Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

The NBA’s Solution to Problems Between Players and Referees

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Ever since the first ball was tossed up at center court, players and referees have been antagonists. While the NBA has, by far, the best officials in the basketball, its players complain more than any other. The reactions by the pros are on the upswing. We’re currently at the point in professional basketball that when a player takes the ball to the basket and a foul is called, the player who got committed the transgression looks at the referee in disbelief, arms straight up in the air, signaling he was in completely legal position – while the opposing team’s trainer is on the floor putting the guy who’s about to shoot free throws through concussion protocol. If the situation is reversed and an offensive foul is the call, the player who fouled stares at the referee as if he insulted the player’s mother, even if roots came out of the floor where the defender’s feet were planted.

What about when the player scores and there’s no whistle, you ask? It’s a sure bet the offensive player will be complaining to the ref, hitting his hand, wrist, elbow or head, that it should have been an “and 1″ situation. The job of officiating is a thankless one – and it doesn’t pay nearly as much as you think – considering the amount of abuse they have to take from players, coaches, fans and, even, the announcers. And I’m not just talking about the homers but the network guys who don’t have a stake in the outcome.

Players have always had the ability to bitch about the officials but only one time a year and no names were allowed. How can the NBA correct such a grievous circumstance? Well, with the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), as of next season, there’s a clause in it that says, “… players for the first time will have a hotline to call in to critique the work of refs in their games. They’ll be able to report not just on where they think the official botched a call, but also if they found a ref to be out of line, verbally, with how they handled blow-ups. Basically, they can complain like never before. The hotline is a response to the league allowing the new monthly reviews so that players can report something they thought was handled incorrectly while it’s still fresh in their minds.”

Other than one instance (granted, that we know of), officials make every attempt to be impartial, i.e. they look at their job as enforcers of the rules. Of course they’re human (c’mon, give them the benefit of the doubt) and they’re prone to make mistakes but, they work their butts off. Contrary to what some fans say, there are no hidden agendas. At least, other Tim Donaghy’s gambling issues, none have been proven. Since there are always two sides to every story, maybe the league should allow officials to have their own hotline to call in – while it’s still fresh in their minds – and give their two cents (about the ratio to what they make to what they players pull down) regarding players who might have been out of line, along with those back stories.

The way technology is exponentially improving, soon players will have phones sewed into their uniforms or implanted in their bodies. When that time comes, players will be calling the NBA office before the official is done informing the scorer’s table of the infraction. And imagine what the cost of advertising among the phone companies would be then. Just think, the players could rewrite the CBA and get even more money.

“Is this a great country or what?”

 

Terry Bradshaw Suffering from Terminal Hard On

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

If you haven’t heard the latest gossip from the world of professional football, pull up a chair and get a load of this. Terry Bradshaw, an icon in Pittsburgh – a city in which they take their icons very seriously – criticized the Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, calling him “a great cheerleader guy.” Why would Bradshaw go public on the leader of his “alma mater” so soon after they clinched a playoff spot? Keep in mind that Tomlin has a Super Bowl championship on his Steelers resume.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Bradshaw. Turn back the clock a decade or so ago and you’ll recall the same guy throwing less than kind words about another Steelers championship coach – the one and only Chuck Noll. The two of them were the greatest coach-quarterback combination of the Super Bowl era – the mere fact that they won four Super Bowls seems to both begin and end that argument. In fact, I spent one of those glory years (1976-77) living in Pittsburgh where people must be really confused because of the nine states I’ve lived inhabited, nowhere are folks more proud of “their own” than in the ‘Burgh.

Bradshaw’s complaint was Noll was too tough on his young quarterback from Louisiana, that young Terry was the type of guy who needed a hug every now and then. Recently, Bradshaw was a no-show at his former boss’ funeral. One would have thought Bradshaw would make have made an appearance if, for no other reason, than to have made sure.

Possibly, Bradshaw is “anti” Super Bowl-winners because he also has taken aim at Ben Roethlisberger who, like Terry, is a multiple Steelers Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Bradshaw most definitely is an equal opportunity critic as he made the statement below, taking to task another Pittsburgh Super Bowl-winning QB who has won several.

No one can say Bradshaw plays favorites. His tenure with the Steelers and his head coach, Noll, certainly had to have been a rocky one. When asked for a statement following the funeral of the revered coach, he took a swipe at still another championship signal caller - himself. Here’s what he had to say about the winningest coach-QB combination (certainly as far as winning the most brass rings is concerned):

“I’m proud to have played for (Noll). It was a great honor. My relationship wasn’t good, as you well know, but he made me understand my job responsibilities, because I had to grow up.”

Why Does the NBA Feel a Need to Undermine Its Officials?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

As if it’s not bad enough that referees make bad calls, the NBA, for some unknown reason (transparency, perhaps?), lets the viewing public – and even those who didn’t see them – in on the mistakes its officials made in games already played. Other than the league office patting itself on the back for being “transparent,” there is absolutely no reason for such a magnanimous gesture.

Doing so relives a bad time from a game that’s already been decided, so admitting to errors only compounds the problem. The team that “got screwed” – and who felt they were cheated out of a victory (even though the correct calls might not have assured them one) – is even more upset. The winning team feels as though their efforts are being diminished. And, worst of all, the refs – who have a thankless and, in the case of officiating in the NBA, an impossible job to perform – feel like the people who ought to be backing them are throwing them under the proverbial bus.

The prime example was the recent contest between Cleveland and Golden State. If ever there was a regular season game which had all the earmarks of an NBA Finals rematch, it was the Xmas Day match up between the past two years’ finalists. The Warriors were in control of the game, up 14 in the fourth quarter when some sloppy play by them, combined with some clutch buckets by the Cavs turned the contest into a tight ballgame.

LeBron James dunked with 1:43 left and the score tied at 103. He proceeded to hang on the rim, swinging back and forth in a move that would have made another King – Tarzan – proud. Possibly because the play was so eye-opening, and the crowd noise erupted to such a dangerous decibel level, the referees ignored Bron’s over-exuberant gesture. Then, on the Warriors’ final possession, Richard Jefferson switched onto Kevin Durant who had come off of a screen. KD slipped (according to his postgame remarks, “not on my own”), and fell to the floor as the game clock expired. No call by any of the three officials.

In the report from the NBA office the day after the game, the league admitted James actually should have been assessed a technical foul for deliberately hanging on the rim and that Jefferson should have, in fact, been called for a foul on Durant. If the NBA office’s intention was to create more “sports bar” arguments, they certainly have accomplished their goals. What, in reality, they did was to lessen a classic NBA regular season game – and, perhaps, set a precedent for future games – both of which could have been avoided. To admit mistakes is admirable but as long as nothing can be done to affect the outcome, it’s unnecessary.

This NBA admitting officiating errors reminded me of a humorous incident from several years ago. During the 1986 Sweet Sixteen game between #4 ranked Michigan State and top-seeded Kansas, a clock malfunction occurred with 2:20 to go in the game and the Spartans ahead by four. Following a made free throw by MSU, the Jayhawks inbounded the ball. For at least 15 seconds, the clock didn’t move. Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote argued, to no avail, as the game was going on. A couple weeks later, at the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Convention (which coincides with the Final Four), the spokesman from the NCAA Rules Committee referenced that game. He told the hundreds of coaches in attendance that one of the changes being made was that such an error would be correctable in the future.

Heathcote was one of the best coaches in the nation. He was also one of the funniest. He raised his hand and, even before he was recognized by the speaker, bellowed:

“Is that rule retroactive?”

When Critics Cross the Line

Friday, December 16th, 2016

In the book about the history of ESPN (These Guys Have All the Fun), there’s a story how Tony Kornheiser and Monday Night Football. On one side were those who felt Kornheiser wasn’t enough of a “football guy” to be in the booth, that he didn’t particularly like to prepare (certainly as much as the “football guys” did), that he liked being more spontaneous. In the story his comment was something to the effect that all of those jobs didn’t automatically have to be given to “jocks.”

History has proven him to be correct. There have been good people who weren’t ex-players who did an admirable job as an announcer or commentator – just as there have been former athletes and coaches who’ve bombed. There is another issue here that goes beyond what incensed Tony K. What disturbs me is the person who never played (but would have given anything to actually be good enough) who decided to make his mark (as far as I can tell, only men fit into this category) in the world of athletics, either as a newspaper writer (especially the columnist) or as a TV or radio personality.

It’s definitely not mandatory to have “strapped it on” to be in any of these professions but there ought to be some restraints on these people. Of course it’s all well and good to have an opinion and voice it as strongly as the person desires. With a caveat. If someone has never played, most certainly if he’s never played at the level he’s covering, criticism should never be personal. When a guy like Bill Simmons attacks Doc Rivers over a period of years, (except, of course, for the year the Celtics won it all), he’s behaving in such a way because he’s petulant, devoted fan – and Doc wasn’t doing the job his favorite team deserved. The team he rooted for so passionately as a child (and, to this day, still does).

In one article I read, Simmons was described as “a pioneer in the type of Internet sports coverage that is now the norm.” It’s the norm because there are so many wannabes, guys like Bill Simmons. Jim Rome was probably the first such cult hero – the guy who never played but was a superstar with words and putdowns. Those who were like him rallied around him and his schtik. He was doing what they wished they could do, i.e. what they wished after their initial wish – that of being an actual athlete – was ruled out as something not even divine intervention could make happen.

Rome was clever (as is Simmons and others like them). The issue I mostly have is not that they never played nor coached. It’s with the personal attacks. In fact, these media members usually know just enough to make intelligent second guesses comments. However, if you’ve never been a player or a coach, you can’t completely understand how much time those people devote to their crafts. Still and all, their job is to analyze and, for the most part, that’s what they do. Just don’t cross the line – and get personal. To hear somebody say about someone else “he’s garbage” is beyond what’s necessary. Save that inflammatory rhetoric for the guys who planted the bombs at the Boston Marathon or the crazies who shoot up schoolchildren (and I fully realize there are folks who are offended if we refer to those deranged people as “garbage” but that’s another debate for someone else).

My recollection is that all of this began with Rome and his despicable statements leveled at athletes he, for whatever reason, disliked. Calling Pete Sampras, “Pete the chimp” and making horse sounds when he mentioned Steffi Graf’s name were Rome’s way of mocking what he thought of their looks. Mainly he was speaking to his loyal followers whose lives were so unappealing their motto was, “Strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.” Rome’s most famous “put down,” as we all remember, was calling Jim Everett, “Chris” – over and over. It almost got him “put down” – by Everett, who the discipline, not to mention if he hadn’t, he’d have been up on a murder charge (many of us would have voted for “justifiable homicide”).

These types of attacks are pure venom. And, unfortunately, there are many people who feel so poorly about how their lives have turned out, or what their future looks like, that hating someone else becomes their source of enjoyment.

Leave it to Elvis to have the last words:

“Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.”

A Lighter Look at Sexual Harassment

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Early in my coaching stop at USC, a co-worker in the athletics department called me over. “Hey, congratulations. You came in third. And you even got a first place vote.” When my brow furrowed, she realized I had no idea what she was talking about.

“Every year,” she explained, “the females in the department conduct an anonymous secret ballot on which male coach they’d want to be stranded with on a desert island.” You came in third this year and even got a first place vote.” I was doubly surprised. First, because I’d been with the Trojans for three years and had never heard of such a poll  and second, because I came in third – with a first on somebody’s ballot. Nothing like a little boost to the ego – but I simply smiled, thanked her for the “good” news and went back to my office. There certainly was no feeling of being offended, although I did realize there might have been someone who would have taken offense. Please believe me when I say I would have felt the same way if I’d found out about the ladies’ poll – and she told me that I hadn’t received a single nomination.

A month or so later our athletics department held a mandatory sexual harassment seminar. All personnel members filed into the meeting room. I happened to be seated next to John Robinson, our legendary football coach. Being a wise guy (not to generalize, but something that comes easy – or at least easier – to somebody from New Jersey), I began the meeting by asking the female presenter, a retired military officer, “Is harass was one word or two?” Maybe because of the mischievous look in my eye, maybe because of the muffled laughter coming from many of my colleagues, maybe because she would have rather kept to her script, she only gave me a stern look. To let her know it was just a funny line, I apologized to the group – each of whom knew my comment was meant as a bit of levity. Truthfully, the little joke was regarding the word, not the topic – which is I realize is anything but. JR turned to me and, barely audible, said, “You are crazy.”

The woman was about 45 minutes into her presentation, which included video examples of what was and what was not considered sexual harassment, when I raised my hand. She shot me a glance – with somewhat of a jaundiced eye – and asked if I had a question. The people present wondered if I would be foolish enough to joke at this time.

I began, “Here’s a fictitious situation I’d like to ask you. If the men in the department conducted a secret survey, asking the male colleagues to rank first, second and third which female department employee they’d like to be stranded with on an desert island, would that be considered sexual harassment – even if the women never found out about it?”

The lady almost jumped with excitement (or relief) and exclaimed, “Yes! That is an perfect example of sexual harassment.” As she continued, I was glancing around the room. The females were sinking lower and lower in the seats, some absolutely glaring at me, a couple others shooting me a shocked look. Was I really going to expose their little scheme? The speaker finally ended her comments, praising me for giving such a vivid illustration.

“Uh, OK, thanks. I just wondered about that situation.” The women sat up straighter, yet some continued with the evil eye.

My point was not to belittle a serious issue we all know occurs in the workplace – and most everywhere else. It’s my belief that 99% of the people who sexually harass others are fully aware of their actions - and that there is no place for such behavior. However, I truly believe the PC police have become a tad overly sensitive on this subject.

The school district in which I worked after returning to public school education (following 30 years in the world of college basketball) was (and remains) such a place. Allow me to share a brief story.

During one of my freshman algebra classes, with an administrator in attendance to (allegedly) evaluate me, I asked the kids if anybody had an answer to a certain problem. No hands went up. I said, “Oh, c’mon, somebody has got to know this one.”

A shy, bright, little girl seated a couple rows from me, sheepishly raised her hand and said, “Is it x=15?”

I walked over to her and touched her on the elbow, saying, “One.” Then, touched her forearm a couple inches lower and said, “Two.” A couple inches lower, “Three” and, finally, touched her wrist, saying, “Four.” I looked her in the eye, smiled and said, “Thank you, Emily. I know can always count on you.” The class laughed and we moved on. In about 10 minutes, the bell rang and the students were off to their next class.

Shortly after the kids left, the administrator came up to me and made a remark that I’m absolutely certain was meant to be a vital learning experience for me. “Jack, I completely understand why you did it but, in the future, you might want to reconsider touching your students.”

I just looked at the administrator. My response was, “You just sat and observed me teaching and that is your first comment? Nothing about whether or not I was connecting with the kids, or if my explanation of the material was effective, or if they seemed interested?” I actually did consider the next line and said it anyway:

“Do they actually pay you to do this?”

Anyone Who Complains About Newton’s “Suspension” Should Not Be Allowed to Be a Parent

Monday, December 5th, 2016

A pretty safe assumption last night was that any fan watching the Seahawks-Panthers game was shocked when Cam Newton stayed on the sideline for Carolina’s first possession. After much scurrying around (whew, lucky the network has sideline reporters), it was reported Newton was benched for a disciplinary reason: that the Panthers have a team rule that players are required to wear a tie when entering the arena – and Cam wasn’t wearing one (verified by pregame photos). To make matters worse, backup QB Derek Anderson threw a pass that was picked off and, eventually, turned into a Seahawks’ field goal.

Speculation ran rampant. “It couldn’t have been just for a tie. No one would be foolish enough to make such a petty move.” It’s bad enough the Panthers came into the game at 4-8, played in last year’s Super Bowl and Cam Newton is the reigning NFL MVP. But fans are fickle (there’s a candidate for understatement of the year) and, if given a chance, will voice displeasure at the drop of a tie hat. “If they were fighting for a playoff spot, that never would have happened,” could be heard at sports bars throughout America (and especially in North Carolina).

Naturally, that would come from a somewhat sensible supporter. “Rivera should be fired for suspending Cam. That one play cost the Panthers the game – or at the very least, got them down and put them in an early, unnecessary hole” would be a comment from someone several rungs below the fanatic ladder.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at it. If Newton violated a team rule, what’s wrong with punishing him for one play! Next, the pass should have been caught. OK, the receiver deflected it, allowing for an easy interception. Seattle did capitalize but only for a field goal. It wasn’t like it was a horrendous throw, resulting in a pick-6. Newton was back on the field following the kickoff, so it must have been predetermined and not a surprise to the Carolina organization.

With all the criticism today regarding parents being fearful of disciplining their children, the action Rivera took should be applauded. When an NFL player is held accountable, whether it was truly for a dress code violation or something more serious, the action taken should be applauded.

Anybody who’s upset that Cam Newton was suspended for one play – in a game the Panthers lost by 33 points - should have their parenting license revoked. If they don’t have children, they should reconsider if they plan on it. Especially at 4-8, it would have been easy to look the other way (assuming it was due to not wearing a tie). Independent of what caused the move, this country won’t fold due to lack of discipline. More because of the opposite.

Or as Clara Barton said:

“The surest test of discipline is its absence.”

A Brief Post on Athletics and Race

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

After reading a negative article about sports and race, I paused to reflect on how much athletics have changed since I began playing sports way back in the 1950s. Sure, the skills of today’s athletes have drastically improved, as has the coaching, equipment, playing surfaces and officials. Well, maybe not the officials. In addition there have been advancements in areas more or less unknown to those of us who participated long ago. Nutrition, flexibility and strength training (beyond the free weights we had) have turned athletes into performance machines.

As far as the race factor, I grew up in New Jersey which, unknown to me at the time, meant not being involved with was going on in the South. It wasn’t until the mid-’80s (I was in my mid-30s), when I was speaking with someone a few years younger than I was who grew up in Alabama. We were talking about our childhoods when she mentioned something about separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks. I was floored. I’d th0ught that has happened in the ’30s or ’40s.

Since my career choice was coaching basketball on the college level, I’ve spent my adult life working with, certainly when it comes to the players and their parents (especially during the recruiting process), many more black people than white. While there’s no way I claim to be an expert on race relations, I can shed some light on the subject based observations I’ve made over the past half century.

Here’s something that crossed my mind as I considered my experiences in athletics – as a player, coach and fan. Although the following example might not prove anything, ask yourself this question. When a fight breaks out in a game – even when the fight’s between a black player on one team and a white one on the other, don’t the players always align by team as opposed by color?”

Call me what you will but I like to think:

 “Athletics UNIFIES the races more than DIVIDES them.”

Facing a Medical Dilemma

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

For those readers (probably most of you) who don’t know my medical history, to date, I’ve had 10 surgeries related to my back and the chronic pain that accompanies it. I say most because I’m not that high on people’s list of things they’ve heard, read or stored away. Yet, because I have put fingers to keyboard regarding this topic on so many occasions, I do know of several people who understand what I’m going through due to the fact that they are close to me, are living in similar circumstances (hence, I get the empathy vote) or happen to be (don’t ask me why) interested in past information I’ve posted or the manner in which I’ve posted it. The condition I suffer from is degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis, characterized by sharp shooting pains which begin in my low back, move into my hips, glutes and down my hamstrings. In any case, my medical life just got a tad more complicated. Chronologically, here’s my most recent timeline.

On October 5th, at Stanford’s Pain Management Center (where I’ve been a patient since 2005), I underwent a procedure called a caudal epidural, which injects both a long-lasting steroid and an anesthetic into my lower back. The goal is to reduce inflammation and irritation to the area that impinges the nerve. At the risk of presenting TMI, my first surgery was the removal of the C5-6 disk (1987). Three other such surgeries were performed, in order, at L4-5 (1989), C4-5 (1995), and T10-11 (2002). That final laminectomy is the one that has caused all of my grief – and has led to five of the other six surgeries (the lone outsider was an emergency bone graft following C4-5).

What follows, assuming (and it’s a large assumption) you’re still present, is the purpose of this post. While maybe not an identical situation to mine, you may have experienced something similarly as awkward.

The hope for the caudal epidural steroid injection was that I would experience immediate – and, hopefully, long lasting – pain relief, by expanding the space at the irritated and inflamed area (as I understand it). Alas, my relief ended after about three weeks. Stanford Pain Management encourages patients to add the app, Stanford my Health, as a method of communication between patients and their doctors/nurses. After the relief waned – and the pain returned as annoying as before – I sent emails to both the doctor who administered the shot and my most recent pain doctor (whose patient I’ve been for approximately the past 5-6 years). The site claims someone will get back to the patient within a day or two.

Several days went by and, not being very tech savvy, I thought maybe I’d screwed something up. So I returned to the site and, although there were no emails for me, my two were in the “sent” file. I sent a couple follow ups, once again saying the meds had worn off and wondered if I could get another shot and, if so, how long I’d have to wait. If not, was there another action that could be taken?

Three of my surgeries were 1) the implanting of a morphine pump, 2) fixing said pump and 3) replacing it when the pump went “EOL” (end of life). In the pump (which is set and controlled by the doctor and nurse, i.e. I have no capability to increase or decrease the pain medication) are small does of morphine and the latest and, supposedly, last medication allowed for pumps, something so powerful it’s administered in micrograms, as opposed to milligrams. I take no oral pain medication, mainly because they make me constipated – to the point where whatever decrease there might be in pain isn’t worth the difficulty that occurs with constipation.

Again, no replies. I checked the website and it instructed patients who emailed and didn’t hear, to call the pain management center. When I did, I got a profuse apology and was told the doctors and nurses were being contacted and I would be receiving a call. More days went by with no response, so I placed another call. Another sincere apology and this time, I was told that, if I didn’t hear from somebody, I should call again and would be directed to someone with whom I could file a complaint.

Believe it or not, still nothing. Yesterday, at 3:00 pm, I called and was told someone from customer service would be getting in touch with me very shortly in order to assist me in filing a formal complaint. What was the best number for them to get a hold of me? “The same number you’ve been calling me for the past 12 years – the one that popped up on your end” was the answer that immediately came to mind but I managed to hold my temper and gave them my cell phone number. I mentioned that I’m retired, however, I was about to go to an appointment with my personal trainer and wouldn’t be available between 4-5 pm. Any other time between now and Thanksgiving would work. Don’t you know there was a call from Stanford at 4:30? While there are brilliant people at that institution, communication doesn’t seem to be their strong suit.

When I finally spoke to a very pleasant woman from their customer relations department, I explained I was fully aware that they had thousands of patients. Then I added, with a smile that I’m certain came through the phone, yet not so jokingly, that I was the only one of those that I cared about. She began by offering an apology. I told her if apologies were an answer to pain, Stanford would have cured me by now. She laughed – and apologized again – but caught herself in mid-sentence. She told me her job was to not only start the process of filing a formal complaint but, also, to insure someone from their medical staff got in touch with me.

I began by saying how difficult a position I was in. When you have chronic pain, the pain is basically all you think about. It controls your life. Anything that can be done to divert attention from it is welcomed but, inevitably, your thoughts return to whatever is causing you discomfort. The last person you want to upset is your pain doctor. Wouldn’t a letter of reprimand in their files – or some other punitive action – be counterproductive to my “endgame?” She assured me the main goal was to have someone contact me so I could get some answers. I concluded our call with a line I read many years ago:

“An apology that is not followed by a change in behavior is an insult.”

What’s next? Rest assured, I’ll let you know – and my hope is it’s sooner rather than later.

An Imperfect Ending to a Fun Mini-Vacation

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Ever since we retired, Jane and I have been traveling – a couple week-long vacations to exotic or historical destinations, plus every weekend for the past four years during basketball season, watching younger son, Alex, play for Cal State Monterey Bay. Well, Alex graduated in May (his hoops career continues in Australia), leaving us nowhere to go from November through March.

When Jane told me her sister’s son, David, was playing bass guitar with Amanda Shires and they’d be in Los Angeles Thursday, I realized we hadn’t been out of town in a while – and didn’t have anything planned for the foreseeable future. The last time we saw our nephew perform was last year in Santa Cruz (prior to a two-game home stand for the CSUMB) when he was backing up Patrick Sweany and it was a blast. I started connecting some dots, called our closest friends from my days at USC and asked if they’d be available for dinner Thursday (they were). Then checked in with older son, Andy, and asked if he and his girlfriend would be able to have dinner Friday. We hadn’t seen them since the day we drove Alex to LAX in late May for his flight to Brisbane. If you’re an empty nester, you’d understand it was definitely past due.

Everything went as great as expected – a couple wonderful dinners, an awesome performance and, after seeing Andy yesterday morning, we took off for the five-hour drive home from Newport Beach. Full disclosure: my back pain has been escalating recently, I was put on a different drug and it made my nervous system, which is “on edge” anyway, freak out even more. One of the biggest issues is how my sleep patterns are affected, as in I can’t get to sleep at night until the wee hours – even with meditation, relaxing music, yoga breathing techniques, sitting in a glider (which always had done the trick in the past) and other various methods of calming down. After a few days of sleeping between 1-3 hours (and maybe a 20 minute nap during the day but no more), I finally got 11 hours sleep Friday night, waking at noon. It wasn’t enough. I still felt tired.

On our trip home, we encountered little traffic. We needed gas and I hadn’t eaten since our feast the night before. I figured the car’s (and my) tank could make it to just south of Magic Mountain – to a favorite Italian restaurant of ours. Usually I would get the gas part out of the way first but since the station was located on the south side of the street, decided that it would be more practical to fill up our stomachs first, then get gas just before we returned to I-5N.

I ordered a chicken parmigiana sandwich but the waiter said they’d run out of sandwich bread (since it was 2:00 and they were getting ready for the dinner crowd) but I could have the dinner. It’s my favorite – so I went for it – the soup, sauteed veggies, pasta and chicken parm. More than I should have had for my first meal of the day. But, as many of us baby boomers were taught to do, I cleaned my plate. Gladly, I might add.

A couple minutes later, I was putting the nozzle in my gas tank which was, as I had planned, almost bone dry. Realizing it was going to take a while to fill it, I went inside to get a Diet Mountain Dew, my favorite caffeinated drink to liven me up some. Inside, I saw a display of big cookies. Jane’s favorite, oatmeal raisin, and mine, white chocolate macadamia, were both looking up at me, begging to be rescued from the rest. I made my purchases and walked out to the car to surprise my wife. When I flipped the cookie into her lap and buckled in, we laughed about how much of a sucker I am for something sweet after a meal.

Then, I put the car in drive and began our journey home, only to hear something hit the ground behind me. First the first time in over 50 years of driving, I forgot to remove and replace the nozzle. What I saw in my side view mirror was a hose on the ground, connected not to the pump where it should have been, but to my gas tank. Suffice to say I was no longer tired. Next, I did what I had to do – put the car in park, get out, remove the nozzle, with pump attached, from my car and place it where it belonged.

Then, with several other customers entering and leaving the store, as well as others getting gas, I made the walk of shame into the convenience store to tell the manager of my blunder. He said I needed to back up my car to the “scene of the crime” and wait for him. Naturally, by the time I got back to the car, another driver had pulled into the pump after mine, so I had to go all the way around to get there. As I was walking back inside, a customer yelled out to the manager, “Oh, wait, he’s coming in now.” Apparently, he thought I was “making a break for it” and was about to call the local police or Highway Patrol.

As I went back to the car, I noticed he was writing something on a piece of paper. While I sat in the driver’s seat, I saw him put a sign on the door and lock it. The sign said, “STORE CLOSED” – because he was the only employee on duty at the time. Now, there were at least 10 customers either getting gas or about to enter to purchase snacks or whatever. If it hadn’t been me who caused this mass confusion, the goings on would have been pretty funny – a guy shooing customers out of his store and locking out others in the middle of the day.

He came over with his little camera. I apologized for my gaffe. He explained he had been given a certain protocol for such a situation and that it happens more often than I’d think. Then he asked for my license and insurance card, took pictures of each, plus one of my license plate and the pump and disconnected hose. As he was snapping away, the lady at the pump opposite me said, “Oh, I have done that, too.” It may or may not have been true but bless her anyway. Really, I couldn’t believe there could be too many people that stupid – until the manager looked up and said:

“My cousin did the same thing here last week.”

A Solution for Explaining Playing Time to Parents

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Anyone who has ever coached has found that teaching skills to players and making in-game decisions is easy compared to one facet of the job he or she most likely didn’t consider when they originally entered the profession – parents.

30 years of coaching in college basketball and never getting a head coaching position was a major disappointment in my life and not just because it was one of greatest goals. Not being the top man meant I never got a break from being one of the prime targets for disgruntled players, fans, boosters, alumni, administrators and parents. The people in those groups feel much more at ease bringing their problems to an assistant because, well, it’s just too uncomfortable to confront the head coach and, besides, who better than to discuss with, i.e. complain to, than the guy who has the head honcho’s ear.

Actually, once such situation that occurred after my first year as associate head coach at the University of Toledo (spring of 1988) led to an epiphany. We’d inherited a 6’11” senior from the previous staff – a nice enough kid but as long as he was on inches, he was about that short on talent. He came into my office and, although his eligibility had run out, wanted to talk about playing time. It was evident he just wanted to get something off his mind that had bothered him the entire season, probably his entire career.

Possibly because he had nothing to lose, he came right to the point. “Coach,” he began, “I gotta ask you a question. I realize I’m not the greatest player in the world but was I really that bad that I couldn’t even get five minutes a game. I mean, three minutes in the first half and a couple in the second? Would I have hurt the team that much?”

Since we’d just completed a rebuilding year and our record was below .500, he felt he had an excellent point. In fact, he might have. That’s when it hit me. Distribution of points is something players see through their own eyes and parents think about only as it applies to their kids. Especially the ones who are at the end of the bench.

The following year every player we had on the team was from either Ohio, Michigan or Indiana. One tradition our head coach instituted prior to each season was a fall dinner for the team and their families. It just so happened every guy was represented with a family member. What our graduated center said to me months before had resonated so deeply, I asked my boss if I could have five minutes of the program. I was extremely grateful when he okayed my request.

When I got up, I had a manager hand out one small, blank piece of paper to each player’s family. I said, “Would only one family member (father, mother, step parent, sibling), doesn’t matter who, write down a number on that piece of paper. Please do not write your name or the player’s name. Just jot down the number of minutes per game you think your boy should play this season. For those who are unfamiliar, there are a total of 40 minutes in each game (not including overtime).”

Some wrote on the paper immediately, other families (some of them with the player) collaborated. I asked them to fold the paper in half and the manager collected them. As the manager totaled up the “requested” minutes, I wrote on the grease board behind the head table:

5 players times 40 minutes/game = 200 minutes of playing time

When the manager finished, I asked him to write on the board what the total amount was. “415” was the number he wrote. Later, he told me six of the papers had the number 40 on them – and some of the others weren’t that much lower.

While there was a reaction in the room because of such a disparity, it was relatively minor. I scanned the crowd, focusing on the parents, and pointed to the 415 and said, “This is our problem as a coaching staff.” Then, even though it probably did little to defuse any future problems, I pointed to the 200 and said:

“This is yours.”