Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

When Father – and Son – Knew Best

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Long weekend of basketball with the Cal State Monterey Otters. This blog will return on Monday, Jan. 19.

With 600 youngsters each week for five weeks over the 11 years that George Raveling was the head basketball coach at Washington State University, there were bound to be a few Cougar Cage Campers become famous personalities. One summer we had a young kid – blond hair, buck teeth, pigeon-toed. He was the son of one of the Cougs’ assistant football coaches.

Every time he touched the ball, he shot it. We used to kid around with him, calling him “Shotgun.” We’d say, “Hey, Shotgun, you going let the other guys play or you going to shoot it every time?” He would just look over and smile.

I remember being in the coaches’ locker room one day and mentioning to his dad, “Hey, Jack, your son shoots the ball every time he gets it.

Jack turned to me, laughed and said, “I told him that the only way to score is to shoot.” Not a terrible philosophy – when the youngster is . . . John Elway.

As a post script to this story, years later when John started playing hoops in high school, George would often see Jack and tell him, “Jack, your son could really be a good basketball player. He ought to consider it – we’ll offer him a scholarship.” Then, George made a statement for the ages.

“I don’t know what you guys are going to do with that football shit, but if you decide on basketball, let me know.”

George won at WSU and left for Iowa. He won there, went to USC and the Trojans became winners. I might be somewhat prejudiced since I was his graduate assistant with the Cougars and associate head coach for him at SC but since he’s been inducted into both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame, there’s not much doubt he excelled at his craft.

Wonder whatever happened to that Elway kid?

Who’s the Game Actually For?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

The talk of football fans everywhere for the past couple days, with the exception of the College Football Playoff championship game, was “the call” made in the Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys NFL playoff contest. Actually it was the reversal of the call.

The play in question was a pass from Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo to wide receiver Dez Bryant. There was no question that Bryant caught the ball. Nor was there any doubt that the ‘Boys’ receiver tucked the ball away and took a couple steps toward the end zone. What occurred next is the crux of the issue that’s being discussed, nearly ad nauseam, since the final decision was rendered – and explained – by referees and former referees.

What Bryant did, as he was getting tackled, was extend his arm and hand that had the ball in it, in an attempt to cross the plane of the goal line, a maneuver that is in vogue among today’s ball carriers. Replays illustrate the receiver had complete control of the ball as he was stretching the arm. When his hand hit the ground, the ball popped up, he rolled over into the end zone and, caught the ball before it hit the ground (again – but read later). A game official signaled a completed pass, receiver down by contact inside the one-yard line.

The final ruling was explained by referee Gene Steratore. “Although the receiver is possessing the football, he must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch,” Steratore said after the game, via the Dallas Morning News. “In our judgment he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game.” Confused? Read on. “We deemed that by our judgment to be the full process of the catch, and at the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete; although he re-possesses it, it does contact the ground when he reaches so the repossession is irrelevant because it was ruled an incomplete pass when we had the ball hit the ground.”

Those in favor of this explanation. i.e. football officials, like to cite the rules as being clear and consistent. Consistent, maybe but clear as glass? Sure. Opaque glass. The “Calvin Johnson Rule” was brought up by Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers, evoking memories of any terrific grab also ruled incomplete by officials by a nonsensical obscurity. Rodgers was thinking, “We have a chance – remember that idiotic rule against Megatron?” Throw in the infamous “tuck rule” and the theme is, maybe some of the rules makers ought to try playing the game to have an appreciation of the skill it takes to play it the way professionals do.

Steve Torre of Mad Dog Sports radio made an observation I hadn’t heard before, but after watching the video once again, as well as some still photos, I have to agree completely with him. Torre’s claim is that Bryant’s hand was underneath the ball so it never really touched the ground. That would make it a complete pass and a fumble – which the receiver caught before it ever hit the turf. Torre went on to say the shame of it all is that, in essence, this is what fans live for, a playoff game, a sensational catch that ought to be remembered and talked about for years to come – except for a stupid rule.

The officials didn’t steal the game from Dallas. There was still in the neighborhood of four minutes to go and, even though Rodgers wasn’t completely healthy, he had plenty of time to lead his team to a tying (had the Cowboys been successful on a two-point conversion they undoubtedly would have attempted) field goal or possibly a game-winning touchdown.

What the officials did steal from the fans was – an unbelievable moment. “A brilliant catch by Dez Bryant” was how play-by-play man Joe Buck described it – with no indecision about Bryant “never having another act common to the game.”  Of the millions of people who saw that catch, nearly every one of them – except for a select few (football officials) – felt it was an absolutely mind blowing play. That it wasn’t was due to a technicality, one that most everyone is now conceding made the overturn correct. This was an exceptional accomplishment that took our breath away – witnessing a remarkable athlete make (love Bryant or hate him, there’s no denying his ability), really, watch we watch sports for – only to have it stripped away because of a group of people (the Rules Committee) who get together and look at minutiae to decide how to make a relatively simple, and great game, complicated. So complicated that what is beauty to the viewer has to be explained in gobbledegook by a relatively small group who pride themselves on understanding what ought to be a lot simpler.

When that many people feel in the manner they initially did after Dez Bryant’s catch, a major question must be asked:

“Is the game for the referees or the players (and fans)?”

Should Cardale Jones Go Pro If Ohio State Wins It All?

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Weekend hoops in Monterey. This blog will return on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

There was actually an article on this exact question on the site The Front Office News, but there was no byline and I couldn’t find a name anywhere – possibly because whoever wrote it didn’t want his (it had to be a man, women sportswriters are too intelligent) name getting out. His initial analysis is that “(Jones) has prototypical size standing at 6’5 250lbs, he has a cannon for an arm, and he is more mobile than what he is given credit for.”

Later on in this post, the writer states, “Talent has never been an issue with Jones. Attitude and immaturity has been, but in his case all he needed was an opportunity and he is flourishing as the starting QB.” Using this hypothesis, the conclusion would be that Jones should not only be drafted but, in order for the team to get the maximum value out of its pick, Jones should immediately be named the franchise’s starting QB. His thinking is that, while NFL QB might be the most difficult position, in all of sports, to master, Jones has proven – in what would be three starts (albeit three big ones) – that due to his immense talent (a cannon for an arm and having more mobility than what he is given credit for), opportunity is the main ingredient for him to achieve stardom.

The “attitude and immaturity” issues needn’t worry a franchise, especially its head coach who would be the first casualty in case this theory might, for some reason, be flawed. How did he get a bad attitude rap anyway? Begin with his now infamous October, 2012 tweet, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” Following that dumb remark, Urban Meyer called Jones a “changed man” and one who is “making progress in the classroom.” Which means, what, that he found the classroom? That a guy like that would be kept around and remain in good graces just shows how coaches can be blinded by talent. I’m certainly not naive to this type of action (I mean, I did work for Tark). An example of his immaturity could be the time Jones visited a kid in the hospital and they played an NCAA Football video game. The last picture posted of the visit showed Jones beating him 91-25 (although the kid was smiling).

Anyway, how much do a good attitude and maturity have to do with being an NFL quarterback? If Ryan Leaf and Johnny Manziel come to mind, dismiss those negative thoughts.

The author’s true premise was disclosed in the line, “It would honestly suck to be a backup to a team that you led to a championship.” So, following this writer’s logic, Jones – a young kid who had displayed a horrible work ethic as well as massive signs of immaturity – should take all of his skills and baggage to a professional team because he would have to compete for the starting spot and might not be good enough to win it.

This writer, and any and every other person who as much mentions the idea of Cardale Jones making himself eligible for the NFL draft, ought to be escorted into a roomful of NFL QBs – starters, back ups, practice squad guys – doesn’t matter – and look them in the eye and present those men with that thought. Throw OCs into that group as well. Then, they must submit the name of their sports editor, producer or boss and have as many of the QBs or OCs who would like, call and ask exactly how someone with such a limited understanding of what being an NFL QB is all about, could be employed to write about football. That is, that a football writer would go so far as to put in print that an NFL team should draft – and pay – a quarterback who had an entire career (in terms of meaningful competition) of being the winning QB in a Big 10 championship, a Sugar Bowl and a National Championship game, yet doesn’t feel confident enough or understand the need to compete the following season to earn the starting QB job.

Their picture and name should be displayed on every team’s Jumbotron, so they can be held accountable for posing what has to be the most asinine question since that jackass asked Marshall Faulk, “Marshall, if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

For his part, Cardale Jones has stated that he is returning to Ohio State for next season. Based on the writer’s suppositions, a  better question for him to have asked would be:

“Why not have Jones fake an injury and have the Buckeyes’ training staff apply for a medical redshirt?”





A Minor Change that Desperately Needs to Be Made in 2015

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

There are many truly serious issues that deserve greater attention, increased research and a whole lot more money in order for people to live better, healthier and longer lives. Yet, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other items, albeit of a lesser importance, that bug the heck out of us.

If I could have one wish (not the outrageous kind) it would be this: Whoever implemented “instant replay” especially in football and basketball, please admit the system needs tweaking. And tweak it as soon as possible, e.g. when the call in question is, in fact correct, correct it and continue play (whether a shot should be worth two or three points – are the guy’s feet behind the line, three; on or over, two – done). Conversely, when the call is sooooo obviously wrong, why does the ruling take sooooo long to reverse the decision? I know my man Jeff Van Gundy is with me on that one.

It’s the humanitarian in me that is mostly bothered. In truth, I never really enjoyed watching games live (except when I was a member of the staffs of the participants and that was considered working). The only times I’d go to view a game, live, as a spectator, was if I was a guest of someone who had a sky box – and I can count the number of times that happened on one hand (and still have enough fingers to make a decent fist).

My concern over the length of time it takes to decide the replay call, has to do with those poor souls who are attending the game. You know, those people who brave the December elements at football games. Other than when I was a spotter at a preseason game between the Steelers and the Patriots during the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville (and was in the booth), the only other professional football game I attended was when I was 12 or 13. My father and I and a group from my hometown went to a New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles game at Franklin Field. I remember nothing about the game except how unbelievably cold and windy it was in Philly that night.

When the camera pans the crowd during an instant replay review and I see people all wrapped up – yet still shivering – to this day I get chills. All I think about when the referee awaits the decision from . . . whoever about a call that the television viewer can easily make, is that schmuck who’s freezing his or her butt off. If that was me, I’d rather them make the wrong call – even if it was against my team – just so the action would return and I could try to forget that my hands and feet were numb.

What’s worse are calls that are wrong but can’t be changed because there happens to be no camera that has the necessary angle. One example was the fake field goal in the Music City Bowl between LSU and Notre Dame. The runner for the Tigers dove, extended his arms before bringing them back and landing with the ball short of the goal line. In the broadcast booth, color analyst Rod Gilmore said, “From the angle that we initially saw from up here, it didn’t look like he got in,” then after watching the replay from the goal line angle said, “Oooooh, that’s breaking the plane there, look at that, he extended that, well, from that angle it looked to me like he broke the plane before he was down,” and finally added, after some wishy-washy explanation that would make any politician proud, that the original call should stand because no angle showed his knee touching. Even though the shot from behind the end zone showed his back feet in the air while he was stretching, making it anatomically impossible for either knee to touch the ground. But thanks for clearing that up, Rod.

Regarding that play, Peter Burns of ESPN tweeted, “We can land a satellite on a comet, but refs can’t figure out that ball crossed the goal line without his knees touching the ground?” #LSU There was one person, however, who absolutely knew the ball did not break the plane and that was Lou Holtz. Lou knew, without a doubt, Notre Dame had stopped LSU short of the goal line – and that was without even having seen the play! What’s interesting is if you google that play, there is a picture in which the ball is breaking the plane and the runner’s knee is NOT down.

Another such situation may just have altered which teams are participating in the first ever College Football Playoff. When Ohio State played at Penn State on Oct. 25 referees ruled that a Buckeye defender intercepted a Nittany Lion pass when replays show the ball was actually trapped. Only a technical problem made it impossible for the officials to see it from a definitive angle. OSU subsequently scored a crucial touchdown and the Bucks eventually won it in OT. Whatever you do, don’t tell TCU.

Then, of course, there are the calls that can’t be overturned because there is really no conclusive evidence that the call on the field or court was wrong, so whatever was called needs to stand. Like it used to be before instant replay. “Hey, you’ve gotta feel for the refs because officiating is such a thankless job.” Maybe so, but it wasn’t like these folks were selected at random. Don’t make it sound like it’s jury duty. These people wanted the job and are getting paid to do it. Maybe they needed the extra  income, maybe they wanted to “stay in the game,” maybe they like getting out of town – for whatever reason, seeing other places (or people), cheating on filling out expense reports, who knows? But it was their choice. I’ll bet instant replay isn’t their choice, either. I mean, it was easy enough to dislike them before.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Will There Always Be a Place for Gossip in this Country?

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Here’s a quote from yesterday’s paper regarding the Jim Harbaugh hiring: “… two people within the university with knowledge of the negotiations told the (Detroit) Free Press on Monday evening. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because Michigan officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the coaching search.” If these people were “within the university” it probably means they are college educated. Maybe not UM grads but they got a degree from an accredited college somewhere.

Therefore, it’s not like they didn’t understand what “not being authorized to speak” meant because they knew enough to inform the writer they’d only speak if they were allowed to remain anonymous. So the question is, why? Are they rewarded in some way – cash, gifts, favors or just chits to be stored and used at a later date?

Earlier this season, I saw another example of how awfully easy (and fun?) it is to cast aspersions from relative anonymity when I read an article in which an anonymous NBA assistant said Kobe Bryant is more or less washed up, comparing him to a Washington Wizards-era Michael Jordan. Why not just keep that bit of juicy gossip to himself, at least until he was ready to come out publicly and say it? Probably because he’d rather tell his closest friends that the quote was his, getting attaboys from his buddies, while strongly denying it if anyone else attributed the line to him.

When a head coach is fired, usually there are – or had been, if the termination had been brewing – players coming to his defense. The coach-player bond is often as powerful, in some cases, more so, than that of a father and son. The final time the (by then) former coach and his players get to meet is usually an emotional one. Things said at that meeting are meant for the people in that room – and only the people in that room.

Although I have no first hand knowledge of what went on when Bo Pelini met with his former squad of Nebraska Cornhuskers, one of two things had to have happened. Either a disgruntled player (or wannabe player) surreptitiously taped Pelini’s comments or, because the meeting was held at a local high school in Lincoln, someone was tipped off and the room was bugged. Is there any other method the newspaper could have received an audiotape, as was reported?

Well, his detractors (and Pelini had a ton, many created by his brash style) would undoubtedly say, “He shouldn’t have used those words, period. It’s the reason he got fired in the first place.” To that I have two comments. One is simple and ought to be easy to relate to for those middle age and beyond of us: Old habits die hard. The other comment: Is each and every critic so pure of word and action that none of them would mind if any private conversation they had with friends were made public? Even the ones when two people might be slandering discussing a third party each of them know (and consider a friend)? How would anyone like it if that third person was privy to those comments?

I have said to my friends on numerous occasions, while we were having a private conversation, “Aren’t you glad this isn’t being taped? We would be open to some serious repercussions.” With all the snooping people there are, including as it turned out, our own government, is the Thought Police truly a myth?

After a recent game between Cleveland and Miami, LeBron James was shown talking to his close friend, Dwyane Wade, with his jersey over his mouth. Did you think James, who knows the ways of the paparazzi as well as anyone alive, was fearful of spreading germs to his former teammate?

Googling quotes on gossip I saw several profound ones but chose this one to share:

“People are probably not happy with their own lives if they’re so busy discussing yours.”

What, David Blatt, Worry?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Reports out of Cleveland have it that the Cavaliers’ 18-12 record is disappointing to Cavs’ fans, team members, the coaching staff and their fans. Duh. Also, the blame is said to lay at the feet of head coach David Blatt. Ditto duh. The fact that when Anderson Varejao went down for the season, the Cavs no longer have anyone who can “protect the rim” (a trait necessary to keep players from fearlessly attacking the basket), has escaped any reasonable strategical thought.

Let’s take a chronological walk down memory lane. When David Blatt was hired, he had been a highly successful professional coach in Europe. The hiring raised eyebrows in many communities (I’d imagine Cleveland being one of them), yet every one of my coaching friends who knew, or knew of, Blatt told me the guy was a phenomenal coach. None other than my former boss and friend of over 40 years, George Raveling, assured me that Blatt was the real deal.

After it was announced Blatt was hired, George told me he had previously witnessed the semi-final and final games of the European Championships. His summary of Blatt’s coaching prowess was something to the effect that, at those games, it was readily apparent his (Blatt’s) team was – by far – the least talented of the four. That they won the tournament was nothing short of miraculous. George Raveling has been around basketball 60 years so that put an end to any question I might have regarding whether David Blatt could coach.

It came as no surprise when Cavs’ General Manager David Griffin made the following remarks at the time of the hiring. “I have watched David’s work for many years. He has an uncanny ability to adapt his system to maximize the talents of his teams year after year. That is why I am very confident he will make a smooth transition to the NBA. There is a great opportunity to accelerate the progress of moving our team and franchise to the higher level of play we all believe we are capable of achieving. I am excited that the experience, knowledge, skills and leadership David will bring to the Cavaliers is the right fit at the right time.”

Another interesting development had taken place in the search for the Cavs’ next head coach. During the interview process, owner Dan Gilbert and GM Griffin (and possibly others in the organization) were smitten with one of the other candidates, Tyronn Lue, an assistant to Doc Rivers for both the Clippers and Celtics. Lue was a highly regarded assistant and it was apparent to “those in the know” that he would someday, soon, land a head coaching gig of his own. In fact, in Cleveland, it was common knowledge Lue had been the runner-up for the job Blatt landed.

Although Blatt had a resume chock full of success, none of it was accomplished in the NBA. The top brass highly recommended to their new head man that he hire Lue. The release from GM Griffin read, in part, “Over the past several weeks, it became clear that Ty could play a key role in our team’s future success. Ty fits our culture and vision for the franchise. His successful experience as both a player and coach is going to help us tremendously.” The Cavaliers then made Tyronn Lue the highest paid assistant coach in any sport – with a contract for 4 years, worth $6.5 million.

It certainly seemed like a sound move at the time. Lue could aid Blatt with the nuances of the NBA, as well as player-coach relations which most in the league feel takes on a different dynamic than anywhere else – or, for that matter, any other sport. Let the David Blatt/Tyronn Lue era begin.

But then, something rather unexpected happened. LeBron James decided to return to his roots, leave South Beach and resurrect the Cavs’ organization. When that dream became reality, the playoff tickets that were being printed when Blatt was hired, morphed into NBA Finals ducats. To say expectations escalated is akin to saying your kids’ excitement over visiting Six Flags heightened when you told them you decided on Disneyland instead.

On the college level (which I am in no way attempting to equate to this situation since there is so very little in common on the two levels), I experienced on one hand – and was an observer of another – somewhat similar events. Anyone who’s ever coached is keenly aware of the fact that when players (or parents) disagree with the head coach (playing time is one favorite topic), the upset party invariably takes up the problem with an assistant. Maybe it’s because they don’t like confrontation, maybe it’s because they fear repercussions, definitely because it’s easier, in any case, the go-between is the road more traveled. If nothing else, it places the assistant in an awkward position as the number one trait of a good assistant is loyalty. In four of my nine collegiate coaching positions, I was in that exact setting. Some more often than others, some in more difficult circumstances than others. I’m not saying the reported problems of the Cavs are that of Lue’s doing – just that he is stuck in the middle of an incredibly difficult scene.

The one instance I observed occurred when George was in a near fatal car accident which forced him to retire from coaching. As I had mentioned to the players during that interim year without George, USC is a fabulous institution but I went there for George, not SC, so at the end of the season, I’d be moving on. USC Athletics Director, Mike Garrett, took off the interim tag from Charlie Parker and named him permanent coach. When he did, he told Charlie he should give strong consideration to Henry Bibby to move into my spot. Sure enough, Charlie hired Bibby – and less than nine months later, Garrett fired Parker, in February, i.e. mid-season – and replaced him with Bibby.

In a June 26, 2014 article by Jim Cavan, a featured columnist for social media’s Bleacher Report, the writer said, “Paying Lue this kind of money isn’t just about rewarding a top-notch assistant; it’s about owner Dan Gilbert cleverly hedging against a very real short-term outcome: that Blatt, for all his basketball gifts, might not pan out.” LeBron didn’t make his decision to “go back home” until July.

Did Gilbert have a strong inkling his star would come back when he hired Lue? That’s a stretch considering how he treated LBJ when he left. Most people feel LeBron’s return had nothing to do with Gilbert – that he truly loves his roots and wanted his kids to grow up where he did, that his wife wanted to go to Cleveland, even that he felt Cleveland’s roster was more conducive to winning a championship than Miami’s. Maybe Gilbert’s a shrewd gambler or just a lucky man.

In any case, lost in the shuffle is a good coach whose reputation is about to get obliterated. Should he be let go, the old saying would be more true than ever:

“NBA coaches are hired to be fired.”


Why Is There So Much Bad News?

Monday, December 29th, 2014

As anyone who can read – or even just listen – is all too aware, negativity runs rampant in the news. “If it bleeds, it leads” was the motto a newspaperman coined over a half century ago and, unfortunately, times haven’t changed.

When it comes to understanding the Internet, I am the first to admit my shortcomings (and that’s generously giving me the benefit of the doubt). There is a reason I preface my remarks with that. It’s because my wife, Jane, mentioned to me she didn’t care for our local (Fresno, CA) news programs. Her complaint is that every night, on every channel, the lead story is about a murder or a shooting or a kidnapping or . . . you get my drift. I told her that it isn’t just the local stations that are like that. The national networks led with the same stories, only theirs are plural – murders, shootings, etc.

So I thought I’d try to find good news. I swore I could remember someone back in the 1980s who shared Jane’s feelings and decided to publish a newspaper that only printed positive stories. His feeling was people wanted to be enlightened before heading off to work. I believe it was located in Southern California, possibly in the Riverside area (I was living in Tennessee at the time but the memory of it is quite vivid).

I took to Google and, for the life of me, I couldn’t find hide nor hair of it anywhere. By no means, should cast any doubt that such a paper didn’t exist, only that I couldn’t locate it. (I think that might be a triple negative so in order to clear it up, the paper probably was real – if only to my imagination). What I did come across was one, possibly two, examples of something similar.

It turns out there were two such stories, both were on the same topic. The reason for my hesitation is they were from Russian newspapers. Both in December, only four years apart. Coincidence? You, the reader, can decide.

The first article I came across was in the publication, 24Sata (which, in Russian means 24 Hours – don’t be impressed, it was on the ‘Net). The AP story about the paper was on 12/30/2010 and had “stories about the rescue of a trapped dog, a hairdresser who cuts orphans’ hair for free and businessmen who defied the financial crisis.”

The other article (its date was 12/6/2014) was from the Russian news site The City Reporter, (I never could discover whether the two publications were one in the same) which asked its viewers, “Do you feel like you are surrounded by negative information? You don’t want to read the news in the morning? Do you think good news is a myth? We’ll try to prove the opposite tomorrow!

That was what the Rostov-on-Don news company announced to its readers (more like a “warned” them, as it turned out) the day before it launched the all good news reporting day. The positive news stories were “a smorgasbord of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.” Guess what happened? One of its editors posted on Facebook that it lost two-thirds of its normal readership that day.

By the way, if my recollection about that newspaper from SoCal I alluded to at the beginning of this post is, in fact, true, I also remember it closing down after a few editions.

Although it’s a terribly sarcastic attitude but, maybe the reason people enjoy others’ misfortunes is simply because they want to read or hear a story and be able to say:

“At least that schmuck’s life is worse than mine.”

Imagination Leads Us Where We Never Thought We Could Be

Friday, December 26th, 2014

As with many families this time of year, ours is together (albeit briefly) during this holiday season. Younger son Alex, a junior combo guard for Cal State Monterey Bay’s basketball team, has a little time off before they continue conference play, while older son, Andy, who is an account executive for Kareo (a company in the health care IT industry) had three days in which he could make the (four-hour with no traffic, occasionally nine-hour with traffic) trip north from Newport Beach to Fresno. Putting his University of California-Irvine degree to good use, he and one of his roommates (who also is from Fresno) made the decision to depart Orange County at 4:00 am and got home a record 3 1/2 hours.

Throughout their lives, I’ve often asked our boys questions to stimulate thought. Since Andy, who turns 26 next month, is in the technology business – and I, by choice, possess nearly zero tech knowledge – I asked him if he could imagine his life without a computer. Without hesitation, he said, “Absolutely not.”

I reminded him that his mother and I had to do just that – and not by choice. We never had anything close to a computer when we were growing up (she in the South, me in the North). The fact that we would use a slide rule in upper level math classes is an item I felt would be better left unsaid. No need to make him think I was more of a Neanderthal than he already did.

The lesson was that the reason computers are now such an integral part of our lives is because somebody “thought there had to be a better way.” I then asked him what he envisioned life to be like in 40 years (our age difference). He said, as I did, he couldn’t even imagine. I related the time an inspirational speaker told me how he discovered what he considered to be the the best definition of the word imagination. His revelation happened when he asked a young girl what she thought it was and the little girl said, “It’s what comes after, ‘What if?’ ”

Combining that thought – and returning to this blog’s usual sports-related theme – here’s something that could send shock waves throughout baseball. Judging from the attitude of newly appointed Cubs manager, Joe Maddon (as well as the player acquisitions they’ve made), one thing that might change is . . . the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series. My reasoning for this optimism (the Cubs haven’t won one in over 100 years) is a quote of Maddon’s I read when he was manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that coaching is a copycat profession. Maddon’s philosophy is the complete antithesis:

“I get so annoyed when you get around a lot of baseball people and basically all they can do is regurgitate previous thoughts. They don’t think of anything original. Tell me a better way.”

Not All Colleges’ Weight Loss Programs Are Equal

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

In last week’s Sports Illustrated there was an article on the University of North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks, a talented but vastly overweight (317 pounds) big man. That’s a big man. The story explained the relationship between Meeks and the Tarheels’ strength coach, and how the big fella first had to surrender to his coach’s plan. Only then would the necessary shedding of pounds (47 of them) occur. The result would be well worth his efforts, however, eventually sculpting him into the dominant force so many believed he’d be when he entered college.

It reminded me of a similar story that occurred in Knoxville in the early 1980s when I was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tennessee (and, yes, it is in my book, Life’s A Joke). We had struck out on our main recruiting targets as far as big men went. There was a local kid from the Tri-Cities area who was rather short (6’5″) for a post player and, worse, was overweight. His positives were he was a very bright kid who had good footwork and had showed some promise when we saw him play. Keep in mind that this was pre-Charles Barkley, so we weren’t trying to imitate a plan that had proved successful elsewhere, as many college teams did post-Chuck. This was a gamble.

His weight, however, was a major problem. We were under no illusion that he would be any kind of factor in the SEC unless he were to follow a strict regimen of proper nutrition with our  trainer, Mike Rollo, who was one of the best in the business. Mike placed our freshman on a strict diet which was relatively easy to monitor because UT had a training table for players, coaches and trainers for all three meals. Yet, he was concerned. While the youngster faithfully followed the regimen, not only did he not lose weight, he actually gained pounds each time Mike would weigh him.

As I mentioned, he was a bright young man (an engineering major) – but he was one of those guys who wasn’t quite as smart as he thought he was. His explanation for his incomprehensible weight gain was that he’d always had a weight problem and that every time he’d go on a diet, he would gain weight. It had something to do with his metabolism, he told us, that the less he ate, the more he’d gain.

Needless to say, all of us were having trouble “swallowing” the tale of a medical miracle, . . .  especially after his roommate was overheard in the training room talking about the pizza his roomie had been sneaking in late at night.

As George Washington said:

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”


Don Quixote Loses – Again

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

After my boss, Jerry Tarkanian, retired in 2002, I was faced with a decision. Where was I going to work? I had been in college basketball nearly my entire adult life – 4 as a graduate assistant at three different schools, 11 as an assistant at three other institutions, 8 as an associate head coach at two others and 7 as Tark’s director of basketball operations – for a grand total of 30 years at nine Division I universities. Working in the field that long, I had made friends and gained the respect of some, if not many, of my peers. I had two or three options to continue doing so.

Picking up and leaving wouldn’t be a challenge. After all, I had moved 16 times and lived in nine states since graduating from college. What was another one. It was only when Andy, our older son (who had just completed seventh grade – he was the president of his class), said, “Dad, do we have to move?” did I realize that nearly all of my moves came when I was single and childless. Now it would mean selling a house, buying another – in our price range and in a good school district for our rising 3rd and 8th grade boys, plus getting a job for my wife who had more than two decades of working for the federal government. All to chase the dream of, one day, becoming a head coach – with no guarantee that will happen. It’s not like, “OK, you’ve coached 40 years. Congratulations, here’s a college team where you can be the head coach.”

One of the coaches at Fresno State mentioned to me that, if I wanted to coach on the high school level, he had a great deal of pull at a local school that had recently dismissed its coach. More and more, the NCAA had been limiting practice time for college coaches with their players. What made coaching high school in California attractive was you could coach your team nearly every day of the year. I got that high school job and conducted practices in May and June – before I even started teaching. In late June while I was at my computer, filling out a form to take the team to Los Angeles for a summer tournament, I felt a sharp pain in my mid-back. It turned out to be a herniated disk (my fourth) that required emergency surgery – that kept me from living the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

The remainder of the summer was dedicated to physical therapy. I showed up for orientation walking with a cane. While that was excruciating, it wasn’t nearly as painful as hearing, as I did in each of the three meetings, that “teachers should document everything, as our parents are a very litigious group.” At the time I was also a member of the National Speakers Association and my main topic was “Team Building” – how the number one characteristic of any great team is trust. My new employers were telling me I should document everything while I was getting paid to speak to groups, often quoting Stephen Covey’s line, “In a no-trust culture, you live in memo haven.”

Unwisely, I thought that my diverse experiences throughout the nation, in addition to my membership in NSA, would allow me to enlighten my new colleagues that maybe the trust thing, combined with hiring better lawyers, was a better strategy. Vegas would have given Don Quixote shorter odds against the windmills.

When No Child Left Behind became the new (mainly political) rallying cry, our school district, consisting mostly of upper middle class families, decided that a necessary addendum would be, “Every student should go to college.” Only not every student in our school wanted, needed nor should have gone to college. It was almost as if the district powers were saying that other schools, the ones that didn’t measure up to us in standardized test scores and such, ought to be supplying the cashiers, bank tellers, plumbers, painters, roofers, auto repairmen and all those other vital professions that many of our kids would have been superstars at, if we’d only helped encourage and train them.

That motto was expanded by a new superintendent (who was as egomaniacal as any “leader” I’ve encountered – and, not shockingly, lasted a year). He pompously made the statement that every student was to take at least one Advanced Placement class during his or her four years in high school. Heck, we had some kids who couldn’t even spell “AP.”

What brought on this blog was an article on Albert Einstein I read last night. One of his life lessons was entitled, “We are all born geniuses but life de-geniuses us.” Beneath it read something I wish all the administrators at that school district would highlight and place on their desks, mirrors and refrigerators. In fact, I forwarded it to several of the teachers from the district, with the hope they’ll pass it along. It said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”