Blog Will Return on Monday

August 21st, 2014

Headed to Stanford for a refill on my pain pump. Trying something a little different.Hoping for some more relief.

Them it’s on to Monterey to meet Jane and Alex who will have left earlier. It’s move in day for the (not so) little guy’s junior year at Cal State Monterey Bay.

Whoever made that statement about time flying must have had his last child in college.

Thought about whether we should spend the weekend in the Monterey/Carmel area. Didn’t have to think about that too long.

See you Monday

When Attempting to Compete in a Diet Challenge, the Mental Aspect Is Vital

August 20th, 2014

During Michael Jordan’s basketball camp, three of us were lounging one night when a longtime friend of ours came into town. He told us of a diet he’d received via email or text or some other form of modern communication. It was entitled “21 Day Eating Challenge for Serious Hoopers.” At first glance, it looked interesting although upon closer inspection, it seemed as though there were some serious “holes” in it.

Here, in its entirety, is the diet. No candy, No chocolate, No chips, No white bread, No fast food, No ice cream and No soda.

We started talking about it. There was no money nor any consequences for anyone “winning” or “losing.” It was just a personal challenge. One man’s pleasure seemed to do nothing for another. Yet, it seemed that each of us had at least one item that could give us trouble.

As far as I was concerned, I thought I would be a lock to complete it unscathed - for one main reason: it was only for three weeks. I can keep from doing anything for three weeks, except for vital human functions, e.g. breathing, trips to the bathroom AND talking and rocking. I could say that rocking chairs and gliders are a must for my back (and they are now) but the fact remains that I’ve always preferred those chairs above any others. When it comes to talking, ask anyone who’s known me for at least 10 minutes and you’ll understand 21 minutes might have been a deal breaker, never mind 21 days.

Now, about those “holes.” It seems as though sugar is a no-no yet there’s no mention of excluding sugar from coffee or, for that matter, cakes or pies. A few days later, I called the friend who’d introduced us to the diet to tell him as much, only to hear him say, “Oh yeah, I have an apple pie in the oven right now.”

As far as the seven “No’s,” I haven’t had white bread in years and of all the others, 21 days without any of the other six didn’t seem so daunting. I really enjoy Diet Mountain Dew, especially while driving and since I had a five hour trip ahead of me when camp concluded (in eight days), I asked if diet soda counted. Naturally, the other three guys (none of whom drank diet soda) vehemently stated that soda was soda and partaking of diet would be considered a violation.

While I enjoy all the rest, in my mind, I could handle three weeks without any of them easily. It was interesting to hear the other guys, all of whom are many years younger than I am - and each in infinitely better shape - talk about the difficulty they felt they’d have, ranging from a love of any of the items on the list with the exception of my second (maybe even tied for first) favorite, fast food.

We all agreed we’d try it - on the honor system (kind of like the NCAA expects their members to do: self-report). One of us, I think it might have been me, mentioned this was the 2014 version of the masturbation contest from Seinfeld. Sure enough, the very next day (nearly as fast as Kramer had lost), the “Florida” entry called and said, “Can I start tomorrow? I just had some chocolate milk.” Naturally, we gave him a mulligan (which was probably the reason there was no money riding on the outcome). It didn’t matter. A couple days ago, he said he fell victim to Swedish fish and a Slurpee at the movies with his family. No shame.

And then it was three. There was text confirmation from the rest of us that all of us were still “chaste.” Last night, with only four days to go, our family went to our favorite Japanese restaurant. Without thinking (at least on my part), we each ordered dinners as opposed to a la carte. After I dug into the ice cream (that, along with two measly shrimp, make up the difference between dinner and a la carte), Alex (who knew about the challenge) said to me, “I can’t believe you’re eating that ice cream.”

Damn! Of all the ways to lose. One crummy scoop of vanilla ice cream. At a Japanese restaurant. If I was going to lose on ice cream, at least let me go down because I busted out a pint of Haagen Daz pineapple coconut. Or a king size Snickers. Or a Whopper with cheese at the King. With a bag of Fritos. And a Diet Mountain Dew.

Well, once I took that first bite, I could see no reason not to polish it off. I’m sure there will be other “challenges” down the road. I guess when it comes to willpower, I subscribe to the satirist Oscar Wilde:

“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”

What to Do When You’ve Run Out of Questions - and It’s Your Turn to Ask

August 19th, 2014

At yesterday’s Los Angeles Clippers’ enthusiastic fan fest/rally, there was an accompanying press conference with President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach Doc Rivers and new owner (how much of a relief is it to hear that term in relations to the Clips’ organization?), Steve Ballmer. Everything under the sun was asked of the new boss at both venues - and then some.

Most people, if they put their minds to it, could guess the queries posed to “Steve” - as he informed the Clipper faithful they should call him. The obvious questions like, “Are you planning on moving the team?” (an emphatic “No” came from the head honcho - he did explain he lived in Seattle and a friend of his, a “Bill Gates,” asked him to work for him - and that had worked out OK, so he didn’t regret living in Seattle), and “Where do you plan on sitting?” (”Court side” was that answer  - although, when you shell out $2 BILLION, the answer could have been, “Anywhere I want!” and no one would have raised a concern).

One question I thought I didn’t hear correctly was asked by a member of the media. “Do you plan on changing the name?” Why in the hell would anyone want to change the name? There might have been a time when the Clippers should have changed their name, but certainly not after their three most successful seasons in team history (60.6, 68.3, 69.5 wining percentages, respectively). The reason it was brought up was because there was a feeling that the Clippers would be associated with their previous owner. After watching yesterday’s love fest at Staples - where his name wasn’t uttered even once - it’s a whole new generation for the Clippers. Now is the time to capitalize on the team name, not change it. Besides, why would the team change its name. Because they’re no longer in San Diego, where the Clipper name originated?

It’s not like boats are never seen in the Los Angeles area. It’s definitely more appropriate than calling the team in Utah the Jazz. Or calling a team that got its nickname from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (the line that’s on the bottom of Minnesota license plates) the Lakers. Changing names and logos are done at considerable expense, too. When will the Charlotte Hornets, Bobcats, Hornets recoup all that money from their change(s)? Maybe that’s a little different situation but how happy are the folks in New Orleans they can now root for the Pelicans?

With all the positive vibes flowing throughout the Staples Center, why would someone bring up such a foolish question? What should have been considered was a line I learned from my late mentor, the brilliant John Savage:

“Before you open your mouth to speak, make sure what you have to say is an improvement on the silence.”

When It Comes to Sports (the three majors anyway), the Economy Is Just Fine

August 18th, 2014

The preseason game between the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions was the most-watched preseason game ever on NFL Network with 2.82 million viewers. Imagine what tonight’s will draw. Undoubtedly, the reason was due to the backup quarterback for the Browns. Johnny Manziel doesn’t even start and yet his is the top selling NFL jersey. Better than Super Bowl winning QB Russell Wilson of the Seahawks (No. 2), Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers (No. 3) and, arguably, the greatest field general of all-time, Peyton Manning of the Broncos (No. 4). Hey, my wife is a Tennessee graduate (if it were her blog, the word “arguably” would never have been included).

Granted, excitement and hype is what sells but, c’mon, Manziel, himself, admits he’s probably not gonna be the opening game starter. Yet, more people want to wear his jersey than any other player in the league. Take a look at what those jerseys go for and tell me the people who bought them cared about football when they forked over that much of their hard-earned dough. It goes to show we buy with our hearts, not our brains. And don’t think the fans buying the Johnny Football jersey are those who are sitting in the suites. Not to judge a book by its cover, but checking out the guys I see wearing them makes me wonder what item(s) in the monthly budget lost out to sartorial splendor.

How about the NBA? Team USA is garnering more than their fair share of the airways and print space - considering it’s August! The NBA Sirius radio station (ch 86) constantly has phone lines buzzing, callers wanting to talk about the Cavs, Bulls, Heat, Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Raptors, Hawks. Consider those teams are from the weaker East. Can anyone imagine what’s going to happen when the season actually rolls around? Some time, not so long ago, it seemed like the Donald Sterling fiasco took nearly all the air time. Now, it’s like he never even existed. If only.

Whether it’s the tragedy of Paul George’s injury (and how courageously and eloquently he’s dealing with something so gruesome) or the return of LeBron to Cleveland (and maybe that Love child?) or, even, the college game, hoops fans are being heard this off-season like never before. The only topic that no one seems to be talking about is, “Will the Spurs repeat?” but that is as it usually is about this time of year. Check back next June.

Major league baseball is averaging over 30,000 fans per game, down a couple hundred from last year. The number of teams with greater attendance this year compared to those with fewer attendance is nearly identical (14 up, 16 down with the Padres being only 97 additional patrons away from making it an even 15-15 split.

There will be new commissioners running two of those sports but don’t think that they’re the reason for all the sports excitement. As thrilling as all of it gets, no one should ever complain about players’ salaries or cost of tickets, concessions or gear. Even the astronomical TV deals shouldn’t surprise because there’s a reason the prices are set where they are. We should heed the wise advice of Henry Ford:

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Fans of USA Basketball Need to Adjust Expectations

August 17th, 2014

After watching the USA beat Brazil in a “friendly” or exhibition basketball game last night, I didn’t come to some of the same conclusions that the talking heads or people giving their opinions on the Internet (some of them doing everything short of shouting, “The sky is falling”).

As could be expected, the team didn’t look as far along as we all had hoped. Ever since the pros were allowed to play, we’ve become used to total world domination, not some team from South America trailing by only 5 in the second half - even if that team had several (talented veteran) NBA players on it.

No doubt the offense looked like either “my turn, your turn” (which many teams actually use now as their primary means for scoring in the half court) or somewhat ineffective pick and rolls. It was mentioned during the broadcast (although I only heard it once or twice, possibly because I wasn’t glued to the set) that Mike Krzyzewski said they had designed much of the offense to feature Kevin Durant, only to have KD realize he hadn’t taken a day off from hoops since he was in sixth grade and figured it might be a prudent move to rest just a little before the NBA season tipped off. Paul George going down with that gruesome injury shook up the offense - as well as everyone who witnessed it - a bit, too.

What I saw was that, independent what they run at the offensive end (and don’t think for a minute the staff isn’t revamping their offensive ideas for the club as you are reading this), Mike is adamant that, whatever five he puts on the floor, they are going to absolutely shut off their opponent’s water. Defense has always been the key of Coach K’s teams (certainly some of his clubs more than others) and this version of USA will be the same. James Harden be forewarned.

With a few offensive tweaks (OK, maybe more than just a few) - and several practices (on and off the floor) - the USA will be fine. It’s going to take something Mike isn’t always fond of - patience.

We may have to go all the way back to what John Quincy Adams said to find our solution:

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” 

A Classic Example of a “Hog that Got Slaughtered”

August 16th, 2014

The following is a blog from May of 2008. After reading it (re-reading for the most loyal of readers), you might just be able to see why coaches weren’t so enthused with their governing organization. The fact the NCAA would lose so much of its clout is something that, 40 years ago, would have been deemed unfathomable. Those of us in the business always thought college athletics (especially football and men’s basketball) were extremely popular but I can’t think of anyone who predicted how much money would be generated. The NCAA must not have believed the old adage: “Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.” 

The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) is an absolute necessity. There must be a governing body for intercollegiate athletics. That being said, it can be viewed, not as a necessary evil, but as necessary and evil. My interaction with this colossal organization dates back to 1972 when I took the job of graduate assistant basketball coach at the University of Vermont. Back then, many folks closely associated with the NCAA saw it as pure evil.

There are so many personal stories, even for someone so far on the outside, that my comments will probably be spread over at least a couple blogs. “Back in the day,” as the current terminology goes, the NCAA was, if not the most arrogant organization in the country, certainly one that was annually in the finals for the award. They’d win every case against them (caused by many of their unfair and archaic rules) with the same absurd logic, “The NCAA is a voluntary organization. You choose to become a member and may leave it at any time,” as if there was a major university in the country that was about to hold a press conference and say, “We have an announcement to make; as of today, our institution is applying for membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).”

It was a monopoly in the truest of sense of the word. Through the years, and with a change in leadership, i.e. when “The Great and Powerful” Walter Byers finally retired, it became, if not “a kinder and gentler NCAA” that some people (mainly those at the NCAA) would like the giant to be thought of, but as a group that makes rules and rulings with more compassion and, in some cases, on an individual basis.

However, the worst idea (aka public relations gimmick) someone thought up is that of “graduation rates and APR” (Academic Progress Rate). This is intended to come off as, “Although we have bright, caring and talented student-athletes in nearly all our sports, certain sports, (namely, those that produce all of our revenue), have not emphasized the ’student’ half of the term we use for their participants. This is very disturbing to us (although not nearly as disturbing as if CBS had not signed off on the $6 billion - with a ‘b‘ - contract for the rights to men’s basketball) and we plan to take immediate steps to … get our fans to think we really care that such a small percentage of the individuals representing these sports actually leave school with a degree (which everyone would like to think is the reason these young, unbelievably gifted, physical specimens enroll in college for in the first place).”

The major problem is the paradigm itself. Certainly, a college degree is the ultimate goal of a college student (unless another opportunity to improve the student’s station in life becomes a possibility, e.g. leaving school early (maybe even after only one year) because he can earns millions doing what he always dreamed of doing or someone like Bill Gates who dropped out of college but still managed to carve out a good living for himself and his loved ones - even if his loved ones number in the billions - with a “b”). The cross-section of colleges throughout the nation have very different, and sometimes diametrically opposed missions. A one-size-fits-all policy is simply unjust.

Examples are Stanford, Duke and the Ivies whose mission is to educate the “classes,” as opposed to, among others, state universities whose mission is to educate the “masses.” The former do their weeding out process on the front end whereas a school like one of my former coaching stops, the University of Toledo, has the admirable policy (or did when I was there from 1987-91) of admitting any child, as long as that student had graduated from an accredited high school in the state of Ohio. There is a need and a place for both types of institutions of higher learning, as well as all those in between. To say their APR’s should be calculated the same way is to say wrestling shouldn’t have different weight divisions for its competitors. Too bad if you weigh 106, your next opponent weighs 350, and if you lose, you’re out (probably cold).

Many people feel athletes should graduate at a higher rate. After all, they contend, they’re on scholarship (the ones mainly being discussed in this blog anyway) and have no monetary problems. Plus, they get all that academic assistance, including the advantage of preferential registration, individual and group tutors, access to computer labs, etc. while the “average” students may have to work part-time jobs to make ends meet and eat and study when they can squeeze it in. This is all true, but consider that the athlete is also “working” for that scholarship and the amount and intensity of the time and work they exert in most cases far exceeds any part-time job in the community. Then, there’s additional pressure (which, granted, the athletes can turn in their favor) that student-athletes are forced to handle, such as being placed in gut-wrenching situations, dealing with the media and having to adjust to inconvenient travel schedules.

Title IX is based on the female population at the school. It would be absurd, for example, to require West Point to spend equal amounts of dollars on its male and female athletes. Instead, the law states the number of scholarship athletes has to be within five percent of the student body (it may have changed to three percent, I’ve admittedly been away from the college scene for several years). So, if a school has a student-body enrollment of 55% women, it has to have a minimum of fifty percent of its athletes be female.

That is how graduation rates should be calculated for all universities. The particular sport should be within (use an arbitrary number, say) five percent of the graduation rate of that university. To reward Stanford for graduating 85% of its athletes in a sport when the overall graduation rate on the Farm might be 95% (numbers are arbitrary and not based on research, just used to make a point) is simply, if not morally, wrong - just as its wrong to penalize a school that graduates 67% of its athletes when the school’s overall graduation rates for its student body is 55%. In a fair and just society, the rewards and penalties would be reversed.

But do you really think that, with the presidents who make up the NCAA’s governing board, that something as reasonable as that will ever happen?

The biggest problem with the NCAA was arrogance, mainly derived from power. As Lord Acton said:

 

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Rehashing Some “Old” Michael Jordan News

August 15th, 2014

After the evening games at Michael Jordan Flight School, all the campers return to the Events Center (EC) on the UCSB campus. At that time Michael shows up and, other than final night when he hosts a Q&A, he conducts shooting games for some lucky campers, selected by MJ himself. Those youngsters (male and female, 8-17 years old) get to participate in games like “Around the World” or “Hot Shots” - with the entire camp surrounding the court: baseline and just beyond the three point line.

The action begins once all the campers return from their venues. Since it’s his camp, the contests don’t begin until His Airness arrives. The optimum situation is when the horn for the games in the EC sounds, as the rest of the camp is coming through to the doors. The kids line up in “assembly” and some “housekeeping” is taken care of while the campers, coaches, administrators and, mainly, the parents of the campers await Michael.

Michael Jordan last played in the NBA in 2003 for the Washington Wizards, not exactly what defines his legacy. That was accomplished when he suited up for the Chicago Bulls and led them to two three-peats, the second of which ended in 1998. Think about these following numbers. That last championship was 16 years ago. The camp has been going for 19 years. Since the oldest camper at Flight School is 17, it’s obvious today’s kids aren’t attending for the same reason they were when it began. It used to be the kids themselves who begged their parents to fork over the money so they could learn from their idol. Now, it’s the parents who want their children to attend so they can say, “My kid went to the greatest player of all-time’s camp.”

The question of whether Michael’s popularity had diminished was answered when it was released that his net worth had exceeded $1 billion. Yet, it took one of those parents to show the world video proof that, while his basketball skills haven’t increased, some things never change.

It so happened that one night Michael actually beat the campers to the EC. While the kids were heading to the respective assembly locations, MJ did what most basketball players do when they have some free time on their hands and a ball is lying around. He decided to shoot a little. The result, captured by (who else?) a parent, was MJ canning 11 straight shots. Naturally, it found its way to YouTube and, went viral, allegedly surpassing 20,000,000 views.

Whatever else you might think of Michael Jordan, know this:

“I’m not sure what ‘IT’ is, but whatever it is, Michael Jordan still has ‘IT.’ ”

Forgetfulness Meets New Age Incompetence

August 14th, 2014

Since January, 2013, I was issued a disabled person parking placard, due mainly to, as loyal readers of this blog can testify, the multitude of operations (now into double figures) I’ve had. Since 1987 I’ve experienced operations on cervical and lumbar disks (not so uncommon), on a thoracic disk (quite uncommon and the one that’s caused me a zillion other problems), on numerous other body parts, and have had foreign objects implanted to manage pain (one that never worked, one that makes the pain tolerable - most of the time). I admit I feel somewhat guilty when I pull into a handicapped parking space when there are many people much worse off than I am but I also admit, prior to obtaining the placard, going to restaurants, not being able to find a parking spot close to the door and driving off to find another restaurant.

As a commissioner at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp, my duties were to run one of the leagues. We would line up at the dorms for early morning, after lunch and after dinner roll calls. When the eight coaches would let me know all their team members were accounted for, I’d send them off to whatever location was designated for our league that session. For the past couple years I would then get into my car and drive to the appointed courts. Note: for the other ten or so of my years at the camp, I would walk to the sites, as the other commissioners do.

When I would arrive, I’d park in the closest handicapped spot to the courts (more times than not, the spot was still quite a ways away from where I needed to be), take out the blue placard and hang it on my rear view mirror. This ordeal would take place three times/day. Following one set of games during the second session (of two) of camp, I returned to my car and found a ticket on the windshield. Sure enough, I had forgotten to take the placard out from the glove compartment and hang it on my mirror (it blocks too much of my vision to leave it on there permanently). The fine, as it should be, is quite costly ($311).

To appeal the ticket (which, naturally, I planned to do), I followed the directions on the back of it. It gave me a website and, for “further information regarding citation appeals,” there was a phone number and the hours of operation (M-F, 8a-5p). As a card carrying member of AARP (and the segment of that population who enjoys face-to-face encounters, especially when dealing with such issues), I knew I could deal with this problem by simply calling. Possibly even going to the office. I checked my watch. It was 5:05 pm. On Friday. Camp ended on Sunday.

Damn. After I got back home, I called first thing Monday morning. I was greeted with “You’ve reached the UCSB . . . If you’d like to appeal, go to our website . . . Appeals are not handled over the phone. Appeals are only handled in writing on our website.” Welcome to the 21st century. Hey, I figured this is the way “people” now deal with “other people” and it was high time I realized that. I went online, made my (lengthy) appeal “in writing,” and shortly thereafter, received the following email:

Please provide proof of ADA placard from DMV including registration information.  You can scan the information and email it to cite.admin@tps.ucsb.edu. This must  be completed in order to adjudicate the citation issued. You have till 8/15/2014  to complete this request.   Thank You 

I located the registration information provided from DMV and clicked on the email address. My wife had to scan that information (did I mention I’m not too proficient in anything tech?) in order for me to proceed. When I attached the scan, I hit “Send.”

It seemed like ten seconds had elapsed when I heard the sound that informed me I had a new email. I checked it out. It was in my “Spam” box, from “Mail Delivery System”. The subject was “Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender” and there were a few paragraphs before ending with:

—– The delivery status notification errors —–   <cite.admin@tps.ucsb.edu>: host hrsgw.housing.ucsb.edu[128.111.68.70] said: 550     5.1.1 <cite.admin@tps.ucsb.edu>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown     in relay recipient table (in reply to RCPT TO command)

For someone with as little knowledge and confidence as I have in my computer skills, news like this is akin to alarms going off on a cruise ship and hearing “Fire on board! Man the life boats!” I’m completely frozen, not knowing what to do. Guess what I did? Of course! I re-sent it, hoping for a different outcome. You know, the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Not surprisingly, once again, I received the “Mail Delivery System” notification. I reverted to the phone, not really expecting (or even hoping) someone would answer (even though I was calling during business hours). I left a long message, explaining, as I did in my initial correspondence, that I simply forgot to place my placard, yada, yada, yada. The frustration in my voice must have been come across. No, no one called me back. But I was sent another email, informing me the email address in their previous email was mistaken. There was an “s” missing in the address.

Yup, the university had put an incorrect email address in a form email. Apparently, they didn’t want appeals and, until me, must not have received any. Talk about an effective method of collecting fines! Maybe I’m foolish for posting this before my case is heard but I’m taking that chance.

To some, it might be OK, but it only proves the old adage:

“There’s no progress without change but not all change is progress.”

When a Youngster Is Forced to Attend Michael Jordan’s Camp

August 13th, 2014

Recently returned from the 18th version of the Michael Jordan Flight School basketball camp. The camp is held on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. This year there were record numbers of participants: 2 sessions, 9 leagues with 8 teams in each, 12 players on a team - approximately 1650 campers. And, yes, there was a waiting list, meaning some kids who wanted to attend weren’t afforded the opportunity.

On the first day, the kids are placed on teams, initially by age, i.e. the oldest league is composed of 16-17 year olds, the next oldest league housing the 15-16s. The league of which I was “commissioner” was the third oldest so, mostly, we dealt with the 14-15 year old range. Our next move is to identify two groups: one of which are campers who are talented enough to “play up,” i.e. he (the first sessions is limited to boys only) could play with the next higher age group and be effective as well as have a more enjoyable and productive four days. Unless the camper is exceptionally talented, we try to limit those from our league, going “up” to the next league, to the 15 year olds. All leagues operate in a similar fashion.

The other group is, naturally, those youngsters whose skills are (significantly) below those in their age group. While it’s a little trickier, mainly from an ego standpoint, we try to explain that playing in the lower age group, i.e. “down” would be more fun as the age difference isn’t much of a factor for a 14 year old (playing with 13 and 14, as opposed to 14 and 15), yet the experience wouldn’t be as overwhelming as it might be if he stayed.

Occasionally, the “phenom” might be 14 yet it’s apparent he needs to be with the 15-16 group. Of a more sensitive nature is the 15 year old moving down to play with the 13-14s. We try to avoid this scenario as much as possible. However, such was the case I faced on Day 1 - although the kid our coaches unanimously felt should be moved was a big (overweight as well as tall) boy whose effort and attitude mandated his departure from our group. I spoke with him and he agreed to make the move, only to change his mind an hour or so later. While we make our best case for a move (up or down), we never force a youngster to move and we’re especially careful with kids who are two years junior or senior to the new group.

So, when our 15 year old changed his mind, I accepted that he’d be in our league and hoped it worked - for his coach and teammates as well as the kid himself. The first actual game (Day 2) proved disastrous as the big fella showed absolutely no interest when he was in the game. His own teammates were on his case when, down by two, the big guy’s group entered and their opponents proceeded to go on a 20-0 run, thus effectively ending their chances for a win.

I called the kid over and said, “I watched you and you gave zero effort in that game. What’s the deal?” After he shrugged, I asked him, “Why did you come to camp if this is how you were going to act?”

His answer was enlightening. “Because my parents paid the money and made me go.” I couldn’t quite understand his answer, so I pushed a little further. Finally, he said, “My father said he never had opportunities like this when he was a kid so he was going to make sure I did. He’s living his life through me.”

Right away I realized this was no dummy. I lit into him. “Just because you’re mad at your parents doesn’t excuse the lack of effort you put out today. This isn’t an individual camp. It’s not golf or tennis or swimming. You have four other guys depending on you when you’re on the floor. It’s not fair to those kids who are trying their hardest to get beat because when you’re out there, they’re playing 4 on 5.

“Additionally, you have 11 guys who are counting on you to at least try. Plus your coach who’s doing his best to help the team win. All of them deserve more from you than the pitiful performance you gave.” I couldn’t tell but it looked like what I’d told him was something he hadn’t considered.

Each night we give out a “Camper of the Day” award in each league. It’s given to a youngster who will probably not be an all-star nor will he win any of the shooting contests. That night’s award in our league had already been chosen but when I asked our coaches for a nominee the following day, the lazy guy’s coach nominated his “opening day slug.” His coach said, “I know you’ll never believe it but he really put out an effort - and, surprisingly, he’s got some skills. I mean, he’s never going to vie for the MVP but he actually helped us win one of our (two) games today.”

I submitted his name as our Day 2 Camper of the Day. Since the night’s winners are announced from youngest to oldest, our league is the seventh league to be awarded. When the camp director called out his name, his entire team gave him a standing ovation.

When he went up to get the medal, he was smiling and when he turned to see his teammates standing, I had a hunch he realized what his dad was trying to tell him by sending him to camp. As we often discover in life:

“Sometimes it’s the small victories that mean the most.”

Parents Say the Darndest Things

July 31st, 2014

It’s that time of year again. For me (and hundreds of others), the first ten days of August can only mean one thing: Michael Jordan Flight School, i.e. MJ’s basketball camp (back-to-back sessions held on the campus of UCSB). This blog will return on August 13 (after some out of town business a couple days following camp). No doubt, there will be some humorous stories about the kids and their parents - like the following anecdote which I posted after returning from camp in 2007.

Another true story from the Michael Jordan Flight School, a basketball camp held each year at the University of California, Santa Barbara from August 1-10.

As a commissioner of one of the eight leagues, one of my duties is to make myself available to parents of campers (or simply fans who want to observe) to answer questions they might have, e.g. where is my child playing, what time is Michael speaking today, what time is dinner being served, etc.

I’ve been a commissioner for the past five years and I can say I’ve yet to be asked a question I couldn’t answer, or at least put the questioner in touch with the right people. Until a couple weeks ago. Or so I thought.

A parent told me his son was playing on Magic Johnson court #3 and wondered if I could direct him to it. There are 16 courts used at once when games are being played. Six of them are in the Events Center, otherwise known as the Thunderdome. Two are in the Recreation Center, another two are in Robertson Gymnasium, another two are in a building known as the MAC while the remaining four are outdoor courts designated as the Michael Jordan courts 1,2,3 and 4.

When I mentioned this to the camper’s father, he told me his son had called and was certain the youngster said he’d be playing on Magic Johnson Court 3. I asked if he knew the name of his son’s team or that of his coach (two items the coaches explain to the members of their team on the first day as being vitally important to know). He knew neither but was certain of the game’s location. I emphasized there was no such court. Could he try and remember the exact conversation with his son as he’d never have been given that information.

The father had a look of deep concentration, then said to me he specifically recalled his son saying he’d be playing on the MJ #3 outdoor court. I didn’t say a word, just let this information sink in and when it inevitably did, he looked at me sheepishly and said, “You probably can tell I’m a big Lakers fan.”

There’s no better quote for this occasion than Elbert Hubbard’s:

“Everyone is a damn fool for five minutes a day. Wisdom consists of not exceeding that.”