Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Don Quixote Loses – Again

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Worst Trait a Coach Can Possess

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

While coaches are leaders, one part of their job differs from that of a traditional executive. The people they’re leading are under their supervision for a limited number of years. Other than the rare Belichick-Brady combo or Popovich and his band of merry Spurs, the maximum amount of time a coach spends with his (using the male pronoun but all of this also applies to the distaff side) team is five years – and that’s only when a college player redshirts and uses all his eligibility. Safe to say, though, the length of time will be less, usually between 1-4 years. And that’s for elementary school coaches all the way to those on the professional level.

Still and all, the coach can have a powerful effect on his charges, as long as he understands the relationship is a two-way street. Each side must be loyal to and trusting of each other. Once guys become professionals, the old saying is, “You can tell pros, but you can’t tell them much.” Those guys have so many other “advisers” in their heads, getting them to play hard and together is about the most a coach can hope for. Getting only one of those could cost him his job.

For the overwhelming number of coaching situations, on any level, there is one negative characteristic a coach must avoid at all costs. In truth, it’s difficult for some coaches, possibly because of their competitive nature. That characteristic is stubbornness.

Having been in the field of coaching for 35 years, I’ve seen some stubborn coaches. One of an assistant coach’s primary responsibilities is scouting opponents. Stubborn coaches are the easiest to scout. They have a style and, come hell or high water, that’s the way their teams are going to play. The open minded coaches always have a wrinkle or two you haven’t seen but worry about because you know, if the situation demands it, they’re prepared to use something you’ve never seen.

During my career, I worked for a stubborn coach or two. And I worked for coaches who not only invited outside thoughts but demanded you contribute your ideas. I recall a day at Fresno State when I walked into Jerry Tarkanian’s office, not realizing he had a visitor. The guy was at the white board, showing Tark (who, at the time, was the winningest, by percentage, active college basketball coach in the nation) his zone offense. The previous year he had been a seventh grade coach. We didn’t use the offense but the fact Tark thought he might learn something spoke volumes.

In a brief number of bullet points, here’s why being stubborn leads to a coach’s downfall (which usually translates into losing games and, possibly, his job):

Nobody knows it all.

Everybody can use some help.

There’s a great deal of knowledge out there.

Coaches love to talk X’s and O’s (as well as all things related to the profession).

Tark used to tell stories of how he and Lefty Driesell would sit on the beach, putting sun tan lotion on their bald heads during the annual Nike trip and talk basketball (Nike would take the head coaches of the teams they sponsored on a luxurious cruise or to a lavish resort during the off season – all expenses paid, naturally). I blogged several years ago about how George Raveling, as a young head coach, contacted a handful of coaches he respected and began a self-improvement clinic that lasted 40 years – and how Larry Shyatt and Scott Duncan, currently head and assistant coaches at the University of Wyoming, and I – stole the idea and started one of our own in the 1980s (and that still exists today).

One of today’s most repeated coachspeak words is “share.” Coaches absolutely love it when their teams “share” the ball. It’s the same with knowledge. Over and over you hear that coaching is a copycat profession. One reason is coaches see something one of their colleagues has success with and they incorporate it. Another is more simple. One coach sees something another has done and, unless they’re in the same league (or play each other), he calls the “innovator” and asks about what it is that caught his eye. In nearly every case, sharing is what follows.

Stubborn coaches often have another trait. They’re smug. I mean, why listen to others, including their assistants or players, when they have all the answers. What need is there to be humble. Unfortunately, for those coaches, another characteristic they wind up sharing is getting fired.

Most, if not all, people (coaches included) believe the best coach ever is the late John Wooden. He came up with many prophetic lines during his years leading men. One that he used quite often was:

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

 

Opinions on Lady Vols

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Kids Will Always Give Honest Answers

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

For those of you who have a close friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker who is having, or recently had, a baby – and are looking for the perfect gift, one that is unique, personalized, colorful and educational –  it just so happens I have a company that produces such items. The website is CuteBabyNameGifts.com. The gifts are done by exceptional artists (not me, I can’t draw stick figures) on poster board with colored pencils and are suitable for framing.

When you go to the website’s Home Page, there is a story about why I began this venture. Although I don’t mention names in that anecdote, I’ll reveal now the coach whose wife had the baby was Ron Zook, at the time my neighbor, as well as the defensive backfield coach at the University of Tennessee who later went on to become an assistant with the Steelers and Saints, before taking over the head coaching job at Florida and Illinois. It will be well worth your while to log on just to read the account of what happened 30 years ago.

This little promo wasn’t intended to sell gifts (however, if you place an order, we’ll be delighted to promptly fill your request). The reason for the stroll down memory lane is because several of the orders we’ve received recently have been names with unconventional spellings. The major advantage of our company is that, since each gift is individually done, we can handle any spelling – even punctuation for that matter – which has become popular among this generation’s parents.

Today’s blog, though, is about some older parents. Actually, it’s about my wife and myself (it also happens to be a story from my book, Life’s A Joke). When we found out we were going to have another boy, my wife and I, after considerable reflection, felt we had come up with a name we both liked.

Since we had a son, Andy, who was a little older than four at that time, we thought it would only be right to run his soon-to-be brother’s name by him to see if we could obtain a unanimous vote. “Andy, you know Mom’s having a little brother soon. We’re thinking of naming him Alexander. Do you like that name?”

Andy, even back then, was somewhat of a deep thinker. He scrunched up his face, giving serious consideration to what he was going to be calling his new little bro. Four-year-olds are so innocent we knew we were going to get exactly what he felt. Finally, he looked at us and said,

“I like Alex but I don’t like Xander.”

CuteBabyNameGifts.com can do Xander. We’ve already done a Sarai, Leomar, Ragan, Aren, Finnian, Kyaneh, Ronan, Berlynn, Chezney and Jenasis. For about 30 others, visit our Home Page.

 

What Chance Does DeAndre Jordan Have of Getting a Max Contract with the Clippers?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Yesterday I read a sports item that claimed the first true test of Steve Ballmer’s ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers was coming up when this season ended. It had to do with DeAndre Jordan who plays the position of, uh, rim protector for the Clippers. Center is too old fashioned. Post player too all-encompassing since some of the skills that are attached to a post player, Jordan doesn’t possess, e.g. back-to-the-basket moves. Yet, it can be argued that DJ is  as valuable to the Ballmer’s franchise as teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. After all, the Clippers can’t bring home the “Larry” (the Lawrence F. O’Brien, Jr. trophy presented to the team that wins the NBA championship) that Ballmer so passionately spoke of during his inaugural address at the Staples Center without all of their top three guys.

DeAndre Jordan has range that extends no more than five feet. Since the free throw line is 15 feet from the hoop, it stands to reason Jordan isn’t going to excel at “one-pointers” either. However, since there are two elements that make up the game of basketball – having the ability to score and having the ability to prevent scoring – his deficiencies are more than overcome by his talent at the latter category. In a league where 95% of the players (give or take 3%) have the ability to dunk, having someone who can prevent that shot from happening is worth quite a bit of the team’s salary cap.

Also, in the NBA (and, now, most every other level), the offensive part of the game has evolved into 80% (again an arbitrary number, so give or take 10%) pick & roll (or pick & pop, fade, re-screen, etc.), it’s mandatory that, defensively, the team’s big man be strong, quick, agile (and willing) to guard on the perimeter – in whatever manner the coaching staff wants during whatever time in the game (help & recover, hard trap, push up on the screener, help to whichever side the on-ball defender is influencing, or any other wrinkle a coach dreams up). Jordan is just that versatile. Plus, and this is mandatory on a championship team, he’s a great “locker room guy.”

So, if he’s that good, why would Ballmer’s hesitate? Well, it turns out that the big fella’s contract is up this year and, naturally, he (and, even more naturally, his agent) will be looking for not only a lucrative deal, but a max one. Those type of contracts run as high as nine figures! Not counting the two that follow the decimal point.

By now, all Clippers’ fans are aware that Steve Ballmer’s net worth is in the eleven figure range, a range so far in the distance, it might as well be in another galaxy. But, since it’s easy to spend other people’s money, Clippers’ fans can see no earthly (or other planetary, for that matter) reason why Ballmer would ever balk at shelling out what would translate to pennies on the dollar (of his dough) to keep together the team that’s destined to bring a Larry, or two, or . . . (nah, it’s been proven going that route is a mistake).

Enter the luxury tax (a concept that Einstein would have to read twice before he understood it). Before you can say, “Larry,” those pennies can really add up. When Ballmer was introduced as the new owner and asked about his philosophy on running the franchise, he said, “We are going to be bold. Bold means we are going to be willing to take risks. If you are not being bold, you are going to be timid. We are going to be hard core. Hard core. Hard core. Hard core.” The luxury tax might just cut back a couple “hard cores.”

Without getting too technical (which is nearly impossible on this subject), when a team exceeds the salary cap (actually a little more than the cap), there is a penalty levied. For this season the penalty was $1.50 for every dollar (up to $5 million) over the cap, meaning if a team was over by $5 million, it would have to pay an additional $7.5 million. For the next $5 mil over the cap, the penalty would escalate to $1.75; the next $5 mil (i.e. between $10-15 million over), the penalty goes up to $2.50; the next $5 mil, $3.25; next $5 mil, $3.75, and after that, the team would be penalized an additional $.50 per every $5 million. Certainly not for the faint of wallet. Actually, it could get worse. If a team had been a repeat offender, i.e. if they’d been over the cap for three of the previous four years, the penalties increase $1 for every $5 mil, e.g. instead of, say, at the $3.25 level, the cost would be $4.25. Forget a second look, Einstein might have passed out!

And yet, for someone as driven as Steve Ballmer and his $22 billion net worth (which, if past performance is any indicator, will continue to grow), if he feels a player can help him deliver his “Larry” to Clipper Nation, his motto parallels Yo Gotti’s:

“Spend It Cuz U Got It.” 

 

Wrapping Up the College Football Playoff Committee’s Decision

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Random thoughts on the first year of the new and improved method of selecting a football national champion:

* Would it have been as easy a decision for the committee to select Ohio State over the Big 12 had the teams in consideration been Texas & Oklahoma as opposed to TCU & Baylor?

* To the Sirius talk radio host (I can’t remember which show it was or which guy said it) who claimed what a shrewd move Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby made a few weeks ago by declaring co-champions instead of awarding it to Baylor for their head-to-head win against TCU (because he felt the committee liked TCU more than the Bears and he didn’t want to pick one of his schools over the other, thinking both could possibly get in), would you like to issue a retraction? Hint: the answer should be “No” because had Georgia Tech and Wisconsin won, Bowlsby would be hailed a genius for, in all likelihood, filling half of the field with a couple of his league’s teams. Just another example of leaders getting the big money to make the big decisions. Sometimes you’re a genius; sometimes a jackass – and often the factors are beyond your control.

* According to the talking heads on Sirius XM 91 (College Sports radio), the Big 12 has been petitioning the NCAA to allow them to have a conference championship game (which is said to be the reason their league was excluded). With their membership down to 10 teams (the NCAA has a rule that states a conference must have at least 12 teams in order to split into six team subdivisions and have a championship game), they would need a waiver. Sirius’ sources say the NCAA has yet to render a decision on the Big 12’s appeal. Naturally, the other alternative for the league would be expansion. Expect, in all likelihood, the new members to be BYU (currently an independent) & Boise State (Mountain West, but who already had jumped to the Big East, only to return to the MWC when the Big East’s football and non-football schools split up – and the people in Boise came to their senses, realizing that, geographically, there’s nothing east about them, i.e. they’re not even in east Idaho). Possibly Houston, an old Southwest Conference rival, or Central Florida, if the Big 12 wants to trade travel costs for market coverage (keeping in mind, the increased travel costs would be for all sports, men and women). My friends and neighbors out here in Fresno would love to have their ‘Dogs join the other Big Dogs but that’s probably the longest shot.

* Former coach Dan Hawkins, currently on Sirius radio, railed over and over to “fix the system.” The obvious and most logical answer is to expand the playoff to eight teams. Inherently, the “system” Hawkins is talking about sabotages itself because it’s called the Power Five Conferences and there are only four playoff spots. This means that every year one conference must be left out. At least one. How about if Tech had beaten FSU and Ohio State had lost, or barely escaped with a win, in the Big 10 championship game? The committee seemed intent on showing no mercy for a Florida State team with a loss and, with the quality win Baylor produced against a solid K-State squad, both the Big 10 and ACC would have been griping about missing out. Hey, at the beginning of the year, folks were claiming there might be three SEC teams in the top four. With that scenario, three conferences would be up in arms (as in “the arms war,” i.e. all the loot, as well as prestige, that goes along with the semis and national championship). Now that a playoff has been OK’d, all those reasons against one we’d heard about for years (time away from class, too long a season, too many games) no longer exist. It’s simple: expand to eight!

* Another former coach-turned radio personality, Rick Neuheisel, did a marvelous job of explaining today’s trend in offensive football to a caller who made the statement that teams that give up 61 and 58 points in a game, i.e. TCU & Baylor, don’t play any defense and, therefore, have no business in a national championship playoff. Neuheisel educated the caller – and the listening audience – that “new offensive-minded teams” spread the field and have two plays called (a run and a pass, with the quarterback making the decision once he sees the defense). Then, they get the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly, forcing defenses to make their players “tackle in space” (which, for the most part, kids do poorly). When the defense spreads to cover the receivers, the QB hands the ball off and the running back is gone! Executed well, this type of offense is virtually impossible to guard, mainly because, in football, as in all team sports (except baseball – the only one in which the defense controls the ball), the old adage holds true: “Good offense will beat good defense.” His summary was succinct: “The talent is too good, and the field is too wide, to defend these teams.

* All in all, college football could be in a much worse state of affairs. Consider this: most of the nation thinks Alabama is the best team. Except for those who believe Oregon is. And Florida State is undefeated and the defending national champs:

“Imagine if we still had the BCS?”

Can Agents Work for Their Clients Without Working Against the Team?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Here’s an idea: subscribe to “Jack’s Blogs” and you will receive an email notification when a new post is made. Absolutely no cost involved; it’s simply a convenience that will notify you when I’ve posted.

Weekend hoops in Monterey. This blog will return on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Did you know: Cleveland Browns’ QB Brian Hoyer gets a $2.05 million bonus if he plays in 70% of the offensive snaps. Think he thought that up or, does it sound more like the work of an agent? So when the headline read, “Hoyer shocked he was benched: ‘I still feel like it’s my team’ ” was his outrage directed at a potential lack of playing time, or a potential hit to his income?

Ever since Mark McCormack decided he would help his friend, Arnold Palmer, focus solely on golf, while he took care of Arnie’s outside interests, i.e. income that didn’t come from the tournament purse, others have found it a way to make a living as well as be involved in the world of sports. As with all great creations, however, some took the business (with a handful who earn their living in the sleazy manner they do, it’s difficult to call it a “profession”) of sports agent beyond the bounds of integrity. What agents have done since the 1960 partnership between Mark McCormack and Arnold Palmer undoubtedly exceeded McCormack’s initial idea – in ways both positive and negative.

In far too many cases, agents have made coaches’ and GMs’ lives infinitely more difficult. Unfortunately for them, they’ve created chaos in their own lives as well. I’ve had agents tell me that they would get calls in the middle of the night from their “clients” (players) demanding they, the agents, get the player traded, get him more playing time, more shots, whatever. Most of the time this occurred, the players seem to be under the influence of something stronger than Starbuck’s. Yet, only one agent I know quit the business. Why? Because there is an unheard amount of money in the world of professional sports – and an innovative thinker can make quite a comfortable living – even if they don’t possess a shred of athletic ability. In fact, many agents have never “been in the arena,” so to speak.

Not all agents are unscrupulous. Many are incredibly brilliant sales people, for lack of a better term. (I once sat in on a presentation given by David Falk – before he signed Michael Jordan - and it was one of the most eye-opening events of my life). But, agents only make money if players do – and the more money the player makes, the more the agent makes. Therefore, the agent will be as ingenious as is necessary, e.g. %-age of snaps, # of minutes, starts, All-Star appearances, top # in league in (pick a category – including %-age of sacks not given up for O linemen, successful sacrifices by a second baseman, free throws by a post player, WAR – not the card game). Anything to gain extra income, even if it discourages team play or creates dissension among players on a ball club.

Then there is the matter of endorsements. It’s become a status symbol to get a commercial (I know of two superstars who each had plenty of endorsements but one boasted of, get this, how many more speaking lines he had in his commercials). After all, with the obscene amounts of money professional athletes get from salary alone, how much more money is really necessary? Much of it simply has to do with, “I’m more of a star than you – and you and you and you.” An agent often can be the difference in the type of relationship an athlete has with his teammates, coaches and upper management.

What some athletes don’t realize is that filming a 30-second commercial is quite a bit longer than 30 seconds – in many cases, those filming want quite a few takes. Since athletes only get one take, they have a hard time doing “another” when, in their minds, the one they just shot was nearly perfect. When companies pay the, once again, obscene money they do for “famous” people, they want perfect, not nearly.

This can cause a strain on the superstar because the great ones want their family time (or “play” time for the single ones). In addition, they need to remember exactly why they got these endorsements, i.e. because they’re great at what they do, which they only get to do for a limited number of years. Working at his craft needs to be a priority. However, it’s not so much of a priority to his agent – especially if the agent has a number of clients.

Back to Brian Hoyer. A writer in Cleveland actually figured out that Hoyer had taken 99.5% of the snaps for the Browns this season (759 of 763 offensive snaps) up to last week’s Buffalo game. With Johnny Manziel taking the last 13 offensive snaps of the Bills game, Hoyer’s percentage dropped to 97.9%. No problem. But he then extrapolated that, if Manziel (or anyone else) started in Hoyer’s place, and there were an average of 67 snaps/game over the remainder of the schedule, Hoyer’s number would still be 74%. However, this guy conjectured, what if the Browns ran an up-tempo, fast paced offenses – the kind more suited for Manziel? He played with numbers and found that if Cleveland ran 83 snaps/game – and Hoyer didn’t take a one – that his percentage would dip to 69.9%.

Obviously, this could affect team chemistry, especially if the numbers start coming close. With a spot in the NFL playoffs on the line, what would this mean to the team? This entire scenario can be summed up in the words of the indefatigable Dick Vitale:

“ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!!!”

Why Are None of the Right People on the Playoff Committee?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Television talking heads, talk radio hosts and especially their callers, letters-to-the-editor writers, people who frequent sports bars, colleagues at the water cooler/coffee maker, people on social media or pretty much anybody you run into, if asked the question, “What do you think of the committee’s list for the top four teams for the college football playoff?” will gladly offer their opinon chew your ear off delivering their answer. And, as remarkable as it sounds, it’s the one item everybody agrees on. Everybody except the committee of 12 (Archie Manning gets a pass this year). What is it that unites everyone? It’s that the committee has it all wrong. How can these people, who weren’t exactly selected at random, have completely screwed up which teams ought to be in the four team playoff?

When I worked for George Raveling (both times – at Washington State and a decade-and-a-half later, at USC), he always told his assistants that we were never to go to him with a problem unless we also could offer a potential solution. So (with George’s advice in mind), rather than simply criticize the people on the committee, what follows is my proposed solution.

As soon as someone says, “How could the committee . . . !” they are immediately – right at that moment – wherever they are, e.g. on the radio, in a public place, on their PC, charged with naming their top six. They don’t get to explain why they put which team where; they just get to sit back (or stand if they’d like) for, say, 15 minutes and allow everybody else to unload on their list – with no opportunity for rebuttal. Just that person, alone, on an island, while everybody lambasts the list that was provided. Only then can they will they be able to hear what the members are subjected to every minute (from Tuesday night on) after a new ranking is released to the public.

The committee was selected for their knowledge, passion and/or whatever criteria whoever it was decided to have them be on it. I would venture to guess that, with the possible exception of a small group of meganerds, that the committee members have spent more time researching and debating which teams ought to make up the first ever four teams to actually compete for a Division I national championship in football. There should be no doubt every last member of that committee has taken his or her (Condi) position on the committee ultra seriously AND there also is no doubt that all of the members don’t agree with the final grouping that’s finally presented for public consumption. As, indeed, there won’t be a consensus with the final one next Sunday.

So go ahead and bitch away about why your team that isn’t in, oughta be, or why it’s not ranked higher, or why the team you hate is where they are . . . you get the idea. How about this idea? Wouldn’t it make for great TV? Put it live in stadiums and sell tickets. Give the proceeds to charity. If you don’t think it would be easy to sell out the Coliseum – to see people get publicly humiliated for 15 minutes – then you haven’t been paying attention.

Reality TV has almost become our national past time. Just give the pseudo-committee members a microphone to announce their final six, then cut it off and have mics situated around the stadium for people to tell the person why that list is soooooooo wrong. It would be like verbally stoning them. It was a hit when actual stones were used, you know, before civilized society frowned on that sort of thing. This could be the 21st century version. Somebody certainly would pay for TV rights. There are so many venues, in every time zone. Throw in parking, concessions and souvenirs, heck, we might be able to erase the national deficit! Getting contestants would be a cinch. In the words of Sun Tzu:

“Pretend inferiority and encourage arrogance.”

 

Was the Contract for Stanton a Good Move?

Friday, November 21st, 2014

The Cal State Monterey Bay Otters won last night, improving to 2-1 on the season. Their next game is tomorrow and my next blog will be Tuesday, Nov. 25.

When Giancarlo Stanton signed his new contract for 13 years and $325 million, naturally it caused quite a buzz throughout the nation. One thing it did was created a forum for come one, come all as far as comments about the contract. One thing that needs to be understood is that the contract is back-loaded. Stanton receives $107M in the first six years, averaging $18M/year, then will average $31M/year for the last seven.

As far as I’m concerned, the contract made more people happy than any other I can recall. The city of Miami is ecstatic because the Marlins kept their best guy in town, which translates into . . . the reason they open their stores. It certainly doesn’t seem like his teammates begrudge the new contract – but the returns from TMZ aren’t in yet. Opponents’ superstars are no doubt delighted with the new standard that has been set. The Marlins fans love it because their favorite – and best – player will be playing there for the foreseeable future. Fans get upset when their team loses a great player to free agency. Their chant is, “We shoulda locked him up with a max deal when we had the chance.” (Of course, when the player is in his later years, the same fans are saying,”They – note the pronoun change – gotta dump that contract; it’s hamstringing the franchise.”)

In a piece Ken Rosenthal did for FOX Sports, he compared what the Marlins did to be along the same lines as the plan the Rangers, Angels and Tigers did before signing new local TV contracts (the position Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria finds himself in), i.e. make your product more attractive by spending big. Rosenthal pointed out that the Marlins’ win total improved by 15 (62 in 2013 to 77 in 2014) – and that’s “with Jose Fernandez making only eight starts and Stanton missing the final 18 games of this past season. Their young players, including Stanton, are only getting better and if they sign a No. 2 starter, upgrade at first base and find a better solution at second,” the club might be looking pretty good around playoff time.

His summary was compelling, “Why shouldn’t a team succeed in Miami, which in many ways is the capital of Latin America (Stanton is of Puerto Rican, African-American and Irish descent)? Why can’t Stanton become an institution in the city, one of the faces of baseball? The Marlins could have traded Stanton for the sun, moon and the stars. But no, Loria wants to win. He often has an odd way of showing it. But no one who knows him questions his competitiveness.”

Now, for the opposing side to all of this. Keith Olbermann, the man whose job is his hobby, i.e. making fun of people and showing how smart – and smug – he can be on national television (all while making considerable money himself), perfectly nailed the Stanton deal (according to no greater authority than himself – and his Kool-Aid drinking minions). He mocked Stanton for taking  only $107M the first six years (“Russell Martin money” he compared it to). He said Loria was pulling another scam, as he had done it before. Olbermann continued to denigrate Stanton (although not face-to-face, alone in a room – apparently not his style) by declaring that, although the slugger would be making $31M/year for the next seven years, if he, or anyone else, thought the top salary in seven years would be $31M, they weren’t paying attention to the trend in baseball.

Did Mr. “I-May-Not-Know-It-All-But-What-I-Don’t-Know-Is-Irrelevant” ever consider that, perhaps, Stanton likes living in Miami (although he originally hails from Southern California). With the advantage of the tax break residents of Florida get (one reason James/Wade/Bosh could afford to take less money in exchange for a couple championships), Stanton and his family ought to be able to live a comfortable life there on only $17M/year (not including endorsement money). His agent, while back-loading the deal (allegedly to give the club more money to sign other players), did include an opt-out clause in 2020 (if, in fact, this whole thing is a scam) and he didn’t want to look foolish by working for a meager $31M/year for the next 7 years.

While ridiculing the deal and excoriating Loria, Olbermann never once mentions that in the last 20 years, of the 30 major league baseball teams, just 10 have won the World Series and only half of those have won at least two (the Marlins being one of that special group of five, Jeffrey Loria being the owner during the second championship). The berating of Loria, Stanton and the Marlins organization by KO (which definitely would have been the result of a private one-on-one session between Stanton and Olbermann had the latter summed up the courage to insult him) would only have been worse had the Marlins not locked him in and lost him to free agency.

The classiest (or most gullible, depending on your outlook) guy in this whole scenario has been none other than Giancarlo Stanton himself who answered the question of whether he should feel embarrassed making this kind of money, by saying, “This is the start of new work and a new job, for this city. It’s a huge responsibility, and one I’m willing to take. . . I know I have a lot of expectations to live up to, which I need to do and am willing to do.”

The best line in his reply might just have been:

“This isn’t like a lottery ticket and ‘peace out,’ all right now?”

Comments on Various Topics

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Brief reminder: no blog tomorrow, next one will be Friday, Nov. 21.

Random thoughts:

*Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was criticized last weekend during the game by many for seemingly trying not to win, but simply to score and walk away with a “close” 25-20 loss at Tuscaloosa. He was chastised by everyone, from the top all the way to the bottom, i.e. from color analyst Gary Danielson to . . . me. And when I spoke with others later on and the MSU-AL game was brought up, sure enough, the feeling was unanimous.

I’ve seen coaches (worked for one, too) who held onto their times out like they could use them when their time came. “Oh,” they must have thought the Grim Reaper would say. “You have many TOs that you didn’t use. OK, you can stay another couple hours.” While the last minutes were ticking off, I kept wondering why Mullen wouldn’t stop the clock during the Bulldogs (what proved to be their) last drive?

Danielson, whose praises have been listed in this space on numerous occasions as one of the G.O.A.T. college football color analysts, was classy enough not to second guess – until it became evident Mullen’s goal was to see MSU score at least once more, and not “lose by too much” – and drop too far, i.e. out of the top four. When the coach’s actions were that obvious, Danielson made the comment that most of those closely watching were thinking, i.e. that a five-point loss was better than one by double digits – or worse – had the Tide scored again and expanded their lead even further.

But “style points” aren’t supposed to matter. Coaches always, with a very few exceptions, have deplored “running up the score” to impress poll voters. But that was prior to the College Football Playoff. There’s no politicking your team’s way to a national championship now.

*Florida State has been dropped from #1 to #2, and #2 to #3 – and haven’t lost this year. Or last for that matter. If they get behind yet again, but are on the winning side when time runs out, could they be dropped to #4? And if it happened in the ACC title game, could the ‘Noles actually be left out of the playoffs - and not be able to defend their national championship – even though they’d finish undefeated? For a second consecutive season? Apparently “style points” do matter.

*At the beginning of the Lakers season, Kobe Bryant, as competitive as he is, might have thought, deep down, he and his boys could “fool the world.” Even after Steve Nash was forced into retirement (you are retiring, Steve, right?), Kobe probably felt they could still be a factor because 1) most likely, he hadn’t planned on that many games from Nash at a high level because those close to the team understood how badly Nash was hurting and 2) he felt he could mold the young guys into, if not like the cold-blooded assassin he is, a formidable club who’d get after it like he did game after game.

Even when Nick Young went out for a while, Kobe felt he and the others could hold down the fort until their “Swaggy P” returned. What I saw when Julius Randle, a Bryant favorite, went down and out – for the season – was what most everybody else in the sporting world noticed, mainly because so many cameras are focused on the Black Mamba. His shoulders slumped. There was no replacing what they had in Randle, even if he was an untested rookie.

How an intense guy like Kobe Bryant is going to make it through an 82-game season, losing game after game (even when playing to about as high a level as they can perform), is a mystery. The Lakers got one yesterday but it’s almost as if there ought to be a parade every time they come out on the winning side.

*Kentucky, a nice mix of freshmen and veterans (all of them uber-talented), has drawn the question, “Can they go 45-0?” (I’m assuming they can play that many – nobody, independent of how talented, can win more than they play – although if there’s a fan base that would expect it, Lexington would be their home).

John Calipari has done even more than he thought possible. He, and his staff, recruit the best group in the country every year. What’s so attractive to the recruits is how he prepares them for the NBA and has no issue if their goals are to be one-and-dones). Yet, this year he outdid himself. Some of the one-and-dones stayed! This left him with a problem no other coach – not John Wooden, Guy Lewis, Dean Smith, no one – ever had. The sheer number of talented players.

Some coaches would say that team chemistry might be a problem. That’s true – except this year Cal’s sheer number of talented guys exceeds any kind of chemistry problem. Or biology, physics, zoology, even epigenetics. And don’t think for a minute Cal just rolls it out. The guy is an excellent coach. The biggest obstacle UK will have to overcome is the media. They will have so many requests, their guys will be hounded - maybe into submission. And let’s not forget – although we’d like to – those on social media who want nothing more than to be the one who takes down Goliath.

*There was a sports story about the Niagra women’s basketball team being stranded on their team bus in of those famous Buffalo snowstorms. Luckily, the story had a happy ending and everybody is safe.

In the mid-80s I received a lesson in hometown pride. I was recruiting in Buffalo and had to walk through the biting cold, on sidewalks that were filled with snow, except for the parts that were “cleared,” leaving slush and ice. By the time I got to the school to watch the game, my shoes were ruined. Since I didn’t know the area, I called a friend who lived there and, thankfully, he agreed to drive me to the tilt. As we left the gym, I said to him, “Irv, I don’t mean to be condescending, in fact part of me admires that you can live here – and in your case – actually enjoy it, but I gotta ask you, “how do you do it?”

He looked at me and said, as if the answer was obvious, “Jack, you just learn to deal with it.”

I gave him the only response that I could think of at the time (in my best Jerry Seinfeld whiny voice):

“But I don’t want to learn how to deal with it.”