Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Was the Oregon-Arizona Game Decided by the Referees?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

During the Oregon-Arizona football game last night, people could be heard in watering holes – and homes – everywhere complaining about, what else, the officials. In addition to quite a few flags during the contest (16 altogether – seven against Arizona, nine against Oregon for a total of 134 yards), there were a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties, one on each team – both at crucial times.

The first was following an Oregon third and five from the Wildcats’ 23 yard line with 10:33 to go in the third quarter. It came after an incomplete pass which probably would have resulted in the Ducks attempting a 40 yard field goal. However, a flag was thrown well after the play had ended and, after seeing the replay, the only possible explanation for it was taunting. That resulted in an automatic first down – at the 12 yard line. Two plays later, Oregon scored.

The next unsportsmanlike call came when Arizona was inside the Oregon 10 with a third and goal. The Ducks’ Tony Washington pulled off a huge sack which would have held Arizona to a field goal (attempt). Except, following his stellar defensive play, Washington ran from around the 10 yard line to midfield, with a teammate alongside (telling him not to hotdog it?) and decided to take a bow in front of the capacity crowd. He made the crucial stop, everybody knew he made it and yet, he felt compelled to run 40 or so yards to showcase himself to the home crowd.

ESPN anchor Neil Everett, an Oregon grad, called it “quite a questionable celebration penalty.” Was Everett teasing the audience, 90% of whom understand his bias? Or did he think, “Aw, c’mon, let the kid have some fun!” Unless you, or someone you know, were sitting next to him when the call was made (Stan Verrett, guys in the studio?), that answer is unknown.

Both of the calls (assuming the taunting was for “unacceptable words”) were justified. And they were enforced because of the new rule which tries to take unnecessary gloating, or individualism, out of the ultimate team game. Today’s players need to understand that there are boundaries that can’t be crossed and when they are, you – and in this case, your team – will pay. Maybe with an L in place of a W. That hurts, especially when your team is #2 in the nation (or attempting to beat #2 in the nation).

It’s been known for a long, long time that young, talented football players (let’s keep it to football players for this blog) are pampered – from the recruiting period (and the accompanying campus visits) to the uniforms they wear (including all the ancillary items that make up the player the fans see) and the food they eat – in order to play one of the most violent games imaginable. On campus, win or lose, many are revered. If they’re fortunate enough to, as the saying goes, “play on Sundays” (and Mondays and Thursdays and any other day – or location – that will make the NFL money), they are furthered enabled.

If a young man doesn’t have it together (the one thing that’s not given to him is a moral compass), this could lead to narcissistic behavior. And we’ve seen what that can lead to. More than once. A lot more. And the stories keep on piling up.

Long ago I remember the late Stephen Covey explaining a person’s existence on this earth. What he said was no doubt behind the thinking of the new unsportsmanlike penalties. Covey’s statement was:

“It’s not about you. You’re part of something bigger.”

Is Michael Phelps Really Sorry?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Michael Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence in Baltimore, Maryland. TMZ, today’s celebrities’ BFF, reported he was doing 84 in a 45 mile zone around 1:40 am. Phelps failed his field sobriety test and his blood-alcohol limit was almost twice the legal limit.

My old boss, Jerry Tarkanian, used to tell his players that nothing good happens after midnight. I’m not sure how he figured that out but the guys seemed to do whatever they could to prove him right. In Phelps’ case it’s understandable that the time was after midnight.

After all, how early in the morning would he have had to start drinking to have his blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit by 1:40 pm? In addition to the speeding ticket and DUI, Phelps was cited for crossing double lane lines.

This is a repeat offense for Phelps. In 2004 when he was 19 years old Phelps had a DUI arrest, also in Maryland. In that case he struck a plea deal with prosecutors and pled guilty in exchange for 18 months probation.

Following this latest discretion, the Phelps’ camp released the standard celebrity response: “Earlier this morning, I was arrested and charged with DUI, excessive speeding and crossing double lane lines. I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility. I know these words may not mean much right now but I am deeply sorry to everyone I have let down.

 

There must be a school that agents and PR people attend for just these situations because all the releases sound the same. The person who broke the law always “understands the severity, takes full responsibility and is deeply sorry for letting fans down.”

 

Harvey MacKay is one of the world’s best speakers and authors, as well as an extremely successful businessman. He’s also a syndicated columnist and in yesterday’s column he included several of his favorite quotes. The one that sums up Michael Phelps’ most recent transgression, as well as many of the other negative issues that have occurred all too often lately, is:

 

“Saying you’re sorry and showing you’re sorry are not the same thing.”

SI Disappoints

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

For decades I’ve been a subscriber and avid reader of Sports Illustrated and many readers have mentioned to me that if it wasn’t for SI, I’d have to make this a weekly blog instead of a daily one. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, one of my aunts got me a year’s subscription to Sport magazine. I was so thrilled and told one of my friends at school the next day. He said that Sports Illustrated was the best sports magazine.

Naturally, he and I got into a heated argument, the kind only pre-teens can get into. You know, the kind that will never have a winner because, not only will neither admit defeat but because neither will even give the other credit for even one shred of truth. Eventually, I gave up denying the obvious – and my admission came well before the demise of Sport.

It’s not that I’ve always felt SI was right in every story they published but I did believe they always did a bundle of research and tried to report it fairly. Which is why I was so disappointed in Alan Shipnuck’s article on Anthony Kim in this week’s (9/22/14) edition. Until 4-5 years ago when my back issues became so bad I had to give up golf, I absolutely loved playing. I was so bad I’d never play for money and, for that matter, never even had a handicap. Had I been given one, undoubtedly, a record high would have been set. Yet, probably due to my coaching background, I thoroughly enjoy watching the guys on tour because I realized long ago how hard a game golf is and am fascinated with the strategy they use as well as the mental toughness they display.

When I saw the title of Shipnuck’s article (Where Have You Gone, Anthony Kim?), I was surprised. While not an avid fan, I often watch golf on TV. It wasn’t until after seeing the headline did I realize Kim had gone. I’m not so into golf that I knew what a party animal Kim is/was. I put present/past tense because the article doesn’t make clear if Kim still has the lifestyle he did when he was on tour.

That’s because, in that entire article – six pages (including pictures) – Shipnuck finds that almost no one wants to talk about Kim, e.g. Casey Wittenberg who said, “I’m not going to comment. He’s a great friend of mine. Sorry, I know you’re just doing your job.” Others (IMG & Nike) refused to comment. There are a few comments from a guy SI said was probably Kim’s best friend on tour, Colt Knost, but he admits he hasn’t seen much of Kim lately and no longer has his BFF’s phone number. The one guy in the entire article who will allow himself to be quoted is today’s favorite media source – “the anonymous friend.” Could there be more of a coward than somebody who wants to be a real somebody but doesn’t have the cojones to say, “It’s me.”

The author ties in “anonymous” and an insurance policy with quotes from past stories in a veiled attempt at making the story look current. Shipnuck dredges up Kim’s past unstable relationship with his father, along with the young golfer’s spendthrift social life and dislike among certain tour players (all of which happened more than two years ago) and adds a good deal of conjecture to make it into a juicy gossip narrative.

The insurance policy supposedly pays Kim somewhere between $10-20 million (more conjecture there) for a career ending injury (he hasn’t played in 28 months). Basically, he was a young American golfer who had a boatload of potential and played some phenomenal golf for a short period of time but, due to injuries, hasn’t been heard from since. He was 6th in the world – six years ago. For his career he has four wins (three PGA wins) and his best result in a major was third in the 2010 Masters.

Shipnuck went to find what happened to him, couldn’t and instead of leaving it alone, decided to make it a thriller about a guy who partied big, won a little and is now in hiding, trying to figure out if he can collect on an unimaginable insurance policy. It should be noted that Shipnuck did get someone famous to go on record and make nasty comments about Kim – Sergio Garcia. The same Garcia who lost to the 23-year old Kim 5 & 4 in the first match of the Ryder Cup Sunday single matches in 2008. Not like Sergio would be the type of guy who would have an ax to grind.

With all the seamy side of professional sports that’s been reported in the past few months, was it really necessary to chronicle a “maybe it’s a story, maybe it’s not” piece? It’s not like he’s Bison Dele who disappeared. Paraphrasing what Mark Jackson used to say as an NBA commentator:

“C’mon, SI, you’re better than that.”

Only I’m not sure if they are anymore.

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back for Me and Social Media

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Since It’s still really, really hot in Fresno and our boys live in Newport Beach and Monterey AND we’re retired, Jane and I have decided to make a few more visits to see our sons. While we’ll be making trips every weekend during basketball season, we felt it was time to check out Monterey and Carmel – for fun. In a week or so, it’ll be down to O.C.

As a result, this blog will return on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

As you readers have been told close to 4 or 5 (hundred [thousand]) times, I am the opposite of what’s known as “tech savvy.” This could be because of my age, although there are people much older than I am (believe it or not, there really are people much older than I am) who absolutely thrive in this new, techno world. It’s just that when the “tech” generation began, it left without me – and I was content to live in the (lack of) information age I’d been inhabiting for a good, long while. And quite enjoyably, I might add.

There actually was a day I felt I’d try to learn the new forms of communication. You know, join the 21st century. As a high school teacher, I needed to be able to comfortably use email – even though I saw many people, among them, administrators who needed to be able to speak to someone – hiding behind it. It also had served as a means for parents to vent to teachers regarding their children’s grades, behavior and other issues that could have been much more effectively handled using person-to-person voice interaction.

During “Back-to-School-Night” I used to tell the parents, “I know some of you are really good at banging out some nasty emails.” At that time I was still a member of the National Speakers Association and my main topics were team building, trust and effective means of communicating, two out of three of which were being handled in ways I never mentioned to any of the audiences I faced.

“My feeling is face-to-face communication is, by far, the most effective form of solving a problem,” I continued. “The telephone is next. Anything that comes after those two pale in comparison when it comes to effectively solving a problem. However, if email is your favorite means of communicating, go ahead and bang away.

“Just remember – I bang back pretty hard.”

My foray into the world of “advanced” technology began with learning how to text. I’d text one, or the other, of my sons, he’d text back, I’d text, his turn . . . Then I felt, “It takes me a heckuva lot longer to text than to talk.” So, I’d call him.

Wouldn’t you know it, voice mail! Then, if I sent a text, here comes back his response. Later, when I would ask what the deal was, I’d hear, “I was in the library.” That made sense – but not as many times as that situation occurred.

After 30 years of college coaching – and nearly as many Final Fours (the National Association of Basketball Coaches – NABC – convention coincides with the Final Four) – I came through on a promise I made (to myself) that I would take my sons to a Final Four. I always thought it would be when I got a head coaching job but that never happened and with my moving back into high school coaching (I taught math and coached my first two years out of college), I realized it never would.

Sometime in 2006, I checked my mailbox one day and I was informed that because I had been a member of the NABC for so long, I had the opportunity to buy two tickets to the Final Four. I did and taking my boys to the 2007 Final Four turned out to be the trip to hell. When we returned, I told a guy about it and he said, “You tell great stories. You ought to blog.” Naturally, my first question was, “What’s blog?”

He explained it and, wouldn’t you know it, the first three blogs I ever did were about that trip (yeah, it took three blogs to tell the whole SNAFU). Due to some technological screw up (this one can’t be blamed on me), those three blogs, along with a couple others that followed, were lost somewhere in blogosphere. That this happened made me dislike technology even more than I originally did.

But . . . I did learn how to blog. And, to help out our baby gift business (CuteBabyNameGifts.com), I have a Facebook page. Well, one day, along comes Twitter. Hey, baby, let me at it.

A friend of mine told me that was the way to go (yeah, imagine me being limited to 140 characters) and he set up a Twitter account for me. I figured, if high school kids, not to mention NBA players, could do it, how hard could it be? The answer never really was known because, although a friend had set up a Twitter account for me, one day, our younger son, Alex, mentioned to me something he’d seen. I asked him where he saw it, Twitter?

“No, Instagram.”

They’re inventing them (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Etsy, Snapchat), faster than I can – or want to – learn them. Back to phone calls and emails.

 

Time to Lighten Up a Little

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Because so much of the news today is negative (since that’s what sells), our release has always been the sports page. Yet, for the past few weeks, what’s been going on in the world of sports has been every bit as depressing as the front page. While the media drives these stories, I drive this blog. Here’s a story from my book, Life’s A Joke, that took place during the 1975-76 season. 

When I have some free time while I’m on the road, I enjoy going to malls, especially bookstores. When I was a graduate assistant at the University of Oregon, I was on a recruiting trip and had some time before the start of the game I was going to see. I stopped by a local mall and walked into a Waldenbooks (I told you it was a long time ago).

Perusing through the titles in the sports section, I came across a book called The Gamblers Guide to Sports Betting. When I noticed one of the chapters was about coaches to bet on – and not to bet on – I was intrigued. It informed the reader about, not which coaches won and lost the greatest number of games, but which ones covered the spread most – and least – often.

I immediately checked for college basketball coaches and was somewhat amused at the list they had, many of whom I knew rather well. This book fascinated me and I found myself thinking about it even as the plane back to Eugene landed. As fate would have it, as I walked to baggage claim, I saw, lo and behold, one of the coaches whose name was on the list.

(Note: In the book I don’t mention the name of the coach but since it is now nearly 40 later – and he’s passed away – I’ll divulge the name of the coach. It was Oregon State’s Ralph Miller).

I went up to him, reminded him who I was, and related what I’d discovered at that bookstore. Any misgivings I had about telling him disappeared when he looked me in the eye and said:

“If I know what the line is, I’ll try to cover that bugger.”

Why Isn’t Still’s Story as Captivating as Peterson’s?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Many people know of the story of Cincinnati Bengals’ DT Devon Still. To refresh the memories for those who do, and inform the others, Still is a 2012 second round pick from Penn State who’s currently going through a much more difficult experience than trying to be a successful NFL defensive tackle.

In June, his four-year-old daughter, Leah, complaining of leg pain, went to the children’s hospital, where they found a tumor in her abdomen. It turned out she had stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer. When she was diagnosed, the chances for survival were 50-50. No parent would be able to concentrate under the circumstances. Try doing it as a defensive tackle in an NFL camp where a lot of guys are battling for not a lot of spots. Still couldn’t, and wound up getting cut.

The Bengals learned of Still’s plight and what they did should make everyone proud. The club checked into what would happen if they placed Still, who had cleared waivers (meaning no other team signed him), on their practice squad. This meant Still got to keep his insurance, which in turn meant that Leah’s hospital bills (which could reach $1M) would be covered.

On September 10 the Bengals did something else. Something they and Devon Still thought would have happened from the beginning of OTAs. They placed Still on their 53-man roster, which means an NFL salary (known to be a relatively substantial amount of money) as well as benefits. And, the team will allow him to go home as often as necessary to be with Leah. You see, there is hope for the NFL after all.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been roasted in the media for years – and for good reason. Bad play, bad guys. But now they’re doing something right. They put Devon Still’s black, #75 jersey for sale – for the same reason every team sells their players’ jerseys – to make money. But this time, all the proceeds go to pediatric cancer research.

In a 24-hour period, more of Still’s jersey had been sold in that time span than any jersey featuring any other Bengals player – ever, the fastest selling jersey in team history. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton purchased 100 of them. More than 5,000 of the jerseys were sold in four days and the team’s raised in excess of $400,000. Nice gestures all around.

Sure, this story was reported but which one got more air time and print space – and to what degree? Leah Still or the one about Adrian Peterson’s son? Is his more horrific than hers? Is it because outraged Americans – and American journalists – don’t care as much about Still’s daughter as they do about Peterson’s little boy? Is it because we feel Peterson’s son needs our help more than Still’s daughter? Actually, the public can do a heckuva lot more for little Leah Still – in the form of support toward pediatric cancer.

What can they do about Adrian Peterson’s son? Rail on about child abuse? Make up hateful signs? Boycott Vikings’ games? If so, that same anger can be directed toward pediatric cancer. Be as upset about Leah’s plight. Positive signs are allowed in this nation and, if not a monetary gift, a #75 Bengals jersey can be purchased, knowing that all the proceeds from the sale are going to pediatric cancer research.

We certainly shouldn’t put our heads in the sand when the domestic violence – toward a spouse, girl or boyfriend, or child – occurs. Yet, in actuality, negative stories have always been more popular than positive ones. Is it because we are a sadistic society? The Leah Still story warms our hearts but how much warming do our hearts need? We want to hear about Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, stories that make our blood boil and raise our blood pressure – things that are bad for our hearts. Strange, isn’t it?

This week Leah’s tests results will come back and, hopefully, the tumor in her stomach will have shrunk enough for doctors to perform surgery to remove it. Devon Still seems positive that things will work out and, eventually, his daughter will be cancer-free. Naturally, he’ll be following that story closely. Would following that story mean as much as following as the Peterson story? As the final line in the “starfish” story goes:

“It would to him.”

And her.

But, to us?

stage IV neuroblastoma cancer

stage IV neuroblastoma cancer

stage IV neuroblastoma cancer.

stage IV neuroblastoma cancer.

stage IV neuroblastoma cancer.

Instant Replay Making Game Better, But Far from Perfect

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Other than referees, it seemed like everyone – coaches, fans, commentators, players (well, maybe not offensive linemen) – were clamoring for instant replay to be used “to get the call right.” That’s the price of progress. When the games were only broadcast on radio, no one ever knew if a call was blown. Not until television instituted replays on its telecasts, and incorrect calls were obvious, was there a swelling of support to “take another look at it.”

So it was that instant replay to confirm or correct calls finally became law and, to the delight of the officials, they were shown the number of times they made the correct call was overwhelming. Even the missed calls made them look  more “human” than inept because, except for the blindly loyal fans (every call against their team is wrong – even when supported by video evidence) and the losing gambler, the rational person understands how difficult a job officiating is. In addition the “indisputable video evidence” has worked, for the most part, and has shown how minute a difference there is between a right and wrong call. I mean, when a number of cameras zoom in, from all angles, in slow motion, and it’s still uncertain whether the ruling on the field was right or should be overturned, . . . wow!

If a poll was taken as to whether people believe instant replay has been good or bad for the game, my guess is “good” wins hands down. The greatest objection would be that instant replay slows the game too much, a complaint the NFL is trying to fix by having one central replay station (in New York) to make proper determinations in games throughout the country.

Last night’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, however, illustrated that instant replay needs to be expanded. First, as the Colts were driving for a score, QB Andrew Luck threw a pass to T.Y. Hilton. Luck threw the ball where he knew Hilton would be. But Hilton wasn’t there and the pass got intercepted. Why wasn’t he there? Because he was illegally being held. Unfortunately for the referee, the replay showed the offense clear as day, i.e. “indisputable video evidence”.

The reason the play wasn’t reviewed is, that play isn’t one that is reviewable. So the game continued with the Eagles taking over. On an ensuing running play, the Colts were flagged for a horse collar tackle that, when replayed, was a perfectly legal tackle for a loss. The purpose of instant replay is to make certain the proper call is made, i.e. if there is an infraction, enforce it; if no infraction, play on. What exists now is better than what was but not as good as it could be – and how the league, players, coaches, officials and fans want it.

It’s not perfection but as the legendary Vince Lombardi said to his Packer teams:

“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

Is Levenson the Last, or Just Latest, NBA Owner to Fall?

Monday, September 8th, 2014

When Donald Sterling was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, it was due to his being exposed as a racist (a fact most of the nation knew decades ago). Now, the Atlanta Hawks’ managing partner for the past decade, Bruce Levenson, has voluntarily submitted to the NBA an email he wrote in 2012.

In the correspondence Levenson opined, “My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” (the Hawks’ fan base is 70% black). Levenson said he felt “Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.” In addition, he wanted “some white cheerleaders, . . . music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy” (the concerts after games were either hip hop or gospel) and that he thought “the kiss cam is too black.” Also, there (were) few fathers and sons at the games.

Could the move have been made because of Sterling’s threat to expose other owners as businessmen like himself bigots? Or was it done because Levenson had already been made aware Sterling’s undercover agents knew of it? It’s another example of the cultural and racial divide that exists in the NBA between its white owners (MJ excluded) and its players, the majority of whom, independent of the fact many of them are wealthy, are black. The mega wealth the top players is light years from that of the owners, as are their cultures (Cuban and Prokorov excluded).

The main difference between Sterling’s quotes to . . . what’s-her-name and Levenson’s email is that what Sterling said was flat out racist, while what Levenson said was marketing strategy to increase ticket sales.

And flat out racist.

Bruce Levenson is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis (one of the top academic institutions in the country) and the American University School of Law (one of the best law schools). Yet, undoubtedly, the lesson he’ll remember most is the one he learned yesterday. Or the day of Donald Sterling’s threat. If his comments to reporters yesterday are sincere, he understands the mistakes he’s made:

“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself too.”

 

I Didn’t Lose Faith in Federer, Just Had to Leave

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Several of the past few blogs have dealt with the U.S. Open. Prior to my multiple back surgeries, I used to play tennis, hacking around on and off for years. When I got to the University of Tennessee as an assistant basketball coach in 1980, I became more serious because short time later, Mike DePalmer, Sr was named the head tennis coach. At one time, Mike and Nick Bolletieri started a tennis academy. The first year, there were six kids, all of whom lived in Mike’s house, a far cry from the IMG grounds that houses the students in Bradenton, FL today. Mike and I became fast friends and, up to 4-5 days a week, we’d play tennis at 7:00 am.

When I asked him to give me lessons, I remembering him tell me, “Jack, I’m on the court all day, basically, giving lessons of one kind or another. Let’s just play. I promise you’ll be getting lessons.” And he was right. When we started, Mike would hold his racket in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. He would hit the ball deep to the corner, I’d run it down and return it to him. Then, he’d hit it to the opposite corner, and I’d run that down and return it to him. On and on until I’d miss or, not so often, he did.

One day a thought crossed my mind. “Why the hell am I constantly hitting the ball right back to him!” Displaying my ability as a student, I started returning his shots to the corners, rather than directly at him. The next day we played, I noticed the coffee cup was gone. “What, not thirsty this morning?”

“I told you that you’d learn,” he said, smiling. We continued to play the entire seven years I was at UT. Since I was a coach, I’d pick Mike’s brain as far as strategy and motivation went, figuring there had to be similarities in our sports, even though his was an individual sport while mine dealt with a team (side note: he also had been a highly successful junior college basketball coach). He would explain nuances of tennis to me. I’ve never watched tennis matches the same way again. Years later, Mike was inducted into the National Tennis Hall of Fame.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic. My wife, Jane, and I have been watching the U.S. Open the past few days. One of our favorite players is Roger Federer (not only because we’ve had numerous people tell us our younger son, Alex, looks like him – although those comments don’t bother us in the least).

Yesterday, we were watching his match against Gael Monfils. Prior to the match, one of Federer’s former coaches (as well as one of Pete Sampras’), Paul Annacone, who happened to be Mike’s #1 singles player for his early Vols’ teams and, not so coincidentally, one of the original six students at the DePalmer-Bolletieri Tennis Camp, had this to say about Monfils, “He is the best raw athlete in tennis, maybe ever.” If the moniker, “Human Highlight Film” wasn’t already taken by Dominique Wilkins, it would be apropos for Monfils.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising to see him take the first set from Federer. What was amazing was to see him take the second set – and with greater ease than the first. Wouldn’t you know it, we had a surprise birthday party to go to (happy birthday to loyal reader, and more loyal friend, Shawn Carey) just as the second set ended. Hearing the bleak commentary from the best tennis commentators, the brothers McEnroe, made it feel like were leaving a funeral early.

Late in the party, Jane turns to me and says, “You won’t believe this,” then shows me her SportsCenter update (which our Federer look alike installed on her phone but not mine – people tell me it’s easy but, as of yet, I haven’t found the time or interest). Sure enough, Roger did it again – won a match after losing the first two sets. For the ninth time. The mental and physical toughness might not be unmatched, but there can’t be more than a handful of athletes who are better at staring down adversity.

While it might be stretching the meaning of exactly what the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, there’s little doubt he would have admired the effort displayed by one of the all-time greatest tennis players, Roger Federer:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Skill and Mental Toughness on Display Early at U.S. Open

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Absolutely exhausted after watching the U.S. Open match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Early on, the tennis bordered on perfect, in that it took a “perfect” shot to win a point. What set it apart from most tennis matches was that while both players possess quite formidable serves, it’s their return of serve that made it must watch TV.

It began as a match for the ages. As far as records and head-to-head competition, Djokovich owns the advantage over Murray (as he does against every tennis player in the world not named Nadal or Federer) but last night’s match was a true heavyweight fight. It was almost as if the players were standing in tennis’ version of toe-to-toe, throwing haymakers at each other, with rallies upwards of 20, until someone would finally scream a blistering, unreachable winner. One of the players (more often Djokovich but Murray as well) would, seemingly, be in control of the set until, all of a sudden, some devastating, loosely played point in which one of them looked like he’d lost focus, would bring the other up from the dead.

Possibly against another competitor, on another night, “taps” would have been heard, but not with these two. The viewer would see a summoning of focus and intestinal fortitude – along with scorching passing shots -and fortunes would be reversed. There were major shifts in momentum, each player (more so Djokovich) feeling a sense of “letting one slip away.”

Near the end of the third set, commentator John McEnroe (who is to tennis what Gary Danielson is to college football, i.e. unparalleled) made the comment that Murray looked “spent”  and questioned whether he could go five sets if need be. Murray, then, began to look as though he might be more injured than spent, grimacing and gingerly walking between points, no upset in sight.

With the clock about to strike midnight, fans were cheering for the guy who was down a set to tie the match – so they could see more tennis (the night before they many stayed until 2:30 am to watch). Only in New York (and maybe Las Vegas) do fans ignore time for sporting events. Although he did play some extremely good points down the stretch, the young Brit couldn’t seem to muster enough of them to overtake his nemesis, eventually falling 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. Had his opponent been someone other than Djokovich would Murray been able to summon the effort to pull out a victory?

Always blunt, McEnroe, who made reference to Murray’s difficulty playing the Serb, summed up the final couple games with the following, thought-provoking (for Murray’s camp) comment:

“The question is ‘How is this affecting him? How much of it is in his head?’ ”