Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

A New Type of Ballot for the Coming Presidential Election

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

When it comes to political discussions, it seems as though every time people say which candidate they’re backing, there’s somebody in the room who will question their sanity. Are you serious?” is the question they hear. “How can you be for him/her?” is the follow up.

Since I’m much more interested in people than politics, I enjoy listening to the answers much more than I do discussing my choice. Invariably, the answer and its justification – independent of which candidate they name – begins the exact same way. The first thing out of the person’s mouth, make it the first three things (after that, it’s obvious how they truly feel), is something negative about the opponent of whomever they mention as their choice.

If people say they’re for Donald Trump, there’s always someone in the room (assuming there are a minimum of four people in the room) who is incredulous anyone could vote for a guy who seems to only opens his mouth to change feet. Should those asked say Hillary Clinton is their choice (once again, assuming there are a minimum of four people in the room), there always is a person within earshot who will launch into how she has been less than truthful with the American public (putting it mildly). The reason for this is most likely because there are at least 25% of the people in the country who a) are fearful of what a Trump presidency would do or b) whose lives have gotten worse over the past eight years or, simply, who see the general mood in the country as less positive than is healthy – and attribute it to the Democrats.

Consider this statistic: The Libertarian candidate received 8% of the vote when people were polled – and almost no one knows who he is!

Here’s my proposal: have two ballots for every voter but only one is allowed to be submitted, depending on how strongly he or she feels about why that choice was selected. One ballot has the names Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and whoever else is running, as well as a place to write in a candidate). The person voting is to choose which candidate is their choice to be our next president.

The other ballot has only two names on it: Hillary & Donald. Except on this one, the voter chooses which candidate they do NOT want to see elected. From what I hear – and I’ve make it a point to listen carefully and not express an opinion (mainly because I don’t really have one), there are infinitely more people who fear a Trump presidency or loathe another four (probably eight) more years of what’s been going on (no matter how good the president is telling everybody things currently are).

I’ve never seen staunch party members at such odds with their candidate. Obviously, from the absence of so many influential party members at the Republican National Convention, it’s a natural assumption that there is unrest in that party. Similarly, not counting people who are prone to have an upbeat view of life (the number of whom are rapidly dwindling), the people who usually count themselves as Democrats aren’t as vocal for the former Secretary of State as they are appalled by Trump. Their comments are less and less about the virtues of Hillary Clinton than they are vitriolic toward the Republican nominee – possibly because there’s more of the latter than the former.

Donald Trump is seen as someone who will not only be at odds with someone who disagrees with him, but will attack that person. He says things that people wish they had the nerve to say – and gets away with it! But, in sensitive negotiations with foreign dignitaries, is that the guy you want? A guy who will call someone – who might have a finger on the red button – a derogatory, maybe even vulgar name? Or mock them for their beliefs?

Hillary Clinton is a far more polished politician than Trump. But isn’t that what the public is sick of and frustrated with? Too many politicians have been branded – and rightfully so – as lazy and entitled when it comes to performing their jobs, as well as having a propensity to lie and be immoral or unscrupulous.

While nobody can be certain of how an election like this would turn out, I’m confident that the greatest number of ballots would be the “against” version. Overwhelmingly so. I’ve lived 68 years, in nine different states and based on my observations of talking and listening to people, watching television (all outlets included), reading newspapers, magazines and, even, Facebook posts of friends (which can’t be anonymous) from all over the country, the one factor that rules is, unfortunately, hatred of a candidate.

While I truly believe many, many more people would vote against someone than for him or her, my biggest problem with this idea is . . . what do we do with the results? Maybe elect whichever candidate receives the most votes “for” or maybe elect whichever one receives the fewest “againsts.” One thing for certain, though, and that is that there is little doubt that this election has come down to one overriding question:

“Which candidate would you rather not have as your president?”

Good Intentions, Poor Results

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Every year, at the two sessions of Michael Jordan Flight School, there are stories that become camp classics. This past year, the second session of which ended last Tuesday, proved to be no different. The next few posts will deal with this year’s happenings.

The camp is made up of nine leagues, divided by age and ability. Each league has a commissioner. Basically, there are nine “camps” and each commissioner runs his camp. My league (the Big 12) was the third oldest, made up of 14-year-olds. The camp is sold out year after year but, what’s changed throughout the years, is that more and more foreign youngsters attend – especially Chinese. Of the 95 campers in our league, 29 were from China – and every one of them spoke only Mandarin.

The camp is incredibly organized but, from a communication standpoint, the previous two years left much to be desired. The Chinese group that attended (around 200) brought “interpreters” with them. However, many of them barely spoke English (apparently, their buddies told them they could get a free trip to the United States so they just wanted to know where to sign up) and none of them understood basketball, meaning if a coach told them to “hedge” on a screen, they’d translate it as a hedge – like a bush – and nobody had any idea what was going on.

I called Pete Vaz, a coaching friend I met about 15 years ago at MJFS when he coached at camp. Pete worked at Mission San Jose High School in the Bay Area, a school that is rated the sixth best academic high school in California and the 76th in the nation – outstanding numbers considering it’s a public school. It has a high concentration of Chinese Americans. I begged Pete for help and he came through, finding one of his former point guards, Shou Chang (see blog from 8/14/15), who speaks fluent English and Mandarin. He saved us – and this year Shou brought four of his friends to interpret. In addition to a few summer school students from UCSB (where the camp is based) who spoke both languages, there was an interpreter for each league.

This year, not only did the Big 12 have 38 of our 91 campers who spoke Chinese as their first language, we had a group of 15 kids from Mexico – who spoke Spanish as their first language. After I would give instructions to the league, Shou would relay what I said in Mandarin, followed by one of our coaches who would speak Spanish to those ESL kids. Not surprisingly, with the attention span of 14-year-olds being what it is, a few of our youngsters didn’t end up at the location where I directed them to be.

Not to be discouraged, I went into motivational speaker mode. For several years at the end of last century and the beginning of this one, I was a member of the National Speakers Association. Companies and groups would pay me to deliver a positive, inspiring message to their employees and members. I appealed to the English-speaking kids’ empathy, asking them how they would feel if they were in a foreign country where only a smattering of people spoke English. If they were lost – and had no idea where they were – wouldn’t it be nice if someone from the host country “adopted” them, making sure they got to the proper place? “You don’t have to eat with them, hang around with them, text or “friend” them on Facebook – just latch onto them and make sure they get from where we are to where we’re going. Then, go back to your friends and they’ll go back to theirs.” I gave as rousing a speech as I could muster, certain they would take my message to heart. As a group, the American kids promised me they’d follow my instructions.

Then – at the very next roll call – we lost a Chinese kid.

During the second session, with 99% of the league composed of new campers, we made some tactical changes – and didn’t lose a single camper – which shows we learned from our mistakes. Everyone knows:

“It’s not how you start but how you finish.”

 

Great Day for the Fertig Boys

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Readers will have to excuse me. Seldom do I enter a post that has solely to do with me or my family. The reason I’m doing so now is a coincidence that occurred one day I was working at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp.

First, our older son, Andy, an account executive with Salesforce, called to say that the deal he’d been working – since February – had finally closed. While I possess little to no skills or knowledge in the anything tech, he tried to explain what happened. It began as a big deal for his area, ESB (emerging small business). As he spoke to the company’s reps, they began to add more employees. Then, impressed with the product (for those readers who don’t know, Salesforce is a $9 billion company which Fortune 100 has ranked as high as the 7th best organization in which to work), Andy was able to upsell them on several items. Whatever, it became a six figure deal – the largest ESB deal in the west. Technically, at that point, it was an SMB (small & medium business) deal but, after some in-house negotiations (and the fact Andy had worked on it for six months), he was able to keep (most of) it. When it closed, it was reported he ran down the hall, whooping it up. One deal that accounted for 165% of his quota will do that to a guy.

A company-wide email was sent by his boss that began, “How do you take a 5 GE customer and upgrade them to 70 EE Service Cloud & 14 Knowledge? All you have to do is ask @Andrew Fertig.” It was followed by six bullet points his manager listed, none of which I fully understood. Still, it’s nice to have your boss tooting your horn to your colleagues.

Later that very same day, younger son, Alex, called to say that he was finally selected to play for a team in Australia. He flew to Brisbane days after graduating from Cal State Monterey Bay (where he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer). The season had already started (in April) for teams in the Queensland League (a highly competitive league) but there was optimism that he’d be able to catch on with one of their clubs. Immediately, bad luck hit every one of the people who were going to help, e.g. a stroke suffered by the father of his host, the death of a family member of his trainer, a heart attack that slowed the guy who was going to place him (although, with a couple stents, he survived). All of this kept him from even touching a ball for four days. Not having practiced at all, a coach picked him up for a tryout – an hour and a half away. By the time he got out of the car, the odds were heavily stacked against him.

A week or so later, it looked as though he’d found a club when a player was sent home, but the coach decided the replacement should be a big man. Another such SNAFU occurred and, with the season winding down, Alex’s Australian hoops career seemed doomed before it ever started. He did impress his trainer enough that he was allowed to train with his South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) team. The SEABL & Queensland are the best two leagues in the country after the NBL (Australia’s version of the NBA). In addition to training with the team, he stayed in shape by doing cardio and lifting weights while scrambling to make enough money to get by. He refereed, worked out young athletes, put on clinics and, with two talented girls he had just met (the only two in the tournament), managed to finish second in a 3×3 tournament, splitting $1000 with his two teammates.

After receiving notice of selection to play for the Eagles of the Darwin League, a lesser talented division in the northern section of the country, Alex faced adversity in attempting to obtain the proper paperwork to allow him to be eligible. It wasn’t until the afternoon of his first game that he received notice he was cleared to play. That night he took out his frustrations on the opposition, leading his team to a 110-92 victory, scoring a career-high 53 points.

I called my wife later that night and when she asked me how I was doing, I quoted Larry David:

“Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.”

The Legend of Michael Jordan Grows Even Larger

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Michael Jordan Flight School (basketball camp) in Santa Barbara just completed its 21st year. There are two sessions, each composed of approximately 850 youngsters from 8-18 years of age. The first session is boys only, the second is coed. Each year there are “celebrity kids” and this year was no exception. During this year’s first session, sons of Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, Michael Finley and Matt Barnes (brought to camp by their mom and her boyfriend, Derek Fisher) all attended camp.

A tradition at the camp is each night MJ emcees shooting contests. One night the competition was a game called “Around the World.” The rules of the game are as follows: first, the shooter had to make a lay up. Miss and he was out. If he made it, he would move to the elbow, free throw line and opposite elbow. Miss any of those three and . . . game over. Then it was on to the three-point line. The player shot from five spots on the floor – each corner and wing, plus one from the top of the free throw circle (moving counterclockwise). If the contestant made shots from all five spots, he then had to make a layup – and then, to win it all, a free throw. On this night each shooter was given two “mulligans” (but only one per spot), i.e. a make following a missed three kept the contestant in the game. No second chances on the layups or the free throw. A player lost if he 1) missed either layup, 2) missed twice in a row at one of the three-point spots, 3) missed at three of the three-point spots or 4) missed the free throw.

After choosing several kids, he asked for volunteers from the audience (parents – both fathers and mothers). The shooter is under quite a bit of pressure, having to shoot in front of 900+ campers, coaches and staff. In addition that evening there was a crowd of parents, siblings and locals estimated between 500-700. In order to put even more heat on contestants, Michael told the youngster that if he won, he would score free shoes – for every member of his camp team (between 10-12 kids).

After going through an entire evening with not one winner (the second session saw three people – two campers and a dad – win), MJ called out Monta Ellis and challenged the Pacers star. Ellis made the layup but knocked down only the corner J before missing two in a row from the wing. Next up, Chris Paul. MJ decided to raise the stakes. He said, “If Chris wins, every camper (all 850) gets a free pair of shoes!” Much to the delight of the kid, CP3 buried shot after shot – until he go to the final corner, only to rim out both tries.

Derek Fisher followed CP – only this time, Michael announced he was shooting for every person in the building. If Fish won, aside from the fact that Nike would be mailing out somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 pairs of shoes, the staff would have to deal with the logistical nightmare of getting names and addresses of everyone in the stands. The kids’ information would be in the camp data bank but how would we get names, addresses and sizes of all the people in the bleachers, e.g. beyond the obvious, how would we keep someone from circling back and giving their neighbor’s or relative’s name?

Fisher, using one of his mulligans, made all the way around the world. He then made the second layup. Only the free throw stood between a memorable event and chaos. Much to the dismay of the group, D-Fish missed. Camp higher ups breathed a sigh of relief.

Chris Paul, one who understands how to seize a moment, grabbed the microphone and said, “Michael, how about you shoot for the campers – but with the opposite holding true – meaning, if Michael does not win, everybody gets a pair of shoes.” Talk about walking the walk.

Michael made the layup and each of the three shots from the free throw line, as well as the first corner three-pointer. However, he missed his wing three, only to knock down his mulligan to stay alive (and keep the Nike execs from experiencing heart failure). The shot from top of the circle was another miss but he followed up with a wet three. Now, he was out of do-overs. He made the next two threes and the layup – all with Chris Paul talking (G-rated) trash, rolling the ball so MJ had to bend over to get it. As if that wasn’t enough, Chris had the ultimate challenge for his friend.

“This morning, when Michael was lecturing on free throws, he told y’all that how important practice was and how he practiced so much, he could make a free throw with his eyes closed. So, it’s only right for him to shoot his final free throw . . . with his eyes closed.” The one thing about Michael Jordan that everybody knows is how competitive he is. So, he accepted the dare – with over 1,500 pairs of shoes on the line. CP even put his hand over MJ’s eyes as he shot. The ball not only went in but the net barely moved. The shot went straight down the middle.

What shocked me – and made Michael Jordan human – was what the camp’s host admitted to the group after he had just “disappointed” everyone in the building:

“That’s the most nervous I’ve been in the last 20 years.”

 

Could Police Violence Be Thwarted?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

As stated in yesterday’s post, most of what I comment on is limited to the sporting world. Maybe it’s my version of “staying in my lane.” However, after thinking about the police killing of minorities (mainly young black men) and, conversely, young black men killing policemen, I had an idea. After reading this, you may suggest I get back in my lane.

For my last ten years of my working life (full-time, anyway), I worked for, arguably, the greatest politically correct school district in the nation. It also is one of the only (the only?) school district without a teachers union (which, in my opinion, worked fine for us – give or take a few instances) but that’s another story. Prior to that decade of my life, I worked as director of basketball operations at Fresno State, the school that had to have set records for gender equality lawsuits. In fact, I was a member of the Gender Equity Monitoring (GEM) Committee. It was a real gem, too.

Therefore, my thinking has become guarded, whether deciding what to say, how to say it, what to do, whatever. In some ways it was a refreshing look at how to approach issues. Gone were the days of “good ol’ boy” thinking, e.g. the one that always tickled me, “What’s good for football is good for the university.” First of all, it was modeled after the saying, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” That statement came from, not surprisingly, the head of GM. The football take off on it came from, duh, the football coach. Off color jokes weren’t as welcome, or tolerated, as they were in the past century.

That’s more than enough of a introduction toward what struck me a couple days ago as a potentially good idea. One problem with hiring these days is none other than political correctness. When someone applies for a job, no longer can an employer require information regarding race, religious or sexual preference, or anything of that nature.

After the brutal slayings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, which occurred as retaliation to black men who were killed by policemen, a thought crossed my mind – which I initially dismissed as being “politically” impossible. Here’s my idea – and maybe some reader out there can tell me whether it’s possible or illegal.

Aspiring police officers have to go through the police academy. How about if part of the police academy agenda was a polygraph test, in which the officer-to-be had to answer blatant questions like, “Are you a racist?” and “Are you anti-gay (or other groups)?” and “Do you feel some women are to blame in domestic violence cases?” In a “normal” job interview, any such question would attract lawyers near and far but, when hiring a police officer?

With controversial (actually, a better word would be misunderstood) movements like Black Lives Matters, tension is high around the country. Although it occurred a while ago, let’s not forget about the Ray Rice situation and the controversial, OK misunderstood, comments by Stephen A. Smith. Any “incorrect” answer would disqualify, and justifiably so, the potential candidate. Can anyone imagine, if in any of the the instances when black men were struck down by policemen, that the officer had answered Yes to such a question – independent of how passionate the officer was toward the job? Supposedly, there are ways to beat polygraphs but this idea would certainly reveal something sinister in a candidate’s character.

My first thought was, bad idea, politically incorrect and probably illegal. Then again, why not? Whether we like it or not, being a police officer is something that needs serious scrutiny. My question to everyone out there is:

“Could it be that easy?”

Competitive Balance vs. Super Teams

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Although great players have joined forces in the past, the signing of Kevin Durant by the Golden State Warriors has pushed the topic to the forefront and elicited more opinions than ever before. People are in different camps on this subject, with strong beliefs on both sides. As far as my feeling, I’m not really sure. Here’s the information I’ve gathered which probably is the reason I can’t make up my mind.

One reason for my indecision is that I’m starting out completely neutral, in that I have no team in particular that’s my favorite. I used to pull for players from the programs where I coached. Now, since they’re all retired, I root for coaches I know. My college coaching coaching began in 1972, ended in 2002. Many of the guys I “grew up with” in the business wound up in the NBA. I remain in touch with several of them and that’s where I get some pretty good insight into why teams make the decisions they do. Their take on the professional game, be it strategy, practices, trades or free agency enlightens me beyond my personal feelings.

My assessment of the Durant deal has many parts. A caller to one of the talk shows made the statement that when the Heat put together their super team, they didn’t exactly dominate, winning only two championships. Unless he was comparing Miami to Red Auberbach’s Celtics’ teams, I’m not sure he understands what dominance is. After all, the team played four years together and went to four NBA Finals. Would they have had to go 4-4 to be considered a super team? When one team goes to the Finals four straight years, that’s not competitive balance. As far as the current rosters of the NBA are concerned, competitive balance is nowhere to be found, unless we’re talking about the teams that come after the top 5-6. Sure, the “on any given day” theory still is true over an 82-game season but the only reason some of the bottom 2/3rds of the teams in the league will be in next year’s playoffs, is because 16 teams (out of 30) have to be.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the statement that he didn’t think the Durant signing was good for the league because the NBA needs competitive balance. Give credit to Silver, though, who, after an impromptu meeting with Durant’s mother and hearing what she had to say, came to the conclusion that KD’s decision was different. In fact, every situation is different, admitted the commish. The Durant-Warriors case is not at all like what LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh did forming the magnificent trio in Miami mainly because those three colluded for, supposedly, a year. KD is joining a team that has been put together through the draft. The pre-KD Dubs are a collection of first round draft picks, with the exception of Draymond Green – who obviously should have been one.

Does that now make the Warriors a “super team?” Of course it does. Silver said he hopes the new collective bargaining agreement will address competitive balance. Should OKC lose (or be forced to trade) Russell Westbrook, it will be highly unlikely a team in such a small market will ever recover. Indiana, Orlando, Milwaukee, Utah, Charlotte, Memphis and others fall into the same category. San Antonio has been the outlier.

One topic I’ve not yet heard (although I imagine it’s been discussed) is the fact that Joe Lacob, owner of the Golden State Warriors (and the rest of his front office staff), did exactly what an owner is supposed to do. The signing of Kevin Durant was certainly in the best interest of the franchise and its fan base and he (and his people) should be applauded for their presentation and ultimate victory. Independent of what any owner says, any one of them would have made the same move given the opportunity.

Now, on to something that’s bothersome. While I do believe talk radio is over the top – and is intended to be that way – the comments of the Warriors being the team everyone (other than their faithful) will hate is a bit much. The word hate should be reserved for issues like cancer. Or rape. Or the killing of innocent people. But a basketball team? Sure, they will be villains, but hate?

“Leave the word hate for the political world.”

 

Tark’s Communication Skills Left No Doubt

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Just returned from a semi-business trip to Las Vegas. While there, my wife and I always make our pilgrimage to Piero’s restaurant, owned by one of the most loyal and generous guys you’ll ever meet – as well as Jerry Tarkanian’s best friend – Freddie Glusman. The last time we were in Vegas (late January, 2015) Freddie told me I should visit Jerry because his health was really deteriorating. I did. Freddie was right. Two weeks later, the coach passed away. I couldn’t attend the Celebration of Life for him as our son was playing college basketball that day. Freddie told me what a wonderful event it was.

Between my book, Life’s A Joke, and this blog space, I’ve shared numerous Jerry Tarkanian stories. He was a sensational coach (finally enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2013), loyal to a fault and quite the character. The stories are vintage Tark – for those readers who knew him – and somewhat hard to believe for those who didn’t. Rest assured that each is true. Here’s one that his son, Danny, told at the Celebration of Coach Tark’s Life last February.

One of Jerry’s strongest attributes was his ability to effectively communicate with his players. This story was during Danny’s first year at UNLV. Apparently, some of the players were complaining that the coach was showing favoritism toward a couple players, power forward Sidney Green and shooting guard Larry Anderson. The coach felt he needed to nip the problem in the bud.

After practice (he never would have addressed the issue before practice as practice time was sacred – Tark used to say, “The perfect season would be all practices, no games“), he brought the team together. According to Danny, the team’s starting point guard, his dad began the “meeting” by hitting the problem head on. “I heard some of you think I’m favoring Sid and Larry,” he started. “I want you to know, I am. Sid and Larry are carrying this team.”

By then, Tark certainly he had everyone’s attention. What came next  drove the point home, clearly stating what the message was. “If we were on a desert island and I had one canteen of water,” he continued, “”I would make sure Sid and Larry had enough to drink. If there was anything left over, I might share it with the rest of you.”

All Danny could think was:

“Even your own son, Dad?”

 

Mixed Reactions to Durant’s Decision

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Kevin Durant made the choice on where he was going to play and the sports’ world went into a frenzy. In Oklahoma City, there were sightings of fans burning KD jerseys. This scene was reminiscent of another “Decision” made by an NBA superstar years ago. Only this time, the people who burned the jerseys came under more criticism that the guy who wore the uni for each of his eight years in the league. One reason for so few examples of fan agitation is that there hasn’t been an OKC team without KD as a prominent member of it and the fans appreciate his past efforts, finding it difficult to be “haters.” Forget the fans – check the immediate reactions of the respective owners to the moves then and now.

Fans might be disappointed but it’s difficult to attack Durant’s loyalty. Or his dedication. There might have been times his game wasn’t where it needed to be, e.g. Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, but no one ever questioned his work ethic or dedication. Why he felt the need to join up with Golden State now has elicited more questions than answers. He could have signed a two-year deal (with a player option after year one) to remain with the Thunder, a team that was up 3-1 to the Warriors and, at the time, looked like was going to be the Western Conference representative in the Finals. Not only that, but the majority of people believed at the time – with even more sharing that belief now – that, had they closed out the series, that OKC would be getting fitted for rings. So, why not stay, if only for one more year, to see if he could bring home the championship and, in the process, become about as important to the state as oil? Then, if not, leave next year?

There were a variety of opinions and reactions after the news broke. The majority of NBA players, initially at least, expressed shock – as in “Whoa,” Crazy.” Wow,” and “Really?” Interestingly enough, Paul Pierce, who owns a (singular) ring only because of a similar (although, admittedly not identical) situation, tweeted, “If u can’t beat um join umincluding the emoji (kinda doubt if that was his reaction after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined him – and the Celts won it all – despite his later dislike for Allen). Perhaps the most analytical response from a competitor came from a newly minted millionaire himself, the Pistons’ Andre Drummond. “Everyone is so hyped up on the match up problems on the offensive end? They still gotta come down the other end.. Not a very big team.” And people say coaches don’t have an effect on their players. We could almost see Stan Van Gundy’s lips moving as the guy he just gave a five-year max deal to tweeted.

Talking heads, naturally, chimed in, some with much stronger opinions. Stephen A. Smith, who usually looks and speaks as though someone just “licked all the red off his candy” (as the old expression goes), acted in his predictable manner. The highly opinionated one was spewing venom – although, of course, prefacing his remarks with how much he respects such a high character guy like Durant. It was “the weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar, plain and simple.” Stephen A. continued his analysis by saying how close the team he’s leaving was to beating the team he’s joining. For all intents and purposes, Smith questioned Durant’s heart by saying, “he is one of the three best players in the world and he ran away from the challenge he faces in order to jump on the bandwagon of a team that’s a little bit better…”

Yet within that group, there was no consensus. Smith’s counterpart at ESPN, Chris Broussard, had a polar opposite reaction to KD’s decision. Durant played eight years, carrying a tremendous burden, that of the expectations of an entire franchise. He saw them come close but, on each occasion, for whatever reasons, he and his team fell short of what he apparently desires the most – an NBA Championship. Broussard mentioned of the conversation KD had with (new mentor) Jerry West, another superstar – and one, so many decades later – still possesses a great deal of credibility (I mean he is the logo), yet who fell short of his goal every season he played but one. Individual accolades mean a great deal but if an athlete is participating in a team sport, the ultimate is a championship. Broussard also made a couple valid points, something that should give pause to every fan in the nation. So much criticism is directed at professional athletes, e.g. that they’re in it more for the money and the ego rather than winning and championships - that KD should be praised for his choice. Also included in Broussard’s commentary was a comparison to Tim Duncan, whom many say is the best power forward ever to play the game, and how Duncan grew old gracefully by being a vital cog in multiple championship teams, as opposed to someone who had the weight of the entire organization on his shoulders.

When all the smoke clears, one of the most thought provoking questions has to be on the mind of much maligned Lakers’ boss, Jim Buss, who has got to be thinking:

“How is this deal worse than the (NBA-vetoed) Chris Paul one?”

Are the Recent NBA Free Agent Contracts Negatively Affecting the Attitude of Its Fan Base?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Bob Knight once said he learned a lesson from his wife about arguing a point ad infinitum. “The horse is dead, Bob. Get off it,” was her advice. Taking that comment to heart, I promise (with fingers crossed, just in case something even more absurd than what’s taken place during the first two days of free agent signing occurs) that this post will be brief and the last one on the subject.

NBA radio, Sirius channel 86, has not had a problem filling air time, whether the talk is hosts feelings about which (usually long-term) absurd contract was offered to which not exactly “difference-making” free agent, or the callers’ reactions to them. Guys who didn’t substantially increase their former team’s number of victories (some by not getting enough minutes to do so – due to injuries or DNP-CDs) are being tendered eight-figure deals – for multiple years. That’s an obscene amount of money.

Of course, this is due to the mega television deal with the NBA which raised the salary cap. The fact is the money is split between the owners and players – and salaries are, as always, “market driven.” At least that is what people, mainly agents, are saying is the reason for what seems to be overpaying players. There has always existed a segment of society who has begrudged athletes for getting paid so much more than other hard working, yet less skilled, individuals. The current unrest among those outside the NBA has seemed to spread.

I’ve heard from both casual and passionate NBA fans that they can’t believe what’s going on (see yesterday’s post for thoughts about the owners and this current situation). The rabid fans are upset that teams are making multi-millionaires out of marginal players, guys who aren’t going to improve their favorite club’s chances of playoff success. They have a point, considering that, independent of what the cap is (and it will increase again after next season), there still will be 14 teams in next year’s lottery. Fans who watch occasionally comment on the state of the economy in our country and how out of whack these numbers are. While they don’t believe in socialism, they say something is dreadfully wrong when so many people are scraping to get by while others will be getting (not necessarily earning) more than they could possibly need.

Next year will be worse (or better). Which begs the question:

“Could the NBA be killing the golden goose?”

 

The Plight of an NBA Owner

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

After the first day of NBA free agency, the one question on most people’s minds was, “WTF?” Sure, the salary cap jumped this year. That can only mean more confusion when it will massively jump next year. First things first, let’s deal with the here and now.

The fact that Timofey Mosgov will make more money next year than Steph Curry and that DeMar DeRozan’s new five year deal, approximately $145 million will be only $4 million less than LeBron James made in the first 12 years of his career might influence people to believe the owners need to be included in the league’s drug testing policy.

Humor me while I tell a personal anecdote. When our two sons were around the ages of 10 and 5, we used to give them allowances of $4 a week for the older one and $2 a week for the younger one. Not exactly the manner in which wealthy children are raised but since 1) we weren’t wealthy and 2) they had no expenses, it was a reasonable thing to do. I’d give them the money on Friday. One “payday” I asked each one how much money he had left from the previous week.

“None,” was, not surprisingly, the answer both gave. Honestly, I didn’t think kids of that age were going to be frugal so the outcomes didn’t shock me. Had one or both of them told me they actually had some change left, that would have shocked me. I did, however, see the potential for a “teachable moment” for the boys. “Andy,” I said to the older one, “this week you’re getting $4 but I’m going to give you only $2 and put the other $2 in an envelope with your name on it. “Alex, you’re getting $1 of your $2 with the other going into an envelope with your name on it.

“I know this doesn’t sound like a real good deal for you guys,” and judging from the looks on their faces, I pretty much knew I had a correct assessment of each one’s feelings. “But, what I’m going to do is give you guys 12% interest on the money in the envelope – and I’m going to compound the interest monthly – meaning at the end of each month, I will add 1% to whatever is in that envelope” (this generosity was nearly 20 years ago). “I know this doesn’t mean anything to you now but let’s just see what happens.”

Of course there was the understandable griping when the boys got only half their money. Mostly, it was gone by Saturday. Then again, prior to the new fiscal plan going into effect, their money was usually gone by Saturday anyway. My late mentor, John Savage (my wish for each of you readers is that you have someone as influential in your life as John was to mine), was fond of saying, “There are two types of people in the world – those who spend and save what’s left, and those who save and spend what’s left. Invariably, the first group always ends up working for the second.” Added to our my new strategy was that, every time each of the boys would receive money, e.g. birthday, Xmas, any monetary gift or earning, some of it (we began with a minimum 10% rule – but, believe it or not, as they grew older, even more would be “sacrificed”). As they grew older and their allowances were bumped, $10 for Andy, $5 for Alex, still it was just $2 into one envelope and $1 into the other. This was an attempt to have them understand the difference between being a fiscally responsible individual and being a miser.

Every so often I would share with each the amount of money in his envelope. After a while, they understood – and appreciated – how the combination of saving and compound interest worked in their favor. When Andy went off to college, I vaguely recall he had somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200. Since Alex had an additional five years of savings, by the time his senior year of high school rolled around, I came to dread the last day of the month due to how much interest I’d have to put in that envelope. Alex’s haul, when he left for college was, I believe, around $3K.

An addendum to the story: the tradition began anew for both boys a few years ago – only this time it’s 6% interest, compounded quarterly (their benefactors are retired now) – and the amounts socked away are greater. Alex had to give a minimum of $5 per week from his spending money (which was pretty significant since he was on scholarship and saved us quite a bit), although when it comes to “gift” money, including last month’s graduation haul, more is saved. We were going to place a minimum $10 per pay period on Andy, who has been gainfully employed since graduating college in 2011, but his contributions have been between $25-100, depending on what his commissions are. On a rare occasion, even more. Lesson learned.

Back to the first day of NBA free agency. Although the majority of my adult life was consumed with basketball, I would want no part of owning an NBA team. Forget that I don’t have billions of dollars (or even millions). I doubt my type of fiscal responsibility would make it as an owner. I feel I’m a rational guy who, as a math major and (former math) teacher bases most of my decisions, financial and otherwise, on logic. This year’s free agency (and I’m certain, next year’s) leads me to one conclusion:

“There is no way billionaire owners used the same strategy to make all their money that they are now using when making decisions on their team’s payroll.”