Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

When Critics Cross the Line

Friday, December 16th, 2016

In the book about the history of ESPN (These Guys Have All the Fun), there’s a story how Tony Kornheiser and Monday Night Football. On one side were those who felt Kornheiser wasn’t enough of a “football guy” to be in the booth, that he didn’t particularly like to prepare (certainly as much as the “football guys” did), that he liked being more spontaneous. In the story his comment was something to the effect that all of those jobs didn’t automatically have to be given to “jocks.”

History has proven him to be correct. There have been good people who weren’t ex-players who did an admirable job as an announcer or commentator – just as there have been former athletes and coaches who’ve bombed. There is another issue here that goes beyond what incensed Tony K. What disturbs me is the person who never played (but would have given anything to actually be good enough) who decided to make his mark (as far as I can tell, only men fit into this category) in the world of athletics, either as a newspaper writer (especially the columnist) or as a TV or radio personality.

It’s definitely not mandatory to have “strapped it on” to be in any of these professions but there ought to be some restraints on these people. Of course it’s all well and good to have an opinion and voice it as strongly as the person desires. With a caveat. If someone has never played, most certainly if he’s never played at the level he’s covering, criticism should never be personal. When a guy like Bill Simmons attacks Doc Rivers over a period of years, (except, of course, for the year the Celtics won it all), he’s behaving in such a way because he’s petulant, devoted fan – and Doc wasn’t doing the job his favorite team deserved. The team he rooted for so passionately as a child (and, to this day, still does).

In one article I read, Simmons was described as “a pioneer in the type of Internet sports coverage that is now the norm.” It’s the norm because there are so many wannabes, guys like Bill Simmons. Jim Rome was probably the first such cult hero – the guy who never played but was a superstar with words and putdowns. Those who were like him rallied around him and his schtik. He was doing what they wished they could do, i.e. what they wished after their initial wish – that of being an actual athlete – was ruled out as something not even divine intervention could make happen.

Rome was clever (as is Simmons and others like them). The issue I mostly have is not that they never played nor coached. It’s with the personal attacks. In fact, these media members usually know just enough to make intelligent second guesses comments. However, if you’ve never been a player or a coach, you can’t completely understand how much time those people devote to their crafts. Still and all, their job is to analyze and, for the most part, that’s what they do. Just don’t cross the line – and get personal. To hear somebody say about someone else “he’s garbage” is beyond what’s necessary. Save that inflammatory rhetoric for the guys who planted the bombs at the Boston Marathon or the crazies who shoot up schoolchildren (and I fully realize there are folks who are offended if we refer to those deranged people as “garbage” but that’s another debate for someone else).

My recollection is that all of this began with Rome and his despicable statements leveled at athletes he, for whatever reason, disliked. Calling Pete Sampras, “Pete the chimp” and making horse sounds when he mentioned Steffi Graf’s name were Rome’s way of mocking what he thought of their looks. Mainly he was speaking to his loyal followers whose lives were so unappealing their motto was, “Strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.” Rome’s most famous “put down,” as we all remember, was calling Jim Everett, “Chris” – over and over. It almost got him “put down” – by Everett, who the discipline, not to mention if he hadn’t, he’d have been up on a murder charge (many of us would have voted for “justifiable homicide”).

These types of attacks are pure venom. And, unfortunately, there are many people who feel so poorly about how their lives have turned out, or what their future looks like, that hating someone else becomes their source of enjoyment.

Leave it to Elvis to have the last words:

“Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.”

Anyone Who Complains About Newton’s “Suspension” Should Not Be Allowed to Be a Parent

Monday, December 5th, 2016

A pretty safe assumption last night was that any fan watching the Seahawks-Panthers game was shocked when Cam Newton stayed on the sideline for Carolina’s first possession. After much scurrying around (whew, lucky the network has sideline reporters), it was reported Newton was benched for a disciplinary reason: that the Panthers have a team rule that players are required to wear a tie when entering the arena – and Cam wasn’t wearing one (verified by pregame photos). To make matters worse, backup QB Derek Anderson threw a pass that was picked off and, eventually, turned into a Seahawks’ field goal.

Speculation ran rampant. “It couldn’t have been just for a tie. No one would be foolish enough to make such a petty move.” It’s bad enough the Panthers came into the game at 4-8, played in last year’s Super Bowl and Cam Newton is the reigning NFL MVP. But fans are fickle (there’s a candidate for understatement of the year) and, if given a chance, will voice displeasure at the drop of a tie hat. “If they were fighting for a playoff spot, that never would have happened,” could be heard at sports bars throughout America (and especially in North Carolina).

Naturally, that would come from a somewhat sensible supporter. “Rivera should be fired for suspending Cam. That one play cost the Panthers the game – or at the very least, got them down and put them in an early, unnecessary hole” would be a comment from someone several rungs below the fanatic ladder.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at it. If Newton violated a team rule, what’s wrong with punishing him for one play! Next, the pass should have been caught. OK, the receiver deflected it, allowing for an easy interception. Seattle did capitalize but only for a field goal. It wasn’t like it was a horrendous throw, resulting in a pick-6. Newton was back on the field following the kickoff, so it must have been predetermined and not a surprise to the Carolina organization.

With all the criticism today regarding parents being fearful of disciplining their children, the action Rivera took should be applauded. When an NFL player is held accountable, whether it was truly for a dress code violation or something more serious, the action taken should be applauded.

Anybody who’s upset that Cam Newton was suspended for one play – in a game the Panthers lost by 33 points - should have their parenting license revoked. If they don’t have children, they should reconsider if they plan on it. Especially at 4-8, it would have been easy to look the other way (assuming it was due to not wearing a tie). Independent of what caused the move, this country won’t fold due to lack of discipline. More because of the opposite.

Or as Clara Barton said:

“The surest test of discipline is its absence.”

A Brief Post on Athletics and Race

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

After reading a negative article about sports and race, I paused to reflect on how much athletics have changed since I began playing sports way back in the 1950s. Sure, the skills of today’s athletes have drastically improved, as has the coaching, equipment, playing surfaces and officials. Well, maybe not the officials. In addition there have been advancements in areas more or less unknown to those of us who participated long ago. Nutrition, flexibility and strength training (beyond the free weights we had) have turned athletes into performance machines.

As far as the race factor, I grew up in New Jersey which, unknown to me at the time, meant not being involved with was going on in the South. It wasn’t until the mid-’80s (I was in my mid-30s), when I was speaking with someone a few years younger than I was who grew up in Alabama. We were talking about our childhoods when she mentioned something about separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks. I was floored. I’d th0ught that has happened in the ’30s or ’40s.

Since my career choice was coaching basketball on the college level, I’ve spent my adult life working with, certainly when it comes to the players and their parents (especially during the recruiting process), many more black people than white. While there’s no way I claim to be an expert on race relations, I can shed some light on the subject based observations I’ve made over the past half century.

Here’s something that crossed my mind as I considered my experiences in athletics – as a player, coach and fan. Although the following example might not prove anything, ask yourself this question. When a fight breaks out in a game – even when the fight’s between a black player on one team and a white one on the other, don’t the players always align by team as opposed by color?”

Call me what you will but I like to think:

 “Athletics UNIFIES the races more than DIVIDES them.”

How in the World Can Anyone Deny that Football Might Not Cause Head Injuries?

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

It took me a long time but last weekend I finally got around to watching the movie Concussion. One of my nine Division I basketball stops (my first full-time gig) was at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. It was during the 1976-77 season – right during the heart of the Steelers’ dynasty. I didn’t know Mike Webster but, like everybody in the ‘Burgh, we all felt we knew all the guys who played for the World Champs. So, when Webster’s tragic story became public, to all of us who were fans of the Steelers, it was like one of our family members was suffering.

While an argument could be made for “Iron Mike” as the best NFL center, his legacy has become that of the poster child for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). One poignant moment from the movie was when the audience was told approximately how many violent hits to the head Webster had endured throughout his football career. As more and more former players were discovered as having contracted CTE, it became all too apparent that, although football is such great entertainment for so many of us, playing it certainly takes a toll on the players’ bodies -and especially to their heads.

Recently, a survey was taken regarding football and one of the questions was “Are head injuries a serious problem in football?” 5.7% of the respondents answered no. My first thought wasn’t that such an overwhelming percentage realized how serious the issue was. It was incredulity that 5.7% actually believed it wasn’t true.

Then I saw the following quote on a story in the November 17 issue of Yardbarker. It was from Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. “I recently I had a CAT scan done . . . under an assumed name,” the Cowboy’s top man said. “Afterward, the radiologist said, ‘I noticed your age. The reason I came down – and here he called me by my assumed name; he didn’t know who I was – was that you have the brain of a 40-year-old.’ My other doctors were in the room; so was my wife. I’ve got some witnesses. The point is, I was a fullback and a pulling guard. I used my head all the time, and I played football a long time. And that had no impact.”

And that alone is proof enough for Jones that there is no link between football and brain injury. So much for research.

All I could think of was:

“Lord, help us all.”

Leaders Have Different Styles

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

If a poll was taken asking Americans who the greatest leader ever is/was, it’s relatively obvious there would be no conclusive winner. However, should one prerequisite be that the person had to have been a coach, there’s a good chance John Wooden would lead be the leading vote getter. On a personal note, my two years as a graduate assistant at Washington State (1973-75) coincided with Coach Wooden’s last two years at UCLA.

Many people tell stories of how Coach Wooden never forgot people he met and how gracious and warm a person he was. I happen to be living proof of that. It was universally known that, not only did Coach Wooden attend every UCLA home game after he retired, but exactly where he sat. Since his seat was directly in line from the visiting team’s bench to its locker room, I always made it a point, during my four year stay at USC (1991-95), to stop by and “pay my respects” to the greatest college basketball coach – and, arguably, the greatest coach of any sport – of all-time.

The first couple times the conversation was identical. “Coach, I’m Jack Fertig. Just wanted to say hello.”

“Oh, I know who you are, Jack,” was his reply on each occasion. Actually, there was an incident in 1974 when one of the Bruins’ players misplaced his national championship ring and thought he’d left it in the locker room at the Performing Arts Center on our campus at WSU. Possibly because I was the only single coach on our staff, I happened to be the only coach left at the arena after the game. I was asked by the UCLA staff to check with our custodians. After an exhaustive search, we couldn’t find it anywhere. When I got to my apartment later that night, I got a call from one of their coaches, apologizing for the inconvenience, that the kid had left the ring at the hotel.

Whether or not he actually remembered a 25-year-old grad assistant or not, it was a pretty special feeling. The next two years, I tested him by simply saying, “Good to see you again, Coach,” as I shook his hand.

Incredible as it may sound, he responded both times with, “Nice to see you, too, Jack.”

What Coach Wooden accomplished at UCLA is unparalleled. Because of the way the NCAA Tournament is run today, e.g. 68 teams, multiple teams from conferences, teams not assigned by region only, no coach will ever approach his record (10 NCAA Championships in 12 years). Yet, it wasn’t not only his coaching prowess that defined the Wizard of Westwood. Consider that he won the Player of the Year award (1932) as well as numerous Coach of the Year awards and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player (1960) and a coach (1973).

Many of his leadership ideas have been published in the books detailing his life and coaching career. The following is a list from Wooden’s Wisdom – Personal Coaching and Mentoring from one of America’s Greatest Teacher/Coaches (Vol 5, Issue 262) – an email I receive every week or so from Craig Impelman, one of Coach Wooden’s sons-in-law. It mainly applies to ending practices and conversations.

  1. You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.
  2. Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
  3. Listen if you want to be heard.
  4. What is right is more important than who is right.
  5. End on a positive note.

It doesn’t take an expert analyst to notice the difference between Coach Wooden’s style and that of our newly elected president. Yet, Coach Wooden understood the team was infinitely more important than the individual and that the only way to achieve goals was through teamwork. It’s unfortunate that, as a country, we haven’t been able to put aside differences – as vast as they may be – for the betterment of the country. In the past it was the Republicans doing what they could to ensure Democratic failure. Now, it’s like it’s the Dems chance to undermine their “opponents.” President-elect Trump’s campaign message was the polar opposite of Coach Wooden’s strategy, although much of what he’s done since winning the election has been in direct contrast to his previous rhetoric.

I don’t claim to have known John Wooden any more than anyone else but one thing I learned from, and about, him was little can be accomplished without teamwork. To borrow one of his many phrases, the attitude the people of our nation need to adopt is:

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Facing a Medical Dilemma

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

For those readers (probably most of you) who don’t know my medical history, to date, I’ve had 10 surgeries related to my back and the chronic pain that accompanies it. I say most because I’m not that high on people’s list of things they’ve heard, read or stored away. Yet, because I have put fingers to keyboard regarding this topic on so many occasions, I do know of several people who understand what I’m going through due to the fact that they are close to me, are living in similar circumstances (hence, I get the empathy vote) or happen to be (don’t ask me why) interested in past information I’ve posted or the manner in which I’ve posted it. The condition I suffer from is degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis, characterized by sharp shooting pains which begin in my low back, move into my hips, glutes and down my hamstrings. In any case, my medical life just got a tad more complicated. Chronologically, here’s my most recent timeline.

On October 5th, at Stanford’s Pain Management Center (where I’ve been a patient since 2005), I underwent a procedure called a caudal epidural, which injects both a long-lasting steroid and an anesthetic into my lower back. The goal is to reduce inflammation and irritation to the area that impinges the nerve. At the risk of presenting TMI, my first surgery was the removal of the C5-6 disk (1987). Three other such surgeries were performed, in order, at L4-5 (1989), C4-5 (1995), and T10-11 (2002). That final laminectomy is the one that has caused all of my grief – and has led to five of the other six surgeries (the lone outsider was an emergency bone graft following C4-5).

What follows, assuming (and it’s a large assumption) you’re still present, is the purpose of this post. While maybe not an identical situation to mine, you may have experienced something similarly as awkward.

The hope for the caudal epidural steroid injection was that I would experience immediate – and, hopefully, long lasting – pain relief, by expanding the space at the irritated and inflamed area (as I understand it). Alas, my relief ended after about three weeks. Stanford Pain Management encourages patients to add the app, Stanford my Health, as a method of communication between patients and their doctors/nurses. After the relief waned – and the pain returned as annoying as before – I sent emails to both the doctor who administered the shot and my most recent pain doctor (whose patient I’ve been for approximately the past 5-6 years). The site claims someone will get back to the patient within a day or two.

Several days went by and, not being very tech savvy, I thought maybe I’d screwed something up. So I returned to the site and, although there were no emails for me, my two were in the “sent” file. I sent a couple follow ups, once again saying the meds had worn off and wondered if I could get another shot and, if so, how long I’d have to wait. If not, was there another action that could be taken?

Three of my surgeries were 1) the implanting of a morphine pump, 2) fixing said pump and 3) replacing it when the pump went “EOL” (end of life). In the pump (which is set and controlled by the doctor and nurse, i.e. I have no capability to increase or decrease the pain medication) are small does of morphine and the latest and, supposedly, last medication allowed for pumps, something so powerful it’s administered in micrograms, as opposed to milligrams. I take no oral pain medication, mainly because they make me constipated – to the point where whatever decrease there might be in pain isn’t worth the difficulty that occurs with constipation.

Again, no replies. I checked the website and it instructed patients who emailed and didn’t hear, to call the pain management center. When I did, I got a profuse apology and was told the doctors and nurses were being contacted and I would be receiving a call. More days went by with no response, so I placed another call. Another sincere apology and this time, I was told that, if I didn’t hear from somebody, I should call again and would be directed to someone with whom I could file a complaint.

Believe it or not, still nothing. Yesterday, at 3:00 pm, I called and was told someone from customer service would be getting in touch with me very shortly in order to assist me in filing a formal complaint. What was the best number for them to get a hold of me? “The same number you’ve been calling me for the past 12 years – the one that popped up on your end” was the answer that immediately came to mind but I managed to hold my temper and gave them my cell phone number. I mentioned that I’m retired, however, I was about to go to an appointment with my personal trainer and wouldn’t be available between 4-5 pm. Any other time between now and Thanksgiving would work. Don’t you know there was a call from Stanford at 4:30? While there are brilliant people at that institution, communication doesn’t seem to be their strong suit.

When I finally spoke to a very pleasant woman from their customer relations department, I explained I was fully aware that they had thousands of patients. Then I added, with a smile that I’m certain came through the phone, yet not so jokingly, that I was the only one of those that I cared about. She began by offering an apology. I told her if apologies were an answer to pain, Stanford would have cured me by now. She laughed – and apologized again – but caught herself in mid-sentence. She told me her job was to not only start the process of filing a formal complaint but, also, to insure someone from their medical staff got in touch with me.

I began by saying how difficult a position I was in. When you have chronic pain, the pain is basically all you think about. It controls your life. Anything that can be done to divert attention from it is welcomed but, inevitably, your thoughts return to whatever is causing you discomfort. The last person you want to upset is your pain doctor. Wouldn’t a letter of reprimand in their files – or some other punitive action – be counterproductive to my “endgame?” She assured me the main goal was to have someone contact me so I could get some answers. I concluded our call with a line I read many years ago:

“An apology that is not followed by a change in behavior is an insult.”

What’s next? Rest assured, I’ll let you know – and my hope is it’s sooner rather than later.

An Imperfect Ending to a Fun Mini-Vacation

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Ever since we retired, Jane and I have been traveling – a couple week-long vacations to exotic or historical destinations, plus every weekend for the past four years during basketball season, watching younger son, Alex, play for Cal State Monterey Bay. Well, Alex graduated in May (his hoops career continues in Australia), leaving us nowhere to go from November through March.

When Jane told me her sister’s son, David, was playing bass guitar with Amanda Shires and they’d be in Los Angeles Thursday, I realized we hadn’t been out of town in a while – and didn’t have anything planned for the foreseeable future. The last time we saw our nephew perform was last year in Santa Cruz (prior to a two-game home stand for the CSUMB) when he was backing up Patrick Sweany and it was a blast. I started connecting some dots, called our closest friends from my days at USC and asked if they’d be available for dinner Thursday (they were). Then checked in with older son, Andy, and asked if he and his girlfriend would be able to have dinner Friday. We hadn’t seen them since the day we drove Alex to LAX in late May for his flight to Brisbane. If you’re an empty nester, you’d understand it was definitely past due.

Everything went as great as expected – a couple wonderful dinners, an awesome performance and, after seeing Andy yesterday morning, we took off for the five-hour drive home from Newport Beach. Full disclosure: my back pain has been escalating recently, I was put on a different drug and it made my nervous system, which is “on edge” anyway, freak out even more. One of the biggest issues is how my sleep patterns are affected, as in I can’t get to sleep at night until the wee hours – even with meditation, relaxing music, yoga breathing techniques, sitting in a glider (which always had done the trick in the past) and other various methods of calming down. After a few days of sleeping between 1-3 hours (and maybe a 20 minute nap during the day but no more), I finally got 11 hours sleep Friday night, waking at noon. It wasn’t enough. I still felt tired.

On our trip home, we encountered little traffic. We needed gas and I hadn’t eaten since our feast the night before. I figured the car’s (and my) tank could make it to just south of Magic Mountain – to a favorite Italian restaurant of ours. Usually I would get the gas part out of the way first but since the station was located on the south side of the street, decided that it would be more practical to fill up our stomachs first, then get gas just before we returned to I-5N.

I ordered a chicken parmigiana sandwich but the waiter said they’d run out of sandwich bread (since it was 2:00 and they were getting ready for the dinner crowd) but I could have the dinner. It’s my favorite – so I went for it – the soup, sauteed veggies, pasta and chicken parm. More than I should have had for my first meal of the day. But, as many of us baby boomers were taught to do, I cleaned my plate. Gladly, I might add.

A couple minutes later, I was putting the nozzle in my gas tank which was, as I had planned, almost bone dry. Realizing it was going to take a while to fill it, I went inside to get a Diet Mountain Dew, my favorite caffeinated drink to liven me up some. Inside, I saw a display of big cookies. Jane’s favorite, oatmeal raisin, and mine, white chocolate macadamia, were both looking up at me, begging to be rescued from the rest. I made my purchases and walked out to the car to surprise my wife. When I flipped the cookie into her lap and buckled in, we laughed about how much of a sucker I am for something sweet after a meal.

Then, I put the car in drive and began our journey home, only to hear something hit the ground behind me. First the first time in over 50 years of driving, I forgot to remove and replace the nozzle. What I saw in my side view mirror was a hose on the ground, connected not to the pump where it should have been, but to my gas tank. Suffice to say I was no longer tired. Next, I did what I had to do – put the car in park, get out, remove the nozzle, with pump attached, from my car and place it where it belonged.

Then, with several other customers entering and leaving the store, as well as others getting gas, I made the walk of shame into the convenience store to tell the manager of my blunder. He said I needed to back up my car to the “scene of the crime” and wait for him. Naturally, by the time I got back to the car, another driver had pulled into the pump after mine, so I had to go all the way around to get there. As I was walking back inside, a customer yelled out to the manager, “Oh, wait, he’s coming in now.” Apparently, he thought I was “making a break for it” and was about to call the local police or Highway Patrol.

As I went back to the car, I noticed he was writing something on a piece of paper. While I sat in the driver’s seat, I saw him put a sign on the door and lock it. The sign said, “STORE CLOSED” – because he was the only employee on duty at the time. Now, there were at least 10 customers either getting gas or about to enter to purchase snacks or whatever. If it hadn’t been me who caused this mass confusion, the goings on would have been pretty funny – a guy shooing customers out of his store and locking out others in the middle of the day.

He came over with his little camera. I apologized for my gaffe. He explained he had been given a certain protocol for such a situation and that it happens more often than I’d think. Then he asked for my license and insurance card, took pictures of each, plus one of my license plate and the pump and disconnected hose. As he was snapping away, the lady at the pump opposite me said, “Oh, I have done that, too.” It may or may not have been true but bless her anyway. Really, I couldn’t believe there could be too many people that stupid – until the manager looked up and said:

“My cousin did the same thing here last week.”

A Solution for Explaining Playing Time to Parents

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Anyone who has ever coached has found that teaching skills to players and making in-game decisions is easy compared to one facet of the job he or she most likely didn’t consider when they originally entered the profession – parents.

30 years of coaching in college basketball and never getting a head coaching position was a major disappointment in my life and not just because it was one of greatest goals. Not being the top man meant I never got a break from being one of the prime targets for disgruntled players, fans, boosters, alumni, administrators and parents. The people in those groups feel much more at ease bringing their problems to an assistant because, well, it’s just too uncomfortable to confront the head coach and, besides, who better than to discuss with, i.e. complain to, than the guy who has the head honcho’s ear.

Actually, once such situation that occurred after my first year as associate head coach at the University of Toledo (spring of 1988) led to an epiphany. We’d inherited a 6’11” senior from the previous staff – a nice enough kid but as long as he was on inches, he was about that short on talent. He came into my office and, although his eligibility had run out, wanted to talk about playing time. It was evident he just wanted to get something off his mind that had bothered him the entire season, probably his entire career.

Possibly because he had nothing to lose, he came right to the point. “Coach,” he began, “I gotta ask you a question. I realize I’m not the greatest player in the world but was I really that bad that I couldn’t even get five minutes a game. I mean, three minutes in the first half and a couple in the second? Would I have hurt the team that much?”

Since we’d just completed a rebuilding year and our record was below .500, he felt he had an excellent point. In fact, he might have. That’s when it hit me. Distribution of points is something players see through their own eyes and parents think about only as it applies to their kids. Especially the ones who are at the end of the bench.

The following year every player we had on the team was from either Ohio, Michigan or Indiana. One tradition our head coach instituted prior to each season was a fall dinner for the team and their families. It just so happened every guy was represented with a family member. What our graduated center said to me months before had resonated so deeply, I asked my boss if I could have five minutes of the program. I was extremely grateful when he okayed my request.

When I got up, I had a manager hand out one small, blank piece of paper to each player’s family. I said, “Would only one family member (father, mother, step parent, sibling), doesn’t matter who, write down a number on that piece of paper. Please do not write your name or the player’s name. Just jot down the number of minutes per game you think your boy should play this season. For those who are unfamiliar, there are a total of 40 minutes in each game (not including overtime).”

Some wrote on the paper immediately, other families (some of them with the player) collaborated. I asked them to fold the paper in half and the manager collected them. As the manager totaled up the “requested” minutes, I wrote on the grease board behind the head table:

5 players times 40 minutes/game = 200 minutes of playing time

When the manager finished, I asked him to write on the board what the total amount was. “415” was the number he wrote. Later, he told me six of the papers had the number 40 on them – and some of the others weren’t that much lower.

While there was a reaction in the room because of such a disparity, it was relatively minor. I scanned the crowd, focusing on the parents, and pointed to the 415 and said, “This is our problem as a coaching staff.” Then, even though it probably did little to defuse any future problems, I pointed to the 200 and said:

“This is yours.”



Carroll Avoids Defending Another Controversial Decision vs. Pats

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Enough politics, back to sports.

Everybody remembers Pete Carroll’s pass call at the end of Super Bowl LXIX, eschewing a hand off to Marshawn Lynch, the seeing Russell Wilson’s pass intercepted at the goal line. Coaches get paid large dollars to make those decisions and Carroll is one who doesn’t mind taking a gamble and the subsequent heat that comes along when one backfires (which he did – and to this day – still does). Even if it means (possibly) out thinking himself and losing the chance to win back-to-back titles, Pete remains his own guy.

Last night he once again decided to go against more conventional strategy when his guys scored a late touchdown. The score put them up seven, meaning an extra point – while not as “automatic” as it was before the NFL moved the kick back, still, far easier to convert – would force New England to get into the end zone and convert a two-point play – just to send the game into overtime.

Carroll decided his club go for two. True, if they converted, the lead would be nine and, for all intents and purposes, the game would be over. But, if they weren’t successful – which they weren’t – a touchdown and an extra point would send the game into overtime. It didn’t seem like the wiser of the two moves at the time.

Both teams’ offenses were playing better than their defenses. It wasn’t like the Patriots were worn down or shorthanded. While I don’t have one of those percentage of success charts that coaching staffs carry into games – the ones that, mathematically depending on the score, tell coaches whether to go for one or two when leading by a certain amount at a certain time in the game – but I can’t imagine that with so little clock remaining, going for two in that situation would be the more prudent choice.

Sure enough, the Pats got the ball to the two-yard line and most people in attendance and watching were thinking they were in for extra football. Alas, the Seattle’s defense tightened and New England turned it over on downs.

Controversy averted. Once again, the old adage came into play:

“A good coaching move is one that works.”

Pulling Together Beats What We’ve Been Doing

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

So, the election ended and, lo and behold, the long shot pulled off a stunning victory. In what’s becoming more the trend than the exception, more than half the people in the country voted against both of the top two candidates, i.e. while the second place finisher (Hillary Clinton, in case you just returned from an early practice trip to Mars and hadn’t heard) lost the electoral vote, she pulled in more of the popular vote (the Dems have to stop using that strategy). However, because of goofball candidates gobbling up votes (if you think that’s an offensive statement, go to On Demand, assuming you’re a Comcast subscriber, and watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Season 3, Episode 26), Clinton’s camp also fell short of 50% of the ballots cast. This means that had either of the main characters in this reality show of an election won, more than half the country opposed them. Some mandate for an incoming prez.

The initial reaction has been disappointing. Clinton’s supporters are so shocked, they did what so many people in the same situation want to do. Revolt. Too many of these folks have already moved from stage one of grief to stage two – denial to anger. For the most part, Hillary Clinton’s backers were considered intelligent, at least educated – and I believe they are. It’s just that, when the person, or team, you’re pulling for is such an overwhelming favorite – and they lose – well, grief follows.

If only they would stop and think about a couple of topics. The first is – what would their reaction have been if, as expected, Clinton had won – and Trump’s supporters started protesting? Wouldn’t their feelings be, “Hey, our candidate won fair and square. It’s over. Deal with it and let’s move on!” Hopefully, they will get to stage five, acceptance, sooner rather than later. For the sake of the country, if nothing else.

The other core thought should be that Clinton did not lose because of the latest charges regarding her emails (which, by the way, the FBI cleared her of prior to Election Day). Consider all the outrageous statements he made that any sane person felt would have ended his chances almost before they began? Saturday Night Live skits in which “she” would ask, “Can we vote now?” because of his bullying rhetoric, such as attacking Gold Star parents, mocking a disabled man, insulting entire groups of people, i.e. voters, and, topping it off by objectifying women with such language that you’d think any woman – or man who had a wife, daughter, heck even a mother, would find deplorable. Then, just as the FBI’s 11th hour probe, a number of women came forth and accused Trump of sexual assault late in the campaign. Pause and take a breath, do you people still believe the FBI director was the major reason your candidate lost?

People voted more against the old for … change. Ironically, that’s exactly the platform our outgoing president campaigned on eight years ago. But the Republicans wouldn’t give him a chance. Why? Being black didn’t help. When people heard, immediately after the election, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell say, “My number one goal is to make sure he’s a one-term president,” race had to have been, at least, a part of it.

“No, Mitch, you’re number one goal is, or certainly ought to be, to represent the constituents of Kentucky.” Give the guy a chance! McConnell’s remark would be tantamount to a player who was a member of the school’s search committee for a new head coach, hearing the new hire was someone he did not want. After the press conference in which it was announced the coach signed a four-year contract, what would be the school’s and its boosters’ reactions be if the player publicly stated, “My number one goal is to make sure he doesn’t get renewed.”

People will claim that many of the changes President Obama wanted to enact would negatively impact the nation. Usually what that means is that the changes would negatively impact them. Really, when it comes down to it, don’t people vote for things that “follow their own personal agenda?” Maybe it’s a fatalistic approach but I’m not sure there exist that many magnanimous people out there. No president will ever be able to satisfy all the people and, as has always been the case, the loudest voices belong to the “anti’s.”

The prevailing position by many of those in the know is that the absurdities Trump spouted off during the campaign were said for one reason: to win! When asked about what they liked about candidate Trump, the average voter on the street would say, “He says things people think but don’t have the courage to say.” The message that rings loud and clear is, 0utside of not having a likeability or trust factor, is that there is a large segment of society that is tired about how politically correct the United States has become. Yet, when the rubber meets the road (as I blogged last Wednesday), there’s no way Trump can possibly put in place the borderline insane ideas he made during the race.

Since we’ve tried it the other way, i.e. divisive, why not try to unite? At my age I’m much more concerned about future generations than my own. Let’s make the best decisions for decades to come. Unfortunately, as a nation, we’re growing further and further apart. Our national motto seems to have been:

“I like hitting my head against the wall because it feels so good when I stop.”