Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

How to Go from 0 to 600 Wins and Still Remain Anonymous

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

This post is quite a bit longer than most but it’s not everyday that your close friend wins his 600th game. Read on about a true role model - for kids, players, coaches, husbands, fathers - human beings!

The following is the (non-recommended) career path Mark Edwards chose: a 6’8” standout prep player at Peoria Richwoods, he continued his career at Washington University, a Division III school – one of the most prestigious academic schools in the nation. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in zoology (pre-med) and did graduate work in psychology before entering the military.

By then he decided he was going to be a coach. His coaching career was to start as a graduate assistant at the school where his college coach had relocated (Washington State), only to begin his graduate work and discover, one month later, that his former coach/current boss and mentor had been let go. It was 1972 and although the two had never met, the new coach, George Raveling, recognized the value of “this new kid.” So Mark got to continue his career as a Cougar. He toiled for three years as a graduate assistant until Coach Rav had the opportunity to promote him to full-time status. It was at that juncture that their long hours (the joke was that George only wanted his people to work half a day – and he didn’t care which 12 hours they were – and even that is an understatement) produced the success that coaching staffs strive for. WSU reeled off five consecutive winning campaigns, culminating with a trip to the NCAA tournament for only the second time in its history (the other coming in 1941).

In the spring of 1981 Edwards received a phone call that was going to send him on the journey of a lifetime. The year after his senior season at Wash U (as the school is affectionately referred), the men’s basketball program was dropped. The phone call that day was from Wash U’s AD, John Schael, and its reason was two-fold: 1) the men’s basketball program was to be resurrected and 2) would Mark like to be its head coach?

Due to the love he had for his alma mater - and the chance to “run his own show” – he (after consulting with his lovely, understanding and patient wife, Mary) accepted. Since he and I were GAs together from 1973-75, I immediately called to congratulate him and ask him how excited he was to be heading up a new program, especially because it was his alma mater. I still recall his first comment. “Manny” (the name he chose for me the first time he laid eyes upon me – an amusing story, perhaps, for another blog), “You can’t believe it. They don’t have anything here.”

“I know and that must be great,” I said. “To be able to start from scratch, recruiting kids for your first team.”

“No,” he told me with a hint of panic in his voice, “I mean they don’t have anything! I can even find a basketball. Oh, Manny, I can’t believe what I got myself into.”

I tried to calm him down, reassuring him that if anybody could get it done, he could – how he understood the culture of the school, the type of kid it would take to succeed there, i.e. quite a bit more academically-oriented than what he’d been used to (I think he told me the average SAT scores were over 1500, which might have been the total for a certain Pac-10 school’s starting front line), that he didn’t have to get as talented a player as he’d been used to and that he would be able to “coach them up.” He thanked me (although he didn’t sound so confident when he hung up). At that time I was an assistant at the University of Tennessee, where, for recruiting trips, we would use “one of the school’s planes.” My only thought was, “Holy mackerel, am I glad I’m not there!”

After going through his initial three seasons of 3-16, 6-20 and 8-18, most coaches would be disheartened. While Mark didn’t exactly feel it was time to discuss a contract extension, he did tell me that he thought the guys were making improvement. And they did, producing the breakthrough winning season they so desperately needed. And that is what’s been happening at Wash U for 30 consecutive years! Winning seasons – and then some. That initial winning campaign was only the beginning for Coach Edwards and his Washington University Bears. Two years later they hit the 20-win mark (small “m”). Now, however, with the Big M leading the way, there were several other barriers to be broken. Make that shattered.

In 2006-07 Mark accomplished “the coach’s dream,” leading Wash U to the Final Four with a 25-5 record. His team must have enjoyed the experience because they returned the following season after posting a 25-6 record. But this time, they weren’t just participants - they were champions, winning the NCAA Division III National Championship. The ensuing year put Washington University into elite hoops company as one of only four teams (North Park U, 1978-80; U of Wisconsin-Platteville, 1998-99, and U of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 2004-05) to win back-to-back National Championships, only this time with a gaudy 29-2 record.

Since the UAA conference (better known as “The Brain League”) was established- 26 years ago - the Bears have won over 77% of their conference games. So far this season, the Bears are on a 12-game winning streak, 17-2 overall and reside in first place with an unblemished 8-0 record (for the first time since 2008-09 and we all know what happened that year). Their current national ranking is 4th.

Mark’s been awarded numerous and varied Coach-of-the-Year honors (including national honors twice). But that’s not what Mark Edwards is about. Everything he’s done has been for his alma mater and the young men he’s coached. People often hear that about coaches but cynicism creeps in when the coach starts doing commercials and writing books. Mark Edwards has always been more comfortable watching commercials and reading books.

At the NABC Coaches Convention (held each year in conjunction with the Division I Final Four), one of the most approachable coaches can usually be found in the lobby chatting it up with his peers. If you have trouble recognizing him, just look for the one with the smile on his face and the 600 wins (and counting) on his resume.

On behalf of everyone who has ever known Mark Edwards, I congratulate him on this outstanding accomplishment. Who knows when he’ll retire, but whenever he does, one thing will be certain for his successor. He’ll have a whole lot more to work with than Mark did when he first returned to the Wash U campus. Good luck to him and his Wash U Bears as they go for National Championship #3.

Ignore My Advice at Your Own Risk

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Since I retired, I have to find something to fill up my day (because not enough of you are purchasing the greatest baby gift of all time (seriously - check out CuteBabyNameGifts.com - if you think I’m joking). So, until more people come to their senses and buy our company’s professionally done, unique, personalized artwork, my latest venture is . . . to write another book, a sequel of my first (and only) one, Life’s A Joke. This one, however, will be an eBook. It will also be filled with funny stories that happened to me (or at least with me involved) - either those that occurred after the first book was published or, like today’s blog, some I forgot to include. I made a few changes to the original post of the 5/10/11 to improve, or embellish, its message.

 

One year during the early-mid ’80s, when I was a member the University of Tennessee basketball staff, I attended the Five-Star camp at Robert Morris College. In between sessions, one of our other assistants and I went to the nearby Denny’s for lunch.

As with nearly all college coaches, we were in our identifiable gear - in this case, orange Sandknit shorts and a UT golf shirt. Probably because of our attire, a guy in his early 20s approached us, said he was from West Virginia (Buckhannon, WV to be exact) and wanted to know if we’d mind hearing about his idea for a new scouting service. He had planned on calling it the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

Naturally, I wanted to help out this young man from (the good people from Buckhannon will have to excuse me but I have been there) “the sticks.” First, I made a suggestion to him that he change the name of his publication. There was a company, I told him (not at all trying, but certainly sounding as condescending as possible) that was founded on January 25, 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman who had been the track & field coach at the University of Oregon (I knew about this because I’d been a graduate assistant at UO in 1975-76) and one of his former runners, a guy named Phil Knight. Of course, that company officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. Certainly, he didn’t want a name so close to avoid confusion.

The look on his face told me nothing I’d say was going to squash his enthusiasm - for his project or his title. Undaunted, my guidance continued (due to my abundance of wisdom). After all, I was in my early 30s and who knew more than I did? Of course, it never occurred to me that he might have been a card carrying member of the “don’t trust anybody over 30″ club. No worries, there was a young man who was in desperate need of my mentoring.

As far as those publications were concerned, at that time there were more than enough of them. Honestly, though most colleges did subscribe (the cost was not prohibitive, at least not to major universities), it wasn’t so much that we needed them to find prospects as much as we couldn’t afford to upset the people who were publishing them. To not buy one might risk incurring the wrath of the writer which could be quite harmful to recruiting efforts, especially if the authors were actually close to the prospect we were recruiting.  Truth be told, I’m not sure there was ever a recruit uncovered by one of these touts who wasn’t on each of their competitors’ lists - and if there was, that new budding superstar would be in the rival’s next issue.

Since the market was so flooded, my sage advice was simple. “What’s the reason for your venture?” I asked him. “Are you doing this to join the world of college hoops or is your goal to make money? If it’s to be another Howard Garfinkel, Dave Bones, Bill Cronauer or Clark Francis, I’m not sure how much of a dent you can make into that market. But, if you want to make some big money, my suggestion would be to start a service for girls.” Title IX had been passed in 1972 but it wasn’t until the ’80s that colleges started taking it seriously. (For many, not seriously enough).

Because I was a coach from a school as prominent as Tennessee, my advice was pure gold. At least I thought it was. Why? Although Pat Summitt had yet to win the first of her six national championships, UT was still one of the major powers in women’s basketball, a fixture in the women’s Final Four. I spoke with a great deal of conviction. The guy listened but I could tell he wasn’t the least bit interested in my pearls and would soon be off to follow his dream.

As is the case in so many of these stories, the guy turned out to be a “someone” who would eventually realize his dream (something, sadly, I never did). He is none other than Chris Wallace, currently the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies.

He’s recognized as one of the top NBA executives - and I’m blogging. The moral of this story is, to paraphrase Linus Pauling:

“The best way to get a good idea is to listen to a lot of ideas - and throw out the bad ones.”

Just Wait Until Next Year’s College Football Playoffs

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Did anybody mention that as much as the whole BCS is reviled, that there was less criticism of it this year than if next year’s “Final Four” were in place? I mean, sure, Florida State and Auburn would be in the tourney but who would be the other two combatants? Certainly Michigan State, who finished 13-1 and won the BIG 10 Championship title game, would deserve to be in the mix. Then who?

South Carolina (11-2) wound up fourth in the USA and AP polls and, I’m certain, would have gladly rounded out the field. They’re from the SEC, generally regarded as far and away the nation’s best conference. But they were ninth in the BCS poll. And were they better than Oklahoma, who finished with the same record and thrashed Alabama from that very league?

As a matter of fact, six other teams had only two losses. Heck, Louisville and Central Florida having only one - with Central Florida feeling pretty good after pasting Baylor - one of the other two-loss clubs. Does anybody really think that Ohio State fans, with one loss after the regular season, wouldn’t have been lobbying for that fourth spot? In that same vein, Baylor finished regular season play with a sole loss. I would expect those folks would be making a fuss. After all, they come from a place named Waco which isn’t that far from Whacko. Wait, is that Missouri that can be heard requesting that fourth spot? Or might it be the Clemson Tigers?

Then again, Alabama finished the regular season with only one L. How did they lose that one? Oh yeah. Some people would consider it a fluke of sorts, so with a four-team playoff for the National Championship (and the Tide being the two-time defending national champions), it would be a shock for a committee to leave them out.

What’s going on? Are we talking about the regular season (which is when the four team playoff format will occur) or the great upsets in this past year’s bowl games? That’s what makes fans, not to mention players and coaches, so upset. If it was in place this year, in all likelihood, Alabama would have been invited - and deservedly so - which means the Oklahoma-Alabama game, in which the Sooners beat the elephant snot out of the Tide, would never have happened.

Anything new will upset people and, undoubtedly, there will be some fans who will be screaming to do away with the new format - that the BCS was better! Without question, those people will be the same ones that bitched about the BCS.

My point is that whatever happens next year, don’t be surprised if the fans are in an uproar. It only goes to prove the statement that George Raveling told me his grandmother used to say:

“There are more horses’ asses in the world than there are horses.”

A Absolute Must Site to Visit

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Heading to Los Angeles for more Q&A with my former boss, George Raveling, for his website, CoachGeorgeRaveling.com. This blog will return Thursday.

Today everybody and his (or her) uncle (or aunt) is posting about the BCS Championship game. To me, it was a contest that, except for the final 4-5 minutes, was a struggle between two explosive teams during the season who played so conservatively, it could have easily been called the Republican Bowl. So, to take a page out of the NFL owners’ book on Black Monday, I’m going in a different direction.

This blog is going to be about today’s trip to LA. When George Raveling decided it was about time for him to have a website of his own, we knew two things for certain. One was that he had to hire somebody to put it together for him. The other was we knew everything about it would be first class. He hired Alex Cervasio, a young computer whiz kid from Florida whose knowledge of technology is only surpassed by his love for his Florida Gators. Thus, CoachGeorgeRaveling.com was born.

Anyone who knows Rav even remotely, isn’t surprised that his website has a section on great books to read (monthly) - and a section on his favorites (cities, hotels, wines, restaurants, places to shop). In addition, a visitor to his site will receive life lessons, articles on basketball and, naturally, information about the ol’ coach. There’s also a “video” section.

The purpose of my trip to George’s home is that when I first went to his site, I saw the “Video” link. I clicked on and noticed he interviewed some prominent people in basketball, e.g. one of his bosses, Lefty Driesell, Michael Jordan’s agent, David Falk and Ann Meyers Drysdale, to name just a few. An idea struck me that I passed along to George.

“George,” I said, “you interview a lot of interesting people, but this is your website. You ought to have somebody interview you. And,” I continued, stretching the truth just a bit, “who knows you better than I do?”

George thought about it (very briefly) - it doesn’t take him long when he hears a good idea. “Let’s do it,” was his reply.

He conferred with Alex as to what dates were available and we all met at George’s house. I had a list of questions and, as much as time permitted, George answered each as only he can do. Viewers learned how he was able to recruit a superstar like Howard Porter - from Florida - to Villanova: “In those days, none of the southern institutions, other than the black colleges, would recruit black players” and what the worst news his parents ever gave him was: “Save for a rainy day” because, as he puts it, “In my life it rains every day.” Insight into his three head coaching jobs: he had the most fun at Washington State, Iowa was the best job he ever had and he felt most comfortable at USC.

To date, we’ve had two such Q&A sessions which have made up 40 or so interactions currently on his site (called “JackAndCoach“). On a couple occasions, he gets really emotional while on others, he’s telling stories like he’s holding court at the lobby at the Final Four headquarters hotel. Today is our third taping and he’s pledged to continue as long as I can keep coming up with questions. It’s guaranteed enjoyment and, as is the case any time Coach Rav speaks, the listener might just find out something that can be helpful - here or down the road. If ever there was a Renaissance man, George Raveling fits the bill.

I’m not sure this quote has anything to do with this blog but it’s by one of George’s favorite authors, John Maxwell, and I happen to love it (not that going to Rav’s website will make you a winner - although it wouldn’t hurt):

“The difference between winners and losers is winners know how much they still have to learn to be considered experts by others, while losers want to be considered experts before they’ve learned enough to know how little they know.”

We Might Never Yearn for the BCS Ever Again But, . . .

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

And people still complain about the BCS. I admit, I’ve been a critic of the BCS since it was created (hasn’t nearly everybody) but this year don’t we have to give it credit for getting it right? Although, how can someone - or something - take credit when it’s patently obvious which two teams are the best in the nation at the end of the season?

That being what it is, can you imagine what life would be like now if the four team playoff were in place? OK, Florida State, Auburn and Alabama would be locks. Who would be the fourth contestant in the National Championship sweepstakes? Michigan State? Baylor?

The polls would say Sparty but isn’t the criticism of Ohio State’s soft schedule true of MSU’s? Baylor had better wins than Michigan State, who is getting a ton of credit for beating an undefeated Buckeye team who, had they won, wouldn’t exactly have been the fans’ choice. Not after watching the Auburn Tigers, America’s current favorite football squad (for everybody who doesn’t roll tide), and maybe, luckiest, team. Although a two-loss squad wouldn’t garner much sympathy, consider Stanford had more top 20 wins (4) than anybody and had six top 30 wins, one of them coming against Notre Dame - the team that beat the Spartans!

Sunday night, BCS executive director Bill Hancock said, “I’ve been saying all fall, hang on everybody, chill out, it’s going to work out. I wasn’t concerned going into this weekend. I just felt like we’d have the two best teams going into Sunday evening.” Talk about a guy who has a real pair of cojones. Like he knew Auburn was going to beat Missouri, MSU was going to take down OSU, Oklahoma was going to smack Oklahoma State and Florida State was going to pummel Duke? Well, maybe not the last one as everybody (including the Blue Devils, if polygraph tests were administered) knew that.

Yet, any football enthusiast would have to concede that the BCS was right on in four of the last five seasons (Alabama-Texas in 2009, Auburn-Oregon in ‘10, Notre Dame-Alabama in ‘12 and Florida State-Auburn in ‘13). Hancock is only too ready to acknowledge, “We’ve gotten it right way more times than we’ve created controversy.”

All that said, I doubt any fan will ever be heard discussing the good ol’ days when we decided the national champion by using the BCS formula. However, college football might just find itself facing the statement:

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

 

Fast Becoming the Destination for NBA Baby Gifts

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Because of a couple friends, CuteBabyNameGifts.com has become the unofficial baby gift destination for NBA newborns. We’re currently working on our second team (chronologically, not talent-wise). The newest member is KINSTON Collison, son of the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Darren and his wife, Keyosha Sanders. The first five NBA baby gifts were: SARAI (John Salmons), CAMRYN (Chris Paul), LONDON (Jamal Crawford), BLISS (Kenyon Martin), FORD (Blake Griffin).

Now we have a couple super quick point guards, a couple high scoring wings, an inside enforcer and the best dunker in the league. Best of all, we have extremely satisfied customers - both the people who ordered and those who received. Nobody is going to want to schedule us, but we do need to fill out our roster. So, if you know any past or present NBA baller whose significant other has recently given birth (or if they have a toddler), we have an artist standing by.

Let’s not forget one of the earliest lessons we were taught:

“It’s better to give than to receive.”

Professional Sports Move at the Speed of Congress

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Well, the college basketball season is already underway.  #2 son, Alex - and his Cal State Monterey Bay Otters - play an exhibition game at the University of San Diego tomorrow night. Since both Jane and I are now retired, we’ve decided to make it into a long road trip, stopping over in Newport Beach to spend some time with #1 son, Andy on the way down and back. Our wonderful house guest - and artist extraordinaire - Albert Van Troba (to see for yourself, log onto vantroba.com) will be taking care of things at home for us. This blog will continue (since I also have a visit to Stanford Pain Management) on Halloween. 

It’s difficult for our elected officials to agree on much today, other than the fact that each party is absolutely certain it’s the other one’s fault that the country is in the mess it’s in. Not much (in terms of helping the American people) seems to get done in the hallowed halls of Congress. When it comes to professional sports we, the fans, seem to have to wait for any appreciable progress as well.

The problem in professional sports, however, is of a different nature. The anti-change culprit in the sporting world is tradition. In today’s NFL the battle is over whether the game is safe. Denying football takes a toll on players’ bodies and brains is just like denying working in the West Virginia coal mines was bad for their lungs. PBS’ League of Denial opens eyes to even the most closed minds. There’s no argument that fans love football. Fans used to love the Christians vs. the lions, too. At least now there are medical people working to make the game safer, league officials changing rules to make the game safer and equipment manufacturers trying to improve products to make the game safer.

If ever there was a sport steeped in tradition, baseball is it. When players are in high school, it’s not uncommon for the best pitcher to also be the best hitter. Yet, once players make the professional ranks, the time commitment to be an effective pitcher doesn’t allow for him to be as talented a hitter as position players. Basically, the pitcher bats ninth and, while not being considered an automatic out, it’s a bonus for a pitcher to do something positive at the plate. The issue divided baseball leaders into, for lack of better terms, the traditionalists and the progressives.

Ridiculous as it may seem, it was decided by the National League that there would be no change to the game in regards to pitchers batting while the American League chose to have a designated hitter for the pitcher, meaning one player would bat (for the pitcher) but not play in the field. Stubborn being the operative word, neither side will budge, so during interleague play, the home team abides by that league’s rule - including during the World Series!

Whether or not basketball is the most progressive sport in the matter of opinion but in yesterday’s newspaper there was an article which broke away from the norm.  The NBA owners have agreed to change the Finals format from the current (which has been in effect forever) 2-3-2 series to a 2-2-1-1-1 arrangement. Few, if any, people in basketball liked the 2-3-2 format - for varying reasons. Why the “old” format existed was that the travel from east to west was too grueling, with only one day between games being a “travel” day. That was true - before every NBA team got its own private aircraft thus, for all intents and purposes, eliminating travel days because most teams fly to the next city after the game. No more flying commercially, waiting in airport lounges and at gates. Even Boston-LA (I was going to use NY-LA but there are so few readers who would believe that ever happened - unless they’re NBA Classics followers) isn’t nearly as draining. This means that the off day between games doesn’t have to be used for travel.

Maybe the NBA owners agree with Ayn Rand who said:

“We can evade reality but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.”

What Separates Me from a Professional Speaker

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Yesterday I had the privilege to speak to the administrative services people at San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District after doing the same for a different group of their colleagues back in early June. In the late 1990s-early 2000s I was a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Unlike the true NSAers, I had a full-time job, first as director of basketball operations at Fresno State, then as a teacher/coach at Buchanan High School.

The two reasons I speak are because I like to and because I think I can make a difference. Survey results have shown the number one fear in this country is public speaking, while the number two fear is death. As Jerry Seinfeld concluded, “That means for the average American that if they were at a funeral, they’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.” As far back as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed getting in front of a group. Entertaining and educating are two areas that come naturally to me but I’d never thought of actually trying to do it for a living.

In 1998 I was asked to speak to the high school and travel teams that Nike sponsored. The evaluations were so positive Nike invited me back the following year.  At that time the person who had asked me to speak suggested I join NSA. While there were some qualifications to meet for enrollment, it was infinitely easier than it is now. Unless someone is a “celebrity speaker” (Colin Powell, Pat Riley, Lou Holtz) today, a person, in all probability, needs to commit full-time to the speaking profession in order to become a member of the organization.

Today, people who speak for a living are “all in.” They are their own business, e.g. they provide their own health benefits, set up their own pensions, etc. These guys (and ladies) are really on their own. What for me was a hobby is for them a way - the only way - to feed their families. This was an entirely new concept for me. When someone would join the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and they’d contact me, I was more than happy to give them time and share knowledge - whoever they were at whatever level they coached (elementary, junior high, high school, summer, JC, D-I, II or III). Even as tenuous a position as a college coach can be, I never looked at them as threats or people who didn’t make the commitment I had.  Not so with NSA members - as I experienced on more than one occasion. That’s not saying one is right and one is wrong, just that it was a different philosophy than I was accustomed.

Although I never attended any local or national NSA conventions, I learned a great deal about speaking from the benefits I received as a member, mostly from the monthly CD my membership entitled me to. A comment on one CD in particular is basically the reason I wrote my book, Life’s A Joke. I heard a highly respected speaker make the comment, “If you don’t have back-of-the-room product, you’re losing half your income.” I’d been meaning to write that book but hadn’t “gotten around to it.” Hearing that message provided the impetus I needed and, even though it took me an additional two years, the book finally became a reality.

A couple suggestions I took issue with had to do with the overall philosophy of NSA. So many ideas dealt with making more money that I got turned off. I understand these people are in business and business, in general, is about making money. I, however, spoke for the two reason I stated at the top of this blog. Believe me, I realize I’m in the minority on this point.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the extra income but, since I began speaking, I usually give back, in gifts to the person who asked me to speak, about a third of the honorarium I receive.

The other item which I fully disagreed with was a statement the founder and one of my favorite speakers, Cavett Robert, made when he started NSA. His quote to the membership was, “It’s easier to find new audiences than to make up new speeches.” For people who are professional speakers this makes total sense. Imagine trying to speak four times a week and researching four different speeches.

Yet, when I speak, each of my presentations are custom made for the group that hired me. I am in no way saying that my speeches are better than professional speakers; it’s just that I’m more comfortable tailoring my talks individually.  Naturally, with the income being “bonus money,” as opposed to the major revenue stream, this concept is much easier.

I guess it comes down to my personal mission statement:

“Make a positive difference, legally, and have fun doing it.”

Sports at a New, and Better, Level

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Technology is supposed to make our lives better. I admit to being a techno-idiot. When they first came out, I held out hope that computers might just be a fad but something tells me they’re here to stay. Even though I have my own struggles with technology, it certainly has improved our quality of life (unless you happen to be a victim of identity theft). This upgrade certainly includes those of us who watch sports on television.

This blog will be limited to football only, mainly due to the fact that it’s the sport in season. However, the enjoyment of all sports are enhanced with all the different camera angles. Although occasionally lending to confusion (”I thought the offense was going from left to right”), multiple cameras are a vast improvement on television viewing of decades ago.  Many sports fans would vote the electronic yellow first down line as the top invention of the last 25 years.  If not, it would easily finish in the top five (the cyberknife, for one, might be ahead of it).

The ultimate case for technology in TV was yesterday’s Monday Night Football game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings.  The bigwigs at ESPN had to have cringed as the season progressed and they came to the realization that their prime time game was a match up of two teams that had one win between them. Yet, the pregame show - with the master of breaking down a game, Jon Gruden explaining via technology, one reason why the Giants are so bad this season - was exceptional. Fans who don’t know anything about football (or those who think they know it but have just enough knowledge to say something like “Eli Manning really sucks this year”) were shown how Manning and his receivers haven’t been on the same page, leading to incompletions and interceptions, many of the pick-6 variety.

Gruden took the viewer, with the use of technology - through the pass routes his receivers ran, as opposed to the route Manning thought they were going to run, e.g. the receiver beginning his pass route, and how there came a point when he could continue upfield or come back to the ball, and how obvious it was that he’d chosen one while Manning thought he’d pick the other. This illustrated how vital the quarterback-receiver connection is and how a team that has a QB who’s won a couple of recent Super Bowls can be winless (to that point). The game proved to be as bad as the records would indicate - full of misplays and disconnects - but the technology made it watchable, even if it couldn’t do anything about the lack of execution.

There might be something to this technology stuff after all.

When it comes to all things tech, it looks like I probably ought to take the advice of my friend from Orange County, Jim Madrid owner of The Entelechy Group who has often said:

“Take change by the hand before it takes you by the throat.”

Back to the Future in Pullman

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

In 1973, I headed west to Washington State to continue my college basketball career - which began at the University of Vermont the previous year. WSU’s football coach was an enthusiastic coach with a brilliant offensive mind named Jim Sweeney. At that time there wasn’t an NCAA limit on scholarships and, for reasons I would find out soon enough, high school and junior college prospects found Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Seattle much more desirable locations to continue their educational and athletics careers than Pullman, WA.

Yet, our football team managed to be competitive. Although they’d usually wind up on the short end of the scoreboard, game days were a fun experience. The reason for the losses? Here’s a lesson for all you fans - the team with the superior talent usually wins. Jim and I found each other years later when, with scholarship limitations firmly in place, he led the Fresno State Bulldogs to success they’d never seen. So good, in fact, Fresno State was forced to build a stadium.

Had the 85 scholarship limitation been in place in the 70s, there’s no knowing whether the Cougars would have been a contender in the (then) Pac-8 but one thing that would be for certain is the level of talent would have been a lot higher - perfect for the kind of system Sweeney ran.

Fast forward to many, many coaches later: a similar style has invaded the Palouse. Mike Leach, the controversial lightning rod of a coach, has taken the chuck-and-duck passing game to . . . infinity and beyond.  Example: some teams try to slow down the Oregon Ducks, running the clock as much as they possibly can.  Incomplete passes stop the clock.  Yet, Mike Leach felt the game against UO was a perfect test for his offensive philosophy.

How did his club fair?  Well, as everyone else - so far - has discovered, Oregon also thrives on the same system. This showed in the final score, 62-38, favor of the #2 ranked Ducks.  But, if there’s something for the Cougs to build upon, it’s their quarterback, Connor Halliday, and the stats he produced: 58 for 89 passing for 557 yards and four touchdowns (and four int’s - hey, high risk, high reward). Yeah, that’s not a misprint: 89 pass attempts (NCAA record), 58 completions (tied NCAA record, Pac-12 record), 557 passing yards (Pac-12 record).

Sure, they got blown out but Oregon is the #2 team in the nation for a reason and . . . they have superior talent. Prospects who like that style, and there are more and more of them, might just want to consider WSU. More and more, throughout the country coaches are going to this system - and after watching the Oregon-WSU contest, it evident Mike Leach’s playbook is as proficient as any in the nation.

What is going on in Pullman could be described as:

“What was once old is new again.”