. Willow even supports Buffy when dating Owen. Willow even tries to play up the fact that it is a big deal to Buffy’s denial, a tactic we later see become a common theme from Willow in supporting any and all relationships that Buffy has just to see the blonde happy. We also see how protective Buffy is, even knowing that there’s something hinky about the way Xander’s acting, when he verbally abuses Willow in The Pack and immediately physically confronts him.

One of the biggest moments in regards to the pairing occurs in the final episode of Season 1, Prophecy Girl in which Buffy openly quits being The Slayer in front of Angel and Giles. At the time, she’s very attracted to Angel and Giles is her Watcher. It isn’t until Buffy talks with Willow and sees Willow’s true fear at what has happened, that she resigns herself to being what she is, and going after The Master. She even knocks Giles out when Giles forbids Buffy.

A couple of the complications are the relationship with Angel (which can be nixed instantly if setting up Wiffy prior to The Pack or Angel) as well as Xander’s fixation on Buffy, which Buffy failed to completely notice or reiterate, along with Willow’s fixation on Xander which can be explained away by the fact that Xander ignored Willow’s actions much the same way that Buffy ignored Xander’s actions. We see in The Pack that Xander is completely aware of Willow’s feelings for him, even if he’s possessed – “Until Willow… stops kidding herself… that I could settle with anyone but you?” (when confronting Buffy). We also see that Xander will have a strong dislike to Angel through Season 4 even, partly stemming from the fact that he has Buffy and Xander doesn’t.

Season 2
Season 2 is probably the most interesting season in regards to trying to set Buffy and Willow up. In Inca Mummy Girl we see Willow finally accept the idea of moving on past Xander and into Halloween, we see Buffy really trying to show Xander how beautiful Willow is. She makes such remarks as, “Wow! You’re a dish! I mean, really,” and practically gushes about Willow’s costume, “But wait till you see…” and is royally disappointed when Willow appears with the Boo! Costume. Earlier in the episode, we see Willow defending Buffy against a picture from 1775, “She’s not that pretty. I mean, look at her. She’s a got a funny… uh, waist. Look how tiny that is.”

Even up through Ted, we see just how much Willow values Buffy’s friendship and supports Buffy. Willow tries to defend Buffy against Ted (who’s dead nonetheless) by saying, “But I’m sure it wasn’t your fault. He started it,” and “Don’t say that!” when Buffy makes a remark about her killing him. What’s more amazing is that Willow is trying to make Buffy feel better and ease her pain by making Ted look like the bad guy, when Ted is literally deceased at that very moment. Willow later remarks, “Buffy’s not going to jail. It’s not fair,” so although her argument isn’t exactly steeped in sound reasoning, we still see how adamant Willow is in defending Buffy.

Buffy turns to Willow when Angel goes bad and we also see how much Willow wants Buffy to be happy, insisting upon doing the soul spell a second time after it gets broken up the first time. This is also after she wakes up from a coma and Willow’s only excuse is, “This can help Buffy,” which she notes prior to turning Angel back before he awakens Acathla. At the end of the season, we see Buffy leave bearing not only the guilt of killing Angel, her mother refusing to deal with the fact that Buffy’s the Slayer, but also being the reason (i.e. turning Angel bad) that her friends got hurt, with Willow confined to a wheelchair.

One of the big complications is the Buffy/Angel relationship. One way of rectifying this situation, and a method I’ve used in my current ongoing story: Here, is Buffy learning of Angel’s curse prior to his going bad. We know that Buffy is big on keeping secrets herself but at the same time, Angel’s secret is big and the idea that they could never have sexual intercourse could lead to either Angel dumping Buffy or Buffy turning away from Angel for not being forthcoming with her. Granted, both are somewhat tenuous but we see the former occur in Season 3, albeit for different reasons.

Season 3
This is one of my favorite seasons in terms of possibilities and making Wiffy work canonically. The stretch from Revelations (3.07) to Amends (3.11) is one of the more opportune times in regards to ably pulling off a Buffy and Willow conciliation without it being a hack job.

We see early in Dead Man’s Party just how much Willow missed Buffy during the summer and Buffy goes so far as to say, “Willow, please. I can’t take this from you, too.” It’s interesting to note that Buffy openly snaps at Cordelia and Xander but refuses to at Willow, even pleading with the redhead.

We also see the arrival of Faith and later, Willow’s open dislike of Faith for not only using Xander sexually (and trying to kill him) but also trying to kill Angel and moving in on Buffy, taking up the time that used to be for Willow before Faith tries to accuse Buffy of murder.

In Revelations, we see that Buffy admits that Angel isn’t her boyfriend, “He’s not my boyfriend. Really, truly, he’s… I don’t know,” and in Lover’s Walk we not only see Willow and Oz broken up, but Buffy is the one that essentially dumps Angel and pushes him away from continuing any further relationship.

One interesting way of working the Buffy/Willow relationship in and further deepening it, is by making Oz so hurt (understandable) that he refuses Willow’s request in Amends to re-attempt the relationship. Buffy could continue to distance herself from Angel, even after the attempted self suicide, leading us into the second half of the season.

Here is where it could get interesting: We have the subtext of Buffy and Faith being somewhat more than just Slayers working together, with the dancing and a possible sexual act thrown in there somewhere. We know that Willow, by now, openly despises Faith, especially when we hit Enemies (3.17). With Choices (3.19) this could be the pinnacle section where Buffy realizes that she likes Willow as more than a friend. Seeing Willow in danger and possibly killed by Faith could be the “light switch” moment (also don’t forget Angel’s unspoken remark in Doppelgangland about the vampire taking on traits of the human). Buffy clearly seemed to have understood where Angel was going prior to cutting him off, and Buffy could contemplate that more too in relation to Willow’s being kidnapped.

Season 4
This is one of those seasons in which the big question will always be: What if Willow was attracted to Buffy instead of Tara? We see throughout the early part of the season Buffy ranges from Parker, a thankfully short lived relationship, to that of Riley. We also see Oz officially leave Willow in Wild At Heart, opening an avenue in which, during a time where Buffy and Riley weren’t quite serious, Buffy and Willow could have come together.

They were not only sharing a dorm room and thus prone to seeing each other somewhat openly (as well as really learning more about one another i.e. sleeping habits, daily morning routine, etc.) but Willow and Tara are kept somewhat unofficial until New Moon Rising (4.19). What’s key about this is that between Hush and NMR, there are eight episodes in which Willow not only could have come out to Buffy about her being attracted to Tara (or girls in general) but also Buffy realizing that Willow’s been checking her out or spending time with Tara more (as Faith did).

It’s interesting that Willow trusts Buffy enough to tell Buffy of her growing attraction to Tara before Oz or anybody else. Even though Buffy does act a bit freaked, upon seeing Willow’s nervousness, she quickly settles down and accepts Willow’s feelings. This is important because we see in The Yoko Factor that one of Willow’s fears and worries is that, as she puts it, “Well, they certainly haven’t been right, since Tara. We have to face it. You can’t handle Tara being my girlfriend,” which is an extremely curious thing to admit even in the heat of anger. It’s also interesting that Buffy doesn’t refute Willow’s statement outright. This becomes important in Season 6 too.

We know that Willow has dated Oz, a werewolf, and Buffy has dated a vampire and a commando in Riley. With the subtext rumors that Buffy and Faith may have had an incident, it’s hard to say that Buffy would have an issue with Willow being into girls (especially seeing Vamp Willow and not visibly remarking about VW’s enjoyment of females). We also know that Buffy thinks Tara is a great girl and doesn’t dislike the blonde. That leaves us with the possibility that Buffy could be jealous of Tara not only taking “her spot” as best friend to Willow, but possibly jealous on a deeper level.

One way of working around the Willow/Tara relationship is Willow not only realizing how good a friend Tara is, but how important Buffy is to her as well. She admits to Tara in the screenplay for Who Are You? after Tara sees Faith as Buffy, “But I wish you’d give her a chance; she’s very important to me.”

With Buffy not quite committing to Riley and Willow’s subtle shift towards Tara (along with the sudden revelation that brings), one could have Willow admit to Buffy her feelings towards the Slayer. The complication comes in not only Buffy’s reaction but whether Buffy would have feelings about Willow in that manner.

Season 5
This is one of the hardest seasons to work in a Buffy/Willow relationship. Even though Buffy is freed up for the majority of time thanks to Riley’s departure in Into The Woods (5.10), the big obstacle is Willow and Tara who are both fully into their relationship at this point.

Not only do we have the arrival of Dawn, which can be included here or in earlier seasons (or as with canon, kept out of the early seasons) but we also have the issue of Joyce and her death. The writer can choose to keep that in or not, but the reactions if kept in would be similar to The Body.

We do see Buffy’s somewhat overwrought emotional display in Triangle (5.11) in terms of relationships going south and it would be interesting if Willow and Tara did break up during that episode. One explanation could be the growing magic abuse which becomes the reason in Season 6 but another, underlying, issue could be Buffy herself and how much she means to Willow. Tara could make the accusation that she isn’t Buffy, much the same way that Riley left Buffy, because he wasn’t Angel, and he wasn’t enough.

Another issue is Spike and his sudden attraction to Buffy. That can be swept under the rug or utilized but it creates a complication if Buffy and Willow are still separated and Willow is still with Tara. One interesting avenue is Willow inadvertently kills Spike (possibly during his interrogation from Glory or when Willow confronts Glory) leading to Tara’s breaking up with Willow and Buffy needing to help keep Willow from withdrawing from everybody. The issue with this, is that Tara has been brainsucked and Willow will still be deeply in love until the breakup.

Season 6
This season could go a variety of ways. The biggest impact is obviously Warren’s killing of Tara in Seeing Red but there are a couple avenues that could be explored to help start a Wiffy relationship. The first is that we have Willow and Tara openly breaking up due to the abuse of magic along with Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy later. Buffy could kill Spike as a means to finally ridding herself of what he reminds her of (her abuse of him in her dependence) and the fact that he helped Buffy ignore what was going on with Willow/inadvertently allowed Buffy to not focus on the Trio and thus blaming him for killing Tara.

Another avenue could be that Willow openly admits to bringing Buffy back, mostly for selfish reasons. When confronted by Mrs. Kroger in Gone (6.11) Buffy says, “Oh! Oh, it’s not a, a gay thing, you know, I mean, well… she’s gay, but, but we don’t… gay. Not that there’s anything –” and it’s interesting that Buffy kind of stumbles over her words. Part of it is because Mrs. Kroger’s a social worker but it’s also interesting that Buffy may’ve thought about such a situation before. Buffy never outright says, “No,” or “I’m not gay.” Tara realizes she can’t compete with Buffy and ends the relationship, becoming more aware just how deep the selfish reasons were. The obstacle, of course, would be Buffy’s reaction to Willow’s feelings, especially after being pulled from heaven.

Season 7
We see in Season 7, Willow not only dealing with her magic but also still dealing with the loss of Tara and the destruction that the redhead caused in Season 6. One of the more notable aspects of the season is the separation between Buffy and Willow during the season, although in Same Time, Same Place (7.03), we see one of the Wiffiest acts ever on the show. Buffy meditates with Willow, openly supplying Willow with any added strength needed to help heal her. That scene is probably the biggest opening in terms of a Season 7 Wiffy relationship. Although Buffy and Spike become an off/on couple, they could be relegated to just associates with Buffy realizing what Willow means to her after going back over the past seven years. Willow is in between relationships and hasn’t quite gotten around to Kennedy yet, so the availability is there.

The biggest obstacle is the history of Buffy and Willow and seamlessly getting Buffy to admit love for the redhead on a sexual level, rather than just a friendship level. One aspect of such an act could be helping ease Willow’s grief over Tara, as Buffy was the first one that Willow came out to in regards to the relationship. Another struggle is the fact that Buffy has never admitted attraction openly towards another girl, although she’s quick to praise Willow and support any bumps in the Willow/Tara relationship.

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01/07/2008

General Myths About the Run and Shoot Offense Examined

1: You can’t run the football effectively.

While the majority of the Run and Shoot is predicated towards the pass, the run and shoot opens up lanes for the running game and it’s up to the coaches to utilize the run, not abandon it. In the NFL, many pundits claim that the run and shoot failed in part because the teams lacked a solid running game. This is simply not true. What they did lack was the conventional idea of revolving around the running game rather than the passing game. Take the following stats for example…

1990 Houston Oilers
Lorenzo White and Allen Pinkett combined for 234 carries for 970 yards at a 4.15 YPC rate and 8 TD. The Oilers had 5 games where they ran for over 100 yards as a team.

1991 Houston Oilers
Lorenzo White and Allen Pinkett again combine for 281 carries for 1,185 yards at a 4.22 YPC rate and 13 TD. The Oilers had 7 games where they ran for over 100 yards as a team.

1992 Houston Oilers
Lorenzo White had 265 carries for 1,226 yards at a 4.63 YPC rate and 7 TD. The Oilers had 8 games where they ran for over 100 yards as a team.

1993 Houston Oilers
Gary Brown and Lorenzo White combined for 326 carries for 1,467 yards at a 4.50 YPC rate and 8 TD. The Oilers had 10 games where they ran for over 100 yards as a team.

1989 Detroit Lions
Barry Sanders had 280 carries for 1,470 yards at a 5.25 YPC rate with 14 TD. The Lions topped 150 yards rushing as a team 5 times that season.

1990 Detroit Lions
Barry Sanders had 255 carries for 1,304 yards at a 5.11 YPC rate with 13 TD. The Lions topped 150 yards rushing as a team 5 times that season.

1991 Atlanta Falcons
Erric Pegram and Steve Broussard combined for 200 carries for 798 yards at a 3.99 YPC rate with 5 TD. Atlanta ran for over 100 yards as a team 7 times that season.

1992 Atlanta Falcons
Tony Smith, Steve Broussard, and Keith L. Jones combined for 250 carries for 970 yards at a 3.88 YPC rate with 3 TD. Atlanta ran for over 100 yards as a team 5 times.

1993 Atlanta Falcons
Erric Pegram had 292 carries for 1,185 yards at a 4.06 YPC rate with 3 TD. Atlanta ran for over 100 yards as a team 6 times.

1994 Atlanta Falcons
Craig Heyward and Ericc Pegram combined for 286 carries for 1,137 yards at a 3.98 YPC rate with 8 TD. Atlanta ran for over 100 yards as a team 3 times.

1995 Atlanta Falcons
Craig Heyward had 236 carries for 1,083 yards at a 4.59 YPC rate with 6 TD. Atlanta ran for over 100 yards as a team 6 times.

Even without the contribution of Barry Sanders in Detroit, the teams that ran the run and shoot offense were still able to get close to, or top 1,000 yards a team rushing on the season from their top two running backs. Not only were they able to run, but they were able to do so at a solid YPC for an NFL team. In every season except the 1994 Falcons, the teams were able to run for over 100 yards against an opponent in at least a third of their games.

2: The Run and Shoot offense strikes too quickly and can’t hold a lead.

This can be misleading because such an offense also allows a team to come back quickly when down. In games where the 1994 Falcons held a lead at halftime, they were outscored by their opposition 74 – 100 in the 2nd half. In those games, their time of possession was 254:41 compared to 285:19 from their opposition. That’s a difference of 31 minutes and 18 seconds, over a full half of football.

The 1995 Atlanta Falcons were outscored 67 – 72 and in those games, their time of possession was 260:43 to 229:35 from their opposition. Here, we see that they were still outscored by 5 points but held a 31 minute, 8 second advantage over their opponents in time of possession.

Without game stats for the other teams, it’s hard to say that this holds true for all run and shoot teams but we see that in the span of 2 seasons, the time of possession swings to favor the run and shoot team and yet they are still outscored (albeit by a much smaller margin).

3: Run and Shoot teams couldn’t make it to/win the Super Bowl.

Yes, run and shoot teams didn’t have great success in the playoffs but people forget that it’s hard to win when you miss the playoffs completely.

1989 Detroit Lions: 7-9 and finished third in the NFC Central. Missed playoffs.
1990 Detroit Lions: 6-10 and finished second in the NFC Central. Missed playoffs.
1990 Houston Oilers: 9-7 and finished first in the AFC Central. Lost the Wildcard game to Cincinnati 41 – 14.
1991 Houston Oilers: 11-5 and finished first in the AFC Central. Beat the New York Jets 17 – 10 in the Wildcard game. Lost to Denver 26 – 24 in the Divisional game.
1991 Atlanta Falcons: 10-6 and finished second in the NFC West. Beat New Orleans in the Wildcard game 27 – 20. Lost to Washington 24 – 7 in the Divisional game.
1992 Houston Oilers: 10-6 and finished second in the AFC Central. Lost the Wildcard game to Buffalo 41 – 38.
1992 Atlanta Falcons: 6-10 and finished third in the NFC West. Missed playoffs.
1993 Houston Oilers: 12-4 and finished first in the AFC Central. Lost the Divisional game to Kansas City 28 – 20.
1993 Atlanta Falcons: 6-10 and finished third in the NFC West. Missed playoffs.
1994 Atlanta Falcons: 7-9 and finished second in the NFC West. Missed playoffs.
1995 Atlanta Falcons: 9-7 and finished second in the NFC West. Lost Wildcard game to Green Bay 37 – 20.

From 1990 – 1993, Jack Pardee went 42 – 22 during the regular season and made the playoffs all 4 years with the Houston Oilers. In 1994, Pardee was let go after going 1 – 9 (He lost 5 games by 3 points during that stretch and just as easily could’ve been 6 – 4) and was succeeded by current head coach, Jeff Fisher.

Over the next four seasons, with a more conventional coach at the helm, from 1995 – 1998 Jeff Fisher went 31 – 33 and missed the playoffs all four seasons.

From 1994 – 1996 under June Jones, the Atlanta Falcons went 19 – 29 with Jones being let go after a dismal 3 – 13 season in 1996. He made the playoffs in 1995.

Dan Reeves was hired as head coach and over the next four seasons, went 30 – 34 with a Super Bowl appearance in 1998, his only playoff appearance during that span. The year after his Super Bowl appearance, partly due to key injuries such as RB Jamal Anderson, Reeves went 5 – 11 and 4 – 12. He finished out his Atlanta tenure with a 7 – 9 record in 2001, 9 – 6 in 2002 with a loss in the Divisional game, and went 5 – 11 in 2003.

From 1989 – 1995 with a pass focused offense, Wayne Fontes went 49 – 53 but made the playoffs four times, including three straight from 1993 to 1995. Upon being let go after a 5 – 11 finish in 1996, Bobby Ross went 22 – 26 with two playoff appearances in three seasons. Ross went 9 – 7, 5 – 11, and 8 – 8 during that span.

Mike Martz went 51 – 29 from 2000 – 2004 as head coach of St. Louis and made the playoffs five times including a Super Bowl appearance in 2001. While not a true proponent of the run and shoot, Martz strongly favors the pass and includes elements of the run and shoot in his offense.

4: The Run and Shoot isn’t effective in the red zone.

From 1988-1992, the Houston Cougars saw unparalleled success. In 1991, they were 40-43 (93%) with 36 TD and 4 FG (2 INT, 1 TO on Downs). They scored a TD on 84% of their red zone possessions that year. 1988 they were 43-45 (96%), 1989 they were 56-64 (87%), and 1990, they were 49-54 (90%). In all 4 years, they were 188-206 (91%). I think most teams would love to score in 9/10 red zone possessions.

In 2007, Hawaii finished first with a 76.36% conversion rate for touchdowns in 55 attempts. Texas Tech finished fifth with a 74.60% conversion rate in 63 attempts.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the red zone efficiency for past seasons in the NFL.

5: The Run and Shoot gets your quarterback killed.

While most of the run and shoot teams did allow high sack totals, there were also several years where some of them were comparable to great offensive lines in their sack totals. Like any great team, a good offense is only as good as its offensive line. Tom Brady, running predominantly out of the spread with one back to help block was only sacked 21 times in 2007. In comparison, the Mike Martz teams in St. Louis allowed 44, 40, 46, 43, and 50 sacks from 2000 – 2004. Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell threw 713 times in 2007 but was only sacked 16 times.

1989 Detroit Lions: 57 sacks
1990 Detroit Lions: 44 sacks
1990 Houston Oilers: 39 sacks
1991 Atlanta Falcons: 31 sacks
1991 Detroit Lions: 25 sacks
1991 Houston Oilers: 24 sacks
1992 Atlanta Falcons: 40 sacks
1992 Detroit Lions: 59 sacks
1992 Houston Oilers: 32 sacks
1993 Atlanta Falcons: 40 sacks
1993 Detroit Lions: 46 sacks
1993 Houston Oilers: 43 sacks
1994 Atlanta Falcons: 37 sacks
1994 Detroit Lions: 26 sacks
1995 Atlanta Falcons: 43 sacks
1995 Detroit Lions: 32 sacks

For comparison to great offenses at the time…
1991 Buffalo Bills: 35 sacks
1992 Buffalo Bills: 29 sacks
1993 Buffalo Bills: 31 sacks
1991 Dallas Cowboys: 38 sacks
1992 Dallas Cowboys: 23 sacks
1993 Dallas Cowboys: 29 sacks
1994 Dallas Cowboys: 20 sacks
1995 Dallas Cowboys: 18 sacks
1991 San Francisco 49ers: 24 sacks
1992 San Francisco 49ers: 32 sacks
1993 San Francisco 49ers: 35 sacks
1994 San Francisco 49ers: 35 sacks
1995 San Francisco 49ers: 33 sacks
1993 Green Bay Packers: 30 sacks
1994 Green Bay Packers: 33 sacks
1995 Green Bay Packers: 33 sacks

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