Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

Jazz Fans Should Feel Shortchanged – for a Couple Reasons

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

As the (entirely too) long NBA regular season comes to an end, fans who attend games now get to witness what others, who only made it to contests at the beginning of the season, were deprived of. The early season fans shouldn’t feel too cheated, though, as the slight they are denied is watching reserves – sometimes for both teams – many of whom play in garbage time only early on, get the significant minutes they so yearn for.

For season ticket holders who attend every game (what is that, a dozen people?), this doesn’t apply because those folks obviously have quite a bit of money – and even more time. For those you who will only go to a game if you can score comp ducats, you have no complaint – because if you’re a freeloader, you take what you can get, when you can get it.

However, for all other fans (Warriors supporters excepted), is it fair to charge full price when second (or lower) teamers play most of the game? If the Utah Jazz is your favorite team, you might have two complaints. With only three or four games to go, not only are most of the playoff spots are taken but some of the first round match ups are known. The overwhelming odds are Utah is in the playoffs but, since they will play either the Warriors or the Spurs, the same odds apply to a first round elimination.

In last night’s game against the Clippers, they started their regulars starters so nobody in the Vivint Smart Home Arena could complain the home club was resting their main men. On the flip side, the Clippers took a different route, deciding to not only give the night off to their starters (and then some), but to allow them to stay home with their families (although Austin Rivers didn’t get to spend time with his dad who chose to go to work instead). In addition to young Rivers, there was no CP3, Blake, DJ, JJ (you know how good guys are when people know which guys you’re referring to without even using their full names). Occasional starter Wes Johnson put the number of Clips unavailable at six for the game in Salt Lake City.

How upset would you be if you paid to see how close to 100% Griffin is after his basketball injury, self-afflicted injury and suspension? Or if you wanted to see CP-DJ pick and roll lobs? Or if you’re a lover of pure jump shots – or a Duke hater? Well, for those of you who were upset at last night’s game and the skeleton crew the Clippers had the nerve to put on the floor, how do you feel about your hometown guys losing to such a depleted outfit? And making you stay an extra five minutes to not get the job done?

This just goes to show the old saying is still the case:

“Don’t complain about how bad things are; they can always get worse.”

 

 

Tyler Summitt’s Story Is Tragic

Friday, April 8th, 2016

For the period 1980-87 I was an assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. Back then it was the only school where it was necessary to mention be which hoops program you were part of. Since then UConn might be also fall under that category, although their men’s squad has several championships to their name so the difference in success between the two isn’t as vast a gap.

Pat Summitt was in her heyday, actually just at the beginning of the peak of her career (1987 was her first championship team), but few coaches I’ve worked with were as cooperative as Pat. Our staffs were quite close. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to get a call mid-week from Pat, alerting me to the fact it was a big recruiting weekend for them and wondering if our two groups could tailgate together? I’d  respond that since the weekend was just as important for us, a joint tailgate would be a terrific idea. A UT football weekend is a major selling point – an event - to a prospect – in any sport.

As far as practice times, it was simple. From October 15 (the first official day of practice), the Lady Vols had the 12:30-3:00 slot. Our time was 3:30-6:30. Occasionally, they’d be having a bad practice, the kind a head coach feels the need to continue. Never once in the seven years I worked there was Pat’s team on the floor one second after 3:30. In such a situation, she might summon a manager and tell her to find another gym for the ladies to continue but she respected the parameters set up prior to the season. On the other hand, none of our guys would ever consider wandering down at 3:20 or so to shoot on a side basket, lest they be stricken with the infamous “Pat stare.” It was a mutual respect.

I recall once we’d lost a very winnable game on the road and our head coach, Don DeVoe, was incensed. Following the game, he called for a practice the next day, Sunday, usually an off day for the team. As we were walking up the hallway to the main court, we could hear balls bouncing. “Damn,” Don said. “I forgot to check with Pat; I bet they have the gym.” Sure enough, when we got to the floor (in the old Stokely Athletics Center – the new state-of-the-art Thompson-Boling Arena was still a couple years away from being built) and there are Pat and her troops.

The first thing Pat said was, “Tough one yesterday, Don.”

Don responded. “Yeah, Pat, I totally forgot to check the schedule when I called for practice today.”

Pat simply said, “I completely understand. We’ve all had those games.” She called over one of her managers and told her to find another gym on campus – or close by – then instructed her team they’d be practicing there. The move was totally unnecessary but was done to save face for the men’s program.

Pat Summitt was the ultimate team player. Most, if not all, of the readers of this blogspace are aware of the fact that Pat was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Friends have told me that, although, she “has her days,” the disease is definitely progressing. If ever a negative could become a positive, it would be if Pat’s condition makes it unable for her to understand the gravity of the situation her only child, Tyler, faces.

Pat is closer to Tyler than anyone in the world. He was a fixture in the Lady Vols’ program from the time he was an infant. It wasn’t surprising he became a coach (having been a walk-on with Bruce Pearl’s men’s team before deciding to coach on the distaff side). After a couple years as an assistant at Marquette, Tyler was selected to coach the one-time powerhouse Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters, a program that had since fallen on hard times. He was all of 24 – two years older than his mother was when she was named the head coach at Tennessee (after the head coach abruptly quit).

His mom’s top assistant, Micki DeMoss, came out of retirement to give Tyler needed coaching and recruiting wisdom. While Tyler, who had married his high school sweetheart, learned so much from his mother, apparently he picked up a trait from his father as well. The Summitts divorced after 27 years of marriage. Those who knew the story attributed it to Pat’s husband’s wandering eye.

The latest news flash is that Tyler Summitt, having just completed his second season as head coach at La Tech, has resigned because of an affair with one of his players. The young girl is reportedly pregnant. Independent of the effort parents try to make on their children, temptations abound. Far be it from me to pass judgment on anyone, however, in this case, Tyler Summitt seems to have fallen prey to the late Robin Williams’ philosophy:

“God gave man two heads but only enough blood for one to work at a time.”

If this situation weren’t so sad, it might be funny.

It Wasn’t Like North Carolina Was Unaware of Villanova’s Switching Defense

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Going into the NCAA championship game, many commentators (especially those who were former players or coaches) remarked that North Carolina’s post players were so much bigger than Villanova’s inside guys. In addition, the Tarheels had more of them. Therefore, the wisest move for UNC would be to pound the ball inside. Whether or not observers ever played or coached, most all of them fully understood this concept. Usually, the closer in the shot is taken, the greater percentage it will be successful. Also, it serves the dual purpose of getting your team into the bonus sooner as well as placing your opponents’ big guys into foul trouble.

This strategy was no secret to fans, especially considering how many people were getting paid to talk about it. Two studio shows, at the arena, the crew actually working the game on the television side, the “homers’ crews” and all the radio stations, as well as print media gave fans as much information as they could handle. And then some. Throw in those on social media (not the lunatics but people who have a working knowledge of the game) and there aren’t too many aspects of the game, as in the only college men’s game left, a fan isn’t subjected to. And that’s just the ones educating English-speaking fans.

What made Carolina’s height advantage that much more of a factor is that ‘Nova’s defensive philosophy was to switch all screens (at least 1 through 4, meaning everybody but their only true “big man” – and often they’d even switch with him). What this means is that if UNC’s power forward were to screen for its point guard, Villanova would wind up with a 6’3″ player guarding somebody 6’9″. That’s giving up a half a foot! 

Why, then, wouldn’t North Carolina, with such a height advantage, roll that mismatch down to the block? The answer is rather obvious: they would. And they did. Just like the analysts said they would do. When this offensive execution took place, it wasn’t as if Jay Wright and his staff said, “Damn, their guy is six inches taller than ours – and he’s five feet from the basket.”

Seth Davis remarked at halftime that Carolina needed to take advantage of their mismatches and get the ball inside. Good observation but, even with his alma mater (Duke) bias against UNC (if you think that’s a myth, get a copy of John Feinstein’s new book), he had to realize Roy Williams had the same feeling.

Then why would Ol’ Roy not instruct his guys to exploit Ryan Arcidiacono guarding Brice Johnson – if for no other reason than Johnson was regarded as the Tarheels best offensive weapon? I watched the same game as Davis, and everyone else, and that thought went through my mind when I saw the switch. But upon a closer look, it wasn’t that easy. The little guy with the big name was totally fronting Johnson and working his butt off to make it look difficult to throw the ball inside. More than that, however, was the fact that the defender on the ball knew his buddy was in trouble and pressured the ball handler to make the pass that much more difficult. Then, because the Wildcats had played that way the entire season, the other defenders would slough off their men to shade the area where the passer wanted to enter the ball. It was executing a game plan at its finest.

A couple of times UNC would try to initiate the pass from straight on, lobbing it over Arcidiacono, a bad angle for such a post entry. The result was usually a turnover. There would be more weakside help when the ball was on the wing so, in essence, Villanova did whatever was necessary to force North Carolina to either force the ball in (a move that proved unwise) or beat them by passing to other open men who had better opportunities because their defenders were so consumed helping with the mismatch.

It was a good game plan that worked. Could Carolina have done something else to free up their big-on-little advantage? Perhaps. If they had been able to shoot better, would that have given them the victory? We’ll never know. After all, it was a one possession game so any one of numerous moves (or calls, as fans of the squad that comes out on the short end swear) could have swung the outcome the other way.

There is one old coaching adage anybody who’s ever owned a whistle will tell you when such a debate ensues:

“Whoever has the chalk (grease pen) last wins.”

Gary Parrish, Dermatologist

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Final Four weekend takes me away from this blogspace. But I’m sure I’ll have a multitude of stories and comments when this blog returns next Thursday, April 7 – give or take a day.

With every game of March Madness being televised, on four different stations, it meant there would be a plethora of studio shows to accompany them. Many new faces were afforded the opportunity to pontificate. Maybe it’s an occupational necessity but, when it’s their turn to speak, nearly every one of them sounds so . . . right. One of them, Gary Parrish, made a comment that forced me to rewind the show (yeah, I finally learned how to do that) to make sure I actually heard what I thought he’d said.

At the post game press conference following Villanova’s victory over Kansas, Bill Self made the statement that he has always felt the most difficult game to win in the NCAA Tournament was the game to get to the Final Four. Self lamented that, while he had been to eight Elite Eights, his record in those games was only 2-6. OK, that is a fact (even though his first one was a loss to North Carolina when he was the coach at Tulsa).

Self’s coaching resume is nothing short of spectacular. The following are some of his accomplishments: overall record of 592-188 (76%), twice National Coach of the Year, one National Championship, twelve straight Big 12 Championships (that one deserves to be read again), has had a 69 game home winning streak (currently, the Jayhawks have won 40 straight, best in the nation), is one of four active coaches (Pitino, Kruger, Calipari, the others) who have taken three different teams to the Elite Eight – and from 2006 to 2012 had the best six-year record of any men’s coach in Division I history (197-29).

On one of the many studio shows Gary Parrish made an absolutely incredible statement. He repeated Self’s 2-6 record in Elite Eight games and followed it with this criticism of the coach, “If Bill Self has a blemish, that would be it.” How Self feels about that statement I don’t know but, to me, it bordered on blasphemy. Maybe that’s not the way Parrish meant it to sound but it reminded me of the people used to say Dean Smith, Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams were great coaches but . . . couldn’t win the big one. I think Self meant it was really difficult – not that he considered it a flaw or a blemish.

First of all, who’s Gary Parrish? His name is preceded by “award-winning” so he’s got to have some cred. He’s from Mississippi and received an award for uncovering a high school football recruiting scandal. Also, his radio show was named #1. In Memphis. Somewhere I also saw he won an award, also in Memphis, for the “best hair.” Suffice to say his professional accomplishments fall somewhere between mine and Bill Self’s.

If, in fact, reaching the Elite Eight eight times but only winning twice is considered a blemish:

“There’s not enough Accutane in the world for the rest of us.”

Are the Warriors That Good or Facing Impending Doom?

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Last night the Golden State Warriors were up a couple after shooting miserably and displaying little concern for the ball. As the second half began, fans in Utah thought – maybe? The Jazz had missed some shots that weren’t particularly difficult so there might have been an upset brewing after all.

Utah jumped out and seemed to be in total control of the game – mainly because Golden State just couldn’t knock down shots and turned the ball over (19 assists, 18 TOs).  Finally, Gordon Hayward made a big shot and, although they missed some free throws (OK, a major understatement, they went 4-14 from the line in the fourth quarter), wouldn’t you know it, the Jazz were up three with Golden State down to what was the last time they’d touch the ball in regulation.

Klay Thompson missed a tying three-pointer and the game was . . . wait, an offensive rebound by Shaun Livingston. Any coach will tell you the best opportunity for threes is off of offensive rebounds – especially when it’s thrown back out to a great shooter – who’s just missed. Thompson knocked down the second chance and, after an abortive final possession by the Jazz, the game went into overtime.

Never give a monster another breath. Golden State won easily in OT and now has 68 wins. Utah basically gave away a winnable game and, if they don’t make the playoffs, will look back on last night’s “gift.” Once again, the Dubs snatched victory from nearly certain defeat. Are they the most clutch team ever? Or are they playing with fire, with the possibility of getting torched?

What, you might ask, was going through Steve Kerr’s mind after last night’s contest? While I’m not privy to Kerr’s innermost thoughts, it wouldn’t surprise me if, after every game, he came to the identical conclusion:

“Man, am I glad I didn’t take that Knicks job.”

Skip Bayless Probably Does Know Why Charles Barkley Hates Him

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

It doesn’t take much to rile up Charles Barkley, nor does it take him long to tell you exactly whom he’s talking about. During the recent NCAA post game show, Sir Charles went off. He rambled, as Barkley does on many occasions, only this time it was on the subject of talking heads. “I hate these guys who act like they know everything about sports.” His main issue was with media members who criticize players from every sport. Chuck’s complaint is that he doesn’t understand how a person can say so-and-so is a bad football player, another is a bad baseball player, then during basketball season making an identical assertion about a basketball player – without, at least qualifying his statements with an “in my opinion.”

When Ernie Johnson responded by saying that of course it’s their opinion, they’re the ones saying it, Kenny Smith came to his buddy’s defense by explaining that what Charles meant is that the critics say it as though it was factual. While Ernie tried, unsuccessfully, to keep names out of it, Kenny and Shaquille O’Neal egged on their colleague, knowing he would disclose exactly what EJ was attempting to avoid.

“Well, we know I hate Skip Bayless.” Flashback to Bayless’ show, First Take (which he and Stephen A. Smith co-host), on which Kenny Smith was a guest. A clip was played of Barkley calling Bayless “the biggest punk in the world.” The Jet asked Skipper if he could fight, insinuating that such a verbal thrashing (the “punk” comment was but a small part of all Charles said) might lead to fisticuffs with some men. “Are you a verbal fighter or a physical fighter?” asked Kenny. The show’s moderator jumped in and mentioned that Barkley had said he wanted to kill Bayless (some guys will say anything for ratings – I mean, who in the world really thought Skip should have immediately gone out and hired protection?)

Another excerpt of Barkley’s views on that type of critic was, “They got no talent. They got to talk about famous people.” At that point Kenny Smith said that, obviously, Charles and Skip had a run-in of some sort. Skip feigned shock, claiming that a face-to-face encounter of the kind had never taken place. In fact, Bayless let Smith, and all of the viewers know that, on numerous occasions, Charles had been offered to appear on the program, yet declined every invitation.

Kenny Smith then said what everyone who could add 2+2 knew – that there was an underlying reason Barkley despised him and it most certainly had something to do with the fact Skip had never played. Left unspoken was that he makes his living (and a very comfortable one at that) criticizing others. Note: At no time was there any mention of Jalen Rose calling out Bayless years ago for lying about his (Bayless’) hoops career.

Bayless turned the conversation by saying that because owners never played, does that disqualify them from owning franchises? He went on to say that as great a player Michael Jordan was that he was the worst at evaluating talent – and, often, the best players are the poorest coaches or make the worst personnel decisions. Slick move by Skip, knowing that Kenny’s Tarheel loyalty would take the conversation in another direction.

Barkley never said Skip Bayless shouldn’t be a sports reporter, nor should he refrain from being so critical of professional athletes (although those comments certainly rankle Chuck). Charles Barkley just wants him to add a little something to his comments which, for obvious reasons, Bayless would never do:

“The criticism I give is simply my own personal opinion. Please keep in mind, however, that I never played any sport very well.”

 

 

 

 

 

One Man’s Opinion on Syracuse’s Upset of Virginia

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

For those who had Virginia moving on in their March Madness bracket, here’s an explanation (no more or less right than anyone else’s), of how a #10 seed prevailed over a #1. Let’s eliminate the thought that Syracuse’s press suckered Virginia into playing much faster than they wanted. That idea can be readily dismissed for several reasons. First and foremost, the ‘Cuse went to the press because of one reason and one reason only; they were desperate. They were behind, nothing seemed to be going right for them and the outlook was worse than bleak.

Next, give little consideration that UVA was stymied by the pressure. On many occasions they threw the ball over the top or before the trap could materialize and had great opportunities to score. Had Tony Bennett instructed them to thumb their nose at two- or three-on-one situations and pull the ball out, he’d have crucified by media and fans alike – even if they’d won. They played scared would be the cry heard far and wide. True, Virginia did lose the poise they’re famous for but, for anyone who even thinks of bringing up the word “choke,” you should have your “fan privileges” revoked. When confronted with the press, the Cavs initially attacked it beautifully. Just didn’t finish. Hey, it happens. Except that when it happens in a game to go to the Final Four, everything is magnified and nerves can get shaky. But choke? Way too harsh.

Continuing the synopsis of the game it would be a vast oversight not to give a ton of credit to Jim Boeheim to employ a strategy the Orange didn’t use on a regular basis. Sure, the game wasn’t playing out how he had envisioned but kudos are necessary because many a coach would have stuck with the game plan and implored his troops to do a better job of getting good shots or working harder on defense. His experience – or gut – possibly afforded him a leg up in this contest.

Tony Bennett will have nightmares for quite a while over this one, especially with his club having beaten Syracuse earlier – and having entered the tourney as a #1 seed. Yet don’t think for a minute we won’t be seeing him in a (or several) Final Fours down the road. His teams have always been the definition of synergy. The kids who were denied every basketball player’s dream – a trip to the Final Four – are ones who deserve sympathy but, as a learned friend of mine used to say about such disappointments:

“If this is this worst thing that ever happens to you, it will be a wonderful life.”

Dealing with Delicate Health Situations

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Heading to Los Angeles to see some friends and to talk to people who might be able to shed some light on a professional basketball career overseas for younger son, Alex. This blog will return on Tuesday, March 29.

People who work in front of a camera are often envied. During my time at Fresno State, one of the jobs I had was doing color commentary for Jerry Tarkanian’s basketball team. The work was fun, but not nearly as easy as it appears, i.e. the play-by-play man and I would get a rehearsal or two for our opening (pregame chatter such as the three keys to the game) but other than that, everything was live – which can be frightening. Whenever you slip up – like mispronouncing (or, worse, forgetting) a kid’s name or saying the defense should foul at the end of a close game just as they make a steal and score – there’s no saying, “Cut!” and getting a do-over. My TV career was brief but did enlighten me to another profession that looks a lot more glamorous than it is.

Sure, it’s nice when someone recognizes you in a store or restaurant and offers a compliment on your recent broadcast (of course you know there are people who don’t like you but nobody is such an ass that they would blatantly come up to you and tell you that you suck). As in all professions, some guys are better at doing their job than others – and when television is involved, ego can, and often does, play a major role (come to think of it, that’s probably true in most professions). The best people are most often the most humble.

Craig Sager is known for his wild outfits (despite the flashiness, his wardrobe is obviously quite expensive) and his amusing interviews with Gregg Popovich (anyone who thinks that is a fun job needs to try to interview the Spurs’ boss during a game – live), but also for his humility. For a reporter he’s quite the striking figure. Aside from his wardrobe, he’s taller (6’2″) than TV makes him look (possibly because he’s usually interviewing basketball players), he’s a good looking guy (with a great looking wife – Stacy, a former Chicago Bulls’ cheerleader) and enunciates better and more fluently than most of his peers.

When tragedy strikes, it’s easy to tell when someone is universally loved. The news that Sager had leukemia shocked the NBA world and no one took it harder than Popovich. The Spurs’ head man showed his human side when his “rival,” Sager, returned. When initially told he had cancer, it was reported that Sager endured an unprecedented 14 straight days of chemotherapy, 24 hours a day, determined to return to the job he loved. Added to that miserable ordeal was a second bone marrow transplant from his son, Craig Jr. That torture saved his life.

Unfortunately, the cancer is not, as many were hoping and praying, in remission. In fact, during a recent interview with Bernard Goldberg, Sager revealed that doctors have given him 3-6 months to live. In cases like that of Craig Sager, the best attitude is said to be one of taking a positive approach. His doctors told him that nothing is certain, e.g. someone might pass away in a week while someone else might live another five years. Sager’s response to his doctor’s diagnosis was, “Well, whatever it takes. I’m not going to be that three-to-six months, I’m going to be that five years. We’re going to make medical history.”

A friend of mine, also from the basketball world (I won’t share his name because I didn’t tell him I was posting this today), has a daughter who is facing a similar precarious situation. His daughter is as courageous, if not more so, than Sager. She and her family are attacking her problem with faith and prayer, staying as strong humanly possible.

No one should ever have to deal with such extreme adversity but, if something so horrendous must be confronted, the words of Zig Ziglar describe the best approach:

“Positive thinking will allow you to do nothing – BUT positive thinking will allow you to do EVERYTHING – better than negative thinking will.”

 

While Computers Are Vital, There Does Exist a Downside

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Nothing is better than communication with friends, especially when you’re 67 and you’ve lived in nine states. That’s the main reason I have a Facebook page. As any loyal reader of this space knows, my technological skills are on about the same level as my knowledge of the psychology of snails. In all honesty, before the turn of the century, both were about equal.

The worst of my 10, yes ten, back surgeries came in June, 2002. Luckily, I was referred to the Stanford Pain Management Center, three hours from our home in Fresno. I was beginning to restart my high school teaching and coaching career (which I’d left 30 years prior) and was told I had to take additional courses to update my credential. A couple of them were, naturally, computer classes. The teacher kept referring to the “hard drive.” Possibly because I had a quizzical look, he asked me if I knew what a hard drive was. Although I was fairly certain my answer was wrong, it was the only one I could offer.

“When I have to make that six-hour round trip to Stanford,” was my reply. It might have not have been correct answer but it was definitely a correct answer.

Since then, probably out of necessity because our two sons were 13 and 8 at that time, I’ve upgraded my technologically-related skills to emailing, texting, Facebook and, of course, blogging (I still maintain the best form of communication is a face-to-face conversation, a phone call coming in second – and everything else a distant third. Next up in the seemingly never-ending methods of impersonal methods of connecting people was twitter.

A friend set up a twitter account and my first (and last) tweet was informing the twitter world that another individual was invading their habitat. A couple days later, my friend told me I had over 30 followers – which was somewhat frightening because I had no idea where I was going. Even now, from time to time, I’ll receive notice that another poor soul is following me.

Two items ended my twitter career. One was when our younger son mentioned something to me and I asked him if he saw it on twitter. He said, “No, instagram.” That was it. Whoever these computer geniuses were, who were taking over the world of communication as I knew it, were inventing things faster than I could learn them. So, that was the end of my twitter career. Oh yeah, the other reason was much easier to understand. Can you imagine limiting me to 140 characters?

Answering machines for land lines were helpful but not nearly so much as personal cell phones. The advent of email and texting hurt those from my generation – at least those of us who weren’t keen on improving – by learning a new (computer) language. There’s no doubt I should have jumped in with both feet when computers were, obviously, the way of the future. But while I admit to that major error, I still miss phone calls from friends.

I have become relatively proficient in sending and receiving emails and texts – even the “junk” ones because I’ve learned to just delete them. What is alarming is the number of scams occurring online. Our neighborhood has a “Nextdoor” email – which I’ve heard is gaining popularity throughout the nation. We live in an area that was built around a man-made lake. There are about 25 subdivisions around the lake. An email was sent to people in our, and nearby, neighborhoods requesting the owners and tenants to join. It serves as a means of alerting people to what’s going on – good and bad – where we live.

People let their neighbors know of lost dogs and cats, what’s going on at he clubhouse and ask for recommendations for plumbers, roofers, housekeepers, etc. If you’ve joined, you also get more disturbing texts, e.g. strangers lurking near the local elementary schools, suspicious looking cars and people who might be casing homes and, most recently, people who steal outgoing mail left in individual mailboxes for the carrier to pick up the following day when he delivers that day’s mail. Apparently, these low lifes are trying to get bank account numbers and other personal information.

As if that isn’t the only disturbing invasion of privacy, now there are “cyber thieves” (a term I hadn’t come across until recently) who are hacking into our computers. Yesterday I got three texts from friends (who don’t know each other) almost simultaneously, with the dreaded message, “Did your email account get hacked?” Of course the answer was yes. It had happened to me in the past and I’d sent the same message to others regarding their emails. I’ve also been a victim of identity theft but, because I check most of my accounts on a daily basis, caught it immediately and experienced only minor aggravation.

Obviously, I’m old school but I still have to ask the question, “What is wrong with these people?” If they’re smart enough to figure out how to do something so nefarious, why not put that knowledge to use and do something good? Now I’m not naive enough to think everybody wants to do good. There’s that segment of the population who enjoys “getting over” on people. High level espionage is one thing. That has been going on since well before the invention of computers but many of these new jerks are only inconveniencing us. For those sorry folks I’d just like to know what the end game is. Maybe we could amuse them in some other way that satisfies their inner (nasty) self.

I imagine there have always been scammers but more and more have appeared since the computer came along. What’s sad is a feeling I get from time to time – which I fully comprehend is dangerous:

“Makes me yearn for the good ol’ days.”

 

When Players and Coaches Dread Post Game Pressers

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

For those people who have never been part of a college basketball team that competed in the NCAA Tournament, whether as a player, coach, manager, trainer or any of a number of new positions that have been created, you’ll never know the feeling of exhilaration, ending in complete despair (for all but one team). March Madness is the ultimate of such an experience.

When a team wins its conference tournament, and with it, an automatic bid to the Big Dance, the euphoria begins. The next step is during Selection Sunday – those squads finding out which opponent they’re about to face as well as when and where. There are other teams that are certain to get their ticket punched, most of which play in the power conferences. However, there are always teams who have to sweat it out, i.e. those who are “on the bubble.”

Once the field is set, every team prepares for its next opponent. Independent of how much of an underdog it might be, every team feels it can win (even the #16 seeds who visualize their club being the first #16 to beat a #1). Some teams get hit with reality sooner than others, as the score gets out of control early and their deficit increases. However, every year there are some games that come down to a final winning shot – at the buzzer (or was it just after the buzzer)? Now that there is instant replay used, the drama is greater – for the viewer. For the participants, it’s nothing short of excruciating.

Possibly, the only thing worse than losing in such a shocking manner is the post game press conference. While there are media members who ask questions designed to explore certain strategies, intended to enhance the viewers’ appreciation for the game, there always seem to be other scribes who feel it necessary to ask probing questions that will elicit an emotional response from a young man who just lost.

What the people who pose those questions fail to realize (or, worse, who understand exactly what they’re doing) is the magnitude of the situation. Unless someone has poured his heart and soul into an event, he will never endure anything quite like it – with the possible exception of the death of a loved one. No one
connected with the program thinks the journey is going to end – no matter the odds. (On an even more somber note, imagine how crushing it is for the overwhelming favorite who loses). Then, often in an instant, it’s over. Done.

The season, the dreams, the goals and, in many cases, the career. The finality of it is devastating. Then, there are (usually three) players who are requested by the media to show up and face the cameras for the post game press conference – way before the magnitude of it has had time to sink in. (Of course, the head coach must attend, too). Questions directed to high profile players whose teams were just eliminated as to whether they’ll be returning to school the following year. Regarding a controversial call, asking what they (players or coach) thought of the referee’s decision (knowing it’s a trap question but hoping for “headline” response). Posing a question to a coach about the possibility of taking another job. Or, as the nation saw, asking a player from Baylor – which had just been upset by Yale – how the Bulldogs managed to outrebound his ball club (for the record, more fans than not thought the answer was spot on, considering all that was going through his head at the time).

Every guy who’s interviewed thought, before the game, his team was going to win – and advance. You know the first round losers had packed for a second game. Even those double-digit underdogs who, deep down, felt it was an insurmountable task, clung to the hope of a major upset – the kind the tourney witnesses every year, if for no other reason than how hard they worked. Then, when it’s finally over, your feelings are – and there’s no better word to describe it – numb.

On a personal note, I’ve been on staffs of teams who won highly improbable games in dramatic fashion – and lost some in the same manner. In the 1992 NCAA Tournament our USC team was a #2 seed in the Midwest which resulted in a relatively easy first round victory. We watched as the game preceding our next challenge resulted in a major upset. What this meant was if we could get by a #7 seed, we were confident we’d be one game away from the Final Four.

One of our guards hit a shot with 3.2 seconds left, putting us up by two. After the ball was kicked out of bounds across from their bench – with 8/10ths of a second left – we denied the inbounds pass so well the referee was on the verge of calling a five-second violation. At the last moment their freshman forward popped out, caught the ball and without looking at the basket (his post game description of it), threw in a three-pointer. The first three-pointer of his career!

So, when I see these post game press conferences and some of the questions that are occasionally asked, one emotion goes through my mind:

“Empathy”