Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

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.”

 

 

Pulling Together Beats What We’ve Been Doing

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

So, the election ended and, lo and behold, the long shot pulled off a stunning victory. In what’s becoming more the trend than the exception, more than half the people in the country voted against both of the top two candidates, i.e. while the second place finisher (Hillary Clinton, in case you just returned from an early practice trip to Mars and hadn’t heard) lost the electoral vote, she pulled in more of the popular vote (the Dems have to stop using that strategy). However, because of goofball candidates gobbling up votes (if you think that’s an offensive statement, go to On Demand, assuming you’re a Comcast subscriber, and watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Season 3, Episode 26), Clinton’s camp also fell short of 50% of the ballots cast. This means that had either of the main characters in this reality show of an election won, more than half the country opposed them. Some mandate for an incoming prez.

The initial reaction has been disappointing. Clinton’s supporters are so shocked, they did what so many people in the same situation want to do. Revolt. Too many of these folks have already moved from stage one of grief to stage two – denial to anger. For the most part, Hillary Clinton’s backers were considered intelligent, at least educated – and I believe they are. It’s just that, when the person, or team, you’re pulling for is such an overwhelming favorite – and they lose – well, grief follows.

If only they would stop and think about a couple of topics. The first is – what would their reaction have been if, as expected, Clinton had won – and Trump’s supporters started protesting? Wouldn’t their feelings be, “Hey, our candidate won fair and square. It’s over. Deal with it and let’s move on!” Hopefully, they will get to stage five, acceptance, sooner rather than later. For the sake of the country, if nothing else.

The other core thought should be that Clinton did not lose because of the latest charges regarding her emails (which, by the way, the FBI cleared her of prior to Election Day). Consider all the outrageous statements he made that any sane person felt would have ended his chances almost before they began? Saturday Night Live skits in which “she” would ask, “Can we vote now?” because of his bullying rhetoric, such as attacking Gold Star parents, mocking a disabled man, insulting entire groups of people, i.e. voters, and, topping it off by objectifying women with such language that you’d think any woman – or man who had a wife, daughter, heck even a mother, would find deplorable. Then, just as the FBI’s 11th hour probe, a number of women came forth and accused Trump of sexual assault late in the campaign. Pause and take a breath, do you people still believe the FBI director was the major reason your candidate lost?

People voted more against the old for … change. Ironically, that’s exactly the platform our outgoing president campaigned on eight years ago. But the Republicans wouldn’t give him a chance. Why? Being black didn’t help. When people heard, immediately after the election, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell say, “My number one goal is to make sure he’s a one-term president,” race had to have been, at least, a part of it.

“No, Mitch, you’re number one goal is, or certainly ought to be, to represent the constituents of Kentucky.” Give the guy a chance! McConnell’s remark would be tantamount to a player who was a member of the school’s search committee for a new head coach, hearing the new hire was someone he did not want. After the press conference in which it was announced the coach signed a four-year contract, what would be the school’s and its boosters’ reactions be if the player publicly stated, “My number one goal is to make sure he doesn’t get renewed.”

People will claim that many of the changes President Obama wanted to enact would negatively impact the nation. Usually what that means is that the changes would negatively impact them. Really, when it comes down to it, don’t people vote for things that “follow their own personal agenda?” Maybe it’s a fatalistic approach but I’m not sure there exist that many magnanimous people out there. No president will ever be able to satisfy all the people and, as has always been the case, the loudest voices belong to the “anti’s.”

The prevailing position by many of those in the know is that the absurdities Trump spouted off during the campaign were said for one reason: to win! When asked about what they liked about candidate Trump, the average voter on the street would say, “He says things people think but don’t have the courage to say.” The message that rings loud and clear is, 0utside of not having a likeability or trust factor, is that there is a large segment of society that is tired about how politically correct the United States has become. Yet, when the rubber meets the road (as I blogged last Wednesday), there’s no way Trump can possibly put in place the borderline insane ideas he made during the race.

Since we’ve tried it the other way, i.e. divisive, why not try to unite? At my age I’m much more concerned about future generations than my own. Let’s make the best decisions for decades to come. Unfortunately, as a nation, we’re growing further and further apart. Our national motto seems to have been:

“I like hitting my head against the wall because it feels so good when I stop.”

 

I’m Back & Doing What I’m Told

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Don’t know how often I’ll be blogging – back issues have made sitting at a computer for an extended period of time nearly impossible. I took close to a two month hiatus, yet my site is still receiving hits on a daily basis. Apparently, there are some people who enjoy reading what I have to say/what my opinions are, so I’m returning. For a while anyway.

As far as the other part of the title of this post, the “doing what I’m told” refers today’s election. There are a plethora of important issues on the ballot – in addition to the presidential race – so every vote is vital. Overshadowing all of this is the one in four years that we are electing a “leader of the free world.”

There have been debates and television ads. In my opinion (and, seemingly, that of many others) the debates were more embarrassing than informative. In a previous blog I mentioned my proposal on how to improve the debates. While I truly believe my outlandish idea would make the debates infinitely more informative, and certainly much less of a mockery, I did nothing beyond simply blogging about it. To inform those who didn’t read it, or remind those who did, my plan was that each candidate was wired and, as soon as he or she 1) went off topic or, 2) more so, in this year’s case, when either mentioned, i.e. criticized the other’s name or plan (both efforts to deflect from answering the actual question), the moderator pushed a button which would send an electric shock to the speaker. Yeah, similar to a dog collar that’s used to correct your pet’s misbehavior. Although I didn’t put a clock on it but I’d wager that if this plan was implemented this year, each debate would have lasted about ten minutes!

Alas, those who had the ability to put this strategy into effect either decided against it or, more likely, weren’t alerted to it. Whenever I decide to vote, I take in as much information as I can and listen to the candidates’ philosophies. So, for this presidential election I’m “doing as told.” Yesterday’s TV ads – the ones each candidate could air and felt would have the greatest influence on us – by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – shared the identical message: here are reasons for you not to vote for my opponent. A couple guys running for Congress in California waged identical campaigns, each calling the other a criminal.

I’m someone who pays attention. I’m going to take in the information. Therefore, I will be voting for candidates running for other offices and will be placing a “yes” or “no” for other items on the ballot but, in good conscience refuse to have anything to do with placing any of those four “flawed” candidates into office. The message I got was loud and clear. DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS PERSON! Sure, I’ve heard from many people that “it’s my constitutional right to vote.” To that statement, my response is:

“It’s just as much my constitutional right not to vote.”

Is It Really an Advantage for a College Guy to Be the Olympic Basketball Coach?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Two-and-a-half week hiatus. Headed Down Under to visit younger son, Alex, and watch him play for a couple weeks in Darwin, Australia. Plane tickets? Check. Place to stay? Thanks to time share (for once, with no hassles), check. Rental car (remember, they drive on the other side of the road)? Check. House sitter? Check. See you around September 12.

Sure the USA won the gold medal in men’s basketball for the past three Olympics – which is what the goal was after coming home bronzed in 2004 but, in this country, we need some controversy. Talk TV and radio wouldn’t exist without somebody bitching – about success as well as failure.

So was it an advantage for Mike Krzyzewski to coach the Olympic team for the past three Games? Of course. But, it wasn’t like he was begging for the job. Jerry Colangelo sought out Coach K for a reason. Looks like Jerry knew what he was doing. Could Colangelo have selected another coach who could have produced three golds? Maybe, maybe not and that’s a question we’ll never know. OK, probably, but let’s analyze the positives and negatives of being the Olympic coach.

Number one positive for a college coach is recruiting. “Hey, young fella, how would you like to play for our Olympic coach?” is a pretty nice entree into a prospect’s home. Something no other school can say. Of course, this is assuming THE USA WINS! Can you imagine what rival coaches would say if the we lost? Really, they wouldn’t have to say much because the talking heads would be slaughtering the poor guy enough for everybody. Some might consider coaching NBA players a plus but, then again, have they forgotten all that was said and written about the joys of having Boogie Cousins and Carmelo Anthony on a squad? Well, we could ask their coaches. Each can be found in the unemployment line.

How about the money and first class travel and accommodations that go along with being the head man? OK, not the money (although there’s certainly a book deal in the future – oh yeah, he’s already done that) but the perks? Check what Coach K makes from Duke, Nike, other endorsements. With what he’s pulling in, he could own his own plane and hotel if he wanted. And Rio? If he asked Micki where her dream vacay would be, does Rio even medal?

Mike Krzyzewski is no fool. He knew the recruiting advantage that he and Duke would get with the job. Just as he knew the pressure that came along with it. As well as the time commitment. Which was added to the pressure and time commitment his “regular” job brought.Duke’s freshman orientation starts today. Nice break from the grind. Don’t forget, it’s not like for the past 12 years he only thinks about his “part-time” job in the summer.

Some people may scoff when he speaks of the duty to his country and the honor he feels as its head coach. Yet, one thing that can be said for him is that, when it comes to patriotism, he has a decent track record of walking the walk. I always told my kids that college would be the best four years of their lives. Not so at West Point, or any of the military academies. Their goal isn’t to produce graduates like other schools. Their mission is to turn out leaders. So, as far as taking classes, hanging out at the student union in between them, going to parties and enjoying a great social life – which is what “normal” college kids experience – well, that doesn’t quite happen at the academies.

Early wake up calls, marching (double timing for plebes), being continuously screamed at (in the name of leadership or seeing who can handle it and who will crack under the pressure), falling asleep studying at your dorm desk at night? Heck, fours years of playing basketball for Bob Knight must have been considered recreation. Then, there’s the military commitment of five years after graduation. Anyone who knows Mike Krzyzewski, or has heard him speak, understands what West Point and this country mean to him. Does anybody think the underlying reason he accepted the job was for recruiting? He certainly knew the residual benefit he would get from being the Olympic head coach and rubbing elbows with the best of the best (except for this year). But don’t think for a minute this job was a cakewalk. This year’s pool play results – and the criticism that followed (“Is Coach K the right coach for this Olympic team?“) – would be enough to question why somebody would undertake such a thankless position.

So, for the guys who are espousing the unfairness of it all, rest assured it’s over. Gregg Popovich is the next coach and, if the rumors are true, Doc Rivers after that. Which means one thing:

“The critics will have to find something else to complain about.”

Too Bad the Olympic Games Don’t Have More of an Effect on Us

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Is it because the Olympics happen only once every four years or could people competing get along all the time? Or maybe just most of it? It’s been a wonderful couple weeks watching athletes who practiced for four years (many of them longer) actually congratulate others in the same event who just beat them – dashing their dreams, the ones they had envisioned for . . . ever?

No one likes a loser, yet during the Olympic Games, doesn’t everybody find it reassuring that other competitors or the athletes’ own coaches can console gymnasts who fell off the balance beam, divers who hit the board on their final attempt, long and high jumpers who fouled on their last try (putting an end to all chances, not only for gold, but for any medal), thus exhibiting what so many of us are, or at least, used to be thinking (“There but for the grace of God, go I”)?

Maybe I’m just from another generation and don’t appreciate how so many Americans seem to interact with each other today. Or maybe trash talking and self-aggrandizement ought to be the proper reactions for competitors to exhibit. After all, what kind of world would it be if people who trained hard at their crafts also displayed compassion for others who’ve done the same? Certainly in the areas of athletics and politics.

Then again, have no fear, those of you who think I’m from a different time (or planet) – because, even though her own teammates have distance themselves from her, you people of “today” will always have hope:

“As in Hope Solo.”

 

Note to the Four USA Swimmers

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Apologies to readers who checked in and saw no new post. Had an early morning appointment at Stanford Pain Management and needed to get to bed early. Appointment was scheduled for 9:30 am, left my house a little before 6:00 am and, due to traffic and accidents, the three-hour trip turned into me not showing up until 9:35 am. Did have the foresight to call ahead and warn them of the situation because they’re always on time and expect patients to be too.

By now, the debacle created by Ryan Lochte and a few of his fellow swimmers is quite well known. The following are several useful quotes – and who they are credited to (with more to share) – for the boys:

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.” Walter Scott

“Always tell the truth; then there’s not much to keep track of.” Mark Twain

“Nothing good ever happens after midnight.” Nearly everyone who’s ever coached

“Better to keep your mouth shut and have everyone think you’re a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“While some people think being accountable is a hard thing to do, it’s still the right thing to do.” Bobby Unser

“The night air is poison.” Jerry Tarkanian

“Always tell the truth.  Then you’ll never have to remember what you said the last time.” Sam Rayburn

“Before you open your mouth to speak, make sure what you have to say is an improvement on the silence.” John Savage

“A good name is the most important thing you can achieve in this world.” Harry Kraft, father of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots

“When you’re in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging.” Will Rogers

“Ethics is about character and courage and how to meet the challenge when doing right will cost more than we want to pay.” Michael Josephson

“Crisis builds character; it also identifies it.” Many people, originator unknown

“Better to keep your mouth shut and have everyone think you’re a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln

“You thought you were a law unto yourself. Athletes get that way. All the adulation, the publicity, the hype. You get a false sense of your own importance. It’s called ‘How dare you turn me down?! Don’t you know who I am?!’ ” Jim Murray on Mike Tyson, LA Times, 7/3/97

“Becoming successful may mean you have to do things other people don’t do.  Being a responsible individual is one of them.” Bobby Unser

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” John Wooden

“When you make a mistake: 1) admit it 2) correct it 3) learn from it 4) don’t dwell on it 5) don’t repeat it.” Bill Parcells

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.” Jewish proverb

And those are just a few. Maybe the most appropriate one is the quote uttered satirist Elbert Hubbard:

“Everyone is a damn fool for five minutes a day.  Wisdom consists of not exceeding that.”

 

 

 

 

What If the Olympics Were Like Politics?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Imagine Michael Phelps in position to begin his race, or Usain Bolt in his blocks waiting for the starter’s pistol, or Simone Biles about to take off for a vault – and as they were about to start, rather than actually perform their event, they instead set their mouths in motion, spewing nasty comments about each of their opponents, saving the best quips (independent of whether or not they were true) for their closest competitor.

“Do you know how poorly my opponent swam in his last meet? He was a joke. Why is he even out here?”

“I’m the fastest person on earth and I don’t understand how anyone can think differently. How can anybody even consider giving that title to a person who has next to no (sprinting) experience?”

Isn’t it great that actual performance is how the winners are chosen?

Well, what about the events that aren’t measured – like gymnastics, diving and boxing? How awful would the Olympics be if the people who voted for the winner has to do so based on negative blather and insults?

“By now, it ought to be oh-so-obvious that no one can touch me in anything that has to do with gymnastics. To my opponents, I say to you, ‘Don’t even waste our time with your dumb ass routines.’ People know who the best is.”

“Did you see that last dive? Sad effort. The country should be frightened if the judges were to, somehow, choose my opponent over me. It’s readily apparent his lack of experience will doom the entire Olympic Games. Basically, he’s not trustworthy.”

Naturally, choosing a politician to lead our cities, states, country isn’t based on 10 seconds, several minutes or routines over a few days. Because of the competition among news sources (being first trumps – no pun intended – being right) and the irresponsibility and complete disregard for factual information on social media, combined with the general feeling of so many citizens that their lives, to use the most popular word in today’s vernacular, suck, the majority of information the public receives is of personal flaws of the politicians.

Is everybody in politics unfit for office? We can’t have grown so cynical to, deep down, believe that. There most likely are people who would enjoy serving who are qualified and have no skeletons but, in today’s world, political strategists will dig up (or make up) something to cast negativity on a candidate. Even with that, there are people who would run because they feel they can make a positive difference and can handle personal attacks. Yet, they choose not to run because they refuse to subject their families to such vile intrusions.

The Olympics is about realizing dreams, so maybe the motto for political elections ought to be:

“We can dream, can’t we?”