look for a blog tomorrow (Wed).
A multitude of issues will cause this blog to be temporarily halted. At first, there were only two: 1) today is a trip to Stanford Pain Management for both a refill for my morphine pump and a consultation with my doctor to see if a change in strategy would make my life more “comfortable” and 2) tonight, after the three hour (one way) trip to Redwood City, a trip to Los Angeles for another couple sessions (for Alex) with shooting expert Mike Penberthy. A third roadblock has appeared. My computer served me fairly well for the better part of two years but is ready for extinction. The past few days, it shuts off while I’m working, causing me to save what I’m writing every few minutes or else lose the text. Not only is this frustrating, it’s time consuming. Today I figured out to make a word document and then, cut and paste it to word press (please excuse me if I butchered that explanation as far as proper computer dialogue goes but I’m not from the tech world). All I do is put together words and thoughts people (seem to) like to read.
If you have a child with a mind of his or her own or one who does as he or she pleases, you’re stuck with the problem - and do everything in your power to understand and help it - but when a computer starts getting impudent, if it negatively impacts your life and it’s more problem than solution, you replace it. While it might be a tad expensive, it’s well worth it. My problem is the one I want has to be shipped in and it might take a week or so.
This blog will return as soon as I receive it. Please check daily beginning Friday.
Rory McElroy went wire to wire to win the British Open, giving him three of the four Grand Slam championships - at 25 years of age. Now, only the Masters eludes him. Now, the whispers by writers (and the louder chatter of fans) of “the next Tiger” are beginning to be heard. McIlroy is doing nothing to suppress the babble. “Golf is looking to someone to put their hand up and try,” he said. “I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly.”
How long will it take for the comparisons to Woods begin? Ironically, Woods career collapsed after his marital indiscretions became national news while McIlroy’s career has skyrocketed since he got cold feet and put an end to his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki (it couldn’t exactly have been devastating to her, either, at least as far as her career is concerned as she won the Istanbul Cup yesterday). Even if the McIlroy continues his success on the links, and people get weary of Tiger comparisons, there’s always Nicklaus.
Our country wants superstars – even, for some people - just so they can shoot holes in their reputations. McIlroy’s transparent honesty is refreshing but it might be just a matter of time until the media, using the term loosely for those who cross the line between truth and fiction - and enjoy doing so – bombard him with whatever will make for good reading. The fact that many of the stories rely on anonymous sources and twisted words doesn’t ever stand in the way someone trying to get ahead. Or, maybe, get even.
Golf is a sport unlike all others. In order to win, you have to beat the whole field - all at once. In team sports you expect help from your teammates. In other individual sports, e.g. tennis, bowling, boxing and wrestling, you have to win against another competitor, then win against another winner, and on and on, until you’ve beaten all of your foes. The comparison between golf and track & field or swimming is closer, but in those sports, while you have to win every race or heat, you’re only pitted against about seven or eight at a time. Golf and cross country are probably the most similar in that there are a multitude of people trying to beat you but, skill-wise, aerobics is the main ingredient in cc, while golf requires much less oxygen intake but a whole lot more dexterity and finesse.
How will all the scrutiny affect Rory McIlroy? He’s demonstrated remarkable poise thus far but, after more tourneys and more pressers and more demands on his time, will he be able to withstand it or will it make him crack?
We all will see because as Thomas Carlyle once said:
“No pressure, no diamonds.”
Will the love (no pun intended) affair with Northeast Ohio (NE OH) and LeBron James ever end? What if the Cavs never win an NBA championship? With all the moves the organization is making, that’s looking more and more doubtful. They’re giving their “home boy” everything he needs to bring a Larry O’Brien trophy home to
Akron Cleveland. But what if, even after all the front office finagling, the King never rules the playoffs - like he did on a couple of occasions in Miami? Will the fans of NE OH turn on him then?
The return of LeBron James transcends basketball. It isn’t about a savior coming home to win multiple championships (although, for Cleveland, even one would suffice). His return is about a savior coming home to resurrect a franchise. Coming home to uplift a city. Coming home to reclaim NE OH as home.
Sure, NE OH wants to win it all - and they want to do it again and again. But just by returning, LeBron showed the people of NE OH that the best player in today’s NBA, with his choice to live basically wherever he so chooses, chose there. His return illustrated to not only the people of NE OH that he wanted to live there, it showed the world the area he selected to move his family to live their lives. Yeah, he was from there and, yeah initially, he played there. But that was because, by rule, he had to play there.
Then, as a (not-so) free agent, when he had the opportunity to stay (and get paid a lot of money) or leave (and get paid a lot of money) . . . he left. He claimed it was about championships but, heck, didn’t he and his Cavs come about as close as a team could to winning one? Why not stay and just improve a little?
LeBron left and in doing so, he jilted his homies. Left them high and dry. Turned a winning franchise into the laughingstock of the league. And why? For a better lifestyle? No! (Well, maybe a little - the “climate” at South Beach is known to be somewhat stimulating). The real reason he left was for exactly what he got - four straight trips to the NBA finals and two championships.
And now he’s back and the people of NE OH - his people, i.e. the people who did not have the opportunity to go with him (certainly not for the bread he was going to make), the people who have a pride in their hometown area that goes beyond weather and location, location, location - absolutely love this guy. The same cat they so despised when he took off out of town for . . . more. More than NE OH could offer. Why? Why do they love him so much?
Simple. Because he’s one of them. His return says, “I hope you understand why I left but if you don’t, that’s OK. I’m here now and am going to do everything I can to bring pride to this area of the country. My area. Our area.”
And they will forgive him (unless he leaves again in two years - and then . . . watch out). Until then, he’s been embraced like few in our society have ever been. And the reason is that in this country:
“Everybody deserves a second chance.”
If you haven’t noticed the United States doesn’t seem to be so “united” these days, you must either be completely oblivious to your surroundings or belong to the hermit association, a group that meets every February 30th. Today, as soon as a proposal by anyone is made, we can be assured that somebody or some group, somewhere will mock it as impractical, illogical, insane and/or irrational. Even before the proposal is completed.
My wish, as I’ve stated previously (to anyone who will listen, and even some who wouldn’t), is that the Republicans win the next presidential election. I can almost hear the groans now (which further proves my above observation). So, please, let me finish. Then, my hope that the Democrats do to the Republicans exactly what the GOP has done to them while they held the office of the presidency. What would occur is that the roles would be reversed. The party that’s not in power would criticize every move their “opponents” would make. It’s become you don’t want your party to be in power because it’s easier (and more fun) to criticize than be accountable.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Somebody, even better, a lotta somebodies will come to the realization that this attitude doesn’t work. And it never will! Once elections are over - and I know this next statement defies the essence of politics - you’re no longer opponents. You’re actually active participants of the same team. Our team. The United States of America. Kinda like the World Cup. There were basically two types of Americans - those who wanted the U.S. to win and those who didn’t care. I can’t think of anyone I know - or even heard of - who wanted our guys to lose.
Make no mistake about it, it will take a person, or group of people, who will have the courage to tell politicians (especially if the bearer of this news flash happens to be a pol him or her or themselves) that their current actions are ruining the country. Independent of how much money there is to be made in the political game - and, unfortunately, it is a game - our elected officials (and their strategists) must start treating this country like a team. This means everybody working together. In order for all of us to prosper, sacrifices are going to need to be made. Not only sacrifices by others (the kinds everyone favors), but changes that will make our own lives hurt some. Maybe even more than “some.”
People with large dollars will object because the majority of them solve problems by throwing money at them. OK, charge them for that way of thinking. We sure as hell could use the extra revenue. For the rest of us, we have to change our way of thinking - and living. For my people (Baby Boomers), we’re going to have to suffer somewhat for our kids’ well-being. Truth be told, we (and our lifestyle of excess) have screwed the next generations quite a bit. Some of us more than others. Much of it not really our fault, i.e. we weren’t emphatically told much of what we were doing was bad for the nation (or earth). If we were, I wasn’t paying attention.
I once asked a teacher friend of mine if he thought the district administrators pay should be reduced. “Definitely,” he exclained.
“How about the administrators on campus?” I asked.
“Yup,” was his immediate reply.
“How about the teachers?”
“Absolutely not!!!” he screamed.
If we don’t want to tighten our collective belts, than the answer is raise more money. There are brilliant people in this country who might just come up with an idea or two which can lighten the load a little. Or a lot. A giant bake sale probably isn’t the answer, yet, a long, long time ago someone whose group was in need of money came up with the concept of the bake sale. Voila, money was raised, people enjoyed a treat or two and everyone was thrilled. So now the question becomes, “Who will come up with the 21st century version of the bake sale?”
While we wait for that revelation, a Congress that acts together, with the nation’s best interests at heart - meaning no hidden agendas (once again flying the face of what politics has become) - would work wonders for all of us. I admit I’m skeptical, mainly because the greatest indicator of future behavior is past performance but that kind of cooperation, plus sacrifice by all of us, plus some creative thinking will improve the health of our once strong nation.
Our stance must be as simple as the old saying:
“You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there.”
The following is a blog I posted four or five years ago on Jim Valvano. The V Foundation is in full swing, raising millions on top of millions. This has, as Robin Roberts noted in her autobiography, equated to saving more and more lives (hers being one). I thought now would be an appropriate time to reprint it (since, according to how my hits have spiked throughout the years, there’s a good chance most of you haven’t seen it).
With the ESPYs on TV and the constant mention of the V Foundation, I thought I’d relate an encounter I had with the late Jim Valvano.
The story is taken from my book, Life’s A Joke. It took place in the mid-80s when I was an assistant at the University of Tennessee and Jim and his NC State Wolfpack had won one of the most improbable NCAA Championships, a last second victory over the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars.
USA Today had done a story on, among other things, how much (so I’ve heard), you’re getting solicitations (including guilt trips) from people you know, people you don’t know and people you don’t know who swear they know you. “V” was quoted as saying the numbers were greatly inflated and he wasn’t making nearly the amount of money that was being reported.
V played at Rutgers when I was at Highland Park High School, which is located just a mile from the RU campus. We first met at Five Star Camp in the Poconos when he was the head coach at Bucknell and I was a grad assistant at Washington State. Since we were both East Coast guys, I knew he’d appreciate the note I mailed him after the article came out. In the envelope I placed a $1 bill, along with the following message:
Just read the USA Today article. Had no idea things were so bad. Hope this helps.
About a week or two later, I received a letter with a North Carolina State return address. I was prepared for anything because I knew V wouldn’t ever let anyone one up him.
Jim had incorporated himself and his corporation was called JTV Enterprises for “James Thomas Valvano” (not sure what he did with the “Anthony” - maybe he felt a four letter corporation didn’t sound as powerful). His return letter read:
Got your money and invested it in JTV Enterprises. Enclosed is your return. Too bad you didn’t invest more.
Inside the letter were two $1 bills.
Nobody ever got the better of Jimmy Valvano.
When V was stricken with cancer, he told his closest associates (one of whom told me) that he wanted to make a difference. As he said in his now legendary speech, he felt a cure for cancer might not be discovered in time to help him but that, in time, with enough money and research poured into the cause, cancer could be conquered.
I’ve read several books by the learned rabbi, Harold Kushner. In one of them he wrote that he’d been at the bedside with people in the last moments of their lives. What he discovered is:
“People don’t fear death. They fear insignificance.”
V, you can rest in peace having absolutely no fear of that.
Unlike other years, this off season’s free agent market has dominated the news. The main reason is that the game’s best (current) player happened to be one of them. The only free agent other than LeBron whose signing caused this much stir within the league was Shaq when he left Orlando to join the Lakers.
The NBA has had no shortage of big name, big impact (they hope) free agents who changed unis. Other than James, the list includes P. Gasol, Parsons, Pierce, Stephenson, Deng, I. Thomas, D. Collison, Farmar, Hawes, Ariza and others. While some high quality players moved on, it appears equally as many of the marquis names stayed loyal to their team (or new deal for more money). That list sports, among others, Anthony, Bosh, Nowitzki, Duncan, Wade, Gortat, Lowry, Diaw, Hayward, Swaggy P and Birdman. In addition, Bledsoe, Monroe and others are still on the market.
The players biggest enemy to their earning power, often, is themselves. The last collective bargaining agreement (CBA) heavily favored the owners, as one would expect. While it would be no contest if the contents of the CBA was based on the playing floor, i.e. players vs. owners, the negotiations are held in conference rooms, a definite overwhelming home court advantage for the rich(er) guys. As long as there is a salary cap - and don’t think for a minute that will be repealed - there will be a majority of players who will feel they’re underpaid. The general public has absolutely zero sympathy for those guys and that won’t change unless negative numbers are allowable on the sympathy scale.
Much of the players’ problem is an overwhelming majority of them (my opinion only, based strictly on observation, devoid of any scientific or other kind of fact) think they’re worth considerably more than their skills actually command. This is, in part, due to the fact that basketball has become, on the grass roots level, an ego game, e.g. “I’m gonna light you up” and “You can’t guard me.” Early on, players got this belief from guys like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The difference between then and now is that MJ and Larry backed it up - and on the rare occasion they didn’t, they retreated to the gym because they were determined that it wasn’t going to happen again. Nowadays, players get the idea due to being coddled at a very early age. If their braggadocio isn’t backed up, they retreat to their respective corner to find the sympathetic (or should it just be pathetic) ears and mouths of their “people” telling them such nonsense as “The refs screwed you” or “The coach screwed you” or “Your teammates screwed you.” Basically, anything but, “Damn, you better get your ass in the gym and do some work!”
Another issue against the players is one that has hit other segments of the work force, i.e. older, more highly paid workers being replaced by younger, less expensive ones. Free agency is about the last refuge players have. And why is it that players hold the upper hand in free agency (assuming there’s a team or teams who find they have value)? It could be because of the old adage (apparently not necessarily etched in stone in San Antonio):
“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slowly you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.”
After watching the MLB All-Star game, I thought today’s blog just had to be about Derek Jeter. Since everybody and his uncle are going to be lauding The Captain, his performance and retirement, I wanted to pen (or whatever it’s called now) something with a little more personal touch. The following is a blog I posted on, appropriately, 7/11/11.
My mother’s side of our family was from Brooklyn. A couple of my older cousins took me to Ebbets Field when I was four years old. My father, a Yankees fan, always claimed I had been brainwashed. The family next door had three boys close to my age who loved the Yankees. As big fans of the Bronx Bombers as I was of the Dodgers. Between the ages of, say, 6-12, we had the normal types of arguments kids that age have. The ones which are based on emotion, whether the facts back your side or not. Duke was better than The Mick; nobody was better than Sandy.
Unlike the true fan, my interest faded when I started playing ball in high school. I immersed myself in my teams and, while I still followed the Dodgers, I was no longer a fanatic. The older I got, the less attention I paid toward my childhood favorites. Yet, I still hated the Yankees. To me, they just stood for . . . too much. Too much winning, too much money, too many stars, too much Steinbrenner.
My hatred waned when Joe Torre became the manager. I’d always liked Joe as a player - thought he was a classy guy and, later in my life, enjoyed reading his book. Plus, coaching basketball in college consumed my life. I just couldn’t find the time for any team other than the one which was providing me a living. Which is problem to be discussed at another time.
This stroll down memory lane has a point. I’ve been reflecting on how I think I would have felt had Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit when I was a kid. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, forgetting how immature my thoughts and feelings were at that time but if ever there was a role model, a team player, a true good guy, Jeter is about as close a candidate as exists. Consider the social media of today and how Jeter has avoided the controversy most superstars of his ilk have been subjected to. Maybe Jeter isn’t squeaky clean but, remember, when I was a kid, Yankees fans were idolizing their guys in pinstripes - without any idea what Whitey, Mickey and Billy were doing in between games or after they ended. Sometimes, before they started.
200 hits/year is usually the standard for a great hitter. That means to get to 3000, a player would have to accomplish that for 15 years. And there has never been a hint of scandal on or off the field with Jeter. So maybe he is as good as he appears to be. Kids, or adults, can argue against the greatness of Derek Jeter, but they need to reminded:
“The worst part of an argument is when you get to the point where you realize you’re wrong.”
Rather than blogging about a person, observation or story, this post will sum up the powerful quotes I heard at the Coaching U event I attended last week. In case you missed yesterday’s blog, the final quote was the belief of the Navy Seals:
“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”
The following are some others you might want to use or, at least, think about:
From George Raveling, whose topic was building a better bench, a quote from Scottie Pippen:
“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”
One from Phil Jackson:
“85% of all NBA players are ‘role’ players.”
And, of course, one of George’s own:
“Don’t expect the gorilla to cooperate if you’re spanking him . . . insults don’t enhance influence!”
From Billy Donovan:
“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”
Lawrence Frank offered a Bob Knight quote (what’s a coaching clinic without a mention of Bob Knight)?
“Coaching is getting players to do what they don’t want to do so that they can become the players they want to become.”
Shaka Smart gave the crowd a favorite of his, from the New England Patriots’ locker room wall (Belichick is also a clinic favorite):
“We don’t become you. You become us.”
Shaka also had a couple of his (VCU’s) program:
“We aggressively pursue greatness” and “We fully commit to aligning ourselves with the team.”
And from the master of deep thought, Kevin Eastman (event co-host and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers):
“He who angers you, owns you.”
“Fill up their tanks” and “Focus their lenses.”
“There’s a difference between ‘buy in’ and ‘give in.’ “
“Players need to understand the concept of ‘every’ - every game, every quarter, every possession.”
And his favorite:
“Go through life with big ears, big eyes and a small mouth.”
For 42 years I went to work as a teacher. My students were kids who were studying algebra, playing basketball or both. Early in my career I realized my instruction wasn’t math or hoops as much as it was life. One of my first bosses was George Raveling at Washington State who took his job as an educator as seriously as anyone I’ve ever met.
It was George who introduced me to reading inspirational and self-help books, and listening to motivational speakers and audio books. So much can be learned from others - if you just keep an open mind. In fact knowledge can be acquired at an exponential rate. Throughout my professional moves (high school, nine colleges, followed by another high school) I would use power quotes and stories I’d heard (and experienced - one of my best skills is the ability to entertainingly tell stories).
The best way to do this is to not only read and listen but to constantly observe. I’ve been retired for two years but I still keep my eyes open (although they open a little later in the day than they used to). At the Coaching U event in Indianapolis last week, I heard longtime NBA coach, Lawrence Frank, make a statement during his presentation that struck a chord with me because it debunked a belief many people think is true. Lawrence gave everyone in attendance the paradigm of the Navy Seals which could benefit all of us. It explains why some people succeed at crunch time while others talk about it:
“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”
The 1971 New Jersey State Coaches Clinic is etched in my memory. One reason is because it was the first one I’d ever attended. Another was for two of the speakers.
One day I was telling a friend that the only two things I remembered from the History of Education class I took as a sophomore in college was 1) never make a statement you can’t back up, e.g. “If you do that again, I’ll have you thrown out of this class” and 2) when you’re finished using an overhead projector, turn it off so the students aren’t distracted by the light on the blank wall. Then we tried thinking of what we recalled from other classes. For many of them we came up empty. Nada. Granted, it was a long time ago but - not to be able to come up with even one item we were taught - that’s just sad.
It was at that point in our conversation I brought up the ‘71 NJ State Coaches Clinic. It was for both football and basketball coaches and since I was coaching both sports at my high school, I split my time, taking into account the topic and the speaker. I told my buddy there were two clinicians I had to hear. One was a football assistant from the Naval Academy whose topic was “Scouting” because one of my jobs as assistant was to scout future opponents. I can still remember a good deal of that talk even though I haven’t coached football in 43 years Example: when scouting a game in person and you’re trying to figure out the play a team is running, watch the triangle made up of the two guards and the fullback. If the guards block ahead, it’s a running play between the tackles; if they drop back, it’s a pass play or a draw; if one or both guards and the fullback go right, the play’s going that way and vice versa if they go left. There are additional examples but I don’t want to bore you (more than I already have). Obviously, the game has progressed since then, e.g. the fullback position has gone the way of the buffalo, but to be able to recall in such detail the contents of a speech over 40 years ago, that would be rendered meaningless a year later (when I embarked on a career as a basketball coach), speaks volumes of the impact that lecture had on me.
The other coach I looked forward to hearing was my college roommate’s high school coach. At that time, he was an assistant coach at Duke. His name was Hubie Brown. If you’ve ever heard Hubie, there’s no need to explain why his speech stayed with me.
At the Coaching U event I attended last Tuesday and Wednesday, the coaches on the program were the two hosts, Brendan Suhr and Kevin Eastman, George Raveling, Lawrence Frank, Shaka Smart, Billy Donovan and Gregg Marshall. Undoubtedly, the coaches in attendance will remember a lot more from that clinic than I did from the one in New Jersey. Yet everything that they do will be for the same reasons.
As William Arthur Ward said:
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.“