Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

LeBron Figured Out the Secret of the Lakers’ Win Over the Warriors

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Of the zillions of websites on the Internet, Yardbarker is one that gives readers a plethora of information. How much of it can be believed? Their subtitle – REALTIME RUMORS, GOSSIP, OPINIONS AND HUMOR FROM THE BEST SPORTS BLOGS – tells people what they can expect.

One story that made yesterday’s “Top 10″ was LeBron James warning his Cleveland Cavs teammates. The warning? “His main message was that this (Wednesday-Sunday in Los Angeles) is a business trip,” said J.R. Smith. “Are we going to have fun?” Smith, someone knows a thing or two about partying asked, no doubt, rhetorically. “Absolutely, but . . . ” But nothing, J.R. Why do you think LeBron was talking to you guys? Could it be because he saw what the Lakers did to Golden State?

Anyone saw that game, which LA (the Lakers, not the Clippers) didn’t just beat the defending champs – and overwhelming favorite to repeat – will attest to the fact they embarrassed them. In fact, in terms of the difference between the record (from a percentage standpoint) of the losing team and the winning team, it was, ignominiously for the Warriors, the greatest upset in NBA history. “How could this have happened?” wondered hoops fans (and gamblers who dumped a load of cash on GSW).

Duh. For those folks who have never visited Los Angeles, there are a lot of distractions in the city, some real, others . . . enhanced. If everything’s bigger in Texas, everything’s cooler in LA. Other cities have waiters; in Los Angeles you get actors. In some restaurants you sometimes see real actors, especially if your income is in that upper 1% we keep hearing about in the current political campaigns (the neighborhood where NBA players reside – although, unfortunately for many, only for the length of their careers). Another plus about sunny SoCal is it’s an easy trip to pack for since the weather is always the same.

The Cavs began by beating the Lakers, 120-108, on Thursday. A more impressive win came on Sunday when they won big over the Clippers. Clearly, partying didn’t get in the way of their job. A couple of days off in Los Angeles is, often, a trap for a bunch of millionaires who live, during the season, i.e. winter, in Cleveland.

All LeBron really had to do was show video from the Warriors’ afternoon game against the Lakers. It was as if, for Golden State only, the hoop was moving (or that there were several of them), the sheets on the floor at the scorer’s table that the players use for better traction covered the entire court, the game was being played at altitude and the Dubs were using a medicine ball. A friend of mine was watching the game. He called me during the third quarter and said he empathized with the guys from Golden State – even though it was only the sixth time all season they’d lost:

“The Warriors look like a bunch of fraternity guys the morning after a rush party.”

What to Do When It’s Hard to Follow the NCAA Rules

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

At one of the nine colleges where I worked, there was a preliminary NCAA investigation into football and basketball which, not surprisingly, discovered some minor violations (for the record, the school was not Fresno State and Tark). One involving basketball was a prospect we had signed who showed up at his post season high school all-star game practice decked out from head to toe in our practice gear (reversible practice jersey, practice shorts and even a pair of our shoes while another kid who was playing on the opposing team, e.g. east-west or north-south) didn’t have anything from us. The former player was recruited by another assistant on our staff, while I had recruited the “naked” kid. In fact, not to make me sound like a goody two-shoes, but the results of the NCAA findings found no violations committed by me. In one of my previous stops, the former staff lost their jobs because they committed some (very minor) violations. (The fact they also had a losing record made it that much simpler to show them the door). Maybe I was frightened when told that story but, whatever the reason, I decided adhering to the rules was the better strategy.

Actually, when I interviewed for the job (at the school that had the all-star clothing irregularities), the athletics director warned me, “Always remember this: We’ll stand by you if you lose – a little – but we won’t stand by you if you cheat.” I had absolutely no problem with this because, call me naïve, but I felt the NCAA rules were meant to be followed since (even though from time to time they seemed petty, or even downright absurd) they were the same for everybody.

By the time of the investigation, we had a different AD. After being questioned about the infractions, he pulled me aside and said, “Jack, what do you think of the NCAA rules?” I told him I thought they ought to be followed since the NCAA was our governing body. “What about so-called ‘gray areas’?” he asked.

I told him my policy regarding gray areas was to call the NCAA enforcement staff and ask about it. I got to know the head of enforcement pretty well and when I’d ask about such a situation, he would give me one of two answers. Either: “I have no problem with that,” which meant, technically, it broke the letter of the rule but not the spirit, or “No, that’s an end run,” which meant that while it isn’t technically a violation as far as the letter of the rule, it does break the spirit of the rule and, although you skirted that one, you could be looking at the NCAA to launch a full-blown investigation – something no school ever wanted, nor could withstand.

Our new athletics department leader (who had a distinguished career in intercollegiate athletics) looked at me and said, “Jack, the way I look at the rules is those suckers should be bent as far as they will bend.” Evidently, his philosophy was, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” – a philosophy employed by many successful (and unsuccessful) coaches.

Apparently, without a memo of any sort, our department paradigm had changed. My response to him was probably not the best, considering it seemed like the guy was mentoring me:

“What happens when you’ve bent it as far as it can bend and the prospect asks for just a little more. You’ve invested so much time with the kid and you’ve established such a close relationship with him – what do you do then? It would seem to be too tempting to bend it a little more – even if it meant breaking it – and, that’s a decision I’d rather not make.”

Brock Osweiler Was in a No Win-No Lose Situation

Friday, March 11th, 2016

It’s tough to have sympathy for someone who will be making $18 million a year for the next four years. Yet, Brock Osweiler was faced with the prospect of returning to a Super Bowl championship team with a sensational defense that, for all intents and purposes, won the biggest football game of the season. So, all he would need to do is to be a “game manager” (a term that quarterbacks despise) to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Possibly, that was why he decided to leave the Denver, i.e. if the Broncos repeated, he would just have been the quarterback who didn’t screw up the game. However, if, for some reason – possibly because it’s been 12 years since a team won two in a row, and it’s only happened eight times – in the 50-year history of the Super Bowl, Osweiler felt the risk wasn’t worth the reward.

It had been documented that he felt wronged when he was benched for Peyton Manning (his comments at the time were, “So it is difficult to sit back and watch. As a competitor you want to be out there in the fire with your teammates. You want to be in the huddle. You want to have your hand on the ball every single play. But the bottom line is, coach Kubiak is doing what he believes is best for the football team, and I fully support that and support the team 100 percent.”

First of all, the backup QB had better support the coach’s decision (even if he used to be the starter) and secondly, the way their season ended, how foolish would he have looked if he’d said anything else? What could possibly have been his defense – “If I was in there, we would have won by more?”

Those with a strong memory (or if you’d stumbled on the video googling facts) will recall the previous season when, after Manning had thrown five TDs and the game was already in the can, how Osweiler had been throwing, getting ready for his mop up duty – when Peyton decided he wasn’t quite through for the day. The video of Osweiler left no doubt of how the young guy felt.

Could that incident have factored into his decision? While it probably stuck in his craw, the fact that Denver’s boss (the team and, possibly, the city), John Elway didn’t cotton to ponying up top 10 quarterback money ($18 million per season is Tony Romo’s deal and almost what Jay Cutler makes. Further, it surpasses the salaries of Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Matt Stafford). The NFL, with all its CTE scares, in addition to the other life-altering issues players face (future surgeries, limps, injuries that negatively change future quality of life), has more than ever become all about the money – especially the part of the contract that’s guaranteed.

The situation Brock Osweiler had to face was do I stay and risk not winning another Super Bowl (which could occur even if he had an MVP year) – for less money – or go elsewhere for more dough and try to win one there creating my own legacy? Next season, both Denver and Houston should be teams that are talked about as potential champions. And what if Denver wins it all again with, now that Osweiler has moved on, another QB. Keep in mind that he is a quarterback with but seven career starts.

Obviously, his choice came down to do I want to create my own legacy? Or was it just take the best financial deal? Or was there a bit of a revenge factor, e.g. I could have run the club just as well as Peyton – and I’ll show everybody. Not that Osweiler felt his career would match Manning’s but, surely, his “last season” could have equaled, heck, surpassed, the body of work the future Hall of Famer produced. Maybe all of those were reasons he chose the Texans.

Call it confidence, vanity, stubbornness, greed, ego, whatever, Brock Osweiler could only play for one team. The only thing that’s for certain about the Osweiler saga is that it’s:

“. . . to be continued.

 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Still Doesn’t Seem to Get It

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Arguably the best college and professional basketball player of all-time, over the past decade or so, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has spent a great deal of time explaining himself and his aloof attitude while he was a player. He claims to have been misunderstood. The underlying reason for this behavior is that he wants to get into coaching – college or NBA – but can’t seem to find someone who will hire him.

Why he wants to enter the coaching profession is defies wisdom because, unlike many coaches, he doesn’t seem obsessed with it. Nor does he lack for other career skills which is the case for many in the coaching business. He is a man of diverse interests, someone who thinks at a deeper level than what is considered the “normal” coach (Gregg Popovich excluded). Add to that, he’s an accomplished writer having written books and authored articles for national publications. He was even he was appointed as a U.S. global cultural ambassador by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Yet he can’t break into coaching.

In 2012 he penned a critical article about then-UCLA coach Ben Howland (UCLA fix: Return to the Wooden Way). In that piece, while he grudgingly gives Howland credit for taking the Bruins to three Final Fours, he lambastes him for the way he ran the program after those years. He uses Trevor Ariza as an example of a UCLA player who left the program because of his dislike for Howland, saying Ariza told him that if he had to deal with a personality like that, he might as well get paid for it – a choice that wasn’t available to players when Abdul-Jabbar played (so we’ll never know how many guys would have left school early if the “escape clause” were in effect in those days).

Then, last September, Abdul-Jabbar criticized UCLA’s current coach Steve Alford in an interview. Independent of how great he was as a player and what his feelings are toward the last two coaches at his alma mater, his actions and words are taboo by the coaching fraternity (the job is tough enough nowadays without someone who aspires to be “one of their own” cutting down a colleague) – nor does he ingratiate himself to those in the position of hiring coaches. If he wants to be a member of the media, blistering criticism is a wise strategy, but as far as breaking into the coaching business, not so much. Here are excerpts from the interview, along with my comments, underlined and (in parentheses).

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t happy about the way UCLA basketball is trending (who is?), and he made those thoughts known on the radio on Wednesday.

On SiriusXM NBA Radio, Abdul-Jabbar didn’t pull any punches in regard to what he thinks of Bruins coach Steve Alford (as if his comments will benefit Alford and the program in any way) and the way basketball is being taught at his alma mater.

It was real ugly, man,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “You know, I have to say that (no, you don’t “have to”). I watched them in the playoffs. You know, they don’t even know how to run the fast break (wait, are you inferring that Steve Alford – who played under Bob Knight – and has had previous success in his other head coaching jobs, actually doesn’t know how to teach the execution of a fast break? Wooden may have been the greatest basketball coach ever, but he wasn’t the ONLY one who could coach it). I’m not trying to sit on the sidelines and throw stones at Coach Alford (Really? That’s like saying you weren’t “trying to be” aloof when you played). He has a tough job (Ya think – with alums like you and Walton?). But people used to learn how to play the game at UCLA, and I don’t think that’s happening now. I think that’s a real disappointment to those of us who are a part of the tradition (what you really mean is “when Coach Wooden was there”).”

The interviewers, afterward, posed a couple questions following the big guy’s remarks, the first regarding Abdul-Jabbar’s motives for the criticism: “Is it sour grapes because he wasn’t considered for the job in 2013 when he said publicly he was interested in the job? (underlining that of the interviewers) The second query was, “Why risk fracturing a fan base when it could be coming together based on the fact that you played for arguably the best coach in the history of college basketball?”
Yes, why indeed?

Many former players and coaches who were around Kareem in his playing days laugh when the topic of him becoming a coach is mentioned. As incredibly bright as he is, there are two truths Kareem Abdul-Jabbar never learned:

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

And:

“You can’t unring a bell.”

Simplifying Peyton Manning’s Impact Beyond Stats

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

When asked about his legacy, Peyton Manning said he wanted to be remembered as a great teammate. One trait of a great teammate is whether he has is the respect of the other guys in the locker room. When Manning finally decided to call it quits, he first told his teammates about his decision – because that’s what a true leader does. In an even greater display of class (which, in case anyone is wondering, cannot be taught) he didn’t do it with a group text, which the overwhelming majority of today’s players would consider the appropriate choice. Rather, the soon-to-be-retired Manning sent individual texts to each of his teammates.

To understand how much respect Manning had in the Broncos’ locker room, consider two facts above all: 1) Due to the surgeries/injuries he incurred, which collectively would have forced most other players into retirement years before, the 39-year-old quarterback was a mere shell of himself (the defense was mostly responsible for Denver winning Super Bowl 50). In spite of his diminished skills, he was still revered by his teammates throughout the season – especially in the biggest game of it.

2) Not one guy leaked the text message (to any media member or outlet) he received from Manning regarding his retirement. In most instances, there would be somebody who would resent the player enough or simply want to ruin the drama of the day, and become the “source who was speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to make a statement.” Instead, his teammates managed to keep every one of those texts to themselves until Manning’s decision was made public – the way he wanted it to be.

In this day and age, that might be the greatest compliment his teammates could have presented to their retiring (sure-fire, first-ballot) Hall of Famer. That type of admiration and adulation was showered on Manning from those “outsider” the Broncos’ family as well. Consider the following comments from – love them or hate them – (old nemesis) Tom Brady, (new nemesis) Cam Newton and (seemingly, everyone’s nemesis) Roger Goodell, respectively:

“You changed the game forever and made everyone around you better. It’s been an honor.”

“You have changed this game in ways you will never no (sic) and I admire the man you are on and off the field.”

“We are forever grateful for Peyton’s unmatched contributions to the game . . .”

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 . . .?”

Evaluating the Cavs Head Coaching Change Difficult

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Earlier in the basketball season, one of the blockbuster stories in the NBA was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ firing of David Blatt after he took the club to last year’s Finals and had them at a 30-11 record (.714) halfway through this year. In an ESPN.com piece, general manager David Griffin cited “a lack of fit with our personnel and our vision.” The GM continued, “To be truly elite, we have to buy into a set of values and principles that we believe in. That becomes our identity.”

Chris Broussard reported that several Cavs players, mainly the veterans, thought that Blatt was in over his head as coach, questioned his ability to draw up plays at the end of games and claimed he wasn’t as familiar enough with the league as was necessary to lead the franchise to a championship. LeBron James, in particular, lamented that, with the exception of his first coach, Paul Silas, he’d never been coached by a former player. It was no secret James was fond of assistant coach Tyronn Lue and that the players “connected” with Lue better than they did their head coach. Note: As a 30-year (college) assistant, I can assure you it’s more common than not for players to connect more closely with the assistants than the head coach – but why that is a blog for another day.

Flashback to 2005: With 18 games remaining in the season, the Cavs fired Silas. According to an AP story on March 22nd of that year, owner Dan Gilbert’s reasoning was, “We felt the change today was necessary. It’s going to put us in a better position to win.” Griffin’s remark after letting Blatt go and hiring his assistant was, “Ty Lue is a better basketball coach for this team today.” According to a team source, “David was hired to coach a developmental team and young players who would’ve wanted to please him. He ended up coaching a finished product where the players expected him to please them.”

After the coaching change, comments were made that minutes would be distributed differently, in particular, Anderson Varrejo would get more time. Currently, he is getting more time – and the contribution he’s making, albeit a relatively minor one – has the team as the overwhelming favorite to win the championship. Then again, anyone who joined the Golden State Warriors could make the claim.

As is the case in professional athletics, rumors are flying. One of those is that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. According to none other than Stephen A. Smith, “Dating back to last year, I’ve been told that Kyrie Irving ain’t too happy being in Cleveland . . .   he would prefer to be someplace (else).” Maybe, if Blatt gets another shot, he’ll be able to hook up with his former boss. Add that turmoil to LBJ calling out his squad for being mentally weak and J.R. Smith’s tirade, and the Cavs don’t seem any closer to that “better position to win” Griffin spoke of when he fired Blatt.

As far as the team’s record since Blatt’s departure, it’s 13-6 (.684). This is, by no means, a slam at Lue. Coincidentally, it’s identical to Blatt’s record after his first 19 games this season. What must be considered in assessing Lue’s performance is, since taking over, there have been only 16 days in which the Cavs weren’t playing (not counting the days for the All-Star break). Anyone who understands a typical NBA season realizes, at the point of the season Lue was named head man, most days in which there’s no game, the coach will give the guys off (although guys who haven’t logged many minutes will work out in some capacity) as opposed to having practices. It’s a matter of a coach wanting to save their legs – even if it means not installing his plays, strategies and nuances. Also, anyone who knows coaching will tell you that the best way of improving team performance (not including getting better players) is to practice.

According to the ESPN.com article, Griffin ultimately decided to fire Blatt because he “knew the players would use Blatt as an excuse if they came up short again.” Short obviously meaning not winning a championship since they finished “second” last year. Maybe it would be a good idea for owners and GMs to take up yoga if, for no other reason, to learn proper breathing techniques. Or take a math course so they can learn to count beyond . . . one. 

Every year there’s only one team that wins it all. To hear reporters and talking heads make the statement, “Well, there’s another year so-and-so coach or such-and-such team has failed to win a championship.” Of course, everybody wants to be the champs, but the reality is in the NBA that 29 teams (usually meaning about 32-35 coaches, with all the mid-season changes that are made) are going to walk away “empty-handed” – if the sole something in their hands that counts is the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Face it, owners aren’t used to “losing.” Except in most of the businesses where they made their fortune (excluding the owner of the Charlotte Hornets), there wasn’t only one winner. NBA owners MJ, Steve Ballmer, Mark Cuban, Jerry Reinsdorf, Charles Dolan, Tom Gores, Marc Lasry, Robert Pera, Leslie Alexander, Mikhail Prokhorov, Paul Allen, Philip Anshutz, Rich DeVos, Mickey Arison, Stan Kroenke, Joshua Harris, Herb Simon, Glen Taylor, Tom Benson and yes, even Dan Gilbert, are all billionaires. But is only Ballmer the champion because his net worth is greater (significantly greater) than the others? Is every owner but the trampolining Clippers boss to be considered a loser? How foolish would it be if, at the end of the season, people will be saying,

“There goes another year our owner wasn’t #1?”

Checking My Notes: Almost a Year Later

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Occasionally, I’ll take notes for future blogs. Something to post in a day or so. Well, I just checked on that file and saw one that I completely forgot about – since last April! It might not carry the sting it did at the time but it’s an example of how some media members (thankfully, not too many) can be petty whiners. With today’s social media, however, they can quickly get their comeuppance.

This all stemmed from a column written by CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd after Wisconsin beat Arizona to head to the 2015 Final Four for the second year in a row. In both years the Badgers came out of the West region, both years they played the regional final against Arizona, both years the regional finals have been played in the greater Los Angeles area – and both times, Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers cheered them on to victory. While Rodgers did not attend Wisconsin (he matriculated at Cal), he does live and work in the state for much of the year. No matter, said Dodd, who really didn’t give a flip about which college Rodgers attended. His beef was that, get this, the Green Bay QB refused to grant him an on-court interview after the Badgers’ victory. Each of the following were tweets by Dodd regarding this unprecedented affront to His Highness, Sir Dennis (bold is mine):

“Aaron Rodgers in one of the biggest moments in the state’s history — ignoring how media has shaped his image — ‘I’m not doing interviews’ “ (Doesn’t this comment smack of indignation and self-importance – by Dodd?)

“Dear Wisco fan: If it was about the Badgers, then why was A Rodgers on court? Credentialed media only.”

“Here’s the equivalent of what A Rodgers did today. I crash his wedding to Olivia because I’m a big ‘fan’.”

“Media had to stay outside three point line (really) while Badgers cut nets. A Rodgers allowed unrestrained access to court. Fair?”

“Still wondering what difference is between two uncredentialed fans on court. One dates an actress and is good at sports. Other isn’t.” (Dennis, I believe you answered your own question)

“Where do we draw the line? USC can’t have celebs on sideline anymore after sanctions. But feel-good A Rodgers can be on court with Badgers?”

And the piece de resistance: “I can guarantee you this will be taken up by NCAA and USBWAA. A Rodgers shouldn’t be in a position for us to be blown off.”

Yeah, I’m sure that will be way up there on each body’s next agenda. In essence, Dodd is saying, “that guy got to go somewhere I couldn’t so I’m going to lash out – because he’s a public figure, I’m upset he didn’t give me an interview, I have a platform . . . so I’ll show him not to piss me off.”

You might think Rodgers wouldn’t have time to deal with such frivolous nonsense but, maybe Dodd hit his competitive button. The QB’s reply? “AARON To the biggest twitter crybaby of the night, I had a pass to be on the court. Send your complaints to the A.D. #quitcrying #youreajoke.”

Apparently, UW AD Barry Alvarez, in fact, authorized a wristband for Rodgers which allowed him access to the floor for the post-game celebration. Whether Dodd was small enough to actually approach Alvarez about the matter is unknown but, whatever the case, the AD wouldn’t owe him any answers anyway.

Did Dodd not realize that, possibly, Rodgers recognized he shouldn’t have been the focus and it was the the Wisconsin basketball team’s time in the spotlight – to get the attention for their accomplishments? Actually, most people were impressed that he chose not to be interviewed, considering the manner in which so many of today’s athletes seek out moments like this to exploit their “brand,” independent of whose parades they may be raining on.

I say, good for Rodgers. He already had a personal relationship with the team so why not let him on the court after the game? He showed professional restraint not to hog the spotlight. As for those who criticize him for not wearing red, Rodgers reminded them with a tweet: “AARON 2 semesters at Butte 3 semesters at Cal 10 years a Wisconsin resident. I’ll pull for any team I want. But I don’t wear red.” (which is Stanford’s color and everyone knows tradition dictates no Cal fan shall EVER wear red).

For the final words, let’s hear some fans’ tweets: “Classy move. Letting the Badgers have the spotlight. Not him.”

“Guy was there as a fan not a player. Why take attention away from the players?”

And finally, another tweet which sums up the feeling of many toward Dodd:

“Poor entitled media members. He doesn’t owe you squat.”

 

 

 

On Mattingly’s New Policy, Why Not Take a Wait-and-See Approach?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

When Don Mattingly played, he was known as Donnie “Baseball,” as good a role model as there was in the sport. He played his entire 14-year career with the New York Yankees, was a six-time All-Star, won nine Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards, the 1984 AL batting title and was 1985’s AL MVP. From 1991-95 he served as captain of the Bronx Bombers, an honor shared by some all-time great players.

After his playing career, he became a coach on manager Joe Torre’s staff, then following his boss to Los Angeles, and finally taking over the Dodgers’ top job when Torre retired. While the Dodgers never won a World Series under his guidance, Mattingly became the first skipper in the history of the Dodgers organization (Brooklyn and Los Angeles) to lead the team to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and finished with a career record of 446-363 (.551), second best in the history of the franchise. At the conclusion of last season, he and the Dodgers mutually decided to part ways.

Shortly thereafter, the Miami Marlins hired Mattingly to manage their franchise. Recently, “Donnie Baseball” sent a message to his new players – a ban on facial hair. Why in the today’s world would he take such a hard line approach? Alex Putterman, posting for The Comeback, penned a scathing and sarcastic piece on this decree, calling it absurd for a whole host of reasons, mostly that it’s outdated. His strongest argument is that, last season, nearly every individual award was won by somebody with facial hair. Out of curiosity I googled a picture of Putterman. It’s no surprise that the author sports a full beard.

As for whether or not he was, or will be, a good manager, let’s hear from three-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw. “He’s so positive,” Kershaw said. “All he asks of us is just go out there and play the way we’re supposed to. Do things the right way on the field, and he’s happy with you. When it’s simple like that, it’s easy to play for, and it’s fun to play for.” Hey, but Kershaw did all that with a beard. Implementing this idea in Los Angeles? Probably not.

So who knows what was behind the new skipper’s edict? Possibly, he felt the team lacked discipline and it affected overall performance. In this day and age, Mattingly is certainly taking a gamble that forcing major leaguers to be clean shaven won’t come back to haunt him. However, Mattingly got to see the Marlins several times the last few years and undoubtedly did some homework (in the way of obtaining input from people in the game he trusts) before deciding to drop the hammer (and make his guys pick up the razor).

Today, there is a segment of society that believes discipline is lacking in professional sports (and many other areas of life) and there’s too much individualism. The term that’s constantly bantered about when discussing what makes a winning team is buy in. It seems “buy in” is what’s in Don Mattingly’s cross hairs. And, while Putterman is correct when he writes, “There’s less than no evidence having facial hair makes you bad at baseball,” the flip side is there’s also no evidence having facial hair makes you good at baseball. So maybe there is a bigger reason for it.

Sure, Mattingly’s plan might just backfire. “Initially not too many guys were happy about it,” said reliever Mike Dunn, who shaved off his goatee before reporting to spring training. ”You can fight it, or you don’t. Obviously I shaved, so it’s OK.” Chalk up one vote for, “We’ve been losers for a long time so why not support our new manager?” Over the past five years, the Marlins have, on average, finished 26 games out of first place and have played well below .500 ball in each of those seasons. Why not shake some things up?

As for his feelings on the controversy, “Guys will whine,” Mattingly said. ”Some guys like it, some guys won’t. As long as we’re consistent, I think it’s not that big of a deal.” He knows it’s a big commitment; he’s just trying the low key approach.

Before criticizing his decision, why don’t we let the results determine whether Mattingly’s move was the right one? In the world of managing a major league baseball team (just as in being the head man at the highest level in any professional sport), the sum total of all decisions come down one question:

“Did you WIN enough to keep your job?”

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.”