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Charles Barkley Is Just as Unfiltered Today as He Was Five Years Ago

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

This everyday blogging deal ain’t that easy. Tomorrow’s post will be the last for a while (I plan on resuming on or around Monday, May 2) as I’m undergoing medical procedures which, I hope, will give me some help from the chronic pain I’ve been experiencing for the past 14 years. Some days I find that nothing happens to move me enough to comment on it.

Since I’ve been blogging since 2007, there are a couple thousand or so previous entries to “fill in” when my mind goes blank. What did make an impression on me last night, as it does every time it’s on TV, is TNT’s Inside the NBA. A close friend made a comment that Charles Barkley had to be everybody’s favorite on that show – mainly because he opens his mouth and lets the words fly. Granted, there are occasions when the Chuckster makes comments, the sanity of which are questioned by his fellow analysts, but even then, under “occupation” on his taxes, he ought to put “entertainer.” What follows is a blog I posted five years ago. Read it, then ask yourself how much of a filter has Charles acquired over the years.

Charles Barkley once did a commercial in which he said he was no role model.  Events throughout his life back up this belief.  He has got to be one of the most irreverent characters of this, or any other, generation.

First of all, he, admittedly, was never a serious student. On several occasions, he’s quipped, “No, I don’t have a college degree, but I have lots of people working for me who do.” While no Board of Education wants to hire him as a commencement speaker, the line is very funny – and true.

Then, there was the time Charles was pulled over by a policeman in Phoenix for some infraction – speeding, running a light or stop sign, suspicion of drunken driving – and he not only told the cop that he was on his way to get the greatest oral sex from a prostitute but that, if the officer let him out of the ticket, Charles would tattoo the cop’s name on his butt. People love the guy. Hey, he is a classic.

Barkley is the same way in his commentary. Last night, he referred to Chucky Brown, a former player who used to (try to) guard Charles as a “limo guy.” When his #1 foil, Ernie Johnson, asked what a “limo guy” was, Barkley said that he was the type of guy you wanted to see guarding you so much, you’d send a limo for him to make sure he got to the arena.

Earlier, he asked his other straight man, Kenny Smith, what date was scheduled for the fifth game of the Miami-Philadelphia series, after the Heat took a commanding 2-0 lead by blowing out the 76ers. When the Jet asked him why he wanted to know, Charles said he was going to make plans to be somewhere else because he knew they’d be off that night.

Another Barkley-ism came following a Gatorade commercial which starred his friend Dwyane Wade. In the commercial, Wade remarked how he drinks the third of the Gatorade trio of drinks following a game because he needs to replenish for the next contest. After the commercial aired, Barkley said, as only the Chuckster can, “You know what I think of that. Gatorade don’t help you if you suck. I’m pretty sure D-Wade could drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and still be great.” Let it be noted that Gatorade is a sponsor and Pabst is not.

The answer to the question, “Why does Sir Charles say the outrageous things he does?” might be found in the quote from Richard Needham:

“People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.” 

How Did Teams Ever Win Before Analytics?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Charles Barkley is known for blunt, honest analysis when making comments for TNT on their NBA studio show. He pulled no punches with his feelings on how to build an NBA team using analytics. Chuck is usually a black and white guy on hot button topics. He loves something or he hates it.

Analytics has entered the world of professional sports, first in baseball with the publishing of the book, Moneyball. An idea is only as good as its success rate. The Oakland A’s won without spending the money other MLB teams did (because they didn’t have it and they weren’t allowed to take a sabbatical), mainly by using a different evaluation tool, one that had never been used in baseball.

Baseball, more than any other professional sport, leans on – and clings to – tradition. The “eye test” was baseball’s best method of evaluation and the teams that drafted best usually were the ones who had the most talented scouts. In most cases, these were old timers, lifers, who’d been around the game for decades, could look at a prospect and compare him to some major leaguer from the present or past. The A’s modernized the way teams scouted, eschewing the old model, while upsetting “true baseball people” in the process. A different set of stats were employed.

Success is an interesting dynamic. Most often, people and companies that achieve it have done so by, to use the term that’s become so popular it’s now a cliche – thinking outside the box. Once that person or company carves a niche in the market, most folks study, i.e. try to copy, what the successful newcomer is doing. Yet, didn’t that group rise to the top by not copying what others were doing but attempting something different that, for whatever reason, they felt should work?

Obviously, there’s a balance between trying to duplicate someone else’s ideas (remember the movie, Multiplicity?) and incorporating some of what they do with the elements of your organization that you like. Arguably, the most successful NBA franchise over the past 20 years has been the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs got good when David Robinson, not exactly chosen due to analytics, was selected with the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft. They got real good when another #1 selection, Tim Duncan, joined the squad.

Other players on the Spurs teams throughout the years will tell anyone who will listen (and many of those who will not) that those two guys – with their skills, demeanor, unselfishness and work ethic – combined with the coaching prowess of Gregg Popovich and his staff, are the reasons behind the Spurs’ lasting success. An organization like the Spurs is one that will take advantage of anything that will increase its chances of winning. They bought into analytics – without changing any of their core values – and incorporated ideas such as the corner three-point shot is the game’s most efficient and keeping players, especially aging ones, rested.

What many people, certainly including Barkley, have a difficult time grasping is, are those two concepts about analytics or, simply, common sense? Because the three-point line is so much father back than in high school or college, it needed to be tapered or else it would intersect with the sideline. Therefore, the line becomes parallel with the sideline 14′ from the baseline, making the corner three a shorter shot, yet still worth three points.

As far as resting older players, an NBA year is 82 games long (not including exhibitions), with back-to-back contests on several occasions throughout the regular season. It is played by the best athletes in the world and takes a physical toll on a player’s body, whether it’s fighting through screens, getting hits on drives to the basket, having masses of humanity in a confined area near the basket, fighting for the same rebound or just the pounding from running up and down the court. Wouldn’t it stand to reason, since the most important thing is winning in the playoffs (which come after the regular season), that the best players be rested rather than bruised and beaten down? Maybe if home court advantage is at stake (or if the team is trying to break the all-time records for regular season wins – and its core is made up of young guys), an exception can be made but, keep in mind, if an owner feels the chances of winning in the playoffs is compromised, coaches and front office people had better keep their resumes updated.

In addition, a couple of measurements analytics can’t give are emotion and chemistry - which, combined with talent, comprise a winning team. Ironically, in a survey done regarding analytics in professional sports, the lowest rated NBA organization was the New York Knicks, while the top rated one was the Philadelphia 76ers. It appears that can be used to prove analytics works – or it doesn’t.

While it certainly is useful in many instances:

“Just remember, you can’t spell analytics without A-N-A-L.”

Similarities & Differences Between March Madness and the NBA Playoffs

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Which is better – the NCAA tournament or the NBA playoffs? Before anyone votes, let’s keep in mind that, other than the goals of putting the ball through the hoop at one end and trying to prevent your opponent from doing the same on theirs, the post seasons of each are vastly different.

Nearly half of the college game’s tourney is made up of automatic qualifiers (32 of 68). To gain entry into the NBA playoffs, the teams must be in the top eight of the west or the east meaning that, although the ninth (or tenth) club on one side might be better than the (seventh or) eighth on the other, usually the 16 best teams get in.

In Division I college play, never has a #16 seed beaten a #1, yet on eight occasions a #15 seed has beaten a #2. In the NBA playoffs, there have been five times a #8 seed has toppled a #1. The reason #16 has never beaten #1 is because of sheer numbers, i.e. #16 seeds are the 65th, 66th, 67th and 68th best teams in the tournament. Not in the nation – just the tournament because, invariably, there was a bad team in a bad conference that caught fire (or a break or two, e.g. better teams get upset, injury to an opponent’s top player), won its post season tournament, and with it, the automatic bid – and plays one of the top four teams in the country. There are no automatic bids into the NBA playoffs. Tanking does not apply to teams that can make the playoffs, only those vying for the 28th, 29th or 30th slot.

It is true that there are many more upsets, i.e. lower seeds beating higher ones, in the NCAA tourney than there are upsets in the NBA but that is due to three words: best of seven. When the major upsets happen in college (not the #9 over #8 or even the #7 over #10), it’s because either the guys on the lower-rated team caught lightning in a bottle, played the game of their lives or the guys on the favorite stunk it up. Or all of the above. For one night.

Five of this weekend’s eight NBA playoff games (if you like competitive basketball) were absolute torture to watch. And there’s more to come (as many as three more such games in each match up). The drama is greater in college because it’s win or go home. In the NBA it’s win or lose, play again. And again. And again. . . So for drama, the college game trumps the NBA. But as far as sheer talent, seeing players do things you marvel at (but cannot be duplicated in the backyard), there’s nothing like the NBA and the best athletes in the world.

Luckily, we don’t have to choose one or the other to watch. We couldn’t handle such drama/excellence all at once. Maybe that’s why the basketball gods put them months apart. Or maybe it was so each could make more money.

So instead of comparing, why not make a choice that none of the candidates running for president have mentioned:

“Be thankful.”

(Lack of) Excitement Ruled Yesterday’s Sports on TV

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Yesterday’s date was 4/9/16. Don’t worry about committing it to memory as, although a few thrilling events took place, there was nothing to get excited about quite yet.

The Masters, arguably the nation’s favorite golf tournament, is going on right now. During yesterday’s third round, the winds were so nasty that the tourney’s final pairing, consisting of two of the top four players on the PGA Tour (maybe two of the top two players) put up scores of 73 (Jordan Spieth) and 77 (Rory McIlroy). The former dropped three strokes on his final two holes, yet still remained atop the leader board at -3. The latter dropped as well. Out of contention. Only four golfers are in the red numbers.

What is so enjoyable about golf for television viewers is that the scenery is absolutely beautiful, the environment is close to sterile and, while many of the participants are young guys in terrific physical condition (like Spieth and McIlroy), an average guy, e.g. somebody who’s a few (or more) pounds overweight, not in such great cardio shape and, even older than we’re accustomed seeing in professional sports (like over 40!) can not only compete but, actually, win it.

Yesterday’s winds were so blustery, it was like they narrowed the clown’s mouth and sped up the windmill at your kids’ local favorite course. What makes golf less fair than other sports is that conditions aren’t the same for everyone. In golf the course itself doesn’t make for a level playing field. Fans want to see great players play great – or maybe even face severe adversity. But not because of the wind. Watching yesterday’s round left golf enthusiasts unfulfilled. I mean, who roots for the wind?

Switch over to baseball and one of sports’ greatest rivalries ever – Dodgers vs. Giants – were wrapping up a three-game series. They used to play in ballparks much closer to each other (those of you born before 1950 understand exactly what I’m saying). The Giants won the first two games of the series but the Dodgers rallied and won yesterday, 3-2 in 10 innings. That leaves both teams at identical 4-2 marks – with only 156 games to go. It might be an incredibly intense rivalry but try to hold some energy in reserve when the pennant race starts to get tight. Like six months from now.

Lastly, we have a sport – and a building – that’s coming to a close, we turn our attention to basketball. The Sacramento Kings (who will not be participating in the NBA Playoffs) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (who most definitely are) squared off against each other in what was the final game in Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento (the new Golden 1 Center will be the crown jewel of the west coast).

Naturally, the home crowd wanted the last game in the old gymnasium to be a victory, although sitting at home watching, the crowd didn’t sound exactly deafening. The lottery-bound Kings did what they could to give away the game, up seven with 26 seconds to go. A Thunder three-pointer cut it to four, one of two free throws after OKC was forced to foul put the home team up five, but they gave up another open three within five seconds. Another foul, another 1-2 at the line made it a three-point game with 11 seconds remaining.

Among basketball coaches, the debate rages on about whether, and when, to foul if a team is up three. The Kings decided to do so but Russell Westbrook, realizing what Sac’s strategy was, heaved a wild three-pointer as (or, possibly, just after) he was fouled. The NBA continuous action rule being what it is, the referees awarded Westbrook three free throws with seven seconds left in the game. Of course, he made them all and it looked as though the Kings’ fans were going to get some bonus Sleep Train Arena hoops. However, Rudy Gay drove, got fouled with but one tick on the clock, knocked down the FTs (it was he who’d shot the previous four, making half) and everybody went home happy. At least as happy as fans can be whose team isn’t invited to play in the post season.

For those who remember the old Honeymooners television show, i.e. people who used to root for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, the Cramdens lived in a one-bedroom apartment that was, to put it kindly, sparsely furnished. Ralph (played by Jackie Gleason) was a dreamer and always had a get-rich-quick idea brewing. With the Kings’ situation as it currently exists, if significant changes aren’t made in the off-season, moving into a brand new, “most connected” arena in the world (it will boast internet connections 17,000 times faster than average home) will be akin to what Ralph would say when waiting for his ship to come in:

“Wait until you see what this furniture looks like in a Park Avenue apartment.”

 

 

Skip Bayless Probably Does Know Why Charles Barkley Hates Him

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

It doesn’t take much to rile up Charles Barkley, nor does it take him long to tell you exactly whom he’s talking about. During the recent NCAA post game show, Sir Charles went off. He rambled, as Barkley does on many occasions, only this time it was on the subject of talking heads. “I hate these guys who act like they know everything about sports.” His main issue was with media members who criticize players from every sport. Chuck’s complaint is that he doesn’t understand how a person can say so-and-so is a bad football player, another is a bad baseball player, then during basketball season making an identical assertion about a basketball player – without, at least qualifying his statements with an “in my opinion.”

When Ernie Johnson responded by saying that of course it’s their opinion, they’re the ones saying it, Kenny Smith came to his buddy’s defense by explaining that what Charles meant is that the critics say it as though it was factual. While Ernie tried, unsuccessfully, to keep names out of it, Kenny and Shaquille O’Neal egged on their colleague, knowing he would disclose exactly what EJ was attempting to avoid.

“Well, we know I hate Skip Bayless.” Flashback to Bayless’ show, First Take (which he and Stephen A. Smith co-host), on which Kenny Smith was a guest. A clip was played of Barkley calling Bayless “the biggest punk in the world.” The Jet asked Skipper if he could fight, insinuating that such a verbal thrashing (the “punk” comment was but a small part of all Charles said) might lead to fisticuffs with some men. “Are you a verbal fighter or a physical fighter?” asked Kenny. The show’s moderator jumped in and mentioned that Barkley had said he wanted to kill Bayless (some guys will say anything for ratings – I mean, who in the world really thought Skip should have immediately gone out and hired protection?)

Another excerpt of Barkley’s views on that type of critic was, “They got no talent. They got to talk about famous people.” At that point Kenny Smith said that, obviously, Charles and Skip had a run-in of some sort. Skip feigned shock, claiming that a face-to-face encounter of the kind had never taken place. In fact, Bayless let Smith, and all of the viewers know that, on numerous occasions, Charles had been offered to appear on the program, yet declined every invitation.

Kenny Smith then said what everyone who could add 2+2 knew – that there was an underlying reason Barkley despised him and it most certainly had something to do with the fact Skip had never played. Left unspoken was that he makes his living (and a very comfortable one at that) criticizing others. Note: At no time was there any mention of Jalen Rose calling out Bayless years ago for lying about his (Bayless’) hoops career.

Bayless turned the conversation by saying that because owners never played, does that disqualify them from owning franchises? He went on to say that as great a player Michael Jordan was that he was the worst at evaluating talent – and, often, the best players are the poorest coaches or make the worst personnel decisions. Slick move by Skip, knowing that Kenny’s Tarheel loyalty would take the conversation in another direction.

Barkley never said Skip Bayless shouldn’t be a sports reporter, nor should he refrain from being so critical of professional athletes (although those comments certainly rankle Chuck). Charles Barkley just wants him to add a little something to his comments which, for obvious reasons, Bayless would never do:

“The criticism I give is simply my own personal opinion. Please keep in mind, however, that I never played any sport very well.”

 

 

 

 

 

One Key to Great Coaching

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Last night I was watching the Warriors’ game against New Orleans – although the opponent really doesn’t matter because Golden State is the reason to tune in – so many of their games are like watching the Globetrotters play, i.e. nobody goes to see the Washington Generals. Late in the first half, the Pelicans were still within a basket and the Dubs couldn’t seem to shake them. What to do?

If you’re Steve Kerr, the answer is simple – substitute the second team. At halftime the Warriors were up nine, 59-50. Leandro Barbarso, Marreese Speights, Jaron Rush, Shaun Livingston, recently acquired Anderson Varejao, even James Michael McAdoo all contributed to putting space between the two participants. Actually, the offense runs smoothly (granted, not as smoothly) when those guys are in the game, independent of what combinations Kerr decides to use. What’s the secret? What do they know that the rest of the league doesn’t?

After careful examination, the answer, it turns out, is . . . nothing. Nothing as in the answer isn’t complicated. The fact of the matter is the reason isn’t just that their second unit (actually, the entire bench) brings passion – which they certainly do. Nor is it that they’re talented. Chances are, if somebody is in the NBA, that guy is talented (OK, maybe a few mistakes have been made by general managers, owners, coaches or whoever is the decision-maker). But in this case, it’s way beyond talent.

At a self-improvement clinic a couple college assistants and I organized in the ’80s, one of the participants casually said, “There’s never been a championship team that didn’t have a great defense.” I’d heard that line so many times – and it grated on me.

“There’s never been a championship team that wasn’t great offensively, either.” I countered. Why I feel that way is a fact that people ignore or, simply fail to consider – and that fact is basketball is the only team game where the defensive goal is not a shutout.

Think about it. Football, baseball, soccer, hockey – the great teams in those sports go into a game with a shutout as their defensive goal . Even at the high school level, basketball coaches realize their squads need to put up a minimum of 50 points. In the NBA, there have been superb defensive efforts where the losing club scores in the 70s. But, if you want to be relatively assured of winning on a consistent basis, you’d better be able to count on scoring in triple figures, or at least in the 90s if you’re a lock down team. That’s a heckuva lot of points to generate.

As much of a cliche as the championship team/great defense line is the one that every NBA coach, GM, player, play-by-play guys and analysts has uttered, “It’s a make or miss league.” The key to the Golden State Warriors is not only that their bench can be counted on to increase the level of intensity of the game or will execute the game plan, it’s that they all can shoot, or, in basketball parlance:

“Every one of them can get buckets.”

What If the Selection Committee Was Overhauled?

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Selection Sunday is the most exciting day of the college basketball season – certainly for those teams that have won their conference’s automatic bid – but also for those “power” schools that know they’re in but want to see where/whom they’re playing, the bubble teams and, of course, the fans. For the selection committee, their charge is both impossible and thankless. First, they spend an interminable amount of time trying to consider every team, factoring in such things as strength of schedule, wins against the top 50, road record, injuries to key players.

*My pet peeve Something that’s always baffled me is the mention of power conference teams and how many “top 50 wins” they have (even though most of them are at home ) while teams from lower leagues are penalized, e.g. Monmouth, for having losses to teams with RPIs of 200 & up (games which are usually played on the road). Basically, the committee’s message is if a “low- or mid-major” has some great upsets (always either on the road or, at best, a neutral site), they still must never lose a conference game (like Syracuse did at RPI 200+ St. John’s)? Power conference teams have the opportunity to win top 50 games during their league schedule; teams from lesser conferences have the opportunity to get “bad losses.” The better a team is, the more “up” its opponent is, its fans are – and when the game’s played in a band box, which many of those smaller schools call home – upsets occur – because it’s their Game of the Year. 

Back to the “overhaul” everybody, especially committee members, would love to see. What about – just one year – the committee was made up solely of the media, i.e. the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee would be a group including, but not limited to, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb, Seth Davis, Joe Lunardi – and selected sportswriters and talk show hosts? Not only have them choose the tournament field but seed it as well – including the play-in games. Also, they must take into account conference and geography concerns.

Then, put them front and center on television (allow them to choose a chairperson if they wish) to answer questions from the committee people – and their peers who were left off the committee. Put their feet to the fire and analyze why some teams got in, while others were left out – and why the seeds were chosen they way they were. Have them explain to the viewing public that there was no “looking ahead” to future match ups of a coach and his former school or two teams that would make for a controversial contest.

What would be a reason for such a change? Simple:

“Empathy”

The Day My Sense of Humor Shook Up My Doctor

Monday, March 7th, 2016

On my way to Stanford Pain Management to meet with still another doctor. Pain persists (as it has for the past 13 1/2 years) and I’m trying to get some answers, even if by process of elimination. This blog will return Wednesday, March 9.

When you get into your mid-to-late 60s, there’s a better than average chance you’ve experienced medical issues. My back problems have been well documented (mainly by me). Anyone who has to live with chronic pain understands each day brings another challenge. In my case, using humor to deal with my plight has made a miserable situation . . . a little less miserable. Then again, my sense of humor has always been my strong suit – except for the day it somewhat backfired.

On one occasion I had to travel to Stanford for a procedure to change the medicine that was in my pain pump (which is implanted in my lower abdomen). I must have caught a break because the boss, i.e. the Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford, was the doctor in charge. As always, there was another doctor assisting him (who will remain nameless so as not to embarrass someone who might be operating on me in the future).

After the relatively “common” procedure, especially considering who performed it, I was told all went well. However, because new meds were involved, I was supposed to have someone drive me home. Somehow, due to some miscommunication, that was the first I’d heard of that restriction. Since I had driven from Fresno to Stanford (three hours) by myself, we were faced with a dilemma. I’d need to find two people to drive from Fresno – and have to wait a minimum of three hours for them – or hire somebody to drive my car to Fresno . . . but then whoever it was would be stuck there.

I explained to the doctor that I’d never have an issue driving taking medicine, that my problem is getting to sleep, not trying to stay awake. Apparently, the warning was more of a “better safe than sorry” directive than a mandatory hard-and-fast rule. In any case, I was extremely confident I could make it to my destination without issue and, after discussing the dangers with the doctor (luckily, he was the head man, so if anybody was empowered to make the decision, he was), he agreed to allow me to drive home – with one stipulation.

He instructed the doctor assisting him to call my cell phone in approximately an hour or so to check on me. Naturally, there was no disagreement from me. We bid each other adieu and I was wheeled to my car (another unnecessary, but imperative hospital order) and embarked on the three-hour ride home. Sure enough, as I passed through Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world (I defy anybody to fall asleep after passing through that place), my cell phone rang.

It was the doctor who’d assisted, doing just as he was instructed by his superior. “Is this Jack?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

“This is Dr. XXX calling. Just checking up on you. How is your drive going?”

“Everything is going great,” I told him. Then, for whatever reason, I thought that moment would be the perfect time to inject some humor into the conversation. “As a matter of fact Doc,” I continued, “I just saw the most magnificent unicorn . . . ” and I let my voice trail off.

There was complete and utter silence on the other end of the phone. Did I just hear someone hitting the floor? I felt like yelling “STAT!!!” into the receiver. I was afraid I was going to be booked for homicide. Instead, I nervously chuckled and said, “No, Doc, just kidding. Everything is going smooth and I’ll be home shortly.” (Please, say something). Thankfully, he spoke, although with a rather soft voice.

“Oh, oh, er, OK,” he managed to reply. “Glad to hear it. Er, drive safely.”

It’s a funny story now but, at the time, because of his reaction of deafening silence – I actually could feel his trepidation – I wished I could have hit the rewind button and been more serious.

Although I’ve seen that doctor on several occasions since, I’ve never found the nerve to say:

“Hey, Doc, remember the day . . .?”

Please Accept My Apology

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

There currently exist over 275,000,000 blogs, making it tough to keep up with all of them on a daily basis. Sarcasm aside, I fully realize that there are only so many hours in a day that someone will devote to perusing blogs. For that reason, on the days that I will not be posting, I have always 1) alerted readers there will not be a blog that day and 2) let it be known on which day readers can expect the next blog.  

My readership has grown since I started back in mid-April of 2007. The blogs actually began right after the NCAA Final Four but, due to my lack of understanding technology and having to rely on someone else (who shall remain nameless – because of his incompetence), several of the original posts have been lost (I imagine they’re somewhere up in cyberspace). You’ll have to take my word for it – they were really good – but that’s another story for another time.

Without sounding too dramatic, I feel it’s a kind of honor that someone would take time out of their day to read my opinion on a topic, be it sports, politics, life in general, whatever. That’s the reason I explain to readers, especially the loyal followers, at the outset of a post when to check back (if it won’t be “tomorrow”). 

Last Wednesday I gave my opinion on how sad it was that, when Supreme Court Justice Scalia died, that so many politicians’ initial reaction had to do with bickering about replacing him. Possibly because I found their behavior so offensive, I dove directly into the blog without first informing people I wasn’t going to post again until today. With so many blogs, it’s only a matter of courtesy to readers to give them a heads-up.

For those of you who are still reading this prolonged apology, here was my itinerary and reasons for the extensive time between posts. Many readers are aware I’ve had several major back surgeries and endure quite a bit of pain. This past Wednesday I had an epidural at Stanford Pain Management to attempt to ease some new discomfort I began experiencing. So far, results have been good.

Since my wife’s older sister was flying into Oakland on Thursday to attend our younger son’s last two home basketball games at Cal State Monterey Bay, I felt we might as well spend Wednesday night in the Bay Area rather than make the three-hour trip back to Fresno, only to have to drive back two-and-a-half hours to Oakland the following day. The plane arrived and, once again, we chose another day on the road instead of driving home, only to leave the following day for Monterey (the benefit of being retired and having saved some money while each of us worked for 40+ years). 

Friday night the Otters soundly defeated Cal State LA (Alex had 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal), followed by another wire-to-wire victory on Senior Night against Cal State Dominguez Hills (Alex pitching in with 19 points, another 5 boards, an assist and 2 steals). A final road game and the conference tournament are all that’s left of Alex’s four year college basketball career. Our older son, Andy (who just landed a sweet gig with Salesforce.com, a $49 billion company) turned 27 last month and Alex, 22, will be graduating from college at the end of May. 

One of the most well-known cliches of all time is about watching your kids grow up. Believe me, it’s entirely too true: 

“It all goes by so fast!”

 

How To Get Along When Opinions Are Diametrically Opposed

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Nothing like a Supreme Court justice dying to drive our country further apart. With the primaries pitting people on the same side against each other, making for, not even arguably, the worst mudslinging campaigns ever, we needed something to rally people around, not further illuminate folks’ ugly sides. Antonin Scalia’s shocking death manage to unite Democrats and Republicans – so they can get back to understanding who the real enemy is. Each other.

As I’ve referenced in the other political blogs that have been posted in this space, the biggest problem of any group, organization, team or company is not understanding the basic concept for success: What’s right is more important than who’s right. And that is where the country stands when politics is involved. Other areas, too, but it’s violated nowhere more than in the political arena.

As sad as “Nino” Scalia’s death is, what has been revealed about the friendship between the unlikeliest pair of justices, the uber conservative Scalia and his liberal counterpart, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Seldom were the two on the same side of an argument, especially if the case had anything to do with interpreting the Constitution. Yet, a bond existed between the two justices and their families, including vacationing together. In the world that currently exists, how can that be?

When asked about that very topic, here’s what they had to say. First, Scalia. “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake.” Oh, if only you had shouted that from the mountaintops, Chief Justice, before your untimely passing.

Did Ginsburg share similar strong feelings for her counterpart? Even more so. “My opinion is ever so much better because of his stinging dissent. Someday, we will go back to having the kind of legislature that we should, where members, whatever party they belong to, want to make the thing work and cooperate with each other to see that that will happen.” For someone who was born in the 1940s (the late 40s), that type of dialogue bring back memories from my youth – listening to politicians discuss issues rather than personalities, topics that strengthened the nation as opposed to tearing it apart. Synergy was the by-product of interactions back then.

The friendship between those two brilliant scholars was based on mutual respect and common interests that transcended their ideological differences. I mean, if a candidate (since we’re in an election year) can’t take criticism from an opponent without resorting to personal attacks, maybe . . . he or she is wrong. As stated earlier, Scalia and Ginsburg regularly were on opposite sides in matters that divide the nation — including abortion, affirmative action, campaign funding, the death penalty, the environment, gay rights and gun rights. Yet, they managed to somehow not only get along, but respect each other. Our politicians should be ashamed.

Outside of work, the two justices focused on what they had in common – and managed to leave “work” at the office. Unfortunately, in order to win an election, or simply engage in a discussion of an issue, the vast majority today no longer believe in that strategy, as we have witnessed from the political debates of both parties.

As philosopher, social critic and satirist, Mokokoma Mokhonoana’s puts it:

“We usually learn from debates that we seldom learn from debates.”