The College Football Landscape Has Changed Only Marginally in the Past Five Years

August 29th, 2015

Internet problems that didn’t get fixed until well after midnight caused me to re-print a blog from five years ago (if I post my blog after 11:00 pm Pacific Time, it posts to the next day, meaning everyone on the country can wake up and check out my thoughts while they’re still on their first cup of coffee. If it seems as though I experience an abundance of problems related to computers and technology, it’s more likely than not due to ignorance and apathy, i.e. I don’t know and I don’t care (to learn). Since it was written so long ago, chances are readers have never seen it. Or don’t remember. So, enjoy (again).

Fresno State and Nevada had been not so secretly longing to join the Mountain West Conference ever since the old WAC split and left them out – or in. Becoming part of that league at that time would have a significant move – although for the first few years, the WAC was arguably as good as the newly formed group in both football and basketball.

Now the move has definitely lost much of its luster. First of all, Utah, one of the MWC’s bell cows defected to join the Pac-10 (now that I can understand). The Mountain West neutralized (maybe even upgraded) the loss of the Utes when it plucked Boise State from the WAC. There was talk of the MWC trying to become the seventh BCS conference. A case could have been made for the league if it had Utah, BYU, TCU and BSU but Utah’s defection crippled that idea. Besides, everybody knows all this posturing and positioning is about money and you don’t have to be brilliant in math to know something split seven ways doesn’t yield as much as something divided six ways – not if you’re one of the six anyway.

In what seemed like a revenge move, the WAC devised a plan to pry away BYU from its hated rival league – even though they wouldn’t be joining the conference in football. It seemed a pretty shrewd move. Getting BYU in basketball would upgrade that sport but that wasn’t the reason for “the pact.” It was definitely meant to bring the MWC to its knees. And then, the Bulldogs and the Wolfpack did a 180 and everything went to pieces.

Now, BYU is leaving anyway – to pursue football life as an independent. It will join the West Coast Conference, an 8-team league made up of church-based schools for its other sports. It makes that league even more powerful in basketball (some called the WCC the best league on the West Coast last year). But to try to make a go of it as an independent?

It works for Notre Dame, but BYU isn’t ND – even if it has its own TV network. No matter what television does for the Cougars (they just signed a 6-year deal with the Irish), my prediction is they’re still going to find it extremely difficult to fill a schedule every year (especially in future years since football scheduling is done so far in advance). Because the WAC is down to six teams, all seems to be forgiven and they will (gladly) schedule BYU in football.

But BYU wanted to go independent so it could have a better chance to crack into a BCS bowl and playing WAC schools will badly hurt their RPI. As far as scheduling other BCS teams, once teams get into league play, they’re wary of playing non-conference opponents. Sure, there are off-weeks, but usually coaches look forward to a break in the schedule to get healthy or have additional preparation time for a league rival.

Should the Big 12 (now 10) look to expand, don’t think TCU isn’t at the top of the list – and it won’t take but a phone call to remove another team from the MWC. When it comes to big-time football, you’re either in or you’re trying to get in. Changing positions on the periphery doesn’t really help much. And, when you resort to trying to weaken others, be wary of the line:

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.”

It’s a Wonderful Life – Even If All Your Dreams Don’t Come True

August 28th, 2015

After my post yesterday, I had a few friends reach out to me and ask if not ever getting a chance to be a Division I head coach really bothered me as much as it seemed to them. One, in particular, was shocked that, with all the experiences I had and places I got to visit, my lack of leading my own team bummed me out so much.

I told him it wasn’t so much that it “bummed me out” but, rather, that it was a goal of mine. Sports are all about goals. As coaches, we’re constantly preaching to our players to set team and individual goals. Before games there would be goals written on the board, e.g. defensive goal in terms of the maximum points we’d allow, number of points we needed to score in transition, in the paint, off of threes, etc.

In recruiting we would have goals to recruit specific needs, i.e. a post player who could rebound and block shots or a combo guard who could lead the team as well as score. If we failed on getting our top recruits, we’d at least try to salvage great athletes, even if it meant changing our style of play. Not reaching recruiting goals didn’t do much for job security.

At a couple of my stops, I’d be in charge of a group of players. At least once a week, I’d have to have one-on-one meetings with each guy. We’d talk about basketball, naturally, but also have discussions about their academic, social and family life. While the social and family life questions were more for the coach to understand how they were enjoying college/dealing with homesickness (especially for the young ones), there were always goals regarding academics, some as simple as remaining eligible, others to be Dean’s List.

Scouting opponents were also split among the assistants and, while every coach wants to win every game, you’d always feel more pressure during “your scout.” Obviously, the goal was to go undefeated in the games you scouted.

When it came to improving as a coach, a small group of us decided to take a page out of one of my former bosses, George Raveling, who improved his level of coaching by getting a small group of colleagues and discussing different areas of basketball. The idea improved George immeasurably. Take it from someone who worked with him when he was in his second and third year as a head coach (when we lost) and 15 years later when we ended the season in the Top Ten and he was voted NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year. And, if you haven’t heard, next month he will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Our group met for about 15 years and I was an infinitely better coach at the end of my career than I was at the outset – due to not only the self-improvement clinics but also to my working for different coaches with different philosophies in different leagues. I’ve always been a student of life as well as the game, trying to be as observant as I could, to learn from everybody with whom I came in contact – their positive qualities as well as their negatives. As an aside, four of the last five coaches I worked with were honored as coach of the year at least once during my stay with them.

So, did it really affect me that much that I never became a head coach? You bet. Have I gotten over it? Yup. I heard a funny story a month or so ago which, in many ways, sums up my coaching career. It was about a guy who desperately wanted to be successful. He went so far as to seek out a fortune teller. Here’s how their conversation went.

The fortune teller looked into her crystal ball and said, “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 45 years old.”

With a specific number affording him a glimmer of hope, the guy said, expectantly, “Then what?”

“Then you’ll get used to it.”

Although I never did obtain that elusive head coaching job, I’m here to tell everyone that 1) I got used to it and 2) I’m the furthest thing from poor and unhappy.

A Lifetime Bridesmaid Finds a Silver Lining

August 27th, 2015

Loyal readers know that my career in Division I college hoops lasted 30 years and that, while my goal was to land a head coaching position at that level, I never did realize it. Some guys (although not too many) are completely satisfied as career assistants. Not me. I wanted to run my own show – and had been preparing for the challenge nearly that entire time. For example, in 1976 I saw a continuity offense a high school coach from Tacoma, Wash. was running and for 30 years I tinkered with it, tweaked it, expanded on it and, to this day, I still feel it is indefensible – a combination of continuity, motion and set plays.

So, truth be told, not accomplishing my dream has always been my biggest professional disappointment. While in no way does it diminish the sting, this September I will join a rather prestigious club, albeit one whose members are unknown to anyone but themselves. Two years ago, my last boss, Jerry Tarkanian (for whom I worked at Fresno State for each of his seven years there), was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, an honor that was long overdue.

During festivities on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Sept. 10-12), the Springfield, Mass. institution will induct its class of 2015. One member of that class is George Raveling, who will be enshrined in the “contributor” category. Prior to my employment as director of basketball operations at Fresno State, I served as George’s associate head coach at USC for four years, meaning the last two guys I worked for are members of the Hall of Fame. That is the exclusive club I was referring to - guys who were assistant coaches for multiple Hall of Famers.

In fact, I was a graduate assistant for two years at Washington State (1973-75) while George was head coach for the Cougars. Throw in two other incredibly successful, elite coaches I assisted, (the late) Dick Harter (at Oregon) and Don DeVoe (at Tennessee), and 70% of my career (21 of the 30 seasons) was spent serving upper echelon coaches.

As far as the two Hall of Famers, most everyone is aware of Tark’s accomplishments, especially his four Final 4 appearances, including the 1990 National Championship squad from UNLV. Yet, Jerry actually took over three Division I schools, all of them having fallen on hard times, and resurrected each one, i.e. turned them into clubs that participated in post season play – immediately after he got there. Yet, few fans know the story of a young Tark growing up in Euclid, Ohio, a working class town. At an NCAA Tournament post game press conference, Jerry mentioned that as a youngster, he would watch his father and most of the men in the neighborhood leave for work carrying their lunch pails. His goal, at such a young age, was “to have a job where I didn’t have to carry a lunch pail.”

The story of George Raveling and how he came to obtain the original notes from Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech has been told and retold so many times, it might be what brings the most fame to Rave. Yet, he also led the three teams he coached (Iowa was the other) to NCAA Tournament play and, like Jerry, George was raised in humble surroundings in the Washington, DC area. Following his enshrinement, more will be known about his upbringing so there’s no need to go on any further about it in this space.

Suffice to say, as poet Vaibhav Shah so eloquently put it, that, when seeing highly decorated people:

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” 

What the Rules for the Debates Ought to Be

August 26th, 2015

With political debates descending upon us (Republicans vs. Republicans, maybe Democrats vs. Democrats (who knows?) and, finally, the granddaddy of them all, R vs. D for the heavyweight champion of the world (and lesser posts), it’s apparent a new set of rules need to be put into place. Much of what follows I have (loosely) stolen from another blog, but since that blog is mine (10/1/13), the larceny is legal.

What we’ve seen in debates (heck, any political speech) can only be categorized as blamestorming. People blame politicians. Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans blame Democrats. Politicians blame others within their own party. What is lacking is trust. It seems as though nobody trusts each other and, in altogether too many cases, for good reason. The United States government, as it stands today, could be the definition of reverse synergy in which the whole is actually less than the sum of its parts.

How have these politicians been elected? Debates are an excellent means for voters to form their opinions about the candidates (discounting those who have already made up their minds and refuse to waver, independent of what they hear, read or see). While loyalty is an admirable trait, it ought to be replaced with impartiality and sound judgment when choosing who should govern. After viewing several debates throughout the years, however, I propose a new policy on the format of future “discussions of the issues.”

What needs to be done is to get each participant and hook them up to something that would send a minor electric shock to their body. Each person in the debate would be identically connected. In a race in which one of candidates is the incumbent, that person, for example, might be asked to explain why the nation (or his/her district) is in the shape it’s in. The moderator would be equipped with a device that, if pressed, would generate the electric shock to the speaker if and when the candidate: a) would give a response to another question he/she would rather have answered, b) would begin talking about the opposing party, c) would begin attacking his/her opponent’s character or d) would begin filibustering, if anyone would be so foolish to try that, knowing he/she is risking an electric shock (maybe that’s a solution to disallow such a foolish act in Congress).

Also, should a candidate talk over a rival, the microphone of the person who is interrupting will immediately be shut off (it would be like subjecting the person to Maxwell Smart’s “cone of silence”). Non-incumbent candidates running for office will be subjected to exactly the same rules, e.g. when asked about a policy (including controversial topics), should they respond with, “Well, unlike my opponent, who …” ZAP! In addition, any candidate who has blasted his/her opponent in electronic or print media will be asked about those inflammatory remarks and, if they are not substantiated with facts, yeah, ZAP! This idea would lend a new meaning to a politician being “burned out.”

Possibly because I’ve never really been interested in politics, I’ve been content with listening to politicians explain what should be done and voting for whomever I felt was the best person for the job. Unfortunately, the winners of today’s debates have become who looks the most electable, who can cause opponents to stumble, who has the best “sound bite” answer, who can do the best job of shouting over opponent(s) or, mainly, who can make the other look more foolish, thus “back dooring” themselves into a (in many cases, lucrative or powerful – or both) job.

Until something akin to my (admittedly, outrageous) plan is put into use, the late Robin Williams’ definition of politics will rule:

“Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures.’ “

Chris Webber Is Officially a Member of the Media

August 25th, 2015

Recently I saw where Chris Webber compared the situation NCAA college athletes are in to slavery. First of all, when Webber was in college, he was bankrolled by Michigan booster Ed Martin so, at the very least, he should exclude himself from the conversation. It’s highly doubtful his college experience was anything at all like a “normal” slave would have encountered. In fact, it was nothing like a “normal” scholarship student-athlete would have encountered. The fact that some of his own teammates consider him a pariah puts him in a different ctaegory from the normal student=athlete. Or slave for that matter, but, then, I’m only guessing on that part.

Webber now has a platform because he’s on TV and probably thinks it’s his duty to inform the public of the awful conditions NCAA athletes have to endure. Yet, for years he lied again and again (including to the grand jury) about his own cushy, illegal life he was basking in while attending UM – so he would only know by theorizing.

I have said for . . . ever that student-athletes have little to complain about – if they take advantage of all that’s afforded them. Full scholarships (room, board, books tuition and fees) can be supplemented by Pell Grant (for those who qualify), as well as “needy student fund” money. Making use of that would solve everyone’s, even the most destitute kid’s, problem (some are too lazy to fill out the Pell Grant form and many coaches feel “they don’t have the time to “hand-hold” the parents through the process). Now, in addition to that financial assistance, “cost-of-attendance” money, which is over and above what the scholarship covers, will be available beginning the 2015-16 academic year. (For a full assessment of my view of whether players should be paid, go to CoachGeorgeRaveling.com and read my guest column Why College Athletes Do NOT Need to Be Paid).

Sure, the universities are hauling in money hand over fist but, with the exception of a few, they’re not exactly rolling in dough. Funding all the non-revenue sports (meaning every one but football and men’s basketball – and, don’t forget, that although those two create revenue, it doesn’t mean they don’t spend more than they make) and keeping up with the Joneses in terms of facilities eat up any excess money that’s made. And now they’re faced with finding extra stipends for athletes. According to recently retired Virginia congressman Jim Moran, of the 1,083 college sports programs in the nation only 20 are profitable. (see “Jim Moran says only 20 colleges make a profit from sports” by Nancy Madsen of PolitiFact.com and the TimesDispatch.com, 12/22/14).

Where sympathy dries up for the universities, however, is in the salaries they’re paying their football and men’s basketball coaches. For example, the coach of whichever SEC West football team that finishes last will make at least $4 million. Hey, anybody can finish last. With the coaches being so handsomely compensated, the athletes feel (and are told) more money ought to be lining their pockets. Maybe this phenomenon should serve as a lesson for their future employment, i.e. when you work for a highly successful firm, the workers don’t often get to participate in profit sharing. Which is why, some will say, that’s why the Northwestern guys wanted to unionize. And, independent which side of that argument you were on, you can’t disagree what a mess it was, still is, and, undoubtedly, will be until those players are long gone.

At the risk of mixing a folk tale and a fable, what’s currently going on in intercollegiate athletics is what Henny Penny, aka Chicken Little was warning, i.e. “that the sky is falling” because the power brokers, aka the Power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame) are “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Oprah Winfrey is someone who knows a little bit about the human spirit. Here’s her philosophy:

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

Media Members Like to Look the Other (Opposite) Way

August 19th, 2015

Road trip to Santa Cruz to watch our nephew, David Guy, in concert. He plays bass in the Patrick Sweany band which, apparently, is a lot more popular than I realized. Then, again, the last music I bought featured Earth, Wind and Fire. After the concert, we’re on our way to Monterey to help move younger son, Alex, into school for his final year (and basketball season) at Cal State Monterey Bay. This blog will return Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Yesterday’s post ended with John Wall’s blatantly honest assessment that he didn’t feel he would make the United States Olympic team. To me, it was a refreshing display of humility by a professional athlete. Wall pointed out that there are a few guards who, along with being incredibly talented, have experienced more success in international basketball than he has. The analysis he gave really can’t be disputed and actually sounds like the conclusions the decision-makers would come up with in closed door meetings when discussing which guys to keep and which to cut.

Later in the day I was listening to NBA radio on Sirius-XM and heard radio host Jonathan Hood take umbrage at Wall’s remarks. It came off as Hood was insulted by Wall’s comments. J-Hood, as he is known, was co-hosting the show with Stacey King when Hood went off on Wall’s “prediction” he would not make the U.S. Olympic Basketball squad. Hood’s opinion is that Wall shouldn’t back down to anybody, that his belief in himself should be that, at the very least, he’s the equal of any other player trying out for that team. It greatly bothered Hood that went on a prolonged rant that Wall had the nerve to cop such an (realistic) attitude.

My initial reaction was one of shock. When I heard what Wall had said, my immediate thoughts were that he made sense. I never had a feeling that he considered his skills inferior to his contemporaries. In fact, I felt if the follow up question had been, Do you think you’ll ever represent the U.S. in the Olympic Games, his answer would have been an emphatic, “Yes!” Then again, it’s controversy that makes for “good media,” be it electronic or print, so Hood was falling in line with what most media guys do – listen to the athlete and, then, take the opposite view. For a recent example we need to look no further than the comments made by Robert Griffin III.

“I know I’m the best quarterback on this team. I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league and I have to go out and show that,” RGIII said. “Any athlete at any level, if they concede to someone else, they’re not a top competitor, they’re not trying to be the best that they can be. There’s guys in this league that have done way more than me. But, I still view myself as the best because that’s what I work toward every single day.”

These quotes were met with derision from media types who began listing reasons (stats or accomplishments that other QBs had made) that contradicted the Redskins’ (for now) QB. Exactly like John Wall did when handicapping his chances of representing the U.S. in the next Olympics. One writer sarcastically called for a concussion test to be administered to RGIII (no word on that writer’s reaction to what Wall had to say).

If ever someone (of integrity) has been scorned by the media, it’s Tim Tebow – who has won a State Championship in high school, two National Championships in college and a Division Championship in the NFL (in addition to a Heisman Trophy). Yet, to date, he’s had a lackluster NFL career. The criticism has turned to ridicule as, year after year, Tebow stubbornly persists in chasing his dream of, not only making an NFL team, but of being its quarterback. As quality a person as he is, even Tebow must be tired of insisting he can be a starting NFL quarterback on a successful team. But he believes it as much as those who think otherwise.

The media members of the current generation lean more to being an animal that lies in wait, ready to pounce on its prey – which, in today’s case, is an athlete who makes any misstep or controversial statement. In the case with Hood and Wall, the quote wasn’t even that controversial, yet the radio personality attacked.

All this reminds me of a conversation I had with a high school student I had years ago. Every time I would say something, she would argue the opposite point. Finally, I said to her, “Whatever I say, you say the opposite.”

She immediately blurted out, “No, that’s not true!

I looked at her and said:

“There, you did it again.”

Every Sport Has Different Levels at Which It’s Played

August 18th, 2015

When I was an assistant basketball coach at Tennessee, one of my closest friends – and mentor – was UT’s tennis coach Mike DePalmer (a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame). Mike, as good a friend and giving a person as there is, and I played many tennis matches at 7:00 am – for seven years! One morning, I showed up to play and he had already given a lesson to a local youngster at 6. We began to warm up when his manager came out, telling him he had a recruiting call from South America. “Jack, I gotta take this call. I’m already warmed up from the lesson, why don’t you warm up with Paul?”

“Paul” was Paul Annacone, his #1 singles player at the time. For those of you who aren’t tennis fans, in 1984 (the year he and I “warmed up”), Paul proceeded to go 51-3 in singles and was the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year (I steadfastly refuse to take any credit for helping him achieve that award). Following a successful professional tennis career (in which his highest ranking was #12 in the world), he turned to coaching. Among his pupils were Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

One interesting aspect of working at a major university is the number of world class athletes you encounter, not only the players you coach, but those in other sports. In my time at UT the coaches and players ate together in the dining hall of the athletic dorm, so I got to know some kids with amazing skills. That day, Paul walked to the opposite side of the court and we began to rally. After he and I hit the ball about 4-5 times a piece, I stopped and walked toward the net.

“How do you get the ball to jump off your racket?” I asked him. He was leisurely hitting shots and they were exploding back to me. Being a wise guy New Yorker (which he knew I could relate to), he deadpanned, “It’s called a hitting off the sweet spot. Your racket has one, too.”

Another close friend of mine is Mike Watney, the former golf coach at Fresno State (and a member of the Golf Hall of Fame). Note: My career in intercollegiate athletics was more known for longevity (30 years) and number of Division I schools that employed me (9) than for any personal accomplishments. However, as the reader can see, I was wise enough to form connections with the giants in their respective games (someday I might list all the coaches I worked with, if for no other reason than to show the “coaching education” I was exposed to during my time in the business). In fact, my last two bosses in college hoops are in the Naismith Hall of Fame – or will be soon. Jerry Tarkanian was inducted a couple years ago and George Raveling (I was his graduate assistant at Washington State from 1973-75 and associate head coach at USC from 1991-95)  will be enshrined on September 9.

In an earlier post, I told the story of winning a free golf lesson at the Fresno State Xmas luncheon and how Mike convinced me – someone who’d never really played the game – to take him up on it. I quickly became hooked and while my back surgeries have shelved my golf game (I’m hoping not permanently), our two sons (26 and 21) have been bitten by the bug and play whenever they can.

Mike called me about an opportunity he’d been given and wanted to bounce some ideas off me. When we were catching up with what was going on with our kids, I mentioned how into golf each of our guys were. Being the gracious guy he is (you’ll be hard pressed to find a more genuine, down-to-earth person – anywhere), he offered to give a lesson to the boys when they were in town. Unfortunately for Andy, who lives and works in Newport Beach, he couldn’t take advantage, but his younger brother, Alex, was home for another couple weeks before heading to Cal State Monterey Bay for his senior year – and he jumped at the chance.

My back is such that my pain level will never really get “better” but I do yoga, ride an exercise bike and work with a personal trainer so it doesn’t get worse. I’ve been working out with former Fresno State strength and conditioning coach, Steve Sabonya, since the beginning of July. Although I take the workouts seriously, I still manage to “chat it up” with Steve while he’s putting me through exercises to improve my flexibility and strengthen my core. Since he’s worked with elite athletes throughout his career (present company not in that category), we’ll talk about how good somebody has to be to make it professionally in a chosen sport.

Last week Steve asked me what I thought a 10 handicap golfer would shoot if he were to play in a PGA tournament. I told him how Mike had worked with Alex and, after their session, mentioned that he thought Alex had promise as a golfer – and if he wanted to get really good Mike would give him another lesson. Alex didn’t need to be asked twice. That second lesson was the day after my workout with Steve. When we showed up, I mentioned Steve’s question to Mike.

“With the way they make the course so difficult for PGA events, from growing out the rough to making the greens so fast,” I asked him, “what would a 10 handicap golfer score?” Mike didn’t take long to respond. His answer was a 10 handicap would be fortunate to break 100.

All of this came to mind when I saw an article in which John Wall commented on his chances to make our Olympic team. “I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment. “I’m just being honest. Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie (Irving) just won the World Cup. Russell (Westbrook) will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard. So, I probably won’t make it.” Keep in mind that this admission was coming from a basketball player who is universally worshiped by the 21-and-under crowd.

It’s like Mike DePalmer told me after I informed him about Annacone explaining the sweet spot theory:

“The game of tennis” (and really ALL sports) “is played at different levels. There are beginners, you and I play at a better level, then there are additional levels, including college, professional and – the best of the best.”

Golf Is Undergoing a Metamorphosis

August 17th, 2015

Seldom am I glued to a golf tournament for an entire weekend but the recently completed PGA Championship had me 1) sitting on my La-Z-Boy, 2) lying on my couch or 3) riding the recumbent bike (hey, I needed to get some exercise). Heading into Saturday, Jason Day was the golfer who most everybody thought had the best opportunity to win (even though Matt Jones held a two-stroke lead on him, few people, Australians included, were on the Jones’ bandwagon). However, even with Rory (first name only necessary) being seven shots back (people crave dramatic returns) and Jordan (also first name only necessary) playing like he was the number one golfer in the world (which he wasn’t before the tourney but is now), there was a good bit of intrigue.

Adding to the suspense was that Day had come so close before in majors, only to falter due to subpar play or . . . vertigo. Maybe he was a sympathetic figure (with a ton of talent) or maybe it just seemed as though this was his time. In an interview after the victory, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi asked Day how he felt being matched with Spieth for the final round (a pairing that happened only because a number of golfers ahead of Spieth stumbled late on Saturday). The newly crowned champ remarked how difficult it was due to the way Jordan had been playing – and with the fans rooting for Spieth (Day admitted if he were in the crowd, he would be pulling for Spieth). He even mentioned that some people were yelling, “Choke!” to the Aussie. Whether that’s because they were Spieth fans or Americans pulling for “one of their own” he never said. While we shouldn’t brand an entire group of folks, keep in mind the tourney was played in Joseph McCarthy’s home state where the former senator made “love of country” (in)famous.

The remark Day did make in the Rinaldi interview was the amount of emotion he displayed prior to, as well as following, his tap-in for the victory was because of the childhood he endured, his thoughts that, as a youngster, he never felt like he’d be making a living as a professional golfer, his (pregnant) wife and little son, Dash, – and the amount of hard work he put into mastering his craft.

The golf world has a whole new bunch of stars. Tiger (who will always be a first name only guy, independent how poorly his career winds up, or down, – he’s now 286th in the world) has been trying to convince us and the media (himself?) that he’s continuing to improve, that all the changes made to improve (and because of his injuries) take a great deal of time, that he feels he’s hitting the ball better every time out, that he’s more and more pleased with his putting, yada, yada, yada. It seems as though, even for those staunch Tiger loyalists – and the number is dwindling exponentially to his scores increasing – if anyone believes a major can be won at age 46, like Jack (golf has to be the best for first name only guys), there’s a better chance it will be Phil (also no last name necessary) who turns 46 next year.

Get ready for some great golf (just with a different starring cast), because of the skills and confidence of the new guys – Rory, Jordan, Jason and a host of others. After winning it and posting the lowest score ever in a major (-20), Day’s statement about how he felt at the beginning of the PGA Tournament was all-telling. What he said was an example of the cool brashness of this new breed:

“No one was going to beat me this week.”

 

Donald Trump Could Play a Vital Role for Our Country

August 16th, 2015

When it comes to “fixing” the United States (if you don’t think the country needs fixing, you’re either a Pollyanna or you must live somewhere unknown to most of us), Donald Trump could be an unbelievable asset. In the business world, Trump rules. Certainly he excels. Common sense would dictate that it would behoove the nation to include him when the time comes around (like, immediately) to solve our economic problems. To Trump (as it is to so many citizens), it’s unfathomable that the country is in the financial situation it’s in (massive debt, trade deficits, inability to create new jobs, etc.). He, however, has productive ideas to implement that people without his expertise might not have.

Unfortunately, his answer to solving the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into – and make no mistake about it, the collective we is the operative term here – is to run for president. Talk about overkill. If only he could reverse the major economic flaws the country faces (which would make him eligible for a colossal statue – at a site of his choosing), the overwhelming majority of America would experience the prosperity we all crave. Now someone (whoever managed to do it would also be up for a statue) needs to convince Trump that helping the nation is of greater importance than massaging his ego.

President! The qualifications for that office not only exceed his expertise, but highlight his negatives. Trump’s world is filled with battles and disputes. He not only handles these encounters – but enjoys the confrontations. On occasion he might even provoke them. And when people don’t agree with him, he tries to “educate” them. If his reasoning isn’t enough to turn their beliefs around to his way of thinking, he has no problem resorting to vicious, personal attacks. Imagine if he actually was the president. The major reason this approach would fall flat – if not turn into international embarrassment – is that reality TV and reality are actually quite different.

Should it look like someone else will win the Republican nomination, Trump has threatened to enter the race as a third party candidate – and The Donald seldom makes empty threats. Such a move would basically turn the presidential race into a mockery. Character assassinations would surpass any real issues before, during and after debates. He would initiate so much mud slinging, there would be no land left. And, realistically, what percent of the female population will he get? What percent of the black population will he get? What percent of the Hispanic population will he get? The election would leave the country even further divided.

The people who speak out in favor of his candidacy all seem to make the same opening theme. “Well, he’s definitely better than fill in the blank.” As if “better than ________” is what we should be striving for. Especially when the other candidates, independent of party affiliation, all too often employ the identical strategy. Then, we end up “settling” for somebody to lead our country whose major virtue is “not being worse than the others.”

Is Donald Trump really the person to be the face of our country, the person who needs to deal with sensitive international encounters with other heads of state? In such a situation, he just might be the antithesis of the type of person needed to deal with such sensitivity. Bullying someone should never be viewed as a strength, certainly not on a global level.

Put in the proper position, Donald Trump could – and probably would – be an American hero. Any loyal reader of this blogspace is well aware of how evident it is that my knowledge of sports is infinitely greater than my knowledge of politics, so to put this in coaching terms, a team’s goal is always to:

“Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses.”

Last Chinese Story – At Least Until Next Year’s Camp

August 15th, 2015

Anyone who has ever dunked a basketball acts the same. At least they do when they first can dunk (as a senior in high school I could dunk – but it was a volleyball because my hands weren’t big enough to palm a basketball – and it was a looooong time ago). The universal behavior employed by the “new dunker” is . . . you try to dunk anytime you see a hoop. One reason I use the word “universal” is what I encountered at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp at UC-Santa Barbara.

The camp uses 18 courts, six of which are outdoors. Four of the courts are in the same area and are called Michael Jordan courts 1, 2, 3 and 4 (for an amusing story involving these courts, see my blog from 1/31/14). The other two courts are actually tennis courts, converted to basketball courts with the use of adhesive tape for lines and a couple portable hoops (neither of which have breakaway rims).

Although I didn’t see it, apparently one of the Chinese kids in our league (14 & 15 year olds) dunked on one of the rims on the far court. Later, while I was demonstrating a drill at the opposite end of the court, I noticed the rim was tilted sideways, i.e. it was lower on the left than on the right. I turned around to check the rim at the other end and saw it was bent forward. As directed, I reported these imperfections to the person in charge – only to be told that the rim that was bent forward was in that condition because someone from my league dunked on it and proceeded to hang on the rim (as any kid who has just entered the world of dunking would do after – barely - dunking one). A major problem the camp faced was that, if the rim couldn’t be repaired, it would have to be replaced – and that could take a couple days – putting a humongous cramp in the game and practice schedule (luckily, it was reparable).

My phone buzzed with a text of a picture of a sign that was posted on each fence nearest the four hoops. It read: NO DUNKING! VIOLATING THIS RULE COULD RESULT IN LOSS OF RECREATION PRIVILEGES” (obviously, the signs were put up for the UCSB students but, naturally, it applied to anyone who used the court for basketball). I immediately went to the coach who was at that hoop at the time and asked if one of his players had dunked earlier. He pointed out the culprit.

After gesturing to him to come forward, I bluntly asked the boy, “Did you dunk and hang on the rim earlier today at the tennis courts?” He simply stared at me. No expression on his face, no change of body language, no blinking, . . . nothing. It didn’t take me long to ask my follow up question – of which I was nearly certain I knew the answer. “Do you speak English?” More of the same response from the youngster.

For whatever perverse reason, what instantly flashed through my mind was an old joke I’d heard – maybe 50 years ago. It was about a guy who was standing on some newly seeded grass, next to a sign which had the following message painted on it: PLEASE KEEP OFF THE GRASS.”

The park attendant sees the guy and yells out, “Hey, buddy, don’t you see that sign?”

The guy looks down at the sign, then back at the park attendant, and says:

“So, who’s smoking?”