Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

Will There Always Be a Place for Gossip in this Country?

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Here’s a quote from yesterday’s paper regarding the Jim Harbaugh hiring: “… two people within the university with knowledge of the negotiations told the (Detroit) Free Press on Monday evening. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because Michigan officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the coaching search.” If these people were “within the university” it probably means they are college educated. Maybe not UM grads but they got a degree from an accredited college somewhere.

Therefore, it’s not like they didn’t understand what “not being authorized to speak” meant because they knew enough to inform the writer they’d only speak if they were allowed to remain anonymous. So the question is, why? Are they rewarded in some way – cash, gifts, favors or just chits to be stored and used at a later date?

Earlier this season, I saw another example of how awfully easy (and fun?) it is to cast aspersions from relative anonymity when I read an article in which an anonymous NBA assistant said Kobe Bryant is more or less washed up, comparing him to a Washington Wizards-era Michael Jordan. Why not just keep that bit of juicy gossip to himself, at least until he was ready to come out publicly and say it? Probably because he’d rather tell his closest friends that the quote was his, getting attaboys from his buddies, while strongly denying it if anyone else attributed the line to him.

When a head coach is fired, usually there are – or had been, if the termination had been brewing – players coming to his defense. The coach-player bond is often as powerful, in some cases, more so, than that of a father and son. The final time the (by then) former coach and his players get to meet is usually an emotional one. Things said at that meeting are meant for the people in that room – and only the people in that room.

Although I have no first hand knowledge of what went on when Bo Pelini met with his former squad of Nebraska Cornhuskers, one of two things had to have happened. Either a disgruntled player (or wannabe player) surreptitiously taped Pelini’s comments or, because the meeting was held at a local high school in Lincoln, someone was tipped off and the room was bugged. Is there any other method the newspaper could have received an audiotape, as was reported?

Well, his detractors (and Pelini had a ton, many created by his brash style) would undoubtedly say, “He shouldn’t have used those words, period. It’s the reason he got fired in the first place.” To that I have two comments. One is simple and ought to be easy to relate to for those middle age and beyond of us: Old habits die hard. The other comment: Is each and every critic so pure of word and action that none of them would mind if any private conversation they had with friends were made public? Even the ones when two people might be slandering discussing a third party each of them know (and consider a friend)? How would anyone like it if that third person was privy to those comments?

I have said to my friends on numerous occasions, while we were having a private conversation, “Aren’t you glad this isn’t being taped? We would be open to some serious repercussions.” With all the snooping people there are, including as it turned out, our own government, is the Thought Police truly a myth?

After a recent game between Cleveland and Miami, LeBron James was shown talking to his close friend, Dwyane Wade, with his jersey over his mouth. Did you think James, who knows the ways of the paparazzi as well as anyone alive, was fearful of spreading germs to his former teammate?

Googling quotes on gossip I saw several profound ones but chose this one to share:

“People are probably not happy with their own lives if they’re so busy discussing yours.”

What, David Blatt, Worry?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Reports out of Cleveland have it that the Cavaliers’ 18-12 record is disappointing to Cavs’ fans, team members, the coaching staff and their fans. Duh. Also, the blame is said to lay at the feet of head coach David Blatt. Ditto duh. The fact that when Anderson Varejao went down for the season, the Cavs no longer have anyone who can “protect the rim” (a trait necessary to keep players from fearlessly attacking the basket), has escaped any reasonable strategical thought.

Let’s take a chronological walk down memory lane. When David Blatt was hired, he had been a highly successful professional coach in Europe. The hiring raised eyebrows in many communities (I’d imagine Cleveland being one of them), yet every one of my coaching friends who knew, or knew of, Blatt told me the guy was a phenomenal coach. None other than my former boss and friend of over 40 years, George Raveling, assured me that Blatt was the real deal.

After it was announced Blatt was hired, George told me he had previously witnessed the semi-final and final games of the European Championships. His summary of Blatt’s coaching prowess was something to the effect that, at those games, it was readily apparent his (Blatt’s) team was – by far – the least talented of the four. That they won the tournament was nothing short of miraculous. George Raveling has been around basketball 60 years so that put an end to any question I might have regarding whether David Blatt could coach.

It came as no surprise when Cavs’ General Manager David Griffin made the following remarks at the time of the hiring. “I have watched David’s work for many years. He has an uncanny ability to adapt his system to maximize the talents of his teams year after year. That is why I am very confident he will make a smooth transition to the NBA. There is a great opportunity to accelerate the progress of moving our team and franchise to the higher level of play we all believe we are capable of achieving. I am excited that the experience, knowledge, skills and leadership David will bring to the Cavaliers is the right fit at the right time.”

Another interesting development had taken place in the search for the Cavs’ next head coach. During the interview process, owner Dan Gilbert and GM Griffin (and possibly others in the organization) were smitten with one of the other candidates, Tyronn Lue, an assistant to Doc Rivers for both the Clippers and Celtics. Lue was a highly regarded assistant and it was apparent to “those in the know” that he would someday, soon, land a head coaching gig of his own. In fact, in Cleveland, it was common knowledge Lue had been the runner-up for the job Blatt landed.

Although Blatt had a resume chock full of success, none of it was accomplished in the NBA. The top brass highly recommended to their new head man that he hire Lue. The release from GM Griffin read, in part, “Over the past several weeks, it became clear that Ty could play a key role in our team’s future success. Ty fits our culture and vision for the franchise. His successful experience as both a player and coach is going to help us tremendously.” The Cavaliers then made Tyronn Lue the highest paid assistant coach in any sport – with a contract for 4 years, worth $6.5 million.

It certainly seemed like a sound move at the time. Lue could aid Blatt with the nuances of the NBA, as well as player-coach relations which most in the league feel takes on a different dynamic than anywhere else – or, for that matter, any other sport. Let the David Blatt/Tyronn Lue era begin.

But then, something rather unexpected happened. LeBron James decided to return to his roots, leave South Beach and resurrect the Cavs’ organization. When that dream became reality, the playoff tickets that were being printed when Blatt was hired, morphed into NBA Finals ducats. To say expectations escalated is akin to saying your kids’ excitement over visiting Six Flags heightened when you told them you decided on Disneyland instead.

On the college level (which I am in no way attempting to equate to this situation since there is so very little in common on the two levels), I experienced on one hand – and was an observer of another – somewhat similar events. Anyone who’s ever coached is keenly aware of the fact that when players (or parents) disagree with the head coach (playing time is one favorite topic), the upset party invariably takes up the problem with an assistant. Maybe it’s because they don’t like confrontation, maybe it’s because they fear repercussions, definitely because it’s easier, in any case, the go-between is the road more traveled. If nothing else, it places the assistant in an awkward position as the number one trait of a good assistant is loyalty. In four of my nine collegiate coaching positions, I was in that exact setting. Some more often than others, some in more difficult circumstances than others. I’m not saying the reported problems of the Cavs are that of Lue’s doing – just that he is stuck in the middle of an incredibly difficult scene.

The one instance I observed occurred when George was in a near fatal car accident which forced him to retire from coaching. As I had mentioned to the players during that interim year without George, USC is a fabulous institution but I went there for George, not SC, so at the end of the season, I’d be moving on. USC Athletics Director, Mike Garrett, took off the interim tag from Charlie Parker and named him permanent coach. When he did, he told Charlie he should give strong consideration to Henry Bibby to move into my spot. Sure enough, Charlie hired Bibby – and less than nine months later, Garrett fired Parker, in February, i.e. mid-season – and replaced him with Bibby.

In a June 26, 2014 article by Jim Cavan, a featured columnist for social media’s Bleacher Report, the writer said, “Paying Lue this kind of money isn’t just about rewarding a top-notch assistant; it’s about owner Dan Gilbert cleverly hedging against a very real short-term outcome: that Blatt, for all his basketball gifts, might not pan out.” LeBron didn’t make his decision to “go back home” until July.

Did Gilbert have a strong inkling his star would come back when he hired Lue? That’s a stretch considering how he treated LBJ when he left. Most people feel LeBron’s return had nothing to do with Gilbert – that he truly loves his roots and wanted his kids to grow up where he did, that his wife wanted to go to Cleveland, even that he felt Cleveland’s roster was more conducive to winning a championship than Miami’s. Maybe Gilbert’s a shrewd gambler or just a lucky man.

In any case, lost in the shuffle is a good coach whose reputation is about to get obliterated. Should he be let go, the old saying would be more true than ever:

“NBA coaches are hired to be fired.”

 

Why Is There So Much Bad News?

Monday, December 29th, 2014

As anyone who can read – or even just listen – is all too aware, negativity runs rampant in the news. “If it bleeds, it leads” was the motto a newspaperman coined over a half century ago and, unfortunately, times haven’t changed.

When it comes to understanding the Internet, I am the first to admit my shortcomings (and that’s generously giving me the benefit of the doubt). There is a reason I preface my remarks with that. It’s because my wife, Jane, mentioned to me she didn’t care for our local (Fresno, CA) news programs. Her complaint is that every night, on every channel, the lead story is about a murder or a shooting or a kidnapping or . . . you get my drift. I told her that it isn’t just the local stations that are like that. The national networks led with the same stories, only theirs are plural – murders, shootings, etc.

So I thought I’d try to find good news. I swore I could remember someone back in the 1980s who shared Jane’s feelings and decided to publish a newspaper that only printed positive stories. His feeling was people wanted to be enlightened before heading off to work. I believe it was located in Southern California, possibly in the Riverside area (I was living in Tennessee at the time but the memory of it is quite vivid).

I took to Google and, for the life of me, I couldn’t find hide nor hair of it anywhere. By no means, should cast any doubt that such a paper didn’t exist, only that I couldn’t locate it. (I think that might be a triple negative so in order to clear it up, the paper probably was real – if only to my imagination). What I did come across was one, possibly two, examples of something similar.

It turns out there were two such stories, both were on the same topic. The reason for my hesitation is they were from Russian newspapers. Both in December, only four years apart. Coincidence? You, the reader, can decide.

The first article I came across was in the publication, 24Sata (which, in Russian means 24 Hours – don’t be impressed, it was on the ‘Net). The AP story about the paper was on 12/30/2010 and had “stories about the rescue of a trapped dog, a hairdresser who cuts orphans’ hair for free and businessmen who defied the financial crisis.”

The other article (its date was 12/6/2014) was from the Russian news site The City Reporter, (I never could discover whether the two publications were one in the same) which asked its viewers, “Do you feel like you are surrounded by negative information? You don’t want to read the news in the morning? Do you think good news is a myth? We’ll try to prove the opposite tomorrow!

That was what the Rostov-on-Don news company announced to its readers (more like a “warned” them, as it turned out) the day before it launched the all good news reporting day. The positive news stories were “a smorgasbord of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.” Guess what happened? One of its editors posted on Facebook that it lost two-thirds of its normal readership that day.

By the way, if my recollection about that newspaper from SoCal I alluded to at the beginning of this post is, in fact, true, I also remember it closing down after a few editions.

Although it’s a terribly sarcastic attitude but, maybe the reason people enjoy others’ misfortunes is simply because they want to read or hear a story and be able to say:

“At least that schmuck’s life is worse than mine.”

Someone Needs to Explain to Manziel What “Walk the Talk” Means

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Just when we thought Johnny Manziel’s rookie season couldn’t possibly get any worse, he got fined yesterday for being late to a treatment for his injured hamstring.

During his college days he was as flamboyant a player as guys named Namath, Sanders and Bosworth. What Manziel didn’t seem to understand (and apparently, those close to him failed to point out) is that, while flamboyance can be a phenomenal trait on the field, as far as other aspects of a young player’s career, invisibility would be a wiser alternative. Then again, maybe his “peeps” influenced him into being the anti-Tebow because Tim’s squeaky clean image didn’t work out so great. The Browns were hoping he’d be the face of the franchise. Team Manziel seemed  to be more interested in creating a “brand” for the young QB – and the plan appeared to be going smoothly as his Q rating was higher than players who had actually accomplished something.

Since Manziel got drafted, he was constantly in the news – for all the wrong reasons. He had a penchant for the nightlife scene – was seen chugging champagne on an inflatable swan, hanging out with Floyd Mayweather, Tyrese and Justin Bieber, a picture of him making believe he was using a phone made up of a large stack of bills surfaced, as well as a picture of him in a Las Vegas restroom rolling what appeared to be a large-denomination bill. Social media couldn’t get enough of Johnny Football. His defense? He knew what work had to be done but that he had a life outside of football, too.

Johnny Football’s immature decisions were such a distraction, owner Jimmy Haslam had asked Manziel to “tone it down.” Boy, when the guy signing the checks tells you to cut back, that’s a hint and a half! As talented as Manziel is, no one ever compared him to a Manning, Rodgers, Luck, Brees or Brady. Since each of those men are known for having legendary work ethics, why wouldn’t anyone in the Manziel camp advise him they should be his role models?

A person doesn’t have to possess the football knowledge that Bill Belichick has (or that talk show hosts think they have) to know that off the playing surface rookie QBs need to spend as much time in the team’s facility as possible. They need to be working to strengthen their bodies (so when they finally get a chance to play, they don’t injure their hamstrings), wearing out the film room (because professional defenses are so much more intricate than what a quarterback sees in college), getting in extra reps with potential receivers to work on timing and doing other activities to improve his game. That’s why owners pay players and how players become All-Pros.

Manziel was recently quoted as saying, “I have to take this a lot more seriously. It’s a job for me now. I still had the college mindset a little bit.” The master of the understatement also stated, “I want to be the guy. That’s what I want to be for this organization. If anything, this has motivated me more heading into this offseason.” Are these better late than never claims or just more Johnny Football BS?

Since perception is reality, the bottom line for rookies – really for all professionals – is their focus needs to be to study, work and develop good habits. Independent of all that, Johnny Manziel needs to realize that, unfortunately for him, the old saying still applies:

“The greatest indicator of future behavior is past performance.”

Is This Peyton’s Swan Song?

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Peyton Manning announced he plans on returning to play for the Denver Broncos next season, making, I’d imagine, if not every Broncos fan ecstatic and, I’m sure, every Tennessee graduate – and fans who didn’t graduate or never even attended UT – out of their minds with delight. While he did answer the question about next year in the affirmative, he also prefaced it by saying that at that point he was thinking about the Raiders (the team’s next game) and “the game to follow that” (meaning the playoffs).

Although the groups mentioned above may be toasting Peyton’s announcement (along with Buick, DirecTV, Gatorade, Papa John’s, Nationwide, and, certainly, his agent), y’all might want to temper your enthusiasm a bit. Quite a bit.

If Denver doesn’t fare well this postseason – in Peyton’s mind, a Super Bowl championship (or at the very least, a strong showing in one where they come up a tad short) – it’s difficult to imagine him returning unless the franchise makes some positive roster changes. Because Peyton Manning is only having a good time if he’s winning. This year his team will finish with, at worst an 11-5 record and a near certain first round bye which qualifies as a good season for him, i.e. he has yet to play in a first round playoff contest for the Broncos, nor does he desire to. It’s not like he needs an another game to get extra timing work with his receivers or to keep in that every Sunday rhythm going.

On a personal note, let it be known that Peyton Manning and I have two things in common. One is that my wife, a distinguished UT graduate (in my eyes anyway), is extremely proud of both of us. The other is we’ve each had cervical disc surgery (the reader might not be aware of this factoid as his was more highly publicized than mine). Although football fans have been told of Peyton’s surgeries and think they understand the severity of his current situation, they don’t completely realize the risk he takes playing. It’s not just football; it’s the NFL.

If you are ever offered the opportunity to be on the sidelines of an NFL game, accept it. Don’t get too close to the action, though, just close enough to not only see, but hear the hitting. Seemingly, every new rule that’s been made is one that benefits Manning, e.g. there’s no way he’d be playing in his present medical condition if the rules that were in place when his dad was playing were today’s – the ones that applied to what defensive linemen and linebackers could do to quarterbacks or what DBs were allowed to do to receivers.

While Peyton’s surgeries were done years after mine, the procedure is quite similar. Peyton’s surgeon, cervical spine expert Dr. Rick Sasso, explained the third operation on Peyton’s neck in just 15 months like this, “The disc herniation is on the front of the nerve, so we go in through the front, take the pressure off the nerve, and then we distract that disc space where it belongs.” Identical procedure to mine. Full disclosure: My first surgery was on C 5-6, done in 1987, followed by three additional disc surgeries (another cervical, a lumbar and a thoracic). In all, I’ve had nine surgeries from my neck to my tailbone and have had a pain pump implanted in my abdomen since 2005 and have serious issues at each of the discs above and below my cervical surgeries.

Probably a better comparison would be former NFL linebacker and current FOX Sports analyst Coy Wire, who also had the same surgery Manning did. In an article for his employer, Wire wrote, “My most recent MRI showed the discs above and below the original damaged area are now pressing into my spine, and they cause me pain every day.” Amen.

So, . . . when does the risk exceed the reward for Peyton Manning? It has to be a combination of his innermost feeling that, not only if he plays his best, they can “win it all” but also a belief that his team can, “on any given Sunday” realistically beat the best teams in the NFL. This season might just be the one to see exactly how close, talent-wise, the Broncos are to the NFL elite squads. Whether he’s the best QB of all-time is up to personal opinion but that Peyton Manning has set the standard for today’s superstar quarterbacks is unquestioned. The highly publicized work ethics of current franchise Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, etc. can be traced directly back to Manning and his excessive and precise game preparation.

And, even if he is clutching that Super Bowl trophy on the last day of the season, don’t be surprised if there’s a (tame) bronco on hand for him to ride off in the sunset – while reaping megabucks hawking some product. Just remember:

“In a battle between the mind and the body, even when the mind is strong, the body eventually wins out.”

 

Imagination Leads Us Where We Never Thought We Could Be

Friday, December 26th, 2014

As with many families this time of year, ours is together (albeit briefly) during this holiday season. Younger son Alex, a junior combo guard for Cal State Monterey Bay’s basketball team, has a little time off before they continue conference play, while older son, Andy, who is an account executive for Kareo (a company in the health care IT industry) had three days in which he could make the (four-hour with no traffic, occasionally nine-hour with traffic) trip north from Newport Beach to Fresno. Putting his University of California-Irvine degree to good use, he and one of his roommates (who also is from Fresno) made the decision to depart Orange County at 4:00 am and got home a record 3 1/2 hours.

Throughout their lives, I’ve often asked our boys questions to stimulate thought. Since Andy, who turns 26 next month, is in the technology business – and I, by choice, possess nearly zero tech knowledge – I asked him if he could imagine his life without a computer. Without hesitation, he said, “Absolutely not.”

I reminded him that his mother and I had to do just that – and not by choice. We never had anything close to a computer when we were growing up (she in the South, me in the North). The fact that we would use a slide rule in upper level math classes is an item I felt would be better left unsaid. No need to make him think I was more of a Neanderthal than he already did.

The lesson was that the reason computers are now such an integral part of our lives is because somebody “thought there had to be a better way.” I then asked him what he envisioned life to be like in 40 years (our age difference). He said, as I did, he couldn’t even imagine. I related the time an inspirational speaker told me how he discovered what he considered to be the the best definition of the word imagination. His revelation happened when he asked a young girl what she thought it was and the little girl said, “It’s what comes after, ‘What if?’ ”

Combining that thought – and returning to this blog’s usual sports-related theme – here’s something that could send shock waves throughout baseball. Judging from the attitude of newly appointed Cubs manager, Joe Maddon (as well as the player acquisitions they’ve made), one thing that might change is . . . the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series. My reasoning for this optimism (the Cubs haven’t won one in over 100 years) is a quote of Maddon’s I read when he was manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that coaching is a copycat profession. Maddon’s philosophy is the complete antithesis:

“I get so annoyed when you get around a lot of baseball people and basically all they can do is regurgitate previous thoughts. They don’t think of anything original. Tell me a better way.”

Not All Colleges’ Weight Loss Programs Are Equal

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

In last week’s Sports Illustrated there was an article on the University of North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks, a talented but vastly overweight (317 pounds) big man. That’s a big man. The story explained the relationship between Meeks and the Tarheels’ strength coach, and how the big fella first had to surrender to his coach’s plan. Only then would the necessary shedding of pounds (47 of them) occur. The result would be well worth his efforts, however, eventually sculpting him into the dominant force so many believed he’d be when he entered college.

It reminded me of a similar story that occurred in Knoxville in the early 1980s when I was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tennessee (and, yes, it is in my book, Life’s A Joke). We had struck out on our main recruiting targets as far as big men went. There was a local kid from the Tri-Cities area who was rather short (6’5″) for a post player and, worse, was overweight. His positives were he was a very bright kid who had good footwork and had showed some promise when we saw him play. Keep in mind that this was pre-Charles Barkley, so we weren’t trying to imitate a plan that had proved successful elsewhere, as many college teams did post-Chuck. This was a gamble.

His weight, however, was a major problem. We were under no illusion that he would be any kind of factor in the SEC unless he were to follow a strict regimen of proper nutrition with our  trainer, Mike Rollo, who was one of the best in the business. Mike placed our freshman on a strict diet which was relatively easy to monitor because UT had a training table for players, coaches and trainers for all three meals. Yet, he was concerned. While the youngster faithfully followed the regimen, not only did he not lose weight, he actually gained pounds each time Mike would weigh him.

As I mentioned, he was a bright young man (an engineering major) – but he was one of those guys who wasn’t quite as smart as he thought he was. His explanation for his incomprehensible weight gain was that he’d always had a weight problem and that every time he’d go on a diet, he would gain weight. It had something to do with his metabolism, he told us, that the less he ate, the more he’d gain.

Needless to say, all of us were having trouble “swallowing” the tale of a medical miracle, . . .  especially after his roommate was overheard in the training room talking about the pizza his roomie had been sneaking in late at night.

As George Washington said:

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

 

Don Quixote Loses – Again

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

After my boss, Jerry Tarkanian, retired in 2002, I was faced with a decision. Where was I going to work? I had been in college basketball nearly my entire adult life – 4 as a graduate assistant at three different schools, 11 as an assistant at three other institutions, 8 as an associate head coach at two others and 7 as Tark’s director of basketball operations – for a grand total of 30 years at nine Division I universities. Working in the field that long, I had made friends and gained the respect of some, if not many, of my peers. I had two or three options to continue doing so.

Picking up and leaving wouldn’t be a challenge. After all, I had moved 16 times and lived in nine states since graduating from college. What was another one. It was only when Andy, our older son (who had just completed seventh grade – he was the president of his class), said, “Dad, do we have to move?” did I realize that nearly all of my moves came when I was single and childless. Now it would mean selling a house, buying another – in our price range and in a good school district for our rising 3rd and 8th grade boys, plus getting a job for my wife who had more than two decades of working for the federal government. All to chase the dream of, one day, becoming a head coach – with no guarantee that will happen. It’s not like, “OK, you’ve coached 40 years. Congratulations, here’s a college team where you can be the head coach.”

One of the coaches at Fresno State mentioned to me that, if I wanted to coach on the high school level, he had a great deal of pull at a local school that had recently dismissed its coach. More and more, the NCAA had been limiting practice time for college coaches with their players. What made coaching high school in California attractive was you could coach your team nearly every day of the year. I got that high school job and conducted practices in May and June – before I even started teaching. In late June while I was at my computer, filling out a form to take the team to Los Angeles for a summer tournament, I felt a sharp pain in my mid-back. It turned out to be a herniated disk (my fourth) that required emergency surgery – that kept me from living the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

The remainder of the summer was dedicated to physical therapy. I showed up for orientation walking with a cane. While that was excruciating, it wasn’t nearly as painful as hearing, as I did in each of the three meetings, that “teachers should document everything, as our parents are a very litigious group.” At the time I was also a member of the National Speakers Association and my main topic was “Team Building” – how the number one characteristic of any great team is trust. My new employers were telling me I should document everything while I was getting paid to speak to groups, often quoting Stephen Covey’s line, “In a no-trust culture, you live in memo haven.”

Unwisely, I thought that my diverse experiences throughout the nation, in addition to my membership in NSA, would allow me to enlighten my new colleagues that maybe the trust thing, combined with hiring better lawyers, was a better strategy. Vegas would have given Don Quixote shorter odds against the windmills.

When No Child Left Behind became the new (mainly political) rallying cry, our school district, consisting mostly of upper middle class families, decided that a necessary addendum would be, “Every student should go to college.” Only not every student in our school wanted, needed nor should have gone to college. It was almost as if the district powers were saying that other schools, the ones that didn’t measure up to us in standardized test scores and such, ought to be supplying the cashiers, bank tellers, plumbers, painters, roofers, auto repairmen and all those other vital professions that many of our kids would have been superstars at, if we’d only helped encourage and train them.

That motto was expanded by a new superintendent (who was as egomaniacal as any “leader” I’ve encountered – and, not shockingly, lasted a year). He pompously made the statement that every student was to take at least one Advanced Placement class during his or her four years in high school. Heck, we had some kids who couldn’t even spell “AP.”

What brought on this blog was an article on Albert Einstein I read last night. One of his life lessons was entitled, “We are all born geniuses but life de-geniuses us.” Beneath it read something I wish all the administrators at that school district would highlight and place on their desks, mirrors and refrigerators. In fact, I forwarded it to several of the teachers from the district, with the hope they’ll pass it along. It said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

 

Sometimes You Just Need to Admit When Someone’s More Popular than You

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Longer than usual basketball weekend in Monterey. This blog will return Tuesday, Dec. 23.

As stated in this space on numerous occasions, “technologically challenged” is a term that could be used to describe me, except other technologically challenged people might take offense if they ever caught a glimpse of me on an everyday basis. “Hey, no way I’m as bad as him!” I can almost hear them now.

So, many years ago, when a friend of mine was assuring me that entering into the “modern” method of communication, i.e. email, was going to be easy, I mentioned nothing involving tech was easy for me. First, we had to decide what our new “address” was going to be. Since our older son, Andy, was pretty clever – and possessed computer skills – Jane and I thought it would be a good idea to have him decide what the new “family” email address would be.

Andy thought about it and said, “How about ‘aajjbball@aol.com’? It would stand for andy, alex, jane, jack, basketball.” Are you kidding me? Who’s kid is that brilliant? Did I fail to mention that, at the time Andy came up with this sensational idea, he was eight years old. It didn’t take long before we realized that, while allowing an eight-year-old to come up with an email address is a wonderful example of “today’s parents” empowering their child, it would cause major grief when people asked what our email was and it took 3-4 minutes to explain it to them so they’d get it right.

Shortly thereafter, it didn’t take long to realize I needed my own personal email and told my friend I just wanted something simple. We decided on jackfertig@aol.com. Perfect! Only then, he told me there was a glitch. Someone was using that email address.

I knew immediately. When I was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee in the mid-’80s, there was a period of about two weeks in which I received in the mail (the kind the post office delivered) around 20 copies of the National Enquirer, the original tabloid rag, from coaching colleagues all across the nation.

Apparently, there was a guy in San Francisco who was a cross dresser – at that time, he dressed as a nun, and called himself Sister Boom-Boom. The guy’s real name was, you guessed it, Jack Fertig. I always wondered what all those basketball coaches were doing reading the Enquirer.

Well, my old nemesis once again appeared (invisibly) to cause me grief, only this time it was because he had used the email address jackfertig@aol.com. Would such a minor setback like that stop me? Absolutely not. I told my friend I’d use fertigjack@aol.com.

And that is what my email address remains today. Nope, no zoho or yandex for me (I just looked those up and have absolutely no idea what in the world they are. I’ve heard of hotmail, yahoo and gmail but that’s too radical for me. Besides, I don’t want to jump into anything too quickly. For many years I held firm to the belief that:

“Computers were just a fad and people would get over them.”

P.S. If you Google “Jack Fertig,” the first two links are for the “other” Jack Fertig. And he died over two-and-a-half years ago.

Opinions on Lady Vols

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Since 2012 when the University of Tennessee combined their men’s and women’s athletics departments, the subject of rebranding has been discussed, i.e. calling both men’s and women’s athletics teams the Tennessee Volunteers, as opposed to the women having their own Lady Vols logo. The university is making the transition from Adidas apparel to Nike and based on the results of a branding audit run by Nike, the move will be implemented starting on July 1, 2015. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement, “Brand consistency across the university is critical as we strive to become a top 25 public research university.”

WAIT! Is the chancellor actually saying that the “Lady Vols” logo/nickname is keeping UT from being a top 25 public research university? C’mon, man! If you really think that by changing a name you can become a top 25 public research university, then just change your name to “the University of Michigan.” Actually, in a move that has alienated the women’s teams, much of UT’s fan base and Christine Brennan (more on her later), the chancellor went on to say the name change at UT is for all women’s teams except for the women’s basketball team “because of the accomplishments and legacy of the championship program built by coach Pat Summitt and her former players. The Lady Volunteers nickname and brand is truly reflective of coach Summitt and her legacy and will continue to be associated with the Tennessee women’s basketball team.”

For those of you who are unaware, Pat Summitt’s teams won eight (8) national championships in women’s basketball and made it to the Final Four 22 times, while winning 1,098 games, more than any other Division I coach, man or woman. But she accomplished much more than that. Pat Summitt is an icon on the Tennessee campus. She instilled a pride on the distaff side. Female athletes in other sports feel as Jennifer Bailey, a member of the UT rowing team, does. “It’s not just basketball or any individual sports team. It’s all of us together who are the Lady Vols,” said Bailey. By allowing the women’s basketball team to retain the name, basically, Cheek was saying that if any of the other women’s teams have a gripe . . . well, they should have done better.

One female who is (almost) on board with the name change is USA Today columnist Christine Brennan. Brennan wrote an article saying Tennessee was finally catching up with the rest of the country, yet excoriated the university for allowing the women’s hoops squad to continue to be called Lady Vols, a moniker she feels is antiquated, discriminatory and demeaning. The university is “mistaking sexism for tradition,” according to Brennan. Are the numbers listed above (championships, Final Four appearances and total wins) not about tradition – which she belittles, going so far as comparing UT’s decision to keep Lady Vols to that of the Washington Redskins.

Brennan seems shocked when quoting Natalie Brock, a former Tennessee softball player and now an assistant coach at Missouri-Kansas City. “It was something different than anybody else had,” Brock said of the Lady Vols nickname and logo. “We had our own identity.” Brennan is incredulous of Brock’s passion, that she “would look back so fondly on a name that mandated her team be seen as something less than the whole.” I’d love to be in the audience when Brennan tells the more than 100 female athletes who signed the petition started by the (until 2015) Lady Vol swimmers how wrong their beliefs are.

I worked for seven years at UT as a men’s basketball assistant coach, often hand-in-hand with women’s basketball in such areas as practice scheduling and coordinating recruiting visits. It wasn’t uncommon for Pat to call and say, “Jack, this is a big recruiting weekend for us and you told me it is for you, too. Why don’t we tailgate together.” In the early ’80s I was asked to give a recruiting presentation to the entire women’s athletics department at their annual retreat in Crossville. I can’t recall how I referred to their respective teams but I do remember it was well-received and at least I wasn’t informed that I offended anyone.

There’s something special on that campus that can’t be torn apart by calling men’s and women’s teams different names or by calling selected women’s teams different names. Jimmy Cheek is the chancellor and making tough decisions is his job. Is he right? I’m not sure (and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t sure, either). Christine Brennan is a columnist and educating readers by sharing her opinion is her job. Is she right? I’m not sure (but you can bet she knows she is).

Although I’ve been gone from UT since the 1987, I still have many friends there and, most important of all, live with a lady human (who is also my wife and the mother of our two sons) who graduated from UT. Amidst all of this name changing controversy, we would like to know:

“Is it still OK to call it Big Orange Country – or has that been rebranded too?”