Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

Finally, It’s Johnny Manziel, Act One

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Last football season Johnny Manziel was America’s darling. When it came time to evaluate him for the NFL draft, however, there were no shortage of critics. Johnny Football’s off-the-field escapades gave them additional fuel for their fire.

NFL Films producer Greg Cosell said Johnny Manziel was “almost undraftable after viewing his games against LSU and Missouri this past season. Former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly also offered some negative feedback wondering, among other complaints, “Why are you running when you don’t have to run?”

ESPN’S Merril Hoge added what he thought of Manziel. “His skill set does not transition to the National Football League, and it is a big, big risk.” Hoge later was quite a bit more cruel in his assessment of the young QB when he called him “a juvenile punk.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” Manziel’s response was when informed of Hoge’s criticism. “He’s never met me. I’ve never met him, so I guess he thinks I’m not a very good football player.” That was probably the best response Manziel could have come up with. In his defense, at that time, he had been studying under quarterback guru George Whitfield, and it was written that he was working hard . . . to improve his mechanics and overall thought process.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said “that in the age that we’re in of sensationalism, a lot of time people that want to be heard have to make bold statements in order to bring attention to themselves.” Terry Pluto of Cleveland’s Plain Dealer agreed with Pettine, adding, “So they scream louder and attack personally.” The title of the article Pluto wrote was, “When it comes to Johnny Manziel, critics can do better than fall into personal insults.” You have to wonder if Manziel did or said something to Hoge that was so offensive, the reporter felt a need to spew such venom.

Dane Brugler, senior analyst for wrote an even-handed evaluation of Manziel. Quoting Brugler, “To be fair, Manziel has plenty of qualities that stand out in a positive way. He has more than enough arm strength. He’s extremely fleet of foot with the scrambling instincts to create like no one else. He’s smart, ultra-competitive and displays the supreme confidence needed to excel at the position on the biggest of stages. But while the positives are intriguing, the negatives can’t be ignored.”

Criticism is inevitable in this day and age of the 24 hour sports cycle we’re in. Added to that is the fact that we can never expect 100% agreement on anything in this country, if for no other reason than some schmuck would disagree just so he could be the one person who was on the other side. The best anyone can hope for is fairness, even if one might be the subject of a bit of creative thinking.

Playing off his widely known nickname - and the fact he won’t be the Browns opening game starter - the Houston Chronicle coined a clever nickname for the player many people begged the Texans to take #1:

“Johnny Bench”

I Didn’t Lose Faith in Federer, Just Had to Leave

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Several of the past few blogs have dealt with the U.S. Open. Prior to my multiple back surgeries, I used to play tennis, hacking around on and off for years. When I got to the University of Tennessee as an assistant basketball coach in 1980, I became more serious because short time later, Mike DePalmer, Sr was named the head tennis coach. At one time, Mike and Nick Bolletieri started a tennis academy. The first year, there were six kids, all of whom lived in Mike’s house, a far cry from the IMG grounds that houses the students in Bradenton, FL today. Mike and I became fast friends and, up to 4-5 days a week, we’d play tennis at 7:00 am.

When I asked him to give me lessons, I remembering him tell me, “Jack, I’m on the court all day, basically, giving lessons of one kind or another. Let’s just play. I promise you’ll be getting lessons.” And he was right. When we started, Mike would hold his racket in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. He would hit the ball deep to the corner, I’d run it down and return it to him. Then, he’d hit it to the opposite corner, and I’d run that down and return it to him. On and on until I’d miss or, not so often, he did.

One day a thought crossed my mind. “Why the hell am I constantly hitting the ball right back to him!” Displaying my ability as a student, I started returning his shots to the corners, rather than directly at him. The next day we played, I noticed the coffee cup was gone. “What, not thirsty this morning?”

“I told you that you’d learn,” he said, smiling. We continued to play the entire seven years I was at UT. Since I was a coach, I’d pick Mike’s brain as far as strategy and motivation went, figuring there had to be similarities in our sports, even though his was an individual sport while mine dealt with a team (side note: he also had been a highly successful junior college basketball coach). He would explain nuances of tennis to me. I’ve never watched tennis matches the same way again. Years later, Mike was inducted into the National Tennis Hall of Fame.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic. My wife, Jane, and I have been watching the U.S. Open the past few days. One of our favorite players is Roger Federer (not only because we’ve had numerous people tell us our younger son, Alex, looks like him - although those comments don’t bother us in the least).

Yesterday, we were watching his match against Gael Monfils. Prior to the match, one of Federer’s former coaches (as well as one of Pete Sampras’), Paul Annacone, who happened to be Mike’s #1 singles player for his early Vols’ teams and, not so coincidentally, one of the original six students at the DePalmer-Bolletieri Tennis Camp, had this to say about Monfils, “He is the best raw athlete in tennis, maybe ever.” If the moniker, “Human Highlight Film” wasn’t already taken by Dominique Wilkins, it would be apropos for Monfils.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising to see him take the first set from Federer. What was amazing was to see him take the second set - and with greater ease than the first. Wouldn’t you know it, we had a surprise birthday party to go to (happy birthday to loyal reader, and more loyal friend, Shawn Carey) just as the second set ended. Hearing the bleak commentary from the best tennis commentators, the brothers McEnroe, made it feel like were leaving a funeral early.

Late in the party, Jane turns to me and says, “You won’t believe this,” then shows me her SportsCenter update (which our Federer look alike installed on her phone but not mine - people tell me it’s easy but, as of yet, I haven’t found the time or interest). Sure enough, Roger did it again - won a match after losing the first two sets. For the ninth time. The mental and physical toughness might not be unmatched, but there can’t be more than a handful of athletes who are better at staring down adversity.

While it might be stretching the meaning of exactly what the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, there’s little doubt he would have admired the effort displayed by one of the all-time greatest tennis players, Roger Federer:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Skill and Mental Toughness on Display Early at U.S. Open

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Absolutely exhausted after watching the U.S. Open match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Early on, the tennis bordered on perfect, in that it took a “perfect” shot to win a point. What set it apart from most tennis matches was that while both players possess quite formidable serves, it’s their return of serve that made it must watch TV.

It began as a match for the ages. As far as records and head-to-head competition, Djokovich owns the advantage over Murray (as he does against every tennis player in the world not named Nadal or Federer) but last night’s match was a true heavyweight fight. It was almost as if the players were standing in tennis’ version of toe-to-toe, throwing haymakers at each other, with rallies upwards of 20, until someone would finally scream a blistering, unreachable winner. One of the players (more often Djokovich but Murray as well) would, seemingly, be in control of the set until, all of a sudden, some devastating, loosely played point in which one of them looked like he’d lost focus, would bring the other up from the dead.

Possibly against another competitor, on another night, “taps” would have been heard, but not with these two. The viewer would see a summoning of focus and intestinal fortitude - along with scorching passing shots -and fortunes would be reversed. There were major shifts in momentum, each player (more so Djokovich) feeling a sense of “letting one slip away.”

Near the end of the third set, commentator John McEnroe (who is to tennis what Gary Danielson is to college football, i.e. unparalleled) made the comment that Murray looked “spent”  and questioned whether he could go five sets if need be. Murray, then, began to look as though he might be more injured than spent, grimacing and gingerly walking between points, no upset in sight.

With the clock about to strike midnight, fans were cheering for the guy who was down a set to tie the match - so they could see more tennis (the night before they many stayed until 2:30 am to watch). Only in New York (and maybe Las Vegas) do fans ignore time for sporting events. Although he did play some extremely good points down the stretch, the young Brit couldn’t seem to muster enough of them to overtake his nemesis, eventually falling 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. Had his opponent been someone other than Djokovich would Murray been able to summon the effort to pull out a victory?

Always blunt, McEnroe, who made reference to Murray’s difficulty playing the Serb, summed up the final couple games with the following, thought-provoking (for Murray’s camp) comment:

“The question is ‘How is this affecting him? How much of it is in his head?’ ”

Prediction: NFL Domestic Violence Cases to Take Sharp Decline

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

If ever a line has been on the money, “Life is all about timing” has got to be it. Domestic violence is a topic no one seems to know all that much about (in terms of actual cases, certainly, because so many go unreported). In 1988 the country was shocked when Mike Tyson and Robin Givens, married just a few months, gave an interview to Barbara Walters in which Givens made on-air accusations of emotional and physical abuse.

The following decade gave us another abusive relationship from the world of sports when it was reported David Justice got physical with Halle Berry. In an article on the NFL and domestic violence, author Justin Peters “found that 21 of 32 NFL teams, at one point this year (2012), had employed a player with a domestic violence or sexual assault charge on his record.” First of all, it must be stated that, while it seems as though more of these situations occur with football players, the problem isn’t isolated to only football - or even to sports.

The obvious problem with football players is that the these offenders have a difficult time separating the violence that’s vital with their job with the fact that there is no place for violence in a relationship. At issue is how athletes are, and have been, treated throughout their careers - beginning at a young age. Seldom, when they are recruited, are they criticized because recruiters live by the adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The amount of praise and lack of criticism can cause a youngster’s ego to swell.

Fast forward to the now infamous Ray Rice case in which he was seen dragging his fiance, unconscious, out of an elevator after, reportedly, knocking her out. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner suspended Rice for two games. Since that ruling, he has come out and admitted he made a mistake and that the penalty should have been longer. The new penalty for domestic violence is six games for the first violation, followed by a lifetime ban for the second.

Apparently, Goodell had been influenced by Rice’s fiance, now wife, who went to the commish and requested he not be so harsh. While I am about as far removed as as someone can be from the characters involved, it always seemed to me that it would only be natural for Rice’s fiance to ask for a break because if he’s suspended and not getting paid, who’s that hurting?”

In any case, Goodell apologized and strengthened the penalty. Wouldn’t you know it but the 49ers’ DE Ray McDonald goes and commits, believe it or not, domestic violence so soon after the national uproar. Did he think Goodell was kidding? McDonald’s response was, “I can’t say too much, not right now, but the truth will come out. Everybody knows the kind of person that I am. I’m a good-hearted person.” While all that may be true, what else could he say?

Without trying to overstep my educational bounds, let’s think about what causes a fight? In 99% of the cases, it’s anger. People will “crack” during an argument and become physical when they’re pushed beyond a certain limit. What Ray McDonald allegedly did, so soon after Goodell’s edict, might just be the best thing that could ever happen to decrease the number of domestic violence incidents.

Now, these guys, especially the one-time offenders, are going to hesitate before touching a woman because, even greater than proving to her who’s right, or what her place is, or any other macho idea that pops into his head, there will be someone (a parent, coach, agent, whoever) who has warned him, “Do it and you’re through.”

And if that’s what comes of the Ray Rice/Ray McDonald violence, we can be thankful that another old saying is indeed true:

“Every cloud has a silver lining.”

ESPN’s Anderson’s Characterization of USC a Little Harsh

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

After the Josh Shaw fiasco was uncovered, ESPN’s John Anderson went on air and called USC a “clown college.” He mentioned the embarrassment of Pete Carroll and the national championship of 2004 being stripped, Reggie Bush’s Heisman being taken away (which was why the championship was stripped), how they handled Lane Kiffin’s firing and the probation. The Shaw “heroic act” story, followed by his admission of fabricating it must have been too much for Anderson. Thus, the “clown college” reference.

John Anderson attended the University of Missouri. Any embarrassing issues ever transpire there? Well, there was an ESPN Outside the Lines story on far more severe problems than bungled coaching firings and football players lying.

The report from the OTL piece said, “At Missouri, the final count was four — one alleged rape, one alleged physical assault, one sexual assault and one domestic assault - before one of its star athletes left campus in 2010.” Rather than rehash how poorly Missouri handled these crimes, the reader can Google OTL: Athletes, Assaults and Inaction.

Full disclosure: it is true that Mizzou has never had a national championship stripped by the NCAA. Both the 1954 baseball and 1965 track & field national championships proudly remain on display.

How about his current “college,” i.e. Bristol U? Did Anderson miss the June 7, 2013 article in the New York Post by Leonard Greene, entitled ESPN Cracks down after affair reveals culture of sexual harassment?

For years, ESPN operated like a lawless frat house, with more sexual shenanigans than a roadside brothel. A married executive was sleeping with a senior vice president. A female manager told an assistant that men acting like pigs was routine at the network,” it began. The article continued with an interview of a female employee. “If I had a dollar for every time I was sexually harassed at ESPN, I would be a millionaire. . . This is television,” she continued. “That’s what happens. It goes with the industry.”

ESPN’s initial reaction to Greene’s story? According to his article, “ESPN execs tried to punish The Post for its coverage by banning all of the newspaper’s reporters from appearing on any of its programs.

USC a clown college? Anderson might want to temper his remarks next time. Or at least delve into history a little deeper.

As the late Stephen Covey said:

We judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.”

How Would Today’s Challenge System Have Changed John McEnroe’s Career?

Monday, September 1st, 2014

The age of computerization has changed the athletics world is so many areas, not the least of which is the use of instant replays. The reason for using replays is to get the calls right, i.e. eliminate “human error.” In football the main complaints regarding the instant replay system is the length of time it takes the officials to determine what the correct call is. “Indisputable information” is the catch phrase used and, in many instances it takes several camera angles and more than one (or two, three, four, . . .) looks - in slow motion - to overturn (or support) the call. In basketball and baseball the number of these type of instances aren’t as bad but, still, there are complaints.

The sport that seems to have this controversial aspect figured out is tennis. While other systems have been used in the past, the “Hawk Eye” has become the end all as far as correct line calls are concerned. According to the U.S. Open tournament website, “each player is allowed a maximum of three incorrect challenges per set after which they are not permitted to challenge again in that set. If a set goes to a tiebreaker, each player will receive one additional challenge. Challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.”

Before electronic assistance, claims were made (probably by the players) that the vision of the top players was so acute, when they challenged a call, more often than not, they were right. With the exception of one player in particular - John McEnroe.

Possibly because of McEnroe, some computer wizard(s) invented the aptly named “MacCam.” Progress in the “instant replay” computer world of tennis has now brought us the “Hawk Eye.” In a Q&A session from Line Call, an obvious Johnny Mac fan said he’d heard that McEnroe “was often more right than wrong on line calls and when they went back and analyzed the video he would have won more tournaments” and wondered if that was so. The answer probably wasn’t to his liking (and, fans being fans, might have even cost the guy a few shekels).

Actually, this is not true.” In fact, the answer continued, during the 2005 WTT season he was wrong nearly every time that he challenged a call.” It continued, “many of his peers would have welcomed the challenge system back in Mac’s heyday, because it would have eliminated his long and boorish outbursts. Today’s rule is reasonable: If you do not like the call, then challenge it. Instead, his rivals would suggest, McEnroe used these (sometimes ridiculous) arguments to manipulate the flow of the match until it favored him.”

McEnroe has been asked whether he used those famous tantrums as a way of motivating himself? He’s said he felt there certainly would have been more positive ways of firing himself up. However, he did admit it became somewhat of a defense mechanism, that when he was on court and things were going badly, . . . hey, it beat “crying or breaking down?” As with any superstars, McEnroe had his detractors (many of them being his opponents) as well as his loyal fans who felt others were whining because they weren’t good enough to beat Johnny Mac or they’d say, “Deal with it, it’s time tennis dropped all that staid, stuffy attitude.”

The greater discussion would be, if there was such a tool as “Hawk Eye” in McEnroe’s era, how would it have affected his behavior? Would he have complained about as many calls, knowing that his tirades would be soon ended - whether in his favor or against him? How about his overall won-loss, including tournament championship records? Would he have been as dominant just another really good player?

The answer to those questions can be found in the words of one of tennis’ all-time greats:

“You cannot be serious.”


Sarkisian Wins in His USC Opener Despite Absurd Distractions

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

As if being the football coach at USC isn’t difficult enough, Steve Sarkisian was forced to deal with two situations that shouldn’t have taken up any precious time during opening game week.

The first was the saga of Josh Shaw. This fiasco has one more unresolved issue (possibly two) when Shaw decides to come clean and do something that would have served him well at the outset. Tell the truth. “What really happened, Josh?” What inquiring minds want to know is, “OK, you made a mistake and hurt your ankles. Why didn’t you simply tell your trainers you made a bad judgment mistake, jumped off a second floor balcony and messed up your ankles?” The trainers aren’t concerned with what or why as much as they are with getting the player healthy.

Now, the coaches might want to know why one of their newly named captains would do something so foolhardy, and if they asked, wouldn’t they be more sympathetic than “others,” e.g. law enforcement and the media? That brings us to the second unresolved issue, if anyone is interested (and undoubtedly, they would be) and that is, “When whatever happened, happened, why in the world did you make up a story that would 1) bring national attention to your lie and 2) make you out to be a hero?” I’ve heard of people turning negatives into positives but not by fabricating a story that makes you look like a superstar when, in reality, you’re at worst a criminal or at best a fraud.

Sark needed somebody to come to his aid because the Josh Shaw story was taking on a life of it own. With the season nearly underway, just talking about the Trojans’ opening opponent, Fresno State, wasn’t going to satisfy print and broadcast media, much less Internet contributors.

Up stepped senior tailback, Anthony Brown, a player who had requested to be switched from cornerback to tailback. The coaches honored his request and at the time of his meltdown, it was reported that he was at best fourth on the Trojans depth chart. What meltdown?

A few days ago, Brown walked into Coach Sark’s office, apparently, wondering what his role was. By now, it’s safe to draw the conclusion that he didn’t like what his (now former) head coach told him. He then decided to do what many of today’s disgruntled people, of all walks of life, do. He took to social media, calling Sarkisian, of all things, a racist. If ever there was a topic that would generate interest in the injustice that was befalling him, race was it.

While I know neither Brown nor Sarkisian, something in this story immediately confused me. Weren’t the three guys ahead of Brown on the depth chart black? So, was he calling Sarkisian a selective racist? It’s been reported that, once Brown went on his vent, there were other players in the program who referred to him as a knucklehead. That’s probably too kind.

USC beat Fresno State and Sark, the racist, used three (black) tailbacks to rush for 277 yards in the blowout. Had Brown kept his mouth shut and just kept working, there’s a pretty good chance the tailback number would have been four with the total yardage higher than 277.

This is just another example of that old adage we, i.e. most of us, learned long ago:

“Make sure your brain is in gear before putting your mouth in motion.”

Being on the Hot Seat Is Nearly as Bad as Being Unemployed

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

The following is a blog I did nearly five years ago to the day (8/30/09) and it’s just as true today as it was then.

Preseason predictions are fun because, if nothing else, they signal that the actual season is right around the corner. Ranking teams (and even players) is one of America’s favorite past times because it gives bragging rights for the young (even though they might be somewhat immature) and gives additional debate topics for adults (who act even more immature).

“My school/team is ranked higher than yours” and “No way should your school/team be ranked higher than mine” are the two most overused phrases in sports’ arguments - at least until real games are played. Then the arguing will still continue, but at least an occasional statistic will be thrown into the conversation, giving at least one person some credibility.

One category that I’ve never found amusing, pertinent, or in any way necessary, (as readers of this space might have guessed) is that of “Coach on the Hot Seat.” Sure, it’s rubs me the wrong way because I spent so much of my adult life in the world of coaching, but, disregarding that, what purpose does it serve?

Is the author of the article or “list” telling readers something of true interest - or intrigue? Normally the person sitting in that spot either lost the previous season, or has strung a few of them together. So, what’s the point of the category? It isn’t like a reader will come across the name and say, “Hey, that guy has lost the past few years. How come he’s still around?” I doubt anyone ever made the list who was coming off of a winning campaign.

While compassion is not, nor has ever been, a required trait of any member of the sports media, what has always bewildered me is the lack of humanity when including a “coach on the hot seat” category. I completely understand and agree with the other (positive categories) - although eliminating “coach on the rise” wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, probably because I look at team sports as being about the team. It is, after all, what the coaches are constantly preaching. (I’ve always felt the post-season award should be called “Coaching Staff of the Year”).

My reasons for wishing “COTHS”  be stricken from print is that, first of all, it hurts recruiting (which might be a major reason the guy’s on it in the first place). On the college level, players, coaches and recruits will question the coach (or his assistants) about the job (in)security - and there’s really no way of answering it. Only the ultimate boss, e.g. the AD, president or chancellor has the final say to that question. It’s similar to asking, “Do you still beat your wife?” Whatever he says hurts his position.  Only his wife can answer honestly that question. In addition, with all the negative recruiting that goes on at the intercollegiate level, rival recruiters feel it’s not wrong to point out the “hot seat” remark - since it is in black and white, i.e. it’s not “gossip.” Although, until it’s printed by that school’s decision-maker, gossip is exactly what it is.

If it’s on the professional level, it often destoys the coach-player relationship, especially if the coach has to deal with an ultra-ego (selfish and/or low intellect) player or, worse, his agent. Seeing your name on the “hot seat” list adds fuel to any disgruntled player (especially if his minutes are down). “Hey, man, this cat ain’t goin’ to be around much longer. What do I need to show him respect for? He ain’t been showin’ it to me.”

But, the worst reason for it is that it’s often devastating to the coach’s family. Coaches won’t hear it themselves because people know who they are and most of the public have the common decency to keep their mouths shut when the coach is within “hearing range.” This, however, doesn’t apply to the coach’s wife, often unrecognizable, and thus, all too susceptible to overhearing gossip such as, “Yeah, I heard Ol’ Coach is gone if he doesn’t win this year/this week/tonight.” Something like that tends to put a damper on the remainder of Mrs. Coach’s day.

Worst of all, is the impact that kind of rumor has on the coach’s kids. Sure, he took on the job - and at the big-time college level and in the pros, a large check accompanies it. But when kids (and the younger the kids, the worse it is) hear their classmates repeat what their daddy said to his neighbor the night before, “fight or flight” usually is the result for the offended youngster.

Plus, say it does turn out to be true and the guy gets pink-slipped. As a journalist, are you going to pat yourself on the back (”Hey, remember, I called that one even before the year started”)? Does being right about a person’s demise give you a warm feeling all over?

What if you’re wrong and it turns out not to be true? (Well, you can always lead off next year’s column with him). And he didn’t get fired, not because the team won, but because of other factors, unknown to you.  Like: the school gave a commitment to the coach and feels it should honor that commitment (eschewing the “instant gratification” of most administrators - usually brought on by pressure from money people). Or maybe the administration feels the coach is handicapped by, say, poor facilities (that he was promised when he signed on, but because of budget cuts, never received) or injuries to key players, i.e. the decision-maker(s) is (are) really close to the program and he’s showing him/her/them exactly what he/she/they hoped for when the coach was hired? Or maybe the administration just happens to believes they hired the right person and decides to stick with that right person - similar to the way former director of athletics Tom Butters did when the guy he hired had a rocky start in his first three years.

Today, Tom Butters is held is the highest esteem - by other administrators, coaches and fans - for sticking with Mike Kryzyzewski, even though Coach K was nine games under .500 and had an ACC record of 13-29 after his first three years in Durham.

Why did Butters keep Coach K when, had he fired him, no one would have questioned him? Probably for the same reason Butters, retired since 1998, said he knew Mike would make a statement of support to the lacrosse players who were wrongly accused of rape (I hope today’s reader hasn’t forgotten that tragedy).

“There are times you have to put your ass on the line.”

Josh Shaw Needs Video Evidence - or Does He?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

A follow up on yesterday’s blog: It’s not known exactly when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first photograph - some accounts say it was in 1826, others claim it wasn’t until 1827 - but what doesn’t seem to be in question is that, from that first shot, through Edwin Land and his Polaroid Company, and up until 12 months ago (prior to this month), that total number is less than the number of pics taken since. 12 months tops history. That fact takes a while to sink in, to fully comprehend.

One of the most inspirational and a touching stories of the year USC published on its website. Josh Shaw, a senior cornerback at USC who was recently named one of the Trojans’ captains for the 2014 season, saw his seven-year-old cousin drowning in the swimming pool below and jumped from a second story balcony to save the youngster who didn’t know how to swim. During the heroic gesture, Shaw sustained two high ankle sprains. If ever, there was a feel good story, this was it - except for Shaw’s ankles.

But wait! USC did not make Shaw available for the media yesterday as was originally thought. Multiple sources told that school officials were skeptical of Shaw’s story. While completely supporting his player, Trojans Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said regarding the matter, “Within the last few hours we’ve gotten a phone calls contradicting what Josh said occurred Saturday night and we’re going to vet it. . . Josh had never given us any indication not to believe his story. He’s been a kid of very high character for us, a team leader, elected team captain. I had no reason not to believe him.”

Neither the L.A. County Fire Department nor Sheriff’s Department in Palmdale (where the story took place) got an emergency call about a drowning (which they claim is highly unusual) but Shaw’s sister made a statement she didn’t let anyone know because her boy was breathing fine after he was saved.

Prior to websites (and other informational sources on the Internet), it used to be the media that did the vetting process. Stories never made it on the air or in print until multiple sources (at least two or three legit ones) were verified. “Get it right,” not “Get it first” was its motto. In the age of the ‘Net, what we see on it, we take as the gospel (especially if it supports what we believe and/or tears down the beliefs of others with whom we disagree). That’s probably why sites like came along. Not to say that what Shaw claims happened did not but it sure looks like someone (everyone?) may have jumped the gun.

Seemingly, at the forefront of the confusion was a story (in USA Today, updated at 9:02 pm EDT yesterday) that came from the Public Information Office at the LAPD. It said there had been a burglary that occurred at 11 pm the past Saturday at the residence of Josh Shaw’s girlfriend. However, while fitting the description of the perpetrator (male, black, with dreadlocks), Josh Shaw was said not to be a suspect.

Then, in an updated (10:19 pm) story from, the LAPD said there was a report involving a Saturday night break-in at a downtown apartment building and a Joshua Shaw was mentioned. Once again, he was not as a suspect.

An additional twist occurred at 11:39 pm in which police, who had responded to a call, were interviewing witnesses who told them they’d seeing a man running across third-floor balconies. The witnesses gave police a general description of the individual. It was disclosed that later in the evening, a woman, upon hearing the description, said it sounded like her boyfriend. When asked what his name was, yeah, you guessed it: “Josh Shaw.”

Oh boy.

Let’s go back to yesterday’s post on this blogosphere about how everyone today owns a “camera” by way of their cell phone. Since that is, in fact, the case, Josh Shaw had better pray someone shot video of his dramatic rescue. Or that no one shot . . . anything that would ruin his heroic act. Or career. Or, to take it all the way to a dramatic, and tragic end, his life.

Having been in college basketball for 30 years, a statement that always bothered me, one that usually dealt with a problem with a player, and usually wound up being the kiss of death (although I truly hope is only false fear on my part in Shaw’s case), were the very first words out of Steve Sarkisian’s mouth when he addressed the media regarding the situation with Josh Shaw:

“He’s a good person. He’s a good kid.”

Sometimes Progress Can Bite

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

There once was a time when average citizens would be absolutely blown away when their favorite celebrities (or those they despised) got caught on camera by paparazzi. People would wonder how those disgusting little slime balls aspiring professionals could be at the “right place at the right time.”

The paparazzi is (are?) still around doing their dirty little deeds but no longer do they have exclusive rights to pictures and videos, not only of celebrities, but of . . . anyone. That’s because everybody has a cell phone, and it seems, every cell phone can double as a camera. What does this mean?

Sure, we’ll get even more pictures of celebrities on vacation – sometimes at secluded places - but now videos enter the equation. Jerry Jones got a taste of a disgruntled (or perverted) fan when he, allegedly years ago, got caught “posing” in some perverted actions (or horny actions if they were done while he was inebriated) of his own. Luckily for JJ, pics only.

Sometimes these shutter bugs just snap business that’s none of their business, like the hat that James Harden wore to a Beyonce concert. Really? At what point in that person’s life, did he (or she, but probably he) say, “You know what would be fun? Going to the Beyonce concert and taking a picture of James Harden’s hat”?

On other occasions, pictures and videos of what people - famous or not - do can destroy them. Especially if the old “deny, deny, deny” is their main defense. It used to be “someone’s word against someone else’s word” when charges of misbehavior were brought up.

Ray Rice found out the hard way and, according to those in the know, that video of him dragging his then-fiance and now-wife out of an elevator after he KO’d her might be the best thing that happened to him. He saw, as did the rest of the nation, what his coaches had preached to him ever since he began playing football, “The film don’t lie.”  All indications are he’s “learned what proper human behavior is” through mandatory sessions he’s done.

In another, more recent example, when questioned by the police, Michigan WR Csont’e York said that a man “pressed up on (teammate Da’Mario Jones) face to face exchanging words for no reason. I got (nervous) and scared about the situation so I hit the guy. I punched him.” In past years, maybe a guy punching another guy went unpunished because of “conflicting stories.”

However, those “stories” that used to be used – when somebody would find a good lawyer who would scream “THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!” – are over. Witnessing a video shot by someone in the vicinity (Google “Csont’e York and see for yourself - if you have the stomach for out and out thuggery), shows there is crystal clear video evidence of what really took place. York sucker punched him. And the punch knocked out a tooth, broke the victim’s jaw in three places and forced him to breathe through a tube for a short time afterward. Career over, case closed, arraignment set for September 8.

Violent behavior does not always end when a college career does. Tampa Bay rookie Mike Evans was involved in a brawl outside a club. And yeah, he too was subject to this millennium’s version of Candid Camera. “No excuses” is something that’s been heard in athletics regarding performance on the field or court. It’s extended to off of them as well.

Peyton Manning spoke about how, when he was young, their family used to eat with his dad who was a star for the New Orleans Saints and how, every now and then, people would recognize Archie and, maybe come up to say hello or ask for an autograph. Peyton spoke of how fondly he recalled those days.

A mind blowing stat is that more pictures have been taken in the last 12 months than in all of history up until last month. It’s all due to technology. They say it’s called progress. In cases ranging from one’s solitude to illegal behavior, it might be referred to as:

“The Lord giveth (knowledge to invent) and the Lord taketh away (privacy/blatant lies).”