Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

A Loser’s Strategy on How to Become Famous

Friday, September 26th, 2014

I told every class I ever taught about my totem pole theory, i.e. life is a totem pole and the higher up a person is on the totem pole, the more successful he or she is. How some people, rather than scratching and clawing and busting their butts to get to the top (or at least as high as they could), would rather simply drag down those people above them. After all, which way is easier? Which way is more fun? What’s difficult about that approach is 1) there are too many people and 2) even if you did manage to drag everyone below you, you’d be on top of the shortest totem pole in history.

If a poll (of different kind) were taken, it would stun me if 98% of America didn’t know or, at least, hadn’t heard of Derek Jeter. Even non-sports fans know of America’s favorite soon-to-be retiree, if for no other reason than his recent commercials - on TV, magazines, billboards, wherever. As far as the rest of us, who do enjoy sports, even the most casual fan has followed the Farewell Tour because, if ever an athlete deserved public adulation - for his skill, ability to help his team win, personality and, most of all, character - Derek Jeter would be at the top of the list. No one could complain about him.

Enter SNY.tv host Chris Carlin, someone referred to as “really just a sports talk radio troll who managed to get a gig on TV.” He weighed in (and if anyone’s ever seen Carlin, “weighed in” stands for more than just him presenting his opinion) by shrieking, “Yo, this clown’s a fraud . . . and you are all suckers.” Carlin, wallowing in anonymity, as far as talking heads are concerned, went for the triple insult (you’d think the only triple Carlin was aware of was his chin). First, calling Jeter a “clown.” That characterization couldn’t be further from the truth. Second, if there were a description further from the truth, “fraud” would be it. Finally, he completes the “insult hat trick” by referring to Jeter’s fans (a good portion of America), as “suckers.”

“It’s that this has never been what Derek Jeter is all about,” Carlin continued. “He has been about team, not me. He has never let us into his personal life because he’s always been about the team.” Yet, he couldn’t just stop there, actually complimenting the Yankees’ captain. Carlin felt the need to expand his commentary, as he’s used to doing often with his belt. “He frankly is being a complete fraud right now. And here’s another thing I can’t take (hint: it wasn’t a Danish). “I can’t take the notion that Derek didn’t want this, the Yankees wanted this, Derek’s not comfortable with this. He looks pretty damn comfortable to me as he’s collecting the checks, and I’m shocked he’s not hurt from patting himself on the back all year.”

What bugs Carlin is that, while Jeter has always been the ultimate team guy, he seems to be “pretty damn comfortable” with this victory tour. Why shouldn’t he be? It’s his last year of playing the game he’s loved since he was a kid! Can you deny a guy what he saw his brother-in-pinstripes, Mariano Rivera, experience last year? And, as far as collecting checks, I imagine if the charitable donations of Derek Jeter and Chris Carlin were compared side by side - whether total dollars, percentage of income or any other standard of measure, I’d venture to guess Jeter would come out infinitely more favorably.

Undoubtedly, Carlin experiences comfort (if not orgasm) with the fact that none other than Keith Olbermann also went on a Derek Jeter rant. Of course, there are those in society who think that when the Lord gave Keith Olbermann teeth, a perfect asshole was ruined.

A kinder, and less nasty, assessment of America (which includes its media) comes from Danielle Dax, who said:

“I find it strange the way human nature wants heroes and yet wants to destroy their heroes. It’s a kind of mass insecurity people want something to look up to and get a buzz off but, at the same time, want to destroy it because it makes them feel insecure.”


“And here’s the other thing I can’t take: I can’t take this notion that Derek didn’t want this, the Yankees wanted this, Derek’s not comfortable with this. He looked pretty damn comfortable to me as he’s collecting the checks, and I’m shocked he’s not hurt from patting himself on the back all year.” - See more at: http://lowbrowsports.com/2014/09/chris-carlin-on-derek-jeter-this-clown-is-a-fraud-and-you-are-all-suckers/#sthash.Ak53ygCa.dpuf

It’s that this has never been what Derek Jeter has been about. He has been about team, not me. He has never let us into his personal life because he’s always been about the team. He frankly is being a complete fraud right now.” - See more at: http://lowbrowsports.com/2014/09/chris-carlin-on-derek-jeter-this-clown-is-a-fraud-and-you-are-all-suckers/#sthash.Ak53ygCa.dpu

“Yo, this clown’s a fraud… and you are all suckers,” - See more at: http://lowbrowsports.com/2014/09/chris-carlin-on-derek-jeter-this-clown-is-a-fraud-and-you-are-all-suckers/#sthash.Ak53ygCa.dpuf”Yo, this clown’s a fraud . . . and you are all suckers.

“Yo, this clown’s a fraud… and you are all suckers,” - See more at: http://lowbrowsports.com/2014/09/chris-carlin-on-derek-jeter-this-clown-is-a-fraud-and-you-are-all-suckers/#sthash.Ak53ygCa.dpuf

“Yo, this clown’s a fraud… and you are all suckers,” - See more at: http://lowbrowsports.com/2014/09/chris-carlin-on-derek-jeter-this-clown-is-a-fraud-and-you-are-all-suckers/#sthash.Ak53ygCa.dpuf

There’s Always a Positive

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

The following is a(n edited) story from my book, Life’s A Joke. I’m offering a free copy to anybody I went to high school with, any player I’ve ever coached (at either high school or any one of the nine colleges I’ve worked), or coaches who have ever been on the same staff as I was. Just email your address to fertigjack@aol.com.

From 1987-1991 I was associate head basketball coach at the University of Toledo. Our head coach had a weekly television show on one of the local networks on Sunday mornings. One of the weeks I was the guest.

Toledo was the seventh college of my career. I’d always taken pride in having a great relationship with other department members. This was certainly the case with our director of media relations (then referred to as sports information director, or SID), John McNamara, who is currently the associate athletics director at the University of Hawaii. Johnny Mac was several years younger but he was every bit my equal when it came to trading witty remarks.

After my appearance on the show, Johnny Mac came into the office and said he thought I did a nice job during my segment. Then he asked if I’d seen the ratings for the time slot that week. I told him I had not but would be interested if he could find out what they were. He said he already had - which is when I knew something was coming and was pretty sure he was going to have a good laugh at my expense.

He told me there was good news and bad news. Like most people (I imagine anyway), I first asked him what the bad news was. He told me that David Brinkley’s Journal absolutely blew us away. This wasn’t too disheartening as David Brinkley was one of the most powerful names in broadcast journalism.

“So what was the good news?” I inquired.

He looked at me and, with the smile that could best be described as a “victory grin,” said, “You had better ratings than the other network show at that time slot.” The name of that show?

“Mass For Shut-ins.”

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back for Me and Social Media

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Since It’s still really, really hot in Fresno and our boys live in Newport Beach and Monterey AND we’re retired, Jane and I have decided to make a few more visits to see our sons. While we’ll be making trips every weekend during basketball season, we felt it was time to check out Monterey and Carmel - for fun. In a week or so, it’ll be down to O.C.

As a result, this blog will return on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

As you readers have been told close to 4 or 5 (hundred [thousand]) times, I am the opposite of what’s known as “tech savvy.” This could be because of my age, although there are people much older than I am (believe it or not, there really are people much older than I am) who absolutely thrive in this new, techno world. It’s just that when the “tech” generation began, it left without me - and I was content to live in the (lack of) information age I’d been inhabiting for a good, long while. And quite enjoyably, I might add.

There actually was a day I felt I’d try to learn the new forms of communication. You know, join the 21st century. As a high school teacher, I needed to be able to comfortably use email - even though I saw many people, among them, administrators who needed to be able to speak to someone - hiding behind it. It also had served as a means for parents to vent to teachers regarding their children’s grades, behavior and other issues that could have been much more effectively handled using person-to-person voice interaction.

During “Back-to-School-Night” I used to tell the parents, “I know some of you are really good at banging out some nasty emails.” At that time I was still a member of the National Speakers Association and my main topics were team building, trust and effective means of communicating, two out of three of which were being handled in ways I never mentioned to any of the audiences I faced.

“My feeling is face-to-face communication is, by far, the most effective form of solving a problem,” I continued. “The telephone is next. Anything that comes after those two pale in comparison when it comes to effectively solving a problem. However, if email is your favorite means of communicating, go ahead and bang away.

“Just remember - I bang back pretty hard.”

My foray into the world of “advanced” technology began with learning how to text. I’d text one, or the other, of my sons, he’d text back, I’d text, his turn . . . Then I felt, “It takes me a heckuva lot longer to text than to talk.” So, I’d call him.

Wouldn’t you know it, voice mail! Then, if I sent a text, here comes back his response. Later, when I would ask what the deal was, I’d hear, “I was in the library.” That made sense - but not as many times as that situation occurred.

After 30 years of college coaching - and nearly as many Final Fours (the National Association of Basketball Coaches - NABC - convention coincides with the Final Four) - I came through on a promise I made (to myself) that I would take my sons to a Final Four. I always thought it would be when I got a head coaching job but that never happened and with my moving back into high school coaching (I taught math and coached my first two years out of college), I realized it never would.

Sometime in 2006, I checked my mailbox one day and I was informed that because I had been a member of the NABC for so long, I had the opportunity to buy two tickets to the Final Four. I did and taking my boys to the 2007 Final Four turned out to be the trip to hell. When we returned, I told a guy about it and he said, “You tell great stories. You ought to blog.” Naturally, my first question was, “What’s blog?”

He explained it and, wouldn’t you know it, the first three blogs I ever did were about that trip (yeah, it took three blogs to tell the whole SNAFU). Due to some technological screw up (this one can’t be blamed on me), those three blogs, along with a couple others that followed, were lost somewhere in blogosphere. That this happened made me dislike technology even more than I originally did.

But . . . I did learn how to blog. And, to help out our baby gift business (CuteBabyNameGifts.com), I have a Facebook page. Well, one day, along comes Twitter. Hey, baby, let me at it.

A friend of mine told me that was the way to go (yeah, imagine me being limited to 140 characters) and he set up a Twitter account for me. I figured, if high school kids, not to mention NBA players, could do it, how hard could it be? The answer never really was known because, although a friend had set up a Twitter account for me, one day, our younger son, Alex, mentioned to me something he’d seen. I asked him where he saw it, Twitter?

“No, Instagram.”

They’re inventing them (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Etsy, Snapchat), faster than I can - or want to - learn them. Back to phone calls and emails.

 

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.

Time to Lighten Up a Little

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Because so much of the news today is negative (since that’s what sells), our release has always been the sports page. Yet, for the past few weeks, what’s been going on in the world of sports has been every bit as depressing as the front page. While the media drives these stories, I drive this blog. Here’s a story from my book, Life’s A Joke, that took place during the 1975-76 season. 

When I have some free time while I’m on the road, I enjoy going to malls, especially bookstores. When I was a graduate assistant at the University of Oregon, I was on a recruiting trip and had some time before the start of the game I was going to see. I stopped by a local mall and walked into a Waldenbooks (I told you it was a long time ago).

Perusing through the titles in the sports section, I came across a book called The Gamblers Guide to Sports Betting. When I noticed one of the chapters was about coaches to bet on - and not to bet on - I was intrigued. It informed the reader about, not which coaches won and lost the greatest number of games, but which ones covered the spread most - and least - often.

I immediately checked for college basketball coaches and was somewhat amused at the list they had, many of whom I knew rather well. This book fascinated me and I found myself thinking about it even as the plane back to Eugene landed. As fate would have it, as I walked to baggage claim, I saw, lo and behold, one of the coaches whose name was on the list.

(Note: In the book I don’t mention the name of the coach but since it is now nearly 40 later - and he’s passed away - I’ll divulge the name of the coach. It was Oregon State’s Ralph Miller).

I went up to him, reminded him who I was, and related what I’d discovered at that bookstore. Any misgivings I had about telling him disappeared when he looked me in the eye and said:

“If I know what the line is, I’ll try to cover that bugger.”

Let’s Focus on Something Positive

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

With all that’s going on in the world of sports, I thought something a little lighter might serve everyone better. The following is an edited story from my book, Life’s A Joke. It deals with a culture shock I experienced as a young man.

I lived the first 24 years of my life in New Jersey. Other than the occasional trips to New Your City and Philadelphia, two spring breaks in Miami - both of which were combined with cruises to Jamaica (when I was 21 and 23) - every living day I spent in NJ. Then, in 1972 I accepted a graduate assistant position in basketball at the University of Vermont.

One of my early days in Vermont, I was stopped at a red light, the second car behind an elderly couple. When the light turned green, their car didn’t move. Now, in New Jersey, people pretty much belong to one of two groups: 1) the rotten guy who leans on the horn and spews expletives and 2) the polite gent who simply taps his horn to alert the person, who is undoubtedly lost in a reverie (this was before cell phones), that it’s time to move.

Since I had recently become a resident of Vermont, I knew my only choice was politeness, so I gave them a light tap. What next occurred is something that, not only I will never forget, but it was something of an epiphany. Simultaneously, the couple turned around - and waved to me!

You see, in Vermont, you don’t blow your horn at someone unless you know them. Although I was tempted many a time during my year in Burlington, I can honestly say my horn was never used again at stop lights.

It was Randy Pausch who said:

“Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.”

Pat Haden Gets Fined by League, Supported by Executive Director

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

By now, everybody in the world of college football knows that USC athletics director Pat Haden, at the request of his head coach, Steve Sarkisian, left the comfort of his suite in the Coliseum to move down to the field in order to bring calm to a situation. By the time Haden arrived, calm had already been restored. In subsequent television interviews, Sarkisian seemed quite sheepish (the kind of feeling that comes over you when you let your emotions substitute for your brain and the result is your AD being humiliated on national television and his billfold lightened by $25K). With the numbers in Sark’s contract (the one Haden offered him), the coach might consider subsidizing the fine - by somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%.

“The conduct by USC Athletics Director Pat Haden was inappropriate,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, no small potato in the world of Power 5 (or whatever it’s called) college football, said. “Such actions by an administrator in attempt to influence the officiating, and ultimately the outcome of a contest, will not be tolerated.” Scott is the one who levied the fine.

Haden’s acknowledging his coach’s request are more in line with actions like those of the Trojans’ previous AD who had been known, on occasion, to embarrass an institution as prestigious as USC. Knee jerk reaction by many fans was that Haden should step down from his position as one of the 12 (plus a chairman) committee members who will decide the four teams that will play in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Initially, Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff executive director, said, “We have to look at his ability to select teams. He was placed on the committee because of his judgment and his integrity and this doesn’t affect that. I think this does show the level of attention that people will be paying to the committee members and their work, and that is completely understandable. This doesn’t affect his capability as a committee member.”

The following day, after realizing the previous quote was too human, Hancock came out with a more administrative sounding statement. “Emotional outbursts at games are not a matter for the playoff selection committee to deal with. This does not affect Pat Haden’s capability as a committee member. We recognize that athletics directors cannot be dispassionate about their own teams, and that’s why we have the recusal policy.” It’s almost like administrators feel the need to distance themselves from the rest of us (down here) or else, why would he not simply let his initial remarks (which perfectly stated his case why there was no need to remove him) stand?

For those up in arms about Pat Haden being given a pass, here’s why it’s OK with me:

“It’s one of the privileges you get when you’re a Rhodes Scholar.”

That accomplishment, sitting up high on an administrative throne, is impressive. A quote regarding the exalted world of the high and mighty is by Michael de Montaigne:

“Even on the highest throne in the world, we are still just sitting on our ass.”

                     

Is Levenson the Last, or Just Latest, NBA Owner to Fall?

Monday, September 8th, 2014

When Donald Sterling was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, it was due to his being exposed as a racist (a fact most of the nation knew decades ago). Now, the Atlanta Hawks’ managing partner for the past decade, Bruce Levenson, has voluntarily submitted to the NBA an email he wrote in 2012.

In the correspondence Levenson opined, “My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” (the Hawks’ fan base is 70% black). Levenson said he felt “Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.” In addition, he wanted “some white cheerleaders, . . . music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy” (the concerts after games were either hip hop or gospel) and that he thought “the kiss cam is too black.” Also, there (were) few fathers and sons at the games.

Could the move have been made because of Sterling’s threat to expose other owners as businessmen like himself bigots? Or was it done because Levenson had already been made aware Sterling’s undercover agents knew of it? It’s another example of the cultural and racial divide that exists in the NBA between its white owners (MJ excluded) and its players, the majority of whom, independent of the fact many of them are wealthy, are black. The mega wealth the top players is light years from that of the owners, as are their cultures (Cuban and Prokorov excluded).

The main difference between Sterling’s quotes to . . . what’s-her-name and Levenson’s email is that what Sterling said was flat out racist, while what Levenson said was marketing strategy to increase ticket sales.

And flat out racist.

Bruce Levenson is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis (one of the top academic institutions in the country) and the American University School of Law (one of the best law schools). Yet, undoubtedly, the lesson he’ll remember most is the one he learned yesterday. Or the day of Donald Sterling’s threat. If his comments to reporters yesterday are sincere, he understands the mistakes he’s made:

“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself too.”

 

Finally, It’s Johnny Manziel, Act One

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Last football season Johnny Manziel was America’s darling. When it came time to evaluate him for the NFL draft, however, there were no shortage of critics. Johnny Football’s off-the-field escapades gave them additional fuel for their fire.

NFL Films producer Greg Cosell said Johnny Manziel was “almost undraftable after viewing his games against LSU and Missouri this past season. Former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly also offered some negative feedback wondering, among other complaints, “Why are you running when you don’t have to run?”

ESPN’S Merril Hoge added what he thought of Manziel. “His skill set does not transition to the National Football League, and it is a big, big risk.” Hoge later was quite a bit more cruel in his assessment of the young QB when he called him “a juvenile punk.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” Manziel’s response was when informed of Hoge’s criticism. “He’s never met me. I’ve never met him, so I guess he thinks I’m not a very good football player.” That was probably the best response Manziel could have come up with. In his defense, at that time, he had been studying under quarterback guru George Whitfield, and it was written that he was working hard . . . to improve his mechanics and overall thought process.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said “that in the age that we’re in of sensationalism, a lot of time people that want to be heard have to make bold statements in order to bring attention to themselves.” Terry Pluto of Cleveland’s Plain Dealer agreed with Pettine, adding, “So they scream louder and attack personally.” The title of the article Pluto wrote was, “When it comes to Johnny Manziel, critics can do better than fall into personal insults.” You have to wonder if Manziel did or said something to Hoge that was so offensive, the reporter felt a need to spew such venom.

Dane Brugler, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com wrote an even-handed evaluation of Manziel. Quoting Brugler, “To be fair, Manziel has plenty of qualities that stand out in a positive way. He has more than enough arm strength. He’s extremely fleet of foot with the scrambling instincts to create like no one else. He’s smart, ultra-competitive and displays the supreme confidence needed to excel at the position on the biggest of stages. But while the positives are intriguing, the negatives can’t be ignored.”

Criticism is inevitable in this day and age of the 24 hour sports cycle we’re in. Added to that is the fact that we can never expect 100% agreement on anything in this country, if for no other reason than some schmuck would disagree just so he could be the one person who was on the other side. The best anyone can hope for is fairness, even if one might be the subject of a bit of creative thinking.

Playing off his widely known nickname - and the fact he won’t be the Browns opening game starter - the Houston Chronicle coined a clever nickname for the player many people begged the Texans to take #1:

“Johnny Bench”

I Didn’t Lose Faith in Federer, Just Had to Leave

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Several of the past few blogs have dealt with the U.S. Open. Prior to my multiple back surgeries, I used to play tennis, hacking around on and off for years. When I got to the University of Tennessee as an assistant basketball coach in 1980, I became more serious because short time later, Mike DePalmer, Sr was named the head tennis coach. At one time, Mike and Nick Bolletieri started a tennis academy. The first year, there were six kids, all of whom lived in Mike’s house, a far cry from the IMG grounds that houses the students in Bradenton, FL today. Mike and I became fast friends and, up to 4-5 days a week, we’d play tennis at 7:00 am.

When I asked him to give me lessons, I remembering him tell me, “Jack, I’m on the court all day, basically, giving lessons of one kind or another. Let’s just play. I promise you’ll be getting lessons.” And he was right. When we started, Mike would hold his racket in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. He would hit the ball deep to the corner, I’d run it down and return it to him. Then, he’d hit it to the opposite corner, and I’d run that down and return it to him. On and on until I’d miss or, not so often, he did.

One day a thought crossed my mind. “Why the hell am I constantly hitting the ball right back to him!” Displaying my ability as a student, I started returning his shots to the corners, rather than directly at him. The next day we played, I noticed the coffee cup was gone. “What, not thirsty this morning?”

“I told you that you’d learn,” he said, smiling. We continued to play the entire seven years I was at UT. Since I was a coach, I’d pick Mike’s brain as far as strategy and motivation went, figuring there had to be similarities in our sports, even though his was an individual sport while mine dealt with a team (side note: he also had been a highly successful junior college basketball coach). He would explain nuances of tennis to me. I’ve never watched tennis matches the same way again. Years later, Mike was inducted into the National Tennis Hall of Fame.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic. My wife, Jane, and I have been watching the U.S. Open the past few days. One of our favorite players is Roger Federer (not only because we’ve had numerous people tell us our younger son, Alex, looks like him - although those comments don’t bother us in the least).

Yesterday, we were watching his match against Gael Monfils. Prior to the match, one of Federer’s former coaches (as well as one of Pete Sampras’), Paul Annacone, who happened to be Mike’s #1 singles player for his early Vols’ teams and, not so coincidentally, one of the original six students at the DePalmer-Bolletieri Tennis Camp, had this to say about Monfils, “He is the best raw athlete in tennis, maybe ever.” If the moniker, “Human Highlight Film” wasn’t already taken by Dominique Wilkins, it would be apropos for Monfils.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising to see him take the first set from Federer. What was amazing was to see him take the second set - and with greater ease than the first. Wouldn’t you know it, we had a surprise birthday party to go to (happy birthday to loyal reader, and more loyal friend, Shawn Carey) just as the second set ended. Hearing the bleak commentary from the best tennis commentators, the brothers McEnroe, made it feel like were leaving a funeral early.

Late in the party, Jane turns to me and says, “You won’t believe this,” then shows me her SportsCenter update (which our Federer look alike installed on her phone but not mine - people tell me it’s easy but, as of yet, I haven’t found the time or interest). Sure enough, Roger did it again - won a match after losing the first two sets. For the ninth time. The mental and physical toughness might not be unmatched, but there can’t be more than a handful of athletes who are better at staring down adversity.

While it might be stretching the meaning of exactly what the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, there’s little doubt he would have admired the effort displayed by one of the all-time greatest tennis players, Roger Federer:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”