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BACK ISSUES - JAN & FEB 2000
February 29- "Fame is fleeting. I planned to stay at West Virginia the rest of my life until I saw how people treated me when we were losing. If you get a better opportunity, take it." Bobby Bowden
Question Number One: Any coaches with a birthday today? Question Number Two: What Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was based on a story about a young man who, now that he is 21 rejoices because he is freed from a bondage contract. Not so fast, his masters tell him. Since he was born on Leap Year Day, he's "only five - and a little bit over?"
The Arena League, which provided amusement for fans who enjoyed that sort of thing, and part-time employment for a couple hundred young football players - not to mention a shot at repeating the Kurt Warner story - has voted to cancel its season this year. Faced with a lawsuit by a group of six players claiming that the League restricts their salaries and their ability to offer their services to competitors, the league owners decided against going ahead with their already-risky venture. It is amazing that a handful of players, given an opportunity to make a few bucks continuing to play a game, plus a chance - admittedly a slim one - of moving up the pro ladder, would risk everything by trying to put the squeeze on their employers. Why can't I picture many NFL owners taking a chance on any of these guys? Well, now that they will have some spare time, maybe they can do some reading - I recommend The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.
Last week's Sports Illustrated - the one with Vince Carter jammin' on the cover- ends with the usual great Rick Reilly column on the back page. This one deals with the youth sports folks in Jupiter, Florida, trying to stem outrageous conduct by adults by insisting that all parents agree to abide by a code of ethics before their kids can play a sport. Parents must sign a paper that states such things as, "I will remember that the game is for youth - not adults," and "I will do my very best to make youth sports fun for my child." If they violate the code, they'll be banned for a year. (We'll see.) Reilly would expand the code to include such things as curbing their wild ambitions for their kids: "I'll keep in mind, in case I hadn't noticed, my kid isn't related to the Griffeys." You'll have to read his suggestions for yourself, but my favorite is, "I won't dump my kid out of the Lexus 20 minutes late to practice and then honk the horn when I pick him up 20 minutes early, as though the coach is some kind of hourly nanny service. If my kid has to miss a game, I'll call the day before. It doesn't cost any more to be decent."
The next town to the west of us is Vancouver, Washington. I lived and coached there for years and our kids all went to high school there. Last Friday, one of my favorite people was in Vancouver - and I missed him! Jimmy Dean, sausage tycoon and former country singer, was in town for the chistening of his yacht, built right in Vancouver. Twenty-six months in the building, the 165-foot long "Big Bad John" (named for Dean's megahit song of the early 1960's), will depart tomorrow for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it will be delivered to Dean and his wife, country singer Donna Mead. A little partying followed the christening, including a rendition of "Big Bad John" by the man himself, with his wife accompanying him on the grand piano in the boat's main salon. Although a fillup will be costly - the yacht's fuel tanks hold 10,000 gallons of diesel - Dean refused to say how much the boat cost. But he wasn't lordly about it like J. P. Morgan, who once said, "If you have to ask how much it costs... you can't afford one." Dean, the cowboy, was much more matter-of-fact. "I didn't get this boat to be braggadocious," he said. "I got this boat 'cause I love the water."
This is a story about human dignity. We hear a lot these days about respect, but rarely about dignity. Pity the poor word respect - it sometimes seems as if it's only used in connection with a drive-by shooting in which the victim "dissed" (disrespected) somebody, or with a professional athlete's holdout, because he hasn't been given his "props" (he wants more money). The word respect itself is in danger of being trashed. Maybe what we should be talking about a lot more is "dignity" - nobility, bearing, self-respect. Dignity isn't conferred by others. Dignity comes from within. (Take a look at the antics of most professional athletes and ask yourself how often the word "dignity" comes to mind.) What's a man's dignity worth, anyhow? In the case of a man named Preston King - a lot. Back in 1961, Mr. King,, thanks to a draft deferment, was studying for his master's degree at the London School of Economics. But when he applied for a continuation of his deferment so he could get his doctorate, his draft board back in Albany, Georgia, said "nothing doing." So he decided to appeal in person. That, he told columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., of the Miami Herald, was his mistake. From the moment the draft board saw him and realized he was black (not, in view of the fact that he had been studying abroad, something that would have occured to a group of small-town southerners in 1961), their treatment of him changed. First of all, he was ordered to report immediately for his army physical. But of far more significance to Mr. King, he was no longer referred to as "Mr. King," as he had been in all his correspondence up to then. Instead, they began calling him "Preston." Now today, when perfect strangers routinely assume they have the right to address you by your first name, it may be hard for people to understand the problem. But this was the South of the 1960's, where black people were constantly reminded, in countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that they were worth less than whites. And one way in which blacks were reminded of "their place" in the South of that time was by being denied terms of dignity and respect - Mr., or Mrs., or even Dr. - and being called, no matter their age or station in life, by their first names. But Preston King had been living in London, and he wasn't about to accept second-class treatment back in America. He told his draft board that unless he was addressed properly, he would refuse to report. "If I'm good enough to be called Private King, Sergeant King, Corporal King," he told them, "then I'm good enough to be called Mister King." When the board did not bend, Mr. King did not report. Convicted of draft evasion, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail. Instead, he escaped to Europe, where he has lived ever since. Now 63, he was pardoned last Monday by President Clinton so he could return to Georgia, after nearly 40 years in exile, to attend the funeral of a relative. His request for the pardon was supported by the judge who originally sentenced him. Said the judge, now in his nineties, "He has paid a high price." He has, indeed. He paid it because he knew what his dignity was worth.
People been trying to hook you with e-mail about their "Millinium Giveaway?" With all the fuss over it, you'd have thought that they'd know the spelling of "Millennium" by now. (Two L's, two M's, two N's)
February 28- "You can go out with a good passing game and an average running game and you can upset anybody, but we believe it is hard to win nine, ten or eleven games with the greatest part of your emphasis on the passing game unless you have very superior personnel to the people you are playing." Tom Osborne
Boy, am I steamed! Anybody who lives on the wrong side of the river across from a bigger city - in Brooklyn, or Camden, New Jersey, or East St. Louis, Illinois - will understand. I live in Camas, WASHINGTON, across the river from Portland, Oregon in a state that seldom even exists, judging by Portland television or the Portland newspaper (which is even called "The Oregonian"). Most of the time, I grit my teeth and take it. But now I have to dig in. Tonya Harding was arrested last week. In MY town. She was hauled into police headquarters. In MY town. And do you know what USA Today reported? Tonya Harding was arrested in Camas, OREGON.
"The first thing we start out trying to do is to get some type of philosophy or general theory of offense. I think this is something that we may neglect a little bit. I think a head coach assumes that his line coach and his backfield coach, his receivers coach or whatever coaches he has to work with, think exactly as he does. Especially in terms of how we are going to move the football. But when you sit down and begin to talk and analyze and try to put a few things down in writing, you may find the line coach wants to run the football, the receivers coach wants to throw the football and the head coach wants to use gimmick plays, etc. I think it is really important for the staff to spend time in developing a particular philosophy you are going to follow. From that philosophy should spring the type of offense you decide to use and the type of plays you select and how you go about the whole thing." Tom Osborne, 1976
Fr. Jim Sinnerud, a football coach in Omaha who happens also to be a Jesuit priest, sent me a copy of a political cartoon: In caption one, a priest kneels in prayer and says, "All this technology has made us feel so remote, so disconnected, so devoid of human contact. Life seems so impersonal lately..." In caption two comes his response from above: "If you want to report a sinner, press 1. If you've had trouble with an angel, press 2. If your scripture is garbled, press 3. If you want absolution, press 4..."
Sent to me by my old buddy, Don Capaldo, in Keokuk, Iowa: One day in heaven, the Lord decided He would visit the earth and take a stroll. Walking down the road, He encountered a man who was crying. The Lord asked the man, "Why are you crying, my son?" The man said that he was blind and had never seen a sunset. The Lord touched the man who could then see and was happy. As the Lord walked further, He met another man crying and asked, "Why are you crying, my son?" The man was born a cripple and was never able to walk. The Lord touched him and he could walk and he was happy. Farther down the road, the Lord met another man who was crying and asked, "Why are you crying, my son?" The man said, "Lord, I work for the school system." .....and the Lord sat down and cried with him.
Wow! Coach John Torres in LA passes along some info that I hadn't seen: "As I was on the flight back home I read where the recently deceased Defensive End Derrick Thomas, of the Kansas City Chiefs did not have a will and his mother is fighting to control his estate. The problem ,you see, is that he has 6 children with 5 different mothers! Like the lovely Mrs. T said, the poor lady will end up with nothing after taxes and the "mothers" get their share."
February 26- "It will steady the boys to know that I am with them." Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., insisting, against his commander's wishes, on landing with his men in the first wave of invading U.S. troops on Utah Beach, June 6, 1944 (D-Day). He was subsequently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor in the D-Day invasion.
Teammates Eldredge Recasner and Derrick Coleman of the Charlotte Hornets were in an automobile accident back in October. Coleman, who was driving, escaped serious injury, but Recasner suffered a concussion, a collapsed lung, and a fractured shoulder, causing But he should have been found guilty of something - he never visited his teammate in the hospital, and didn't even so much as call him for more than a week after the accident. Coleman still insists that he's waiting to talk with Recasner until the time and place are right. Recasner says it's too late. "If I gave you a ride somewhere," he told the Winston-Salem Journal, "and, bam, you're in the hospital with a collapsed lung, broken collarbone, concussion, I'd want to say, 'Man, I'm sorry, man, are you going to be all right? Is there anything I can do?'"
Used to be you had to die first. Or at least retire. But today, the University of Arizona will officially name the basketball floor in McKale Center the Lute Olson Court. Coach Lute Olson, highly deserving of whatever honors the University chooses to bestow on him, is nevertheless very much alive, and, I'm sure, has every intention coaching the Wildcats Saturday, on that very floor.
"I didn't think it was that big of a deal." St. Louis Cardinal Ray Lankford, on showing up a day late for spring practice.
Here was the question: in 1964, Tom Landry was given a 10-year contract. Over the next eight years, five other NFL head coaches would be given contracts at least as long as Coach Landry's. Yet of the six given such lengthy contracts, only Coach Landry made it to the end. In fact, all of the other five were gone before five years were up on their contracts. One of them lasted less than two seasons. Can you name the other five coaches besides Tom Landry, if I spot you their teams? (Eagles, Giants, Broncos, Oilers, Chiefs).
Here is the answer: Eagles- Joe Kuharich - given 15 years by owner Jerry Wolman, he was let go after four years when Leonard Tose bought the team from Wolman, even though Tose had to pay off the remaining 11 years....Giants - Allie Sherman - given a 10-year contract, but fired during training camp before the start of his fifth year; Broncos - Lou Saban - given 10 years as head coach and GM; quit part way through his fifth season....Oilers - Bill Peterson - given 10 years; fired part way into his second year.... Chiefs - Hank Stram - given 10 years; fired after three.
Our town park used to have a great slide, which my grandkids loved. It was solid metal with a stainless steel slide, and it had to be 12 feet to the top of the ladder. It sometimes took a little coaxing the first time, but they all learned to overcome their initial wariness and climb to the top. Then they'd come down a hellin', squealing with delight. And immediately race around to the bottom of the ladder to climb up again. Not any more, though. The town fathers have seen to that. They're going to protect my grandchildren. They've torn down that nasty dangerous ole metal thing, and replaced it with one of those goofy red, blue and yellow plastic deals with a corkscrew slide that might start five feet off the ground. Check it out where you live. It's happening to playgrounds all over America. And we all know why. Look around every corner, and there's somebody else just itching to protect us from life; in this "Nanny Nation" of ours, there's no telling which direction the opposition is going to come at us from. That's why it's great to get a scouting report. There's a cool web site - www.guestchoice.com - that does the scouting for us, keeping track of all the nannies in our culture who want to make sure we finish all our vegetables and dress warmly. They even give a "Nanny of the Year" Award, which in 1999 went to Neal Barnard, head of the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, who has been demanding a federal lawsuit against the meat industry and fast-food restaurants, similar to the one against "Big Tobacco". In 1998 it went to Yale professor Kelly Brownell, who has been calling for a special tax on high-calorie food (ridiculed as the "twinkie tax"). Others mentioned were Robert Cohen, who has urged kids on the Internet to dump milk on the cafeteria floor and spray paint "Not milk!" on buildings; the South Dakota House of Representatives, which considered a bill that would have made it felony child abuse for a pregnant woman to order a glass of wine in a restaurant without a doctor's prescription; The National Institute of Health , which by redefining the "Body Mass Index," instantly made 33 million Americans "overweight"; The U.S. Department of Transportation, which ordered commercial airlines to create "peanut-free buffer zones" to protect peanut-allergy sufferers, even though it acknowledged that a person must actually eat a peanut in order to suffer an allergic reaction; The Dallas Morning News, which warned Americans about the dangers of generous portions in restaurants: "When eating out, resist the temptation to eat everything on your plate. Restaurants are notorious for serving too much food"; The Nation Magazine, which ran an exposé of the "soda barons" who are trying to hook our young people on "the new drug of choice" &emdash; caffeine; the Arizona legislature, which made it illegal for anyone - even an adult - to possess tobacco in any form, at any time, on any school campus; Carnival Cruise Lines, which actually threw a passenger off their smoke-free ship "Paradise" (presumably it was docked at the time) merely for possessing tobacco; Action on Smoking and Health, which ran a "Halloween body count" campaign claiming - without any evidence - that "smoking parents kill their own children" with second-hand smoke, and predicting that 15 kids would die on Halloween night - and every other night as well, "including Thanksgiving and Christmas"; MADD Board Member Ralph Hingson, who claimed that a lower drunk-driving arrest threshold would save 500 lives a year, a claim that the entire U.S. Department of Transportation has been unable to prove despite 15 years of research; the Rolling Meadows, Illinois Health Department, which required its 22,000 citizens to place vehicle registration stickers with an anti-smoking message on their windshields, regardless of whether they agreed with the message; Mothers Against Drunk Driving again, this time taking their fight from the highways to the golf course, by attempting to ban beer at a new golf club in Arlington, Texas; Elliot Katz , who has been promoting the "legal rights for animals movement," and the concept of granting human rights to animals (better watch what you say to your dog when you tell him to get off the couch). There's more. Check it out. Good site.
February 25 - "When the other fellow has a thousand dollars and you have a dime is the time to gamble." Fritz Crisler, of Michigan
A coach happened to mention something about needing to get hold of a college coach somewhere, and I started to look in my Blue Book when it occured to me - why don't I just tell him to click on the Blue Book ad at the top of my page? If you've never seen it, the Blue Book of College Athletics is the directory - it lists essential data about every college and junior college in the US, every conference, every coaches' association. Under each college and juco are listed the names of the coaches of every sport, their addresses and their office phone numbers. It could be very useful to you when you have a kid you're trying to place. In fact, in this day and age of aggressive parents wanting to market their own kids, it might take some unnecessary and unwanted heat off of you if you were to tell them about the Blue Book and how they they can get their own copy!
Two NFL players are charged with murder, and an NHL hockey player narrowly missed becoming an axe murderer; Darryl Strawberry has tested negative for cocaine, demonstrating once again what a powerful hold a narcotic drug can have, even on a person with every reason not to use it; you can't read an article about an athlete without wondering when you'll get to the part about the five-year-old that he fathered back in high school. Or junior high. Or pre-school. Talk about the degeneracy of our culture. And now, of all things, at the University of Colorado, the basketball players are - praying! At the end of every practice! Now, we may not be able to stop the murders,, the assaults, the drug abuse or the illegitimacy, but we just may be able to stop those prayers, because - thank the Lord - the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, is on guard against them. The ACLU's Boulder, Colorado chapter (can there be a more liberal organization in the world than the Boulder chapter of the ACLU?) is up in arms over coach Ricardo Patton's kneeling in prayer with his players and assistants when practice is over. Colorado is a tough university and Boulder is a tough town when it comes to prayer. Back in 1984, disturbed by the openly-religious conduct of football coach Bill McCartney - who has since gone on to work with Promise Keepers, a Christian organization which he started - the ACLU extracted from the University a set of guidelines within which its coaches are expected to operate. Coach Patton, in the opinion of the ACLU, has strayed from those guidelines, one of which stipulates, "Coaches should not organize or conduct religious activities, including promotion of prayer or Bible readings by players or coaches." Patton denies that he has promoted prayer or Bible readings, emphasizing that the prayer is voluntary. Football coach Gary Barnett admits that his team prays, too: "A team has needs, and a team needs prayer," Coach Barnett told the Denver Post. "It's been my experience that players are spiritual people because of the extreme lives they lead. But I have never seen a coach lead a prayer. It's like a study table. Not everybody has to participate and not everybody does." Coach Patton , meanwhile, sounds unrepentant. "I think it's a sad world when a person wants some discipline taken against someone who chooses to pray," he told the Post. "I will always pray for what I believe in." This is not the first time that Coach Patton has come to the attention of the ACLU. The first time was almost three years ago, in March 1997, when someone's sharp eyes picked up a mention of the team's religious activities in a school publication. This most recent complaint came after the ACLU was notified by an unidentified person who regularly watched practices. No doubt waiting for the praying to start.
Two kids were shot and killed at a high school basketball game in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago. Since then, while police search for the murderers, spectators at high school games in the District have been limited to students of the schools involved and parents of the players.
Coach Homer Smith, considered to be one of the finest offensive minds in the game, is normally thought of in connection with the passing game. But a few questions that have come up since I mentioned the Wishbone a few days ago brought him to mind. That's because, back when I decided that it might be fun to run the 'bone, my two main resources were Darrell Royal's 16mm film, which did a great job of making the concepts clear, and a book entitled "Installing Football's Wishbone T Attack," by Pepper Rogers and Homer Smith. Coach Rogers was head coach at Georgia Tech at the time, and Coach Smith was head coach at Army, but it was while they worked together at UCLA - coach Smith as coach Rogers' offensive coordinator - that they developed their high-powered version of the Wishbone that inspired the book. If you want to learn enough about the Wishbone tobe able to run it or defend it, or if you just want a great book for your library, I highly recommend it. By the way, their most famous Wishbone QB at UCLA - and he was a very, very good one - was Mark Harmon, much better known now as an actor. (He came by his athletic and acting talent naturally: his dad, the late Tom Harmon, earned All-America fame as "Harmon of Michigan" or "Old Number 98," one of the greatest single-wing tailbacks in the history of the game; his mom, Elise, was an actress before marrying Tom. His sister, Kristin, was married to the late rock star Ricky Nelson, one of the children of the famous "Ozzie and Harriet." And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say. )
I quoted Coach Glenn Killinger yesterday. Coach Killinger, an All-American at Penn State, was a great football coach at West Chester. There, at a school which has long been known for its PE program, Coach Killinger sent as many young men out to become coaches themselves as anyone I'm aware of. Eaastern Pennsylvania has always been loaded with high school coaches who got their training at West Chester. One who got away was Pete Smolin, now head coach at Glendale, California - where this year's LA Double-Wing Clinic will be held - and after seeing Coach Killinger's quote, he wrote to tell me about some of the West Chster guys in the pros right now. \ In return, mentioned Joe Senser, but Pete had only vaguely heard of him. Joe played tight end for the Vikings. He was a good one. He must have been a good person, too, because he was Minnesota's entry on one of those NFL-United Way ads - and you can be sure they're not going to pick a guy for one of those spots who could later wind up embarrassing the league and the charity it supports. Joe Senser went to West Chester from the Milton S. Hershey School, a free instituion established by the estate of the chocolate baron to take care of young Pennsylvanians who either have no family, or no family capable of taking care of them.
February 24 - "Success in the game of football depends primarily on skill in handling the ball, and skill in handling the body." Glenn Killinger, long-time football and baseball coach at West Chester (Pennsylvania) State Teachers College, now West Chester University.
Do I live in a great town or what? Fellow Camas resident Tonya Harding (actually, she lives in the sticks outside of town, but there goes the neighborhood all the same) was arrested by Camas police yesterday when they responded to complaints from her live-in boyfriend that she assaulted him by, among other things, throwing a hub cap at him. I suspect he may be a wimp. Stay tuned. Maybe I'll go over to the police station to see her arraigned this morning. And ask for her autograph.
Thank God there are no more sick kids. Just joking, unfortunately. But it used to be that when word got out in a community that a child was seriously ill and the parents couldn't afford to pay the medical bills, people pitched in to help. They threw their change into large jars on the counters at local businesses. Maybe held a benefit basketball game. It pulled a community closer, as people realized that there but for the grace of God went their child or grandchild - their little brother or sister. But evidently we've taken care of all those sick kids, because now what we get is pleas for money so that members of elite travelling teams - soccer, hockey, basketball usually - can go to Russia, or China, or some exotic place most members of the community will never visit - courtesy of a generous community. The fund raising approaches begging in its shamelessness. A local paper ran a picture recently of a little kid who has been "invited" (why do I think the "invitation" came from a tour promoter?) to play in a tournament in a faraway land. We're told that the kid is going to be an "ambassador." Sure. Maybe get the Israelis and Palestinians together. Oh, yes. I almost forgot - It's going to cost $4,500 to send this ambassador to the tournament, and the kid and the parents are asking for "community support." I'm thinking of holding a bake sale myself. (Do the math here. According to the article, there are 35 other US teams going. To this one tournament. Hmm. That's 35 teams, times some 10-15 players per team, times $4500 a kid. My hat is certainly off to those tour promoters!) I know, I know. The community could do a lot of good locally with that kind of money. We're talking about more money than most football coaches get to spend in a year - equipping an entire team. Yes, it's a lot of money for just one kid. But, hey - this is America - our kids can have everything they want! And this kid wants to go! Now, then - how much shall I put you down for?
I read an article recently about the way males still dominate the coaching ranks in girls' high school basketball. One great difference in the way the two sexes can approach coaching was described by a female coach: early in the season, she came to the conclusion that her girls just weren't tough enough. So that afternoon at practice, she told the girls that to develop toughness, they were going to wrestle one another. With that, she singled out one girl and took her to the floor, where they wrestled as the team watched. "I don't think a man could get away with doing something like that," she said, in the understatement of the year. Not with a girl - or with a boy, either.
"Ban negative political ads? They ought to ban all the positive ads. That's where all the lies are." My favorite comedian, Mark Russell
"We used to wear heavy woolen jerseys that would shrink when you perspired. The sleeves would tighten up on your arms so that you could almost feel your circulation getting strangled. I didn't have the freedom with my elbows and wrists that I wanted. In one game, I got so angry at those doggoned sleeves that I tore 'em off. Then everybody followed suit, especially the centers, and, yes, that's how short-sleeved jerseys came into football." Alex Wojciechowicz (Pronounced "Waw-ja-HOE-wix" by the radio announcers of my youth) who was the center on Fordham's famed Seven Blocks of Granite, with guard Vince Lombardi to his right. From Fordham, "Wojie" went on to become an All-Pro center with the Philadelphia Eagles. (From "The Game That Was," by Myron Cope, 1970, World Publishing Company)
From time to time, I go off on the inequities that are practiced against males in order to correct perceived inequities against women. Somebody has to and the politicians certainly won't. By now, you know the old line - every couple of months you'll read in the paper that your state university still has not achieved gender equity. And while a well-meaning but ignorant public gasps in disbelief that in this day and age colleges could still be relegating women to second-class status, few read on to find out what's actually being said: if 51.3 per cent of the student body is female, then a school won't have achieved full "gender equity", the feminists tell us, until 51.3 per cent of its athletes are female. And that's scholarship athletes - regardless of their interests, regardless of their skills, regardless of the revenues or goodwill they generate for their institution. After all, this is America, and Title IX is the law, so we're going to achieve gender equity even if it means having to go to Sweden or Canada to find the female athletes to achieve it. (Somehow, I wasn't aware that American colleges had been practicing discrimination against Swedish women.) And if we can't find enough interested females, or we don't have the money to provide another sport - no problem. King Solomon himself, who once proposed settling a child custody battle by cutting the baby in half, couldn't have done any better than those schools that have evened up athletic opportunities, not by adding women's sports, but by eliminating men's sports. I am opposed to requiring schools to automatically pay the women's basketball coach (male or female) the same as the men's basketball coach until the pressures on them are equal - Tennessee and UConn sound like possibilities. I believe that all school sports can be valuable to their participants, but it is obvious that some sports have a value to the school and the community far beyond their value just to the participants. Football comes immediately to mind, and so I do not believe that when the entire student body fills a gymnasium for a pep rally on the day of a football game, it should be necessary for the school to provide equal time for a pep rally for a girls' sport. I am tired of gender equity being practiced on the sports page, where it seems to me a sport should be covered at least somewhat in proportion to the interest people show by attending its games. It 's fair to say that if there aren't many people at a game, there probably aren't a whole lot more who are going to want to grab the sports section and read about it. Okay, okay. It took me a long time to get around to it, but having said all that, I don't question the need or desireability of strong women's sports programs. Women's sports are beneficial, and I'm glad that girls nowadays have a chance to participate in a wide variety of athletic activities. My wife played tennis and field hockey, and our three daughters participated, at various times, in basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and track. Their coaches made lasting impressions on them that few classroom teachers did. Their athletic experiences no doubt have influenced the way they raise their own sons and daughters. And so I was kind of shocked to read that in the year 2000, somebody is still trying to make money with a blatant appeal to the dumb blonde, boy crazy stereotype that girls' sports have done so much to eradicate. If you've got young daughters, be on the lookout for a new line of trading cards, called "Boy Crazy!" The cards - 363 for a full set, $3 for a pack of nine - feature photos of young men, aged 12 to 22, who were "discovered" by "scouts" at malls around the country (Malls! Wouldn't you know it? Wonder why they didn't try athletic fields or gyms?). The boys' "stats" include such things as their sign of the zodiac, their age (I'm sure if I had a 13-year-old daughter I'd really want her drooling over some 22-year-old mall rat),, and, of course, what they look for in a girl. There is also a web site that goes with the cards (www.boycrazy.com - I have NO intentions of visiting it) where girls will be encouraged to vote for a "Boy of the Week." The Boy Crazy! people claim 47,000 girls visited the site in its first month, even before the cards were released.
February 23 - "To win consistently you must run the football and run it well." Barry Switzer
CLINIC NEWS: For the second year in a row, Coach Pete Smolin at Glendale High will host the Los Angeles Double-Wing clinic, to be held on Saturday, May 6.
The hockey world - the entire sports world - is aghast at the vicious, cowardly slashing attack by the Boston Bruins' Marty McSorley on the Vancouver Canucks' Donald Brashear. I personally think that criminal charges are called for when a player deliberately attacks another with a weapon. If it's something that just happens, and players simply can't restrain themselves, then I have to wonder why we don't see more football players kicking guys who are down. Meanwhile, a Pee Wee Goodwill Tournament held in Portland this past weekend was drained of much of its goodwill by a Seattle youngstr's two-handed swinging stick attack that temporarily paralyzed a young Russian skater. Before a great game is ruined, maybe somebody should try rubber sticks.
Wide Receiver Andre Rison was arrested in Kansas City and charged with theft of $1,100 of audio equipment, which he rented and allegedly failed to return. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that the guy's innocent. Why would anyone making what he makes engage in such petty theft? Knowing the average professional athlete's sense of entitlement, I'm betting Rison truly believed that the equipment was actually a gift from the store owners, grateful little people overcome by the thrill of being used by a real pro football player.
At the heart of the abortion controversy is the question in some peoples' minds as to whether an unborn child is, in fact, a living human being. But there can be hardly be any such debate over a newborn baby. Yet young people seem to be increasingly willing to abandon or destroy children that they brought into this world, rather than let the responsibility of raising it interfere with their lifestyle, such as it is. So great is the stealth with which such babies are dispensed with that it is impossible to say how many newborns are murdered every year, or how many others are abandoned by "parents" unwilling to take responsibility for their creations; but according to a US News and World Report article, in one 10-month period in the Houston area alone, 13 babies were abandoned. And since none of our leaders seems willing to step up and take on the alley-cat morals of certain young Americans of breeding age, and since dispensing of condoms in public schools seems not to be the answer, state legislatures are taking steps to make it easier for young women to leave their newborns at hospitals - no questions asked. Presumably, they will be free to continue breeding. Texas has even gone so far as to erect billboards directed at unmarried pregnant girls, urging them, "DON'T ABANDON YOUR BABY!" How about "IF ALL HE WANTS TO DO IS MAKE A CHILD --- ADANDON HIM!"
Coach John Chaney of Temple has his usual tough basketball team this year. In case nobody has heard, Temple beat Number One Cincinnati on Sunday. One of Temple's stars is 6-5, 220-pound forward Mark Karcher. A junior, Karcher may "come out" - declare himself eligible for the NBA draft - after this season. He needs the money. Does he ever. "He comes with a lot of baggage in terms of problems that he has," says Coach Chaney. Problems? He fathered two kids by two different women during his freshman year. (Can you say "Ray Lewis?") Now one of the children, his 17-month-old daughter, Aria, has been diagnosed as suffering from sickle-cell anemia. Sickle-cell anemia affects an estimated 50,000 Americans, most of them of African descent, and it can have dire consequences: roughly half of the people who suffer from it will not live to see their 40th birthday. "It's hard not to paint a bleak picture," says Dr. Jim Casella, of Johns Hopkins University, "because this is a significant illness." So Mark Karcher tries to be the best father he can be, while playing big-time basketball and taking a full class load. Although not married to his daughter's mother, he has not abandoned his child: he stays as close to her as he can, visiting her at least every other day. He knows that entering the NBA draft will help defray the costs of her medical problems; but he also knows that leaving school without his degree will disappoint his grandmother, who raised him.
Most state athletic associations find that cities are interested enough in state championship events - and the competitors and spectators that bring business to hotels and restaurants - that they will bid competively to host them. Not so in Wyoming, where the reverse is true. There, distances are great and cities with sufficient facilities are few, so the Wyoming High School Activities Association actually pays the city of Casper - relatively centrally-located - $16,000 per event and 15 per cent of gate receipts to host its major events.
February 22 - "It is never a disgrace to lose a game, but it is a disgrace to be out-desired, out-fought, and out-hit." Forest Evashevski and Dave Nelson, from "Scoring Power With the Winged T"
Two more clinic sites have been finalized. The Birmingham clinic on March 11 will be held once again at the Clarion Hotel Airport, the same location as the previous two clinics; the Philadelphia clinic on April 8 will be held in Fort Washington again, but this year it will be held at the Best Western Inn - not the Holiday Inn. Detailed directions to both locations will be published on this site soon. (see CLINICS page)
Coach John Torres, from Los Angeles, told me he had the pleasure of attending a clinic this past weekend and listening to Coach Gordie Gillespie. Those of you who have seen my "Dynamics of the Double Wing" tape know that I mention the resemblance of our slot formation to the unique Double Wing that Coach Gillespie ran at College of St. Francis, in Joliet, Illinois. Back in 1995, while I was still working on the video, Coach Gillespie, who was in Portland to speak at a baseball clinic, was our guest for dinner. We had never corresponded or spoken, but the resemblance between our two offenses was uncanny. Coach Gillespie is a legend in the Chicago area, where he built a program at Joliet Catholic High that has won six state titles, and went on to start the football program at St. Francis (wisely choosing as assistants retired high school coaches from around Chicago). He was also the head baseball coach at St. Francis, and, now in his seventies, continues in baseball as head coach at Ripon College, in Wisconsin, where one of his sons, Bob, is head basketball coach. (Coach Gillespie is the winningest coach in college baseball history, with well over 1000 wins.) The influence of Gordie Gillespie's football coaching is evident in the number of Chicago-area teams running his offense or a variation of it, and he kept his hand in the game by assisting at Joliet Catholic this past year, driving 400 miles round-trip to practices and games. (He still has the touch - Joliet Catholic won a state title.)
Thanks to a story sent me by Coach Bruce Eien, in LA, I have come across a riddle posed by Howard Beck, in the Long Beach Press-Telegram: "If a defender shuts down Allen Iverson, also known as The Answer, does that make him the answer to the Answer, or the question that The Answer can't answer?" Beck was writing about the job Kobe Bryant did Sunday afternoon, holding Iverson, the NBA's scoring leader who had been averaging30.9 points a game, without a point in the entire second half. Bryant blocked four of Iverson's shots as "The Answer" Iverson went 0 for 11, and finished with 16 points. But the significant thing was that despite his outstanding individual play, Bryant was more excited about the Lakers' win over the 76ers in Phladelphia, his home town, where the Lakers hadn't won since November 1996. "I really wasn't thinking about (defending Iverson), to tell you the truth, " he told reporters. "It's like I told you guys, I really don't care. I just go out there and do the job and try to win the basketball game." If you haven't seen it, I recommend Coach Eien's web site. (Coach Eien is unique in that he is one coach who has attended a Double-Wing clinic primarily to learn how to defend against it. Even so, don't believe him when he tries to tell you he has a way of stopping it. But you might want to take a look at his "Left Guard Special" article,)
When I was a kid growing up in Philadelphia, everybody had a nickname. It was unimaginable that anybody would not have a full given name - it shocked us, for example, listening to football games on the radio, to learn of southerners whose full given names were actually "Dickie," or "Tommy" or "Bobby Joe" - and equally unimaginable that anybody would go by his full given name in everyday life - we couldn't believe that other southern football players actually went by just "Robert" or "James." It all seemed so exotic to us. To us, living in an area where everybody had a "full name," to have someone call you by a nickname - usually formed by adding "-ie" or "-y" to the end of your name - signified a friendly familiarity. You knew where you stood with somebody by the form of your name that they used. "Robert," or "Francis" or "Vincent" were the names you went by at church, or when your mother was upset (if she was really upset, she might even add your middle name for emphasis); "Bob" or "Frank" or "Vince" were the names for people who had just met you; "Bobby," or "Frankie" or "Vinnie" were terms of endearment. It meant that you were already friends, or potential friends. One thing you never did, unless you were ready to get after it, was call a guy by his last name - "Hey, Wilson!" - that was a sure sign that you and he had some sort of difference to settle. Now, though, in these days of trendy first names and soccer moms who insist that little "Andrew" never, ever be called "Andy," the old informal, unstated rules of my boyhood have flown the coop. Sometimes, it seems the only place they still hold up is in the North Jersey of HBO's "The Sopranos." I was thinking about this the other day when I read an excerpt from an Australian novel called "My Brother Jack". The author, George Johnston, writes, "It was then, and to a large degree still is, an inviolate Australian practice to make contractions of all personal names longer than one syllable and to expand those that are monosyllabic. So that, for example, while John almost invariably became 'Johno' and Jack 'Jackie,' names like Minnie, David, Gertrude, Emma and Elizabeth were only used in their shortened forms of Min, Dave, Gert, Em and Lizzie. Every relative I had as a child was an Ern, Marj, Dot, Steve, Tom, Stell, Fan, Bert, Gin, Alf or Bill. "
Chuck Raykovich, head coach at Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, has put together a couple of fantastic years there. Playing in the Badger State's largest classification, his Double-Wing has averaged over 40 points a game over the last two years. But poor Chuck - he's not even the best-known person in his own home! In fact, right now, he's about number three: his dad, a retired coach, is a member of the Wisconsin Coaches Hall of Fame. And his wife, Roxie, a country singer who performs professionally as Roxie Barton (www.roxiebarton.com), has just released her first CD. Chuck is so proud of Roxie that he doesn't even mind being Number Three!
February 21 - "It is through drill and only drill that the coach can be reasonably sure of good performance under game pressure." George Allen
Checking in last week on my pal Joe Gardi, head coach at Hofstra University, he told me he had just returned from the Lambert Awards, the annual dinner honoring the top teams in the East. Hofstra, which finished its regular season 10-1, was awarded the Lambert Cup for 1999, given annualy to the East's top Division I-AA team. (Virginia Tech was named the East's top I-A team, while Indiana University of Pennsylvania was tops in Division II.) Hofstra's QB, Giovanni Carmazzi - watch him in the NFL draft - was named ECAC Player of the Year.
Coach Tom Hensch of Staten Island, New York was first to guess the answer to Saturday's question. It's Dick Nolan, a native of White Plains, New York who played at Maryland and played nine seasons in the NFL with the Giants, Cardinals, Giants again, and Cowboys. After six seasons as an assistant to Coach Landry in Dallas, he was head coach of the 49ers for eight seasons from 1968 through 1975, taking them to three straight first-place division finishes (1970-71-72). His son, Mike, who played at Oregon under Rich Brooks (himself a former Dick Nolan assistant at San Francisco), was recently named defensive coordinator of the New York Jets.
Here's a toughie that involves Tom Landry: in 1964, Coach Landry was given a 10-year contract. Nowadays, no owner would tie himself down like that, but over the next eight years, five other NFL head coaches would be given contracts at least as long as Coach Landry's. Yet of the six given such lengthy contracts, only Coach Landry made it to the end of his without being fired. In fact, all of the other five were gone before five years were up on their contracts. One of them lasted less than two seasons. Can you name the other five coaches besides Tom Landry, if I spot you their teams? (Eagles, Giants, Broncos, Oilers, Chiefs).
The name Greasy Neale is now a part of the faded past, but he was once famed for being as much a character as he was a coach. And he was a pretty decent coach, leading the Philadelphia Eagles, in 1948 and 1949, to two of the only three NFL titles they have ever won. What few people know is that in his early years of coaching, he was involved in one of the most improbable college games of all time. In 1922, he took little Washington and Jefferson, a school in Washington, Pennsylvania whose enrollment was fewer than 250 students - some of them female - to the Rose Bowl, where the Presidents held mighty Cal to a 0-0 tie. Using only 11 men the entire game, W & J held the Golden Bears to only two first downs, and had a touchdown brought back on a call that they still dispute back in Western Pennsylvania. From W & J he went on to Virginia, where before being hired he was asked by one of the interviewers how he was able to manage to take such a small school to the Rose Bowl and almost beat Cal. His answer showed how far ahead of his time he was. "That's easy," he recalled saying. "We went out and got 'em. We brought the players in. Didn't make any difference how many people were in the rest of the school!"
Just in case you wondered what they did with your union dues: a recent poll shows that nationwide, teachers are undecided on a presidential nominee. Only 11 percent of them support Al Gore. Doesn't matter. The NEA - the National Education Association, largest single contributor to the Democratic Party (wonder where they get their money?) - endorsed him. In October.
February 19 - "Whenever you have success and you have a good feeling about what you're doing, and you like it, you go on to coaching after that...but if you go into a situation where you're always losing, have a lot of rift, that's something you don't want to continue as your life's work. When you do something good, though, it just becomes a part of you. And you continue in that atmosphere." Tom Landry
The local TV sports shows, given only three or four minutes to squeeze in everything that happens in the World of Sports, gave us a tiny glimpse at footage from the memorial service for Coach Landry. What we got mostly was excerpts of a speech by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a guy who was to Tom Landry as William Jefferson Clinton is to Norman Schwarzkopf. Like a star-struck movie fan outside the Academy Awards, what I wanted to see more of was all those great old Cowboys - Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Lee Roy Jordan, Roger Staubach, Calvin Hill, Harvey Martin, Walt Garrison, Dan Reeves, Tony Dorsett and others - getting together with their old coach one last time.
Another Landry question - he played for Tom Landry, served as an assistant under him, and was an NFL coach himself; now his son is an NFL defensive coordinator. Who is he?
At the close of today's Washington State wrestling tournament, Charlie Hinds will wrap things up as head wrestling coach at Camas High School, in the town where I live. It's been 34 years since Charlie first came to Camas, right out of college at the University of Idaho. Charlie was hired as an English teacher and eighth-grade basketball coach, but he was a wrestling guy at heart, and he set out to start a high school wrestling program. He wound up spending so much time raising funds that the school had to hustle to find a replacement for him as basketball coach. Now, as retirement nears, championship banners from 34 years of Camas wrestling drape the walls of the gym that, in a school not distinguished by much else in the way of athletics, would otherwise be bare. Charlie is just as competitive now as when he started. "The tendency when we start out," he told the Vancouver Columbian, "is to make coaching a real competitive thing. We get into coaching because we're competitors. We like to compete, and we find a way to continue that." But he does admit that his outlook has changed over the years. Now, he sees coaching as something artistic. "When I send Micaiah Watkins (state 119-pound contender) out there and I see him do something I taught him, that's my art. I take that raw material, work with it and try to create something." Charlie is a firm believer in the role of sports in educating young people. "In sports," he says, "you have the athlete's attention. You can teach them things in sports that you can't teach them in the classroom. You can teach them better about how to treat other people and how to deal with winning and losing."
The Arizona Cardinals' Simeon Rice, a heck of a football player, has not been sounding lately like the kind of guy you'd want on your team - which seems to be fine with him. Perhaps in an effort to get himself traded, he has had negative things to say - loudly and publicly - about virtually every aspect of the Cardinals' organization, including ownership, coaching, teammates - even the city of Phoenix. His recent conduct does not seem to reflect the things he learned at Mount Carmel High, in Chicago, where Coach Frank Lenti - whose teams have won eight state championships - takes pride in teaching his players to be humble. "If and when he does come to Chicago," Coach Lenti told the Chicago Tribune, " I'd hope to see a lot more action and a lot less trash-talking, We always say, anyone can talk the talk. The great ones have to walk the walk. I know one thing--he didn't learn any of that stuff at Mount Carmel."
A public opinion survey taken by an organization called Public Agenda reveals that Americans strongly oppose "social promotion" - passing kids along to the next grade even though they may be doing poorly or even failing, and may not be capable of doing the work at the next level. A full 78 per cent of parents surveyed favor "retaining" students rather than passing them on without the necessary skills. Right. If you would like to find out who the other 22 per cent are, just suggest holding some kid back this spring.
When I was in seventh grade, my PE teacher was the high school basketball coach, a guy named Jack McCloskey. He would leave school right after practice several days a week, and drive a couple of hours upstate to some place like Sunbury or Shamokin to play in something called the Eastern League, a forerunner of today's Continental Basketball League. Jack would go on from there to big things, as coach at Penn, then Wake Forest, then the Portland Trail Blazers. He finished his NBA career as GM of the Detroit Pistons during the "Bad Boys" days of Isaiah Thomas-Joe Dumars-Bill Laimbeer- and, yes Dennis Rodman. There were several other young coaches in the Philadelphia area just like Jack McCloskey - real basketball nuts - men like Jack Ramsay, who went on to win Portland's only NBA championship. One Philly guy did them even better. His name was Howie Dallmar, and somehow, he managed to coach the University of Pennsylvania and play for the NBA Philadelphia Warriors at the same time, before moving west to coach Stanford, his alma mater. Bob Davies did the same thing for a season, coaching Seton Hall while playing for the NBA Rochester Royals. Those guys weren't doing it for the money; they had an absolute passion for the game of basketball, a mindset that could never imagine a Scottie Pippen refusing to go back into a game. I was reminded of guys like this when I read an article about Jennifer Rizzotti, a former UConn star who plays for the WNBA Houston Comets, but also coaches the University of Hartford's women's team. She is a certified basketball nut. Her coaching contract permits her to play professionally, and since the WNBA plays its games in the summer, it's likely she will continue to do so. But there's no question where her future lies, because she can coach: Hartford, picked in the pre-season to finish last in the 10-team America East Conference, was in fifth place as of last weekend, 6-6 in league play and 11-10 overall.
February 18 - "We knew we were something special in New York. The city was just on fire. It was amazing the way they supported the Giants." Tom Landry, talking of his days as Giants' defensive coordinator
Tom Landry recalled Giants' head coach Jim Lee Howell's unprecedented action of turning over complete control of his offense and defense to two key assistants (the word "coordinator" had not yet been used in football): "Jim Lee was willing to let Vince (Lombardi) take over the offense and me take over the defense. None of this could have happened unless Jim was willing to let it, and it worked. In fact, it probably never would again with any combination of three men. But it worked out well then." In another sense, this separation of powers - this division of responsibility - was a key to the Dallas Cowboys' great run of success, with Tex Schramm running the business end, Gil Brandt handling player personnel, and Coach Landry left unhampered to run the football team. Coach Landry might also have mentioned the fact that those were the days when owners generally sat back and left things to the experts - the days when only foolish owners meddled, and they did so at their own risk. Only George Halas in Chicago and Paul Brown in Cincinnati - great coaches in their own right - ever managed to achieve any success combining owning a team with coaching a team. There is a lesson somewhere in there for certain modern-day owners.
Answer to yesterday's quiz (which no one got): The three linebackers in Coach Landry's first 4-3 defense were Sam Huff in the middle, Harland Svare and Bill Svoboda on the outside.
The near-empty classrooms were the first sign that something fishy was going on. When they dug a little deeper, educators at Oregon City (Oregon) High School discovered that 236 seniors had bailed out of their required senior health class, taking advantage of a law which allows students to have the requirement waived for "religious reasons." And then, shortly after that news, came a letter to the Portland newspaper in which a mother of a student at another area high school described the AIDS unit of her son's health class: a visiting instructor told the coed class about the way certain diseases are contracted, "describing with great detail, every different possible way that mucous membrances and body fluids could come together," and capping off the presentation by instructing the class on how to apply a female condom. And all the while public school administrations fiddle, American public education burns, as the private schools and home schooling continue to skim off the very families that the public schools need so desperately to keep.
Maybe you've seen the ads for the latest sports atrocity, Ultimatebid.com. Actually, it ought to be called Ultimategreed.com. When I first heard of it, I immediately thought of geishas. Geishas have long been a part of Japanese culture. Geishas are young women trained from the time they are girls to please men, who in turn pay well for the geishas' company. Ultimatebid.com has signed up the likes of Tiger Woods, Joe Montana and figure skater Tara Lipinski, in the belief that Americans will pay well for their company. How about $350,000 for a round of golf with Mr. Woods? How much would you pay to eat dinner with Brett Hull, or attend the NFL draft with likely first-round pick Chad Pennington? Or hang out with the Yankees' Derek Jeter during spring training? Hey - if you've got the money, you can party with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models! Maybe you could even arrange for Dennis Rodman to babysit your kids. This - dare I say whorish? - venture got its start in a most innocent way, when one of its founders happened to attend a fund-raiser for his son's school at which a camp to be conducted by Joe Montana was auctioned off for $18,000. That money, though, went entirely to charity. And although Ultimatebid.com claims that some charities will "benefit" in some way from your stupidity, let's not kid ourselves - the bulk of the money from this glorified escort service is going to further enrich already-stupendously-rich athletes. The company-keeping-for-money will be done, of course, on the athletes' otherwise free time - the same free time that so many of them say they need so desperately - because of their great desire "to spend time with my family." Can these be the same rich celebrities who whine about people pestering them for autographs while they're eating in a restaurant? They won't shake your hand for free but, they'll hit ground balls to your kid for half a mill. I'm reminded of an old story - a man approaches a woman and asks, "would you go to bed with me for a million dollars?" "A million dollars? Sure," she replies. "Well, would you go to bed with me for ten bucks?" he asks."Of course not!" she says, indignantly. "What do you think I am, a common whore?" "Madam," he says, " we've already established that. All we're doing now is negotiating the price."
I had some business recently with a young man named Joe Magee, who after he heard that I was a football coach told me a story from his high school football days at Philadelphia's Northeast High. Now, on every team, it seems there is that one real hitter - one guy who just stands above the rest. He not only likes to hit, but he knows how to do get there and how to do it. At Northeast, that special player was Charles Way, who would go on to play at the University of Virginia and now, at 6-foot, 250 pounds, is an outstanding blocking fullback for the New York Giants. Joe remembers in particular one "fumble prevention" drill that his coach really seemed to like; it consisted of having a ball carrier run head-on into a tackler, with the object of holding onto the ball no matter how hard the collision. Joe, a wingback who never weighed more than 150 pounds, remembers always looking across at the line of tacklers, asking himself "Where's Charles?" as he counted the people in the other line. Somehow - he didn't say how - he always managed to avoid the big hitter. Always, that is, until one day, when his mind was on something else, he was suddenly jarred back to reality by the words everyone dreaded: one of the other running backs said to him, "Hey, man - you got Charles!" He counted. Sure enough, he got Charles. He saw his life passing before his eyes as he moved closer to the front of the line. When his turn finally came, "I just decided I was going to close my eyes and go as hard as I could and not worry about what happened," he told me. What happened, of course, was that he got drilled. And as he fell to the ground, with Charles Way on top of him, the ball flew out in another direction. When he staggered home that night, he took off his shirt and looked at himself in the mirror: on his upper arm was a fiery-red cross-hatch design - the pattern of his mesh scrimmage jersey, imprinted there by the force of Charles Way's hit.
As a result of pressure from various victims' rights groups, Sears has tossed out the Bennetton line of clothing. But Bennetton, the Italian clothing manufacturer which somehow thought it was really being socially responsible by running ads that showed us the "human side" of some of the animals on Death Row (see my story, Jan. 24) is unrepentant, claiming that it has the right to espouse social causes, no matter how unpopular. Sure you do. Just realize that there may be consequences. Don't praise the Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in your ads and then expect African-Americans to stand by.
February 17 - "He'd tell his players what to do and one would say, 'Well, what are you gonna do if they try this?' And Tom would say, very quietly, 'Well, we'll just take care of it.' " Jim Lee Howell, Head Coach of the New York Giants, under whom Tom Landry served as defensive coordinator
How many of you know that Tom Landry gave football the term "Red Dog", a name he gave to a defensive tactic, prepared especially for a game against Buddy Parker's Pittsburgh Steelers, in which his three linebackers (in the 4-3 which he is credited with inventing) all rushed the passer. (Q: Can you name the three Giants' linebackers?)
If February's here, spring ball can't be far behind. In the South, that is. Spring football is a phenomenon concentrated in the states along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from South Carolina around to Texas, and stretching inland to include Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. In many cases, spring football is limited to the larger classifications of schools, and regulations regarding contact vary from state to state. Some states also permit schools the option of having spring ball or starting a week earlier in August, while others offer the choice of playing a spring game or playing an extra regular-season game. Regardless of how it is administered, spring football really does afford an athlete a great additional opportunity to develop as a player. Figure it out: using Texas as an example, its 5A, and (this year for the first time) 4A schools are allowed 18 practices somewhere within a 30 calendar-day period. Assuming a player plays three years of high school ball, he will take part in at least two springs' worth of practices, or 36 practices more than a player in a state without spring practice. Think about it a minute - those 36 additional practices give a player the equivalent of an extra season of high school football! (Just one of the reasons why southern states produce a disproportionate number of college football players per capita.)
Did anybody else read about Vladimir Malakhov, the Montreal Canadiens' defenseman who, although he had been sitting out the entire season with a bad knee - drawing full pay, of course - was seen last Thursday enjoying a skiing outing with his son? When threatened by the team with suspension without pay, he experienced a miraculous cure the likes of which Oral Roberts would have been proud of, and made it to the next practice. He didn't seem to see anything wrong with his particular form of welfare fraud, though: "I have a right to a private life, don't I?" he asked.
In 1995, Bill Casagrande started the Mid-Atlantic Unlimited Youth Football Association with only one team -- a 35-player squad made up of middle school kids too big to play in most youth leagues, which typically have weight restrictions. "Watching kids do unsafe and unhealthy things to make weight was frustrating," Casagrande told the Baltimore Sun, citing such weight-loss practices as taking diuretics, laxatives and over-the-counter diet pills, sitting in steaming-hot bathtubs the night before a game, or not eating or drinking all day before a weigh-in. "After a while," he said, "a lot of the bigger kids would give up, not play or try other sports."
His first team started out playing anybody it could schedule - mostly private school frosh-soph teams. It didn't win a game. Now, five years later, there are eight such teams with more than 200 players throughout eastern Maryland.
Casagrande has run into some opposition in his appeals to youth leagues to field unlimited teams. The first argument he encounters is that there aren't that many big kids, anyhow; but Casagrande says that's leagues don't advertise for bigger boys, and so they don't bother turning out. A second reason is that there isn't enough equipment for the bigger kids. That means money, and that's always a problem, but not necessarily an insurmountable one for the kind of people who keep our youth sports going through their diligent fundraising. Finally, there's an argument based on safety: weight-limit advocates say that it's unsafe for a 120-pounder to play against a 200-pounder. But Casagrande has an answer for that: minimum weights for the "big kids." For 10-11-year-olds it's 130 pounds; for 12-13-year-olds, it's 150 pounds; and, for 14-year-olds, it's 175. The maximum age is 14 as of July 31, and no ninth-graders are allowed.
Casagrande has received help from one important supporter, Biff Poggi, coach of The Gilman School, a private school with one of the Baltimore area's leading football programs. Coach Poggi was so impressed by Casagrande's efforts that since 1997 he has allowed him to use the Gilman facilities for practices and games. The relationship has proved to be symbiotic: six of Gilman's 1999 starters came out of Casagrande's program.
In Maryland, middle-school football is rare-to-nonexistent. There, recreation league teams have traditionally served as the feeder programs for high school teams in lacrosse, baseball, basketball, soccer - and football. "You look at the USA Today national high school rankings," Casagrande said, "and the top teams come from the states where the bigger kids get a chance to play in middle school," referring to states such as California, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. "It's critical to football, because football is generally a big man's game, and all of us big guys never got to play until we got to high school," Gilman's Coach Poggi told the Sun.
Casagrande understands only too well: he was too big himself to play youth football, and didn't play the sport until he was a 6-2, 240-pound high school sophomore. "All we want to do is let the big guys play and develop their skills," he says.
February 16 - "The primary challenge of coaching in the National Football League can be boiled down to a one-sentence job description: to get people to do what they don't want to do in order to achieve what they want to achieve." Tom Landry
"You know, I never really thought of myself as a coach - even when I was coaching with New York. I planned to be in business. That's why I took my industrial management degree. I was in business in Houston during the off-season. I was constantly preparing for business while I was finishing up what I thought was just going to be an assistant coaching job. Then, about the time I was ready to step down as coach and go into business, that's when the Dallas job opened up. I was living in Texas anyway. It was a natural transition. But I hadn't even thought about it before." Tom Landry, quoted in "There Were Giants in Those Days," by Gerald Eskenazi, Grosset & Dunlap, 1976
The Internet has made it a snap for "students" to "write" papers, merely by lifting other peoples' work and passing it off as their own. In academic circles, that's called plagiarism, and college instructors and high school teachers have noted an increase in it, thanks to the ease of cutting and pasting directly from the Web. But not so fast - leave it to Americans to spot an opportunity in there. Now, the very Internet that has made plagiarism so easy for students is about to be turned against them - a new service, http://www.plagiarism.org, is being marketed to colleges and individual professors to help expose cheaters. It offers - for a fee - to check papers for originality, not only catching the obvious cases of work lifted in its entirety from someplace else, but also detecting papers made by pasting together bits and pieces of unattributed work. Using the top 20 search engines, papers are checked against material on the Web. Unquestionably, the new service fills a need - a test of the system last spring on 300 papers submitted in a class at Cal-Berkeley turned up 15 per cent that contained "less than original" material - even after students had been warned that their papers would be checked! Apart from the academic dishonesty involved, plagiarism is not in the student's long-term best interest, says Jeanne Wilson of the Center for Academic Integrity, who calls it "incredibly self-destructive." Employers, she says, are looking for "transferrable things... skills like writing and thinking and analysis. Those are the kinds of things that get taught by having to write a paper yourself." (Anybody who ever saw Fox's special on Jerry Tarkanian's basketball program at Fresno State would have to wonder what Ms. Wilson would call it when a basketball player lounges indolently in a chair while his "tutor" sits at a computer keyboard, trying to coax words out of him so she can turn them into "his" paper.)
There was an interesting article in last Wednesday's Philadelphia Inquirer about the University of Pennsylvania's wrestling program. Penn, like many other schools, should probably be happy even to have a wrestling program, since wrestling often seems to be the male sport of choice to be dumped overboard in the pursuit of gender equity. (Time to play "Title IX Compliance Time!" Can't afford to even things up by adding a women's sport? No problem - just drop a men's sport. The guys won't mind. After all, the've had it their way for 100 years. Now it's their turn to suffer.) At Penn, it was ice hockey and men's golf that got the axe. Wrestling survived, mainly because some prominent wrestling alumni rallied to its support. But Penn wrestling didn't merely survive - it has prospered. The Quakers finished 11th in last year's NCAA tournament, and last week were ranked 14th in the nation, with a win over perennial power Penn State to their credit. They are even beginning to draw decent crowds. But even with strong alumni support - one former Penn wrestler, David Pottruck, is President and CEO of Charles Schwab, Inc. and the brand-new Pottruck Center, named for him, gives Penn a wrestling facility second to none - it hasn't been easy. Penn is, after all, an Ivy League school, with high academic standards; and, as with all the other Ivy Schools, Penn offers no athletic scholarships. (Admittedly, with fewer college wrestling programs offering fewer wrestling scholarships, the Quakers are not at the recruiting disadvantage they would be in big-time football or basketball - they already have two commitments from high schoolers currently ranked number one nationally in their weight classes.) But Penn's coach, Roger Reina, says that because of the nature of his sport, he isn't obsessed with recruiting blue-chip athletes. "Many sports at the elite levels are driven by talent, size or speed," he told the Inquirer. "At some point, the work and sacrifice stop paying results for the average athlete. But in a sport like wrestling, even an average athlete is capable of phenomenal things if they are willing to work hard." Well said, Coach Reina. And you can add football to your list.
Aw, c'mon! This is America! Everybody gets a second chance! Even convicted murderers can appeal! Maybe - but in sports, there are still consequences. Try this one on those weenie parents who think it's unfair that you failed their kid, just because he hasn't turned in his work all semester and he flunked the final; or the mom and dad who don't understand why their son isn't going to play, when all he did was miss a practice: A local high school wrestler, a former student of mine and the son of a guy I once coached with, failed to make weight at the district tournament, in effect disqualifying him from further competition the rest of the season. He was two pounds over the limit. He is a senior. He was a defending state champion.
A Texas high school basketball player who elbowed an opponent in the face was given a five-year prison term after pleading no contest to a charge of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. The incident took place in a basketball game in January 1999, between two San Antonio high schools. As the ball moved down court, the player in question, Tony Limon, smashed opponent Brent Holmes in the face. Holmes received a concussion and a compound fracture of his nose. No foul was called at the time, but after viewing a home video of the incident, Holmes' parents filed a criminal complaint. Prosecutors agreed that the incident went well beyond aggressive play. "It was a deliberate act of violence," said Assistant District Attorney Mary Green. "The Holmes kid didn't have the ball. They were nowhere near the ball. This was like a street mugging. It was just on a basketball court." James Rodriguez, who defended Limon, argues that kids all too often don't know where the line is between rough play and criminal conduct. "It's regrettable that we put our children into athletic competition in schools and encourage them to be aggressive, then don't set the right limits," he said. "In this instance, things went too far. The referees failed. The coaches failed. And the schools failed. But Tony's the one going to prison." While I can't say I go along with Mr. Rodriguez' attempts to pass off the blame to others, he does bring up an interesting point. "If we're going to start prosecuting for elbows thrown in a game," he asks, "are we going to have to start looking at the coaches as co-conspirators?"
February 15 - "If you weren't willing to sacrifice - you know, sacrifice the ability to make a big play by yourself, then you couldn't work in our system. You had to be willing to work with other people, and everybody would receive the success together." Tom Landry, discussing the philosophy behind the defense he built with the New York Giants
University of Arizona President Peter Likins publicly affirmed his support for Wildcats' football coach Dick Tomey last week. For those of us who believe that Coach Tomey is a good man, it's nice to hear that his job is secure, at least for the time being. But if I were a friend of President Likins - whom I don't even know - I think I'd worry about his job security, after some of the things he said. "The purpose of our athletic department," he told a radio audience, "isn't to make money or entertain the fans." Wow, I thought, when I heard that. He's come up with something even more important to an athletic department than that. In a day and age when Michigan fires its AD, partly over a $3.5 million deficit, what could it possibly be? President Likins went on to say, "The development and character of our young men and women, our student-athletes, is the fundamental purpose of our athletic department." That's what he actually said. Now, if President Likins truly believes this, then when the athletic department ceases to entertain fans (by winning, presumably), I think he had better be prepared to write some awfully large personal checks to the University. Because Arizona's athletic program really is the biggest show in Tucson, and the flow of money from donors is going to stop as soon as the "entertainment" does. See, those people have been persuaded, perhaps by the creative marketing of the athletic department itself, that its purpose is to entertain them. And if the good president really thinks he can run an athletic department without money, developing character in its young men and women while they get whacked regularly by Arizona State, just up the road, he is either dreadfully naive about big-time college athletics (which, considering that he is a college president, is highly likely) or he knows something nobody else does (unlikely). Or he has a job offer in his pocket from Swarthmore or Reed, or some such haven of athletic deemphasis, and is ready to bolt. I think that Coach Tomey and his assistants should of course adhere to the wishes of the president, and work hard on developing character in their young men - but just to be on the safe side, they might want to concentrate their character-building on the biggest, fastest, strongest athletes they can find.
I was talking last week with a teacher/coach who is retired now, but teaches part-time. But he said he's not sure he'll even finish out the school year. It's the spoiled kids. "They think you're their servants," he told me.......which set me to reflecting on several things I'd read recently about today's crop of spoiled youngsters, many of whom have little respect for the dignity of work, and even less for the people who have to do it. And then, the very next day, there appeared in the Wall Street Journal a letter from a man named Robert W. Rynerson of Denver, who wrote that in the 1980's he was transportation supervisor for a big-city school system. He said that he kept getting complaints about drivers on one particular bus route in an affluent neighborhood, yet when that same driver was transferred to a route through a low-income neighborhood, one made up of "recent immigrants from Eastern Europe," complaints about him ceased. On the other hand, complaints about the new driver immediately began coming in from parents of kids on the affluent bus run. Maybe it's best to let Mr. Rynerson tell what happened from there: "I went for a trip on the affluent kids' bus, dressed like a trainee driver, and the sixth-graders told me that they would run me out when my turn came to drive, and they were quite proud of having run off a number of other drivers. It was kind of a hobby. On the immigrants' bus, the parents responded to complaints from their kids with a directive to pay attention to their studies, and told them that the driver was the captain of the ship, and they had better cooperate. On the affluent kids' bus, some parents were sure that their sweet children were still too innocent to concoct false or overstated complaints. But as smart as these children were, it never occured to them that someone from the administration building would turn up in sub-zero weather in the early morning to ride the bus with them, and so they were distressingly candid with me as to what my "future" would be as a bus driver. I was careful not to tell them I was a bus driver - they jumped to that conclusion because I was not dressed like a school administrator. Inner-city kids likely would have been more cautious, but this group had no concerns, because their parents could fix anything. They also knew their busy parents would never take the time to figure out what was really going on with this bus. Perhaps they had even learned their negative attitude toward the drivers from their parents. In lower middle class families, the next-door neighbor or a schoolmate's parent is likely to be in one of the service jobs, so it's not difficult to relate to them."
Now that Jerry Sandusky has retired as Joe Paterno's defensive coordinator at Penn State, Coach Paterno, who just signed a brand-new 5-year contract, has redesigned his staff. Tom Bradley, a relative newcomer on the staff with "just" 20 years' seniority, will take over the defense, and Fran Ganter, who started working on Joe Pa's staff as a graduate assistant in 1972, has just been named "Assistant Head Coach." Coach Paterno appears to be preparing for a smooth transition after he retires - as smooth as the one provided for him by his predecessor, Rip Engle, who in 1964 named Coach Paterno "Associate Head Coach." Interestingly, though, Coach Paterno took pains to note that with this recent staff realignment, there would be no "coordinators". "I've always hated that term," he said. "They assume when he's the coordinator, it's 'his' offense or 'his' defense. It's gotten to the point where it takes away from the unity of your staff." (Think about that a minute, the next time you or someone on your staff think titles are that important.)
"One of our goals should be to have star teachers paid at the same level as major league umpires. You don't expect them to get paid as much as 20-game winning pitchers or an NFL running back, but you'd like to get them up to the umpires. That would change the whole nature of modern education. It would change the dynamic of teaching overnight." Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
I was talking recently with Bruce Weber, publisher of Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director Magazine, and somehow the quote at the top of my home page came up. It turns out that Bruce is a graduate of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, and he went on to tell me some amazing things about his alma mater. Basketball great Billy Cunningham was a classmate, and Bruce said he occasionally teases Billy, who probably would have been the most illustrious alumnus of most other high schools, with the fact that at Erasmus Hall he barely finishes in the top five - in his own graduating class! That's because he graduated with the likes of Neil Diamond... Barbra Streisand... (chess champ) Bobby Fisher... Lainie Kazan. Opera star Beverly Sills, actor Jeff Chandler and author Mickey Spillane also graduated from Erasmus Hall. Sports? How's this for football alums: Erasmus' football field is named for Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman, its gym for Oakland Raiders' owner Al Davis. Former NFL coach Sam Rutigliano is also an Erasmus Hall grad. In fact, when Sports Illustrated did its "Top 50" athletes of the twentieth century from each of the 50 states, four of New York's 50 - Cunningham, Luckman, Davis, and Gertrude Ederle (first woman to swim the English Channel) - were from Erasmus Hall!
February 14 - "I guess they'll forget me pretty quick."Tom Landry, after being let go by Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones
With the passing of Tom Landry, football lost a great man, and the Dallas Cowboys lost one more link to the days when they were once synonymous with class. Tom Landry's major flaw in the eyes of the sports media, who seem to have a way of needing to decide for us what we ought to be able to decide for ourselves, was his absolute stoicism on game days. He simply would not perform for the TV cameras, nor would he tolerate idiotic antics among his players. But that stoicism may have been his strongest point as a coach, because it reflected his total dedication to displaying calm under pressure. "My players had to believe I was under control," he said. "It would have hurt the team for them to see me losing it." Where do you start with Coach Landry? In World War II, a war which claimed the life of his brother? Tom Landry flew 30 bombing missions, and survived a crash landing in his B-17 (amazing how many men lost their lives in B-17's), an experience Coach Landry once compared with coaching a pro football team. "It's about the same," he told writer Denne Freeman. "If you lose your cool in either situation, it's a disaster." How many people know that he was a great football player at the University of Texas, and an All-Pro defensive back with the New York Giants? How many know that at age 29, he was a player-coach, in charge of the Giants' defense? That he coached the defense while another young genius, Vince Lombardi, coached the Giants' offense? That he is given credit for the invention of the 4-deep "umbrella defense" that finally shut down the wide-open passing game of Paul Brown and the Cleveland Browns, when they first entered the league and ran roughshod over the rest of the NFL? That he was principal designer of the "Pro 4-3" defense, making use of a talented West Virginian named Sam Huff at middle linebacker? Do we start with the fact that he was the first coach of the Cowboys, who managed to endure a winless (0-11-1) first season, and didn't have a winning seasom until his seventh year? Or that he was only 13-38-3 with one year left on his first contract, when the Cowboys' owner, Clint Murchison, gave him ten more years? (Cheers for Mr. Murchison. Nowadays, you're lucky if you get three years from the big money guys.) Or that he paid Mr. Murchison back with 20 straight winning seasons, finishing first in the NFC 13 of the next 16 years, and going to five Super Bowls? Or that he was a man of deep faith, who made no secret of it yet made no big show of it either; who let his light shine before men, and showed the rest of us that a man of deep beliefs need not leave his faith in the locker room? You certainly don't finish with the way he was unceremoniously dumped, without warning, in mid-February as he prepared for his 30th season, by present owner Jerry Jones, then replaced by Jimmy Johnson. Maybe it's best to remember him as a man who dignified our profession - who represented us at our very best, and made us all stand a little taller because we were football coaches, too. Like Tom Landry.
Today is V-Day. No, not St. Valentine's Day, you sexist pig! V-Day. V-Day stand for - I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! - Vagina Day (or Violence against Women Day, whichever you prefer). Actually, I prefer neither, since it does happen also to be Valentine's Day, but Karen Obel, a "national director" (whatever that is) of V-Day, explained why its founders chose to "celebrate" it today. "Someone's intinctive reaction to Valentine's Day is romance, hearts, love, all of the gentler things about relationships...unfortunately, it's not all romance and flowers and chocolate." V-Day, you see, deals with what beasts men are, and, when you get right down to it, how inessential they really are. V-Day "celebrations" will be held at more than 145 colleges. Hide this next one from your kids, and if you have a daughter at Brown University, bring her home - part of Brown's V-Day "celebration" will be something called "Sex for One," in which female students will be offered instructions - I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP, EITHER - on how to achieve sexual fulfillment on their own (you know - without having to bother with all those useless males). V-Day organizers are complaining about a lack of sponsors to help them get the word out. I personally can't imagine why an American company wouldn't want to pay good money to show its support of such a worthy cause, but according to V-Day founder Eve Ensler, the answer is, of course, sexism - she says that if this were all about men and penises, there would be plenty of sponsors. Somehow, I doubt it. Anyhow, if you're a married coach, thank your wife for being a coach's wife. And keep your daughters and little sisters away from these V-Day idiots. (How, by the way, did we ever get to this point?)
"I am not concerned with what they bench when we recruit them, but I am very concerned that they have an appreciation for weight lifting. We have the ability to develop strength, but only if the kid sincerely wants to become strong." Jack Bicknell, Doug Flutie's coach at Boston College
What would happen if you took your best football players and taught them how to play soccer? Read on: "Florence Eagles are in the state CHAMPIONSHIP game! We won against Pearl High School 1-0. We have shut out all our play-off opponents. Guess what? My entire defense is made up of football players.14 of 24 team members are football players. I look forward to the clinic again this year and the opportunity learn more about the offense. By the way my son who played wingback signed with Delta State of the Gulf South Conference. See you soon." Steve Jones, Florence, Mississippi
"I think what frustrates me the most is that not only is the military short handed, but we also get some of the poorest quality recruits... and we don't really beat it out of them any more. In my own branch of service, the Coast Guard, a few years ago we had what were called "training time outs". Essentially, some bleeding heart decided that Coast Guard training was too rigorous for a little darling to endure, so the recruit could at any time call for a training time out if they felt they couldn't complete the evolution in progress. And the result? During Search and Rescues for the next FIVE YEARS these recruits, many of them now petty officers, would call for a "time out" during the search. Thankfully they eliminated the system, but even when I went through basic we could only be "cranked" for five minutes out of every hour. Know any football coaches who only drill their teams for ten minutes in a two hour practice? I sure don't! Basically, we have a situation where American children have no self-discipline, enter a service that REQUIRES discipline to function- or somebody dies- and we can't impose discipline upon them. Quite the condundrum." Coach Derek Wade, USCG, Alaska
Talk about the impression our game of football makes on people: last Sunday night, on CBS 60 Minutes, Morley Safer was in Bhutan, one of the most remote countries in the world, high in the Himalayas between China and India. Much of the show was devoted to an interview with a high government official whose name and title I missed, but whose English was, to say the least, impressive. Turns out he went to college in the U.S. When Safer asked him where, he said, "Penn State - I root for the Nittany Lions!"
February 12 - "Be careful about changing because of a bad game." Doug Dickey, former coach, University of Florida, currently AD at Tennessee
Now that it's all over - why do those pro running backs wear gloves? Even the ones that never get thrown to? Are they receiving money from the glovemakers? No doubt influenced by the pros, one of our running backs wore gloves this year. I'm pretty old-school about what I consider to be fancy stuff, and he's the first player I've ever had who wore gloves, and against my better judgment, I decided not to make an issue of it. He's a good kid, so I just let it go. Now, we didn't lose too many fumbles this past season - just six, to be exact, and two of those were bad center-QB exchanges - but this one player , even though he was a backup wingback and didn't carry the ball that often, lost two of them. I can't help thinking that the gloves were a contributing factor. I believe it is possible that players become lulled into a false sense of security by the gloves' stickiness, and neglect to squeeze the ball. Considering that Nebraska's only weakness seemed to be the fact that it led the nation in fumbles lost this year (with 25), I believe that if it were ever my good fortune to help out with their backs, they would lose a lot fewer than fumbles once I convinced the equipment managers to take all their gloves and burn them.
While American TV and movies allow us to export aspects of our culture all over the world, (you wouldn't believe how proficient some foreign teenagers have become with the use of the F--- word), it is interesting to see how European we are becoming in one regard - cohabitation. When I coached in Finland, I found it interesting to note how open young, unmarried, cohabiting couples were about living together. Unlike in America, it was evidently not considered a big deal. More and more, though, that seems to be the case in America. In Oregon, for example, in 1970 about 13 per cent of marriage licenses showed identical addresses for the two partners; in 1980, the figure was 53 per cent, and in 1990 it was 70 per cent. According to Patricia Gwaltney, a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, those figures correspond to studies conducted in other parts of the country. Although she says the meaning of the trend is not clear, she doesn't see it as anti-marriage. Instead, she speculates, "It's become one more stage in the process of getting married. It's one more seemingly natural step for young people as they move into adulthood."
From a speech entitled "Why I Like Marines," given by Admiral Jonathan Stark, USN, on the occasion of the Marine Corps' birthday in 1995: "The first reason I like Marines, they set high standards for themselves and those around them and will accept nothing less... I like the idea that Marines cultivate an ethos conducive of producing hard people in a soft age... It occurred to me that the services could be characterized by different breeds of dogs...The Airforce reminded me of a French Poodle. The poodle always looks perfect, sometimes seems a bit pampered, and always travels first class. But don't ever forget that the poodle was bred as a hunting dog and in a fight is very dangerous... The Army is kind of like a St. Bernard. It's big and heavy and sometimes seems a bit clumsy. But it's very powerful and has lots of stamina. So you want it for the long haul... The Navy, God bless us, is a Golden Retriever. They're good natured and great around the house. The kids love'em. Sometimes their hair is a bit long, they go wandering off for long periods of time, and they love water...Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean and skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on the defense. They've got really short hair and they always go for the throat. That sounds like a Marine to me ..." (Courtesy of Scott Barnes, USMC)
Amid all the talk about how much Michael Jordan missed the game, blah, blah, blah - there is something else to consider: sales of Michael Jordan-licensed merchandise - shoes, underwear, cologne, etc - were down 42 per cent since he retired as a player. By the way - how smart is the owner of the Washington Wizards? Two of the highest-paid players on the generously-paid Wizards team are Rod Strickland and Juwan Howard. They have not been coming close to earning their pay this season - although actually, considering what they're making, you could say this about every player in the NBA - and logic says to unload them, right? Not so fast. Their agent, David Falk, happens to be Michael Jordan's agent, too. Hmmm.
The Bills cut Bruce Smith. Heartless! Do you know what they asked him to do? They asked him to take a cut in pay, all the way down to $2.2 million. $2.2 million. Hey - when you're used to getting by on $4.5 million, it's not easy to make that kind of adjustment.
I heard a dog trainer on TV the other night talking about working with bird dogs, and he sounded as if he could just as easily have been a teacher or a coach. "A dog basically wants to please," he said. "Nine times out of 10 if he's disobedient it's because he didn't know what you wanted." Substitute the word "kid" for "dog" and, although I realize it sounds very cold and insensitive, it makes every bit as much sense. I do believe that kids bascially want to please, and I know that all too often, coaches (and teachers) don't adequately communicate to their kids exactly what they want. (I show a video to our kids explaining the rules at the start of every season.) Woody Hayes used to say, "Discipline is 90 per cent anticipation." I think he said he learned it as an officer in the Navy.
February 11 - "If you are going against a team and can handle their best plays, I feel you can beat them." Eddie Robinson (surely you've heard of Coach Robinson, who won more games - at one school (Grambling) - than any other college coach
Back in 1977, following my first year of high school coaching, I attended a clinic at which University of Washington Coach Don James spoke. Afterward, I hit him with a question that puzzled me - still does. "How," I asked Coach James, "do you control well-meaning alumni who don't even know the NCAA regulations, and have the rescources and the desire to anything they want - even if it's illegal - to help the Huskies win?" He shrugged. Tough job, he admitted. Almost 20 years later, a well-meaning alum made a large "loan" to a Husky QB, the Washington administration overreacted, and Coach James, disgusted with the lack of support for a program he had fought to keep clean, resigned. And now, I read that two of the country's premier programs are undergoing overhaul. Notre Dame's athletic director, having just served out a five-year contract, is not going to be retained, as part of a "restructuring" of the ND athletic department. And at Michigan, where things began to unravel a couple of years ago when a visiting recruit was in an accident while riding in a nice, new car given to a Michigan basketball player by, uh, a "relative," the AD seems to be on his way out (maybe gone by the time you read this). The Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom notes that at Michigan, Fritz Crisler was AD for 27 years, followed by Don Canham, who held the job for 20 years. But that was before the days when they began blaming recruiting, eleigibility and legal problems on the AD. Presidents like to do that. Since Canham retired 10 years ago, Michigan has had four AD's - hardly, Albom points out, "what we call stability". The problem, former Michigan coach and AD Bo Schembechler told Albom, lies with the administration. (Tell me.) "All you do is send a letter to the Adminsitration," he told Albom, "and they get scared. Some of these people are very bright, but they know very little about collegiate athletics."
The Secretary of the Navy, Richard Danzig, has sent up a trial balloon designed to see what people think about women serving - in submarines. Guys, courtesy of my son-in-law Rob Tiffany, I was privileged to tour the USS Alaska, a "boomer" (nuclear missile submarine) at its home base in Bangor, Washington. That sucker is huge - it's the length of two football fields (stood on end, it would be taller than the Washington Monument) and has four or five decks - I forget. But inside, it is tight. The corridors are narrow - every time a submariner would pass a woman, he'd risk a sexual harrassment charge. Nine sailors are packed into a compartment about the size of the room in which I now sit typing - about 10 x 15 - with three sets of bunks stacked three-deep. Each man has about 18 inches of head room in his bunk. Bathrooms are small, scarce, and in demand. From a practical standpoint, it will be difficult, to say the least, to accomodate women. Then there is the matter of, uh, healthy young males and females in close quarters. These subs can go on underwater "cruises" - and stay underwater - for months at a time. Admiral Hyman Rickover, "Father of the Nuclear Navy" so highly prized harmony and teamwork among the crew of a submarine that he insisted on personally interviewing - and selecting - every submariner. Sexual tensions - no fault of either male or female, just fact - have a way of threatening the tightest group. It will be interesting to hear what Senator John McCain, whose father made admiral in the submarine service, has to say about this proposal.
My wife, who labors lovingly and enthusiastically as an elementary school teacher, came home and told me that a parent had told a fellow teacher "you're nothing but an overpaid blue-collar worker." It was intended as an insult. Neither my wife or I, however, would be insulted by being called blue-collar workers. Blue-collar workers built our country, fought our wars, sired our football players, and, until NAFTA started sending our jobs south, provided us with many of our values. One of the problems with our society today, I fear, is the loss of blue-collar jobs to lower-paying parts of the world, and with it the blue-collar mentality - a day's work for a day's pay. Instead, too many Americans (including, I suspect, the parent who insulted the teacher) are content to sit on their duffs waiting for their boat to come in or, more specifically, the winning lottery ticket. As for the "overpaid" part - that one strikes a nerve. I have taught, and although I observed a few people who needed to get out of teaching and seek their fortune in some other profession, I didn't know any teachers who were overpaid. Actually, other than a few CEO's, a lot of professional athletes and practically every pencil-pushing bureaucratic administrator, I have a hard time thinking of anybody I'd call overpaid.
The Philly radio sports-talk guys say that they've seen NFL Films' Super Bowl production and it is fantastic (their words). It's due to air on ESPN at 10 AM Saturday.
The University of Arizona has a pretty good basketball program. Just a few years ago the Wildcats won the national title, and this year they're running neck-and-neck with Stanford atop the Pac-10. But they're young, and they sure could use some senior leadership. Too bad Eugene Edgerson isn't playing. He was a mainstay for the last three years, and he would have helped. Coach Lute Olson was counting on him, but the 6-6 Edgerson had other things to do. No, he didn't turn pro, and no, he didn't drop out of school. He's still in Tucson, but he's - he's student teaching! In kindergarten! Ken Goe wrote a great article in the Portland Oregonian last week about this remarkable young man who had to choose between his senior year of basketball and his student teaching, and made the choice no one would have predicted for a college basketball player. He does have another year of eligibility left, since he never red-shirted, and he very well may return to the Cats' basketball team next year, but it was important to Euegene Edgerson to do his student teaching first. Maybe his own family circumstances had something to do with his decision. He grew up in New Orleans, raised by a single mother. He never knew his father. "I was always sad that my dad wasn't around for me," he told Goe. "He didn't spend time with me. I had kids in my class who had both parents. They would tell me about everything they did. I couldn't share those things." His basketball talent got him to Arizona, where, he told Goe, two things happened to convince him to become a teacher. The first was a freak injury a couple of seasons ago to teammate (and football quarterback) Ortege Jenkins, who was just driving in for a layup in practice one day when his knee went out on him. "Just like that," Edgerson said. "He tore his ACL. That made me sad. I was like, 'Gene, you need to check your priorities and get some things straight.'" He determined to change his ways academically, from doing "just enough schoolwork to get by" to concentrating on graduating from college, "because one day the ball will stop bouncing." The second thing that convinced him to become a teacher was a call. Not on the phone. From above. "I was raised in the Catholic religion," he told Ken Goe, "and I always remember priests saying that God called them. I felt the same way. I felt God was calling me to become a teacher." So now, big Eugene Edgerson is surrounded by 17 kindergartners at El Salon de Tortuga, loving the kids and loved by them. "A lot of kids these days need male role models," he says. "There aren't any. A lot of people have questioned why I want to teach on the primary level. I say, it's just something I need to do. If I don't do it, who else is going to step in?"
February 10 - "I don't believe you can tell a player how bad he is all week and expect him to play good on Saturday." John Cooper
Win one, lose one. Noted team man Dennis Rodman has joined the Dallas Mavericks, lured by a cool million to play the final 38 games of the season, and by a pledge that he can arive late to practices, which he won't have to participate in fully, anyhow. But it is a zero-sum game in Big D, because another team man, one Deion Sanders, has announced that he wants out of Dallas. He said he wants to land on a team with a chance to win the Super Bowl. (Rodman's contract probably has an escape clause allowing him to play in the XFL.)
300 members of the student body at Sedro-Wooley (Washington) High School walked out of classes last Wednesday in peaceful protest of the "resignation" of head football coach Dave Williams, who took over a program that was 5-31 over the previous four seasons, and built a 12-15 record in his three years there Clearly, he made progress on the field. And according to senior football player Troy Hanson, quoted in The Skagit Valley Herald, " He taught the team more than just football. He taught us sportsmanship, class. He also taught us the meaning of hard work and to always expect excellence."
Didn't matter. That wasn't enough for the people who make the decisions, so for whatever reason, Coach Williams was given what amounted to a Hobson's Choice (a choice that's really no choice at all): resign or have his contract "non-renewed."
In Washington state, regardless of a coach's record, regardless of his previous evaluations, there is no "expectation of continued employment," A coach works on a one-year contract that can be "non-renewed" for any reason. Or for no reason - they don't have to give him a reason, just tell him "we're not renewing your contract." No matter that most classroom teachers have tenure; most high school coaches, regardless of their record and their years of service, work year-to-year, one-year contract after one-year contract. But think about this, folks: it's one thing to hang one isolated coach in a tiny little town out to dry. But think about this minute - I've never been a huge union man, although I once belonged to the Teamsters when I was in college, but what if all the coaches in a state were to band together? What if they were to insist on multi-year contracts - tenure even? What if it were as hard to fire a good coach as it is to fire an incompetent teacher? What if coaches were to unite in support of a wronged brother, and refuse to play his school? Remember where you first heard this: one of these days, coaches are going to pull out of the weenie teacher's unions, which care mostly about gun control and gay rights and other social issues and couldn't care less about coaches, anyhow, and put themselves in the hands of somebody like the Teamsters. Don't laugh. At least hold your laughter until the first time a district tries to dump (excuse me - "non-renew") a dues-paying member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers just because a few parents are unhappy over their kids' playing time. Can't you just see some glad-handing, "win-win" administrator-type, caught in the middle between a handful of irate parents demanding that he fire the coach, and a strong union promising a boycott of the school's games if he does?
The St. Louis Rams (motto: A Super Bowl is Not Enough), evidently not satisfied with selling a Rams jersey to every little kid within a three-hour drive of St. Louis - not to mention thousands of Kurt Warner jerseys on kids and grownups all over the country - are going to make those old jerseys obsolete. They're going to "lighten" the blue "a bit." Does this mean that with a couple of minor color changes, one every year for the next three or four years, the Rams will eventually be another one of those teams wearing gag-me teal? (Wonder if it ever occured to those teams - what do they do when teal goes out of fashion - if it hasn't already?)
The little town of Gueydan (pronounced "GAYE-dahn"), in the bayou country of south-central Louisiana, calls itself The Duck Capital of the USA. It's also the home of Gueydan High School, whose football team over the years has not been a point of special community pride. Not until this past season, that is, when Coach Ward Courville's Gueydan Bears broke all sorts of school records. Most significant, perhaps, was winning five games for the first time in school history; but the Bears didn't stop there, finishing with the first winning season and the first post-season playoff spot in school history. Coach Courville was kind enough to send me a tape not only of the Bears' highlights, but also of some of the treatment Gueydan's great season received from local TV stations. The Bears did a nice job in their first year of running the Double-Wing, and Coach Courville is already excited about next season.
Note from a certain Ed Wyatt, writing from Australia: "In reading your NFL stuff on the website and watching Fox Sports News every night, I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to live in a nation where most of the problems with sports figures revolve around too many beers and the occasional urinating in public."
February 9 - "There are three things that everybody can do better than anybody else: Build a fire; run a hotel; and quarterback a football team." Biggie Munn, longtime Michigan State coach
Today is the 14th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Hey - that reminds me - our Women's soccer team - you know, the one that just got a raise in pay to $60,000 - had a game this past weekend. Why didn't I see anything abut it on the front pages of my newspapers? Why weren't they on TV? We didn't have to watch the NHL All-Star game. How'd they do, anyhow? Somebody told me they lost . To Norway. But I find that hard to believe, since we pay our girls more than we pay our schoolteachers and soldiers and cops, just to play "amateur" soccer, and Norway, after all, is a country with about as many people as Washington state.
What can I say - what can anyone say? - about the tragic death of Derrick Thomas?
You may remember my quoting Coach Mark Reeve, of Plano Texas, and his article in last November's Texas Coach on the influence Coach Mike Honeycutt, veteran Texas high school coach, had on him ("a good coach always carries his keys."). How about this bit of wisdom? "When I was at Pearsall, Texas, I met my wife, and before we got married, Coach Honeycutt took my wife aside and told her, 'more good coaches get fired because of their wives than because of their coaching ability.' My wife has never forgotten that speech, and has allowed me to be in this profession for the last 25 years. Coach was one of the last to go to two-platoon football because he felt it separated the coaches' wives into offense and defense."
Coach Wyatt: Been meaning to write since our season was over. Just finished my 29th year. We were an 11 man team for 23 of those years, but the last 6 we've been 9-man. Purchased your original playbook & video last year, modified it for the 9-man game and implemented the offense this past season. Worked great. We went 8-3 with a very young team and made it as far as the quarter-finals of the state touorney. Just recently reviewed your upgrades, I like this stuff a lot. Your Tight Rip 88 Power and Super Power becomes, for us, Tight 66 Power and Super Power. Stan Olson, LeRoy-Ostrander High School, LeRoy, Minnesota
During 1997, the most recent year for which figures are available, 12.4 per cent of Mississippi's school children were paddled, leading the nation.
Do you suppose they check their math more carefully as they check their spelling? I received a bit of Spam in my e-mail the other day, offering "home improvent loans --- free mortgae quotes!"
We all know by now that it is best not to be drinking and lose one's temper. Even after looking in your Taco Bell bag and suspecting that the people at the drive-through window have shorted you a chalupa. But after all the laughs over the big lineman from the University of Kansas who lost it over a missing chalupa, it is only fair to set the story straight: there is no truth to the part that had him getting stuck in the window while trying to crawl in after the treat - or the person who cheated him. It just did not happen. So say the Taco Bell people, the Lawrence, Kansas police and the player himself. I believe he would like everybody to know that. He has hopes of playing in the NFL, and I'm sure he is tired of being known to pro scouts as The Chalupa Man.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week on the firing by the New York Times of several workers at its Norfolk, Virginia news bureau. Their offenses? They were sending - and receiving - and forwarding raunchy, inappropriate e-mails, on company computers, on company time. This is becoming a big issue in corporations and, one would expect, schools as the potential for sexual harassment suits, not to mention John Rocker-style insults, frightens employers. It also should frighten employees to learn that no matter how much you erase, trash, cancel, delete, etc., there is likely to be a permanent record - somewhere on the server - of every e-mail you send and receive. Consider this, the next time you receive an e-mail that strikes you as particularly hilarious, if somewhat off-color: people at the Norfolk bureau who received the objectionable e-mail but did not forward it received reprimands - but they kept their jobs.
February 8- "High school coaches do a great job of giving the kicking game lip service. A lot of people talk about working on the kicking game, but very few people really do." Jerry Glanville
Politics again - this time with a lesson for football coaches. Sandy Grady, Washington, D.C. columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News (who got his start as a sports writer), writing about Senator John McCain's spectacular New Hampshire primary win, suggests that Governor Bush got hit with Super-Power - or a Wedge - or something else straight out of the Double-Wing playbook: "How did McCain do it? " Grady asks. "First, the Naval Academy grad applied the military axiom: Send maximum force against your enemy's weakest point. Meaning, he gambled by skipping Iowa (where Bush won handily) and spent 74 days crisscrossing (hey - another one of our plays) New Hampshire."
It is very fashionable in education circles these days to incorporate something in the elementary school curriculum called "problem-solving." (For some reason, that must sound more pretentious than calling it "solving problems.") While thinking this past weekend about the article that the Australian writer, Phil Dye, wrote about kids' not learning how to lose, I happened at the same time to be sneaking a quick look at the "Winter X Games", when it hit me: kids don't learn how to lose because they don't play enough games! So much of what they are into is individual stuff. X games, snowboarding, skateboarding, rollerblading, BMX, Nintendo - they're all individual things - no socialization required. With the exception of inner-city kids on the playgrounds, the only time most kids play games is when they're adult-directed and pre-organized. Everything is done for them by well-meaning grownups. At risk of sounding too much like an old fart, when I was a kid, adults couldn't have cared less what games we played or what rules we used. We never needed some adult telling us that we were engaging in "problem-solving activities," much less doing the problem-solving for us. We just wantd to get on with the game, and we had to get a few details - minor disagreements - out of the way first; the desire to play was so great that we resolved them as expeditiously as possible. Whether it was football, baseball or just tag, we were the ones who decided what, when and where we were going to play. We chose up the sides. Maybe it did damage somebody's self esteem, but the best kid always got picked first, and the worst - or, more commonly the youngest and smallest - wasn't even chosen, but assigned ("you guys got Arnie"). If we didn't have enough players, we decided whether a ball hit to right field was a foul or an out. We decided whether to play tackle or touch. We decided whether a kid who showed up with cleats would be allowed to wear them when nobody else had them, and we decided who got the next guy - or girl - to show up. We decided when we had made a mistake in chosing sides - when one team did, in fact, have "the sides" - and we decided what we had to make the sides more even. Cheating didn't take place because it was not tolerated and everybody knew it. Everybody knew what a good sport was and what a poor sport was. A kid would only get away with taking his ball and going home once. If a guy was a cheat or a poor sport, we weren't fraid to tell him that he couldn't play. (Talk about intolerant! Talk about judgmental!) We solved a heck of a lot of problems, though - because we had to. If we wanted to play, that is. Time was wasting. And nobody was going to do it for us. We were totally on our own. Now, my wife tells me, whenever the kids at her elementary school try to get a game of their own going at recess, it often comes to a halt, stalemated by a dispute - until an adult has to step in to resolve it.
Now that Mike Martz, offensive coordinator of the Rams, has been promoted to succeed Dick Vermeil, I wonder if John Ramsdell will be named offensive coordinator. Coach Ramsdell, a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a Springfield (Mass.) College grad whom I first met when he was on Rich Brooks' staff at Oregon. He came to St. Louis with Coach Brooks, and stayed on when Dick Vermeil took ove, and has been working as the Rams' quarterback coach. John Ramsdell is a good football man and a good person, and it's got to be quite a line on his resume to be able to say that he played a role in the Kurt Warner story.
Dick Leonard, Double-Winger from Salinas, California called me a couple of nights ago with some exciting news- after "I don't know how many " years as an assistant in the Monterey Bay area, he has just been named to his first head coaching job. It's at Alisal High School, a school of about 1500 kids in Salinas, and it won't be easy - Alisal has won just three games in the last seven years. But Dick knows that. He also knows a lot of the kids, and likes them, so the record doesn't deter him. He is a good man, and he is up to the job. Dick has been an assistant the last four years at Alvarez High, where he helped open the school and launch the program. He said he is going to have a good core of assistants, but he plans on interviewing to fill a few more spots, and he told me he could use a good questionnaire to use in interviewing assistants. If you happen to have one, please do Dick Leonard a favor and e-mail it to me, or to him directly < firstname.lastname@example.org > hey, even if you don't have a form, e-mail him and congratulate him! You must remember how you felt when you got your first job - and you probably didn't have to wait as long as Dick Leonard did!
For more information than you ever thought possible on last week's college football signings, take a look at "Bobby Burton's Rivals 100" at www.rivals100.com
I am happy for the fans of St. Louis and Nashville, two neat cities, but if there is one thing they should learn from the fans of Los Angeles and Houston, it's this: enjoy the team's success all you like, but don't kid yourselves for one minute - it ain't "your" team. It belongs to the owner, and it will be gone in a heartbeat the instant an owner thinks he (or she) can break a lease and go make a couple more bucks someplace else.
February 7 - "The way to play against an offense is to get familiar with it." John McKay
Sounds like he's talking about the Super-Power and the Double-Wing philosophy of attack: "A well-designed play should improve with use, As the coaches and players become more familiar with the important details and eliminate any bugs in it, the play should be increasingly productive from game to game and from year to year until the defense has to overconcentrate against it, and thereby open up some other point of attack. A play will generally be designed to start like several other plays, and if one play is stopped, another running play or forward pass from the same action should have an added chance of success." Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf, who took the California Golden Bears to three consecutive Rose Bowls (1949-50-51)
Top ten newspaper sites ranked by number of visitors: (1) USAToday.com (2) nytimes.com (3) washingtonpost.com (4) latimes.com (5) boston.com (6) WSJ.com (7) mercurycenter.com (8) chicagotribune.com (9) detnews.com (10) seattletimes.com . In 1999, the Washington Post lost $68 million on its web site, spending $85 million on it, and taking in only $17 million in revenue. The problem facing the newspapers - none of whose sites is yet profitable - is the fear that if they pull out and cut their losses, they will leave the field wide open to their Internet-only news competitors, who might then find the Net profitable once they have it to themselves.
"When it comes to all the confusing junk the computer industry emits, there are are no dumb questions, only inadequate manuals and help files." Walter Mossberg, Wall Street Journal Technology Columnist
According to a research report I received in the mail from investment firm Ernst and Company, every investor should have a game plan. Good advice. But the writer tried to take the football analogy a little further, and got himself tripped up by a lack of football knowledge. He was trying to say that an investor needs to protect himself by playing it safe and protecting against market downfalls as well as by investing aggressively, and here's what he said: "Think about your favorite football team for a second. If they played offense 100% of the time, they would be marginable at best." Now, apart from the fact that this is the first time I have seen the word "marginable" and I haven't the slightest idea what it is supposed to mean (neither, I suspect, does the writer, who probably meant "marginal"), isn't the trick to try to stay on offense? Isn't it considered sort of desirable to get possession of the ball and hang onto it? I mean, if I can play on offense 100% of the time, how are you going to beat me?
If you happened to be watching the NHL All-Star game yesterday, you had to be impressed by the pre-game introduction of Wayne Gretzky, but also by a moving scene shot at a frozen pond in the country north of Toronto in which a group of present-day superstars - Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Kariya and Eric Lindros - pays tribute to three retired greats - Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe.
"No Respect. One of my senior players has been talking to some NAIA level colleges about his prospects of joining them next year. The college coach he was talking to the other night asked him about the offense we ran and my player explained the basics of the offense. The college coach tells my player well, it is not the best offense but I guess it will get you through. I reminded my player that it was the best offense and that is why we run it. NO RESPECT! Daren Hatch, Arapahoe, Nebraska" (I'd like to ask those big-time college coaches to forgive us if we sometimes get so busy that we just forget to check with them to see what offenses they'd like us to run.)
February 5 - "Today the sport (football) is an American institution that encompasses Little League, secondary schools, colleges, universities, and professionals, and owes its position as a national treasure to the playing rules - the anatomy of the game." David M. (Dave) Nelson, writing in 1994 in"The Anatomy of a Game," his book on the evolution of the rules of football. Coach Nelson, longtime coach at the University of Delaware, is properly credited with development of the Delaware Wing-T, and served for 33 years on the NCAA Rules Committee.
BONUS BUSINESS PAGE: The price of a share of WWFE (World Wrestling Federation Entertainment), traded on the NASDAQ, was down 4-3/16 at the close of trading Thursday, the first full trading day after the WWF's announcement that it would attempt to move in on the NFL - a 25 per cent overnight loss in share value, as Coach John Torres pointed out yesterday.
The problem with being a coach in the NFL, having to work for the rich idiots who own the teams and coach some of the idiots they pay millions to, was addressed on PBS' Lehrer Report earlier this week by Jean Elshtain, of the University of Chicago. She was describing an ailment of society of large, but in doing so,, nailed much of what's wrong with today's owners and today's players. "We have lost," she says, "our sense of 'enough.'" Increasingly, in all aspects of society, we are "dominated by envy." Acquiring "more" becomes an obsession. People can't allow themselves to be satisfied with what they have - someone else may have more. Although she was dealing with a problem infecting society at large, see if it isn't magnified in sports: players making millions demand to renegotiate their contracts the instant they learn someone else is making more; owners making sizeable profits while their franchises soar in value threaten to move when they learn what kind of a stadium deal a rival is getting; they fire coaches who win - but don't win the Super Bowl. Even when they seemingly have it all, people are tortured by the thought that they should have more. Increasingly, Ms. Elshtain says, our society is driven by one overriding factor: "what more can I get?"
Add Tony Dungy of Tampa Bay to the list of head coaches put in a squeeze play by their owners between having to fire one valued assistant and staying on, or standing firm and possibly being fired hiimself, costing all his assistants their jobs. Coach Dungy, reportedly against his wishes but at the insistence of the geniuses who own the Buccaneers, had to fire offensive coordinator Mike Shula (remember his dad? he used to be coach a little). Hey, making it to the conference finals isn't enough.
Turnabout is fair play - The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that in the course of the Rams' Super Bowl Parade, Rams' owner Georgia Frontiere received no fewer than five proposals of marriage from men in the crowd. Some guys will do anything to own an NFL team. (So, of course, will some girls.)
Has anybody noticed that John Rocker is serving a valuable function, enabling other people to feel good about themselves because as intolerant as they might be, they're not as bad as John Rocker? Or , even if they are, at least they haven't been quoted in a national magazine? And he does make a convenient punching bag for those people who somehow think that their tolerance and decency is measured by the force of the shots they take at John Rocker - who, if you hadn't noticed, has been rendered utterly defenseless.
But while people are taking their shots as John Rocker, what of the Gore supporter in New Hampshire who called a man a "cripple?" Not that anybody deserves to be so categorized, as if he is some sort of nameless subhuman,, but what if I told you that the so-called "cripple" walked with a limp because he was missing part of a leg? What if I told you that he lost that leg in Vietnam? What if I told you that he was awarded the Congressional medal of Honor, the highest award our nation can bestow? Does it make it any more or less acceptable that the man was Senator John Kerrey of Nebraska, who happens to be supporting Mr. Gore's rival, Bill Bradley? Senator Kerrey took the intended insult like a man. He told reporters that in fact, it was true - he was a cripple, and that was "the only honest thing they said all day." Now, in this day and age, deriding someone as a "cripple," - not to mention someone whose limp was acquired in the service of his country - is at least as bad as the things John Rocker has said. Yet the Gore campaign's press secretary didn't see the need for an apology, and Mr. Gore himself, when asked about the incident on MSNBC, said, "That's not true. That's just not true...it did not happen." Yet as Dorothy Rabinowitz reported in the Wall Street Journal, the event was witnessed by numerous reporters - "not to mention Mr. Kerry himself."
So the XFL, Wrestling Magnate Vince McMahon tells us, is going to be "100% sport." And, to make it real "smash-mouth football," the wise men who are setting it up are going to "deregulate" it - they're going to do away with all those stupid rules. You know, the stupid rules written by the people who brought the game up from its infancy and nourished it into its present prosperous state. My recent reading of George Halas' memoirs gives me a great appreciation for the people who wrote those rules (a few of them admittedly stupid), and the part they've played in developing the game. Yes, if I were emperor, I would do away with legalized holding, and yes, I would eliminate place-kicking, and yes, I would eliminate any attention-getting demonstrations (ever notice how often the money and the fame seem to go to the guys who work so hard to draw attention to themselves?). I would reduce roster sizes and drastically cut down on the time between plays. I wouldn't allow spiking the ball, but that wouldn't be necessary anyhow, because I would stop the clock between downs. Kickoffs would be from the 40 (increasing the likelihood of an onsides kick), and kickoffs or punts (remember, no field goals) going into the end zone would be brought out to the 40. And there would be no such thing as roughing the punter. Okay, okay, It ain't gonna happen. But somebody might want to send Vince McMahon a copy of Dave Nelson's book (see the daily quote above), because even though I never thought I'd root for the NFL, which is kinda like pulling for the IRS, I don't think we're going to like what our game looks like when the WWF gets through with it.
February 4 - "Life is boring for someone trying to achieve greatness." Eddie Crowder, former coach, University of Colorado
I first commented on a certain trend back in April, when I noted that the effects of pro wrestling were already noticeable in the NBA and the NFL. Now, evidently concerned about the way pro football has been seeming to copy its product, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) is counterattacking, with a pro football league of its own, intending to start up next February, following the Super Bowl. Formally announced yesterday, the WWF-sponsored league will have eight teams, with six cities already selected. The six lucky cities, according to Basil DeVito, President and Director of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Orlando and Washington, D.C, with the two remaining cities to be announced in the next 60 days. Unlike the WWF itself, this new league, to be known as the XFL ("X" for "exciting" and "exhilarating." Wonder why they left out "extreme.") "will be 100 percent pure sport," according to Mr. DeVito. He did concede, however, that there will be an emphasis on entertainment, saying that the XFL would adopt rules to speed up play, and would give viewers "greater access" to sideline activities (and, presumably, antics). "The NFL has become too conservative, too corporate with too much regulation," Vince McMahon, WWF chairman, told USA Today. "We're bringing back old-fashioned, smashmouth football but with cutting-edge marketing and production values." Here's something interesting to think about- how does the NFL respond? Ignoring it, with its usual lordly indifference, which has served it so well against past onslaughts from the WFL and USFL? That might not be so easy to do this time around, because the WWF represents formidable competition. It knows how to package and market entertainment, and it has an incredibly strong following among the boys and young men who comprise the NFL's future market. Does the NFL stage a preemptive strike, opening up with more showmanship ot its own, greater "access to the sidelines"? It's been heading in that direction, but still looks stodgy compared with the WWF. Or does it attempt to hold the high ground, portraying itself as the defender of the One True Faith? I would love to see the NFL game undergo a return to real football, but to do so could risk losing all those young males, who have clearly shown their preference for the type of "entertainment" in which guys grab their crotches. H. L. Mencken, the "Sage of Baltimore," and one of the most cynical of all American writers, would have loved this. He once observed, "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."
Wow. A new league. Historically, that has always meant a bidding war for talent between the leagues, and a resulting large increase in payrolls. Bear in mind that it the XFL really does get under way, it will be the first competing league to crank up since true free agency in the NFL, making the NFL far more vulnerable to raids on its rosters. NFL players have to be excited at the news. NFL owners, especially the newer ones who have known only prosperity and good times, may have to consider selling off the corporate 737.
"When I first heard of it I thought what a crock of manure, but thinking about it, what a perfect marriage! The WWF will probably MANDATE that the players take steroids and take acting lessons, just like wrestling!" John Torres, Los Angeles - "PS - The New York Stock Exchange stated that the stock prices of the WWF fell 25% after it was announced! It will go into the penny stock category after the first game! "
One reaction to the Nuveen Investments commercial that ran in the Super Bowl and showed Christopher Reeves miraculously cured and walking, has been a deluge (pronounced DELL-yooj, by the way, despite how you might hear the yeast-heads on TV pronouncing it) of phone calls to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. Not, as I would have thought at first, to find out where to send contributions. ( Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, for those who want to find out.) Instead, the calls are from people wanting to know how Christopher Reeves was cured! At first, I thought , sheesh! Once again the American public reveals how stupid it really is! And then it hit me that some of those calls may have been from the loved ones of spinal cord injury victims, willing to grasp at the slightest straw of hope.
If you are a schoolteacher... or a police officer... or a member of the armed forces... you can't be pleased at the news that the US Soccer Federation has agreed to give the women's soccer team players the money they were asking for. Why did they get a raise? Because, they said, they "deserve" it. (As if teachers and servicemen don't.) The women will receive a raise in minimum monthly salary from $3,150 to "at least" $5,000, plus bonuses of $1000 to $2000 per win and $500 to $1000 per tie. Not only that, but these young ladies - who we will be told incessantly, come Olympics time, are "playing for their country" - will share an overall bonus of $100,000 for reaching the Olympic semifinals, plus an additional $150,000 for winning the bronze medal, $300,000 for winning the silver medal or $700,000 for winning the gold medal. Put simply, winning the Olympic gold medal would allow the players to divvy up a pool of $800,000. Assuming a 20-player roster (I don't know how many ways they'll split it) that works out to $40,000 a player. Not bad pay for "playing for their country!" Now, it's not pleasant watching the jackasses of the NBA pulling down their millions, but if that's what a rich owner chooses to do with his money - that's the so-called market at work. I must admit that it's always bothered me that in our society, basically useless people are so highly valued in contrast to the ones who are truly indispensible. But I accept the laws of economics that explain why NBA players make a lot more money than schoolteachers, master sergeants and police officers. What I don't understand is - where does the money come from to pay a soccer player upwards of $60,000 a year, plus bonuses? Where is the rich owner in this picture? I suspect if we follow the money, it'll lead back to the taxpayers - the same people who underpay, and undervalue, the teacher, the GI and the cop.
Meantime, back in the real world of the market economy, where women's soccer players would find their talents worth a whole lot less than $60,000 a year plus bonuses, Portland's new franchise in the Indoor Professional Football League (not to be confused with the Arena Football League) will be holding tryouts on Saturday, February 12 at a local high school field. Candidates will be charged $50 each, cash on the barrelhead. I am not kidding about that. Players who make the active squad will receive $200 per game and $3200 per season (Sounds like high school coaches' pay, doesn't it?). Hey, guys- hang in there. The XFL will be holding tryouts soon, too.
February 3 - "When you win, I think all the goodies fall in place, and if you are going to have an influence on kids, you are going to have to turn over every stone you can to win." Jack Elway, longtime coach
"You see the boy that Momma and Pappa never see. You see him with his soul stripped naked. You can tell Momma and Pappa whether their boy is a coward or whether he is a courageous man. You can tell them whether their boy is selfish or whether he is tolerant and understanding. You can tell them whether their son is dependable and reliable or whether he isn't. You can tell them whether their son obeys the rules and regulations or whether he is a violator of the law. You know that kid as nobody else knows him because you have seen him with his soul stripped naked." Jake Gaither, legendary coach at Florida A & M, who retired after the 1969 season with 203 wins
I was a history major in college and I am a huge fan of the game of football, and so perhaps it is natural that I have an avid interest in the history of our game. I read with awe the autobiography of Paul Brown, a man of impeccable character; I am just winding up "Halas by Halas," the autobiography of George Halas, founder of the Chicago Bears and one of the founders of the NFL itself. Talk about a contrast - reading George Halas' memoirs while watching the Super festivities. I kept shaking my head at what has happened to the league that George Halas and others like him - the Art Rooneys and the Tom Maras - built. I kept asking myself, "What would George Halas think of Paul Tagliabue?"
There stood Paul Tagliabue, Emperor of All Football - highest-paid person in the entire NFL -declaring to the news media assembled, "I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.." Sorry, wrong lie. Actually, his wasn't much easier to take. What he tried to make us swallow was this: "We have fewer (criminal) incidents in the NFL than society at large has." Now, unless Commissioner Tagliabue means that the 1500 players in the NFL commit a smaller absolute number of crimes than society at large - which very well may be true, given that there are 250 million of us out here at large - then he is about to be confronted with his own version of the blue dress - a special set of statistics (the NFL is very big on stats) called FBI figures.
According to FBI figures, 21 per cent of NFL players have been charged with a serious crime. Twenty-one per-cent! Let me put that another way: one NFL player in five has been charged with a serious crime. And the criminals are more likely to be stars than backups, because teams can get rid of any backups who are bad actors. But they need the stars. They can't win without them. And winning makes people forget everything else.
Don Yaeger, a writer for Sports Illustrated, appeared Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America to talk about the subject, one he has become familiar with as a result of research he did for his book, "Pros and Cons."
He contends that the atmosphere of professional sports creates in athletes a feeling of invincibility- a belief among players that they can do anything they want and take anything they like, because if they run afoul of the law, "somebody will figure out a way to get me out of this mess." He quoted former Ram Daryl Henley, now serving hard time in the federal pen in Marion, Illinois, for drug trafficking and plotting to have the judge killed. Henley said that his belief in his invincibility - that he didn't have to answer for anything he did - started when he was in junior high. "Every time I made a mistake, someone made an excuse for me."
These guys are so unbelievably coddled that they don't have to take responsibility for anything. Ever noticed what happens when it's time for one of them to apologize for the latest outrage? Ever notice who does the apologizing? It always sounds something like this: "My client regrets that he made a mistake, and hopefully we can all put this behind us and move on." The jerks can't even do their own apologizing!
And then, to a sense of invincibility and total lack of responsibility, must be added a very strong, almost pathological sense of entitlement - a sense of superiority to others and a belief that they have value only to the extent that they can provide the athlete with the things he wants.
Author Yaeger went on to refute the nonsense people promote about football being such a violent game that it ingrains in players a violence that they take with them out into society. Then why is it, he wonders, that we can send young men to war - certainly as violent as football - and expect them to obey the law when they come home? (Something, I would add, far fewer than 21 per cent of them have trouble doing.)
Coaches, if our game means anything to you, you'd better start to worry about the influence of NFL, because I think it is perfectly capable of keeping itself fealthy and strong, while killing off our sport at its grass roots. I believe that the conduct of NFL players - what middle-class mommas see when they happen to glance at a TV on Sunday afternoon, or what they read about when they happen to look at an open sports page - has a lot to do with convincing parents that they don't want their sons to become a part of that sport. They don't see all the wonderful things that take place in our football, all the benefits of having their son play our game. They see professional athletes acting like jerks, on the field and off, and they are reminded of all the things they want to keep their kids away from. I really do do believe that this sort of thinking underlies much of the success of soccer, a sport which in our culture should never have amounted to more than a PE activity or a pleasant form of recreation.
Coach Daren Hatch, in Arapahoe, Nebraska, says that Dr. Tom Osborne, former Cornhuskers' coach who recently announced he would be running for Congress must be electable, "because half the people that were going to run bailed immediately."
These are not the best of times for Seattle, a city that deserves better. You couldn't have blamed Seattle a few years ago if there was a certain smugness to it. It was the capital of grunge. It had a downtown that was still lively at night. (Still does.) Nature blessed it with a gorgeous location and, if you could take incessant winter drizzle, a good climate (summers are to die for). Traffic sucks, but it does almost everywhere these days. But now, as I write, the Kingdome is coming down, sacrificed to build a new ballpark just to keep Ken Griffey, Jr. in town (The Mariners didn't like playing indoors). No more Final Fours for Seattle. But wait. Now, Junior wants out anyhow. And somehow, mild, laid-back, genteel Seattle thought it was different. It thought it could handle the WTO meeting, and was shocked to discover that rioutous demonstrators didn't care whose city they trashed. Microsoft, a local company that has produced hundreds of millionaires, is being trashed by the Justice Department, the gang that can't shoot straight even when it has government corruption in its crosshairs. But none of those can compare with the cruelest blow yet - the tragic crash of Alaska Flight 261 into the Pacific. Flight 261 was bound for Seattle, via San Francisco, and entire families of Northwesterners - many of them Seattlites - perished. It is hard to imagine the devastating effect such a tragedy can have on a community. And with the crash of Flight 261, something else near and dear to Seattle is endangered - its confidence in Alaska Air Lines itself. Alaska is Seattle's own air line - the Northwest's for that matter. In terms of passengers and flights, it is the number one airline serving Portland. It is the West Coast's major north-south carrier. People out here like Alaska Air Lines. It has long had a reputation for safety, reliability and good service, and it has enjoyed the public's confidence. Buck up, Seattle. You're still a heck of a city.
No such thing as an ex-coach - "After spending the autumns of 1998 and 1999 watching me sneak out of the house on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, and then listening to my scimpy alibies about "hardware store excursions", my wife gave me an ultimatum: "go back to coaching or get a divorce." Health problems had forced me to leave the sidelines before the 1998 season. Now, I must confess that after 33 years together, I had to consider these alternatives for what turned out to be (as far as my wife was concerned), an agonizingly long thirty seconds. And so after weighing the financial pros and cons of her offer, I plan to coach again at a local high school here in the Buffalo, NY area. I still enjoy and look forward to your "News...." column every morning. Keep up the good work! Also, several staff members plan to accompany me to your Toledo clinic in April. Best wishes, Chuck Ciehomski, Buffalo, NY"
An inside look at how school policy is made: When the teachers explained it to the students and asked them for their input, the students were in total agreement. "It's a crock of s---," one of them blurted, and the rest of them nodded their heads. At the faculty meeting that afternoon, when the principal asked the teachers about it, one of them said, "The students say it's, uh... horse manure." Afterward, when the superintendent asked the principal about it, he was told, "The faculty says the students think it's a kind of, uh... fertilizer." That evening, when the school board asked the superintendent for his recommendation, he was pleased to report, "Everybody says they believe it will promote growth." And so, without further discussion, it passed, by a 5-0 vote.
February 2 - "Unpredictability is the greatest asset a leader can have." Richard M. Nixon
Would John Rocker have been better off if he'd murdered somebody? Hard to say, since no baseball player's murdered anybody - yet. Baseball is suspending John Rocker for one month without pay, Meanwhile, the NFL has said and done nothing ("it's a team matter") about Lawrence Phillips, Cecil Collins, Rae Carruth, and now Ray Lewis. Of course, in our feel-good culture, murder is not in the same ballpark (sorry) as shooting off your lip. (Whatever happened to smacking a guy in the mouth?) And besides, the NFL would have us believe, its membership is just a microcosm of society at large. Any group of 1500 active young people is bound to have a couple of bad eggs. Sure. And so, if we follow the NFL's logic, a college with 15,000 students (roughly 10 times the NFL's population) will have 20 (alleged) murderers on its campus.
A question regarding Ray Lewis. I have been reading about some of the fancy digs these professional athletes are building in the Orlando area. Penny Hardaway supposedly is building a home whose master suite alone will be 10,000 square feet! And, of course, they all live in gated communities, because they don't particularly want trash like you and me walking our dogs around their neighborhood. So here's my question: if you guys are so concerned about keeping out the riffraff that you live within the walls of medieval villages, why would you be out hanging around with them outside some dive at 4 in the morning?
College recruit? Hey - this guy's ready for the NFL right now. While on a recruiting visit to the University of Florida, a 6-4, 300 pound high school standout was arrested and charged with attempted sexual battery and burglary of a residence after breaking into a woman's room early last Saturday morning.
If you've ever won a big one and found yourself wishing some of those great guys from past teams could be there to share in the moment, you'd have been touched as I was by something that Rich Hofmann wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Jim Solano, a Philadelphia agent who represented 18 players on Dick Vermeil's 1980 Eagles' Super Bowl team, went over to congratulate Coach Vermeil at a party following Sunday's game. "I really wish all of those guys from the 1980 team could have been here for this so they could have been a part of it.," Solano said Vermeil told him. "Dick, they do feel like a part of this. I know they do," Solano told the coach. At the last school I coached at, there were several classes of kids in the 1980's who went through there and never won a game - in their four years of high school football. Yet I felt it was important to recognize those guys, and when we began to win, we dedicated our efforts to them - guys who kept coming out when it wasn't easy - and we often talked about how they deserved to have a part in whatever success we had.
Just in case you hear somebody criticizing Coach Vermeil for bailing, now that he's won the Super Bowl - where do you think he would be right now if he hadn't had the season he had - if, instead, he'd had the same year this year that he had last year?
I never thought that I'd get hit by some of the political mud being slung these days, but I guess no one's safe... Things aren't tough enough for Texas Governor George W. Bush after last night, but I just read a nationally-syndicated column by a certain Michael Kelly, joining the media mob that calls the Governor an intellectual lightweight. He dismissed Mr. Bush's Yale education because first of all, "he only got in on his ancestral connections." Maybe so, but those were some mighty impressive connections - it's not as if the "ancestral" Yalies Mr. Kelly refers to were rich stiffs. Mr. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a Senator from Connecticut, and his dad - war hero, baseball captain, successful businessman, US Congressman, UN Representative, CIA Director and, oh yes, President of the United States - certainly didn't bring disrepute to his alma mater, either. Let's just say I'm glad I wasn't going up against him for the last open spot. And it's not as if George W. was a high risk academically: it was disclosed recently that he actually scored higher on the verbal SAT than Bill Bradley, whose scores were good enough to get him into Princeton (although his basketball skills didn't hurt), and whose reputation as an intellectual is well-earned and unchallenged. But Mr. Kelly wasn't content to stop there. He had to go on, further disparaging Governor Mr. Bush by saying that once he got admitted Yale, he coasted, settling for "a gentleman's C". Now, that got my attention. That's when I got caught up in this political campaign. What "gentleman's C?" What coasting? Is nothing sacred? I graduated from Yale a few years before Governor Bush, and I owe my diploma to a liberal supply of those C's. Hey, Kelly - I worked for those C's! I would like to have known where to go to find a few of those "gentleman's C's" you referred to. Sure, everybody knew of a "gut" course here and there where you could get a B or maybe even an A without a whole lot of work, but apart from the fact that at the time I wasn't much of a gentleman, I got far more than my share of C's, and believe me, I sweated out every one. Admittedly, I didn't work as hard as I could have to get more of those elusive A's or B's, but after a semester of, uh, other activities, I frequently found myself pulling an all-nighter just to salvage a C, and keep my scholarship. That's why, when 15 years later I went after my teaching credentials, education classes seemed like such a joke. I watched in wonderment as kids whined and angrily confronted professors who dared to give them a C on a carelessly-done paper. What was their problem? I wondered. What's wrong with a hard-earned C? Turned out they practically guaranteed you a B if you were breathing, and with minimal additional effort, you got an A. At Yale, they didn't give you a thing, even if your name was Bush and your grandfather was a Senator. They took great pride in defending the academic integrity of a great old university against the likes of me, and if you earned a D or an F, that's exactly what you got. (I got a few of those, too, until I finally realized that those people were serious.)
Who says there's never any consequences? An Oregon judge really threw the book at Shona Yardley, a 22-year-old woman who bought a keg of beer for a group of minors, three of whom subsequently got in an accident that killed one of them. Ms. Yardley was put on two years' probation, fined $1,120 and given 1,000 hours of community service. Wow. Talk about harsh. But the judge wasn't through. She ordered Ms. Yardley not to buy any alcohol for anybody for two years. (The judge probably would have recommended hanging a tavern owner who legally sold beer to someone who went out and caused a fatal accident.)
February 1 - "Most games in sports are won by the more talented team, but it occured to me a long time ago in my coaching that most big games are won by the team that wants to win the most." Don James
Sunday's Super Bowl was an exciting game. No doubt. But on Good Morning America yesterday, the dweeb who serves as its host referred to it as "the most exciting game I've ever seen." Of course, if all you watch is NFL field-goal football, it may very well have been the most exciting game you've ever seen. Doesn't it gall you the way some of these media ignoramuses act as if NFL football is the only football there is? (If a tree falls and it doesn't happen in an NFL game, does it still make a sound?)
Maybe, once people stop gushing about what a great Super Bowl it was, they will realize that it was actually a pretty deadly first half, when all we got was field goals - three thrilling field goals! What made it exciting was that ultimately it was settled by a touchdown - a real, honest-to-goodness touchdown - and then nearly won, 70 seconds later, by the other team, trying to score a touchdown. For once, people were treated to what real football looks like every Friday night, when teams still live and die by their ability to score touchdowns. And for once, those of us who love real football didn't have to watch a team spending the last minute of the game dinking the ball down the field, all to maneuver the ball into place for a field goal attempt with 00:03 remaining by some guy whose helmet doesn't fit and couldn't make our high school team as a player. Briefly, we were all treated to a look at that wonderful world in the sky where professionals still play real football - without any field goals.
Unlike most years, there was only one week this year for the teams to prepare for the Super Bowl. And at that, the weather messed up some of the teams' final practices. So what happened? We got the most exciting Super Bowl in a long time. Think the suits at NFL headquarters will learn from that? Naaah. Watch them go back to the old two-weeks-of-preparation format, with lots more time for parties and lots more media hype - and another snoozer of a game.
I was talking last Tuesday with John Naylor, a longtime Texas coach with whom I've become good friends over the last few years. John has been around. He's met an awful lot of well-known football people along the way, and I sure do enjoy listening to some of his stories about them. In view of a couple of other things I'd read lately, one of the stories he told me the other night really hit home. Seems he was coaching at Trimble Tech in Fort Worth in 1983 and they played a playoff game against Midland Lee, coached then by the legendary Spike Dykes, who recently retired from Texas Tech. Coach Naylor, in looking at the game program, happened to notice that there were 33 seniors on the Midland Lee roster! Even then, and even in Texas, that's a lot of hungry young egos to keep happy. John said he asked Coach Dykes how he had managed to keep that many kids in the program and interested, and Coach Dykes told him it was all because of "a Middle-School coach who convinced those kids that not everybody could be a chief, but everybody could be an Indian, and it took a lot of Indians to be successful." (Sorry if Coach Dykes' figures of speech are not PC today, but he made a good point.) Which led me to an article I'd read in our local newspaper...
about Ryan Miletich, the son of Steve Miletich, a veteran local football official, and his wife Phoebe, a PE teacher with whom I taught for several years. Ryan just wrapped up five football seasons at the University of Washington. Five football seasons as a non-scholarship player. Ryan was a good high school football player, easily good enough to play at a Division III school, but he wanted to be a Husky. He walked on, and although he understood there was no likelihood of his ever receiving a scholarship, he did get to the point where he dressed for all home games, made the travelling squad the last two seasons, and went on four bowl trips. The last two years, he was the holder for all the Huskies' PATs and field goal attempts. Way down the depth chart as a quarterback, he even got into the Utah State game in 1998. "It was only 15 or 20 snaps," he told the Vancouver Columbian, "but that made it all worthwhile. How many people can say they played quarterback for the Washington Huskies?" At a time when people choose their college based on whether they'll start as a freshman, Ryan Miletich looks back and has no regrets about the choice he made. "I'd have done this all over again," he said. "The things I've been a part of, the things I've done, where I've been, the people I've met, is worth it. You come here, I don't want to say as a nobody, but somebody who wasn't recruited very hard out of high school. You come in and work hard, and all of a sudden, everything starts to pay off." I thought about that, and thought about all the prima donnas who over the next couple of months will transfer schools once spring practice is over and they find out they aren't going to be the starter in the fall - and then thought about an article I'd read in the Melbourne (Australia) Age...
by Australian Phillip Dye, author of "The Father Lode; a New Look at Becoming and Being a Dad." He speculates that in the process of filling our kids' heads with all that "you are special" stuff, we have failed to teach them one very important skill: the ability to lose. Yeah, yeah, I know - "show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser," and all that crap. But 20 years ago, did we have the expression "going postal?" Did fired workers return and shoot up the workplace? Here is what author Dye has to say: "children have entered a period of being constant winners. Every child is a winner at just about everything, or at least worthy of immense praise for just taking part." (Trophies for everybody?) And as a result, losing - or falling short - comes as a total shock. Mr. Dye mentions his days as a teacher, when everything on a report card had to be positive, and every teacher was given a list of phrases - all positive, some more positive than others - to soften the impact of what the teacher really wanted to say. "Will achieve her best with a little more effort," was one example, when what probably would have served the child a whole lot better was a frank statement that she was goofing off. We have to stop trying to manipulate outcomes so that no one is a loser, and prepare kids to deal with the fact that some of us are just plain better - or worse - than others at certain things, and all the efforts of parents and teachers and coaches can't change that fact. I personally think that we have created a lot of problems in our kids with our "you can be anything you want to be" motivational mumbo-jumbo. It's just not so. "It is the reality of life," Mr. Dye says, "that while we may all be equal, we are all very different. We can't be good at all things. While we may be able to fool ourselves some of the time, when the crunch comes, it will hit us very hard indeed." (So why, as educators, are we wastingso much time fooling kids by telling them how wonderful they are just exactly as they are - no changes necessary - instead of helping them to deal with reality, and improve or adapt? It's a major reason, I believe, why kids rolls their eyes when a teacher asks them to redo a paper, or bristle when a coach corrects them; it's why they quit the team - or call in Mom and Dad - when they are asked to play another position, or told that the coach thinks somebody else at their position is better.) Mr. Dye mentions other ways in which learning to lose is important, as well. For example, if kids never experience loss - "if all we have for comparison is the ecstasy of previous wins" - they'll never be satisfied. Instead, they'll continually search for greater thrills than merely winning can provide. If today's children don't know how to lose, Mr. Dye says, it may be because today's parents are so busy "putting children first" - trying to be their kids' friends - that they have abdicated their roles as leaders. Parents, he says, have got to return to risking being unpopular with their children, and learning to say one magic word - NO. "The 'no' word is being lost from a parent's vocabulary," he says, and what we have produced is what he calls the "yes" generation - kids who can't tolerate deprivation or loss. We must begin to teach kids to deal with losing - with reality - and that's going to require parents (and educators, too) with the strength and courage (call it "stones") to "present the raw truth or use the no word a little more often."
Garfield Heard, a black coach caught in a tough situation - in his first season and trying to win with the NBA Washington Wizards - was fired the other day by new Wizards' executive Michael Jordan. So where is Jesse Jackson?
January 31 - "A coach is responsible for a good football practice. You are not always going to have great football practices, but as a coach, you are responsible for good practices. You can say the attitude of the team is bad. Well, who is responsible for the attitude of the team? You are." Dick Vermeil
Finally! It took two teams that had never been in the Super Bowl before to produce a game that lived up to all the hype. Touchdowns even! There haven't been many teams, coaches and quarterbacks who together had the kind of seasons the Rams, Dick Vermeil and Kurt Warner had. And at the end, they had to beat a heck of a team to do win it all, and they did - by less than a yard.
Huh? "It proves that we did the right thing by moving to St. Louis." Georgia Frontiere, in accepting the Vince Lombardi Trophy and dissing the people of Southern California.
Those of you who have had "assisting the runner" called on you when you ran a wedge play had to scream the way I did when I saw Tennessee's fullback come piling into Steve McNair's back, giving him the extra boost he needed to make a crucial 4th-and-1 on a quarterback sneak early in the fourth quarter. Not a word about its illegality from the boys in the booth, though, who commented on it during the replay as if it was perfectly legitimate.
Speaking of the boys in the booth: at one point during the game, they were enjoying telling about Marshall Faulk's turning down Miami and Eddie George's turning down Penn State, because those schools wanted them to play linebacker. One of the geniuses - it must have been Boomer - said, and I quote, "who are those guys who wanted to change them? Probably not coaching anymore..." Of course, we are talking about college football now, and we can't expect NFL guys to know anything about any football other than theirs, but somebody has got to tell Boomer and Al that Penn State's Joe Paterno, who wanted to change Eddie George, is still coaching. Coach Paterno, 73 years old, has been head coach at Penn State since 1966 and just re-upped for five more years. Yes, his guys lost Eddie George, They also lost Jim Kelly to Miami because they wanted to make him a linebacker. They were wrong, obviously. But those guys also might have been super linebackers, at a place that knows good linebackers. And since when is it wrong to lose a kid by dealing with him honestly, instead of just telling him whatever it takes to get him to sign, then shafting him?
What's with Steve McNair and the backward baseball cap? Unless he has a helmet on, he's never seen without it. He even wore it during pre-game intro's, when everyone else wore his helmet.
It would be interesting to hear how many of you will be attending a clinic this winter whose agenda lists someone scheduled to tell others how to stop the Double-Wing. Regardless of whether the speakers have actually done so, or what their qualifications are, I would imagine that the sessions will be well-attended, just as there will always be people out there looking for an easy way to lose weight, grow hair, build muscles or hit a golf ball straight.
Dr. Tom Osborne is running for Congress from Nebraska. He certainly ought to be electable. Why aren't I surprised that a football coach is running as a Republican?
The Super Bowl is also the Super Bowl of advertising. With 30-second spots going for $2 million-some each, advertisers can't afford to waste their moment in the spotlight, so they trot out their best.
My Super Bowl Favorite (No one else is even close) - EDS- "Herding Cats" - a bunch of cowboys, some of them sneezing, discuss the tricks of herding 10,000 cats ("anybody can herd cattle") - including having to get them down out of trees - as they drive them, cattle-style, to town, occasionally brushing the cat hairs off their duster coats. Message: "We bring together information, ideas and technology."
Second - After seeing a bunch of jerks hollering and wolf whistling, we find that the object of their attention is a large m&m sauntering down the street. "She" tells them, "Go buy a bag!"
Third - the whole series of ads by e*trade, headed by one that's sure to cause problems with the gay community: a young man scores the winning basket in a game, then tells his ambitious dad, "I don't want to play basketball- I want to dance!" and goes into a lengthy song and dance routine. Moral: Have a backup plan, Dad.
Fourth: Fedex delivers balloons full of helium for the Munchkins to inhale, after their voices suddenly deepen; also, a toy company executive looks at his company's "Combat Action" figures and asks, "tell me once again why they're wearing dresses?" (They didn't use FedEx to deliver the camouflage gear they ordered.)
Fifth: Volvo Trucks. An old-timer at the wheel of a new Volvo over-the-road truck telling us that these fancy new cabs ain't changed truck drivin' all that much is interrupted by a butler holding out a little velvet-lined box and asking, "toothpick, sir?"
Sixth: Anheuser-Busch. "Every designated driver is a Great One," says the tag, as the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, drives a guy home from a bar in a Zamboni.
Seventh: Blockbuster. Scenes of guys with grossly blistered thumbs from playing so many video games rented at Blockbuster.
Eighth: hotjobs.com. A white hand (like the one that points to links) goes through a series of job interviews with sleazy types that you wouldn't work for, either.
Least favorite: The NFL thanks its fans. (Anybody checked the price of tickets lately?)
Still not sure what I think: Nuveen Investments. Master of Ceremonies talks all the wonderful things that are going to happen in the future, about the future, then calls on a special group of people to accept an award, as we see Christopher Reeves - sometime in the future, mind you - walking unsteadily - but walking, nevertheless - across the stage to accept some sort of award.
ABC's Bahbwah Wawltuhs had a little pre-Supah Bowl get together in the studio for some of the girls. One of them got started on the subject of the football players' "butts." They all had a good laugh. Can't you just hear the uproar if a bunch of guys led up to the telecast of the Women's World Cup Final by sitting around, chuckling about the girls' butts?
January 29 - "I think that in coaching, you have to be man enough to look for mistakes and to recognize them." Chuck Fairbanks
You would think that with all the money they're spending to put on a halftime show that no self-respecting football fan cares about anyhow, the NFL, which doesn't leave much to chance, would have perfected the technology to make a winter storm bypass Atlanta.
Coach - You know what I do on Super Sunday? I take the kids to Disneyland. You see, on this day there seems to be a lot less people in line and I don"t have to watch all the rich crybabies and instant replay calls gone awry! And yes I was invited to a couple of Super Bowl Parties, if you were wondering.
Want to know why the Super Bowl has the deadest crowd in all of sports? Rick Reilly points out in his Sports Illustrated column this week that only 35 per cent of all the tickets go to the two rival teams. Put another way, in a stadium of 77,000 people, that's less than 13,500 apiece. For the most part, they're in the hands of very prominent sponsors and luxury-box owners - you can be sure the tickets are not going to the guys from the West End Tavern, the ones who've sat way up high, closer to heaven than to midfield, and screamed their fool heads off at all the regular-season games. The remaining 65 per cent? They're divvied up among the other teams and the league office. As valuable as they are in terms of paying off past favors or greasing someone up for a future favor, not too many of them are likely to wind up in the hands of Joe Fan, either. Years ago, back in Baltimore, I had a running argument with a friend named Gus Jacobs. I hated the idea of having to watch playoff games and championship games played in cold weather on sloppy fields. I thought it would make sense to move the game to a permanent warm-weather site. I was so-o-o progressive and ahead of my time! But Gus was apalled at my suggestion. He was passionate about football - he wouldn't even take his mom to a Colts' game because she wasn't enough of a fan - she wasn't "worthy," in his words. Gus argued that moving the championship game out of the city of one of its participants wasn't fair to the fans who had supported their team all season long. He predicted that the stadium would be filled with rich stiffs who had the time and money to go there, not the real fans. I countered that the real fans would be perfectly happy sitting in front of their TVs watching the game. I haven't seen Gus in years, but I was reminded of him yesterday when I heard a woman on a Portland radio station. She said she was going to the Super Bowl. She didn't know who she was rooting for, though. Said she'd decide when she got there. Gus Jacobs was right.
If you hadn't been paying attention, an attempt by the Canadian Government to rescue Canadian NHL teams was shot down. Fast. The plan would have used taxpayers' money to provide teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver (but not Montreal and Toronto) with subsidies to offset the competitive disadvantage caused by the discrepancy between the Canadian dollar and the US dollar. Trouble was, other people had their eyes on that money, too. Almost immediately after the plan was proposed, it ran into angry reaction from all sorts of groups, including representatives of college students, the homeless, Western farmers and health care advocates, all shouting that the truly needy were being ignored for the benefit of wealthy hockey players. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation suggested that taxpayers protest by mailing hockey pucks to the Prime Minister. Newspapers were flooded with letters to the editor denouncing what they saw as a misuse of tax dollars. According to the vice-president of a Canadian polling organization, "Canadians put this in the context of 21-year-olds making millions for shooting a puck in the net against long lineups in hospital emergency wards. Hockey lost." Meantime, they are preparing to tear down the Seattle Kingdome while right next door, Washington tax dollars go to build a gorgeous new stadium for Paul Allen, richest owner in sports, so that he won't have to spend his own money on the likes of Joey Galloway. Washington taxpayers voted against a baseball stadium for their beloved Mariners, too, but they got one anyhow, because without one they were told they'd lose Ken Griffey, Junior, who now wants to move out of town anyhow so he can be nearer to his family - who used to live around Seattle but moved to Florida. Now, I don't know about you, but I wish those Canadians would stop their whining. I say three or four hours waiting in an emergency room is a small price to pay, if that's what it takes to keep Junior happy, or make "our" Seahawks competitive in these days of free agency.
FROM A FORM LETTER I RECEIVED - According to a radio report, a middle school in Oregon was faced with a unique problem. A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror, leaving dozens of little lip prints. Finally, the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom & there they met with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to clean one. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it into the toilet and then cleaned the mirror. Since then there have been no more lip prints on the mirror. (IF THIS ACTUALLY DID HAPPEN, I WILL WAGER THAT SOME GIRL TOLD HER PARENTS ABOUT IT - ON HER CELL PHONE - AND THEY IMMEDIATELY CALLED THE SUPERINTENDENT - ON THEIR CELL PHONE - COMPLAINING THAT THEIR DAUGHTER AND OTHERS LIKE HER HAD BEEN PUT "AT RISK" JUST SO THE PRINCIPAL COULD MAKE A POINT. THE SUPERINTENDENT ASSURED THEM THAT HE WOULD IMMEDIATELY PLACE A LETTER OF REPRIMAND IN THE PRINCIPAL'S PERSONNEL FOLDER, CIRCULATE A MEMO AMONG THE STAFF CAUTIONING THEM ABOUT THE NEED TO CLEAR ALL LESSON PLANS AND FIELD TRIPS WITH THE ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT FOR CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION, HIRE A CONSULTANT TO PUT ON A DISTRICT-WIDE IN-SERVICE ON EMPOWERING STUDENTS TO TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR SCHOOLS, AND MOVE THE CUSTODIAN TO GRAVEYARD SHIFT.)
Occasionally I get on the subject of what happens when a school posts a teaching vacancy - but doesn't fill the vacant position with someone who can coach. It happens everywhere. I suspect that in many cases, it's downright discrimination against coaches. It always galls me, because it reveals the psuedo-intellectual prejudice against coaches of administrators and fellow-teachers, who'd like us to think that precisely because they aren't coaches, they are somehow intellectually superior to those of us who are. Therefore, by their reasoning, an applicant who doesn't coach must be a better teacher than one who does. And so they hire the non-coach, and wind up cheating the kids on two counts - first of all, they fail to provide our schools with enough coaches, so that head coaches have to scramble to find good assistants; second of all, they fill our school buildings with non-coaches, many of whom who just plain don't work well with kids. At least when they hire a coach, they can be reasonably certain he (or she) can handle a class of kids. An Athletic Director of my acquaintance, whose office adjoins his school's detention area, said that all you have to do is look to see whose kids are in there: it's invariably the non-coaches - the self-anointed intellectuals, who can't work with kids and have to keep referring their problems to the detention area or time-out room or whatever it's called.
January 28 - "I don't think technique will overshadow talent, but it's the next best thing." Charlie McClendon
With the East Coast still shoveling out, I came across a great story. It was 1953, and Rip Engle, Penn State's coach, was worried. Actually, Coach Engle - like many coaches - had a reputation for being a worrier, but his Nittany Lions were coming off a 20-19 loss to West Virginia, dropping their record to 3-3, so with Fordham coming into State College to play and Junior Prom weekend threatening to cause a distraction, he arranged to take his team on Friday night to a company's hunting lodge about 25 miles north of the campus. When the Lions woke up on Saturday morning, they were snowed in. Coach Engle sent two assistants, Jim O'Hora and Joe Paterno, out to find the buses that were scheduled to pick them up, but they returned when they couldn't even find the road. The resident caretaker of the lodge volunteered to take his rifle and trudge through the snow and, if he located the buses, to fire two shots. He had been gone about 40 minutes when the team, back at the lodge, heard two shots, so they started out, single file, though the snow, following the caretakers' footprints. Coach Engle walked first, followed by his assistants, followed by the third string and then the second string, so that by the time the first stringers' turn came, they had easy going. Once they got aboard the buses, they were escorted by three tractors and three carloads of state police, and arrived at the stadium at 1:30, the scheduled kickoff time. Volunteers from the town and college had cleared the snow from the field and stands, and the game went on as scheduled, although slightly delayed. Penn State won, 28-21, and went on to win the next two games to finish 6-3.
Perhaps they can set political correctness aside for one brief moment at the Super Bowl, and offer a prayer for the full recovery of Derrick Thomas, a good man by all accounts, whose dad's plane went down over Vietnam in 1972. Actually, while they're at it, make that a prayer for a full recovery for all those attempting a recovery from spinal injuries, and for former Notre Dame All-American and Miami Dolphins' All-Pro Nick Buonaconti, and all the work he's done for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
Coach Scott Barnes, from Colorado, mentioned watching ESPN and seeing one of those re-creation-type games in which the Packers of the 60's played the 49ers of the 80's. He said it was pretty well done - "They lost total touch with reality, though, when they had the Pack receiver doing the "Lambeau Leap"..could you imagine what Lombardi would have done if one of his receivers would have jumped into the stands after a touchdown!??"
For the record...No, I do not condone child abuse. But I have always admired a Southerner's ability to turn a phrase, and I had to pass this along. One of my daughters was talking to a friend in Tennessee who bragged that the Titans had "whupped" Jacksonville "like a 4-year-old at K-Mart."
Sports Illustrated is usually worth the price just to read Rick Reilly's column on the last page. This week's is no different, and it's dedicated to the fans of the Rams and Titans, neither of whom has ever been to a Super Bowl ("the sporting event that is to excitement what Rosie O'Donnell is to the thong bikini"). It's an irreverent where-to-go and what-to-do. This week, Reilly observes, Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves, is only the third strangest owner in town. Ahead of him is the Titans' Bud Adams ("who wears his hair long over his ears, much in the style of a man emerging from a Philippine cave, asking if the war is over") and the Rams' Georgia Frontiere ("Married seven times, the 72-year-old astrology nut doesn't sign important papers when Mercury is in retrograde"). The most popular new game at the NFL Experience is "Which trunk is the Fugitive Wide Receiver Hiding In?" He suggests that fans spend Super Bowl week meeting as many real fans as they can, because at game time, they'll be watching it on TV somewhere. Any real fans managing somehow to attend the game in person will be surrounded by "corporate suits, marketing veeps and trophy spouses - the VIPs who make the Super Bowl the deadest crowd since the one for Mike Night at the Tomb of the Terra-cotta Soldiers." A "time-honored ritual known as Captain's Choice" is "one of the most revered Super Bowl traditions." It takes the night before the Super Bowl, when "each of the teams' captains leaves his hotel room, his wife and his family and proceeds in secrecy to one of the host city's more historic urban meeting points to patronize the time-honored $40 hooker."
I have looked high and low for my copy Gene Klein's book, "First Down and a Million" (or is it Billion?), but I can't seem to find it. Klein, the owner of the Chargers back in the 70's, was hilarious in describing his fellow owners, including one scene in which Georgia Frontiere (whatever her name was then) was clearly taking steps along the way to her present ownership of the Rams. As I recall the scene, Klein was walking down the hall of a hotel, past the open door of Carroll Rosenbloom, then the owner of the Rams and either her sixth (or soon-to-be sixth) husband. Klein said he happened to look into the room to see Georgia, up close and adjusting Mr. Rosenbloom's tie or some such thing, gazing adoringly up into his eyes and singing, to the tune of the hit song "Mister Wonderful" (she was once a night club singer), "Mister Rosenbloom... that's you..."
"I can truthfully say that if my sentence is 350 years, I don't intend to serve." Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, 72, facing up to 350 years in prison and $7 million in fines if convicted on charges that he accepted payoffs from people seeking casino licenses.
January 27 - "Being loyal is like being pregnant. You either are or you're not. You can't be a little bit pregnant." Johnny Majors
THE NATIONAL SINGLE-WING SYMPOSIUM will be held again this summer, July 13-15 (Thursday-Friday-Saturday) at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri (suburban Kansas City). I am promised more info, including whom to contact, by May 1.(BRIEF LOOK AT THE SINGLE WING)
Hey - what goes on around here before the halftime show? If it makes you feel any better - it happens in the pros, too: the Rams and Titans both had to practice outside yesterday in Atlanta's brutal cold. Inside, in the warmth of the Georgia Dome, the entertainers were rehearsing Sunday's halftime show. Nothing like getting your priorities straight.
As part of her presentation to senior civics classes at Scappoose, Oregon High School, Scappoose Police Chief Margo Dew accepted written questions submitted by the students. One of the questions - unsigned - asked Chief Dew why the Scappoose Police Department is corrupt. The Chief, understandably upset, challenged the questioner to identify himself, and when - predictably - no one accepted her challenge, she lit 'em up. Questioned the person's courage! Embarrassed him! Right in front of his peers! Even, according to the teacher, used - gasp! - obscenities! In front of the children! They were, in the words of one of the children, "offended." Okay. I wasn't there. Maybe she could have done a better job of keeping her cool. But those kids have obviously spent too much time in the shelter of the school, where "every opinion has value", and "no answer is wrong," and it evidently came as a shock to some of them that not all people on the outside are going to be equally "accepting" (as educators like to say) of their fresh-off-the-top opinions. So now, under orders from the City Council, the Chief has apologized to the little snivelers - for nailing some gutless sniper who didn't have the "stones" (I don't know what words the Chief used) to identify himself as the source of a reckless accusation. The kids don't think her apology was sufficient. What a wonderful job their teacher has done teaching those "children" the responsibilities of citizenship. I'm sure it hasn't occured to him to apologize to the Chief for the hospitality he extended. Send that guy a QUESTION AUTHORITY bumper sticker. And don't bother inviting the Chief of Police in on Career Day. And drive ve-r-r-ry slowly through Scappoose.
The Super Bowl means big business in Nevada, the only place where it's legal to bet on pro football. Last year about $87 million was bet on the Super Bowl in Nevada's legal sports books, most of them inside Las Vegas' casinos. Most of the bets are straight "money line" bets in which the house establishes a "spread," that is, the number of points by which it predicts one team is likely to beat the other. The house may say, for example, that the Rams are favored by 7-1/2 points to defeat the Titans. That means that if you bet on the Rams, they must win by eight points or more for you to win your bet. But if you bet on the Titans, they can actually lose the game and still win your bet for you - provided they lose by seven points or less. (Needless to say, if they win, you win, too.) A lot of research goes into establishing the spread, because its purpose is to get roughly the same number of people betting on both teams - called "balancing the book." If it is found that far more money is being bet on one of the teams, Vegas will adjust the spread as necessary to attract more bettors on the other team. If its book is balanced, the house can't lose whatever the outcome of the game because bettors are required to bet $11 in order to win $10. That means that if your team "covers" the spread, you win $10. But if it fails to cover, you will lose $11. Simple - for every $10 the house pays out to winners, it collects $11 from losers. (It is also possible in some casinos to make proposition - or "prop" - bets on such questions as which team will score first, which player will score first, how many yards a particular runner will gain, etc., etc. - even which team will win the toss. One casino, the Imperial Palace, offered 120 different prop bets on last year's game!
Kerry Packer, gazillionaire Australian media magnate, had a heart attack in 1990 and nearly died. In fact, he was clinically dead for six minutes. When he came to, he said, "I've been to the other side, and there's nothing f---ing there."
Mark March 7 on your calendar. It's the 10th Annual National Sportsmanship Day, started by the University of Rhode Island's Institute for International Sports. (Seems a shame that we have only one day to set aside for something that used to be a given, but in these days of "in your face," and "it isn't cheating if you don't get caught," at least it's a start.) English teachers- here's a great extra-credit assignment in connection with National Sportsmanship Day: Students - elementary, middle school and high school - are invited to submit essays of 500 words or less dealing with ethics and sportsmanship in society or, if they wish, a description of an example of either exemplary or poor sportsmanship from their own experience. (Idea: students looking for something really unique to write about might want to brainstorm with their class and see if any of them can come up with a single instance of exemplary sportsmanship anywhere in professional sports. Double Extra Credit for anyone detecting an example during Sunday's Super Bowl. Coaches - see if you can force yourself to watch the NFL "action" long enough to find one exemplary display of sportsmanship Sunday and e-mail me about it. Gotta be during the game - the handshakes of the captains don't count.) USA TODAY will publish the winning essays on National Sportsmanship Day. The deadline is February 18. Send essays to:
USA TODAY Essay Contest
The Institute for International Sport
3045 Kingstown Road
The University of Rhode Island
PO Box 104
Kingstown RI 02881-0104
Essays can be faxed to: 401-874-2429
Coaches may find the National Institute for International Sport's web site interesting and useful.
Um, actually, it's not exactly a cold, kids.... Years ago, a magazine ad for a cold remedy showed Daddy coming in the door after a hard day at the office, holding a handkerchief to his nose as he prepared to let go with a huge sneeze. The caption read, "Here Comes Daddy With a Cold for Everybody." I was reminded of that old ad by the news that Kevin Stevens, an All-Star left-winger with the New York Rangers, was arrested Monday in a motel in a St. Louis suburb along with three "companions," one of them a prostitute and one a suspected pimp. At seven in the morning. Along with enough crack to get the four of them charged with possession of a controlled substance - a felony. Conviction could result in one-to-three years in prison, but Stevens will probably just get probation because he is, after all, a professional athlete, and he makes lots of money making people feel good when he scores goals. Oh yes - and after posting bail, he was immediately whisked off to drug treatment. Of course, he's "undergone treatment" before, which, for all the good it did, tends to make some of us rather cynical about the money spent on drug rehab programs. The Rangers are very concerned about his rehabilitation, of course, but mainly, in the words of General Manager Neil Smith "I just want him to rejoin his wife and kids.That is what's most important." Important to whom? Kevin Stevens? Did you miss that? WIFE AND KIDS! Turns out this creep's pregnant wife is back home in Massachusetts with their two kids. And here comes Daddy...
A couple of years ago, the director of the Baltimore County Public Library began getting compaints from library users, angry because they couldn't open any Super Bowl Internet sites on library computers. The problem? Anti-pornography filtering software on the library's computers kept reading requests for "Super Bowl XXX" as addresses of porn sites.
January 26 - "If the only importance is in the winning of games and in the amount of money that is put into a program or gotten out of it, then football cannot be defended as a worthwhile part of an educational institution." Rip Engle, Joe Paterno's predecessor (and mentor) at Penn State
The second of the Year 2000 Double-Wing Clinics has been set, this one in the Toledo, Ohio area at Perrysburg High School. Toledo is closer to points in Michigan and the province of Ontario, although it is a bit farther from Western Pennsylvania and the Double-Wing stronghold of Western New York. I have had extremely good luck in the past working with host coaches, and I am looking forward to working with Coach Ray Pohlman, head man at Perrysburg. I have seen the job that he and his coaches have done with the Double-Wing, and I have seen the excitement their program has generated. Coach Pohlman is making arrangements to have players on hand - all legal, of course - to make a portion of the clinic "hands on."
Although there are 100 years left to go, more or less, I'm told some of the TV weather people back East are calling this week's snowstorm the "Storm of the Century." For those of you who have better things to do, I can save you the trouble of watching your TV news. Whatever news show you turn on, they will act as if you don't have windows where you live and can't see that it's snowing - a young reporter will stand in front of the camera holding a mike in one hand while she turns and gestures with the other and says, "As you can see, it's still coming down..." They will also act as if you are a cross between a helpless child and doddering old Uncle Harry. They love you, even if you are the kind who always forgets your mittens, and they want to get you through this storm, because they care. "Remember, don't drive unless you have to," they always say, "but if you absolutely have to, be careful. And remember to dress warmly." Actually, they don't even need to stick a live reporter out in that cold. They could just go back into their archives and run some "file footage" from a previous storm, and nobody would know the difference. But just in case - all you coaches on the East Coast - don't forget your mittens. ( See? I care. )
Discussion topic - If any of them had been Vice-President at the time, which of the current presidential candidates in either party do you think would have resigned in protest when they learned what was going on in the White House?
The new head coach of the New York Jets, Al Groh, was described in news stories yesterday as "one of the NFL's more nondescript assistants." I suppose that means he is not "colorful" enough for the news media. Well, come to think of it, what NFL head coaches are? I was reminded of this when a friend told me about starting an American Legion baseball team locally. When I asked about coming up with the money, I was told that Tommy LaSorda owed the local Dodgers' scout a favor and appeared gratis at a dinner which helped raise in excess of $40,000. They told me that he hung around afterward for quite some time, telling the kids all kinds of war stories. Tommy LaSorda easily commands a fee in excess of $20,000 a speech, and if he wanted to, he could work every night of the week. Now, I know it's the nature of the game. Baseball is a social game, and football is not. There isn't pressure on a baseball manager to win every game; there's another game tomorrow. They can lose five in a row and come back with a seve-game winning streak. Professional football coaches, given one year to produce if they're lucky, are under intense pressure. And any sign of humor could make it seem as if they don't care - they're not "intense" enough. The demands of the job are more and more resulting in people with boring, one-dimensional public personalities. They are being screened for color. Long gone are the Jerry Glanvilles and Bum Phillipses. Now, Ditka and Parcells are gone as well. Think about it for a minute: how many NFL head coaches would you pay good money to listen to? How many could make you laugh?
Want to bet that the Vikings won't hit the skids next year? Oh, sure, they'll still have head coach Dennis Green, two head case quarterbacks, and Super-Soaker Randy Moss. But they'll essentially have an entirely new staff, Green having brought in two new coordinators. Offensive coordinator Ray Sherman - who managed to do the seemingly impossible and get decent production out of both Randall Cunningham and Jeff George - just resigned rather than take a demotion to wide receivers' coach. Nothing against Sherman, said head coach Dennis Green, but he just couldn't pass up the chance to offer his job to former Packers' offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis, who became available when Ray Rhodes' entire staff was let go. Wow! Step aside for the architect of the mighty Green Bay offense of 1999! An offense in which Brett Favre often looked like a rookie. Who wouldn't throw his entire offensive staff overboard for a chance like this? The Vikings' defensive coordinator, Foge Fazio, "resigned" a week ago. Yeah. Resigned. Without another job to go to immediately. Isn't that what everybody does? Yesterday he wound up as linebackers' coach with the Redskins. Not their defensive cocordinator. Now, in the NFL, which has a sort of caste system, defensive coordinators don't normally resign to go coach linebackers someplace else. Of course, it they've been working for the Vikings, maybe they do.
Back in the days of the Soviet Union, the Russia press used to have a unique way of reporting sports - probably still does. Following one dual track meet between the US and the USSR which the US won, the Soviet newspapers reported that the Russian team came in second; the Americans finished "next to last."
Bring back the draft! The U.S. Army finished last year 6,290 short of its recruiting goal of 74,500. Even the Air Force missed its goal, for the first time in 20 years. But the services are not just having trouble recruiting - they're having trouble keeping the people they do recruit. Listen to this: for the last two years, 35 per cent of the Army's recruits have failed to complete their first tour of duty! This is the highest figure in history. And the solutions proposed by the anti-military types who increasingly make these decisions: improve the recruiting numbers by lowering the standards (the GED is now acceptable, as are increasing amounts of criminality in one's background, and improve retention by making training less demanding. (I wonder if anyone has yet figured out that the large percentage of quitters may have something to do with lowered standards.)
January 25 - "Not only is football a great and worthwhile sport because it teaches fair play and discipline, but it also teaches the number one way of American life - to win." Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Byrne isn't happy with ABC/ESPN announcer Mike Tirico's recent comments that backers of a football playoff are "hypocrites" who should leave the current system alone.
In all fairness to Mr. Byrne, Mr. Tirico is not exactly an objective reporter on the issue. ABC, which along with ESPN televises 19 of the 23 bowl games, has offered a four-year, $400 million BCS contract extension, and since the current deal runs through the 2002 bowls, a new four-year ABC deal would effectively kill any playoff talk until after the 2006 bowls.
Bill Byrne happens to be a playoff backer, and he resents being called a hypocrite. If anyone is hypocritical, he says, it is ABC and ESPN. "They are underpaying for the BCS by about $400 million annually," he told the Omaha World-Herald. (ABC is currently paying some $78.6 million a year for the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls,) "They have offered $400 million over four years to extend it. If they would consider that amount of money on an annual basis, then we should consider it. Yet they refuse to pay fair market value for their product." (A Swiss marketing firm has proposed a payout of nearly $355 million a year in return for the rights to a playoff.)
Byrne points out that ABC's proposal calls for a mere 27 per cent. increase in revenues; in contrast, CBS recently paid out a 250 per cent increase for the rights to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
"There is a lot of pressure (on BCS members) right now from ABC to extend this," Byrne told the World-Herald, and "The Big 12 Conference so far is standing fast not to do that." But the Big 12 is also standing alone, he notes, charging that ABC is "buying off" the other BCS conferences - the Big Ten, the Pacific-10, the SEC, the ACC and the Big East - by sweetening the payouts of the minor bowl games that those other conferences are tied to.
Who is the hypocrite, he wonders? "I am shocked to hear athletic directors called hypocrites when that same network's commentators demand that we have perfect equality on things like coaches' salaries and proportionality in Title IX," he said. "Yet the corporations those commentators work for refuse to pay fair market value for their product.
Byrne also scoffed at Tirico's dredging up of the old argument that football playoffs would cut into players' class time. "The lost class time for basketball is 10-fold over football," he said, "and ESPN controls regular-season college basketball. Their 'Big Monday' games and other packages cause more lost class time than all the Friday afternoon departures for football games put together. The lost class time issue is a bogus argument created by them to ensure that they keep their monopoly on the college football postseason."
"The last time I checked, the Constitution said, 'Of the people, by the people and for the people'" - noted Constitutional scholar William Jefferson Clinton. (Actually, the words are Abraham Lincoln's, from the Gettysburg Address.)
Fully ten per cent of the students from 20 elite New England prep schools taking the SAT recently were allowed extra time to finish, because of a supposed need to accomodate their claimed "learning disabilities." That high figure compares with only 1.9 per cent of all U.S. kids taking the SAT, and none - not one - of the SAT-takers from 10 Southern California high schools. More disabled kids enrolled in the prep schools? Maybe. But, more likely, they - or their parents - are more adept at working the system. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, which administers the SAT, expressed concern in the Los Angeles Times that many of those "disabled" students aren't disabled at all, but instead have been clever enough - or well-enough advised - to get around the rules by claiming a disability. (If you weren't aware, savvy, well-to-do parents have been scrambling to have their kids diagnosed as "learning-disabled," getting their kids an edge by perverting a system designed to help people with genuine disabilities.)
An engineer in Orange County, California reported that a contributing factor in 50% of traffic accidents was "operational deficiencies." Whatever they are.
Hey Coach- I was going thru your old messages and I came upon your Danny Ainge leaving coaching for family article. I can tell you in 1988 I was a bartender for a hotel that the Boston Celtics stayed at when they came into town to play the Pacers, our home team. Most every Celtic after the game came into the huge bar and partied till the bar closed, except Danny Ainge. There he was in the pool playing with his kids who came along for the trip because it was all star break the next day. I was impressed at how he put his family first and how nice and well mannered his kids were. They were very young but behaved!! I don't doubt for a second he left for his family. He sure put his family first on that short visit to Indiana. Where most of the players were behaving horribly, there was Mr.Ainge showing all who cared how to be a real man!! Just thought I would share my story on Mr. Ainge. I never had liked him much before that meeting ,but he certainly gained this dad's respect that night.... Coach Shawn Clayton, Indianapolis
I've received a lot of inquiries about our no-huddle system, and at this time, I am trying to keep the info "in the family," and limit it to people I've dealt with before - people who've attended clinics or bought materials. Don't forget to e-mail me for the address of the pages on which I have described it.
January 24 - "Get the players first and everything else will take care of itself." Branch Rickey, General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers (and the man who promoted Jackie Robinson to the big leagues).
If you want to see what's wrong with the NFL, look past the morphing-of-Dick-Vermiel-into-a-sensitive-guy and Tennessee-as-a-team-of-destiny-stories to the real story behind this Super Bowl: it is a tale of two teams taken from fans who finally lost interest in them after years of being abused by incompetence on the field and in the front office. As a symbol of where this game is headed, I suggest that on a one-year trial basis, this year's Super Bowl be called the Greedy, Undeserving Owner's Bowl I. I have no doubt that it will catch on, since it is far more appropriate than "Super Bowl," which has outlived its usefulness. Did anyone notice the sickening strains of "Georgia on My Mind," played over the PA system in St. Louis after the game as owner Georgia Frontiere prepared to accept the George Halas trophy? Somehow, I think that the crusty, earthy Mr. Halas would have had a better way of making the presentation than handing it to her. And Houston? Bud Adams? How about a guy who went through 13 different head coaches in the same 26-year span that Tom Landry coached the Cowboys? Two of them were fired one year after winning AFL championships. Another, Bum Phillips, went 10-6, 11-5 and 11-5 (1978-1980) but was fired after a first round loss to the Raiders, who went on to win the Super Bowl. (Read Ed Fowler's book. "Losers Take All," about the Oilers' move out of Houston.)
Bennetton, Italy's largest fashion firm, has taken great pride in its ads promoting world harmony, diversity, peace, etc. Generally speaking, liberal causes, but noble ones for the most part. But it has stepped way across the line with its latest campaign. The stars of this one are four guys named Conan Hale, Jesse Compton, Alberto Reyes Camareno and Cesar Barone, . The campaign takes the US to the woodshed for its reliance on capital punishment; Messrs. Barone, Hale, Compton and Camareno are currently residents of Oregon's Death Row. Put aside for the moment the fact that if you must live on Death Row, Oregon's is as safe a place as you could choose, thanks to Oregon's reluctance to carry out the sentences its judges and juries prescribed. So they are still alive to tell their sad stories to the world. And, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Corrections in making these gentlemen available to the Bennetton people, the world will be able to hear, in their own words, how inhumane the death penalty is. But not about the inhumanity of the death penalty they imposed, without benefit of a trial, on their victims, who unfortunately, were not available for interviews. For the record - Hale's victims were Kristal Bendele and Brandon Williams, both 15, and Patrick Finley, 13, shot to death and left on a logging road deep in an Oregon forest; Compton's was Tesslynn O'Cull, his girfriend's 3-year-old daughter, who was battered and burned and buried in a shallow grave; Camarena's was Maria Zetina, 18, robbed and stabbed while on her way with him to look for a migrant job (her sister, stabbed 17 times, survived); Barone's were Margaret Schmidt, 61, strangled after he broke into her bedroom and sexually assaulted her; Chantee Woodman, 23, sexually assaulted, beaten and shot to death; Martha Bryant, 41, shotgunned while in her car on her way home from delivering a baby, then sexually assaulted and shot in the temple; Betty Lou Williams, 51, who died of a heart attack after he broke into her home and attempted to rape her in her bathroom. (Just in case someone you know gets caught up in the wave of sympathy Bennetton is trying to generate, you might want to point out to that person - chances are it will be a woman - that all but two of the nine silent victims of these four new media stars were females.)
Lamenting the fact that a couple of generations ago the use of the telephone pretty much killed off the art of writing among business executives, Thomas Petzinger, Jr., of the Wall Street Journal, notes a "rebirth of writing." The reason? E-mail. Business executives concerned about the way they come across to others are showing a great deal of interest in writing courses. To his readers, Mr. Petzinger offers - free - his own three-step writing course: (1) Imitate - "the more you read, the better you'll write." Boy, ain't that the truth. Elementary schools waste all that time making kids write, when they should spend the time getting them to read; (2) Revise - "go over every word at least three times," and showing drafts to anyone who will read them "until each sentence is crystal-clear." (3) Narrate - tell a story behind your topic; it will give your writing more structure, and make it more interesting, too.
"I think when players look back at the game films, and see themselves making a perfect pancake tackle or block, and the scoreboard in their favor, that is what builds self-esteem. Like the pride you see on the old timers' faces, on the History Channel when they talk about hitting the beaches, and climbing 100+ ft. cliffs. And they damned sure didn't get there because some blue sky ***hole told them it doesn't matter if you make it to the top - just give it your best try." Coach Frank Simonsen, Cape May, New Jersey
With all the talk in the presidential campaign about "the rich," and occasionally about their "greed," it's important to realize that the generosity of "the rich" has been responsible for an awful lot of the things that have made our country great. Leland Stanford, one example, was called by some a "robber baron"; would the people whom he "robbed" have made better use of his money than he and Mrs. Stanford did when they donated their farm south of San Francisco to establish a college in memory of their son? Andrew Carnegie amassed a fortune as a cold, ruthless businessman, but how many young people were sent on their way to success thanks to the libraries he built in small towns all over the United States? And philanthropy is returning. In the latest instance, Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape, and his wife Sally, University of Mississippi graduates, have just donated $100 million to Ole Miss to create the Barksdale Reading Institute, aimed at improving children's reading skills.
I quoted a Texas coach as saying, "A good coach always carries his keys." I was asked by other coaches what was meant by that, and I said that my take on it was this: I worry about having to lend other coaches my keys when I'm out on the field so that somebody can get back into the locker room, and then they forget to give them back and I'm so doggone wrapped up in what I'm doing out there that I forget I lent them out (or who I lent them to). Not to mention the fact that school administrators tend to be paranoid (with good reason) about the loss of keys and possibly having to re-key the building.
January 22 - "A victory is not educational unless you can compare it with the defeat you were escaping. You lose sight of that defeat unless it occasionally catches up with you." Glenn "Tiger" Ellison, inventor of the Run and Shoot
I have yet to figure out the purpose of sideline reporters, other than to provide jobs for female relatives of network executives. I hate sideline cameras that allow players to wave to Mom while showing us that they're "Number One, Baby." I am sustained by the belief there is a special place in hell for the guy who invented the zoom lens, so that, with frequent breaks for commercials and occasional brief snippets of actual NFL football, the networks are able to concentrate on bringing us the Sunday facial closeups. I don't have much use for the shotgun microphone, because I'd rather hear crowd noise than player grunts. And I think that wiring the referees gives those guys a greater sense of self-importance, a department in which many of them seem to be doing just fine as it is. The flaming puck is no longer with us, and the helmet cam is gathering dust in the closet until the next startup league decides to allow one of its quarterbacks to wear it in a game. But there are some technological advances in which TV has hit a home run. Instant replay is one. I have become so dependent on it that I occasionally find myself at a high school game looking around in vain for the screen. And "virtual first down," the yellow "yard to gain" stripe that runs across the TV screen, is another. There are actually two competing companies, Sportvision and Princeton Video Image that provide the yellow-stripe technology used by the networks. They are fiercely competitive. In fact, one is suing the other for patent infringement. Truthfully, I can't tell one yellow stripe from the other, but it doesn't look as if the future is that great for the yellow-stripe end of the business anyhow, since most networks have already purchased the technology. But not to worry - an enormous market awaits the companies - the market for advertisers wanting to superimpose their logos on a TV screen. School won't permit advertisers to paint logos on its field? No problem. We can make it look to the folks at home as if huge Bud Lite lizards have been stenciled on both 40-yard lines. Coke signs all over the stadium walls? Previously, Pepsi wouldn't have been too interested in sponsoring any event televised from that stadium. Now, though, the "virtual sign" technology makes it possible to cover the actual Coke signs with virtual Pepsi signs - on the TV screen, that is. It's kind of a dirty trick on the people who bought those stadium signs - and the people who took their money - because you know and I know that those signs were sold with the idea that they were going to be seen on TV - which, when you think of it, was a dirty trick played on the TV people by the stadium guys. At its worst, the technology enables TV networks to hold advertisers hostage, threatening to mask their stadium signs unless they place several thousand unmarked bills in a plain envelope and hand it to a gentleman in a dark suit up in the press box. My heart just bleeds for the Dallas Cowboys - whose stadium revenues are HUGE - when they see their signage money shrink, once advertisers realize their stadiium signs can be covered on TV. Recently, one of the major TV networks did an interview from Times Square, in front of an enormous logo of a competing network. No problem. They covered it with their own logo.Virtual Times Square. Now, I want to see the day when these guys get really good, and cover all those ads on the cars on the NASCAR circuit. For an idea of what they can do and how they do it , visit Princeton Video Image .
For some time now, independent video producer Steve Blahitka, a young Syracuse grad, has been hard at work on a documentary on the Single Wing, to be entitled "Still Running." It sounds as though he has touched most of the bases, including attending last summer's Single-Wing Symposium at William Jewell College, near Kansas City. Check out his progress at his web site - http://welcome.to/singlewing.com
Pennsylvania is another state joining the rush to test its students on basic skills. And if Pennsylvania's experience is like that of most of the other states testing for "minimum competency" or whatever the desired "outcome" is, its legislators will be shocked to learn that fewer than 50 per cent of its students meet the standards. But Pennsylvania has chosen to go a step further than most, and recognize exceptional performance with special seals to go on the diplomas of students who score particularly well. Not so fast, says a resolution signed by several school districts. This will create an "educational caste system." That's not the equal outcome we want! Every kid a winner! Trophies for everybody! Down with the National Honor Society! Where do these colleges get off with all this elitist "Cum Laude" and "Phi Beta Kappa" crap?
Last week I mentioned an article by Coach Mark Reeve, of Plano (Texas) West HS, in the November issue of Texas Coach. Coach Reeves wrote about a longtime Texas high school coach named Mike Honeycutt , and his coaching wisdom. "Coach said, 'Coach 'em on the run,' and that's what we did. You didn't stop to talk, you coached while the players practiced, and if you put your hands in your pockets, you'd better pull out a whistle or a game plan in a hurry. The folding of arms and the locking of knees are for dead people, he would say. How you coach that third-teamer better be with the same enthusiasm as you coach that first-teamer. One other tidbit: 'A good coach always carries his keys.'" Amen to that. It does gall me to watch coaches standing around watching practice. It also galls me to watch coaches stand around with their hands in their pockets. And as for the keys - add a watch and a pencil and paper to that. I am constantly amazed at the "coaches" who don't know what time it is, and can't take notes. (Texas Coach, put out by the Texas High School Coaches Association, always has some excellent articles. I have subscribed to it for years. A subscription (nine issues) costs $13 for one year, $25 for two years. email@example.com)
Jim Armstrong commenting in the Denver Post, on Green Bay's new head coach: " Somehow, I don't see the Lombardi Trophy being renamed the Sherman Trophy anytime soon. The offense Sherman was 'coordinating' in Seattle scored one touchdown in his last 10 quarters on the job. On the plus side, he did know how many lumps of sugar Mike Holmgren took in his coffee. In today's NFL, that's enough to get you a job...." Ouch.
"Coaching football is a way of life. It is a sixteen-hour day during the season, and a ten-hour day in the off-season. It is thousands of hours looking at film. It is tinkering with plays on paper. It is talking to other coaches to find how to better teach a particular skill. It is convincing a young boy that all he needs to be a good player is physical confidence. It is convincing your supporters that you are intelligent, and at times this is very difficult. It is convincing your players that practice is not as bad as it seems. It is great joy when you win, and despair when you meet defeat. It is putting your work out on display and saying, "Here is what I have accomlished this week." It is going into a locker room before a game and finsing it so silent that you can cut the tension with a knife, and then following the game to shouts of joy in victory or tears of frustration in defeat. It is many things to many people, but to me it is a way of life, 'the only way.'" John McKay, "Coaching Football," Ronald Press, New York, 1966 (Coach McKay had several national championship teams at USC in the 1960s and 1970s.)
January 21 - "Where I grew up, a kind word and a gun could get you further than a kind word." Al Capone
With all the talk back and forth about playoffs in Division I-A college football, we have heard all the positives - mostly that they will determine a national champion once and for all, and they will make a TON of money for college athletic programs desperately in need of more. (You do know, don't you, that college business offices bill their athletic departments for the costs of educating all those scholarship athletes in non-revenue sports?) And we have heard all the negatives - there still will be teams left out of the selection process; as currently proposed, they will kill the bowl system; they will extend the season to the detriment of the athletes' education. (Isn't it amazing how people can keep a straight face while they express concern about the educations of guys who, if they're good enough to get their team deep into the playoffs, will cut for the NFL after their sophomore years anyhow?) There are those who will argue that a playoff system won't determine a true national champion anyhow. One objection of mine is that I like the idea of lots of good teams ending their seasons with a win - in a bowl game - and going home happy, ready to begin building for the next year on a positive note. (Anybody who's ever been in a playoff knows that only one team is going to win its last game. No matter how good a season you may have had up to that point, it is still a bummer.) Actually, there is one more negative I haven't heard yet, and it could be the single biggest flaw in the plan: who's going to be able to afford to follow their team all the way through the playoffs? How are you going to be able to plan on going to next week's game until you see what happens in this week's game? If your team loses, you go home. It's all over. Bummer. But if your team wins this week, lucky you - ever seen how much more expensive airline tickets are when you have to buy them on less than seven days' notice? And should your team continue to win, are you going to have the money to keep following it, week after week? As it is now, when your team is invited to a bowl game, it's just one game, at a fixed time and place. It becomes a single rallying point for all your school's supporters. There is time to make plans, and travel agents are able to put together attractive package deals. At least, under the present BCS arrangement, Florida State and Virginia Tech people knew well enough in advance that their teams were going to New Orleans - and no place after that - and they could make arrangements to get there. By the time a team's supporters have followed it for three straight weeks, the ranks of those who can afford to go to the final - the College Colossal, or whatever they decide to call it - will be seriously thinned. It takes a lot of people to fill those seats. Remember, we are not talking about basketball's Final Four, where even a dome configured to seat 35,000 is small by football standards, and even at that, its tickets are divided among the four teams (check it out - after the semifinal games, there are always tickets to be had from the disappointed supporters of the semifinal losers) ; and we're not talking about Division I-AA football, and - unless Marshall is playing at home - its small crowds. We are talking BIG: a stadium the size of the Rose Bowl would handle the Final Four crowds from both nights plus a Division I-AA championship crowd - and still have room left over for every American soccer fan who sat through last weekend's USA-Iran 1-1 tie.
Go out and pitch to your son - NOW. Of the 920 players on major league baseball rosters as of August 31, the average salary was $1,571,000. A total of 342 players made a million dollars or more, compared with just 145 who were paid the "minimum wage" of $200,000.
Packers' General Manager Ron Wolf, having given up on his hiring of Ray Rhodes after only one year, hasn't lost his nerve. He's replaced Coach Rhodes with a man who, however well qualified, does not have strong credentials. He has spent exactly one season - 1999 - as a coordinator (offensive coordinator of the mighty Seahawks), and the previous two seasons was the Packers' tight end coach.
A study by Duke University psychologist Philip Rodkin turns current conflict-resolution and anger-management theories upside-down, because he contends that classroom bullies are not always the "unpopular kids with poor social skills" that most violence-prevention programs are aimed at. Instead, his study of 450 4th-5th- and 6th-graders found that approximately a third of popular - athletic, good-looking, outgoing - kids tended to be aggressive, getting into fights and arguments and being generally disruptive. But they also tend to be socially adept enough to slide by, and avoid intervention. Hey, I hate to say this, but is it possible they are manifesting some sort of natural "alpha male" aggressiveness?
"Ever wonder why the Marines don't have a football team like the Army, Navy and Air Force? We're here to protect a country, not a quarterback." (Recruiting Poster)
I received a nice note from businessman/author Harvey Mackay (see "NEWS" January 10) telling me about his latest book, "Pushing the Envelope . . . All the Way to The Top." Anyone interested in learning more about this remarkable man and his ideas on organization and leadership can visit his website at www.mackay.com.
January 20 - "Great teams have to contribute to the loss, in order to be beaten." Mike Krzyzewski
Think your school board will go for it? To say the least, negative reinforcement, as advocated by Colonel Francis Kearney, USA, Commander of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, in an Army War College paper, is not exactly in vogue in today's educational circles. "Verbal harrassment and humiliation produce faster learning and more retention, " Col. Kearney wrote. Now, you may disagree, but I ask you to be open-minded, and ask yourself: whose "outcomes" (using a trendy educational term) have been more impressive - the Rangers, or the educational high priests of "self-esteem" and "student empowerment?"
I am working at present on putting our no-huddle system on this site, and, at least at first, I will e-mail its address to any interested coaches who have dealt with me in the past - clinics or tapes. Initially, I prefer to keep it "in house," and the best way I know to do so is to limit it to people who have demonstrated some commitment to the Double-Wing. I'd rather not make it available just yet to a potential oppponent. On the subject of huddling, it was interesting to come across the observations of "Dutch" Meyer, great TCU coach and the man most responsible for spreading out the offense and, with All-Americans Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien, using the pass as an anytime-anyplace way of moving the ball. Coach Meyer was an advocate of huddling, arguing first that it was sometimes hard to hear plays at the line of scrimmage, especially with the ends spread wide, and second that going without a huddle cut down on players' time to think. He wasn't impressed by the argument that you can run more plays without a huddle, saying, "One well-executed play would be worth far more than two which were messed up or only partly successful."
If you're an older coach (and most of us, if we're lucky, either are or will be someday) and if this applies to you, you might want to ask your doctor about this: The latest Journal of the American Medical Association reports that a year and a half after prostate cancer surgery, six of ten men are impotent, and eight of ten are incontinent.
Most popular high school nickname/mascot? Eagles, at 1,051 schools; 2- Tigers, 900; 3-Bulldogs, 769; 4- Panthers, 722; Wildcats, 631; Warriors, 558; Cougars, 499; Indians, 485; Lions, 395; Trojans, 388
Many black Americans are horrified by thug rappers and their criminal image, an image that, they fear, sends a message that all blacks are prone to be criminals. Meantime, affluent young white Americans lap it up: 69 per cent of rap "music" (my quotes) is purchased by white consumers.
Dave Barry's way of helping to make the Super Bowl more understandable to foreigners: "Football is played on a field 100 yards (374 kilometers) long and covered with 'hash marks' to indicate where players have lost their breakfasts. On either side of the field are the benches, where the 350 players not involved in the game sit and wave to their moms. Behind each bench is a big plastic jug of Gatorade. The object of the game is to be the first team to dump this on the 'coach,' a very angry man who hates everybody." He describes the actual play rather well: 1. A large player called the "center" squats over the ball, and then the 'quarterdeck' touches him in a way that would get them both executed in the Middle East. 2. All the players run into each other and fall down. 3. Certain players leap to their feet and perform celebratory dances, while referees add to the festivity by hurling brightly colored flags into the air."
January 19 - "There can be only one place to go for an answer, and that has to be the coach. I doubt whether any coach can succeed unless he has control of the player-coach relationship." Paul Brown (regarding agents and hands-on owners)
The US and Iranian men's soccer teams played to a thrilling (if you like soccer) 1-1 tie in the Rose Bowl Saturday, but the fact that the crowd of 49,212 was estimated to be 90 per cent Iranian (there are some 600,000 Iranians living in Southern California) was disappointing to American Coach Bruce Arena. "We need to start getting more people behind soccer in this country," he commented. Uh, Coach Arena, actually, with the NFL conference semi-finals on TV, you ought to be pleased if more than 1,000 of those 4,921 Americans were non-family members.
What is it about certain guys who think that team-building consists of making rookies submit to all manner of unspeakably degrading acts? Without indicting a particular sport - and for some reason football, despite its large numbers, seems to be relatively free from inappropriate hazing - it seems that every so often a high school team someplace is found to have been forcing newcomers to undergo the most demeaning, disgusting initiation rituals. The latest group of offenders is not a high school team, though - it's the hockey team at the University of Vermont. Actually, "former hockey team" is more like it, since following an investigation by school officials the remainder of its season has been cancelled. Guys, we're not talking about making a rookie stand on a table and sing his alma mater. We're talking about, among other things, forcing guys to parade naked while holding onto each other's, uh, private parts. (How'd you like to be a lawyer in Burlington, Vermont right about now?)
Sales of dye-the-gray-out products to men more than tripled in the last 10 years, from $40 million in 1989 to $130 million in 1999. How the times have changed: "Ten years ago, I'd slap the guy who suggested putting color in my hair, " says Dick Butkus, who now pitches for Just for Men.
Gee. I wonder why the NCAA is considering curtailing or ending the "visits" that college coaches can pay to the elite summer basketball leagues and camps run by shoe companies? Just kidding - in case you missed it when it ran last fall...
Think it can't happen to you? John Ondriezek has just seen a potential state championship go "poof!" With most of his starters back from a 1998 state semi-final club, Coach Ondriezek, of Mariner High in Everett, Washington had to be excited about 1999. Two of his returning starters, 6-6, 245-pound QB-Receiver Teyo Johnson and 6-4, 255-pound fullback Amon Gordon, were two of the best-looking kids I saw anywhere last year. Coach Ondriezek has incorporated a little of my Double-Wing into his multiple scheme, and you can imagine how tough Amon Gordon could be at fullback. "Maybe once in your career, if you're lucky, you'll get players like them," Coach Ondriezek told USA Today. Trouble is, both Johnson and Gordon left Mariner just before the start of this year's practice - for San Diego. San Diego! Not exactly the next town over. Coach Ondriezek first heard about the planned move from a college coach - two weeks before the kids told him. Seems that for the past two summers, Johnson and Gordon have played on a "High Five America" all-star team - sponsored by Nike - in San Diego! One of the team's coaches was the head basketball coach at San Diego's Mira Mesa High School. And what do you know? That's where the two star athletes are now playing football. You draw your own conclusions. But the next time you hear someone talking about a national high school football playoff, remember John Ondriezek at Mariner High, and ask yourself if this is the direction in which you want high school sports to be headed. (UPDATE: Mariner, ranked 20th in USA Today's top 25 the first week of the season, ended the 1999 season 1-8)
"Linemen are literally the unsung heroes of the game. Their situation is analogous to the infantry in warfare. They do the hard, bitter fighting for victory. As the generals reap the headlines in war, the backs reap the headlines in football. Yet in their hearts, the generals and backs know that victory and the accolades came to them through the work of the foot soldiers and linemen." Gomer Jones (Bud Wilkinson's line coach at Oklahoma)
January 18 - "We have only one sign in our dressing room at Michigan State: 'The difference between Good and Great is a Little Extra Effort.' It has been our motto throughout the years." Biggie Munn
While in Denver recently, I read an interesting profile of the University of Wyoming's new coach, Vic Koenning (CONE-ing). To say the least, he sounds like an interesting guy. He is an Oklahoman originally, an yearned to be a Sooner, but on the night that OU coach Barry Switzer came personally to see him, a back injury sustained in practice turned him into a very ordinary player. Good-bye Oklahoma, hello Kansas State, where he played linebacker and was captain of the Wildcats' first bowl team. He was cut by the Broncos ("My pro combine reports said, 'more guts than ability, more determination than talent.' It hurt my feelings until my dad said I should take it as a compliment.") and played a season with the USFL Oklahoma Outlaws. After a brief stay with the Green Bay Packers, he spent 10 years at Memphis State (now Memphis) before moving to Wyoming as Dana Dimmel's defensive coordinator. Boy, I hope this guy makes it. He is quotable! Talking about recruiting in the Mountain West, he is very matter-of-fact about not being able to go after "first-tier" recruits. That doesn't bother him. "I don't mean that as a put-down," he says. "That's just the way it is. But a lot of time, those second-tier players become first-tier. And the first-tier players don't always stay first-tier. Look at Notre Dame. They recruit first-tier players, and they're not worth a crap." You've got to love this guy. Of course, there are probably people in South Bend who think he should see a psychiatrist for saying things like that.
Sounds as if Coach Koenning won't be throwing it around quite so much, now that he's head man at Wyoming. He has done a great job with the Wyoming defense. Last year, the Cowboys threw it all over the place, employing offensive coordinator Manny Matsakis' "Triple Shoot" attack, and Coach Koenning is rather outspoken about having to be the defensive coach on a passing team. "I've never seen a defense that was worth a darn when their offense was a triple shoot," he says. He won't say what he will be running offensively, only that - are you ready for this, Double-Wingers? - the Wyoming offense is going to be "one of the most innovative ever brought to college football." Shoot, I might mail the guy a tape.
Here's Martin Nolan's take on one of my favorite topics - the dullness of NFL proball this past season. He writes in the Boston Globe that the combination of free agency and NFL-designed parity has killed off dynasties, with the result that good teams - and the game itself - are pulled down to the lowest common denominator. And in the absence of much real excitement in the games themselves, the NFL steps aside and allows TV to fill the void with the buffoonery of the players, as they seek attention merely for doing what they're already paid - very well - to do. "The NFL, " he writes, "which once mesmerized millions with its dynastic glories, now features flavorless contests among little-known squads. Almost by default, it rewards excessive celebrations by second-rate players. When a fan runs onto the field and acts crazily, television discreetly turns away. Why does it focus so obsessively on silly shows by faceless mediocrities?"
An Ohio State University study shows that among those American teenagers who receive an allowance (half of them don't) the median allowance is $50 a week. (The median is the exact midpoint between the highest and lowest - meaning in this case that half of all allowances are more than $50, and half are less than $50.) It is kind of insulting for a schoolteacher to learn that it many familes making more than $100,000 a year pay their kids allowances of $175 a week or more. Think of it - those spoiled darlings that you're trying to stimulate and motivate could make your monthly car payment with the first week's allowance, and still pocket $175 a week for the remainder of every month. But, then, we should be pleased, because - as the politicians like to say - "it's for the children."
Time out for a bit of culture: My son, Ed, who makes his living writing and producing TV sports and has chosen for the time being to do so in Australia, tries his best to keep the literary side of me up to date. He writes, "I just finished a very funny and very interesting book called "Notes From A Small Island" by a guy named Bill Bryson. He grew up in Iowa, but married a woman from Yorkshire and spent most of the last 10 years or so living in England. He's got a great wit, but he also makes some really interesting observations. Here's one I liked, talking about how much has occurred in such a small place (England)":
"I am constantly filled with admiration at this - at the way you can wander through a town like Oxford and in the space of a few hundred yards pass the home of Christopher Wren, the buildings where Halley found his comet and Boyle his first law, the track where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile, the meadow where Lewis Carroll strolled; or how you can stand on Snow's Hill at Windsor and see, in a single sweep, Windsor Castle, the playing fields of Eton, the churchyard where Gray wrote his 'Elegy,' the site where 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' was first performed. Can there anywhere on earth be, in such a modest span, a landscape more packed with centuries of busy, productive attainment?"
Oops! Just after I wrote about the great desire and love of the game that keeps guys playing Arena Football, along comes the news that Arena Football Players have hooked up with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and could wind up striking for higher wages. (I wonder how hard a time management would have coming up with replacement players?)
January 17 - "It's not the mountain that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe." Robert Frost
Is anyone else sick of the antics of NFL (No Fundamentals League?) players, who seemingly never made a play that didn't warrant its own unique celebratory dance? I mean, we're talking about routine open-field tackles. Did they seem to reach a new level this past weekend? (Rams' receiver Isaas Bruce is kind of shocking to watch - he catches a ball and goes straight back to the huddle! How can he make All-Pro without calling attention to himself?) Let's not forget that these are the same guys who don't know how to protect the football when they're carrying it, who miss tackles by diving at the runners' feet (want to see good tackling? watch the way they "block"), and can't hold still on the offensive line on fourth-and-one. I really enjoyed John Madden's truly incisive comment when the Vikings fumbled a center snap: "that should be automatic. That's automatic at the high school level." (Hey, John - that's because at the high school level we still work on the fundamentals.)
What do Denzel Washington and Eddie George have in common besides uncommon talent? How about strong, dedicated mothers who wanted the best for their sons? Watching Ed Bradley's interview with Denzel Washington on last Sunday's CBS 60 Minutes, listening to Washington describe how his mother got him off the streets of Mount Vernon, New York by sending him away to a rich boarding school, I was immediately struck by the parallel with Eddie George, the Tennessee Titans' stud running back. I've told the story at clinics, but it's worth retelling: Eddie played as a sophomore for a good friend of mine, Doug Moister, in Abington, Pennsylvania, my wife's hometown. But Eddie's mom, a single lady, was a flight attendant for TWA, which meant she was away for extended periods of time, and she began growing concerned that her son might be running with the wrong crowd. So,bam! Like that, she pulled Eddie from Abington High and sent him to Fork Union Military Academy, in Virginia. From there, it was on to Ohio State, a Heisman Trophy, and stardom in the pros. By all accounts, he is a good man, too. Doug Moister, now retired, thinks the world of Eddie (even though he still eats his heart out when he thinks of losing a talent like that) and says that Eddie stops in to visit whenever he's in the area. When Ed Bradley asked Denzel Washington what he thought of his mother, Washington replied, "I owe her everything." I'll bet Eddie George would say something similar.
As the presidential race heats up, it is important to remember that one of the main powers of our President is the power to appoint Supreme Court justices. Hey - those people serve for life! With this in mind, we coaches might want to keep our eyes on a certain guy in Ohio named Charles Lawrie. If he ever becomes a Supreme Court justice, his rise to the top will be dated to the time a gentleman in Brunswick, Ohio sued his son's youth baseball coach for $2,000 because the team lost every game. Honest to God. Daddy was upset because the team's sorry record cost junior a chance to go to Florida to play in a tournament. (How much you wanna bet the tournament was in Orlando - one of those Disneyworld package deals?) As you might have hoped - but wouldn't have placed a bet on, given the state of America's legal system - the suit was thrown out. In dismissing the case, our hero, Magistrate Charles Lawrie, said, "What youth players should know is this: in life, as in sports, you will try and you will sometimes fail. There will be no apparent reward except to know that you did your best... The fact that your team lost does not mean it was your coach's fault." Thank you, Your Honor. Remember that statement, guys. And remember that name. Charles Lawrie. Write your favorite presidential candidate. Tell him that if he's elected President, you want Charles Lawrie nominated to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy.
Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes Magazine, not normally considered a coach's publication, but in his January 24 issue, he ripped stock market experts who have been consistently wrong on which stocks would rise (a drunk in a bus depot tossing a dart would have done better, he states), advising clients against investing in sexy Internet-related stocks - and thereby depriving them of the enormous gains they'd have realized if they had done so. Publisher Karlgaard demonstrated the absurdity of some of the lame excuses they've provided by asking us to imagine how a football coach in similar circumstances might sound: "As you know, 1999 was another rebuilding year. Progress was made beyond just W's and L's, which any third-rate puckerbutt can dwell on. Even during the darkest hours of our eight-game losing streak, we saw glimmers of daylight to come; we lost by an average of only 21 points this season, compared with 24 points last year. Our opponents outgained us 617 yards to 93 yards per game, but we kept it safe and fumbled less. Our punter is tested and ready. Yes, we have considered passing the ball. We don't consider it safe at this time."
"There are four ways in which I can cheat a football player: First, to do for him what he can do for himself, and therby reduce his initiative and ingenuity. Second, by allowing him to "get along" on less than his best effort either in footbal or in the classroom. Third, by allowing him to believe that football success is all the education that he needs. Fourth, by allowing him to believe his football success makes him a privileged person." Coach Woody Hayes, from his book "You Win With People"
January 15 - "I did not come here to fail." Lou Little, most successful coach in Columbia's history, on taking the job in 1930. (He retired from Columbia after the 1956 season.)
We are a 7-8 (grade) configuration here. Your videos and playbook have proven invaluable. We just finished our inaugural season of full contact football with our 9, 10 and 11-year-olds as expansion teams in the Boise Optimist League football program. We played all of our game in Mountain Home, Idaho which is a good two hours from Hailey. Our 9-year-olds were 5-2. Our 10-year-olds were 6-1. Our 11-year-olds were 5-2. We were told that our kids competed better than most expansion clubs. Our 11-year-olds weren't expected to win a game, in great part due to the fact that that they would be playing teams that had been together for two years already. We attribute a large part of our success to the Double-Wing. The very first Saturday our three teams scored a total of over 70 points. Pretty good for kids that had never played the game before. No team was shut out all season (the DW factor). The league did try to schedule sub-500 teams from the previous year to play us. Our 10- and 11-year-olds did play some teams that were over 500, though, and competed well. So, we now run the DW grades 4-8. I have coached football for 21 years now and can't believe that so late in my career I have adopted a new offensive system. It has been fun and enjoyable and has given me a new challenge. It's fun to be so excited about change this late in my career. Thanx for your support. It is very much appreciated. Coach Jim King, Wood River Middle School, Hailey, Idaho.
Couldn't have said it better myself - Dick Perry, of Marcellus, New York, in a letter in this weeks' Sports Illustrated: "The reason those jerks in the NFL are so adept at stupid gestures is that they no longer block or tackle."
When the Surgeon General announced recently that many more of us were mentally ill than previously thought, I wondered how we would ever find room in our institutions for all us. Many people were foound to be suffering from a newly-labelled disorder called"social anxiety." I figured they were talking about what happens to a kid who notices a zit on his nose just before the Prom, or the one who would rather flunk the class than get up and give a speech. We've all seen that. But wait - not to worry. Seeming to respond with lightning speed to a nation in crisis, SmithKline Beecham (a leading pharmaceutical firm) has begun advertising a new drug called Paxil, designed to treat - you guessed it - Social Anxiety Disorder! Now, I'm not like some of these cynics who claim that, in much the same way as Listerine invented "Halitosis" (bad breath) years ago so it could sell mouthwash, the drug companies are behind these new mental disorders, persuading us that we need help, and then - tada! What do you know? - miraculously coming up with the cure for it. (Ever heard of "E.D." before Bob Dole?) Oh, no. I firmly believe that the scientists at SmithKline Beecham immediately dropped all their research on the cancer cure when they heard about this new disorder, and for the past several weeks they've been working night and day to bring us Paxil.
A study by David Kennedy, a Harvard University professor of criminology, confirms what has long been common knowledge among police: homicide suspects normally are not what you would call good citizens, and in fact have long arrest records and extensive involvement in drug activity. (I can hear you saying, "Duh!") But this might surprise you - the same usually holds true for their victims! In his study of 303 murders and 210 suspects, he found that the suspects had been arrested an average 9.6 times before the murder. But the typical victim was not usually a little old lady on her way to church, either: those guys had been in only slightly less trouble, having been arrested an average 8.5 times before being murdered. The murder scenes were somewhat predictable, too - 60 per cent of the murders took place "on the street," near or at a place where drugs were known to change hands. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being blamed by the bleeding hearts for my part, whatever that is, in creating a culture of crime and violence, blah, blah, blah. What this study really reveals is something any police officer could have told you: a very large amount of the violence in society is being caused by - and directed at - a relatively small number of bad actors, most of them already well known to the police, in places where nobody who values his life would consider going.
For five years, Hagerstown, Maryland was my home - I coached a minor league football team there. It is a nice town, a couple of miles south of the Mason-Dixon line, and somewhat southern in its outlook - especially as regards the importance of religion. Church-going is big there. So it certainly made sense for the Hagerstown Suns Class A baseball team to offer a discount to families that presented their church bulletins at the gate at Sunday games. My old buddy Bob Miller, then the GM, started doing it seven years ago, and it was a highly successful promotion. Until, that is, a self-proclaimed "agnostic activist" showed up at a game with his family - on Easter Sunday, 1998 - and, not having a church bulletin, was denied the discount. We're talking big money here: he had to come up with $8 rather than the $6 he'd have paid if he'd had a church bulletin. Nothing doing. There was hell to pay. (Not that hell ought to matter to an agnostic.) Complaining first to the Maryland state civil rights agency (although the guy lived across the state line in nearby Pennsylvania), he was joined by that old friend-of-those-who-have-no-friend, the American Civil Liberties Union (motto: We've Never Found an Unpopular Liberal Cause We Didn't Like but Unpopular Conservative Causes Can Take a Hike). The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit charging religious discrimination in a place of public accomodation, and after going back and forth, the Suns finally settled by agreeing to extend their Sunday discounts to include families presenting bulletins from "civic or non-profit organizations."
January 14 - "Me? I'm just the guy with the whistle. And that's all I ever wanted to be." Bo Schembechler
Frederick Klein, sports editor of the Wall Street Journal, blew off all the "Top 50" or "Top 100" crap that we had our fill of in the last few weeks of the "Old Century", and decided to go with just four - four people, places or things that in his opinion were most influential in shaping the sports world as we know it today. First was Babe Ruth. Forget all his stats, which are monstrous: a 94-46 record, a 2.28 earned run average, two 20-win seasons, and 29-2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series. And that's just as a pitcher. How about a lifetime batting average of .342? How about 714 home runs, one for every four at-bats? (How much better was he than the men he played against? How about several seasons in which he personally hit more home runs than entire opposing teams? In 1920, when he hit a then-unbelievable 54 home runs, his closest competitor hit 19, and all the other players in the entire American League combined hit only 315!) As Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times put it, "he essentially invented the home run." This was crucial to baseball - thanks to him, the Yankees became the first team ever to draw over 1 million fans. And thanks to him, Yankee Stadium was built. Most important, though, according to Klein, he "lifted professional sports from a marginal and disreputable activity to the nation's center stage." Not only did Ruth's astounding feats salvage the reputation of the game from the sewer of the Black Sox Scandal, but he was center stage in what is still called the Golden Age of American Sport. Oh, yes - and managed to pitch one final game in 1933 at the age of 38 - and went the distance. And won it. Next up, Mr. Klein chose Jackie Robinson. Good call. No other list had Mr. Robinson up there where I believe he truly belongs. Mr. Klein points out that when Mr. Robinson broke baseball's racial barrier, blacks were already competing in sports such as boxing, college football (at least outside the South) and track and field, and that the integration of baseball was inevitable. The important thing, as he put it, was, "Mr. Robinson got the call." Jackie Robinson was the right man at the right time: he had the intelligence, the education, the upbringing, the grace, the courage, the dignity, the self-restraint, the competitive fire and - not to be overlooked - the great athletic ability to carry out his mission. And he did it under the most intense pressure imaginable, the target of racists, the hope of black America, the focus of America's attention at a time when baseball was its most popular professional sport by far - all this, and in the spotlight of the New York media. Next, Klein selects a place - the Houston Astrodome. With it, he says, "the stadium became part of the show, even the main part." It was the first indoor stadium for baseball and football (forgetting the occasional indoor football game played in old Chicago Stadium and in Atlantic City's Convention Hall), and it gave us artificial turf. It was the first to call its enclosed box seats "skyboxes." Its huge scoreboard became the cheerleader. It had a food court where people could spend an entire game feeding the kids (and enriching the home team). Thanks to the Astrodome, "every city wanted its own version," and thanks to the Astrodome, "every city built one, or several, usually with the taxpayers footing the bills." Finally, a thing - ESPN. Until ESPN came on the air, Mr. Klein reminds those of us old enough to remember, "TV sports were mainly a weekend affair." At first, ESPN's founders worried about whether they'd have enough sports to fill their schedule. Today, thanks to ESPN and the competitors it has spawned, sports on TV are now "wall to wall and floor to ceiling." Mr. Klein ponders an interesting scenario. "I wonder what Babe Ruth would have made of it," he asks, then wonders whether he would even notice. "I've read," he says, tongue in cheek, "that he had other interests."
This past Monday's USA Today listedwhat it called its All-USA Honorable Mentions, state-by-state, along with every state's "Player of the Year." Where applicable, it also listed the Player of the Year's choice of college. Washington's Player of the Year, we are told, was Scott Burcar, a defensive back-wide receiver-kicker from Bethel High, near Tacoma. No doubt he's a good football player. He's going to be going to the University of San Diego - TO PLAY SOCCER! Now, I have no idea how USA Today makes its selections, but it doesn't do a lot to advance our sport, and it is embarrassing - insulting, actually - to the 300 head coaches and more than 10,000 players in our state - a state that plays pretty good football at that - when it can't select a kid whose football performance warrants something better than a soccer scholarship. Of course, it is also a bit alarming to think that our sport has lost a good athlete - one who presumably is good enough to play college football - in head-to-head competition with the evil game.
Coach Mark Reeve, of Plano (Texas) West HS, writes in the November issue of Texas Coach about the influence a legendary Texas high school coach named Mike Honeycutt had on him and his career. "The first thing I learned was a lesson on selfishness. This is 'our' team, and not 'my' secondary, or 'my' QB; a good leasson to learn when he throws an interception, and now he's 'our' QB. Sometimes coaches talk about being a team to the players and forget that we as a coaches have to be team players also. Selfishness in a coaching staff will kill you. I still have trouble with the word 'my' today." Well put. (Texas Coach, put out by the Texas High School Coaches Association, always has some excellent articles. I have subscribed to it for years. A subscription (nine issues) costs $13 for one year, $25 for two years. firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Philadelphia Inquirer, which normally sucks up to no man, ran a puff piece recently, allowing the Philadelphia Eagles' management to describe in glowing detail the new stadium that Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie wants the taxpayers to build for him. I had to laugh at Eagles' executive Joe Banner's description of the stadium. Unlike Veterans' Stadium, which the Eagles badmouth at every opportunity, this new stadium will not completely encircle the field; instead, it will be open at the corners - dividing the stadium, according to Joe Banner, into "neighborhoods." I am not kidding. But not divided as most stadiums are - into uptown and downtown neighborhoods, as in luxury boxes and nosebleed sections; this man is trying to liken the four sides of the stadium to Philadelphia's "diverse neighborhoods." That's what he actually said. Right. So just like Philadelphia itself, this "Diversity Dome" will have an Irish section, an Italian section, a Polish section, a Jewish section, a black section, and so forth. One would hope there would be some racially- and ethnically-mixed sections, or at least a couple of places of refreshment where people can mix, if only briefly. I lied about the "Dome" part. But some of the sections - at least the ones along both sidelines - will be covered - if only partially - by overhangs ("Eagle wings," owner Lurie calls them, in a flight of fancy), partly to protect some of the fans from the weather, and partly to deflect noise back toward the field (to "enhance the Eagles' home field advantage"). But mostly, according to Mr. Lurie, to turn this winged stadium into a "civic icon," something that people would instantly identify with Philadelphia. Sure. The Eiffel Tower... The Sydney Opera House... The Statue of Liberty... The Gateway Arch... The Golden Gate Bridge... The Washington Monument... Tastykake Stadium.
I've been tempted, but I just have not been able to break the Mac habit. Not Big Mac, but Macintosh. Maybe it's my love of the underdog. But Apple, maker of the Macintosh, has been doing some pretty slick things lately, and I thought coaches might be interested in this one: During tomorrow's AFC and NFC divisional playoffs, Nike is going to kick off a new interactive ad campaign featuring Marion Jones, the world's fastest woman. You'll see the start of the commercial showing Ms. Jones jogging around Venice Beach, California. (If you've never been to Venice Beach, it ought to be worth watching just to see the place.) But the commercial won't have an ending - at least not on TV. Instead, you'll be able to visit the web <http://www.apple.com/quicktime/whatever/ > (Nike will also put a web address on the ad) and choose the ending you prefer, from one of seven different endings. Some TV stations supposedly have refused to run the ads, worried that viewers will desert the broadcasts to check out the web. What does that tell you about the NFL's product? (Incidentally, Mac users will need QuickTime 4 to play it, they inform me. Sorry I can't help you with that.)
An 18-year-old Pennsylvania high school basketball player lost his appeal - and his junior year of eligibility - when a judge upheld a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) ruling against him. The PIAA ruled that his transfer from Abington Friends, a small private school, to Hatboro-Horsham High, a large, 4-A public high shool, was "for athletic considerations first and foremost," making it illegal under PIAA rules designed to combat recruiting among high schools. (In Washington, as in most states, transfers for athletic reasons are not permitted , so parents who want to transfer their kid learn to peruse the course selections at the school of their choice, looking for a course that isn't offered at their kid's current school. Then, it's a simple matter of saying that the transfer is being requested so that Seth can take Japanese, or whatever distinctive course the new school offers.) The Pennsylvania boy's father said the transfer of his son - considered a promising point guard - was solely so that he could benefit from Hatboro-Horsham's block schedule; but the PIAA argued that the move anticipated the fact that a low GPA was going to make him ineligible at Abington Friends. Now, Dad may actually be a strong proponent of the block schedule, but he did seem to have had at least a secondary motive when he contended in the appeals hearing that taking away his son's eligibility would cost him a college scholarship, since colleges base so much of their recruiting on a player's junior-year performances. An assistant coach from St. Joseph's University, called in to testify, stated in the hearing that the junior year is important in getting the word out about a player, but (talk about pressuring athletes to play one sport year-round) added that the greatest portion of recruiting takes place in April, July and September in AAU tournaments, which are designed to showcase high school talent.
January 13 - "I do envy the clubs enjoying new stadiums which give comfort to fans and pride to players. But if I had to choose between loving fans and a luxurious stadium, I would stay with the fans." George S. Halas, founder, president and coach of the Chicago Bears and co-founder of the NFL, in "Halas by Halas," 1979
One down, ??? to go. The first of this year's Double-Wing Clinics is now set. The Chicagoland Clinic will be held at the same location as last year, Rich Central High School, in Olympia Fields, Illinois at 3600 203rd St. Coach Jon McLaughlin will be the host coach. (For more information on the clinic schedule as it is filled in, check out the CAMPS & CLINICS page.)
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, suggesting that Coach Ray Rhodes' recent firing might possibly have been racially motivated, has asked the Green Bay Packers to "justify" their action. With all due respect to Reverend Jackson's concerns, it would seem that if there were racial discrimination at work in Green Bay, Coach Rhodes would not have been hired in the first place, nor permitted to hire both a black offensive coordinator and a black defensive coordinator. Granted, Coach Rhodes' firing after just one season was a "quick hook." His 8-8 record would certainly seem to have been enough to keep his job, and at other times and in other places, it would have. But this is the NFL in the days of free agency, where the potential for teams to go from worst to first or from first to worst overnight has created an unusual sense of urgency - paranoia even. Expect fewer and fewer coaches to be given much of a chance to "build" anything. Guys who pay $800 million for an NFL franchise and shell out megabucks in the free agent market place want results NOW. RIGHT NOW. Had Coach Rhodes been 8-8 in New Orleans, where wins have been scarce, he'd be getting ready for the draft right about now. But 8-8 was not enough to save Pete Carroll's job in New England, or Chan Gailey's in Dallas, either. Why? Because New England and Dallas both suffer from high - some might say unrealistically high - expectations. So does Green Bay. Hey, if nobody else will say it, I will, because I'm not on anybody's short list to be hired - other than the money, being an NFL head coach these days sucks.
Actually, being an NFL assistant coach isn't all that great in some places, either. The Oakland Raiders just fired defensive coordinator Willie Shaw, a class guy whom I first met when he was on Rich Brooks' staff at Oregon. He has even been mentioned from time to time as a potential head coach. But now, the Raiders having decided that a defense that finished fifth in the AFC still wasn't good enough, he's looking for work. It had to be a personality thing. I can't imagine that whoever gets hired in New York... or New England... or New Orleans... or Green Bay... or Dallas... he wouldn't like to have Willie Shaw coaching his defense.
Coach Keith Lehne, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, writes: "The Wildcat package was great not so much because of the yards we gained but because we didn't have a back up quarterback. In three different games we put our reserve fullback in when our quarterback had to come out for minor injuries. It allowed us to continue our normal offense(minus all passes except Red-Red) without having to worry about fumbled snaps and or a nervous skinny freshman quarterback turning the wrong way or forgetting the play."
Robert L. Pollock, an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal, tells of the trials of being a native Buffalonian, and a sports fan at that. He bemoans the fact that the Bills, next to the 49ers the winningest NFL team in the 1990's, went to four consecutive Super Bowls - without winning a single one. He mentions the Sabres' Stanley Cup loss to the Dallas ("should that city even have a hockey team?" he asks) Stars last year, when replay clearly showed that the winning goal of the final game was scored with a Dallas player illegally in the crease. And, of course, he mentions the pain of last Saturday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. Still, he perseveres. But there does seem to be one final straw that could cause him to give up on his beloved Buffalo. "If Buffalonians are forced to call Hillary Clinton 'senator'," he writes, "Cleveland, here I come."
Coach D. J. Harris, offensive coordinator at Kankakee, Illinois, tells me that 12 of the starters off their 9-1 1999 team will be going on to play college ball somewhere next year. B-Back James Kinney will be going to Missouri, C-Back Akil Grant will be going to Northern Illinois, and A-Back Joeron Hill can go "anywhere he wants," according to Coach Harris, once he's fully qualified academically. And then there's QB Ronnie Jones, mulling over whether to go to Harvard. (Whoa! Even if he breaks a leg in the first drill of two-a-days, he's still in Harvard! Millionaires would - maybe actually do - kill to get their kids into Harvard!) And yet, despite losing players of that caliber, Coach Harris says the Kankakee staff is excited about next year - the whole line is back, last year's soph team went 6-4, and last year's frosh averaged 48 points a game on their way to an 8-1 record.
The world will miss Bobby Phills. If only the NBA were full of people like him.
January 12 - "Sometimes you get a team ready mentally, and then find out - too late - it isn't ready physically. More often, however, the reverse is true." Buddy Parker, who coached the Detroit Lions to back-to-back NFL championships (1952-53)
Fosters - Australian for bee-yah. Ute - Australian for pickup truck (from "utility"). Australian doctors have noted a rise in serious injuries lately as a result of "ute surfing." Seems that certain young Australian daredevils - male, of course - have taken to standing, unrestrained, in the beds of speeding "utes." Quite often, as you might expect, they have been drinking. Several have been catapulted from the beds of the utes, ending up with gruesome injuries. One 19-year-old, who had been drinking and "smoking cannabis", tried unsucessfully to combine ute surfing with rabbit hunting; he is now undergoing extensive physical rehab. One prominent Australian neurosurgeon suggests a "public education campaign" to stamp out ute surfing. He obviously doesn't understand young males. I just can see American kids being "educated", watching films of ute surfing at their high school's "safety" assembly. ("Whoa!" "Dude!" "Cool!") Seems to be a basic rule that if there is any chance kids don't know what it is you want them to stop doing, we have to "educate" them to make sure they do.
Dale Murphy, former baseball all-star and potential Hall-of-Famer, is a man on a mission. Literally. In 1997, shortly after he and his wife had just finished building a home in Utah, their church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked them to move to Massachusetts, where Dale Murphy now serves as missionary president. As such, he is responsible for the welfare and activities of some 200 young missionaries - men, mostly between the ages of 19 and 21, and women over the age of 21 - from all over the US, who have been sent to Massachusetts by their church to do its work. Although the mission - two years for men, one year for women - is not officially required of LDS Church members , it would be fair to say it is "expected" of them. The thousands of missionaries sent out yearly by the Church to every corner of the globe are not permitted to smoke, drink, date, watch TV or read newspapers. They may write home, but are allowed to phone home only on holidays. Dale Murphy came to the Church late, first becoming interested in it as a 19-year old when he noticed a minor-league teammate reading the Book of Mormon. He enrolled at BYU and met his wife there, but went on to play professional baseball and never went on a mission himself. So now, he finds himself on a mission of another sort, working without a salary to help young church missionaries deal with matters ranging from homesickness, to transportation, to housing, to spiritual questions. Murphy says it is "by far the most meaningful thing I've ever done in my life." About the Church's "asking" him and his wife to move to Massachusetts and serve without pay, he jokes that it's not as tough as the old days, when Church leader Brigham Young was known to call someone out of an audience and send him on his mission - right then and there.
Bingo. Following an editorial implying that teachers were behind the idiocy that currently passes for "educational reform," The Wall Street Journal printed a letter last Friday from one Katie Kelly Bell, a teacher in Atlanta who "simply cannot tolerate another teacher bashing." I read so many articles trying to nail teachers for what ails education, and I hear from so many teachers moaning about what a drag teaching is becoming, with all the latest trends and "reforms" being foisted on them, that I had to share a portion of Ms. Bell's letter with my readers, many of them teachers: "...the hottest trends (such as New Math and Whole Language) are generally dumped on us by the professorial elite from universities. After long training hours and extended staff meetings about the latest "trend" in learning, most teachers return to their rooms, shut the door and teach the way they know is best... the basics first and the rest can come later. You depict teachers as greedy fools out to protect their measly salaries. The truth is, I spend more time defending my high standards to whiny parents who want me to give little Petey just one more chance. Simply put, the teachers are afraid of the administrators, the administrators are afraid of the parents, and, unfortunately, the parents are afraid of their children. Parenting, or the lack of it - the ultimate source of our nation's educational ills." Bingo.
I must say that there are times when I contemplate what professional athletes are paid, and what a teacher makes, and the comparison galls me. But the usual defense of the disparity is that that's what the free market has determined a professional athlete is worth, and, conversely, what a teacher is worth. Put another way, the professional athlete either earns money directly for himself, or for his employer/endorser. Michael Jordan earns enormous sums of money because through his efforts, he helps the people who pay him earn enormous sums of money, too. Of course, the free market cuts both ways. The other side of the coin is the professional football players I've worked with who would race to the bank in hopes there would still be sufficient funds to cash their checks and, in some cases, even went without paychecks in hopes of keeping their teams alive; I've twice worked for teams whose entire leagues collapsed around them . There simply wasn't a market for the product. The free market made its decision. It happens all the time. I don't have to like it, because I got to know and like some great guys who I thought deserved a chance at making a living playing a game they loved, but no amount of bleating or wailing could have saved us. That's the free-market system. So now, here come the women of the U.S. Women's Soccer team, who have been making $30,000-plus a year for the past four years - with little apparent evidence of any market for their product except for this past summer's brief World Cup blip. They want more. They are not bringing in enough money to pay their way, so they are being subsidized to kick a ball around and serve as "role models", to the tune of $3,150 a month and $250 a game. But that's not enough. Now, perhaps because of all the editorials that gushed about how "meaningful" their World Cup win was, they want "respect." Yeah, respect. Also $5,000 a month and $2,000 a game. Or they won't play. $5,000 a month? Setting aside for a moment the issue of $2,000 a game, $5,000 a month is $60,000 a year. As long as we're talking about people who don't bring in money, let's get back to teachers. Last I heard, we either have or soon will have an "education crisis" in America. Just maybe the "crisis" has something to do with the "respect" we show the people who teach our kids, since the average beginning teacher's pay in the U.S. is roughly $26,000. Not that the top of the scale is all that lofty in too many places, either: in the state of Washington - which has a statewide pay scale, and is about at the midpoint of U.S. teacher pay - there's not a single public school teacher earning a salary as high as $60,000 a year. Not even with 30 years' experience, not even with a Ph.D. Now, forgetting for a minute the $60,000 salary the ladies are demanding, consider their $2,000 a game demand in the context of another group of athletes: Arena Football players. Unlike the soccer players and their $3,150 a month cushion, Arena Football players are paid by the game, on the basis of what the teams' revenues allow - what the market for them will bear - and those guys willingly play for $2,000 a game. So, ladies - I suggest you either take those gift-wrapped $3,150 monthly paychecks - plus $250 a game - and keep on kickin', or else get on with your life's work. You might consider teaching. Of course, it's going to mean a cut in pay.
Based on the way those Greatest Athletes of the Twentieth Century selectors dissed Jim Thorpe and other great athletes from the early 1900's, you have to feel sorry for Payton Manning, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and Ken Griffey, Jr. when the votes are cast 100 years from now for Top Athlete of the 21st Century. Actually, says Ed Sherman of the Knight-Ridder News Service, considering the influence of ESPN and the growing popularity of the X-games, bet on the Top Athlete of the 21st Century to be someone "jumping off cliffs on a skateboard." Or ute surfing.
January 11 - "There is no easy way to play football. It isn't that kind of a game." Dana X. Bible, one-time great coach at the University of Texas
From Edmonton, Alberta, one of the northernmost strongholds of the Double-Wing, comes news from Coach Brian Buchkowsky that Jasper Place High School, Alberta provincial champion, has been named co-national champion.
Sick of criminals being portrayed as victims? Sick of the tired old lines - they can't help themselves... It's not their fault.... They were abused as children... They were impoverished... They suffer from low self-esteem.... They need "treatment" (whatever that means)? The late comedian Flip Wilson used to offer, as his excuse, "The devil made me do it." Wait till you hear who the latest "victim" is. Columnist Juan Williams suggests that it may be - John Rocker. Get it? IT WASN'T HIS FAULT! Baseball, by insisting that Rocker "seek help," is implying that HE'S NOT RESPONSIBLE! At least, not in his current mental condition. So he goes to see the shrink, and he's off the hook, because he's a victim; baseball is off the hook, because it "did the right thing" in requiring him to undergo treatment; mental health professionals everywhere are happy because their status as the cure-all for so much that's wrong with our society's "victims" is enhanced; and, finally, the Atlanta Braves - and Ted Turner, and Time-Warner-AOL - are guaranteed to draw huge crowds and TV ratings wherever and whenever they - and John Rocker - play next summer.
Big Brother at work. In case you may have wondered when and why "English" in our schools became "Language Arts," Political Correctness has been behind it - the National Council of Teachers of English has recommended using the term "Language Arts" because it considers "English" to be "exclusionary."
I just finished a book given me for Christmas by my wife. It's called "True Blue- the Carm Cozza Story." What a great American success story - the son of Italian immigrants winding up coaching at Yale, the elite Ivy League school where Walter Camp virtually invented American football. In 32 years at Yale, Coach Cozza had some great teams, and some very good players, including pros Bryan Dowling, Gary Fencik, Calvin Hill (Grant's dad), Ken Hill, Dick Jauron (Bears' coach), Chuck Mercein, Jeff Rohrer and John Spagnola. Trouble is, most of those players were from his earlier teams, and after 34 years of playing the gentleman among gentlemen, Coach Cozza finally unloads publicly on an admissions department that virtually made it impossible to recruit talented athletes in his later years. But it is not a bitter book, and it is clear from his recollections that Coach Cozza loved the young men he worked with. A native of Parma, Ohio, he attended Miami (of Ohio) where his coach his sophomore and junior years was Woody Hayes. His senior year, it was Ara Parseghian. He spent a year at Miami as a graduate assistant to Coach Parseghian, then took a job teaching 10th grade biology and assisting in football, basketball and track at Gilmour Academy, a small private day school outside Cleveland. After one year, he was named head football coach at Gilmour, and in his first year won the league championship; but following the news that Ara Parseghian was leaving Miami for Northwestern, Coach Cozza was offered a chance to join the staff of his old teammate John Pont, who had just been named to succeed Coach Parseghian at Miami. When after seven years at Miami, Coach Pont was offered the job at Yale, succeeding Jordan Olivar (my coach, and a wonderful man- HW), Coach Cozza decided to stay behind and throw his hat into the ring at Miami. When he lost out, though - to an Ohio State assistant named Bob Schembechler - he rejoined Coach Pont in New Haven. But after only two seasons there, the Big Ten came calling, and Coach Pont left for Indiana (where he would take the Hoosiers to the Rose Bowl). Coach Cozza didn't go along, figuring that he was ready to be a head coach himself; at the same time, though, he didn't bother applying for the Yale job, figuring he had no shot. (It was offered to Joe Paterno, an assistant to Rip Engle at Penn State, and only Penn State's promise that he would be Coach Engle's successor kept Coach Paterno from taking the Yale job.) Coach Cozza, meanwhile, was offered the job at the University of New Hampshire, and when he arrived home to discuss details with his wife, he received a call from DeLaney Kiphuth, Yale's Athletic Director, asking him to hold off on accepting New Hampshire's offer. Evidently, a number of players had spoken to the Yale higher-ups on Cozza's behalf, and that was good enough for them. Carm Cozza was offered the job, and he was good enough to be Yale's coach for 32 years.
By now, most of you are aware of the dilemma the U.S. faces in the case of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, the little boy who managed to escape from Cuba. His mother, tragically, died in the effort, and now his father wants the boy back in Cuba. Cuban-Americans are, to say the least, opposed to his return. To help put the matter in a very interesting historical perspective, the Wall Street Journal today printed something posted on Lucianne.com (if you tend to be conservative in outlook, you have got to see this site). The piece is written as it might have been written, in the language and style of the time it represents, 150 years ago : "James, the father of Elian, a six-year-old Negro boy, has petitioned the Supreme Court for the return of his son. James, age 30, is a Negro slave living in Hanover County, Virginia, and has joined in a petition by his master, Robert Wortham, for Elian's return to Hanover County. In his court petition, Wortham asserts that six-year-old Elian had been taken from the Wortham farm by his mother, Charlotte, a Negro woman also belonging to Wortham. Charlotte, a runaway slave under the law, then made her way north with the boy until she arrived in Maryland where she unfortunately died of exposure and exhaustion. James asserts that he wants to raise his son as a father should, that he misses his son's company and laughter. James and Wortham both accuse the boy's Philadelphia relatives of maliciously and illegally detaining Elian. Wortham asserts that if Elian is returned to his home, Elian will be well cared for on the Wortham farm. So - do you send the boy back?"
January 10 - "The line between cheers and jeers - success and failure - is about as wide as the edge of a razor blade." Harry Kipke, Coach of the University of Michigan in the 1930's
Trash the running game at your own risk. How many times this past weekend did we see proball teams, faced with third or fourth and short, throw the ball - and ineffectively, at that? Example: with 9 minutes or so to go yesterday, the Seahawks, with third and two, dropped back - and Jon Kitna was sacked. The Seahawks never got close after that.
No doubt Buffalo coach Wade Phillips has been dodging a barrage of second-guessing back in western New York. And I'm not even talking about his controversial decision to ditch the more agile Doug Flutie in favor of the less-mobile Rob Johnson (10 of 22 for 131 and one safety). I'm talking about a couple of other items. For item number one, I will defer to time-management guru Jack Reed; for number two - I can't believe there is anybody left coaching on this planet who wouldn't assign contain men on both sides on every kickoff or punt - guys whose primary assignment is to make sure they are the widest men on their side; that no matter where the ball goes, nobody - with or without the ball - gets outside them. There is, of course, the distinct possibility that it was taught, and a player - a professional football player - blew it. Either way, these are not schoolboys. It is their full-time job.
Is it possible to win "Most Coachable" in two different millennia? (I know my Latin)... Isaiah (J.R.) Rider, explaining why he didn't bother to sit in on Coach Lenny Wilkens' postgame talk, following a recent 27-point loss to the Pacers: "Let me tell you something about postgame talks in the NBA. The coach says, 'The second unit didn't get it done.' Then he says, 'I need a better effort from the starters.' Then he tells us to shower. I didn't miss nuthin'."
I spent the early part of my adult life in business before finally realizing that I would never be completely happy without coaching, but thanks to those years in business, I think I have a fairly decent insight into the lessons we football people can learn from business people. One of those for whom I have a great deal of respect is Harvey Mackay, a successful businessman - owner of Mackay Envelope Company in Minneapolis - who is better known for his ability to pass along to others his ideas, as a speaker and author. His first book, "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," is one of the best "advice" books I've read. In a recent column, he addressed a subject that for some time now has vexed me in dealing with kids - that we have so deadened the spirit of competition in our society that an astonishing number of youngsters, if offered an automatic win in tonight's game without having to play it, would choose the product - the win - over the process - the game - and go home. Without playing. Without competing. (You know most kids would choose an automatic "A" over an education.) Harvey Mackay wrote about a professor who stood up in front of his class of molecular biology students as they waited for him to pass out the final exams. After telling them how much he appreciated being their instructor, blah, blah, blah, he went on to say that he understood the pressures they were under, and how important it was to their futures that they get a decent grade in his class, and so, recognizing those pressures, he was offering a "B" - no questions asked - to anyone who chose to leave and not to take the final. With expressions of relief, a large number of the students rose, thanked him, and left the room. The professor turned to the handful of students who remained seated and asked, "Any other takers? This is your last opportunity." One more student got up and left. Of the original 30 students, seven remained. After closing the door, the professor handed out the finals, and as the students received them, they began to read the two sentences typed on them: "Congratulations. You have just received an 'A' in this class. Keep believing in yourself."
It was 1978 when professional sports began opening their locker rooms to female reporters. More than 20 years later, based on some of Charlie Ward's and Reggie White's comments on the topic, it is still an issue with some athletes. The lovely Lesley Visser defends allowing female reporters in men's locker rooms, absurdly comparing them to medical professionals: "What I don't understand is, people never question female doctors or nurses. You never hear anyone say, 'Hey, Doc, how did that patient look on the table? I don't understand the difference." (Lesley, as the feminists used to love telling us, "you just don't get it.")
January 8 - "On the day of the game, it isn't what you know. It's what the players know that counts." H.O. "Fritz" Crisler, great coach at Princeton and Michigan
The Annual American Football Coaches Association Convention opens tomorrow in Anaheim, California, and based on information sent out by the AFCA, it will be its best-attended convention ever. Featured speakers during the course of the convention, which concludes with Wednesday night's GTE Coach of the Year Banquet , include Terry Donahue, Bill McCartney, Grant Teaff (executive director of the AFCA), Tom Osborne, R.C. Slocum, Don Coryell, John McKay, Frank Beamer and Jerry Sandusky. For information about the AFCA (including becoming a member) check out its web site: www.afca.com
Coach Jason Sopko, of Homer, Nebraska said he caught a little of a TV show Thursday night called "Totally Out of Control People." Said there was a big segment on soccer violence around the world, and felt certain that it would strike terror in the hearts of any soccer mommies looking on. In addition, although I'd rather not pile on an American company that already has enough headaches, I did suggest jokingly to Coach Sopko that if those same soccer mommies somehow thought that their sons were being outfitted in poisonous soccer jerseys...
Coach Mike Walk, offensive coordinator at Lyman, Wyoming, wrote to tell me that in addition to winning the state Class 2-A title, Lyman's Head Coach Loren Huntsman was also named Wyoming Class 2-A Coach of the Year. No doubt Coach Huntsman was too modest to tell me himself when we spoke earlier this week. Coach Walk, I'm told, was one of the nominees for Class 2-A Assistant Coach of the Year. After joining Coach Huntsman as offensive coordinator three years ago, he has seen a program that had experienced one-win seasons in '95 and '96 go 4-4 in '97, 6-2 in '98 and 9-1 (and a state championship) in 1999 - in part because he had the "stones" to buy into the Double-Wing. "With this offense," he says, "we are able to punish our opponents on the offensive as well as defensive side of the ball."
Would you like some of our whine with that pizza? In response to a complaint by Pizza Hut, a judge has ordered Papa John's to stop saying, "Better Pizza, Better Ingredients," and to refrain from comparing its pizza to Pizza Hut's in its advertising. But hey, Your Honor - as long as we're going after unsubstantiated claims, why stop there? As a next step, members of the Big Ten might consider asking you to make Michigan discontinue referring to itself in song as "Champions of the West" except for a 10-day period immediately following the conclusion of a sports season in which a Michigan team has finished first. ("West?" while we're at it, how about changing that to "Big Ten?") As for the "Big Ten," I wonder what you will think when you learn that it actually contains eleven members? (Of course, one of those members,Wisconsin, could find itself in big trouble with the Boys in Vegas, should they lose any money thinking that the ending of the Wisconsin fight song, "...we'll win this game!" is a guarantee.) Still on the subject of unsubstantiated claims, I personally would like to see federal legislation calling for lifetime imprisonment of idiotic fans everywhere who wave large foam fingers in front of TV cameras and shout, "We're Number One, Baby!" without adequate supporting data.
It is no secret that our armed forces, faced with difficulties in enticing America's young 'uns out of the malls and away from their Nintendos, have had to lower the barriers to admission. (Hey - why do they have to do push-ups? We fight wars with computers now! Hey - who says you have to have a high school diploma? Hey - so he broke into a couple of houses. Nobody's perfect.) Now, the field of education is facing the same problem. And precisely at the time that states are wondering how they will replace all the veteran educators getting ready to retire, they are also trying valiantly to upgrade the quality of their teachers. (We've all heard the horror stories of states whose teachers have trouble with tests that the kids are expected to pass.) So here comes New Jersey, with the best of intentions, requiring students in its state colleges to earn a 2.75 GPA (B-), up from 2.5 (C) in order to be certified to teach in the state. Good luck. It's estimated that the new rule will disqualify 20 per cent of current education students. (Come on, you teachers out there. Be honest - do you remember how hard you'd have to try to get as low as a "C" in one of those useless, stupefying "education" classes?)
On the subject of job qualifications, the state of Oregon is proposing that police departments around the state test applicants to ensure that they can read and write at the 12th grade level. (Actually, it wouldn't bother me how well they read or wrote, as long as they wanted to slap the crap out of bad guys, like in the old days, but I guess that's not the state of modern policing. Now, there are reports to write, requests for search warrants, and so forth.) You would think that a high school diploma, now uniformly required, would be sufficient proof of the ability to read or write at a "12th grade level." Think again. In fact, the state's police academy complains that it has encountered trainees with college degrees who couldn't read and write. Now, the state could simply do what the SAT did, and just tweak the scoring, giving everybody a few extra points on the test just for showing up. Or they could merely redefine what they mean by "12th grade." Simply re-labelling the present 9th-grade level "12th grade" ought to do it. (Or maybe, if we can find a psychologist willing to certify that the inability to read and write at the 12th grade level is a "handicap," we can then "accomodate" this new class of "disabled" folks by providing them with people to take the tests for them. And then ride around with them, doing their paperwork for them. Fine with me, if that's what it'll take to get them back hassling hoodlums.)
January 7 - "Boys, it's time to win some damn football games!" Bear Bryant, greeting a screaming crowd of 6,000 Texas A & M students - all male - at his first Aggie pep rally (1954)
I received a call yesterday from Tony Loughran, head coach at Coxsackie-Athens High, on the Hudson River about 20 miles south of Albany, New York. Coach Loughran just wrapped up his first year of running the Double-Wing, and was pretty excited - "I can't tell you," he said, what a difference the offense made. He said he didn't have many problems selling it to his kids, once they went to a pre-season camp at SUNY-Albany and they found themselves moving the ball against some playoff teams. Coxsackie-Athens finished the 1999 season 5-4, after going 1-8 in '97 and 3-6 in '98, but after a rugged non-conference schedule, the five wins gave them a perfect 5-0 Capital Conference record, and a spot in the playoffs for the first time in school history - "by far the best season we've ever had," Coach Loughran told me. One of the wins of which Coach Loughran was most proud was a defeat of powerful Watervliet - "they hadn't been beaten at their place in years." Eight of Coxsackie's players were named all-league, and running back Damon Villaronga was named Capital Conference Player of the Year. With an SAT score of 1550, he has the Ivy League schools all over him.
Business people love to listen to football coaches. Lou Holtz could easily earn more as a speaker than he makes as coach at South Carolina - in fact, maybe he already does. Knute Rockne was on his way to make a speech and pick up a check when his lie ended tragically in a plane crash. But if there are things business people can learn from us, I believe that there are plenty of things we can learn from them. You think we have pressure on us? At least I can go to sleep at night without having to worry about whether I can meet the payroll tomorrow. I remember once hearing Hayden Frye tell a hall full of coaches about the time he was head man at SMU, and he had a conversation with the late H.L. Hunt, once the richest man in the world, and a great benefactor of SMU football. Coach Frye said Mr. Hunt told him there was no great secret to success. Summarizing, he said it was just a matter of (1) deciding what it is that you want; (2) finding out the price - what it will take to get it; (3) deciding whether you are willing to pay the price; (4) once you commit, not letting anything stop you. (You tellin' me that ain't good advice for a football coach, too?)
What Kind of "Village" Raised These "Children?" - The Portland-area "children" accused of slashing and hacking to death the father of one of them (talk about hard-core - he wouldn't even allow his teenage daughter to stay overnight at her boyfriend's house) reportedly communicated with one another by pager, using the code number "7734" to indicate when the time was right to carry out the murder. The number was chosen, one of the "children" told police, because, upside-down and backward, "7734" spells, "hELL."
Catholic high schools won Illinois state championships in classes 3-A, 4-A and 5-A. Perhaps there is resentment among public school coaches at losing players to Catholic schools, but the best approach I have heard was told to a friend of mine by Coach Pete Ventrelli, at Downers Grove North High School in Downers Grove, Illinois. He told my friend that he no longer worries about the kids he loses to Catholic schools. "The best thing about high school football," he said, "is, you've got to take what the bus brings you."
Despite others' doubts about whether Danny Ainge, who just up and quit a few week ago as Phoenix Suns' coach, was really doing it, as he said, to spend more time with his family, Bill Lyon, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, believes him. Lyon recalls another guy who just walked off, burned out by the demands of coaching and guilt over neglect of his family - a guy named Dick Vermeil. As head coach of the Eagles 20 years ago, Coach Vermeil drove the Birds to the Super Bowl, and in the process, defined the word "workaholic." His long hours in the office were legendary; he was probably the first coach to make a practice of sleeping in his office during the week. As Lyon tells it, the defining moment in Coach Vermeil's decision to turn his life around may have come early one morning (say around 3 o'clock), as he was watching game film with some bleary-eyed assistants. Suddenly, he called out, "Hold it!" As the projectionist stopped the projector and the assistants, suddenly jarred awake, sat up in their chairs, he ordered, "Run that back." As the play was run back and forth, the assistants looked at each other,wondering what the head coach's keen eyes had detected that they hadn't. "My God," he finally said, "Look how big he's gotten. When did that happen?" In the course of the play, the camera had happened to catch a glimpse of one of Coach Vermeil's sons, standing on the sideline!
January 6 - "The American way is the winning way." Frank Leahy, great Notre Dame coach
Coach Luke Hardiman, in North Kingstown, R.I. wrote to ask, sarcastically, if Chris Weinke even played against Virginia Tech on Tuesday night, for all the credit he was given. He has a point. Michael Vick, or course, is an awesome talent and his play was truly spectacular, although Virginia Tech was dead from the moment his flashy carrying of the football allowed Florida State to bat it loose. As for Chris Weinke - it's not enough nowadays for the TV guys to let us watch a game, and just tell us what's happening. The problem is, to us it's a game, but to them, it's a "show." They have to "tell a story." They have to find a "story line." In the case of a game like this year's Sugar Bowl, they invested weeks and weeks in preparing us for several stories, depending on which way the game might go: there was good ole dumb-like-a-fox Bobby Bowden, who'd never had an undefeated season; Peter Warrick, not getting the Heisman because he had a "friend" at the cash register; Virginia Tech, coming out of Appalachia to crack the inner circle of football's ruling elite; Michael Vick, who played high school ball "in the shadow" of North Carolina's much more-publicized Ronald Curry; ditto Michael Vick being invited to the Heisman awards as a freshman; etc., etc. Of course, there was also Chris Weinke, a Minnesota kid enrolling, then leaving, then returning to FSU after a "career" in organized baseball. I think that's a great story, and they did hit on it a few times, but they scarcely mentioned the overall steady leadership that Weinke provided the Seminoles (not to mention throwing for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns). Evidently for the storytellers, looking for the sensational, Weinke wasn't splashy enough. Maybe he should have missed curfew, like that placekicker of theirs. Like Bart Starr in the glory years of Vince Lombardi's Packers, all Weinke did was lead his team to a win - 12 wins, actually - a "story" that evidently wasn't sexy enough.
Those "objective" journalists who turned the US Women's World Cup soccer team into America's darlings seem hardly to have noticed that the hallowed female crusaders, after telling one and all how devoted they were to their mission to promote women's soccer, now insist on being paid more to do their missionary work. They should have learned from the sparse crowds on their recently-concluded "Victory Tour" exactly how little their skills are worth on the open market, but no matter - they want more money (don't we all?). So several of the bigger stars have gone on strike, choosing to boycott the upcoming Australia Cup competition. Now, the Australian women's soccer team - there's a story for you. Affectionately called the "Matildas," they arrived at a unique way of raising funds, one that I somehow doubt their American counterparts would be interested in: they stripped to the altogether and posed for a calendar, featuring, I am told on good authority, some rather startling full-frontal nudity. Sorry, fellas - the first edition has already sold out. (Of course, if they should decide to print more, I would expect that this is one calendar that people will continue to buy well into the year - any year, actually. I mean, who's going to buy it to see what day Christmas falls on? Who's going to care if February has 30 days?)
I read a piece in the Wall Street Journal last week, and it helped bring into focus some of the changes that have taken place in our game. In the article, Elizabeth Bukowski wrote, "Rodeo cowboys are athletes like any other; they must have dexterity, strength, speed and flexibility to succeed. But there are some important differences between these men and, say, your average pro football player. 'Rodeo and rodeo athletes embody the traditions and values Americans respect: rugged individualism, self-reliance, a strong work ethic and the 'Code of the West,' which is basically helping your neighbor,' explained Louis Russo, director of marketing for Wrangler Jeanswear, a major sponsor of the sport. 'You won't find competitors taunting each other. What you will find are athletes who have just finished their ride, back behind the chutes, pulling the rope for their competitors and encouraging them on.'" Mr. Russo might have added modesty to his list of cowboy virtues: even after jumping off the back of a bull, you won't see a rodeo cowboy thumping his chest, or gesturing to the crowd to "raise the roof." Actually, Mr. Russo could just as easily have been talking about pro football players - if this were 1965.
(Just in case you wondered how researchers earn their pay.) A study sponsored by something called the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study finds that drivers who get less sleep are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. Duh.
My early line on next year's Heisman race, based on what I saw of the bowl games (not in any order): T.J. Duckett and Plaxico Burress (oops- forget him -he's coming out), Michigan State; David Terrell, Michigan; LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU; Drew Brees, Purdue; Deuce McAllister, Mississippi; Michael Vick, Virginia Tech; Eric Crouch, Nebraska; Marques Tuiasosopo, Washington. Dark horses: Bobby Newcombe, Nebraska; Freddie Milons, Alabama.
Prediction - Michael Vick will stay in college for four years so he can become the first player to win the Heisman three years in a row, but he won't be drafted until the second round because, according to ESPN "Draft Expert" Mel Kiper, Jr., "he won't stay in the pocket."
Still on the subject of Michael Vick - If you had him, would you consider running the Single-Wing?
January 5 - "There are no uninteresting things; there are only uninterested people." G. K. Chesterton, English writer
At last! A "championship" game that lived up to its hype! Between great plays and not so great plays, Florida State and Virginia Tech gave fans of both sides - and fans of neither side - plenty to get excited about last night. Other than leaving us with one undefeated team, though, the game didn't really prove anything to me, despite all the BCS hoopla; of course, this is still America, and nobody says we have to accept the outcome, so if someone wants to argue that Nebraska is Number One, let him. Meanwhile, the Amazon.com NFL ("Official Football League of the NFL") is going to be so busy getting its three-hour-long Campbell's Chunky Soup Super Bowl pre-game show ready (are you sure three hours is enough time?), followed by its Snickers National Anthem ("Official National Anthem of the NFL"), sung by the entire population of Cook County, Illinois ("Official County of the NFL") with a flyover by the entire fleet of Southwest Airlines 737's ("Official Air Line of the NFL"), and its Tostitos Halftime Show, consisting of a reenactment of the entire 20th Century ("Official Century of the NFL"), that it will scarcely remember that it's got to fit a game in there somewhere. And so the game, in all likelihood, will be a snoozer.
The latest sign that the college game has sold out to TV: Listen. I like Lynn Swann. But would you want him to be interviewing you on the sidelines in the middle of the second quarter of the biggest game of your life?
Best Other Bowl Games to watch if you weren't involved with
either team: Michigan 35, Alabama 34 in overtime -
Ferocious battle. And I love it when a game is
decided by a missed place kick! (I hate place
kicks!) Michigan State 37, Florida 34 - Had to
wonder about the officials' calls on some of those Florida
touchdowns. Georgia 28, Purdue 25 in overtime - Talk
about a comeback! Georgia, down 25-0 in the 2nd quarter,
looked dead and buried. Mississippi 27, Oklahoma 25 - Great job
by a pair of first-year coaches. Got to like Ole Miss'
number 22, Deuce McAllister Boise State 34, Louisville 31 - Cold
mountain air and the royal-blue field must have unnerved the
southerners Oregon 24, Minnesota 20 - Ducks drive for
a final-second win against nation's 8th-best
defense Utah 17, Fresno State 16 - Should have
been higher-scoring, but a great game
nevertheless Kansas State 24, Washington 20 - Favored
Wildcats hold off the Huskies' challenge Penn State 24, Texas A & M 0 -
Emotional farewell for State defensive coordinator Jerry
Sandusky, A & M offensive coordinator Ray Dorr
Nebraska 31, Tennessee 21 - Get a game
tape to show your grandchildren what football was like back
when teams still ran the ball.
Michigan 35, Alabama 34 in overtime - Ferocious battle. And I love it when a game is decided by a missed place kick! (I hate place kicks!)
Michigan State 37, Florida 34 - Had to wonder about the officials' calls on some of those Florida touchdowns.
Georgia 28, Purdue 25 in overtime - Talk about a comeback! Georgia, down 25-0 in the 2nd quarter, looked dead and buried.
Mississippi 27, Oklahoma 25 - Great job by a pair of first-year coaches. Got to like Ole Miss' number 22, Deuce McAllister
Boise State 34, Louisville 31 - Cold mountain air and the royal-blue field must have unnerved the southerners
Oregon 24, Minnesota 20 - Ducks drive for a final-second win against nation's 8th-best defense
Utah 17, Fresno State 16 - Should have been higher-scoring, but a great game nevertheless
Kansas State 24, Washington 20 - Favored Wildcats hold off the Huskies' challenge
Penn State 24, Texas A & M 0 - Emotional farewell for State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, A & M offensive coordinator Ray Dorr
Nebraska 31, Tennessee 21 - Get a game tape to show your grandchildren what football was like back when teams still ran the ball.
I received an e-mail over Christmas break (oops - Winter Holiday) taking me to task because I hadn't given Lyman, Wyoming credit for winning a state title running our stuff. Now, I didn't even know that Lyman was running the Double-Wing, and even if I had known, I wouldn't have known where to find its scores, so as soon as schools reopened after the New Year, I got on the phone to the man who had ordered materials from me back in '98, Head Coach Loren Huntsman, and I got my answers. Coach Huntsman, just finishing his fourth season as head man at Lyman, in the southwest corner of the state, was 1-7 and 4-4 in his first two seasons before his assistant, Mike Walk, talked him into going with the Double-Wing. He made the move in 1998 and went 6-2; this past season, helped by "eight talented seniors," the Lyman Eagles went 9-1 and won the state 2-A championship, avenging the only loss on their record by defeating Mountain View, 16-6 in the final game. The Eagles averaged over 400 yards rushing and over 40 points a game. Two of their backs ran for over 1,000 yards, and one of them, a senior named Mark Huntsman, scored a touchdown in the state championship game. (The other touchdown was scored by Mark's younger brother, Jason, which had to be a great thrill for Dad.) Coach Huntsman says they now run 100 per cent from the tight Double-Wing, and although he has chosen to retain most of his own terminology, he otherwise runs the plays as they come out of the book. (I'm hoping Coach Huntsman can make it to the Denver Clinic to say a few words.)
The takeover continues - When it comes to pro wrestling, I don't follow "dot sheet" (as a Finnish friend called it) very closely, but I do know that it has developed a very strong hold on the attentions of those most severely attention-challenged among us - young boys and young men. Maybe I didn't realize just how strong the hold was, though, until I read that when a pro wrestler who goes by the name of "Mankind" (he's like all of us, see) made a guest appearance at a big automobile show in Washington, D.C. just before Christmas, there was a huge line - a couple of hundred yards long, by most estimates - waiting to get his autograph. The day before, another guest star, running back Stephen Davis of the Redskins, scarcely caused a stir. There was a time, not so long ago, when the appearance of any Redskin - anywhere in the D.C. area, would have caused a mob scene. I suggest that the NFL take immediate steps to counter this trend, ordering all players to wear masks and point suggestively at their crotches when the cameras are on them.
For some time now, the government has encouraged employers to allow their employees to "telecommute" - work at home. As a result, some people now "telecommute" considerable distances, writing programs at home in, say, Whitefish, Montana for an employer in San Jose. Everybody benefits - it takes cars off jammed roads at rush hour, it allows parents to stay home with their kids, and it enables people to live in some awfully nice places where they ordinarily wouldn't have been able to find good jobs. But, uh-oh - not so fast. What about the working conditions inside those homes? Are there enough fire escapes? Are the chairs and desks ergonomically designed? Are the lights bright enough? Do the kids leave their toys on the stairs? Is it smoke-free? Are there enough toilets? Is it handicapped-accessible? Is there a fire/earthquake/flood plan, with regular drills? OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has announced that employers are responsible for any health and safety violations that may occur in home offices in peoples' private homes! OSHA, a government agency that King George III would have been proud of, is already empowered to "inspect" businesses without warning; could unannounced home visits be next? Does this mean open season on employers, once the trial lawyers start running their ads designed to convince you - and juries - that your working conditions aren't safe? (After all, it's your employer's fault - not yours - that you smoked in your home office and aggravated your kids' asthma. They should have made you stop.)
Coach Bill Bowerman, former track and field coach at the University of Oregon who died on Christmas eve at the age of 88, was a sports giant. Nike, the company that he co-founded in 1965, by putting up $500 to import some Japanese-made track shoes, ran a full-page ad in several newspapers, telling people just how big he was in the sport of track and field: Four NCAA championships; 16 Top-Ten NCAA Meet finishes; 24 Individual NCAA Champions; 33 Olympians; 64 All-Americans; 22 World Record Holders; 25 US Record Holders; 114-20 Dual Meet Record. But wait - there's something the ad didn't say: Coach Bowerman was a football coach first! He graduated from Medford, Oregon High in 1929, playing on Medford's unbeaten 1928 football team. After graduating from the University of Oregon, he gave up plans to become a doctor and returned to Medford to coach its football team. In nine seasons as Medford's head football coach, his record was 57-11-9. He started the track program at Medford in 1936, and developed it to the point where Medford won three state titles. After service in World War II, he returned to Medford, and when the Oregon track and field job came open in 1948, he applied for the job. And the rest is sports history.
January 4 - "Let us all be happy and live within our means - even if we have to borrow the money to do it with." Artemus Ward
I'm sure any coach who ever busted his butt and narrowly missed making the playoffs wishes he could coach in the National Football League, where the Seattle Seahawks finished their season with three straight losses - and made the playoffs.
And the NFL wonders why it has a problem...While the lovely Lesley Visser interviewed Steve Young on the sidelines during - literally during - last night's game, while she gushed and asked Young about his plans for next year - two plays were run in the actual game, without any comment or acknowledgement from anyone. Question number one - by doing that, isn't the network telling us that the game itself is secondary - that it is not as important as an interview with a celebrity? Question number two - since it apparently isn't necessary to tell us what happened on the field on some plays, why not try that on all plays? No sense paying Al and Boomer all that money.
So if tonight's "Tostitos Bowl" turns out to be another snoozer along the lines of most over-hyped games, are you prepared to accept the coronation of the winner as the best college football team in America? Do you really think either team would have made it through a Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC season unbeaten?
Weary of all the "greatest (fill in the blank) of the Century" and resigned to the fact that the athletes everyone has seen are bound to have the edge over athletes we've only vaguely heard of, I took refuge in boxing. Boxing may be the only sport in which the "experts" can't automatically dismiss the greats of the past by telling us how much taller, heavier, stronger, faster, etc. today's athletes are. Since the last of the bare-knuckle fights over a hundred years ago, rounds have been three minutes long, with a minute in between. The ring itself hasn't changed. Unlike most other sports, boxing's rules changes, such as mandatory eight-counts, three-knockdown limits and heavier gloves, have not been designed to soup up the sport, but rather to make it safer - but in the process, most would agree, tamer. Championship fights once went 15 rounds; now, 12 rounds is usually the limit. Punch-drunkenness was once just accepted as an occupational hazard, especially of bad fighters; now, the example of Muhammad Ali teaches that not even the most skillful of boxers is immune to the effects of repeated blows to the head. Up until the advent of television, and even in its early days, many good fighters would spend entire careers in the ring without ever getting a shot at a title: where now there are God knows how many "champions" - umpteen weight divisions multiplied by at least three governing bodies - the norm for years was just eight world champions (heavyweight, light-heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight, and one governing body). Before the huge sums brought in by live television, then closed circuit, then pay-per-view, the only way fighters could make any money was by fighting - frequently. Old-timer Willie Pep had 242 fights; Archie Moore had 217, Sugar Ray Robinson 200 and Henry Armstrong 181; by comparison, three of the best-known modern-era fighters, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard - combined - had 138 fights.
The average attendance in the NBA is down 3.1% from last year, and a staggering 5.4% from 1997-1998, the last full season (1998-1999, remember, was shortened by the lockout) . Only eight teams are averaging larger crowds this year than last; 20 teams are averaging smaller crowds. (One team, the New York Knicks, is averaging about the same.) Just a guess, but the NBA (motto: "every man a millionaire") may be discovering that it has hit the ceiling on what customers will pay. And yet the obvious step taken by prudent businesses when revenues fall - reducing the payroll - never seems to occur to the NBA owners.
Want some scary news? My son, Ed, sends me this, from Australia: "I was listening to the cricket while I worked out yesterday and it was funny, an Indian commentator was saying he didn't see many Indian kids playing cricket in the streets anymore and wondered if it was the same in Australia. The Australian commentator said something like 'you don't see too many kids playing anything in the streets anymore' because of the prevalence of video games. So it's not just the US."
When the girls' basketball team at Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland, Pennsylvania heard the news, that Philadelphia Flyers' coach Roger Neilson had been diagnosed with cancer, they figured the coach, who is unmarried and has no children, could use a family. So they volunteered their services, sending him a trophy they had just won in a tournament, along with a note reading, "To Our Second Dad."
January 3 - "I ain't interested in dying yet, dadgummit. When you retire, there ain't but one big event left, and I ain't in a hurry for it." Bobby Bowden, 70
Based on the results of this past bowl season, it should be clear to one and all that, just as the Black Coaches' Association has been trying to tell everyone, there really must be a significant number of unknown but qualified black assistant coaches out there - just as there have always been lots of unknown but qualified white assistant coaches - capable of stepping up and running a major college program. And a good major college program, too - not just a perennial down-at-the-heels school where careers go to die. After all, bowl coaches Jim Caldwell of Wake Forest, Bobby Williams of Michigan State and Tyrone Willingham of Stanford were all unknown - but qualified - assistants themselves, not so very long ago.
For lots of reasons, I am not a proponent of a college football playoff, but I'm certainly no fan of this BCS crap, either. For one thing, I don't like the fact that it tends to trivialize all other bowls in favor of the one designated every year to be for the "national championship," and I don't like the idea that, in another year, an unbeaten Virginia Tech could be left out of the "championship game." And, too, it does seem to me that based on the way it played against Tennessee last night, Nebraska, although prevented by the BCS' selection formula from playing for the "national championship," would probably have beaten any team in the country. Florida State, a super-strong team playing in a so-so football conference (after all the grief Virginia Tech took for playing in the Big East - whaddaya think now, Georgia Tech? How about you, Kentucky?), has a decent chance to go undefeated every year, giving it a built-in advantage over anybody playing in killer conferences such as the Big 10, Big 12 or SEC. So I like the proposal of college football's biggest fan, Beano Smith - select a "Final Four" (no problem with the name - the NCAA has the rights to it) for a two-week playoff after the bowl games are over. My picks: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida State/Virginia Tech winner. Golden Screw Award winners (just to give you an idea of how many arguments such a system would start, rather than settle): Arkansas, Kansas State, Marshall, Michigan State, Penn State
I wrote this once before, but it's worth repeating - notice how much the term "student-athlete" is used on college sports telecasts? (I must admit that the inclusion of the word "student" sometimes seems hard to defend.) If you've ever used the term "student-athlete" yourself, then the NCAA has gotten to you, too, because the term "Student-athlete" is pure spin. Walter Byers, a former executive director of the NCAA admitted in his book, "Unsportsmanlike Conduct", that he invented the term as a way of fighting a lawsuit. An injured football player sued his college for workmen's compensation, and Mr. Byers, knowing full well how much NCAA members stood to lose if the player could convince a jury that he was an "employee" of the college, instructed college sports information directors to stop referring to athletes as "players," and begin using the term "student athletes," the better to convince the public of their "amateur," non-employee status.
It's pretty generally known that certain areas of the country - LA-Orange County, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, among others - are especially rich recruiting areas for colleges. Largely unknown to most fans, but well-known to recruiters, is the area known as Tidewater Virginia. A metropolis of more than a million people without any single large, well-known city, Tidewater Virginia, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, is made up of a collection of several medium-sized cities such as Norfolk, Newport News, Chesapeake, Hampton, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, all of which have turned out some excellent football players. Bruce Smith is one well-known example. Terry Kirby is another. But how about Allen Iverson, a current NBA player who was Virginia's outstanding high school player in both football and basketball? Watch him go up and down the court a few times, and then tell me whether you think he could play football somewhere. Another double outstanding player, Ronald Curry, is now at North Carolina, where he has been trying to play both sports at the major college level. Two of this bowl season's outstanding performers - and two of next year's Heisman Trophy candidates - quarterback Michael Vick of Virginia Tech and wide receiver Plaxico Burress, of Michigan State, hail from Tidewater Virginia.
Until our Congress gave them away - oops, I mean sold them - they were our air waves - I would like to have a few minutes alone with the genius at ABC who thinks it's acceptable - at 7:12 PM Pacific Time, early in the third quarter of last night's Fiesta Bowl - to run that promo for an ABC network show in which a woman says - for the benefit of all the 12-year-olds whose parents allowed them to watch a "family-friendly" football game - "I need more sex."
When Weaver High of Hartford, Connecticut defeated Darien High, 69-26 in a state championship game, there were bad feelings afterward. But not about the score. It was about the trash-talking that had gone back and forth during the game - some of it allegedly containing racial slurs - between mostly-white Darien and mostly-black Weaver. Each side accused the other. But rather than report the incidents to the state governing body, the coaches and administrators of the two schools decided to get the kids together for refreshments - and frank talk. The first thing that came out of the meeting was an admission by both sides that, even though probably only a few players were involved, there may have been racial taunts exchanged. The second thing was a resolve by both sides to eliminate such conduct. "What we should take away from this - what all state teams should take from this," said Weaver linebacker Ron Reid, "is that this isn't acceptable." Said Frank Volpicelli, Darien co-captain, afterward, "That was a great learning experience."
January 2, 2000 - "There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man." Aristotle
At last - a Sunday with real football! College football! I don't normally publish on Sunday, but this one is special! After weeks of Sundays without real football, we get a college game today. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
When you watch Nebraska against Tennessee today, take a look at Nebraska's QB, Eric Crouch, and try to picture him running your Double-Wing attack. At Omaha's Millard North High School, that's what he did. He also did it this past season in Nebraska's 37-0 win over Texas A & M. In fact, Nebraska ran its first nine plays of the game from the Double-Wing, driving down the field for a score. Although Nebraska had employed a Double-Wing look before, this was the first time the Cornhuskers had employed a fullback, as we do, rather than an I-back behind the quarterback. With the threat of the fullback as a lead blocker and as a runner up the middle, Nebraska was able to run everything we do, not to mention the option for which they are famous."There are a lot of great things you can run off the Double-Wing," said Crouch. "It seems like a lot of teams don't know whether you are going to pass or are going to run. It puts them in a tough situation." Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said after the game that the Huskers had been practicing the Double-Wing since the first day of practice, but it had taken until the A & M game for everyone else on the offense to be as comfortable with it as Crouch. "That was the same thing my high school did," Crouch told Darren Ivy of the Daily Nebraskan, "and personally I would like to run it more. I always push for it because I am really comfortable with it. It is a great offense."
January 1- and still here!
Okay, guys, I've gone along with the tide, rather than fight it, but now it's time to admit that we've all been had. We've allowed ourselves to be swept up in all the "21st Century" and "New Millennium" garbage, but guess what? No matter what the advertising industry has been able to make you believe, this ain't the 21st Century yet, and we ain't done with the Old Millenium yet - not unless 1,999 somehow equals 2,000. It is as simple as this - there was never a "Year Zero" - on the first day Anno Domini (in the Year of the Lord) the world was considered to be in the first year. During the year 100, the world was in its 100th year, but not until the end of that year - when it changed to 101 - had a full century passed. During the year 1000, the world was 999-and-a-fraction years old - it was not until the end of the year 1000 - when it changed to 1001 - that a millennium had actually passed. Consequently, not until the end of the year 2000 - when it changes to 2001 - will 2000 years have passed, and a new century and a new millennium begun. Sorry if you paid a lot of money for some overpriced "end of the millennium" party. Sorry for all those "best athletes of the last century" polls they shoved down your throat. (I just gritted my teeth.) But, hey- look at it this way - this is America. Everybody gets a second chance - so why not restaurants... night clubs... the End of the World - even athletes? Now that restraurants and night clubs have had a Millennium test run, next year they will be ready for the real thing, when the real new century and the real new millennium come in. And athletes take note - you still have a shot at the Greatest Performance of the Millennium - you still have the year 2000 to score eight touchdowns in a game, hit grand slams in five consecutive at-bats, or score 125 points in an NBA game - in the 20th century.
What a way to end the year - Ole Miss defeats Oklahoma on the final play, following Mississippi State's win over Clemson and Southern Miss' defeat of Colorado State. Now, it's possible that at one time three Florida, three Texas or three California schools went 3-0 in bowl games in the same year, but I don't know when it was, and so my hat is off to Mississippi, a small state that by rights should barely be able to support one D-IA program, but in this season managed to produce three bowl winners! And put me down for a vote for Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister (Sp?) in the early Heisman balloting for next year.
Ordinarily, I don't pass along chain letters and I am healthily skeptical of "facts" on the Web, but I found this to be interesting. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but here it is, a purported description of an organization of just over 500 employees. Your job is to try to guess what organization this is: 29 of its members have been accused of spousal abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 19 have been accused of writing bad checks, 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses, 3 have been arrested for assault , 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges, 8 have been arrested for shoplifting, 21 are current defendants in lawsuits, 84 were stopped for drunk driving in 1998 alone. (The answer is at the bottom of today's news items.)
Finally - a win. While the Oregon Ducks' Sun Bowl win over the Minnesota Gophers didn't exactly redeem the Pac-10, coming as it was off a sorry regular season and three previous bowl game losses by its members, it is still reassuring to those of us in the Northwest that the Pac-10 can still play football occasionally. True, Washington did play the Kansas State Wildcats tough, and Huskies' fans have to be excited about the return of QB Marques Tuiasosopo, a Woodinville, Washington product, but it still was a conference loss. And even though two of my kids are Stanford grads and I dearly want the Cardinal to win today, I am a realist. So without Oregon's defeat of Minnesota, it could be argued that the Pac-10 merits no more consideration for the BCS than, say, Conference USA. And an Oregon-bred QB figured prominently in the Ducks' win - if you didn't get to watch him yesterday, be sure next year to keep your eye him. He's Joey Harrington, a soph out of Portland's Central Catholic, where years ago I coached his older brother, Tom. This kid can play. (Psst- Nike- those black-on-green jerseys you designed for Oregon haven't grown on me any. They are still butt-ugly.)
Anybody happen to notice the single-wing play that Oregon ran against Minnesota with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter, to keep their game-winning drive alive? Faced with a 2nd-and-3, they broke the huddle as normal, except that QB Joey Harrington lined up wide to the right as one of two flankers, and they snapped the ball directly back to tailback Herman Ho-Ching, who ran what amounted to an isolation play, good for 11 yards. (Play Diagram)
Put thicker lenses in his glasses and add a touch of Grecian Formula, and Colorado State's Sonny Lubick could pass for Joe Paterno.
"I'm a J.V. coach from Bridgeport, Connecticut. I found your DW site last year and have been reading about the success of Fitch High School from Groton, CT coached by Mike Emery. I went out to see Mike's team play against East Lyme High School. I was about 15 minutes late getting there because of bad traffic and it was already 21-0 in the first quarter! Fitch ended up winning 60-14 and East Lyme's points all came in the last quarter when the J.V.s were in. I was impressed with how well they ran the toss off-tackle play even with 9 men in the "box". Their wing and tight end smashed down on the end of the defense like a big bulldozer, and here came the fullback, quarterback, and two linemen crashing through the line like a battering ram. The running back had to hesitate a moment at the point of attack while the tornado struck, but then he took off in a hole large enough for my full sized pickup to drive through (no exaggeration). The interesting thing is, East Lyme tried to run the DW a couple of times. I'm interested in attending your nearest seminar, hopefully one in which Mike Emery will be talking. Will you be having a seminar in Providence this year? I know you're a busy guy, thanks."
Answer: Supposedly, the organization is the 535-member United States Congress - the best lawmaking organization that money can buy. Sadly, its reputation is so poor that, truthful or not, to a great many Americans the figures are believable.
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