Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Donald Trump Could Play a Vital Role for Our Country

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

When it comes to “fixing” the United States (if you don’t think the country needs fixing, you’re either a Pollyanna or you must live somewhere unknown to most of us), Donald Trump could be an unbelievable asset. In the business world, Trump rules. Certainly he excels. Common sense would dictate that it would behoove the nation to include him when the time comes around (like, immediately) to solve our economic problems. To Trump (as it is to so many citizens), it’s unfathomable that the country is in the financial situation it’s in (massive debt, trade deficits, inability to create new jobs, etc.). He, however, has productive ideas to implement that people without his expertise might not have.

Unfortunately, his answer to solving the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into – and make no mistake about it, the collective we is the operative term here – is to run for president. Talk about overkill. If only he could reverse the major economic flaws the country faces (which would make him eligible for a colossal statue – at a site of his choosing), the overwhelming majority of America would experience the prosperity we all crave. Now someone (whoever managed to do it would also be up for a statue) needs to convince Trump that helping the nation is of greater importance than massaging his ego.

President! The qualifications for that office not only exceed his expertise, but highlight his negatives. Trump’s world is filled with battles and disputes. He not only handles these encounters – but enjoys the confrontations. On occasion he might even provoke them. And when people don’t agree with him, he tries to “educate” them. If his reasoning isn’t enough to turn their beliefs around to his way of thinking, he has no problem resorting to vicious, personal attacks. Imagine if he actually was the president. The major reason this approach would fall flat – if not turn into international embarrassment – is that reality TV and reality are actually quite different.

Should it look like someone else will win the Republican nomination, Trump has threatened to enter the race as a third party candidate – and The Donald seldom makes empty threats. Such a move would basically turn the presidential race into a mockery. Character assassinations would surpass any real issues before, during and after debates. He would initiate so much mud slinging, there would be no land left. And, realistically, what percent of the female population will he get? What percent of the black population will he get? What percent of the Hispanic population will he get? The election would leave the country even further divided.

The people who speak out in favor of his candidacy all seem to make the same opening theme. “Well, he’s definitely better than fill in the blank.” As if “better than ________” is what we should be striving for. Especially when the other candidates, independent of party affiliation, all too often employ the identical strategy. Then, we end up “settling” for somebody to lead our country whose major virtue is “not being worse than the others.”

Is Donald Trump really the person to be the face of our country, the person who needs to deal with sensitive international encounters with other heads of state? In such a situation, he just might be the antithesis of the type of person needed to deal with such sensitivity. Bullying someone should never be viewed as a strength, certainly not on a global level.

Put in the proper position, Donald Trump could – and probably would – be an American hero. Any loyal reader of this blogspace is well aware of how evident it is that my knowledge of sports is infinitely greater than my knowledge of politics, so to put this in coaching terms, a team’s goal is always to:

“Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses.”

How a Couple of Chinese Kids Saved the Day(s)

Friday, August 14th, 2015

As was mentioned in yesterday’s blog, there were over 200 Chinese youngsters in Michael Jordan’s basketball camp each session. Interpreters were scarce – as in none in the three oldest leagues (shout out to Shou Chang, graduate, and former point guard, of Mission San Jose HS in the Bay Area for bailing us out in session 2).

I quickly discovered last year there was a better chance of a camper being able to interpret not only English, but “basketball” than an interpreter. My main guy at that time was a youngster named John, who spoke fluent English, and was an absolute godsend. On Day One I was forced to use John as an interpreter for me – when I spoke to the adult who was supposed to be the Chinese interpreter. As soon as there was a problem regarding Chinese-English communication with a Chinese youngster or during our initial 5 on 5 practice games (played in order to evaluate players and balance teams), I would yell out, “John! Where’s John?” As polite as he was fluent in both languages (and possibly others), John would immediately come running over, saying, “Yes, Coach, what do you need?” After a few translation incidents, once again, a problem arose and, once again, the campers heard me bellow, “John! Where’s John?” Only this time I heard his, by now, familiar voice reply, “Coach, I’m playing!

When we finally broke for the final assembly of that first night, I felt so bad about putting poor John into the position of interpreter first – when he was looking forward to playing – that I called him up (while the rest of the camp was entering the gym) and gave him a $10 bill. His reaction was, “Oh, Coach, I can’t take this,” to which I replied, “John, believe me, if anybody ever deserved this, you do.”

Although his services were still needed throughout the session, I tried to make sure he was used during his down time, e.g. roll calls, when his team was sitting out or during fundamental instruction (when he was not involved). At the end of the session, our coaches voted John the “Michael Jordan Award” which went to a kid who, while he might not have been an all-star, was a model camper. In fact, we felt the award should have been re-named for John. I also bought him an MJ t-shirt and when I handed it to him, he tried to give back to me the $10 bill from Day One. I convinced him it was his.

After the second day of camp this year, one of the Chinese “interpreters” (who had been to camp the previous year) came up to me and, in broken English said (in essence), “Do you remember John from last year? He said to tell you ‘Hello’.” It drew a good laugh from both of us and I told him to tell my friend John “Hello.”

Luckily, for all of us, for the second year in a row in my league, there was a youngster who spoke fluent English. This year’s MVI (most valuable interpreter) was Henry. Every time we needed to explain a basketball drill or simple instructions like where to meet after dinner, our group would hear my voice, booming, “Henry! Where’s Henry?”

Just as his predecessor, John, would do last year, our young camper/interpreter, Henry, would run up to the front of the group as if to say, “Reporting for duty, sir.” He would then either go team-to-team, explaining what was needed or we would have him call up all the non-English speaking Chinese kids and inform them of whatever it was they needed to know at that time.

And, just as I did with John, I gave him a $10 spot after the first night and, as John did (it must be a trait taught to young kids in China), Henry looked at me and told me he couldn’t take the money.

I said, “Henry, you deserve it – and we’ll be using your interpretation skills all session. Go treat yourself to something.”

The next day Henry came up to me with a big smile and said, “Coach, I bought something with the money you gave me.” I wondered what a young Chinese would purchase on his first night in the U.S., so I asked him. His answer?



A Couple Weeks Off While I Work MJ’s Basketball Camp

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

It’s that time of the year – Michael Jordan Flight School (MJFS) @ the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB). It’s the 20th year of the camp and if anyone wants to know how powerful MJ and his “brand” are – all these many years later – consider that not one of the kids has ever seen Michael Jordan play! His last year in the NBA was 2003, meaning that even the oldest kids (17-18), were only 5-6 years old when he played. And that was for the Wizards, not the zenith of his career.

There  will be approximately 800 youngsters at each session, the first one for boys only; the second co-ed – and for children from other countries, e.g. last year we had over 200 kids from China alone. The camp is split into eight leagues, with eight teams in each league (based mainly on age, but also ability). This is the first point of contention with which we have to deal. Parents want their boys and girls (mainly boys) to be in certain leagues – usually an older one because his (or her) advanced skill level – and let the league’s commissioner (I happen to be one of the eight commishes) know in no uncertain terms about their child’s prowess.

Since I worked with parents of players (or students) for 42 years, the issues can be resolved with a modicum of diplomacy. Not so shockingly, there is quite a chasm between the youngster’s actual skill level and the parent’s evaluation. Check-in is in the morning. Shortly after noon, followed by a quick orientation, leagues are formed, practice games played (with coaches doing the best they can to balance teams). Team selection is completed the first night of each session, in time for the second most treasured moment of camp – Picture Day. Michael takes a picture with every team (64), each coach (64) and commissioner (8). Also included in picture day are, the trainers, dorm people, food service people, equipment folks – and, somehow, MJ looks exactly the same in every one. Same smile, same sparkle in his eye. I have never seen him have to redo a picture in all the years I’ve been there. One of my colleagues and I marvel at how a guy can walk into a gym, wearing a t-shirt and jeans – and look like a million bucks.

Celebrity camps aren’t exactly a new phenomenon but MJFS is the standard. Jordan speaks to the campers a minimum of once a day, and often twice. He’ll give instructions on shooting one morning, free throws on another, run contests (in which winners receive shoes for themselves, their friends, occasionally for their whole team). Evenings are for competitions, sometimes MJ will select a camper as his partner. One highlight is the Q&A session at night which usually consist of the same ol’ questions, although very once in a while, he’ll have to field one from out of left field. (Somehow, during the day, he squeezes in 36 holes of golf.)

The greatest event for everybody concerned, with the exception of MJ, is the last morning when everyone connected with the camp gets an autograph from the G.O.A.T. We have calculated that on that final day, Michael signs upwards of one thousand autographs – with never a reported case of writer’s cramp or carpal tunnel. The cost for a session is in the neighborhood of $800 which, when the math is done, makes for . . . a whole lot of money. Since the camp’s inception, Michael Jordan has taken no money from it, i.e. his “share” is donated.

That is a major reason MJ is known by letters:


This blog will return Wednesday, August 12.


Life’s Become So Much Easier – and Ever So Much More Difficult

Monday, July 27th, 2015

When we of the Baby Boomer generation reflect on all the innovations that have come along throughout the years (a great many of which were designed, created or founded by us), it’s absolutely beyond belief how life has been simplified. My sons kid me every time I’m driving and have to make a sharp turn, usually out of a parking spot. One or the other, occasionally simultaneously, will say (in a mocking tone), “Do you guys know that when I was a your age there was no power steering?”

Forget power steering, windows and door locks, now we have cars that run on electricity, park themselves and even talk to the driver if the car drifts into another lane or onto the shoulder of the road – even tells drivers how to get somewhere they’ve never been. Stay tuned for more automotive changes that are, undoubtedly, on the horizon.

For those people who think shopping is wasting valuable time, most everything can now be purchased on a computer. Sometimes, it’s simply ordering and paying (credit card, check or PayPal), other times it’s more exciting, e.g. eBay, where you have to win in order to get what you (may or may not) want. When we were kids, “pay pal” meant you had a friend cover for you. Kindle used to be a way to start a fire. Today, it’s a method of reading books without turning the pages. For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and would ask questions, we’d hear from our parents, “That’s why we bought the full edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.” Now, as parents, our retort is, “Google it.” Doesn’t take up nearly as much space.

So, hooray for modern technology. What I’ve found to be the case, though, is for every advancement in one area of life, there are mandatory adjustments that accompany them. Case in point: I’m a former player (for a brief period) and coach (for nearly a lifetime). I also majored in, and taught, mathematics. Numbers have always been a good part of my life – both as a hobby and professionally. Sudokus, as far as I’m concerned, are one of the greatest “inventions” of our time. I’ve never found one I couldn’t do – although a couple have taken me over a day to complete. I can’t say the same for “analytics.” Not that they don’t add value or explain the team’s and player’s performances but to many of us, they often confuse the fan (especially if the fan is older). How much they improve watching or playing the game hasn’t been proven yet, either.

Other aspects of our improved life that are conflicting have to do with our overall health. Yoga, pilates, kick boxing, body sculpting and boot camp are part of the vernacular today (boot camp was used years ago but for only a select group of people, none of whom were allowed the final word on when, or if, they were going to attend). Classes in all of the above currently exist, many for free on television. Nutritionists have advised us on what to eat, what not to eat and which supplements to take. What could be better?

Well, the question isn’t “what could be better” as much as “what could be worse?” Or maybe, are there so many “improvements” we need to prioritize them? Television, in particular, has drastically changed by leaps and bounds over the years. In the 1950s (am I really that old?) there were three stations: ABC, CBS and NBC. I had friends from North Jersey who were envious because residents of Central Jersey (where I grew up) not only got those three New York channels but the three in Philadelphia, too (even thought the Philly stations came in fuzzy). Now, there are, I believe, over 900 channels – everything from the “classic” programs and movies from our day to shows that wouldn’t make it anywhere near a live screen back then. The audio or the video.

When I was a youngster, in order to watch a TV show, you had better be near a TV. If not, the only way to find out about it was to ask someone who was. Now, shows can be recorded and seen at the viewer’s convenience. Live shows can be paused, then returned to, without missing any of the action (I still don’t understand how that’s done). In addition, nearly every sport has a station of its own, each music era is available for listening (and watching), stations in various languages, channels devoted to comedy, drama, action, science fiction, etc., etc, etc. Even the big three networks from my era have multiple channels.

So what’s the problem? Well, all of this makes life so much harder! The key to life today is discipline. Binge watching has become a past time. When people learn of a series they hadn’t been aware of, either from their friend who raved about it or a sensational review they read, they can watch the show for hours and hours. Exercise plans will help people – but only if they actually put in the work and for many, watching television is more fun than exercising – and infinitely easier.

“It’s a strange phenomena but even though I’m retired, I don’t seem to have enough time.”

A Rather Harrowing Introduction for All Concerned

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

After I wrote my book, Life’s A Joke, I’ve had several people ask me when I was planning on coming out with another. The plans for a sequel, Life’s A Joke 2.0, has been in the works for a while and, since I am retired, there should be no excuse to not get it done. The piece that follows will be one of the hundreds of stories in it.

Following my emergency thoracic back surgery (T 10-11 for those readers who are unfamiliar with my past), I began my high school teaching and coaching career (making it full circle since high school math teacher and coach was my first job after graduating college). This time, however, my entrance was a little more dramatic – by walking into new teacher orientation meetings with the help of a cane. The shock the people saw was nothing to what I was about to experience.

At the first orientation meeting for new teachers, we were instructed to document everything, that ours (the Clovis Unified School District) was a litigious group of parents. Make sure there’s a paper trail – just in case. This mantra was repeated at all three sessions. I looked around at the others, all but one who were 20-30 years younger than I was, and saw all of them diligently taking notes.

In addition to my job of director of basketball operations at Fresno State (which had ended with the retirement of Jerry Tarkanian), I had gained membership in the National Speakers Association (NSA). One of the main topics I would speak about was team building – about how every relationship is built on trust. Companies hired me, at a considerable rate, and my message was that trust is the most vital, unifying factor in any workplace. Without it, well, just listen to what Stephen Covey (one of the most respected speakers and authors at that time) had to say. “When you have a no-trust culture, you live in memo haven.” While I would custom-make each one of my speeches, I used that line in every one of them. Now, I was working for an organization whose philosophy was diametrically opposed to this belief. Not exactly a banner start.

After hearing this same message for the third time, I felt compelled to, at least, present a different view. I raised my hand and said (probably not endearing myself to my new employer), “I’m a Clovis Unified parent and I haven’t ever thought of suing anybody. Do you mean that there is an extremely small group of litigious parents – and that we should be frightened by them because they might sue?”

Then, I concluded my remarks with this strategic plan:

“Wouldn’t a wiser strategy be to hire better lawyers?”

Must See TV on HBO Tuesday Night

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

On my way to Stanford as it’s time for a pain pump refill. 10 years have gone by since my maiden voyage to Stanford Pain Management. The building has been not only upgraded but moved off-campus (to Redwood City) since my initial trip. If only its title was Pain “Elimination,” rather than Pain “Management,” . . . hey, I can still dream, can’t I?  Even still, life is much better now than it was after my 2002 thoracic disk surgery, so I’ve got to be thankful.

This blog will return on Thursday, July 23.

On Tuesday night from 10-11 pm, HBO will air a show about a philosophy that has pervaded the United States for 20 years. Or is it 25 years? However long this theory has been in existence, it desperately needs to be crushed. What I’m referring to is the attitude that “everyone’s a winner.” At the risk of sounding like one of those “back in the day” old-timers, allow me to present my case for the abolition of the “let’s build our children’s self-esteem” (at whatever cost) ideology.

During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, i.e. “back in the day,” kids who played sports got trophies – when they won. If there was an all-star team, the kids who were selected got jerseys (which they might have been allowed to keep) and, maybe, trophies. Some leagues would give awards, e.g. most valuable player, most improved, coaches’ award, etc. Those who didn’t win moved on – to the next sport or activity – as did those who won. The winners were congratulated and those who didn’t win . . . didn’t win. Did they suffer from an inferiority complex? If they did, well, back then (“in the day”), they were told to “get over it.” If they complained, their parents told them either to work harder or, if that answer didn’t appeal to them, to find something else to occupy their time during that particular season.

Parents were different then, just as the parents of those parents were different. Each generation is unique but here is something to consider. Many of the parents of today’s Generation Y children, aka the “Millennials” (the ones we’re discussing) were the children described above. Could it be they resented the way they were raised? Why did there have to be only one winner (individual or team)? Isn’t every one of God’s creatures as precious as each of the others? Maybe there were a greater number of inferiority complexes than we could ever imagine.

The result? Helicopter parents, those who hover over every move their child makes, who call the school when their little one doesn’t pass a test (or, in the most severe cases, when the parent-diagnosed little geniuses earn less than an A). And these parents don’t call the teacher. Nooooo, they go right to the administration and demand the grade be changed, their child be moved to another class and the teacher be disciplined. What could make them feel that way? One has already been discussed. They didn’t achieve to their potential (according to their own calculations) and their parents were to blame – for not “supporting” them. Another is they have been encouraged – by the administration – to go the administration, who commiserate with them and pass along the complaint to the teachers, putting them in an untenable position. Doesn’t matter, the administration did their job, i.e. placated the parents.

Somewhere along the way, people who subscribed to this feel good platform won over enough followers with their rhetoric. It wasn’t too difficult, given the Great American Dream, defined as “something for nothing.” (If you don’t believe it, have you ever wondered why the lottery payouts are so high? Something for [nearly] nothing). The “feel gooder’s” message is that our children’s self-esteem would dramatically rise if we only would recognize everybody as a winner! The fundamental flaw in this thinking is that, of course, everybody can’t be a winner. The word win contradicts that notion. If everybody wins, then nobody wins. Unless the goal is striving for mediocrity, there has to be a way to distinguish not-so-good from good, and from good from great.

After observing the results, i.e. the lack of work ethic and competitive spirit from much, although thankfully, not all this generation’s youth, the overwhelming majority of the people (at least the ones I know) agree with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. The coach is quoted on the show, explaining the problems with the current “everyone’s a winner” philosophy:

“It is a little harder to motivate kids I guess because they’ve been pampered so much. We’re in the trophy generation, give ’em a trophy for 23rd place, make ’em feel good. Make mom and dad feel good.”



Who Was in Charge at St. Andrew’s – and Why Did No One Help Him?

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Regarding yesterday’s blog: watching The Open, as the British Open golf tournament is referred to, I had to re-think how much fun the game of golf is. After Day 1, Tiger Woods (you remember him, right) made the statement that, due to his poor first round, he had to hope for nasty conditions on Day 2, forcing his competitors into subpar scores, then play some terrific golf himself.

Can you imagine hoping for bad weather? I can understand the Buffalo Bills wanting miserable conditions in upstate New York when they play the Miami Dolphins or San Diego Chargers but football is a bit of a rougher game than golf. Like a shark is a bit more dangerous than a goldfish. I made my feelings known about golf yesterday when I said one reason golf was fun was because you got to play in wonderful weather (if not, just don’t play – there will be nicer days, especially when you’re retired – and live in California).

Well, the R&A outdid itself on Saturday in Scotland (even though it didn’t quite seem like Saturday yet out here). It didn’t take a meteorologist to figure the weather was brutal. I mean, golfers are extremely talented athletes (I do consider them athletes, certainly in terms of hand-eye coordination, strength and conditioning – for most in today’s game, anyway – and, certainly, mental toughness). But in no way does anyone consider them gladiators, as fans do, say, football players.

So, leader Dustin Johnson had to play three holes – while other golfers didn’t swing even once. At that time the powers-that-be decided that no sane person should be out in that kind of weather – and the only thing that was keeping them out there were . . . the decision-makers for The Open. The major problem with what took place at St. Andrews (pronounced sin-TANDREWS) was that it was just that – a major. Why should golfers have to play one of their four most important events in inclement weather when the rest of the game is so pure?

Don’t agree? Try sneezing or coughing (or even just taking a picture if it means there will be an audible “click”) during a golfer’s backswing. The Seattle Seahawks have their decibel meter. It gets so loud that opposing offenses can’t hear play calls and, often, teams are forced into penalties. The Golden State Warriors gave credit to their fans for making so much noise during their run to last season’s NBA Championship. Imagine having to play golf with the kind of distractions quarterbacks, place kickers and free throw shooters do? Because of that, golfers should never be forced to putt into 40 mph winds. Nobody practices putting into 40 mph winds, nor should they. That’s not skill and, if nothing else, golf is a game of incredible skill. Someone shouldn’t become a champion because he got to play in sunshine – after rain was coming down sideways for the guys playing earlier.

Talk about leveling the playing field. OK, so everything can’t be exactly equal. But to do what was done yesterday at St. Andrews definitely skewed the results, independent of who wins. Let’s face it, although power has entered the game more than it ever has, golf is still a finesse game, a great deal of it built on touch. What the answer is I don’t know but late Friday night (on the west coast) wasn’t even fun to watch. As fans, we’d like to think the games we witness are fair (WWE excluded). I’d imagine the players feel the same way.

“When stubbornness tops common sense, someone needs to step up and give the group a literal slap in the face – for everyone’s sake.”

Keeping Adversity in Perspective

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Will be tied up with some family business for a few days. This blog will return on Friday, July 17.

Ronnie Carr made the first three-pointer in the history of the NCAA on November 29, 1980. I was a member of the Western Carolina University staff who, a couple years prior, recruited Ronnie to the Southern Conference school. By the time he made the shot, I’d moved on to the University of Tennessee. Unfortunately for Ronnie, a potential NBA first round pick, he was in a career-ending, life-threatening car accident during the summer between his junior and senior years. The wreck left him with a broken collarbone, two broken arms, broken ribs, punctured lungs, two broken legs, a fractured ankle and a fractured wrist. The impact of the wreck also forced him to undergo open-heart surgery to replace a damaged mitral valve.

The fault of the accident was that of a rogue cop who was in a high-speed chase (with no siren blaring) and ran a stop sign, broadsiding the car Ronnie was driving. He was laid up in the hospital for 6 1/2 weeks and was advised to sue. He did so but in a “back room deal” between his lawyer and the state of North Carolina, a deal was brokered that wound up giving nothing to Ronnie. In the early ’80s a young, black kid (even if he had made NCAA basketball history) had no chance winning a court case against a white cop.

Despite this tragedy and miscarriage of justice, Ronnie not only finished his undergraduate degree but his title now is Dr. Ronnie Carr, following completion of his master’s and PhD. He’s an ordained minister, runs a successful business, working with and positively influencing young people, and is about to publish a book. He has honored me by requesting me to write the forward for that book.

It is with that background information that I inform you of my weekend. I had planned to get my car serviced (75,000 mile check) on Friday but I was running behind, so I called my mechanic and set up an appointment for the next morning. Friday evening, I went grocery shopping (which I had also been putting off) and when I got home, I had just enough time to unload the groceries before leaving for my appointment with an acupuncturist. I had strained a muscle in my neck going through an exercise routine (in which I, apparently, did something I shouldn’t have done) – a month ago. I was hoping to see if acupuncture would give me some relief. After putting up the groceries, I got into my car – and it wouldn’t start.

Because I was in such a rush, I took my wife’s car, calling AAA on the way. They informed me that, unless I had somewhere to tow it to that night, it would probably be better to call Saturday morning. I did so and AAA came to our house, checked out my car, only to find the battery dead. He charged it and I let it run for a few minutes before heading to my mechanic. There, they put in a new battery, serviced the car and I was on my way.

When I got home, I checked my emails. I had five (5) consecutive emails from PayPal – all of them fraudulent charges. They ranged from a one-time $1.88 charge to $120 monthly transaction. As I’ve mentioned times in this blogspace, I’m not exactly “from today.” The main reason I have a PayPal account is as a convenience for customers who want to order and pay online for baby gifts from our company ( I only use PayPal to transfer money from the that account to my business checking account.

I tried to contact PayPal but they were closed. I did see where, if a customer thought there was a fraudulent charge, they could forward the email to PayPal, they would look it over and send an email response. I forwarded the first one. While I was in the process of forwarding the second, I noticed I’d received an email – from PayPal. It began, “Dear, Thank you for being a proactive contributor by reporting suspicious-looking emails to PayPal’s Abuse Department. Our security team is working to identify if the email you forwarded to us is a malicious email.” It then went on to list what PayPal will always do, and what PayPal will never do. There was one “Always” followed by a whole lotta “Nevers.” Since it was after their business hours, I will be contacting them in a few hours.

While this was going on, I received an email from American Express with the subject line “Fraud Protection Alert.” Nice. It alerted me of a charge on my card and asked the question: “Do you recognize this attempt?” Below it, there were two boxes, one in bright green with a check mark and “Yes” inside, the other a fire engine red with an exclamation point and a “No.” Since I was becoming an expert on how to be a fraud victim, I clicked on the red box. A message came on, saying I’d be getting a call from Amex within five minutes but my phone rang as I was finishing reading the message. The representative on the other end couldn’t have been more helpful.

We discussed the charge, I explained that it was not made by me (which they’d expected, hence the email) and we took a walk down memory lane – going over each of my charges for the past few days. I was of assistance, being able to tell him when the last two occasions were that I’d use the card. He noted those – and several others made subsequently, none of which were purchases made by me. He deleted the fraudulent charges, told me he was cancelling that card (to make sure I didn’t use it), that he would be sending me a new one with a new number and would send me an email of all the companies that had automatic withdrawals on my card. What, he wasn’t going to contact them, too? While the news wasn’t great, the service was exceedingly so.

A wrap up of my weekend: one dead battery, a painful neck – the acupuncture gave me fleeting relief, as did the six lydocaine shots from the doctor a few weeks ago and the massage therapy from a couple of different (both professional) people, five fraudulent charges on my PayPal account and several others on my American Express card.

As I began putting pen to paper for the forward of Ronnie Carr’s book which details his ordeal, I thought:

“Y’know, this wasn’t such a bad weekend after all.”


But Rory LOVES Soccer

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

On the surface, it seems a rather irrational decision on Rory McIlroy’s part to play soccer with friends at this time of the year. People who are criticizing him for getting hurt playing soccer, however, are not taking into account that pros have lives, too. Why is this any different than, say, Jason Pierre-Paul’s Fourth of July mishap (severe burns on his hand and possible nerve damage)? Here’s why and it’s simple. The reason is that McIlroy plays an individual sport while the New York Giants entire team depends on Pierre-Paul. Team sport athletes are paid by the franchise whereas golfers, tennis players, track & field competitors, etc. only get paid if they perform well enough to deserve to get paid, i.e. they are the franchise.

Where there is a similarity is with the sponsors who pay athletes, independent of which sport is involved. To cover themselves, i.e. if the companies want to limit what their pitchmen (and women) can and cannot do, they ought to have clauses prohibiting such activities, just like teams do in their player contracts. In his case, Pierre-Paul didn’t violate any such clause in his contract but the Giants have pulled the $60 million max offer. Shed few tears as he will, in all likelihood, earn $14.8 million this coming season - although he has yet to sign. His foolish handling of fireworks could have, in fact, cost him a great deal more. McIlroy’s injury will prevent him from playing this weekend – and probably throughout the summer, if not longer. His team, though, suffers much worse than the Giants. With individual sports, unlike what our team coaches told us, one man is indispensable. Women fall into this category as well. Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn once sliced open her right thumb on a celebratory bottle of champagne after a victory in the World Championships.

Whether or not Vonn loves champagne that much is unknown (at least it is to me) but it’s common knowledge that McIlroy has a passion for futbol and has played it with friends in the past during the “golf season.” It’s doubtful any of his sponsors will attempt to include a “no-soccer” clause (c’mon, I gave the other term a mention, a big concession for somebody from the U.S.) for no other reason than he just might decline their offer. “Total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage . . .” is the beginning of the text sent by McIlroy, informing his fans of his unfortunate situation. This news puts a real damper on the Jordan Speith-Rory McIlroy rivalry. Yet, no matter how much of a McIlroy fan you are, this definitely hurts him more than it does you. This includes all his sponsorships that would have been shown on television innumerable times when he plays.

Adversity doesn’t always mean losing, though. As creative as some agents are, the injured athlete might even wind up with endorsement opportunities because of the injury. McIlroy is probably weighing offers for the “boot” he’s wearing (assuming there’s more than one company making it). At least, then, fans would know he actually used the item he was pitching. I mean, does anybody really believe Shaq uses Icy Hot or Blake Griffin drives a Kia? Of course not, they’re just following their role models for (un)”truth in advertising” (as long as the price is right) – Ray Lewis for Old Spice, Karl Malone for Rogaine and Rafael Palmeiro for Viagra – an example of the extent guys will go for some extra income (possibly only surpassed by Jimmy Johnson for Extenze). If people only could understand that the reason celebrity pitchmen (and women) continue to line their pockets – with our money – is because we keep buying the product. Maybe the companies are the fools, e.g. their merchandise would sell equally as much if they didn’t pay celebrities. Then, again, if the public has it and continues to spend it, thus keeping the businesses profitable and putting their athlete endorsers further in the black, it’s a win-win for everybody.

Whenever bizarre incidents occur, like those with Rory and JPP, usually there’s an over-the-top reaction from professional franchises. As far back as when Bill Bradley played for the Knicks and the front office was alerted to an off-handed remark that their small forward made – that he heard sky diving was a thrilling experience – was a clause inserted into his contract prohibiting sky diving. And he’d never done it! Any player found to be in violation of such a clause could have his contract terminated. If you were bank rolling as much money with these guys as the owners are, you can bet you’d be just as protective of your investment. Ask any Patriots’ front office employee (or Pats’ fan for that matter) what his or her reaction was when video was aired of Tom Brady jumping off cliffs in Costa Rica, and a gasp would be the most likely response. Don’t be surprised if New England isn’t trying to amend his contract with a “no cliff diving” clause. Or any other potentially crippling injury to Brady – which the Pats feel by proxy.

While it can’t be written into a contract for athletes who participate in individual sports, common sense needs to be applied a bit more liberally. McIlroy and soccer is an example that straddles the border. On one hand, he truly enjoys playing and has done so, probably as long as he’s golfed. On the other hand, a bit more discretion – especially with the British Open almost upon us – might have been the more prudent move. After all, not only does Rory make his living at the game, he’s vying to be the best in the world at it. Tough decision.

Maybe in this case, Rory can learn from Thomas Edison, who said:

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”




Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Heading to John Wayne airport to pick up younger son, Alex, who just finished a week of hoops (and other interesting items) in Costa Rica. This blog will return on Monday, July 6.

No sooner had the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA Championship – in 40 years – than the talk began regarding back-to-back titles. The first order of business, because not only did the Warriors win it all, but they had the NBA’s best record to boot, was to make sure the team stayed intact. Last year Golden State had the highest payroll in the NBA at $83,433,316 which sounds like an awful lot of money to pretty much everybody, including the Warriors’ landlord, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, whose salary was a mere $78 million.

After picking up the $3.8 million team option on Marreese Speights’s contract and, yesterday, signing free agent Draymond Green, the total committed money for next year’s club (by my crude calculations) is hovering right at $80 million. For only nine players. But don’t panic, Warriors’ fans, that money is for the top nine players (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green, Bogut, Iguodala, Livingston, Speights and Ezeli). Chances are, the defending champs will, once again, have the league’s highest payroll but, “Who cares!!!” scream the fans because if there are two things fans are great at they are 1) wildly supporting their beloved squad and 2) spending their owner’s money.

In all seriousness, why would owner Joe Lacob care about the money? It’s not like he’ll be on food stamps anytime soon and, when someone buys an NBA team, the goal is to win the NBA Championship. His bunch won it and (except for David Lee) has everybody back from a team that never faced an elimination game. In addition, it’s a young group (except for Iguodala who turned 31 this year, everybody else is in their 20s – between 25-29). The experience of winning a championship has got to make them stronger next year. Naturally, it goes without saying, that games lost due to injuries, especially to key players, must be avoided. (If it goes without saying, why did I say it?)

They have a coach in Steve Kerr who is wise beyond his years and certainly, with his one and only year of coaching completed, should be an even better coach (Xs & Os, strategy-wise and understanding nuances that occur throughout a game) next season. As far as people skills – mainly with the players – but also with the front office, other team personnel, the media and fans – few can match Kerr’s savvy.

According to Pat Riley – who would know – the Warriors need to beware of “The Disease of Me.” Google it and check out his six danger signals. Another coach who had experience in back-to-back (to back to back to back to back to back . . . ) championships, John Wooden, had the following belief on what is necessary:

“To win takes talent. To repeat takes character.”