Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Good Intentions, Poor Results

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Every year, at the two sessions of Michael Jordan Flight School, there are stories that become camp classics. This past year, the second session of which ended last Tuesday, proved to be no different. The next few posts will deal with this year’s happenings.

The camp is made up of nine leagues, divided by age and ability. Each league has a commissioner. Basically, there are nine “camps” and each commissioner runs his camp. My league (the Big 12) was the third oldest, made up of 14-year-olds. The camp is sold out year after year but, what’s changed throughout the years, is that more and more foreign youngsters attend – especially Chinese. Of the 95 campers in our league, 29 were from China – and every one of them spoke only Mandarin.

The camp is incredibly organized but, from a communication standpoint, the previous two years left much to be desired. The Chinese group that attended (around 200) brought “interpreters” with them. However, many of them barely spoke English (apparently, their buddies told them they could get a free trip to the United States so they just wanted to know where to sign up) and none of them understood basketball, meaning if a coach told them to “hedge” on a screen, they’d translate it as a hedge – like a bush – and nobody had any idea what was going on.

I called Pete Vaz, a coaching friend I met about 15 years ago at MJFS when he coached at camp. Pete worked at Mission San Jose High School in the Bay Area, a school that is rated the sixth best academic high school in California and the 76th in the nation – outstanding numbers considering it’s a public school. It has a high concentration of Chinese Americans. I begged Pete for help and he came through, finding one of his former point guards, Shou Chang (see blog from 8/14/15), who speaks fluent English and Mandarin. He saved us – and this year Shou brought four of his friends to interpret. In addition to a few summer school students from UCSB (where the camp is based) who spoke both languages, there was an interpreter for each league.

This year, not only did the Big 12 have 38 of our 91 campers who spoke Chinese as their first language, we had a group of 15 kids from Mexico – who spoke Spanish as their first language. After I would give instructions to the league, Shou would relay what I said in Mandarin, followed by one of our coaches who would speak Spanish to those ESL kids. Not surprisingly, with the attention span of 14-year-olds being what it is, a few of our youngsters didn’t end up at the location where I directed them to be.

Not to be discouraged, I went into motivational speaker mode. For several years at the end of last century and the beginning of this one, I was a member of the National Speakers Association. Companies and groups would pay me to deliver a positive, inspiring message to their employees and members. I appealed to the English-speaking kids’ empathy, asking them how they would feel if they were in a foreign country where only a smattering of people spoke English. If they were lost – and had no idea where they were – wouldn’t it be nice if someone from the host country “adopted” them, making sure they got to the proper place? “You don’t have to eat with them, hang around with them, text or “friend” them on Facebook – just latch onto them and make sure they get from where we are to where we’re going. Then, go back to your friends and they’ll go back to theirs.” I gave as rousing a speech as I could muster, certain they would take my message to heart. As a group, the American kids promised me they’d follow my instructions.

Then – at the very next roll call – we lost a Chinese kid.

During the second session, with 99% of the league composed of new campers, we made some tactical changes – and didn’t lose a single camper – which shows we learned from our mistakes. Everyone knows:

“It’s not how you start but how you finish.”


Great Day for the Fertig Boys

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Readers will have to excuse me. Seldom do I enter a post that has solely to do with me or my family. The reason I’m doing so now is a coincidence that occurred one day I was working at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp.

First, our older son, Andy, an account executive with Salesforce, called to say that the deal he’d been working – since February – had finally closed. While I possess little to no skills or knowledge in the anything tech, he tried to explain what happened. It began as a big deal for his area, ESB (emerging small business). As he spoke to the company’s reps, they began to add more employees. Then, impressed with the product (for those readers who don’t know, Salesforce is a $9 billion company which Fortune 100 has ranked as high as the 7th best organization in which to work), Andy was able to upsell them on several items. Whatever, it became a six figure deal – the largest ESB deal in the west. Technically, at that point, it was an SMB (small & medium business) deal but, after some in-house negotiations (and the fact Andy had worked on it for six months), he was able to keep (most of) it. When it closed, it was reported he ran down the hall, whooping it up. One deal that accounted for 165% of his quota will do that to a guy.

A company-wide email was sent by his boss that began, “How do you take a 5 GE customer and upgrade them to 70 EE Service Cloud & 14 Knowledge? All you have to do is ask @Andrew Fertig.” It was followed by six bullet points his manager listed, none of which I fully understood. Still, it’s nice to have your boss tooting your horn to your colleagues.

Later that very same day, younger son, Alex, called to say that he was finally selected to play for a team in Australia. He flew to Brisbane days after graduating from Cal State Monterey Bay (where he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer). The season had already started (in April) for teams in the Queensland League (a highly competitive league) but there was optimism that he’d be able to catch on with one of their clubs. Immediately, bad luck hit every one of the people who were going to help, e.g. a stroke suffered by the father of his host, the death of a family member of his trainer, a heart attack that slowed the guy who was going to place him (although, with a couple stents, he survived). All of this kept him from even touching a ball for four days. Not having practiced at all, a coach picked him up for a tryout – an hour and a half away. By the time he got out of the car, the odds were heavily stacked against him.

A week or so later, it looked as though he’d found a club when a player was sent home, but the coach decided the replacement should be a big man. Another such SNAFU occurred and, with the season winding down, Alex’s Australian hoops career seemed doomed before it ever started. He did impress his trainer enough that he was allowed to train with his South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) team. The SEABL & Queensland are the best two leagues in the country after the NBL (Australia’s version of the NBA). In addition to training with the team, he stayed in shape by doing cardio and lifting weights while scrambling to make enough money to get by. He refereed, worked out young athletes, put on clinics and, with two talented girls he had just met (the only two in the tournament), managed to finish second in a 3×3 tournament, splitting $1000 with his two teammates.

After receiving notice of selection to play for the Eagles of the Darwin League, a lesser talented division in the northern section of the country, Alex faced adversity in attempting to obtain the proper paperwork to allow him to be eligible. It wasn’t until the afternoon of his first game that he received notice he was cleared to play. That night he took out his frustrations on the opposition, leading his team to a 110-92 victory, scoring a career-high 53 points.

I called my wife later that night and when she asked me how I was doing, I quoted Larry David:

“Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.”

Could the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team Leave with Less than Gold?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Another year has flown by and it’s time again for Michael Jordan’s Flight School, a basketball camp for kids from 5-18 years of age, held on the campus of UC Santa Barbara. It’s the 21st year of the camp which is composed of two, four-day sessions with about 850 youngsters per session. It’s my 13th or 14th year (I’ve lost count) of working as a commissioner of one of the nine leagues. This blog will be on hiatus until Friday, August 5 and if this year is like the others, there ought to be some great stories when I return.

Unlike in past years when the United States fielded the greatest NBA players in the game, many of those players will only be watching these upcoming Olympics from the comfort of . . . somewhere other than the court in Rio. While it’s understandable that so many of the “best of the best” have declined to participate – coming off an injury, threat of injury, desperate need of rest, fear of mosquitoes, “been there, done that,” whatever, it’s somewhat alarming the sense of loyalty to one’s country didn’t override the aforementioned reasons. The list of non-participants this year is daunting – LeBron, Steph, Kawhi, CP3, Russ, Blake, AD – guys with first or nick names only. Add to that group guys who might not make the first name only bunch – yet – LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, James Harden. Whew!

It’s possible that, because the country isn’t coming off an embarrassing bronze medal performance, that the sense of urgency just doesn’t exist. But should it? Should fans of the U.S. be worried? Any team can be beaten, but there is little to no chance of any country other than the USA heading home with the gold medal.

The reasons are, as they usually are, we still have the best players and the best coaching. The only issue would be if:

“The guys who decided not to play started their own country.”

Apologies, Without a Change of Behavior, Are an Insult

Monday, July 18th, 2016

At halftime of one game during a season in which the Golden State Warriors only lost a record nine (9) times, Draymond Green and Steve Kerr had a back and forth shouting match. Who was right, who was wrong may never be known but, usually, it’s the player’s fault if for no reason than the coach is hired to coach, i.e. make decisions. Whether or not the decisions made are the right ones, the coach is paid to make them and the players are paid to execute them. Green seemed to agree with that assessment.

“You know, I made a mistake, I admitted my mistakes to my teammates, my coaching staff. I apologize to my teammates, my coaching staff, this organization. That wasn’t the right way to handle what needed to be handled. As a leader of this team, I can’t do that because it sets a bad precedent for how everything is ran (sic) around here, for how everything should be ran (sic), for how everything has been ran (sic), and how everything will be ran (probably attended the same English class at Michigan State that Magic did) going forward. It won’t happen again (italics mine).” During that profanity-laced tirade, he acknowledged his emotions “kind of got ahead of me.”

P.S. In that game the Warriors were down 11 at the half against the OKC Thunder but won the game on Steph Curry’s buzzer-beating bomb in overtime. The outburst was written off as “things that happen frequently in NBA locker rooms.”

Later in March, Green posted (and later deleted) a Snapchat video of him going 118 MPH on a freeway a few months back. When asked about it, he said, “Well obviously, poor judgment.”

Fast forward (pun intended) to the NBA Finals, as Warriors fans know all too well, the Dubs were about to go up 3-1 against the Cavs when the Draymond Green “ready, fire, aim” strategy once again went into action. Prior to the game Cleveland felt in control after easily defeating the defending champs in Game 3. The Warriors, though, kept their poise on the road, played as effectively as they normally did in clutch situations and, with a minute or so to go, were a game away from another NBA Championship. Then, LeBron James and Green got into it. James, frustrated that the game (and with it, the championship) were slipping away, showed Green what players call the ultimate disrespect by stepping over the fallen Warrior (yeah, pun again). Golden State’s (self-proclaimed) leader took offense and, instinctively, aka “ready, fire, aim,” took a swipe at James’ privates. Since he’d earlier kicked Steve Adams in his jewels, but 1) skated without ejection from the game and 2) somehow avoided being suspended for the next contest, this move forced the NBA big wigs’ hands. Green was suspended for Game 5.

P.S. His response to being questioned about the Adams’ incident had the “Green apology machine” in OT. “I didn’t intentionally kick him down there . . . I would definitely apologize, and I look forward to apologizing to him, if I see him.”

So, rather than being up 3-1 with two home games left and headed back to Oakland at full strength, Golden State found itself with a non-playmaker with the ball after their guards were blitzed in every pick and roll situation. Many people with high basketball IQs stated that, had Green played in that contest, it would have been back-to-back championships for the Bay Area bunch. When Green was interviewed, he did what he does best – even better than rebounding, passing, shooting and defending. He apologized, calling himself a “terrible teammate.” He continued, “I let my teammates down . . . I have strong belief that if I played Game 5 we win, but I didn’t because I put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to play.”

With this history, was anyone surprised at the recent story of Draymond Green slapping a (soon-to-be-ex-)Michigan State football player? Apparently, the football player and Green bumped into each other and the footballer felt Green should have apologized. Green was a little over the legal limit and took offense. So what does a slightly inebriated person, who makes big bank, is in his hometown and with a history of acting first, apologizing later, say when confronted? “I pay for n—as like you scholarships,” a reference to the generous donation (seven figures generous) the former MSU star made to the Spartan scholarship fund. Naturally, the situation escalated, ending with Green slapping the football player (who obviously had violated the long known street code, “don’t let mouth writing a check your body can’t cash”).

What’s not at all shocking is according to the police report, Green indicated to officers after the arrest “that he was sorry for slapping the subject and wanted to speak with him to make things right.”

Had Ralph Waldo Emerson come in contact with Draymond Green, he might have said:

“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Tark’s Communication Skills Left No Doubt

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Just returned from a semi-business trip to Las Vegas. While there, my wife and I always make our pilgrimage to Piero’s restaurant, owned by one of the most loyal and generous guys you’ll ever meet – as well as Jerry Tarkanian’s best friend – Freddie Glusman. The last time we were in Vegas (late January, 2015) Freddie told me I should visit Jerry because his health was really deteriorating. I did. Freddie was right. Two weeks later, the coach passed away. I couldn’t attend the Celebration of Life for him as our son was playing college basketball that day. Freddie told me what a wonderful event it was.

Between my book, Life’s A Joke, and this blog space, I’ve shared numerous Jerry Tarkanian stories. He was a sensational coach (finally enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2013), loyal to a fault and quite the character. The stories are vintage Tark – for those readers who knew him – and somewhat hard to believe for those who didn’t. Rest assured that each is true. Here’s one that his son, Danny, told at the Celebration of Coach Tark’s Life last February.

One of Jerry’s strongest attributes was his ability to effectively communicate with his players. This story was during Danny’s first year at UNLV. Apparently, some of the players were complaining that the coach was showing favoritism toward a couple players, power forward Sidney Green and shooting guard Larry Anderson. The coach felt he needed to nip the problem in the bud.

After practice (he never would have addressed the issue before practice as practice time was sacred – Tark used to say, “The perfect season would be all practices, no games“), he brought the team together. According to Danny, the team’s starting point guard, his dad began the “meeting” by hitting the problem head on. “I heard some of you think I’m favoring Sid and Larry,” he started. “I want you to know, I am. Sid and Larry are carrying this team.”

By then, Tark certainly he had everyone’s attention. What came next  drove the point home, clearly stating what the message was. “If we were on a desert island and I had one canteen of water,” he continued, “”I would make sure Sid and Larry had enough to drink. If there was anything left over, I might share it with the rest of you.”

All Danny could think was:

“Even your own son, Dad?”


A Personal Larry Brown Story

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Another jaunt to meet some of the people who are looking after our basketball playing son, i.e. finding a team for Alex to play for in Australia. This time there’s a tourney in Las Vegas in which some Australian teams are competing. This blog will return Sunday, July 17.

Larry Brown has a history of taking jobs, succeeding and leaving with some kind drama. It seems as though everybody has an opinion of him – and while they might be divergent – they’re all strong, e.g. on a scale from 1-10 (10 high), either 1s and 2s or 9s and 10s.

Allow me to relate a personal story. In the spring of 1983 I was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. We were recruiting a combo guard (a point who could also score) and had three of them lined up. For one reason or another, we came in second on all three. I mentioned this unfortunate turn of events in a conversation with a friend and former colleague at Western Carolina University. My buddy told me of a kid they had tried to sign early (the previous November) but the prospect told their staff he was going to wait because he thought he could play at a higher level – a gamble he was willing to take.

The youngster’s name: Tony White. It turned out Tony had a guy in town who was a big fan of his and was promoting him via letter and film (these were the VHS days) and he sent a copy of one to us. I also flew to Charlotte, Tony’s hometown, to watch him play in a pick-up game before heading to his house for an official home visit with him, his parents, siblings and his Uncle Henry (who I could tell was the decision-maker). Through his friend’s efforts, in addition to us, Tony, a player who had offers from only Western Carolina and its rival, Appalachian State, wound up with interest from Kansas, Auburn and West Virginia. Because the spring signing period had already begun, his visit to Tennessee was combined with one to Kansas (where Larry Brown was the head coach), meaning after his 48 hours on our campus, rather than flying back to Charlotte, we were to take him to the airport where he would catch a flight to Lawrence. Following his visit there, he’d fly home.

A real outgoing type, Tony hit it off with our players and, as was our tradition, we asked them what they thought of him as a potential teammate. They all loved him and we could tell he was duly impressed with our guys and UT. At this time, we were desperate for a guy who possessed the skills Tony had (in all honesty, we thought he was good but had no idea how good he really was). I assessed the situation and decided drastic measures were needed, i.e. there was no way we could allow him to make the “second half” of that visit. As good as Larry Brown – and his staff were (I knew each of his assistants well) – I knew if he got on that plane our chances of signing him would dramatically diminish. As in, we’d almost certainly lose him.

Tony and I were watching some film in our team room before he was to go to the airport. I said, “You know, Tony, if this was October or November, you’d be so thrilled, you’d jump at the chance of playing for Tennessee. Now, Kansas is a great school too (at that time, UT had gone to five straight NCAA Tournaments, making it to the Sweet Sixteen in ’81 while KU’s only tournament appearance during that time period was in ’81 when they also lost in the Sweet Sixteen) but you’re from Charlotte. I know your family is going to want to watch you play and it’s about a three-and-a-half hour drive from your house to here. There’s no way anybody’s driving from Charlotte to Lawrence. If you were from St. Louis or somewhere in the Midwest, it would make sense to pick Kansas over Tennessee. But, in this case, you’d only be confusing yourself to make that trip to Lawrence. Think about it and if you want, we can call KU now and tell them you’ve decided to sign with us.”

He thought about it for a while and, thankfully, realized it made sense. In recruiting kids are talked into making impulsive decisions all the time but, in this case, it truly was the best place for him and his family. So I called the Kansas basketball office and told a close friend of mine (although at that particular time, he didn’t feel such a kindred spirit) what was going on. Tony got on the phone, too, so they wouldn’t feel as though we sneaking one by them. The next time I saw the KU assistant, we actually joked about it, with him saying we were lucky he didn’t visit them first or he’d have pulled the same stunt. Furthermore, when I ran into Larry Brown a few months later during the summer recruiting period and began to explain what had happened that day, he said not to worry and congratulated us on signing Tony. Truthfully, at that time, no one really knew how good he was. He played significant minutes as a freshman and a sophomore. During both his junior and senior years, Tony White was the leading scorer in the SEC, was SEC Player of the Year in ’87 and wound up leaving Tennessee as its second leading all-time scorer (he’s now third).

Although I didn’t know him that well, I’d always admired Larry Brown as a great coach. What told me more about him as a person was what happened in the spring of 1984. Our secretary told me Larry Brown was on the phone. Since this was the first time he’d ever called me, I wondered what was up. After a brief exchange of greetings, he got to the point. “Tony Brown called me yesterday,” he began. “He said he wants to transfer from you to us. Jack, I’ve been in this business long enough to realize freshmen are seldom satisfied. I told him he was at the right place, with good people and he should stick it out – that he had a great future at Tennessee. I just wanted you to know.”

Naturally, I thanked him and, with there being little else to say, wished him luck, said I looked forward to seeing him on the summer circuit – and thanked him again.

Two decades later Larry Brown led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA Championship. I had completed my second year of high school coaching in California, and was working as a commissioner of one of the eight leagues at Michael Jordan’s summer basketball camp. Larry was the guest speaker at camp that day, his son a camper in my league. When he came to watch his boy play, I walked over to Larry to re-introduce myself. As I got there, he said, “I know who you are, Jack – and you don’t have to thank me again for Tony White – although if I knew how good he was going to turn out, . . . ” We both laughed at the memory – of something that happened 20 years before.

So, no matter what anybody says about Larry Brown:

“Put me down for a 10.”



Free Agency and International Hoops Makes It Impossible to Compare Eras

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

As might be expected, the airwaves have been overloaded with talk of NBA free agency. Everybody seems to be up in arms about Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors who, along with the addition of KD have now acquired a new designation – The Evil Empire. Why Durant left the team he was on to join the team that beat his – especially after they were oh-so-close to knocking them off – is something only he and those closest to him truly know. Although that doesn’t keep fans, talk show nerds and the former players who partner up with them on the radio, current NBA players and anonymous front office people from expressing their opinions. Nor should it. The fact people care that much only illustrates how popular the sport is (and why the salaries keep getting higher – after all, it’s the consumer who eventually foots the bill).

Beyond the screaming and venting by these people, there was actually an interesting point made by Eddie Johnson on the NBA Sirius radio show he co-hosts with Justin Termine who, if not the most obnoxious guy on the airwaves is certainly in the finals for the award. A caller asked a question about the NBA guys and the international ball (through USA Basketball) they play together during the off season. Johnson, who had an outstanding NBA career (his best seasons were with the Kings (KC & Sacramento) and Suns but he also played for several other teams), remarked that the international basketball squads are giving guys an opportunity to play with great players from other franchises. What happens is guys get comfortable playing with guys they competed against but really didn’t know. Often, their games mesh.

After the game, these guys get to hang out with each other in social settings where they can be themselves, open up to each other – whom they only knew as competitors – and get to know guys as human beings as well as talented basketball players. They get to see each other as teammates – and maybe more importantly, as friends. They walk away with a genuine feeling of trust. Maybe . . . if free agency existed then as it does now, if the salaries were as high then as they are now (Jerry West’s highest salary was $90K – which adjusted would be $484,464.44 or less than the current NBA minimum for an undrafted rookie), just maybe he could have talked Oscar Robertson (the two were co-captains on the 1960 Olympic team) to join him on the Lakers (or the other way around- after all, West is from West Virginia, not far from Cincinnati). Oscar’s highest salary was less than $250K, adjusted to be approximately $1.2 million today, or about what the minimum salary is today for a 6-year veteran.

Had the same conditions occurred then as now, possibly one of those guys, or maybe other superstars from that day, would be jumping teams as frequently as players do today. “Oh no,” the old timers say. “The loyalty factor back then would never allow it. There was a different culture.” Yeah, easy to say when money like that was scarce. Make no mistake about it – money changes the equation more than any other issue can.

And if that actually were the case, what would be happening no radio today? You can bet:

“Fans and radio hosts would be bitching about some other topic. THAT will never change.”


The Plight of an NBA Owner

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

After the first day of NBA free agency, the one question on most people’s minds was, “WTF?” Sure, the salary cap jumped this year. That can only mean more confusion when it will massively jump next year. First things first, let’s deal with the here and now.

The fact that Timofey Mosgov will make more money next year than Steph Curry and that DeMar DeRozan’s new five year deal, approximately $145 million will be only $4 million less than LeBron James made in the first 12 years of his career might influence people to believe the owners need to be included in the league’s drug testing policy.

Humor me while I tell a personal anecdote. When our two sons were around the ages of 10 and 5, we used to give them allowances of $4 a week for the older one and $2 a week for the younger one. Not exactly the manner in which wealthy children are raised but since 1) we weren’t wealthy and 2) they had no expenses, it was a reasonable thing to do. I’d give them the money on Friday. One “payday” I asked each one how much money he had left from the previous week.

“None,” was, not surprisingly, the answer both gave. Honestly, I didn’t think kids of that age were going to be frugal so the outcomes didn’t shock me. Had one or both of them told me they actually had some change left, that would have shocked me. I did, however, see the potential for a “teachable moment” for the boys. “Andy,” I said to the older one, “this week you’re getting $4 but I’m going to give you only $2 and put the other $2 in an envelope with your name on it. “Alex, you’re getting $1 of your $2 with the other going into an envelope with your name on it.

“I know this doesn’t sound like a real good deal for you guys,” and judging from the looks on their faces, I pretty much knew I had a correct assessment of each one’s feelings. “But, what I’m going to do is give you guys 12% interest on the money in the envelope – and I’m going to compound the interest monthly – meaning at the end of each month, I will add 1% to whatever is in that envelope” (this generosity was nearly 20 years ago). “I know this doesn’t mean anything to you now but let’s just see what happens.”

Of course there was the understandable griping when the boys got only half their money. Mostly, it was gone by Saturday. Then again, prior to the new fiscal plan going into effect, their money was usually gone by Saturday anyway. My late mentor, John Savage (my wish for each of you readers is that you have someone as influential in your life as John was to mine), was fond of saying, “There are two types of people in the world – those who spend and save what’s left, and those who save and spend what’s left. Invariably, the first group always ends up working for the second.” Added to our my new strategy was that, every time each of the boys would receive money, e.g. birthday, Xmas, any monetary gift or earning, some of it (we began with a minimum 10% rule – but, believe it or not, as they grew older, even more would be “sacrificed”). As they grew older and their allowances were bumped, $10 for Andy, $5 for Alex, still it was just $2 into one envelope and $1 into the other. This was an attempt to have them understand the difference between being a fiscally responsible individual and being a miser.

Every so often I would share with each the amount of money in his envelope. After a while, they understood – and appreciated – how the combination of saving and compound interest worked in their favor. When Andy went off to college, I vaguely recall he had somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200. Since Alex had an additional five years of savings, by the time his senior year of high school rolled around, I came to dread the last day of the month due to how much interest I’d have to put in that envelope. Alex’s haul, when he left for college was, I believe, around $3K.

An addendum to the story: the tradition began anew for both boys a few years ago – only this time it’s 6% interest, compounded quarterly (their benefactors are retired now) – and the amounts socked away are greater. Alex had to give a minimum of $5 per week from his spending money (which was pretty significant since he was on scholarship and saved us quite a bit), although when it comes to “gift” money, including last month’s graduation haul, more is saved. We were going to place a minimum $10 per pay period on Andy, who has been gainfully employed since graduating college in 2011, but his contributions have been between $25-100, depending on what his commissions are. On a rare occasion, even more. Lesson learned.

Back to the first day of NBA free agency. Although the majority of my adult life was consumed with basketball, I would want no part of owning an NBA team. Forget that I don’t have billions of dollars (or even millions). I doubt my type of fiscal responsibility would make it as an owner. I feel I’m a rational guy who, as a math major and (former math) teacher bases most of my decisions, financial and otherwise, on logic. This year’s free agency (and I’m certain, next year’s) leads me to one conclusion:

“There is no way billionaire owners used the same strategy to make all their money that they are now using when making decisions on their team’s payroll.”

Go Underdogs

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

First, it was the 607th ranked golfer in the world, Billy Hurley III, winning the Quicken Loans National at Congressional for his first PGA Tour victory – his 104th PGA Tour start. In his hometown, not far the Naval Academy from which he graduated 12 years ago. For his efforts, he received $1,242,000 first-place dough and a spot in the British Open – which he plans on missing because his sister is getting married. Those Navy guys understand perspective. Makes you want to shake your head and salute him at the same time.

In an absolutely amazing display of mental toughness, Hurley III played nearly flawlessly during the final day, shooting a 2-under 69. It was a mere 10 months ago that his father, Willard Hurley Jr., died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Add focus to his list of admirable traits. If every serviceman shares Billy Hurley III’s demeanor, no one should ever criticize the military again.

The reaction from the event host, Tiger Woods, a military man’s son, spoke volumes (independent of whatever personal issues you might have with Woods). “To have a serviceman actually win the event, it doesn’t get any better than that. He’s actually one that did serve his country, and for him to win an event that honors the military more than any other event, it’s very apropos that he did it here.” Tiger has been having trouble getting the contact he used to have with his clubs but his assessment of the Congressional winner was squarely hit.

In his typical understated way, the winner summed up his first tour victory. “It’s been a hard year. It’s been a really hard year, so it’s nice to have something go well.”

Another Herculean performance (actually seven of them – to date) occurred on the hallowed courts of the All England Club. Marcus Willis, a 25-year-old Brit, who still lives at home with his parents, had earned a grand total of $290 as a professional tennis player in 2016. On Monday, Willis, ranked 772nd in the world, won in straight sets in the first round of Wimbledon, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in tennis history. Just to get to the first round, Willis had to win six qualifying rounds (three prequalifying and three qualifying). His latest victory guaranteed the not-so-youngster (at least in the tennis terms) a minimum of $65,000, not exactly the haul Hurley III raked in but, for someone whose career earnings were under $100K, certainly better than a sharp stick in the eye.

While his next foe is the tennis world’s #3 ranked player, Roger Federer, it’s safe to say Willis will be the crowd favorite. Federer has to prepare for one of the truest “road” tests of his storied career. The odds are stacked against Willis but he’s got to feel better about his tennis future than at anytime in his tennis past. A series of injuries, which morphed into signs of depression, had him considering retirement and becoming a teaching pro. His latest conquest has put those plans on hold for at least another day. England so needs something to cheer.

Why, you ask? Because in the world’s most popular sport (soccer, for those of you in the U.S.), Iceland (Iceland for crying out loud!) beat mighty England. Mighty? Hey, when you’re Iceland, every opponent is mighty. The defeat was so humiliating (Iceland’s entire population is 330,000) that England’s manager (coach) immediately resigned at the end of the match. Perspective has no meaning in soccer. England’s soccer history is one of “underperforming” at major tournaments but never did any Brit think a loss to Iceland in Euro 2016 was possible.

As Stephen Colbert said in his monologue last night:

“This is the worst thing to happen to England since . . . four days ago.”

NBA Draft Captivates Prognosticators and Fans

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

The NBA draft is an exciting process. The days leading up to it, the day of, and the days following, i.e. trades made after team officials lie claim they got exactly the guy they wanted – and the young kid saying how happy he is that he’s going to the organization that selected him; how he appreciates the faith that franchise has shown in him. Wonder what the over/under is on how many times “I’m blessed” will be heard?

When the fashion show draft begins, so will the drama. Ben Simmons, who’s believed to be the 76ers choice as the #1 pick, described the best part of his game as making other players better. This, after coming off a season in which he couldn’t get LSU into the NCAA Tournament (it’s not like the selection committee has a quota of SEC teams invited to the Big Dance). Simmons didn’t help the Tigers advance to the Final Four, their name wasn’t even considered on Selection Sunday. Certainly his basketball skills outweigh his evaluation of his game. His main weakness is his inability to shoot consistently. It’s not like the Sixers had a plethora of shooters on their squad; it’s not like they have a plethora of anything on their squad, with the exception of bad luck with injuries.

Next to be called is Brandon Ingram, forward from Duke, the team that won the national championship just two short years ago – when Ingram was graduating from high school. As long as he keeps his priorities straight, i.e. that, although he’s in Tinseltown, he’s getting paid to play basketball AND that he keeps his romantic escapades to himself, all indications are that he and the Lakers will be perfect for each other.

Next up are the Celtics – or whichever team they trade the pick to. As of last night, they were finding it difficult to locate somebody who wanted to give up a good veteran(s) the Celts would want for such a high selection. Possibly that’s because there is no consensus as to which player is third pick material. One rumor had Dragan Bender, an 18-year-old who averaged 13/game overseas. That’s 13 minutes a game. In last week’s Sports Illustrated article the reason for his lack of playing time was that his team was more interested in winning now and couldn’t afford to take a chance on playing such a young, not-yet-physically-developed kid. NBA coaches get fired when their team is winning! When did the NBA become such a bastion of patience?

The NBA draft is usually an interesting show to watch, especially if you’re a sucker for emotional stories and happy endings for families. The two greatest things about it, though, are:

“The explanations given by the media guys of why the picks were good or bad . . . and five years from now when the same guys are telling everyone how stupid some teams were to pass on kids drafted later who’ve become stars.”