Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

When Policy Gets in the Way of Common Sense

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

On a scale from 1-10 on the “trust” meter, banks come in above U.S. congressmen but below local legislators. Today, they generously give us .o1% annual interest, meaning if you deposit $100 into a savings account, it will have grown to $100.01 – after one year. But many branches will offer you a bottle of water. I get it, the banking business has changed from the days when a little kids would bring in their piggy banks, crack them open and start a passbook savings account. It doesn’t work that way anymore.

I also realize there are rules and regulations that need to be followed, especially because the banks have violated the trust of the American people and as my mentor, the late John Savage used to say, “Trust, once violated, can never be regained.” Think about someone who screwed you over in some way. While you may have reconciled with this person, will you really ever completely trust them again?

What brought on this blog was an encounter yesterday at my bank, the bank I’ve done business with for the past 20 years or so. Our family currently has seven accounts at this bank of all kinds (business, savings, checking and debit). I’ve always had a banker (as well as people in other businesses with whom I deal on a regular basis, e.g. mechanic, handyman) whom I know extremely well for situations such as the one I faced yesterday. As we’ve moved, it’s of paramount importance that I find someone like that as soon as possible in each place of business, so I can count on a little “personal touch” to get me through red tape (nothing illegal, just to deal with petty annoyances). These acquaintances usually become friends and, if I can do them a favor, e.g. get a Michael Jordan autograph (a perk we get for working his summer camp) or taking them to lunch, I gladly do it.

At my visit yesterday I had two issues. I knew I was in trouble when the teller responded to my request for a new check register by saying, “We’re all out.”

I commented, “You’re a bank. You offer checking accounts. How can you be out of check registers?”

His response couldn’t possibly have come out of any training session. “People don’t use them anymore,” was his explanation.

This one does,” I said to him, pointing at myself. His lack of reaction illustrated he was unaware that he might have offended me. Of course I realize that checks are going the way of the buffalo but there’s a difference between “going the way of the buffalo” and “having gone the way of the dinosaur.” There are companies I have to make payments to that I can’t do online, e.g. the pool guy, gardener, plumber, etc. And, maybe it’s my math background, but I like to make sure my checkbook balances.

So, we got off to a bad start. My two problems were with checks (see, others still use them too) that were mailed to our house. One was a claims settlement check our younger son got in one of those “somebody’s upset with a company and decides to sue” deals – except in this case, they actually won a settlement. When he or she discovers you also might have dealt with the same company, they send a letter notifying they’re going to sue and if you do not want to be a part of it, you need to let them know. Otherwise, do nothing and if they win their settlement, you’ll get paid as well. This one had to do with a company that offered a college fund we’d set up for him. Lo and behold, there was a settlement and he was mailed a check – for $12.85.

When my wife and I called and told him of his windfall, we all had a good laugh. As only college kids can do, he then asked if I could transfer the money to his account right away as his funds were getting a little low. So I did. When I related the story in the bank, the teller said I couldn’t cash the check because it had his name on it. Since our name isn’t very common, I asked if my son endorsed it, could I then cash it? Or deposit it if that would be better. “No,” he maintained. “Our policy won’t allow it.” Full disclosure: I’d done this on numerous occasions with bankers in the past – at this bank and others (for checks our two boys had received, maybe birthday gifts from relatives). I would sign whichever son’s name and get the check cashed. They were never for large amounts. This teller, however, was adamant. “This is the bank’s policy.”

The other check I had was an interest check on a bond my since deceased mother had purchased 15 years ago in our sons’ names. It had both their names on the check and was for $8.33. I figured the stance he took toward the first check foreshadowed an unhappy ending with this one but decided to forge ahead anyway. I explained that one son worked and lived in Newport Beach, while the other went to college in Monterey. Little did I know, in addition to denying my request, he was going to educate me with a tale of his own.

“In this case, at least one of your sons will need to be present,” he began. “Let me tell you a story. There was a couple who received their income tax refund check. In between the time they filed and when the check was issued, they got divorced. The husband came in and wanted to cash the check. I told him I couldn’t because both their names were on it.” Then, he looked at me and smiled. I imagine he felt this little fable would help me “see the light” and I’d fully understand his position.

I eyed him and said, “I’ll bet the check in your anecdote was for a bit more than eight bucks.” He sheepishly nodded. I went on, “Then, what, exactly, did you tell me that story for? It has nothing to do with what I’m asking. My sons aren’t divorcing, I’m not disowning them, they’re not even at odds with each other – and the check is for $8.33!” I couldn’t believe he wasn’t empowered to make a decision which, while technically against the rules, was just a slight customer service request from a longtime customer.

The episode reminded me of a situation the late Stephen Covey encountered with a desk clerk at a hotel when he was checking in. It was a similar situation and when he was told his request couldn’t be accommodated due to “company policy,” he told the desk clerk:

“I have a policy too. It’s called reasonableness.”

What If There Were Only Two Types of Fans?

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

I have to admit that, having been a blogger since 2007, I might have posted something like what follows at sometime throughout the years. When I post a former piece, I let the reader know. When this website first began, the person who built it was the guy I leaned on for all technological knowledge (due to my near total incompetence in that area). He turned out to be a bust. A couple months worth of blogs were lost, several other early ones are difficult to locate. If you’ve read a blog similar to what follows on this site, first of all, you have a heckuva lot better memory than I do and, secondly, I apologize. If not, read on. Feel free to comment – in favor or criticism of it.

If fans ask why they should show up if the team loses, what they’re basically saying is, “Win – then we’ll support you with our presence.” But, if the team wins without you, who needs you?” I’ve always been of the opinion (albeit not a practical one) that at the beginning of the season, fans need to state their allegiance – that they’re either a positive fan or a  negative one. A positive fan is one who backs the team no matter what (aside from criminal or immoral acts). Whatever happens, including blowouts, losses to rivals, last second defeats, losses when the team is a heavy favorite, even games the team (or coaches) give away, you need to bite your lip and stand behind the team. Your team. 

Your other choice is to register as a negative fan. That’s OK but, it means you can’t enjoy the victories – blowouts, tight ones, upsets of ranked teams. none of them. Not only is celebrating not allowed (that’s reserved for positive fans) but you must complain. If the team wins 72-0, you need to find something to criticize. Maybe bitch about the blown kickoff coverage (after the eighth TD) when their return man brought it out to their own 32-yard line.

There might be some with deep pockets who say, “You want my money, show me something,” to which the school’s response could be, “If we can win without you, why would we want someone like you in our camp? There’s not a doubt in anybody’s mind that, should something go wrong, your mouth will be the one to go off first – and it will be the loudest. So, keep your money, along with your opinions, to yourself. Spend it on your children’s pursuits and complain how it’s someone else’s fault whenever your kids screw up.”

From a self-study standpoint, it would be fascinating if every person tried each side at least once. Then they’d see what true loyalty is like, be it positive loyalty to a cause (the team) or constant loyalty to misery. I fully realize how quixotic this plan is but I will guarantee if you were to try it, you would find how much better the life of the positive fan is than the other schmuck one.

In my lifetime, I have coached each of the major sports (in this country), although my football coaching days were in another century. Come to think of it, most of my basketball coaching days were, too. When discussing sports, I’ve always been more interested in the hows and whys of the game than the end result. There are few people I’d rather talk to than coaches (and former coaches – in any sport) but especially in football and basketball (with the exception of business leaders – who are, basically, nothing more than coaches in their industry). I recently finished reading The Curious Mind by Brian Grazer (the movie producer) and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – both of which are fabulous books for coaches, as well as others who want to understand how and why people succeed.

But I digress. The point of my “fan registration” idea (which, by the way, is done on a year-by-year basis, so fans can go from + to – if they so desire) is so each school knows how big a bandwagon to build. When I was at the University of Tennessee, the late Ben Byrd (five-time winner of the Tennessee Sportswriter of the Year award), was a columnist for the now-defunct Knoxville Journal. Ben was considered the ultimate “homer” of a writer, always looking for something good about UT sports to write. During my stay in Knoxville, there was a stretch when our football struggled, yet Ben would always find a positive side. “Negativity sells” was the media’s mantra then – a trend that has continued to rise. When I asked him why, when negativity was in vogue, he continued to just write about the “good,” he told me it was because of something his mother had always taught him:

“If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Buzz Williams Is His Definitely Own Guy

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

One of the nine collegiate head coaches I worked for used to say that “coaches are a different breed of cat.” Buzz Williams is living proof. Virginia Tech’s head man was one of ten speakers at recently Hall of Fame inductee George Raveling’s coaching clinic in Los Angeles. One aspect that sets him apart from his peers is his dislike for speaking at coaching clinics.

The only reason he agreed to speak at Rav’s clinic is his admiration for his mentor. While George had a solid winning percentage at Washington, Iowa and USC, including leading each to two NCAA Tournament appearances apiece, the reason he was enshrined in the HOF was because of how much he gave back to the game – mainly to so many other coaches at every level of the game (from elementary school to the NBA). Buzz Williams was a major recipient of George’s wisdom.

I first met Buzz at the Hall of Fame induction weekend two years ago when Rav received the John Bunn Leadership Award (and my last boss, Jerry Tarkanian) was enshrined. A few of us had eaten with George (as always, he picked up the check) when he said he was looking for Buzz. I had to attend a function with Tark’s family. As I was leaving the Hall, I saw Buzz coming through the door. Since we’d never met, I introduced myself to him and mentioned Rav was looking for him. He stopped and said to me, incredulously, “You’re Jack Fertig?” Somehow, at no time did I think he was putting me on – even though no one had ever greeted me in such a manner. In a subsequent meeting with him, he explained that George had spoken highly of me when the subject of assistant coaches came up during one of their conversations.

After hearing George tell me he’d been mentoring Williams for years, I wondered how the two of them had gotten together. Apparently, young Buzz, to use the word George did, stalked him. It seemed that there were “too many” chance meetings, e.g. Williams would be where Raveling was – and would always be going up asking for advice. Sometimes the questions would be about coaching, sometimes about recruiting, sometimes about “connecting” with people – be they recruits, players, parents, administrators, whoever. There would be frequent notes, emails and calls from Fort Collins (Williams was an assistant at Colorado State). During recruiting trips of his own, Raveling would hear from recruits and coaches about this young coach from CSU who was an incredible hustler who seemed more sincere than others.

The two coaches just bonded, each with a genuine admiration for the other’s skills. During each of the three occasions I was at George’s house to film the JackAndCoach segments for the website (check them out if you haven’t already), George would get a call from Buzz Williams. One of them was after he’d decided to leave Marquette – without a job. He had his reasons (which will not be shared here) but, suffice to say, it was a move few coaches would make.

At last weekend’s clinic Buzz explained that he intensely dislikes speaking at clinics – not because he doesn’t enjoy sharing information, quite the contrary, but that his distaste for that type of venue has to do with how impersonal it is. His speech was enthusiastic, which will surprise no one who knows him. He’s not the slick recruiter most big-time coaches are but there’s no doubt that if your child (or player) went to VT, he’d be with someone who cared about him as if he was his own son. If you don’t believe he’s a different breed of cat, his final line was something I’ve never heard any other college coach do. He concluded with:

“Here’s my cell phone number.”

And then he actually gave it to the 200 or so coaches in attendance.



The One Time George Raveling’s Generosity Did Nothing for Me

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

As I posted 10 days ago (8/27/15), this Friday George Raveling will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, meaning that my last two bosses will have been enshrined in the HOF (the late Jerry Tarkanian gained admittance two years ago). Most everyone who knows George can tell a story about his passion for clothes shopping. He’s an immaculate dresser and has got to love clothes shopping (buying is the more accurate term) as much as anyone who’s ever stepped into a store – females included. I can attest that his admiration of clothes goes back at least 42 years (although I know the actual number is even greater). What follows is proof in the form of a story from my book, Life’s A Joke.

Of all the coaches I’ve ever worked for, by far the sharpest dresser was George Raveling. George was known not only for the expensive clothes he wore but the manner, and frequency, he bought them. I was witness to one such escapade during my time with him as his associate head coach at USC (early ’90s). We entered one of his favorite exclusive men’s shops (I’m sure the only reason I was allowed in was because I was with him). First he looks, then feels a denim fabric. The salesman made a comment regarding the quality of his selection. George asked the guy if they could make jeans from the cloth, to which the man, naturally, said they could.

“OK, make me six pair,” George casually said. My jaw dropped and so did the salesman’s – who had just met his new best friend.

Allow me to flash back to the day in 1973 when George walked into the WSU basketball office with a massive armload of clothes, some of them with the tags still on them. He said to the staff, “I cleaned out my closet last night.  If you guys want any of these clothes, there yours.”

Even the ones without the tags were almost brand new. Our staff at that time was composed of full time assistants Steve Cottrell, who is 6’4″, John Heft, who is 6’6″ and, along with me, our other graduate assistant Mark Edwards, who is 6’7″ (and, by the way, has won two Division III National Championships at his alma mater, Washington U. of St. Louis, in addition to over 600 games – see my 2/9/14 blog).

For those readers who may not know, George is 6’5″. These guys took to this pile of clothes as starving lions to raw meat. It was Christmas for them. My problem (which I hadn’t thought of as a problem until that day) is I’m 5’10”. I just looked at the fire sale that was going on and asked George:

“Are there any socks in there?”

Rich Paul Is One of the Most Feared Men in Cleveland

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

One of the hot topics during this NBA off-season was whether or not Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was going to shell out max money to former reserve (and restricted free agent) Tristan Thompson who, when the opportunity presented itself, took complete advantage of Kevin Love’s injury. His play in the NBA Playoffs definitely endeared him to the Cavs fans. In order to win an NBA Championship (not just get to the Finals – which was a pretty significant accomplishment for a team whose major players and coaches had been together for only one year), the Cleveland faithful feel Thompson must be an integral member of the club.

Earlier in the off-season, the Cavs made Thompson a five-year, $80 million offer. If you listened to Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, he made it crystal clear where he stood – not a penny less than five-year, $94 million max deal. After all, Thompson needs to be fairly compensated for his work – and why should a person take $80 million when he deserves $94 million (is it as hard to read that as it was to type it)? Due to other post-season signings, however, the Cavs are facing a large luxury-tax bill. Awarding Thompson, as young and terrific a prospect as he is, that kind of a contract would be a tough financial blow – even someone as wealthy as an NBA owner. Rich Paul doesn’t care that Dan Gilbert has to exceed the luxury tax by more than many countries’ GNP. He represents Thompson . . . oh yeah, and LeBron James.

“If they were to sign Thompson to a deal that started at $15 million, it would add more than $35 million to their tax bill this season alone, not including Thompson’s salary,” said ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (who, unlikely as it might seem, is a confidant on LeBron’s – and has parlayed that relationship into the ability to dispense great information before any of his colleagues). Anyone with a shred of fiscal responsibility would cringe just thinking of what a severe tax hit like that would do.

For all those out there who want to get into the business of being as sports agent, here’s advice – from none other than the greatest player in the game today – on why he hired Paul to be his (albeit, third) agent. “He’d always kept it real with me, and I wanted him to be down with my team,” said James who was quoted for an article in ESPN’s The Magazine on Paul. Keep it real, so you can be down – simple as that.

James met Paul in the Akron-Canton airport. LeBron, who was a junior in high school at the time, had a proclivity toward professional jerseys. As a consequence, the teenager was quite impressed when he saw this relatively young (21-year-old) guy wearing an authentic Warren Moon jersey. It was no coincidence Paul was decked out in that manner. Selling jerseys was his business. In order to reduce overhead on rent, he sold them out of the trunk of his car. A relationship developed. James was the only prospect – ever – whom every NBA coach or scout I spoke with, agreed was ready to play immediately at the highest level (and that was when I was a veteran of the college game and spoke often to the professional people). Not one expressed even an iota of doubt – and if you know NBA people, that’s some tribute.

Cavs fans love Rich Paul. Word is that Paul, a Cleveland native, was the main influence in moving the big fella “back home.” Every one of their fans agree with Paul and think the Cavs ought to give Thompson max money. Rich Paul has been threatening the Cavs that, while they’ll have Thompson for another season, they can kiss him goodbye after 2016 because he (assuming he meant Thompson and not himself, although that can’t be taken for granted) has been disrespected.

Rich Paul has power, too, and will continue to wield it as long as he doesn’t violate one major rule:

“Just don’t piss off LeBron.”



America’s Favorite Game

Monday, August 31st, 2015

It’s that time of year again. Time for football. During my childhood there was little debate as to which sport was America’s past time. Soccer. No, seriously, baseball was king – whether it meant playing the game, watching it or talking about it. We played football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. Back then, the most fun game to play was baseball. Football practices were too hard and, believe it or not, basketball, although we did play it, just wasn’t that popular.

Baseball is steeped in tradition which might be what sunk the sport in the eyes of the fans, especially the young players. To me, a child of the ’50s and ’60s, playing baseball, collecting baseball cards and “flipping” them (competitive games – a story for a later blog) took up most of our summers. What could be more fun. Remember, this was before computers, and all the games that are associated with them.

To our younger son, Alex (who grew up in the ’90s and, what the, ’00s?, the only redeeming quality of baseball was, as he told me after he decided not to play the sport any longer (in 6th grade), “The only thing that’s cool about baseball is that you can eat sunflower seeds while you’re playing.” It’s become a cliche that the modern athlete is all about instant gratification, which certainly doesn’t play into baseball’s strength. Football is a series of collisions, with a brief rest period in between each. It’s the modern day version of the gladiators (although those guys would have loved the huddle and time out concepts). It has, however, become more and more dangerous. When I played, we were concerned about broken bones and blown out knees – but being part of a team trumped any injuries. Plus, the football players got the girls. Or so the saying went.

The most redeeming aspect of football is that it is the ultimate team sport – in this regard. The team is composed of all sorts of body types and skill sets – and everybody has to depend on everybody else if the team is to secure victory. There are all kinds of players. To begin with, a good quarterback who has to possess a myriad of talents, not the least of which is leadership and, for the best ones, the ability to share the glory, is mandatory. Next are the running backs who have to have a combination of speed, strength, shiftiness, desire to at least pass block, and the most important trait – hold onto the ball. Receivers, wide and slot, in addition to catching and holding on to the ball, must be able to get off the line of scrimmage (a major talent considering the defensive game plans of today), run precise routes and, occasionally, block. Speed and size seem to matter at the higher levels of play, except for those whose hearts overcome the tape measures and stop watches.

With all the “skill” that’s been discussed, nothing good can happen if there are no interior linemen – guys with zero ego – who just want to open holes for runners and keep the quarterback’s jersey as clean as when he put it on before the game. Then, to complete the offense, you’ll need a tight end (sometimes, two). This position combines the receivers talents, to a point the runners’ skills, and the O lineman’s ability to block.

Let’s not forget the special team players who have to do things that others can’t (don’t want to, in some cases, refuse to) do – trying to block someone running downfield at breakneck speed, or being the guy running downfield at breakneck speed trying to tackle the kick returner – without getting laid out yourself. Also, every good team has a punter who can “flip the field” with a good kick (or put the team at a distinct disadvantage with a bad one). The place kicker is a position held near and dear to my heart because, a long time ago, I was one. NFL kickers have made their job look so easy, the rules makers changed the PAT. If anybody thinks it’s so easy, try it sometime – with people coming at you. Of course, every place kicker will tell you a good long snapper and holder make life a whole lot simpler. Increasingly, games are being decided by a small margin of points. Those fans, announcers and former players who mock kickers need to remember the next time your favorite team is behind by a couple that, deep down, you know you’d want no part of that kick. And, most impressive, kickers come through many more times than they miss.

With all of those positions adequately filled, you still only have half the game covered. D linemen, linebackers, corners and safeties can bale out a team that is having trouble moving the ball – even score a time or two. Or they can make the game difficult by giving up scores too early and/or easily, putting too much pressure on an offense. As with everything else in football, the opposite is true, e.g. a “pick 6,” a fumble deep in your own territory, too many “three-and-outs” can doom a defensive unit.

No one player has all the talents discussed. But he doesn’t need to. It’s working together that makes the game what it is. It’s like a mini-corporation in which there’s a CEO, other executives who are in charge of their own departments, e.g. marketing, advertising, sales, technology, etc. There are also custodians, secretaries, security people – all of whom make up the business – and just as in a successful business, if everything goes as planned, success is nearly certain.

As Henry Ford said:

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

The College Football Landscape Has Changed Only Marginally in the Past Five Years

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Internet problems that didn’t get fixed until well after midnight caused me to re-print a blog from five years ago (if I post my blog after 11:00 pm Pacific Time, it posts to the next day, meaning everyone on the country can wake up and check out my thoughts while they’re still on their first cup of coffee. If it seems as though I experience an abundance of problems related to computers and technology, it’s more likely than not due to ignorance and apathy, i.e. I don’t know and I don’t care (to learn). Since it was written so long ago, chances are readers have never seen it. Or don’t remember. So, enjoy (again).

Fresno State and Nevada had been not so secretly longing to join the Mountain West Conference ever since the old WAC split and left them out – or in. Becoming part of that league at that time would have a significant move – although for the first few years, the WAC was arguably as good as the newly formed group in both football and basketball.

Now the move has definitely lost much of its luster. First of all, Utah, one of the MWC’s bell cows defected to join the Pac-10 (now that I can understand). The Mountain West neutralized (maybe even upgraded) the loss of the Utes when it plucked Boise State from the WAC. There was talk of the MWC trying to become the seventh BCS conference. A case could have been made for the league if it had Utah, BYU, TCU and BSU but Utah’s defection crippled that idea. Besides, everybody knows all this posturing and positioning is about money and you don’t have to be brilliant in math to know something split seven ways doesn’t yield as much as something divided six ways – not if you’re one of the six anyway.

In what seemed like a revenge move, the WAC devised a plan to pry away BYU from its hated rival league – even though they wouldn’t be joining the conference in football. It seemed a pretty shrewd move. Getting BYU in basketball would upgrade that sport but that wasn’t the reason for “the pact.” It was definitely meant to bring the MWC to its knees. And then, the Bulldogs and the Wolfpack did a 180 and everything went to pieces.

Now, BYU is leaving anyway – to pursue football life as an independent. It will join the West Coast Conference, an 8-team league made up of church-based schools for its other sports. It makes that league even more powerful in basketball (some called the WCC the best league on the West Coast last year). But to try to make a go of it as an independent?

It works for Notre Dame, but BYU isn’t ND – even if it has its own TV network. No matter what television does for the Cougars (they just signed a 6-year deal with the Irish), my prediction is they’re still going to find it extremely difficult to fill a schedule every year (especially in future years since football scheduling is done so far in advance). Because the WAC is down to six teams, all seems to be forgiven and they will (gladly) schedule BYU in football.

But BYU wanted to go independent so it could have a better chance to crack into a BCS bowl and playing WAC schools will badly hurt their RPI. As far as scheduling other BCS teams, once teams get into league play, they’re wary of playing non-conference opponents. Sure, there are off-weeks, but usually coaches look forward to a break in the schedule to get healthy or have additional preparation time for a league rival.

Should the Big 12 (now 10) look to expand, don’t think TCU isn’t at the top of the list – and it won’t take but a phone call to remove another team from the MWC. When it comes to big-time football, you’re either in or you’re trying to get in. Changing positions on the periphery doesn’t really help much. And, when you resort to trying to weaken others, be wary of the line:

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.”

What the Rules for the Debates Ought to Be

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

With political debates descending upon us (Republicans vs. Republicans, maybe Democrats vs. Democrats (who knows?) and, finally, the granddaddy of them all, R vs. D for the heavyweight champion of the world (and lesser posts), it’s apparent a new set of rules need to be put into place. Much of what follows I have (loosely) stolen from another blog, but since that blog is mine (10/1/13), the larceny is legal.

What we’ve seen in debates (heck, any political speech) can only be categorized as blamestorming. People blame politicians. Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans blame Democrats. Politicians blame others within their own party. What is lacking is trust. It seems as though nobody trusts each other and, in altogether too many cases, for good reason. The United States government, as it stands today, could be the definition of reverse synergy in which the whole is actually less than the sum of its parts.

How have these politicians been elected? Debates are an excellent means for voters to form their opinions about the candidates (discounting those who have already made up their minds and refuse to waver, independent of what they hear, read or see). While loyalty is an admirable trait, it ought to be replaced with impartiality and sound judgment when choosing who should govern. After viewing several debates throughout the years, however, I propose a new policy on the format of future “discussions of the issues.”

What needs to be done is to get each participant and hook them up to something that would send a minor electric shock to their body. Each person in the debate would be identically connected. In a race in which one of candidates is the incumbent, that person, for example, might be asked to explain why the nation (or his/her district) is in the shape it’s in. The moderator would be equipped with a device that, if pressed, would generate the electric shock to the speaker if and when the candidate: a) would give a response to another question he/she would rather have answered, b) would begin talking about the opposing party, c) would begin attacking his/her opponent’s character or d) would begin filibustering, if anyone would be so foolish to try that, knowing he/she is risking an electric shock (maybe that’s a solution to disallow such a foolish act in Congress).

Also, should a candidate talk over a rival, the microphone of the person who is interrupting will immediately be shut off (it would be like subjecting the person to Maxwell Smart’s “cone of silence”). Non-incumbent candidates running for office will be subjected to exactly the same rules, e.g. when asked about a policy (including controversial topics), should they respond with, “Well, unlike my opponent, who …” ZAP! In addition, any candidate who has blasted his/her opponent in electronic or print media will be asked about those inflammatory remarks and, if they are not substantiated with facts, yeah, ZAP! This idea would lend a new meaning to a politician being “burned out.”

Possibly because I’ve never really been interested in politics, I’ve been content with listening to politicians explain what should be done and voting for whomever I felt was the best person for the job. Unfortunately, the winners of today’s debates have become who looks the most electable, who can cause opponents to stumble, who has the best “sound bite” answer, who can do the best job of shouting over opponent(s) or, mainly, who can make the other look more foolish, thus “back dooring” themselves into a (in many cases, lucrative or powerful – or both) job.

Until something akin to my (admittedly, outrageous) plan is put into use, the late Robin Williams’ definition of politics will rule:

“Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures.’ “

Chris Webber Is Officially a Member of the Media

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Recently I saw where Chris Webber compared the situation NCAA college athletes are in to slavery. First of all, when Webber was in college, he was bankrolled by Michigan booster Ed Martin so, at the very least, he should exclude himself from the conversation. It’s highly doubtful his college experience was anything at all like a “normal” slave would have encountered. In fact, it was nothing like a “normal” scholarship student-athlete would have encountered. The fact that some of his own teammates consider him a pariah puts him in a different ctaegory from the normal student=athlete. Or slave for that matter, but, then, I’m only guessing on that part.

Webber now has a platform because he’s on TV and probably thinks it’s his duty to inform the public of the awful conditions NCAA athletes have to endure. Yet, for years he lied again and again (including to the grand jury) about his own cushy, illegal life he was basking in while attending UM – so he would only know by theorizing.

I have said for . . . ever that student-athletes have little to complain about – if they take advantage of all that’s afforded them. Full scholarships (room, board, books tuition and fees) can be supplemented by Pell Grant (for those who qualify), as well as “needy student fund” money. Making use of that would solve everyone’s, even the most destitute kid’s, problem (some are too lazy to fill out the Pell Grant form and many coaches feel “they don’t have the time to “hand-hold” the parents through the process). Now, in addition to that financial assistance, “cost-of-attendance” money, which is over and above what the scholarship covers, will be available beginning the 2015-16 academic year. (For a full assessment of my view of whether players should be paid, go to and read my guest column Why College Athletes Do NOT Need to Be Paid).

Sure, the universities are hauling in money hand over fist but, with the exception of a few, they’re not exactly rolling in dough. Funding all the non-revenue sports (meaning every one but football and men’s basketball – and, don’t forget, that although those two create revenue, it doesn’t mean they don’t spend more than they make) and keeping up with the Joneses in terms of facilities eat up any excess money that’s made. And now they’re faced with finding extra stipends for athletes. According to recently retired Virginia congressman Jim Moran, of the 1,083 college sports programs in the nation only 20 are profitable. (see “Jim Moran says only 20 colleges make a profit from sports” by Nancy Madsen of and the, 12/22/14).

Where sympathy dries up for the universities, however, is in the salaries they’re paying their football and men’s basketball coaches. For example, the coach of whichever SEC West football team that finishes last will make at least $4 million. Hey, anybody can finish last. With the coaches being so handsomely compensated, the athletes feel (and are told) more money ought to be lining their pockets. Maybe this phenomenon should serve as a lesson for their future employment, i.e. when you work for a highly successful firm, the workers don’t often get to participate in profit sharing. Which is why, some will say, that’s why the Northwestern guys wanted to unionize. And, independent which side of that argument you were on, you can’t disagree what a mess it was, still is, and, undoubtedly, will be until those players are long gone.

At the risk of mixing a folk tale and a fable, what’s currently going on in intercollegiate athletics is what Henny Penny, aka Chicken Little was warning, i.e. “that the sky is falling” because the power brokers, aka the Power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame) are “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Oprah Winfrey is someone who knows a little bit about the human spirit. Here’s her philosophy:

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

Every Sport Has Different Levels at Which It’s Played

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

When I was an assistant basketball coach at Tennessee, one of my closest friends – and mentor – was UT’s tennis coach Mike DePalmer (a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame). Mike, as good a friend and giving a person as there is, and I played many tennis matches at 7:00 am – for seven years! One morning, I showed up to play and he had already given a lesson to a local youngster at 6. We began to warm up when his manager came out, telling him he had a recruiting call from South America. “Jack, I gotta take this call. I’m already warmed up from the lesson, why don’t you warm up with Paul?”

“Paul” was Paul Annacone, his #1 singles player at the time. For those of you who aren’t tennis fans, in 1984 (the year he and I “warmed up”), Paul proceeded to go 51-3 in singles and was the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year (I steadfastly refuse to take any credit for helping him achieve that award). Following a successful professional tennis career (in which his highest ranking was #12 in the world), he turned to coaching. Among his pupils were Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

One interesting aspect of working at a major university is the number of world class athletes you encounter, not only the players you coach, but those in other sports. In my time at UT the coaches and players ate together in the dining hall of the athletic dorm, so I got to know some kids with amazing skills. That day, Paul walked to the opposite side of the court and we began to rally. After he and I hit the ball about 4-5 times a piece, I stopped and walked toward the net.

“How do you get the ball to jump off your racket?” I asked him. He was leisurely hitting shots and they were exploding back to me. Being a wise guy New Yorker (which he knew I could relate to), he deadpanned, “It’s called a hitting off the sweet spot. Your racket has one, too.”

Another close friend of mine is Mike Watney, the former golf coach at Fresno State (and a member of the Golf Hall of Fame). Note: My career in intercollegiate athletics was more known for longevity (30 years) and number of Division I schools that employed me (9) than for any personal accomplishments. However, as the reader can see, I was wise enough to form connections with the giants in their respective games (someday I might list all the coaches I worked with, if for no other reason than to show the “coaching education” I was exposed to during my time in the business). In fact, my last two bosses in college hoops are in the Naismith Hall of Fame – or will be soon. Jerry Tarkanian was inducted a couple years ago and George Raveling (I was his graduate assistant at Washington State from 1973-75 and associate head coach at USC from 1991-95)  will be enshrined on September 9.

In an earlier post, I told the story of winning a free golf lesson at the Fresno State Xmas luncheon and how Mike convinced me – someone who’d never really played the game – to take him up on it. I quickly became hooked and while my back surgeries have shelved my golf game (I’m hoping not permanently), our two sons (26 and 21) have been bitten by the bug and play whenever they can.

Mike called me about an opportunity he’d been given and wanted to bounce some ideas off me. When we were catching up with what was going on with our kids, I mentioned how into golf each of our guys were. Being the gracious guy he is (you’ll be hard pressed to find a more genuine, down-to-earth person – anywhere), he offered to give a lesson to the boys when they were in town. Unfortunately for Andy, who lives and works in Newport Beach, he couldn’t take advantage, but his younger brother, Alex, was home for another couple weeks before heading to Cal State Monterey Bay for his senior year – and he jumped at the chance.

My back is such that my pain level will never really get “better” but I do yoga, ride an exercise bike and work with a personal trainer so it doesn’t get worse. I’ve been working out with former Fresno State strength and conditioning coach, Steve Sabonya, since the beginning of July. Although I take the workouts seriously, I still manage to “chat it up” with Steve while he’s putting me through exercises to improve my flexibility and strengthen my core. Since he’s worked with elite athletes throughout his career (present company not in that category), we’ll talk about how good somebody has to be to make it professionally in a chosen sport.

Last week Steve asked me what I thought a 10 handicap golfer would shoot if he were to play in a PGA tournament. I told him how Mike had worked with Alex and, after their session, mentioned that he thought Alex had promise as a golfer – and if he wanted to get really good Mike would give him another lesson. Alex didn’t need to be asked twice. That second lesson was the day after my workout with Steve. When we showed up, I mentioned Steve’s question to Mike.

“With the way they make the course so difficult for PGA events, from growing out the rough to making the greens so fast,” I asked him, “what would a 10 handicap golfer score?” Mike didn’t take long to respond. His answer was a 10 handicap would be fortunate to break 100.

All of this came to mind when I saw an article in which John Wall commented on his chances to make our Olympic team. “I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment. “I’m just being honest. Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie (Irving) just won the World Cup. Russell (Westbrook) will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard. So, I probably won’t make it.” Keep in mind that this admission was coming from a basketball player who is universally worshiped by the 21-and-under crowd.

It’s like Mike DePalmer told me after I informed him about Annacone explaining the sweet spot theory:

“The game of tennis” (and really ALL sports) “is played at different levels. There are beginners, you and I play at a better level, then there are additional levels, including college, professional and – the best of the best.”