Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Why Is It Older People Think They Can Help Others?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

This isn’t exactly breaking news but Google is a pretty awesome invention. Or discovery. Or creation. Whatever, it’s way above my intelligence level. If ever there was something that can give you answers – quickly – it’s Google. For someone with a relatively decent level of intelligence, when it comes to technology, I’m, let’s just describe it as, well below the curve. Suffice to say, whoever (or whatever) invented Google is quite a bit above that curve. Yet, on occasion, answers can be found elsewhere.

Because I’ve lived through six-and-a-half decades, in nine different states all across the country and have had jobs of influence over the youth of America, passing on information is something that comes naturally to me. More than having the job of teacher or coach, I have always considered myself a student of life and an observer of people.

Maybe due to an early lack of confidence – which some people who know me would scoff at – I was always worried about being good enough. For those who don’t believe that, here’s an example. When I was a senior in high school, I never considered myself exceptionally bright, e.g. my overall GPA was around 2.7 or 2.8 which gave me a class ranking in the upper 25%. Not bad, but not exceptional by any means. I was smarter and a better athlete than some of the guys I hung around with – in math and a couple selected sports. But they were better than I was in other subjects or sports. 

During my sophomore year, I doubled up taking geometry and algebra 2 so I could take calculus my senior year. There were 12 of us in the class (another kid in our graduating class was so smart he’d taken calculus his junior year so he was taking his math class at Rutgers, located a couple miles across the Raritan River). At that time many colleges were requiring single subject SATs as well as the regular morning tests everyone took to gain college admission. Naturally, the kids in our calculus class (and the brainiac at Rutgers) took the single subject Level 1 math test.

When the scores came in, I got a 756 (out of 800). The only people I knew who’d taken that test were the 13 of us. When I got to class and everybody reported their scores, I found out that mine – outstanding by anyone else’s measurement (but which I had no idea) – was the 11th highest, meaning it was the next to the lowest in the entire group. Eight of the others got perfect 800s. Two of them received a perfect 800 on the Level 2 test. That test was on material we hadn’t even covered in class!

There are other stories which contributed to my inferiority complex in areas academic, athletic and social so I was always looking for ways to improve. So it wasn’t at all strange that when I returned to my alma mater, Highland Park (NJ) HS, as a math teacher, football and basketball coach (after I graduated from college in 1970) that I read one of the most influential books of my life, Psychocybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. It wasn’t until I read Dr. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that a book had as much influence over me as that one I read in 1970.

For a guy who didn’t particularly enjoy reading in high school and college, once I graduated, I began to read quite a bit (probably because it wasn’t required). When I went to Washington State in 1973 and began working for George Raveling (one of the most voracious readers of all time), I was positively influenced to become a lifelong learner. George would always be giving me books – print and audio. In addition, I’d always enjoyed simply studying people. All of those traits have broadened my life.

Quick story (for real). Once, when I was Director of Basketball Operations at Fresno State, we were returning to the mainland on a red-eye after our conference game with the University of Hawaii. I happened to be sitting near the front of the plane. At that time, i.e. prior to the pain pump that’s now implanted in my abdomen, I just couldn’t sleep (sitting up) on planes. So I would read. Around 4:00 am one of our players came up and tapped me on my shoulder. When I looked up, he said, “Jack, turn around.” When I did, I saw that the only light in the entire plane that was on the one above my seat. I knew I was a good deal smarter when I got off that plane than I was prior to boarding it.

Since I was in a role of teaching young guys how to play and, I can’t stress this enough, also how to succeed in life, dispensing knowledge became an obsession. Those who know me well will tell people I’ve never had an aversion to speaking. One person, two people, 1500 people at the Fresno Convention Center (although I got paid for that one) – doesn’t matter. If you’re around me, you’re going to hear something that will make you think or smile. I can’t help it. I enjoy sharing information, stories and powerful quotes.

People I’ve taught, coached, mentored and assisted in one way or another have asked me why it is I seem so comfortable sharing my philosophies, a few of which seem a little off the wall. Believe me, I’m in no way so presumptuous to think I have all the answers. One day, however, I found the answer. It was on a card I saw at a local Hallmark store. It said:

“Just because I give you advice doesn’t mean I know more than you. It just means I’ve done more stupid shit.”

Was There a Reason for the Success the Cards Had Against Kershaw in the Seventh?

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

As a child, I was as big a Dodger fan (for a good deal of my childhood, they played in Brooklyn) as existed. Once I got on teams of my own – around high school, then college, then coaching in college – I rooted for that team. In layman’s terms, I was a bandwagon Dodgers fan, i.e. if they were playing in the post season, I was interested but I no longer lived and died with every pitch – or game.

Therefore, yesterday was one of those times I was pulling for my favorite ball club. Growing up as a Jewish teenager in New Jersey in the ’60s, no one could tell me there was (or ever will be) any pitcher better than Sandy Koufax. Read his story. It wasn’t just not pitching in Game 1 of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day for Jews. It was pitching when, following the game, his arm would be swollen twice the size and would turn black. Back then, no one knew sports medicine injuries. The trainers at that time would tell a player who sprained his ankle to put it in a hot whirlpool – probably the worst way to treat it - because science hadn’t caught up yet with athletics (will it ever)? It was also not retaliating and hitting the opponent’s best player because their pitcher had hit Tommy or Willie Davis or Maury Wills.

“How about I just embarrass him in front of everybody?” was a response his teammates might get. Then, the next time the opposing stud came up, he went down on strikes, often screwing himself into the ground trying to hit the famous Koufax curve ball that looked like it dropped off a table.

Now, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, another left-handed pitcher opponents can’t hit. Naturally, with all of the television and radio stations, print media, social media, it’s similar to yesteryear in one regard: everyone has an opinion. But now, everyone can be “heard.” And what we’re hearing is that Kershaw is being favorably compared to Koufax. The guy who would know, long time play-by-play man, Vin Scully, put the kibosh on any comparison when he exclaimed, “Sandy used to pitch 27 complete games a season.” Yet, just being mentioned in the same sentence as Koufax is quite an accolade.

Last night, Kershaw was moving along as his Koufax-like Kershaw-like pace – a couple mistakes for jacks, but still cruising with a 6-2 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh. Color analyst Harold Reynolds commented that it was the first time all game that Kershaw had to pitch from his stretch position. A single put Cards on first and second. St. Louis proceeded to hammer Kershaw – like no one has done since, maybe, they did last year.

Morgan, as nearly everyone at Dodger Stadium, grew bewildered at how easily the Cardinals were handling baseball’s best pitcher. His location was off but he was still throwing 93-94 mph fastballs. I can’t remember exactly when, but Reynolds made the comment that it was almost like they knew what Kershaw was throwing.

Was he tipping his pitches? By the time he’d been knocked out, Reynolds seemed certain the Cardinals had stolen the signs which explained a mystery for which no one else had a clue. He finally said, nearly screamed, that he couldn’t believe that, not one time, did A.J. Ellis meet with Kershaw and say something to the effect, “The hell with the signs, what do you want to throw this pitch?”

Rinse and repeat, if necessary. By the end of the inning, I was incensed that no one in the entire Dodgers’ organization thought of something so obvious. Was that really happening? Was it the X factor in the game? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. And you can bet the Cards ain’t saying.

Is it illegal for somebody in the dugout to listen to the broadcast? And not to listen to, as sensational as he is, Scully. Come to think of it, have somebody listen to the St. Louis feed, too. If it’s not kosher, have somebody in the stands listen and relay information. Something! All this newfangled help didn’t exist in Sandy’s day but, shouldn’t the question be asked:

“With the incessant use of sabermetrics and analytics in baseball, does no one pay attention to common sense anymore?”

Full disclosure: I didn’t tune into the game until the 4th inning and, to these old ears, Harold Reynolds sounded just like Joe Morgan (whom I always admired as a commentator). Once I read the game story and realized my mistake, I corrected it. For those of you who read it prior to the correction, I apologize.

How Will Steve Kerr’s Inexperience Affect the Golden State Warriors?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

One year while Steve Kerr was serving in the dual capacity of General Manager/Director of Basketball Operations for the Phoenix Suns, he had to hire a new coach. At the time he had a blog and, when asked the question of whether he would take the head coaching job, Kerr responded, “I don’t have experience…coaching is a job that requires training and I haven’t coached at any level…In short, I’m not ready.”

Fast forward to today and Kerr’s embarking on his new job (following his highly acclaimed work as television analyst for NBA games) as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. His unfiltered analysis of (now rival) coaches’ decisions will this season be critiqued by, among others, Mark Jackson, the guy he replaced at Golden State. If anyone needs an example of irony, that will suffice?

As with other analysts-turned-coaches (Doug Collins, Doc Rivers and Jackson), his moves will be open to second guessing – because it’s infinitely easier, and so much more fun, to explain what move should have been utilized after knowing how things turned out. The fact that the Warriors have one of the better rosters in the NBA should make his job both easier (it’s no fun trying to win with a less than competitive club – ask Mike D’Antoni and Brett Brown or, for that matter, Jason Kidd, after this season ends) and more difficult (because, other than alienating the head honchos – and that’s a BIG “other than” – Mark Jackson led last year’s Warriors to a 51-31 record and, although they lost in the first round of the playoffs, it was against the talented LA Clippers in seven games).

After the first official day on the court, All-Star Steph Curry said it was a great practice. Following the second day, Kerr claimed it was better than the first which, he stated, is the goal – to get better everyday. It was reported that in the off season, in an effort to get to bond with his guys, Kerr played golf with Curry, flew to Australia to meet with center Andrew Bogut and went to LA to have dinner with David Lee (the first two I can understand reporting, the third . . . well, I’ve had dinner with many people in LA and the trip is more of an inconvenience for me than it is Kerr, so I found that as a bit of a stretch when talking about Kerr’s off season encounters).

Both Curry and his partner in treys, Klay Thompson, played for Team USA’s World Cup of Basketball’s gold-winning squad. Many in the know, i.e. the league, are calling them the best backcourt in the game. Naturally, they need Bogut and Lee to stay healthy and log big minutes, too. Add to that base group Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala (and, of course, others who have the ability to play complementary roles) and Coach Kerr will find out whether that experience and training he was lacking several years ago were overcome by hours of watching film, attending other NBA teams’ practices and critiquing games analyst Kerr had been doing.

He’ll be thrown into the fire soon enough as his squad opens at The Staples Center against the best basketball team in Los Angeles (and we all know who that is – now). Both Collins and Rivers before him had success moving from the commentator’s spot to the head coach’s job (as, to a lesser extent, did Jackson).

When deciding on how good a job Steve Kerr did, the old adage will apply: 

“Don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do.”

.

Coaching Ought to Be Easier Than This

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Coaching is all about communication. It’s not what the coach knows; it’s what he (or she) can get across to the player. If players can’t absorb it, thoroughly understand it and put it to use, it doesn’t matter how much of a genius the coach is.

Coaches display various personality types. Some guys are rah-rah guys, some are screamers, some try to be buddies with their players and some are simply professorial, i.e. a simple teacher-student relationship. All are motivators; they just employ different styles.

Which is the best method? That answer is simple – whichever one works. Make no mistake about it, all coaches believe in what they’re doing. The key is to get the players to believe in it, as strongly as the coach believes in it. If that’s the case, unless completely outclassed from a talent standpoint, you have a sure winner.

Personally, I can remember specific days, weeks and even years in which my instructions worked to perfection and the individual or team achieved incredible success. I, and every other coach, would be lying if I said there were times what I told guys either didn’t work at all or, worse, backfired.

Here’s an example of a coach’s instruction gone awry: The coin toss at the Texas-UCLA game. While this part of the game isn’t as vital as, say, everything that follows, it still gives the coaching staff ammunition for motivation, e.g. if the team wins the toss, it’s “Yeah, we won it – and don’t think that’s the only thing we’re winning today!” If the team loses the toss, the reaction will be (in nearly every instance), “Yeah, we got the ball – let’s score and set the tone for this game!”

In terms of coaching a player for this part of the game, it’s relatively simple. “If we win the toss,” say, ‘We will defer.’ If they win – and defer – say, ‘We want the ball.’ If they win – and take the ball – say, ‘We will defend this goal’ ” (pointing to which end the coach desires). If the coach doesn’t have confidence in his co-captain (then why is he allowing him to speak?), he could replace the third command with, “check with me.”

Prior to the UCLA game, Texas DE Desmond Jackson was the co-captain who was in charge of deciding what to call for the coin toss, meaning “Defer,” “Ball” or “Check with me.” The Bruins won the toss and deferred. The referee asked Jackson, “They’re deferring, what do you want?” Jackson said:

“Kick”

Jackson’s decision didn’t lose the game for the Longhorns (UCLA won, 20-17) but it had to be a bad omen. But give him credit, Desmond Jackson took to twitter to apologize and say that he will never make that mistake again. Bet on it – for a couple reasons.

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.”

What Makes the Danny Ferry-Luol Deng Controversy So Confusing Is What Was Left Unsaid

Monday, September 15th, 2014

By now all the people who want to know what Danny Ferry’s offensive remarks regarding Luol Deng were, have either heard or read them. What makes Ferry’s remarks so shocking is that he 1) has a degree from Duke, 2) has played professional basketball for 13 years and 3) has been a member, in varying capacities, in NBA front offices since 2003. His playing experience alone means that Ferry has spent more than half of his life in a league whose players are 76.3% black (according to the 2013 NBA Racial and Gender Report Card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport).

That he said Luol Deng had “a little African in him” wasn’t racist – until he explained the meaning of the comment. Had he said, “you know, he possesses great quickness, can really jump and has incredible endurance,” no one would have been offended. Instead he gave insulting examples: 1) that Deng is the type of guy who is an anonymous source for a negative story and, when confronted a couple days later, denies it and 2) that Deng is a “locker room lawyer,” which means the type of player who will cause problems in the locker room, e.g. approaching guys who aren’t getting the amount of playing time or shots they want and siding with them against the coaches, but being a rah-rah guy when the coaches are around. Basically, Ferry accused Deng of being two-faced.

When told of the remarks Ferry made about him, Deng was quick to say that he is proud of his African heritage, that he has “a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little.’ ” According to the USA Today article by Jeff Zillgitt, Deng claimed that “among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.”

Everyone was sympathetic to Deng after Ferry’s comments were made public, yet what Deng said following his show of African (Sudanese) pride was extremely strange. Nothing. He said nothing. True, he did mention that, “Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete,” but then went on to reiterate his annoyance about stereotyping and generalizations being unfair. Yet never once did he address the negative comments about him being a leak or a negative presence in the locker room (which does focus on his professionalism). You would think those charges would sting his reputation as a pro equally as much as the “a little African in him” comment did to his heritage.

Could it be those damning words are actually true? Bulls’ VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson had nothing but extremely positive things to say after they traded him but there is a story about Deng being upset with the organization that his bobblehead night was last, making him sound spoiled and petty. Something to wonder is why a scout would put such incendiary remarks in a scouting report – that he knew people would see – if he didn’t have first hand, or at least reliable, knowledge. Possibly Deng just overlooked those comments because the initial slam hit closer to home. On the other hand, it’s difficult to flat out deny something because he would run the risk of a reporter or teammate “outing” him. Anonymously, of course.

Maybe it comes down to the line:

“Some questions simply don’t have answers.”

What the NFL Needs to Do to End the Violence

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Older son, Andy, in town for the weekend. The following was written after he got home and wasn’t completed until after 4 am, so please excuse errors. Blog suspended for family time; will return Monday, 9/15.

The NFL has finally managed to do something no politician could. Unite our nation. In this day and age, of course, it’s united against something as opposed to for something but at least it shows we all can agree. Everyone believes there should be no domestic violence nor should there be child abuse. Hey, it’s a start.

Although we all agree on those two “thou shall not’s,” there is some disagreement over what constitutes those acts. These two crimes have been nearly non-stop talking points on radio and television since the high profile cases of Ray Rice and, as of yesterday, Adrian Peterson. Listen more than ten straight minutes and you’ll hear the names Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald, too.

Most of the focus has been negative, with so much finger pointing going on, this might be the first time in history people wish they were polydactyl. If you don’t know what it means, as my mother used to say, look it up. My mother never went to college and my father actually quit high school a month before his high school graduation – to enlist in the army. His instinctive move got no resistance because World War II was a war this country thought was not only important for us to fight in, but mandatory. Both of my parents have since passed away but the lessons they taught me live on. For the record, my family, consisting of the three of us and my younger brother, would have been considered part of the lower middle class.

My parents stayed married until my dad’s fatal heart attack in 1976. While not the couple who showed PDAs often, my father never hit my mother, nor did she ever strike him. When my brother and/or I screwed up, my father would (bare butt) spank us – with a belt and my mother’s knowledge – but that was saved for major transgressions, e.g. I can’t remember too many of them.

My wife and I have never felt the desire to hit each other and I, on occasion, would spank our two boys, however, with my hand but also with my wife’s knowledge. The point I’m trying to get the reader to understand is that, in the majority of cases (no research numbers, just a gut – and common sense – feel), people repeat behaviors they observe, most definitely if the action positively shaped who they are.

After listening to so many, I’m guessing, upper middle class (if not higher) sports reporters and talk show hosts cast the condescending statement, “Everyone knows you don’t put your hands on a woman. Everyone knows you don’t hit child.” Of course, you know that – if you were taught. I am in no way condoning the actions of the players mentioned above but if people are going to be so outraged that callers and talking heads are calling what’s going on in the NFL as an epidemic, why not try to stop the epidemic rather than just look to place blame? From what we’ve been hearing lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if we run out of physical therapists, treating people falling off their high horse.

To solve a problem, first we should investigate the perpetrators. Let’s start with Ray Rice. How did he become the monster who cold cocked his fiance in an elevator? Google a story that was written about him on May, 20, 2010 (Ray Rice’s Amazing Story by Zachary Beard, written for SB Nation) and you’ll realize that behavior came from elsewhere. When Ray was one, his father was shot dead in the street and when the killers were caught, it turned out Ray’s dad wasn’t even the target. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ten years later, his surrogate father, his cousin, was killed in a car accident when the driver of one car swerved to avoid hitting another. Exactly where he got the idea that hitting women was permissible is unknown but it had to have come from somewhere.

Adrian Peterson was so open and honest with the police about taking a switch to his son, he certainly couldn’t have thought it was going to become the story – and potential jail time – it has and probably will be. His father used to “put a whoopin’ ” on him when he did wrong, so when he saw his four-year old son push his brother off his bike, he felt the need to punish. From his emails to the youngster’s mother, even he realized he’d gone too far.

Read his biography on JockBio.com and you’ll see the early relationship he had with his father (who went to prison for money laundering when AD, a nickname his dad had given him when he was a toddler, was 13) – and what a strict disciplinarian he was. Who knows whether he feels his father (and mother who was also an outstanding athlete in her own right) provided him with the discipline it takes to be as good a player as he’s been in the NFL?

OK, enough with ifs and buts. Although the overwhelming majority of the professional football players have not shown up on police blotters, don’t think for a second the NFL doesn’t have a behavior problem when it comes to violence. Could it be the violence problem in the NFL derives from the fact that the game is inherently violent? The fiercest, most vicious (legal) hits elicit remarks such as, “Now, that is the way to play football” and in practice, players are applauded when, after taking a severe hit from a teammate, they deliver one right back on the next snap. So, the simple nature of the game definitely has to be looked at as a factor.

When I was at the University of Tennessee as an assistant basketball coach, all the coaches and players – of all sports – would eat together at the training table. It was a great, albeit expensive (for the university) way for us to get to know each other. That’s how I made the acquaintance of Reggie White, one of the gentlest, yet dominating players football had ever known. Reggie was born to unwed parents, yet his family would faithfully attend church. From all indications (reading his bio), his eight years with his parents were uneventful from a violence standpoint. It was at that age he moved in with his grandmother who raised him to be the star athlete and kind person he grew up to be. While his life was not without controversy (his speech to the Wisconsin State Legislature regarding stereotyping minorities and denouncing gays drew a great deal of criticism), there is no evidence of domestic violence or child abuse when he was young, nor after he got married and had children.

If you haven’t figured out after all of the above what my solution to these problems is, it’s education. Not a two-week seminar to rookies but, beginning in college (funded by the NFL – after all, I’ve been hearing about how the league has so much money they could have found that second Ray Rice videotape if they wanted to). Maybe, just maybe, some of these players, as hard as it is to believe, really don’t understand. Possibly they’ve seen their mother get hit by and stay with, even apologize for, her abuser. Because, for most of them, as with most of us, their mother is their hero. Maybe, from a young age, standing by her man is more than just a song title. Maybe, it’s just something a strong woman does. Children get punished by their dad for the same reason . . . they deserve it. No one really knows what things become facts in a young boy’s head. Of course, “everyone knows” there’s a difference between teaching a youngster a lesson and injuring him or her. Yet in some societies, as unfortunate as it is, the theory is that a man’s self worth is tied to his net worth, so bringing home a boatload of cash justifies any type of behavior.

We’ve heard the tales of the young guys who promise to make millions so their mom and siblings can get out of an abusive household, but that is usually a storyline for a feelgood movie (that people shell out $15 for – the same people who pay $99.95 for an official NFL jersey). Early education might not be the only salvation but it also might just be the best one. Show videos of what can happen to people who are abused, bring in speakers of those who were abused as well as those who were rehabilitated (or maybe some who weren’t and are still incarcerated – maybe showing someone who acts like a fool will discourage that behavior), make the players take verbal and tests or put them in “mock” situations and see how they (re)act. Naturally, punishment must be severe but education is needed more. Believe it or not, many of these guys do not know.

For those who think “the animals should be thrown in jail,” keep in mind these are not life sentences. These guys are eventually going to get out at some time and what, exactly, do we think they’ll be then? Plus, by throwing them out, what exactly do we think they’re going to do then? Take sensitivity classes or be bitter toward society? Educate them before there’s a need to incarcerate them or else how do we know which guys we should be cheering for?

To quote former Harvard president Derek Bok:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” 

 

The Ravens Can’t Seem to Get Out of Their Own Way

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Football coaches hate “short” weeks and no week is shorter than Sunday-Thursday in the NFL. The Ravens and Steelers had one (which concluded last night, with Baltimore thrashing their rivals from the ‘Burgh. Earlier in the week, a second Ray Rice video surfaced and as far as fans and media were concerned . . . football be damned. When Rice’s penalty changed to “indefinitely suspended,” professionals in sports journalism, e.g. talking heads (news and sports radio & TV anchors, color commentators, sports reporters, and anyone who can squeeze his or her way for air time) and print media (beat writers, columnists, the occasional talking head) had a whole new angle.

As if the public isn’t over-staurated (which might not be a word, but Webster’s being severely challenged when it comes to opinions) with media members, the Internet now has brought us . . . bloggers. In case anyone asks, no one told me I had to blog, although it was suggested I start one – after some people who’d heard my stories, said they thought I could build an audience. Full disclosure: I’m paying one of those guys once/quarter and have no idea why. Instagram, twitter, snap chat, pinterest and a slew of others – don’t ask – I don’t even know what the ones I listed are.

Dave Severns, player development coach for the Clippers) now has his own website – jymratt.com (yeah, 2 Ts). For anyone looking for thoughtful X’s and O’s, head over to Dave’s website. One of Dave’s favorite words is tomfoolery. While that word shouldn’t be used in connection with the Ray Rice case itself, it describes perfectly what, say 30%, of the callers (and whatevers) have turned radio (call-in shows) and print media (much other social media) into.

So, what do the Ravens do for their press conference? In a short week? They stick Jim Harbaugh in front of the media. Probably because there’s an NFL rule that the head coach has to be made available. If such a rule exists, the questions should be limited to the players who will play. Although Harbaugh feels for his guy, Ray Rice, anybody who saw the presser could tell his mind was detached, that it was in game mode.

Why? Because he’s uncaring when it comes to football? No! Because that’s his job! That’s why they pay him millions of dollars. There was no discussion of a forfeit. Suspending Ray Rice was an administrative decision. The coach might have been asked to attend the meeting but you can bet his vote wouldn’t have carried much weight. If those questions were going to be asked, put the owner or the GM on the podium.

Everybody can learn from Colts’ receiver T.Y. Hilton, who said:

“Trouble’s easy to get into but hard to get out of.”

Sometimes a Debate Just Needs to End in a Stalemate

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Every so often, a story comes along that captivates the nation. Unfortunately, due to 21st century human nature (or maybe that’s the way it’s always been), the story is nearly always negative. Emotions run high and people feel strongly. The Ray Rice situation is one of those.

Last night as I was scrolling through what my Facebook friends had posted, I came across someone I hadn’t seen in 20 years. In the early ’90s he and I had a wonderful relationship. I disagreed with him on the Rice issue and, wrote (summarizing my responses), When they asked Ray Rice (initially), what happened, he said his fiance went after him and he DEFENDED HIMSELF. That video shows he just cold cocked her. . . We can certainly disagree but I think you’re on the wrong side of this one, meaning if you went on TV and debated your side against the other, you’d have a tough time convincing an audience.”

There were numerous people making comments, so in the name of brevity, I’ve summarized my posts and another of his friends who took exception to much of what I had to say. Following my comment above, he interjected: “If you watched the video you will see her swing at him in the lobby.”

One thing about non-verbal communication is you can’t tell sarcasm, inflection or tone, so I asked, “So you’re equating her swinging at him with him knocking her out?

Him: If you are big enough to pass a lick you gotta be big enough to take one!!

Me: Are you serious? C‘mon, man, do you really believe that if a female can pass a lick, she oughta be able to take one? From an NFL player?” Then, to my original friend, who is certain the NFL had a copy of the video (which, after yesterday, do we really know?), “You really think the NFL had this video but didn’t think it would get out? With people like TMZ around?

My “new” friend chimed in (which happens on Facebook – whoever posts first is next): Man what league do you follow?? This is the NFL this is the biggest cover up organization ever!! . . . What about the ATL owner who said his team is too black that’s why sales are down, swept right under the rug huh??

Me: If you think Goddell would do anything to protect the shield” (from a previous post), “at least know that the ATL owner you’re talking about is the Hawks, not the Falcons.

Him: Big money organizations are all connected in done (sic) way believe.

In between his and my exchanges, others were making their thoughts known and the overwhelming majority of the comments were supportive . . . of his side! (At least up until that last comment).

Whoever said, “There are two sides to every story” would have been quite proud. It was an instance in which the late Stephen Covey’s famous quote most definitely applied:

“Let’s just agree to disagree, agreeably.”