Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

A Logical Solution for Many NFL Teams

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Every team in the NFL would love to win a Super Bowl. In order to accomplish that lofty goal, the club needs to get into the playoffs. So much for the elementary lesson in logic (I retired from public school teaching before the implementation of Common Core – although I still get requests from teachers on how I taught math – because apparently, some of the methods I used were concepts of Common Core).

Let’s move on to some more basic numbers. Each year the NFL playoffs consist of 12 teams, meaning 20 teams are left out. Since only five franchises – Patriots (7), Packers (7), Broncos (5), Bengals (5) and Seahawks (4) – have played in the playoffs four or more years in a row (number of consecutive appearances in parentheses), the chances of fans of a particular NFL team at least being able to dream about a Super Bowl title, would certainly seem doable. Yet there are ten clubs (no need to add further embarrassment by naming them – you can always Google it if you’re that interested) that are in the midst of a minimum five season playoff drought. Five consecutive years to a fan is even worse than the ratio of dog-to-people years – assuming the fan sticks around that long. I mean, there are 31 other candidates to back.

When a team experiences such a streak, the answer for a majority of fans – based on social media, talk radio, sports bar gossip and even age old barber shop advice – is to change coaches. While the logic of this theory makes perfect sense (at least to those who espouse it), it’s been tried on numerous occasions and, most of the time, doesn’t produce the desired result.

Now, consider the plight of the Cincinnati Bengals. Their problem goes beyond not getting into the playoffs, but in winning. Not the Super Bowl. Just a game. The Bengals have been on the losing end in their last eight first round playoff games. Their coach, Marvin Lewis, has been the coach for seven of those defeats, including the past five straight. Not once has he been part of a winning press conference.

Using logic to solve a problem, the answer for those ten teams (more, for the truly impatient backer, which covers a large number of constituents) that haven’t made it to the NFL playoffs is rather simple:

“Hire Marvin Lewis.”

Whether or Not AJ McCarron Learned How to Deal with the Media at Alabama, Somebody Taught Him Well

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

As a quarterback coming out of the University of Alabama, AJ McCarron was projected to be drafted in the second or third round of the NFL Draft, yet wasn’t taken until the fifth (the 9th out of 14 quarterbacks chosen). Whatever the criticism was regarding the young QB, no one would ever say that McCarron wasn’t a winner. In fact, one rap leveled his way was his cockiness. Allegedly, when asked what his best attribute was, he said, “Winning.”

When a kid redshirts on a team that wins a national championship, then becomes the starting QB on back-to-back title teams, winning would seem a great place to start when evaluating the youngster’s skill set. Independent of what is said or written about McCarron, the display of poise and character he showed during the Bengals’ post game press conference following a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was remarkable.

A playoff win (too often a rarity in Cincinnati) was about to be theirs when a few plays – or rather, a couple plays and an incident – gift wrapped the contest, and with it, the privilege of moving on in the NFL Playoffs, to the Steelers. First, a fumble when, above all else, ball security should have been on everybody’s mind. That gave the ball back to Pittsburgh. Then, with a mere 22 seconds left in the Steelers’ season, a “hitting a defenseless receiver” call which has been a major point of emphasis in the league.

Those two acts of commission, while the clock was running, were bad enough to put the Bengals’ chance of breaking the post season losing streak in danger but then, the Bengals’ defender, Adam “Don’t Call Me Pac-Man” Jones decided to allow an opposing coach to upset him so much, he shoved him, forcing the referee to throw another flag on the same play, turning a relatively difficult field goal into a chip shot. Bengals lose in the first round of the playoffs. Again. For the seventh time in a row.

Fans were understandably upset. Many sportswriters are fans – if not of the team, of themselves and their work. To some, losing for Cincinnati didn’t just mean the end of the season for the players but for them as well (other than a few postmortem pieces). There are those writers and/or sportscasters who are miffed and want heads to roll. Or, at the very least, to create controversy by goading a teammate to criticize another in order to make for a situation that will turn “brother-against-brother.”

AJ McCarron, as the Bengals’ signal caller, opened his remarks, wisely, by stating, “We were so close to giving this city what they deserve.”

He was asked about the three crucial and, as they turned out, game changing plays. One question dealt with the fumble. “It’s football. He didn’t lose us that game,” was the QB’s response.

Another question was, “Did some of your teammates lose their cool?”

As easy as it would have been to state the obvious, McCarron simply said, “We win together and lose together — simple as that. It doesn’t matter if someone lost their poise or somebody didn’t. It doesn’t matter. We win together and lose together.”

He showed exceptional poise (especially after complaining the weather was worse for the Bengals when they were on offense than it was when the Steelers had the ball) when he acknowledged to the members of the media of their negative queries regarding his teammates:

“You guys have to ask these questions, I understand that. But we need to have each other’s back during this process and that’s the best way to take the biggest step into next year to being the best team we can possibly be. If we use this time to point fingers at each other, we’re taking steps back as a team, and we don’t need that.”

 

 

 

Boykin’s Actions and Apology All Too Common

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Another weekend of college hoops, watching Alex play in SoCal. Also happens to be the 27th birthday of his older bro, Andy (who lives in Newport Beach). This blog will be back on Tuesday, January 12.

There have been some pretty stupid and selfish moves made by athletes throughout the years. Some have been criminal, derailing the player’s future (a couple as severe as murder cases), as well as missteps which, if not cripple, place the program in negative light. Most, however, are mostly immature errors in judgment than outright subversive acts. Over my 30-year career in intercollegiate athletics, I have been a member of coaching staffs that had to deal with, for lack of a better term, such acts of tomfoolery.

When it’s a player on your own squad, you invariably feel worse because you know the athlete in question. In fact, you may have recruited him, got to know his family and others who are closest to him. Maybe you just made his acquaintance since you got to the program but, quite possibly connect to him. Whatever the case, the athlete has  put you in an untenable position by violating a team or university rule or policy.

When you are not directly involved with the “wrongdoer,” your reaction can be like anyone else who heard or read about the transgression – and your immediate reaction is one of shock and incredible disappointment. Although the case I’m referring to happened over a week ago (when I was out of town), I made note of it so I could comment at a later date. Right now is that date – and TCU’s quarterback, Trevone Boykin, is that individual. As previously mentioned, I’ve been involved with my share of these acts of ignorance, but this one must have struck a chord I didn’t realize even existed.

To sum up Boykin’s indiscretion, which turned into a felony, TCU was in San Antonio, as a guest of the Alamo Bowl. Thursday night prior to the game, Boykin, who was in his room when coaches performed bed check, slipped out some time afterward, apparently looking for some extracurricular fun. What happened next almost any college football fan can tell you (even without knowing the circumstances of this case). The QB was at a bar, words were exchanged, a fight broke out, police were summoned and the entire scene escalated. Boykin was arrested and charged with a third-degree felony for assaulting a police officer.

What followed next could also easily be described by your average fan. Boykin either wrote, had help writing or had written for him, a three paragraph statement of pure remorse regarding his actions, in which he expressed his heartfelt apology to his family, teammates, school and community. What follows is Boykin’s statement (with my remarks in italics). My comments are probably too harsh (based on similar personal experience of a few former players). In this case, obviously, what started out as a prank got out of hand. It will be interesting to see where he winds up in the NFL draft after this all blows over (who am I kidding, as far as the NFL, it already has blown over – they saw video of that night – now, they’re poring over different, e.g. game video). Soon, he’ll be just another millionaire with a story to tell young kids about how they should obey team rules. Here’s his statement (with commentary):

“Words can’t describe how sorry I am (actions speak louder than words). I truly let down my family, teammates and the TCU and Fort Worth communities (and anyone else I may have missed) who have supported me so much. I have no excuses for my very poor decision, and I’m embarrassed about it (ya think?) My teammates are my brothers (and they understand brothers like to have a little fun). There’s nothing I wanted to do more than play one last game with my seniors (actually, there was one thing I wanted to do more but getting caught wasn’t part of the plan).

Having my TCU degree means more to me than anything (let’s hope having a felony conviction doesn’t hinder that goal). I’m going to do my best to restore every Horned Frogs’ confidence in me (how, with a speech at the post season banquet?). I love TCU and our football program (I just think the rules should be a little looser). With Coach Patterson’s leadership, our team is greater than any one individual (as their play showed). I have full confidence in my teammates when they take the field Saturday (how’d you feel at halftime?). I wish I could be there, but I won’t because of my mistake that I have no one to blame but myself (although, if I thought long enough, I could probably find somebody else to, at least, partially blame).

I sincerely thank TCU for everything it has provided me, including an opportunity to earn my degree which I will always cherish (laying it on a little thick now, Trevone). I will forever be a proud TCU Horned Frog, and I apologize to everyone again for my lapse in judgement (yeah, that’s a good term for it, “lapse in judgment”). I hope others can learn from my mistake (why, you didn’t – and surely you heard of an athlete doing something equally foolish?) I can assure you that I have because it took away the incredible honor and privilege it was to wear a TCU jersey (damn, I can’t believe I got caught).”

As the quote says, Boykin’s sincerity will be tested by the “third part”:

“Any good apology has 3 parts: 1)I’m sorry, 2)It’s my fault, 3)What can I do to make it right? Most people forget the third part.”

 

Of Johnny Manziel, His Handlers and Mike Pettine

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

The Cleveland Browns fired their coach, Mike Pettine, on Black Saturday, although his fate might have been decided on a day well before Black Saturday. That day would have been on NFL draft day. Yeah, the day the Brownies felt the guy to select was Johnny Manziel.

I’ll admit that, like a lot of fans – probably the majority of them – I was smitten with the skill and confidence that was “Johnny Football” and hoped he would thrive (despite those who claimed his height would be his shortfall). I kept thinking of Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, even Eddie LeBaron, for those who go back that far.

Unfortunately, his problem wasn’t from top to bottom but from side to side, i.e. the lack of gray matter between his ears. Sure, the guy had his butt kissed while at Texas A&M but what big-time (winning) college QB doesn’t? Everywhere he went, he was deified. So much so that when he tried to take an English course on campus, he had to drop it when his classmates’ requests for autographs and photos became too much. That semester, he took all of his classes online. Talk about adulation.

He got selected in the 28nd round – in the Major League Baseball Draft. As far as football, he went 22nd overall and was anointed – by the fans – immediately as the savior of the Cleveland franchise. Much like LeBron James. Pretty big shoes to fill – for a guy whose feet turned out to be way too small (despite the size) for the challenge.

Why didn’t he make it? Unlike many “instant rock stars,” Manziel didn’t grow up deprived of material goods; rather, he was somewhat used to them. He felt that since he was a rock star, he was entitled to party like one. Early on, “20-year old boys being 20-year old boys” was the mantra of his – call them exactly what they were/are – enablers. He had/has a well-publicized drinking problem which, when you’re a public figure in today’s world, unfortunately, becomes everybody’s business. As did a “private argument” with his girlfriend (which may or may not have involved drinking and “a couple swings” by Manziel). Many 20-somethings have such issues, but those involving NFL quarterbacks never remain “private.”

During the season, there were incidents of Manziel acting in a manner not becoming of a starting NFL QB (which Manziel swears he wants to be). Yet, if he really desires to have his name linked with the great QBs in the NFL, he ought to observe the vast, intense amount of work Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees put into their craft. The latest incident in Manziel’s career is that he wore a disguise and used an alias while partying in Las Vegas – although, naturally, Johnny Football claims it’s not true.

Other than those on the inside, no one really knew whether Pettine and Manziel were ever on the same page, or even whether the former coach wanted Manziel to be his on-field leader. One thing for sure is, had Manziel taken his occupation, i.e. NFL quarterback, not serial liar, more seriously, Pettine might still have a job. While the coach’s firing should not be laid only at the (undisciplined, immature) QB’s feet, his feelings for Johnny Football might parallel the lyrics to the song, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right:

“I ain’t saying you treated me unkind. You coulda done better but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time.”

And now I’m out of a job.

Did Firing Chip Kelly Made Snoop Dogg Happy?

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

In an era of political correctness and taking what people say literally, it seems recording artist Snoop Dogg got an unheard of pass after his rant several weeks ago. I’m from New Jersey and, while nothing Snoop blurted was new to my ears, I can honestly say I hadn’t heard such profanity in . . . decades. The tirade contained 9 F-bombs (or combinations thereof), a couple “sorry-asses,” a “dumb-ass,” a fellatio reference, informed people he was P-O’d and capped it all off with a suggestion that (then-)head coach Chip Kelly kill himself. And he performed all this in a mere five sentences!

“Performed” is the operative word because, naturally, these pearls of wisdom were done in Snoop’s unique way – via Instagram videos. I’m not sure if his diatribe was supposed to be considered music, poetry or something other than simply spewing hatred (as other, less talented people would be forced to do) but he clearly expressed his frustration with Philly and Kelly.

Maybe it was because he’s Snoop and his “threats” are not to be taken seriously, maybe it’s because it really did look like the Eagles tanked the game or maybe it’s because no one gave a damn since the reason for his disdain was that it dashed the Snooper’s championship fantasy football hopes. Yup, that was what was behind all that venom – that the Eagles “can’t even get me one or two points so I can win my fantasy league and go to the Super Bowl.” How thoughtless of them.

It’s been said fans are a fickle bunch. After hearing Snoop’s harangue, what’s been going through my head is:

“Wonder how he would have felt toward Kelly and the Eagles if they had played well enough to get him those couple points he needed?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can It Really Be 30 Years?

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Watching some basketball this weekend so this blog will halt until Tuesday, Jan. 5. Hope everybody had a great New Year’s Eve. The following is from my book, Life’s A Joke and is about the New Year’s Eve that changed my life – for the best.

Many people will tell you they remember their first date with their wife. Not only do I remember mine but I recall when I asked for it.

I was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tennessee on a scouting trip in Houston to watch Texas A&M play in the old Summit (former home of the Rockets). I was staying across the street at the Marriott, had finished my recruiting calls and realized I had some time before the game, which meant I could tie up some loose ends as far as my personal life was concerned (as an college coach, there never seemed to be much free time).

Back in August I was with a close friend of mine at his condominium complex when he introduced me to a girl who also lived there. I’d scribbled her name and number on a piece of paper. Being a math major, I was pretty good with numbers and hers wasn’t really difficult anyway. Obviously, the area code was the same as mine but so was the exchange (691). The last four digits were 3366 – 33 is half of 66. Still, I got the number in August and here it was December, so . . .

My math skills are infinitely better than my handwriting and when she answered, I couldn’t read my writing. Was it “Jan” or “Jane?” I gave it a shot and kind of mumbled, “Is Jan there?”

“Who?” was her reply.

I gulped and said, meekly, “Jan?”

“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”

Well, Jan or Jane, I knew I had the right number. “Wait,” I said, “Do you live in the Colonies?”

“Yes, I do,” she replied, with some skepticism.

“This is Jack Fertig, who’s this?”

“This is Jane,” was her response, in what I thought sounded a little like the conversation was heading in an upswing.

I laughed and said, “Jane, yeah, that’s what I said. You must have misunderstood me.”

Not exactly the smoothest beginning to a date request – for either of us – but we made small talk for a while until I said, “How would you like to go to dinner sometime?”

That was met with, “Okay, that sounds good. When would you like to go out?”

I thought about my calendar and realized that, although we were in the middle of the season and every day was accounted for, the following Tuesday was open. So, I said, “Well, how about next Tuesday?”

My request was met with a brief silence, until I heard, “Next Tuesday is New Year’s Eve.”

Wow, no wonder I have nothing to do. There are no games or practices on New Year’s Eve. There’s nothing on New Year’s Eve. I recovered by confidently saying, “Well, if that works for you, it’s okay with me.”

She thought for a moment, and said, “Okay, that would be fine.”

“Great, I’ll pick you up at seven,” I said to the girl – who was going to end up being my wife and the mother of our two sons – and whose name I butchered a few minutes prior.

After we hung up, she admitted she was thinking, “What an idiot this guy is – he didn’t even know when New Year’s Eve was.”

What was going through my head was, “Uh oh, this girl didn’t have a date for New Year’s Eve. Is she the same cute girl Harry introduced me to in his condo driveway?”

Actually, she did have a date – but she broke it. That call was placed 30 years ago yesterday. Poor handwriting might be considered a flaw, but even if it is, I align myself with author Surgeo Bell’s philosophy:

“Some of the most beautiful things we have in life comes from our mistakes.”

Clinton Portis Saga Simply the Next in a Series of Bad Decisions

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

It’s become a broken record, but one that no one seems to have any desire to fix. This time the tragedy is named Clinton Portis, a terrific football player – college and pro – who is filing for bankruptcy. I have written previously, and have preached to more people than care to listen, that if players are allowed to leave school early (which I believe is their legal right), then their college academic courses should prepare them for life after sports.

After signing with Duke out of high school, Jahlil Okafor told the Blue Devil fans his goal was to help his team win a national championship before heading to the NBA the following year. He came out and said he planned on attending college for only one year before turning pro. And this was Duke he was talking about!

Portis did not go to Duke. His college choice was South Carolina but a fight in high school resulted in his scholarship being rescinded. He wound up at the “U” – the University of Miami, a football program known for many things, discipline not being high on the list. His collegiate career can be summarized as: freshman year, great; sophomore year, dropped to second string; junior year, return to great. So much so, the Hurricanes won the national championship.

And, similar to Okafor, after copping that big trophy, Portis, too, declared for the (NFL) draft. His professional career had to be considered successful by even the harshest of critics. Financially, his nine seasons as a pro amassed quite a fortune – in excess of $43 million.

My aforementioned suggestion to the NCAA, or to the schools themselves, is since they know these guys aren’t going to be around to graduate (or even two years in some cases), why not put them in classes that will prepare them for life after they depart? That’s what the purpose of college is supposed to be anyway. Courses like how to select people who will shape your life, e.g. someone they can trust, investment strategies, how to deal with the media (including social media), how to live by yourself, even a course in proper decision-making. Use real world examples, maybe bring some people in as guest lecturers to explain the trappings of an affluent life.

These classes wouldn’t have to be exclusively for athletes. The typical freshman year course load is outdated. I mean, if a kids didn’t like, or do well, in world history in high school, why make them take it again in college? Same with the physical and social sciences. I admit to having a bias toward math because I majored in it and taught it, but I’m not so sure freshman algebra isn’t more of a torturous experience than one of value. So, other than English (although seeing what’s on twitter could make someone wonder the value of that as well), most of the freshman curriculum can be overhauled. Note: From a personal standpoint, I hated physics and world history in high school, yet had to take both in college. Guess what? I hated them in college too.

Sure, my idea is radical. But is there any way someone with the career earnings of Clinton Portis should be filing for bankruptcy – in debt to the tune of nearly $5 million? It breaks down to a half a mil to his mom, another half to an Entertainment Tonight correspondent and CNN contributor (what was she doing lending that kind of dough?), nearly another half to a couple casinos, $412K in back child support (to four different women – maybe there ought to be a college course that teaches that making a baby and being a father are not one in the same – and it’s an epidemic in this country), almost a million-and-a-quarter in mortgage deficiencies, $390K in back taxes (somebody, somewhere, somehow, needs to teach people who will be coming into big money about paying taxes) and various and other sundry items. Total tab: $4,857,659.50.

Did Clinton Portis fail himself? No doubt. Could his current financial mess have been avoided? I’d sure like to think so. Until somebody steps up to help these young people before they err, it would be a shame that their lives will be governed by Tiger Woods’ statement:

“I once heard – and I believe it is true – that it’s not what you achieve in life that matters, it is what you overcome.”

Comparing Superstars from Different Eras Is as Much Fun as It Is Futile

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

A little family time in the Fertig household as both boys will be joining us. No blogs until Tuesday, Dec. 29. Happy Holidays to all.

To NBA fans there’s nothing like talking about pro hoops, past and present. It’s so obvious which era had/has the best players – the ones from the era of whichever fan is doing the pontificating. People who watched the old timers as kids, i.e. the baby boomers, swear by Russ, Wilt, West (I mean the guy is the logo for crying out loud)!

Try telling today’s fan that anybody is better than LeBron, KD or Steph and you’ll most likely hear, “Have you ever seen videos of the old guys? They look so sloooooow. Not to mention those ridiculous shorts. Today’s players would boycott before putting those hideous things on. Really, how can there even be a comparison?”

Then there’s the voice from yesteryear’s players, Sir Charles Barkley. No doubt, if anybody approached him during his time in the league (when his confidence level exceeded infinity), and asked if he thought the previous generation would have whupped up on his, he would have scoffed at the idea. Now that he’s older and wiser (but mainly older), he exudes respect for the players who preceded him (as he expects today’s players to show his group). But as far as the current bunch competing against his generation? Here’s an excerpt from an interview he did with Colin Cowherd.

Cowherd: “When you see Golden State, how would they play 25 years ago?”

Barkley: “We would have just mauled them. You’re not gonna let guys come off those picks. They changed the rules—it’s kind of like the NFL where you can’t touch the wide receiver. The defense is at a disadvantage, all these cornerbacks in the NFL are really at a disadvantage. And a guy like [Stephen Curry], who is amazing, you can’t put your hands on him, you can’t hand-check him. It’s a totally different game.”

Yes, Charles, it’s a totally different game. You would have mauled Curry then; no one can touch him now. Point of that argument goes to . . . whichever rules are in play, I guess.

Why don’t we enter into this discussion a new demographic, i.e. people who are not only fans but guys who scientifically and mathematically break down how good players actually are. Curtis from Pro Hoops History and Adam, an analytics guru from Bleacher Report. These are fellows who take it more seriously than the average fan. Another generation might refer to them as “stat heads,” people who don’t even have to see players play in order to tell you how good they would be if they were playing today. Can you tell which generation I’m from? Look, I’m all for progress and, truth be told, was a math major, so I love numbers. But, sometimes these guys are … well, see for yourself.

When asked to evaluate Bill Russell (a guy they’ve certainly heard of and probably seen grainy video of him), here’s what their reports were: Curtis said to imagine Russell as a Tyson Chandler type today, while Adam feels the Chandler comparison might be a stretch since Chandler is a 7’1″, 235-pound physical behemoth compared to Russell at 6’10”, 215 pounds. Wait, wasn’t Wilt about the same size as Chandler and Russell did OK against him, didn’t he? Oh yeah, Chamberlain was more like (a chiseled) 275-pounds.

When it came to Chamberlain, the boys picked and chose his strengths and weaknesses, with Curtis qualifying his assessment sating Wilt would fare spectacularly well in today’s game, depending on which version of Wilt showed up. He also pointed out, “The biggest drawback with Chamberlain would be his often-difficult relationship with coaches. It’d take a great coach to get the best out of Wilt and keep him from descending into moody stat-chasing.” As if coaching today’s divas is a slice of heaven. I can’t fathom any current NBA coach refusing to have Chamberlain on his ball club. Adam was more charitable in his opinion of The Big Dipper, saying (other than Hack-a-Wilt strategy – a legit concern) he’d have zero doubts he’d be just fine today.

“Just fine” might be under-selling Wilt in today’s game a bit, considering he averaged – for his 14-year career – 4.5 assists/game, with a high season (after critics accused him of just being a scorer) of over 8.5 assists/game. That figure would place him sixth among today’s leaders, the top five being point guards. The top assist leader among centers today is Marc Gasol who’s tied for 41st, averaging 4.0.

Both Curtis and Adam were very complimentary of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson when it came to projecting their abilities to today’s game but, come on now, was there a need for experts to come up with those conclusions? Besides, after the Russell evaluations, their credibility took a serious hit. I can only imagine how they’d assess others, e.g. Robertson, West, Baylor, Havlicek, Gervin, Frazier, Monroe from days gone by.

There’s so much chronological prejudice from everybody that the debates should continue from an amusement standpoint and a way for all sides to think they’re smarter than the others.

The two greatest statements I’ve heard – from a shock value as well and from a non-biased point of view – were made by a couple of players mentioned above whose credentials are above reproach.

Jerry West on Stephen Curry: “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen” and

Oscar Robertson on Russell Westbrook: ” I’ve seen others with the same size and physicality but they don’t have his determination.” 

Whether or not those statements are true, they stand as pretty darn good endorsements – from a couple of cats whose knowledge shouldn’t be challenged.

 

Baker Mayfield Is Wise Beyond His Years

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

There are certain topics that are said to be off limits in social settings as they tend to be party killers. For years, the main two were politics and religion. Bringing up either subject could easily turn a friendly get together into a raging debate where tempers more likely than not would flare, causing the function to be remembered for something other than what the host had planned. Other subjects have joined the list recently.

One, in particular, has to do with race. To me, this is kind of surprising since there is so much more diversity in the country (pretty much everywhere in the country) than there was during my (baby boomer) generation. The fewer groups there are, the greater chance for one to try to claim dominance. So it stands to reason, with so many different races, religions and cultures in the United States today, we’d show more tolerance toward each other. One reason for tolerance would be curiosity. Another grounds for patience would be empathy for others, mainly because there are more “others” than there are “us” today – whichever “us” you happen to belong to.

With so many conversations going on – some constructive, others with folks who have an agenda of some kind – I’ve often wondered how this all came about. A few days ago, while I was reading the current issue of Sports Illustrated (Sportsperson of the Year edition), I experienced an epiphany. It was in the article on the University of Oklahoma’s quarterback Baker Mayfield. The eye opener occurred when he was quoted near the end of the piece. Years ago, I’d heard similar comments on the subject. His views regarding racial violence were quite profound. I defy anyone to refute his observations. While we can definitely build on his feelings, there’s no denying his assessment of the situation is spot on:

“You aren’t born hating anybody. You have no opinions when you’re born. Somewhere along the line, racism is taught. That is where the problem lies. . . I have now been in 2 different locker rooms with over 210 teammates combined, not one person from either of them have come from the same background. But they work perfectly fine, you know why? Because we have common goals. That’s why people need to have the larger picture/common goal of ending Racial Violence.”

 

Five Years Later, Not Much Brighter

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Coming up with a different topic to blog about – every day of the week – can be quite demanding. Since nothing came to mind, I thought I’d go into the archives and re-submit a post from years gone by – in this case, the blog from five years ago - to the exact day! Notice how on December 20, 2010 I refused to go out on a limb – and still managed to get it wrong. That just shows the more things change, the more they stay the same. Read on.

This is the time of year when prognosticators of all types want to be heard. Get it right and, especially if you have a TV or radio show, you can remind viewers and listeners of your expertise – which was presented prior to the contest. Calling it wrong gives a couple of options. Either you can choose to ignore your error or you get carte blanche as far as criticism is concerned, e.g. it’s open season on head coaches, coordinators, kickers, offensive skill players (for calling bad plays, missing chip shots, fumbling, throwing picks or dropping passes) and defensive linemen (for not getting their average, or more, number of sacks or blowing coverage). Miss by enough and you can even roast the NCAA or BCS.

Just predicting who will has never meant much to me. After all, when two teams are playing, Zippy the Chimp has a 50-50 chance of getting it right. Make a pick and explain why that team will win. Better yet, set the scenario(s) that each team needs to emerge victorious.

A few days ago, I heard Colin Cowherd, never short on opinions (or the ability to annoy/condescend), give his pick for the national championship game. Although he’s from the Pacific Northwest, he’s convinced Auburn will win because they have better players, including the best. Oregon has never seen such an array of talent.

While that might be true, what Auburn hasn’t seen is a team play at the pace the Ducks do. In a pound-it-out macho conference like the SEC, coaching staffs pride themselves on situational substitutions. Does this give an advantage to Oregon? That’s something everyone will know as the game unfolds.

Well, what kind of prediction is that? Everybody can tell what happened after it takes place. It’s called being a sportswriter, or more specifically, a columnist. The fact that everyone can analyze why outcomes occurred after they happen is no different than making a prediction before the game. The more detailed you get, the greater chance you look like a genius – or a fool.

Predictions are great for water cooler conversations (or possibly conversations that take place where stronger beverages are served) and gamblers. The latter actually do “put their money where their mouth is.” Is it better to merely pick a winner and should your choice come up roses, gloat, and if you choose the wrong side, hide – or take a gamble and analyze before the fray, meaning your brilliance will be many times greater if your ship comes in, but you’ll leave yourself open to ridicule if your winner is right but for all the wrong reasons? That answer depends on your personal make up – or how much the station is paying you.

Most people (outside the pacific Northwest) agree Auburn might have more and better athletes. Certainly no one is in the class of Cam Newton (unlike Florida’s claim that Newton wasn’t in the classes of many of his teammates – OK, bad joke) but Oregon’s roster isn’t exactly composed of leftovers. The Ducks’ hurry-up offense is just as difficult to prepare for as Cam Newton. It’s one thing to see each on camera, but another thing to try to actually tackle Newton. Same with playing at the pace Oregon forces teams to do.

Who’s my selection?  I’ve worked in both leagues (albeit in basketball), so there’s no preference there.  I’ve always been partial to coaching and preparing game plans so in that regard, I favor Oregon, but to go out on a limb and say who the winner will be?

I subscribe to Casey Stengel’s theory:

“Never make predictions, especially about the future.”