Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Media Members Like to Look the Other (Opposite) Way

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Road trip to Santa Cruz to watch our nephew, David Guy, in concert. He plays bass in the Patrick Sweany band which, apparently, is a lot more popular than I realized. Then, again, the last music I bought featured Earth, Wind and Fire. After the concert, we’re on our way to Monterey to help move younger son, Alex, into school for his final year (and basketball season) at Cal State Monterey Bay. This blog will return Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Yesterday’s post ended with John Wall’s blatantly honest assessment that he didn’t feel he would make the United States Olympic team. To me, it was a refreshing display of humility by a professional athlete. Wall pointed out that there are a few guards who, along with being incredibly talented, have experienced more success in international basketball than he has. The analysis he gave really can’t be disputed and actually sounds like the conclusions the decision-makers would come up with in closed door meetings when discussing which guys to keep and which to cut.

Later in the day I was listening to NBA radio on Sirius-XM and heard radio host Jonathan Hood take umbrage at Wall’s remarks. It came off as Hood was insulted by Wall’s comments. J-Hood, as he is known, was co-hosting the show with Stacey King when Hood went off on Wall’s “prediction” he would not make the U.S. Olympic Basketball squad. Hood’s opinion is that Wall shouldn’t back down to anybody, that his belief in himself should be that, at the very least, he’s the equal of any other player trying out for that team. It greatly bothered Hood that went on a prolonged rant that Wall had the nerve to cop such an (realistic) attitude.

My initial reaction was one of shock. When I heard what Wall had said, my immediate thoughts were that he made sense. I never had a feeling that he considered his skills inferior to his contemporaries. In fact, I felt if the follow up question had been, Do you think you’ll ever represent the U.S. in the Olympic Games, his answer would have been an emphatic, “Yes!” Then again, it’s controversy that makes for “good media,” be it electronic or print, so Hood was falling in line with what most media guys do – listen to the athlete and, then, take the opposite view. For a recent example we need to look no further than the comments made by Robert Griffin III.

“I know I’m the best quarterback on this team. I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league and I have to go out and show that,” RGIII said. “Any athlete at any level, if they concede to someone else, they’re not a top competitor, they’re not trying to be the best that they can be. There’s guys in this league that have done way more than me. But, I still view myself as the best because that’s what I work toward every single day.”

These quotes were met with derision from media types who began listing reasons (stats or accomplishments that other QBs had made) that contradicted the Redskins’ (for now) QB. Exactly like John Wall did when handicapping his chances of representing the U.S. in the next Olympics. One writer sarcastically called for a concussion test to be administered to RGIII (no word on that writer’s reaction to what Wall had to say).

If ever someone (of integrity) has been scorned by the media, it’s Tim Tebow – who has won a State Championship in high school, two National Championships in college and a Division Championship in the NFL (in addition to a Heisman Trophy). Yet, to date, he’s had a lackluster NFL career. The criticism has turned to ridicule as, year after year, Tebow stubbornly persists in chasing his dream of, not only making an NFL team, but of being its quarterback. As quality a person as he is, even Tebow must be tired of insisting he can be a starting NFL quarterback on a successful team. But he believes it as much as those who think otherwise.

The media members of the current generation lean more to being an animal that lies in wait, ready to pounce on its prey – which, in today’s case, is an athlete who makes any misstep or controversial statement. In the case with Hood and Wall, the quote wasn’t even that controversial, yet the radio personality attacked.

All this reminds me of a conversation I had with a high school student I had years ago. Every time I would say something, she would argue the opposite point. Finally, I said to her, “Whatever I say, you say the opposite.”

She immediately blurted out, “No, that’s not true!

I looked at her and said:

“There, you did it again.”

Every Sport Has Different Levels at Which It’s Played

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

When I was an assistant basketball coach at Tennessee, one of my closest friends – and mentor – was UT’s tennis coach Mike DePalmer (a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame). Mike, as good a friend and giving a person as there is, and I played many tennis matches at 7:00 am – for seven years! One morning, I showed up to play and he had already given a lesson to a local youngster at 6. We began to warm up when his manager came out, telling him he had a recruiting call from South America. “Jack, I gotta take this call. I’m already warmed up from the lesson, why don’t you warm up with Paul?”

“Paul” was Paul Annacone, his #1 singles player at the time. For those of you who aren’t tennis fans, in 1984 (the year he and I “warmed up”), Paul proceeded to go 51-3 in singles and was the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year (I steadfastly refuse to take any credit for helping him achieve that award). Following a successful professional tennis career (in which his highest ranking was #12 in the world), he turned to coaching. Among his pupils were Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

One interesting aspect of working at a major university is the number of world class athletes you encounter, not only the players you coach, but those in other sports. In my time at UT the coaches and players ate together in the dining hall of the athletic dorm, so I got to know some kids with amazing skills. That day, Paul walked to the opposite side of the court and we began to rally. After he and I hit the ball about 4-5 times a piece, I stopped and walked toward the net.

“How do you get the ball to jump off your racket?” I asked him. He was leisurely hitting shots and they were exploding back to me. Being a wise guy New Yorker (which he knew I could relate to), he deadpanned, “It’s called a hitting off the sweet spot. Your racket has one, too.”

Another close friend of mine is Mike Watney, the former golf coach at Fresno State (and a member of the Golf Hall of Fame). Note: My career in intercollegiate athletics was more known for longevity (30 years) and number of Division I schools that employed me (9) than for any personal accomplishments. However, as the reader can see, I was wise enough to form connections with the giants in their respective games (someday I might list all the coaches I worked with, if for no other reason than to show the “coaching education” I was exposed to during my time in the business). In fact, my last two bosses in college hoops are in the Naismith Hall of Fame – or will be soon. Jerry Tarkanian was inducted a couple years ago and George Raveling (I was his graduate assistant at Washington State from 1973-75 and associate head coach at USC from 1991-95)  will be enshrined on September 9.

In an earlier post, I told the story of winning a free golf lesson at the Fresno State Xmas luncheon and how Mike convinced me – someone who’d never really played the game – to take him up on it. I quickly became hooked and while my back surgeries have shelved my golf game (I’m hoping not permanently), our two sons (26 and 21) have been bitten by the bug and play whenever they can.

Mike called me about an opportunity he’d been given and wanted to bounce some ideas off me. When we were catching up with what was going on with our kids, I mentioned how into golf each of our guys were. Being the gracious guy he is (you’ll be hard pressed to find a more genuine, down-to-earth person – anywhere), he offered to give a lesson to the boys when they were in town. Unfortunately for Andy, who lives and works in Newport Beach, he couldn’t take advantage, but his younger brother, Alex, was home for another couple weeks before heading to Cal State Monterey Bay for his senior year – and he jumped at the chance.

My back is such that my pain level will never really get “better” but I do yoga, ride an exercise bike and work with a personal trainer so it doesn’t get worse. I’ve been working out with former Fresno State strength and conditioning coach, Steve Sabonya, since the beginning of July. Although I take the workouts seriously, I still manage to “chat it up” with Steve while he’s putting me through exercises to improve my flexibility and strengthen my core. Since he’s worked with elite athletes throughout his career (present company not in that category), we’ll talk about how good somebody has to be to make it professionally in a chosen sport.

Last week Steve asked me what I thought a 10 handicap golfer would shoot if he were to play in a PGA tournament. I told him how Mike had worked with Alex and, after their session, mentioned that he thought Alex had promise as a golfer – and if he wanted to get really good Mike would give him another lesson. Alex didn’t need to be asked twice. That second lesson was the day after my workout with Steve. When we showed up, I mentioned Steve’s question to Mike.

“With the way they make the course so difficult for PGA events, from growing out the rough to making the greens so fast,” I asked him, “what would a 10 handicap golfer score?” Mike didn’t take long to respond. His answer was a 10 handicap would be fortunate to break 100.

All of this came to mind when I saw an article in which John Wall commented on his chances to make our Olympic team. “I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment. “I’m just being honest. Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie (Irving) just won the World Cup. Russell (Westbrook) will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard. So, I probably won’t make it.” Keep in mind that this admission was coming from a basketball player who is universally worshiped by the 21-and-under crowd.

It’s like Mike DePalmer told me after I informed him about Annacone explaining the sweet spot theory:

“The game of tennis” (and really ALL sports) “is played at different levels. There are beginners, you and I play at a better level, then there are additional levels, including college, professional and – the best of the best.”

Golf Is Undergoing a Metamorphosis

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Seldom am I glued to a golf tournament for an entire weekend but the recently completed PGA Championship had me 1) sitting on my La-Z-Boy, 2) lying on my couch or 3) riding the recumbent bike (hey, I needed to get some exercise). Heading into Saturday, Jason Day was the golfer who most everybody thought had the best opportunity to win (even though Matt Jones held a two-stroke lead on him, few people, Australians included, were on the Jones’ bandwagon). However, even with Rory (first name only necessary) being seven shots back (people crave dramatic returns) and Jordan (also first name only necessary) playing like he was the number one golfer in the world (which he wasn’t before the tourney but is now), there was a good bit of intrigue.

Adding to the suspense was that Day had come so close before in majors, only to falter due to subpar play or . . . vertigo. Maybe he was a sympathetic figure (with a ton of talent) or maybe it just seemed as though this was his time. In an interview after the victory, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi asked Day how he felt being matched with Spieth for the final round (a pairing that happened only because a number of golfers ahead of Spieth stumbled late on Saturday). The newly crowned champ remarked how difficult it was due to the way Jordan had been playing – and with the fans rooting for Spieth (Day admitted if he were in the crowd, he would be pulling for Spieth). He even mentioned that some people were yelling, “Choke!” to the Aussie. Whether that’s because they were Spieth fans or Americans pulling for “one of their own” he never said. While we shouldn’t brand an entire group of folks, keep in mind the tourney was played in Joseph McCarthy’s home state where the former senator made “love of country” (in)famous.

The remark Day did make in the Rinaldi interview was the amount of emotion he displayed prior to, as well as following, his tap-in for the victory was because of the childhood he endured, his thoughts that, as a youngster, he never felt like he’d be making a living as a professional golfer, his (pregnant) wife and little son, Dash, – and the amount of hard work he put into mastering his craft.

The golf world has a whole new bunch of stars. Tiger (who will always be a first name only guy, independent how poorly his career winds up, or down, – he’s now 286th in the world) has been trying to convince us and the media (himself?) that he’s continuing to improve, that all the changes made to improve (and because of his injuries) take a great deal of time, that he feels he’s hitting the ball better every time out, that he’s more and more pleased with his putting, yada, yada, yada. It seems as though, even for those staunch Tiger loyalists – and the number is dwindling exponentially to his scores increasing – if anyone believes a major can be won at age 46, like Jack (golf has to be the best for first name only guys), there’s a better chance it will be Phil (also no last name necessary) who turns 46 next year.

Get ready for some great golf (just with a different starring cast), because of the skills and confidence of the new guys – Rory, Jordan, Jason and a host of others. After winning it and posting the lowest score ever in a major (-20), Day’s statement about how he felt at the beginning of the PGA Tournament was all-telling. What he said was an example of the cool brashness of this new breed:

“No one was going to beat me this week.”

 

Donald Trump Could Play a Vital Role for Our Country

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

When it comes to “fixing” the United States (if you don’t think the country needs fixing, you’re either a Pollyanna or you must live somewhere unknown to most of us), Donald Trump could be an unbelievable asset. In the business world, Trump rules. Certainly he excels. Common sense would dictate that it would behoove the nation to include him when the time comes around (like, immediately) to solve our economic problems. To Trump (as it is to so many citizens), it’s unfathomable that the country is in the financial situation it’s in (massive debt, trade deficits, inability to create new jobs, etc.). He, however, has productive ideas to implement that people without his expertise might not have.

Unfortunately, his answer to solving the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into – and make no mistake about it, the collective we is the operative term here – is to run for president. Talk about overkill. If only he could reverse the major economic flaws the country faces (which would make him eligible for a colossal statue – at a site of his choosing), the overwhelming majority of America would experience the prosperity we all crave. Now someone (whoever managed to do it would also be up for a statue) needs to convince Trump that helping the nation is of greater importance than massaging his ego.

President! The qualifications for that office not only exceed his expertise, but highlight his negatives. Trump’s world is filled with battles and disputes. He not only handles these encounters – but enjoys the confrontations. On occasion he might even provoke them. And when people don’t agree with him, he tries to “educate” them. If his reasoning isn’t enough to turn their beliefs around to his way of thinking, he has no problem resorting to vicious, personal attacks. Imagine if he actually was the president. The major reason this approach would fall flat – if not turn into international embarrassment – is that reality TV and reality are actually quite different.

Should it look like someone else will win the Republican nomination, Trump has threatened to enter the race as a third party candidate – and The Donald seldom makes empty threats. Such a move would basically turn the presidential race into a mockery. Character assassinations would surpass any real issues before, during and after debates. He would initiate so much mud slinging, there would be no land left. And, realistically, what percent of the female population will he get? What percent of the black population will he get? What percent of the Hispanic population will he get? The election would leave the country even further divided.

The people who speak out in favor of his candidacy all seem to make the same opening theme. “Well, he’s definitely better than fill in the blank.” As if “better than ________” is what we should be striving for. Especially when the other candidates, independent of party affiliation, all too often employ the identical strategy. Then, we end up “settling” for somebody to lead our country whose major virtue is “not being worse than the others.”

Is Donald Trump really the person to be the face of our country, the person who needs to deal with sensitive international encounters with other heads of state? In such a situation, he just might be the antithesis of the type of person needed to deal with such sensitivity. Bullying someone should never be viewed as a strength, certainly not on a global level.

Put in the proper position, Donald Trump could – and probably would – be an American hero. Any loyal reader of this blogspace is well aware of how evident it is that my knowledge of sports is infinitely greater than my knowledge of politics, so to put this in coaching terms, a team’s goal is always to:

“Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses.”

Last Chinese Story – At Least Until Next Year’s Camp

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

Anyone who has ever dunked a basketball acts the same. At least they do when they first can dunk (as a senior in high school I could dunk – but it was a volleyball because my hands weren’t big enough to palm a basketball – and it was a looooong time ago). The universal behavior employed by the “new dunker” is . . . you try to dunk anytime you see a hoop. One reason I use the word “universal” is what I encountered at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp at UC-Santa Barbara.

The camp uses 18 courts, six of which are outdoors. Four of the courts are in the same area and are called Michael Jordan courts 1, 2, 3 and 4 (for an amusing story involving these courts, see my blog from 1/31/14). The other two courts are actually tennis courts, converted to basketball courts with the use of adhesive tape for lines and a couple portable hoops (neither of which have breakaway rims).

Although I didn’t see it, apparently one of the Chinese kids in our league (14 & 15 year olds) dunked on one of the rims on the far court. Later, while I was demonstrating a drill at the opposite end of the court, I noticed the rim was tilted sideways, i.e. it was lower on the left than on the right. I turned around to check the rim at the other end and saw it was bent forward. As directed, I reported these imperfections to the person in charge – only to be told that the rim that was bent forward was in that condition because someone from my league dunked on it and proceeded to hang on the rim (as any kid who has just entered the world of dunking would do after – barely - dunking one). A major problem the camp faced was that, if the rim couldn’t be repaired, it would have to be replaced – and that could take a couple days – putting a humongous cramp in the game and practice schedule (luckily, it was reparable).

My phone buzzed with a text of a picture of a sign that was posted on each fence nearest the four hoops. It read: NO DUNKING! VIOLATING THIS RULE COULD RESULT IN LOSS OF RECREATION PRIVILEGES” (obviously, the signs were put up for the UCSB students but, naturally, it applied to anyone who used the court for basketball). I immediately went to the coach who was at that hoop at the time and asked if one of his players had dunked earlier. He pointed out the culprit.

After gesturing to him to come forward, I bluntly asked the boy, “Did you dunk and hang on the rim earlier today at the tennis courts?” He simply stared at me. No expression on his face, no change of body language, no blinking, . . . nothing. It didn’t take me long to ask my follow up question – of which I was nearly certain I knew the answer. “Do you speak English?” More of the same response from the youngster.

For whatever perverse reason, what instantly flashed through my mind was an old joke I’d heard – maybe 50 years ago. It was about a guy who was standing on some newly seeded grass, next to a sign which had the following message painted on it: PLEASE KEEP OFF THE GRASS.”

The park attendant sees the guy and yells out, “Hey, buddy, don’t you see that sign?”

The guy looks down at the sign, then back at the park attendant, and says:

“So, who’s smoking?”

How a Couple of Chinese Kids Saved the Day(s)

Friday, August 14th, 2015

As was mentioned in yesterday’s blog, there were over 200 Chinese youngsters in Michael Jordan’s basketball camp each session. Interpreters were scarce – as in none in the three oldest leagues (shout out to Shou Chang, graduate, and former point guard, of Mission San Jose HS in the Bay Area for bailing us out in session 2).

I quickly discovered last year there was a better chance of a camper being able to interpret not only English, but “basketball” than an interpreter. My main guy at that time was a youngster named John, who spoke fluent English, and was an absolute godsend. On Day One I was forced to use John as an interpreter for me – when I spoke to the adult who was supposed to be the Chinese interpreter. As soon as there was a problem regarding Chinese-English communication with a Chinese youngster or during our initial 5 on 5 practice games (played in order to evaluate players and balance teams), I would yell out, “John! Where’s John?” As polite as he was fluent in both languages (and possibly others), John would immediately come running over, saying, “Yes, Coach, what do you need?” After a few translation incidents, once again, a problem arose and, once again, the campers heard me bellow, “John! Where’s John?” Only this time I heard his, by now, familiar voice reply, “Coach, I’m playing!

When we finally broke for the final assembly of that first night, I felt so bad about putting poor John into the position of interpreter first – when he was looking forward to playing – that I called him up (while the rest of the camp was entering the gym) and gave him a $10 bill. His reaction was, “Oh, Coach, I can’t take this,” to which I replied, “John, believe me, if anybody ever deserved this, you do.”

Although his services were still needed throughout the session, I tried to make sure he was used during his down time, e.g. roll calls, when his team was sitting out or during fundamental instruction (when he was not involved). At the end of the session, our coaches voted John the “Michael Jordan Award” which went to a kid who, while he might not have been an all-star, was a model camper. In fact, we felt the award should have been re-named for John. I also bought him an MJ t-shirt and when I handed it to him, he tried to give back to me the $10 bill from Day One. I convinced him it was his.

After the second day of camp this year, one of the Chinese “interpreters” (who had been to camp the previous year) came up to me and, in broken English said (in essence), “Do you remember John from last year? He said to tell you ‘Hello’.” It drew a good laugh from both of us and I told him to tell my friend John “Hello.”

Luckily, for all of us, for the second year in a row in my league, there was a youngster who spoke fluent English. This year’s MVI (most valuable interpreter) was Henry. Every time we needed to explain a basketball drill or simple instructions like where to meet after dinner, our group would hear my voice, booming, “Henry! Where’s Henry?”

Just as his predecessor, John, would do last year, our young camper/interpreter, Henry, would run up to the front of the group as if to say, “Reporting for duty, sir.” He would then either go team-to-team, explaining what was needed or we would have him call up all the non-English speaking Chinese kids and inform them of whatever it was they needed to know at that time.

And, just as I did with John, I gave him a $10 spot after the first night and, as John did (it must be a trait taught to young kids in China), Henry looked at me and told me he couldn’t take the money.

I said, “Henry, you deserve it – and we’ll be using your interpretation skills all session. Go treat yourself to something.”

The next day Henry came up to me with a big smile and said, “Coach, I bought something with the money you gave me.” I wondered what a young Chinese would purchase on his first night in the U.S., so I asked him. His answer?

“Pizza.”

 

Counting to 12 – in Chinese

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

When the economy tanked years ago, those who ran Michael Jordan’s basketball camp (Michael Jordan Flight School) refused to participate in the economic downturn. Instead, they capitalized on MJ’s enormous popularity worldwide. The enrollment sold out the following year and has been at that “waiting list” position ever since. The reason is the number of international campers.

This past year’s version of MJFS had over 800 campers – for each session. The first is boys only, the second is coed. What they shared was an abundance of foreign campers (14 different countries were represented), a large percentage of whom didn’t speak English. There was no problem for the Spanish speaking youngsters (from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, etc.) as several of the camp coaches speak fluent Spanish. However, there was a vast amount of campers from China (estimates were over 200 – each session). While the contingent claimed they had a number of interpreters, that number hovered around . . . zero.

On the first day a small group of Chinese campers in our league (14 and 15 year olds, making up eight teams) showed up late while we were putting teams together. At MJFS each team is comprised of 12 youngsters. Since we were warned that we’d be getting around eight kids, our teams numbered 11. Because this occurred just a an hour or so after we initially assembled – and coaches hadn’t yet had a chance to learn their players names, the team members were numbered from 1-11. When the extras showed up, we put one on each team. The coach of the team explained to the new kids that they were “12” – meaning when we substituted (five at a time), the coach would call out the next five to play and if your number was called, it was time for you to play.

We’d already gone through a few rotations by the time these kids showed up. The next rotation was to be the kids from 8-12. So the coaches yelled out, “8, 9, 10, 11, 12″ for the next group to play. But when one coach saw only four of his players on the court, he again called out, “8, 9, 10, 11, 12.” No one came out. Then he saw his new “12” and tried to explain to him, “You’re 12, come on out”

The youngster, who spoke very limited English, looked at his new coach and said, “No, I’m 15.”

The coach repeated, “No, you’re 12,” adding it was his number on the team.

No dice. That boy couldn’t be fooled. He said again, this time with more conviction, “I’m 15!

For the remainder of the evening, when that rotation was summoned, the coach called out:

“8, 9, 10, 11, 15.”

Hey, whatever works. We’re nothing at MJFS if not flexible.

Life’s Become So Much Easier – and Ever So Much More Difficult

Monday, July 27th, 2015

When we of the Baby Boomer generation reflect on all the innovations that have come along throughout the years (a great many of which were designed, created or founded by us), it’s absolutely beyond belief how life has been simplified. My sons kid me every time I’m driving and have to make a sharp turn, usually out of a parking spot. One or the other, occasionally simultaneously, will say (in a mocking tone), “Do you guys know that when I was a your age there was no power steering?”

Forget power steering, windows and door locks, now we have cars that run on electricity, park themselves and even talk to the driver if the car drifts into another lane or onto the shoulder of the road – even tells drivers how to get somewhere they’ve never been. Stay tuned for more automotive changes that are, undoubtedly, on the horizon.

For those people who think shopping is wasting valuable time, most everything can now be purchased on a computer. Sometimes, it’s simply ordering and paying (credit card, check or PayPal), other times it’s more exciting, e.g. eBay, where you have to win in order to get what you (may or may not) want. When we were kids, “pay pal” meant you had a friend cover for you. Kindle used to be a way to start a fire. Today, it’s a method of reading books without turning the pages. For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and would ask questions, we’d hear from our parents, “That’s why we bought the full edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.” Now, as parents, our retort is, “Google it.” Doesn’t take up nearly as much space.

So, hooray for modern technology. What I’ve found to be the case, though, is for every advancement in one area of life, there are mandatory adjustments that accompany them. Case in point: I’m a former player (for a brief period) and coach (for nearly a lifetime). I also majored in, and taught, mathematics. Numbers have always been a good part of my life – both as a hobby and professionally. Sudokus, as far as I’m concerned, are one of the greatest “inventions” of our time. I’ve never found one I couldn’t do – although a couple have taken me over a day to complete. I can’t say the same for “analytics.” Not that they don’t add value or explain the team’s and player’s performances but to many of us, they often confuse the fan (especially if the fan is older). How much they improve watching or playing the game hasn’t been proven yet, either.

Other aspects of our improved life that are conflicting have to do with our overall health. Yoga, pilates, kick boxing, body sculpting and boot camp are part of the vernacular today (boot camp was used years ago but for only a select group of people, none of whom were allowed the final word on when, or if, they were going to attend). Classes in all of the above currently exist, many for free on television. Nutritionists have advised us on what to eat, what not to eat and which supplements to take. What could be better?

Well, the question isn’t “what could be better” as much as “what could be worse?” Or maybe, are there so many “improvements” we need to prioritize them? Television, in particular, has drastically changed by leaps and bounds over the years. In the 1950s (am I really that old?) there were three stations: ABC, CBS and NBC. I had friends from North Jersey who were envious because residents of Central Jersey (where I grew up) not only got those three New York channels but the three in Philadelphia, too (even thought the Philly stations came in fuzzy). Now, there are, I believe, over 900 channels – everything from the “classic” programs and movies from our day to shows that wouldn’t make it anywhere near a live screen back then. The audio or the video.

When I was a youngster, in order to watch a TV show, you had better be near a TV. If not, the only way to find out about it was to ask someone who was. Now, shows can be recorded and seen at the viewer’s convenience. Live shows can be paused, then returned to, without missing any of the action (I still don’t understand how that’s done). In addition, nearly every sport has a station of its own, each music era is available for listening (and watching), stations in various languages, channels devoted to comedy, drama, action, science fiction, etc., etc, etc. Even the big three networks from my era have multiple channels.

So what’s the problem? Well, all of this makes life so much harder! The key to life today is discipline. Binge watching has become a past time. When people learn of a series they hadn’t been aware of, either from their friend who raved about it or a sensational review they read, they can watch the show for hours and hours. Exercise plans will help people – but only if they actually put in the work and for many, watching television is more fun than exercising – and infinitely easier.

“It’s a strange phenomena but even though I’m retired, I don’t seem to have enough time.”

A Rather Harrowing Introduction for All Concerned

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

After I wrote my book, Life’s A Joke, I’ve had several people ask me when I was planning on coming out with another. The plans for a sequel, Life’s A Joke 2.0, has been in the works for a while and, since I am retired, there should be no excuse to not get it done. The piece that follows will be one of the hundreds of stories in it.

Following my emergency thoracic back surgery (T 10-11 for those readers who are unfamiliar with my past), I began my high school teaching and coaching career (making it full circle since high school math teacher and coach was my first job after graduating college). This time, however, my entrance was a little more dramatic – by walking into new teacher orientation meetings with the help of a cane. The shock the people saw was nothing to what I was about to experience.

At the first orientation meeting for new teachers, we were instructed to document everything, that ours (the Clovis Unified School District) was a litigious group of parents. Make sure there’s a paper trail – just in case. This mantra was repeated at all three sessions. I looked around at the others, all but one who were 20-30 years younger than I was, and saw all of them diligently taking notes.

In addition to my job of director of basketball operations at Fresno State (which had ended with the retirement of Jerry Tarkanian), I had gained membership in the National Speakers Association (NSA). One of the main topics I would speak about was team building – about how every relationship is built on trust. Companies hired me, at a considerable rate, and my message was that trust is the most vital, unifying factor in any workplace. Without it, well, just listen to what Stephen Covey (one of the most respected speakers and authors at that time) had to say. “When you have a no-trust culture, you live in memo haven.” While I would custom-make each one of my speeches, I used that line in every one of them. Now, I was working for an organization whose philosophy was diametrically opposed to this belief. Not exactly a banner start.

After hearing this same message for the third time, I felt compelled to, at least, present a different view. I raised my hand and said (probably not endearing myself to my new employer), “I’m a Clovis Unified parent and I haven’t ever thought of suing anybody. Do you mean that there is an extremely small group of litigious parents – and that we should be frightened by them because they might sue?”

Then, I concluded my remarks with this strategic plan:

“Wouldn’t a wiser strategy be to hire better lawyers?”

Now Is the Time for Optimism

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

After yesterday’s marathon post, I figured readers’ eyes could use a break. So today’s entry will be much shorter, but still well-worth reading.

Sirius XM, channel 86 is NBA radio. The season, playoffs, draft and free agency (including the moratorium period) are all history, yet the talk and call-in shows still need to fill airwaves on a daily basis. One of the methods being used to fill up air time is breaking down each NBA team and speaking about the prospects for the coming season. Studio hosts offer their knowledge and fans of whichever team is being discussed phone in and express their opinions.

Just as with the college teams, the best time for every basketball team is now – when everybody is still undefeated (and healthy, always the X Factor). For supporters of a team, it’s human nature to seek the positive. Bad teams are spoken about in terms of improving, maybe even making the playoffs. Playoff teams are looking to improve their seed. And for the elite teams, maybe 5-6, the ultimate goal is spoken as a distinct possibility – even though it’s a fact that only one team can win it all. The major problem is that when the hosts and callers talk about the strengths of a particular club, they often get carried away. Glowing reports of how well draft picks played in the summer league (even though it’s just the summer league) or what a free agent signing (or signings) will bring to the squad that it was missing last year is refreshing, considering that when the season begins, there will be the inevitable losing streaks – and crushing injuries – that make bitching the favorite past time.

One vivid example occurred a couple days ago when the New Orleans Pelicans were the topic of conversation. After evaluating the roster, the comment was made that not only would the Pelicans be a playoff team, but they would sneak into the top six. When whoever it was who made that prediction was asked which Western Conference team would be left out of the top six, among Golden State, San Antonio, the Clippers, Oklahoma City (a healthy OKC), Houston and Memphis (not counting a few other teams), the guy was flabbergasted – and, even, semi-retreated in his prediction.

Although others may have more talent (assuming everyone is as healthy as everyone else), team executives, coaches, players, media members and fans can take solace in Jonas Salk’s words:

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”