Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Of Johnny Manziel, His Handlers and Mike Pettine

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

The Cleveland Browns fired their coach, Mike Pettine, on Black Saturday, although his fate might have been decided on a day well before Black Saturday. That day would have been on NFL draft day. Yeah, the day the Brownies felt the guy to select was Johnny Manziel.

I’ll admit that, like a lot of fans – probably the majority of them – I was smitten with the skill and confidence that was “Johnny Football” and hoped he would thrive (despite those who claimed his height would be his shortfall). I kept thinking of Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, even Eddie LeBaron, for those who go back that far.

Unfortunately, his problem wasn’t from top to bottom but from side to side, i.e. the lack of gray matter between his ears. Sure, the guy had his butt kissed while at Texas A&M but what big-time (winning) college QB doesn’t? Everywhere he went, he was deified. So much so that when he tried to take an English course on campus, he had to drop it when his classmates’ requests for autographs and photos became too much. That semester, he took all of his classes online. Talk about adulation.

He got selected in the 28nd round – in the Major League Baseball Draft. As far as football, he went 22nd overall and was anointed – by the fans – immediately as the savior of the Cleveland franchise. Much like LeBron James. Pretty big shoes to fill – for a guy whose feet turned out to be way too small (despite the size) for the challenge.

Why didn’t he make it? Unlike many “instant rock stars,” Manziel didn’t grow up deprived of material goods; rather, he was somewhat used to them. He felt that since he was a rock star, he was entitled to party like one. Early on, “20-year old boys being 20-year old boys” was the mantra of his – call them exactly what they were/are – enablers. He had/has a well-publicized drinking problem which, when you’re a public figure in today’s world, unfortunately, becomes everybody’s business. As did a “private argument” with his girlfriend (which may or may not have involved drinking and “a couple swings” by Manziel). Many 20-somethings have such issues, but those involving NFL quarterbacks never remain “private.”

During the season, there were incidents of Manziel acting in a manner not becoming of a starting NFL QB (which Manziel swears he wants to be). Yet, if he really desires to have his name linked with the great QBs in the NFL, he ought to observe the vast, intense amount of work Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees put into their craft. The latest incident in Manziel’s career is that he wore a disguise and used an alias while partying in Las Vegas – although, naturally, Johnny Football claims it’s not true.

Other than those on the inside, no one really knew whether Pettine and Manziel were ever on the same page, or even whether the former coach wanted Manziel to be his on-field leader. One thing for sure is, had Manziel taken his occupation, i.e. NFL quarterback, not serial liar, more seriously, Pettine might still have a job. While the coach’s firing should not be laid only at the (undisciplined, immature) QB’s feet, his feelings for Johnny Football might parallel the lyrics to the song, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right:

“I ain’t saying you treated me unkind. You coulda done better but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time.”

And now I’m out of a job.

Did Firing Chip Kelly Made Snoop Dogg Happy?

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

In an era of political correctness and taking what people say literally, it seems recording artist Snoop Dogg got an unheard of pass after his rant several weeks ago. I’m from New Jersey and, while nothing Snoop blurted was new to my ears, I can honestly say I hadn’t heard such profanity in . . . decades. The tirade contained 9 F-bombs (or combinations thereof), a couple “sorry-asses,” a “dumb-ass,” a fellatio reference, informed people he was P-O’d and capped it all off with a suggestion that (then-)head coach Chip Kelly kill himself. And he performed all this in a mere five sentences!

“Performed” is the operative word because, naturally, these pearls of wisdom were done in Snoop’s unique way – via Instagram videos. I’m not sure if his diatribe was supposed to be considered music, poetry or something other than simply spewing hatred (as other, less talented people would be forced to do) but he clearly expressed his frustration with Philly and Kelly.

Maybe it was because he’s Snoop and his “threats” are not to be taken seriously, maybe it’s because it really did look like the Eagles tanked the game or maybe it’s because no one gave a damn since the reason for his disdain was that it dashed the Snooper’s championship fantasy football hopes. Yup, that was what was behind all that venom – that the Eagles “can’t even get me one or two points so I can win my fantasy league and go to the Super Bowl.” How thoughtless of them.

It’s been said fans are a fickle bunch. After hearing Snoop’s harangue, what’s been going through my head is:

“Wonder how he would have felt toward Kelly and the Eagles if they had played well enough to get him those couple points he needed?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can It Really Be 30 Years?

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Watching some basketball this weekend so this blog will halt until Tuesday, Jan. 5. Hope everybody had a great New Year’s Eve. The following is from my book, Life’s A Joke and is about the New Year’s Eve that changed my life – for the best.

Many people will tell you they remember their first date with their wife. Not only do I remember mine but I recall when I asked for it.

I was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tennessee on a scouting trip in Houston to watch Texas A&M play in the old Summit (former home of the Rockets). I was staying across the street at the Marriott, had finished my recruiting calls and realized I had some time before the game, which meant I could tie up some loose ends as far as my personal life was concerned (as an college coach, there never seemed to be much free time).

Back in August I was with a close friend of mine at his condominium complex when he introduced me to a girl who also lived there. I’d scribbled her name and number on a piece of paper. Being a math major, I was pretty good with numbers and hers wasn’t really difficult anyway. Obviously, the area code was the same as mine but so was the exchange (691). The last four digits were 3366 – 33 is half of 66. Still, I got the number in August and here it was December, so . . .

My math skills are infinitely better than my handwriting and when she answered, I couldn’t read my writing. Was it “Jan” or “Jane?” I gave it a shot and kind of mumbled, “Is Jan there?”

“Who?” was her reply.

I gulped and said, meekly, “Jan?”

“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”

Well, Jan or Jane, I knew I had the right number. “Wait,” I said, “Do you live in the Colonies?”

“Yes, I do,” she replied, with some skepticism.

“This is Jack Fertig, who’s this?”

“This is Jane,” was her response, in what I thought sounded a little like the conversation was heading in an upswing.

I laughed and said, “Jane, yeah, that’s what I said. You must have misunderstood me.”

Not exactly the smoothest beginning to a date request – for either of us – but we made small talk for a while until I said, “How would you like to go to dinner sometime?”

That was met with, “Okay, that sounds good. When would you like to go out?”

I thought about my calendar and realized that, although we were in the middle of the season and every day was accounted for, the following Tuesday was open. So, I said, “Well, how about next Tuesday?”

My request was met with a brief silence, until I heard, “Next Tuesday is New Year’s Eve.”

Wow, no wonder I have nothing to do. There are no games or practices on New Year’s Eve. There’s nothing on New Year’s Eve. I recovered by confidently saying, “Well, if that works for you, it’s okay with me.”

She thought for a moment, and said, “Okay, that would be fine.”

“Great, I’ll pick you up at seven,” I said to the girl – who was going to end up being my wife and the mother of our two sons – and whose name I butchered a few minutes prior.

After we hung up, she admitted she was thinking, “What an idiot this guy is – he didn’t even know when New Year’s Eve was.”

What was going through my head was, “Uh oh, this girl didn’t have a date for New Year’s Eve. Is she the same cute girl Harry introduced me to in his condo driveway?”

Actually, she did have a date – but she broke it. That call was placed 30 years ago yesterday. Poor handwriting might be considered a flaw, but even if it is, I align myself with author Surgeo Bell’s philosophy:

“Some of the most beautiful things we have in life comes from our mistakes.”

Comparing Superstars from Different Eras Is as Much Fun as It Is Futile

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

A little family time in the Fertig household as both boys will be joining us. No blogs until Tuesday, Dec. 29. Happy Holidays to all.

To NBA fans there’s nothing like talking about pro hoops, past and present. It’s so obvious which era had/has the best players – the ones from the era of whichever fan is doing the pontificating. People who watched the old timers as kids, i.e. the baby boomers, swear by Russ, Wilt, West (I mean the guy is the logo for crying out loud)!

Try telling today’s fan that anybody is better than LeBron, KD or Steph and you’ll most likely hear, “Have you ever seen videos of the old guys? They look so sloooooow. Not to mention those ridiculous shorts. Today’s players would boycott before putting those hideous things on. Really, how can there even be a comparison?”

Then there’s the voice from yesteryear’s players, Sir Charles Barkley. No doubt, if anybody approached him during his time in the league (when his confidence level exceeded infinity), and asked if he thought the previous generation would have whupped up on his, he would have scoffed at the idea. Now that he’s older and wiser (but mainly older), he exudes respect for the players who preceded him (as he expects today’s players to show his group). But as far as the current bunch competing against his generation? Here’s an excerpt from an interview he did with Colin Cowherd.

Cowherd: “When you see Golden State, how would they play 25 years ago?”

Barkley: “We would have just mauled them. You’re not gonna let guys come off those picks. They changed the rules—it’s kind of like the NFL where you can’t touch the wide receiver. The defense is at a disadvantage, all these cornerbacks in the NFL are really at a disadvantage. And a guy like [Stephen Curry], who is amazing, you can’t put your hands on him, you can’t hand-check him. It’s a totally different game.”

Yes, Charles, it’s a totally different game. You would have mauled Curry then; no one can touch him now. Point of that argument goes to . . . whichever rules are in play, I guess.

Why don’t we enter into this discussion a new demographic, i.e. people who are not only fans but guys who scientifically and mathematically break down how good players actually are. Curtis from Pro Hoops History and Adam, an analytics guru from Bleacher Report. These are fellows who take it more seriously than the average fan. Another generation might refer to them as “stat heads,” people who don’t even have to see players play in order to tell you how good they would be if they were playing today. Can you tell which generation I’m from? Look, I’m all for progress and, truth be told, was a math major, so I love numbers. But, sometimes these guys are … well, see for yourself.

When asked to evaluate Bill Russell (a guy they’ve certainly heard of and probably seen grainy video of him), here’s what their reports were: Curtis said to imagine Russell as a Tyson Chandler type today, while Adam feels the Chandler comparison might be a stretch since Chandler is a 7’1″, 235-pound physical behemoth compared to Russell at 6’10”, 215 pounds. Wait, wasn’t Wilt about the same size as Chandler and Russell did OK against him, didn’t he? Oh yeah, Chamberlain was more like (a chiseled) 275-pounds.

When it came to Chamberlain, the boys picked and chose his strengths and weaknesses, with Curtis qualifying his assessment sating Wilt would fare spectacularly well in today’s game, depending on which version of Wilt showed up. He also pointed out, “The biggest drawback with Chamberlain would be his often-difficult relationship with coaches. It’d take a great coach to get the best out of Wilt and keep him from descending into moody stat-chasing.” As if coaching today’s divas is a slice of heaven. I can’t fathom any current NBA coach refusing to have Chamberlain on his ball club. Adam was more charitable in his opinion of The Big Dipper, saying (other than Hack-a-Wilt strategy – a legit concern) he’d have zero doubts he’d be just fine today.

“Just fine” might be under-selling Wilt in today’s game a bit, considering he averaged – for his 14-year career – 4.5 assists/game, with a high season (after critics accused him of just being a scorer) of over 8.5 assists/game. That figure would place him sixth among today’s leaders, the top five being point guards. The top assist leader among centers today is Marc Gasol who’s tied for 41st, averaging 4.0.

Both Curtis and Adam were very complimentary of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson when it came to projecting their abilities to today’s game but, come on now, was there a need for experts to come up with those conclusions? Besides, after the Russell evaluations, their credibility took a serious hit. I can only imagine how they’d assess others, e.g. Robertson, West, Baylor, Havlicek, Gervin, Frazier, Monroe from days gone by.

There’s so much chronological prejudice from everybody that the debates should continue from an amusement standpoint and a way for all sides to think they’re smarter than the others.

The two greatest statements I’ve heard – from a shock value as well and from a non-biased point of view – were made by a couple of players mentioned above whose credentials are above reproach.

Jerry West on Stephen Curry: “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen” and

Oscar Robertson on Russell Westbrook: ” I’ve seen others with the same size and physicality but they don’t have his determination.” 

Whether or not those statements are true, they stand as pretty darn good endorsements – from a couple of cats whose knowledge shouldn’t be challenged.

 

Somebody Has Way Too Much Time on Their Hands

Monday, December 21st, 2015

The Golden State Warriors are lighting up everybody in sight. OK, the Bucks did represent well, especially since it was the game after giving the Warriors their lone L, less than a week later. Some of the (key) Warriors players turned it into a kind of grudge match – because of a “celebration” by Michael Carter-Williams, i.e. staring down GW’s bench. Really, the Warriors upset with someone hamming it up? Basketball fans were almost expressing sympathy for the guys from Milwaukee when the return match was played at Oracle. Sure, revenge was theirs but not before excessive sweating – and making their supporters squirm for the majority of the contest.

But that isn’t the subject of this post. I’d been meaning to comment on a story I read regarding a new toilet that Steph Curry’s wife got him. In one of the seemingly infinite interviews Curry has been so gracious to give, someone asked him to explain his tweet about how happy the automatic toilet Ayesha purchased for her superstar husband made him.

Curry let the world know he was “a big social-media-on-the-toilet guy” and, that after she told him about his gift (the team was on the road), he dropped 46. Points, that is. Last year’s Most Valuable Player, and possibly, this year’s Most Improved Player (wouldn’t that speak to how professional an approach he takes to his craft?) – remarked how pleased he was with the gift, inferring it might have been the reason for the big night.

Was Steph putting this reporter – and his audience – on, or was he serious? His comment, “I bet if I did a case study on my performance since I got the toilet, you’d see the difference” sounded almost like a dare. Was he truly curious – this guy with the magnificent work ethic who can tell you how many he shots he made in his pregame workout – or just seeing how far the media and/or fans will go to, pardon the expression, “scoop” others of their type?

Not surprisingly, someone took the time to dig up the answer. The result? You’ll have to excuse me for not taking the “Steph phenomena” too seriously. I’ll watch and admire this elegant performer, but there are some parts of his life fall under the category of TMI. This tale does show an aspect of idol worship, which is:

“When you’ve got a captive audience, you can get them to do almost anything.”

 

Five Years Later, Not Much Brighter

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Coming up with a different topic to blog about – every day of the week – can be quite demanding. Since nothing came to mind, I thought I’d go into the archives and re-submit a post from years gone by – in this case, the blog from five years ago - to the exact day! Notice how on December 20, 2010 I refused to go out on a limb – and still managed to get it wrong. That just shows the more things change, the more they stay the same. Read on.

This is the time of year when prognosticators of all types want to be heard. Get it right and, especially if you have a TV or radio show, you can remind viewers and listeners of your expertise – which was presented prior to the contest. Calling it wrong gives a couple of options. Either you can choose to ignore your error or you get carte blanche as far as criticism is concerned, e.g. it’s open season on head coaches, coordinators, kickers, offensive skill players (for calling bad plays, missing chip shots, fumbling, throwing picks or dropping passes) and defensive linemen (for not getting their average, or more, number of sacks or blowing coverage). Miss by enough and you can even roast the NCAA or BCS.

Just predicting who will has never meant much to me. After all, when two teams are playing, Zippy the Chimp has a 50-50 chance of getting it right. Make a pick and explain why that team will win. Better yet, set the scenario(s) that each team needs to emerge victorious.

A few days ago, I heard Colin Cowherd, never short on opinions (or the ability to annoy/condescend), give his pick for the national championship game. Although he’s from the Pacific Northwest, he’s convinced Auburn will win because they have better players, including the best. Oregon has never seen such an array of talent.

While that might be true, what Auburn hasn’t seen is a team play at the pace the Ducks do. In a pound-it-out macho conference like the SEC, coaching staffs pride themselves on situational substitutions. Does this give an advantage to Oregon? That’s something everyone will know as the game unfolds.

Well, what kind of prediction is that? Everybody can tell what happened after it takes place. It’s called being a sportswriter, or more specifically, a columnist. The fact that everyone can analyze why outcomes occurred after they happen is no different than making a prediction before the game. The more detailed you get, the greater chance you look like a genius – or a fool.

Predictions are great for water cooler conversations (or possibly conversations that take place where stronger beverages are served) and gamblers. The latter actually do “put their money where their mouth is.” Is it better to merely pick a winner and should your choice come up roses, gloat, and if you choose the wrong side, hide – or take a gamble and analyze before the fray, meaning your brilliance will be many times greater if your ship comes in, but you’ll leave yourself open to ridicule if your winner is right but for all the wrong reasons? That answer depends on your personal make up – or how much the station is paying you.

Most people (outside the pacific Northwest) agree Auburn might have more and better athletes. Certainly no one is in the class of Cam Newton (unlike Florida’s claim that Newton wasn’t in the classes of many of his teammates – OK, bad joke) but Oregon’s roster isn’t exactly composed of leftovers. The Ducks’ hurry-up offense is just as difficult to prepare for as Cam Newton. It’s one thing to see each on camera, but another thing to try to actually tackle Newton. Same with playing at the pace Oregon forces teams to do.

Who’s my selection?  I’ve worked in both leagues (albeit in basketball), so there’s no preference there.  I’ve always been partial to coaching and preparing game plans so in that regard, I favor Oregon, but to go out on a limb and say who the winner will be?

I subscribe to Casey Stengel’s theory:

“Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

Turns Out Dwight Howard Is Not Super, Man

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

A friend of mine who works in the NBA refers to Dwight Howard as King Kong because he says he’s the most physically imposing, most dominant player he’s ever encountered and can destroy anyone in his path. Howard is somewhat of a contradiction, however, displaying a jovial, almost playful personality off the court but (when he wants) an immovable force when he’s on it. Thus far in his career, however, Howard is known less for his play than he would like. Probably.

His career began in Orlando when he was hailed (by himself) as Superman. This rankled another center who had played for the Magic, one Shaquille O’Neal. Howard can do a spot on impression of “The Big fill in the blank”, i.e. how he sounds, not necessarily how he plays. Definitely more than how O’Neal competed. While he has been a major force, the closest comparison of he and O’Neal occurs at the free throw line.

In Orlando the bloom came off the rose when head coach Stan Van Gundy, in a press conference, “outed” Howard as the guy who went to management requesting the coach be fired. I recall watching the presser live and it was uncomfortable for me. I can only imagine how the two main characters felt, first Stan who made the media members aware of his star player’s desire to have him replaced, then, even worse, Howard who became that guy who is the last to find out what’s going on. The big phony fella joked until it became apparent to him the truth had already been divulged, then squirmed as he made feeble attempts to address the questions, the answers to which everybody there already had already learned.

Van Gundy did get pink-slipped but, at season’s end, Dwight requested to management that he be traded. When asked about his role in Van Gundy’s dismissal, Howard’s statement regarding the coaching situation was, “I love him as a coach, but I think we need a new voice.” Translation: “A kinder, more coddling voice.” The Magic brass acquiesced to his desire to be traded after the 2011-12 season and he moved to Los Angeles to join the Lakers.

Teaming up with Kobe Bryant could get Howard the “ring” every NBA player dreams of – or so they say (Melo). Bryant who at that time was, arguably, the best player in the world became a mentor to Howard but, for reasons only known to Howard (and the millions of fans in Southern California), he bolted again. Rumor had it that he didn’t share Bryant’s vision (or passion). Off to Houston he went, joining scoring machine, James Harden.

Now, the word on the streets on Houston is that big Dwight isn’t fond of playing “second banana” to The Beard. What many of today’s players don’t seem to understand is that:

“Bananas come in bunches.”

Is Kristaps Porzingis Really That Good?

Friday, December 18th, 2015

If there was a vote for surprise rookie from this past season’s NBA draft, Kristaps Porzingis would certainly garner as much support as any other first year player. Forget that the Knicks’ choice (#4 of the first round) is absolutely ballin’ out in his first year, he’s won over the New York fans. And one of his biggest fans is Carmelo Anthony. Who’d a thunk it?

First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due. It was super scout Clarence Gaines, Jr. who, after seeing the 20-year old, 7’3″ Latvian, told Phil Jackson he’d just seen the guy they needed to take with their first pick – even if it meant moving up to get it done. Jackson readily acknowledges it was Clarence (who was with the Zenmaster during their championship years with the Bulls) who discovered the Zinger, not as an excellent prospect (it’s not like no one knew about him), but as a budding superstar. Clarence is the son of Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Sr. the late, legendary hoops coach at Division II Winston-Salem State University who won an amazing 828 games during an even more amazing 47-year Hall of Fame career – and for whom the award for the best Division II college basketball coach of each year is named. No shock, then, that Clarence Jr. figured out the evaluation process quite a while ago.

On NBA Draft Day (although you’d have a tough time getting any one of them to admit it), the announcement of the Knicks’ selection of Porzingis by commissioner Adam Silver was greeted with a resounding chorus of boos – as only New Yorkers can do it. After 26 games, however, Porzingis is averaging 13.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Now, those same fans are climbing over each other in an attempt to show the rookie how much they(‘ve always) love(d) him. The list is a lengthy one of players in various sports who were talented but just couldn’t handle New York and its fans. But for the Zinger, no problem. “That’s how people in New York are,” he said. “They’re tough, their mentality, and you gotta be the same way if you want to play here and you want to survive here. So that’s how I have to be if I want to play here.”

The natural comparison is to Dirk Nowitzki. So rather than quote others in the league on what they think of the Knicks’ rookie thus far, let’s listen to what the Mavericks’ all-time leader in 23 of their 51 statistical categories had to say:

“When I was 20, I was scared to death out there. He’s almost averaging a double-double, so he’s way better than I was at 20. So the comparison’s probably unfair to me. The sky’s the limit for this kid, not only because he’s good but also because I heard he lives and breathes basketball. He stays in the gym, he works hard and doesn’t let all this hype here get to his head. You’ve to root for him.”

 

 

It’s Higher Education Where Logic Doesn’t Apply

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Here’s an overview of college football bowl games:

1) There are 128 FBS teams and – for now – 40 bowl games. Even a poor math student knows that means 80 schools get to participate in a post season bowl game. It takes a little bit more knowledgeable pupil to calculate that 62.5% of college football teams are “awarded” a bowl game. Actually, there are 41 bowl games, including the National Championship, but let’s not confuse matters. Nearly two-thirds of the college football teams play in the post season.

2) Originally, in order to be bowl eligible, a team needed to have at least six wins (which could include one win against a Division I FCS scholarship-awarding opponent) and a winning record – or win their conference. Naturally, the team could not be on probation. However, in 2006 the rules were relaxed so that a winning record was no longer mandatory, the team just had to not have a losing record, i.e. a 6-6 record would suffice.

3) This season there weren’t enough great, good or, even, average teams (what else can a 6-6 record be called?) to fill the 80 slots. The number of bowl eligible teams came up short by three. What’s an organization to do? Well, pick three teams with 5-7 marks and honor them with a bowl game. But how could the NCAA decide which three losing teams were “deserving?” Easy. Make the decision based on, what else? Academics. The justification was that, of all the “least losing-est” programs, three of them had the highest Academic Progress Rate (APR).

How downright foolish is that? If, in fact, that was the deciding factor, maybe in lieu of the coin toss, the captains can answer questions. When asked how he felt about 5-7 teams being allowed to play in a bowl game, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said, “Can you throw in the word ‘pathetic’?” Granted, Herbstreit went to THE Ohio State University, so he is an elitist but on this topic, no one should be hoodwinked.

4) First and foremost, bowl games should be rewards for a good season. Let’s leave the “participation” trophies that have been in vogue with the PC generation debate for another time. Bowl games come under a totally different umbrella. Coaches in Pop Warner (and similar) leagues don’t have six- and seven-figure salaries and don’t get fired for losing (sometimes for winning, but not winning enough).

5) Next, look at this issue from a financial standpoint alone. For the “lesser” bowls, i.e. the great majority of them, the participating schools are forced to buy blocks of tickets. Many of the schools (in reality, more than likely, most of them) can’t sell near enough tickets to avoid a major financial hit to their budgets. In addition, it’s my belief (based on 30 years in intercollegiate athletics, 25 of them at schools with FBS football programs) that coaches receive bonuses if the team participates in a bowl game. So the school is not only paying the coach a (generous) salary (athletics directors claim coaches must be paid what the market demands) but also giving him and his staff bonuses – for leading it to a losing record. Even if this was supposed to be the breakthrough season the fans were led to believe it was. Of course, the coach can be fired – meaning the school has to pay him not to coach, as well as pay a replacement. Be prepared, though, that the new coach will be making more than the previous one.

Also, since this is higher education, there are people in positions of greater importance at the university. Most, if not all of them, feel entitled to travel to the bowl – gratis. With their significant other. And cash in on all goodies.

Proponents of the (inflated) bowl system claim there are many positives with so may teams being included, e.g. rewarding the players for their effort (each participant, including the administrative free loaders, gets some nice swag from the bowl – obviously, the more prestigious the bowl, the sweeter the haul), giving them a trip (up to a week) in a nice location – although sometimes teams don’t leave home, e.g. Navy’s game in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Arizona State playing in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix and New Mexico playing in Albuquerque in the Gilden New Mexico Bowl (I’ll bet Arizona, their opponent, doesn’t feel leaving Tucson for the Big Al is qualifies as a treat).

Another plus is that the influx of people to watch the game helps the local economy. Check the attendance at some of these events. It’s a matter of greed. Some company wants to attach its name to a bowl. Then hit up other companies to buy seats and suites to entertain clients. All in the name of college football – the Golden Goose. While we’re talking about all that’s good, lets not forget the coaches’ refrain, “It’s good for recruiting.” What, your program is in the top 62.5% of the country? Wow, where do I sign?

Two years ago, Fresno State finished its season at 6-6 with one of its wins coming against Southern Utah, an FCS school. Because they tied for first place with San Diego State in the West division of the Mountain West and beat the Aztecs, the Bulldogs were considered champions. That meant they played Boise State in the MWC championship game – which they lost. Prior to that contest, however, the conference made the decision that, regardless of the outcome, Fresno State would be considered bowl eligible. They lost to Rice in the Honolulu, ending their season at 6-8. True, they did get to experience a trip to Hawai’i but they go there every other year since UH is a member of the MWC West division. Wonder if the school had to spring for “championship rings?”

Sure, coaches will say the greatest benefit of a bowl game (not including the big-time bowls) is the extra practice sessions they can get and how much of an advantage they are toward the following year’s success. To use Fresno State as an example (no other reason than I live in Fresno – I’m certain similar scenarios exist elsewhere), this past year the team’s record was 3-9.

There was an article written entitled, “NCAA study finds all but 20 FBS schools lose money on athletics.” To be fair, the reason these schools are in the red isn’t solely (or even mostly) due to football. But just because football is the biggest (potential) money maker, doesn’t mean money should be wasted. And going to a bowl game without a winning record just doesn’t make sense. From the federal budget on down, the question is:

“Can’t anybody show restraint when it comes to spending?”

A True Role Model Retires

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Last night, while I was watching the Republican Presidential Debate, my phone alerted me that I had a text. It was from our younger son, Alex, who was watching a college basketball game (for those of you who haven’t experienced parenthood, or whose kids are over 35, texting is how today’s children communicate with their parents – unless they want money, then calling is the preferred means of communication). His text was brief (as they usually are) – “Did you see your boy Bo Ryan retired today?”

Like the rest of us who follow college hoops, I knew Bo was planning to retire after this season. The reason for the “your boy” part of the text was because Alex was aware of the history between Bo and me. In fact, Alex was all set to go to Bo’s summer camp at the University of Wisconsin prior to his senior year. Why my son was going to fly a couple thousand miles for a basketball camp, when there are so many others closer to home, was because of the respect I have for Bo’s skill at evaluating prospects. I gave him a call, explained that Alex was being recruited and wanted him to see him up close to give me some feedback on his skills.

For the first-time reader (I’ve made mention of my career many, many times in past blogs), I worked for 30 years as a college basketball assistant, in nine different programs. Recruiting was one of several responsibilities I had over those three decades (1972-2002). That fact gave me insight other parents are not privy to – mainly that the worst people to ask for a true assessment of a prospect are his parents.

Because I knew Bo – and because I knew he would give me an honest appraisal of Alex’s skills – in terms of strengths, weaknesses and what level of ball would be best for him. Alex was all set to attend as a camper and Bo was actually going to use him as a demonstrator during his lecture. Then, as fate would have it, a trip to the doctor’s office uncovered that the pain Alex had recently been experiencing was a sports hernia. He never made the trip and we never got to hear Bo’s opinion.

That was four years ago (how Alex has done will be a topic for a future post). In the meantime, what follows is a portion of the blog I did after Bo, who is one of the most genuine college coaches I’ve ever known, i.e. a man of his word, someone whose interview comments are real (meaning not subliminally intended for recruits) and someone who’s devoid of “coach speak,” led the Badgers to the first of two consecutive trips to the Final Four.

I met Bo Ryan in the summer of 1976 at the prestigious Five-Star Basketball Camp, held on the campus of Robert Morris College. He was a self-described regular guy (although even then, he was a highly successful high school coach) from Chester, PA who’d just been hired as an assistant coach at Wisconsin-Madison. After four years as a graduate assistant at three schools (Vermont, Washington State and Oregon), I was beginning as a full-time assistant at RMC. When the camp broke for lunch, the “other” college coaches headed off with friends in the profession they’d known. I remember Bo and I looking at each other, each with the feeling, “I guess you’re stuck with me.” We hit it off, just a couple of young guys, busting our butts, trying to get ahead in the business – along with nearly everybody else in the profession.

Over that lunch, and subsequent times we’d get together, he told me his dad had been a highly successful coach and was not only the one who had gotten him into coaching but his mentor. It was evident his role model in coaching – and life – was his dad whom I had the chance to meet at a coaches’ convention in a later year. He was exactly as his son had described him.

We got to know each other pretty well and would hang out together at other recruiting events in which we both attended. What always impressed, and kind of amazed, me about Bo was how humble he was. Here he was a Big Ten assistant and never did he flaunt his position. He’d always refer to himself – proudly – as a coach from Chester, PA. I remember when the Wisconsin job subsequently opened (by now, he’d moved from UW-Platteville to UW-Milwaukee where, in his only two seasons, he had produced back-to-back winning seasons from a moribund program). The Badgers wanted Wisconsin native Rick Majerus who was the head coach at the University of Utah – and had taken that program to, not only the Final Four, but to the championship game). Badger Nation was distraught when Rick turned the job down. It was then that the Badgers turned to their (distant) second choice.

I recall seeing former director of athletics at Miami (OH) and Minnesota, Joel Maturi, at the coaches’ convention shortly after Wisconsin hired Bo. Joel was a Wisconsin native (had been associate AD at the Madison campus prior to running the show at Miami) and he and I had become good friends. He remarked to me how happy he was for Bo. I looked at him and said, “Joel, you and I are two of a really small group who know how great a coach Wisconsin just got.” He smiled and concurred, both of us understanding that, soon enough, the rest of the world would soon find out what we knew at that moment.

I guess the old saying is true:

“Good things happen to good people.”