Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category
Muhammad Ali’s brilliance was not that he was an antiwar prophet. He wasn’t Malcolm X in boxing gloves, debating foreign policy between rounds, jabbing his hands and then saying, “So how about that Cuban missile crisis.” But unlike the Ivy League advisors who made up the “best and the brightest” in power in those days, Ali understood that there was justice and injustice, right and wrong. He knew that not taking a stand could be as political a statement as taking one.
Ali, strictly in boxing alone, was an all-time great. He was an Olympic gold medalist at 18, the sport’s first three-time heavyweight champion and the participant in multiple matches that contend for the title of Fight of the Century. But it was his highly improvisational political courage that transformed him into a legend.
Ali’s refusal to fight in Vietnam was front-page news all over the world. In June 1967, he was found guilty of draft evasion by an all-white jury in Houston. The typical sentence was 18 months. Ali received five years and the confiscation of his passport. He immediately appealed, and his sentence was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ali, undefeated and untouched at this point in his career, was stripped of his title for refusing to serve in the military, beginning a 3 1/2-year exile from the ring.
One group that deeply understood the significance of Ali’s stand was Congress. The day of his conviction, the House voted 337 to 29 to extend the draft four more years. It also voted 385 to 19 to make it a federal crime to desecrate the flag.
By 1968, Ali was out on bail — with no boxing ring to call home. But he was never more active, because a young generation of blacks and whites wanted to hear what he had to say. And Ali obliged. In 1968, he spoke at 200 campuses. In one speech, brimming with confidence — as if the might of the U.S. government were no more menacing than a club fighter — Ali said, “I’m expected to go overseas to help free people in South Vietnam and at the same time my people here are being brutalized; hell no! I would like to say to those of you who think I have lost so much: I have gained everything. I have peace of heart; I have a clear, free conscience. And I am proud. I wake up happy, I go to bed happy, and if I go to jail, I’ll go to jail happy.”
The significance of what this meant to people around the globe cannot be overstated. Even in extreme isolation in an island prison, Ali’s courage reached a former boxer turned political prisoner named Nelson Mandela. After his release, Mandela said: “Ali’s struggle made him an international hero. His stand against racism and war could not be kept outside the prison walls.”
It really is quite simple …
… if you understand what makes “winning teams” fundamentally different from “losing teams” …
… and, IT has nothing to do with an “individual player’s performance-based statistics”.
On occasion, certain highly charged – and mis-directed – young men can, unfortunately, make the mistake of acting like an out-of-control adolescent without the knowledge of the actual difference between right and wrong.
In this specific instance, however …
The person who MOST needs to be held accountable for the egregious repeated on-court actions of Masters Cole Vanderbilt and Kennan VanHollebeke is … not the group of Three
seemingly Blind Mice with the responsibility of “officiating” this contest properly, but … his wholly irresponsible head coach, Mr. Oscar Garza.
With due respect to all involved parties …
The national attention and negativity of this situation has drawn a statement from the high school basketball coach of Cole Vanderbilt.
“[Cole Vanderbilt] a tough kid, but those that know him know he’s a teddy bear,” Connell coach Oscar Garza told the Tri-City Herald. “My 7-year-old son loves him and lights up when he’s around. But on (YouTube) he’s the world’s meanest, ugliest kid. It’s not fair, but I just want him to know his teammates and coaches are behind him.”
The biggest question I have is, where were the officials? What were they watching? They have just one job and that is to officiate the game at hand so that it is safe for the kids to play. If there is one or two youngsters not playing basketball the proper way, they should be kicked off the floor and suspended from their respective teams.
The most important question is …
Going forward, what – if anything – is Mr. Garza going to do to ensure that the players in his charge conduct themselves in a civilised way?
Until Mr. Garza provides an appropriate answer to it … in the view of yours truly … he has no business being allowed to coach high school basketball, while permitting his players to commit the range of outright dirty plays shown in this video clip from just this one game.
The world of sport is a less rich place today without the presence of storyteller extraordinaire Jim Huber.
There has been a very good reason why the Detroit Pistons have under-achieved for the last few seasons:
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank has chose to go with a three-guard lineup of Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Brandon Knight as of late. That has left Will Bynum out of the rotation.
Other than the final three minutes in the loss at Boston on Dec. 30, Bynum has not played in the Pistons last three games.
“It’s hard,” Frank said. “Will’s a very, very good player. He’s obviously a guy we see as a game changer, especially on the offensive end. Someone who … is one of our better pick-and-roll players. But it’s hard to play three point guards, especially cause outside of Rodney our guards are small.
“Will’s definitely going to have his day in the sun. He’s going to help us win games, but right now this is where we’re at.
“Especially with a new coach and a new system the one thing I’ve said to the group and I also say to myself is, ‘Flexibility.’ We don’t have all the answers right now. Will we feel is part of the solution. We’ll just see how it all fits.”
Bynum played nearly 13 minutes in the season opener, finishing with six points on 1 for 5 shooting, three assists, three rebounds and two turnovers. Bynum did not play in the home opener against Cleveland, played the final 3:25 at Boston on Dec. 30 and did not play in the Pistons win over Indiana on New Year’s Eve.
Even though Bynum hasn’t been playing, Frank still feels he can be a part of the team’s success.
“Even when you’re not playing you can contribute and part of that is being a good teammate, being involved, especially as a point guard you should really be engaged in the game,” Frank said. “Everyone on this level can play. A lot of it is about opportunity and combinations on the floor. What may be your lineup today could be different a week from now, could be different a month from now. Really the guys play determines how much they do or do not play.
“(With) Will, it’s not a lack of confidence, a lack of faith, a lack of belief or lack of ability. It’s just we have small guards and we’re not a good rebounding team. Defensive rebounding takes precedent and we’ll go from there. But Will will have his day.”
and, the fact is … despite what certain so-called “stats gurus” might like to perpetuate throughout the blogosphere:
… it’s had absolutely nothing to do with the overall “poor quality” of the players on their roster.
PS. Team Cohesion is a much bigger part of success and failure in the NBA than most observers understand, and by keeping Will Bynum completely out of the Pistons’ rotation … something which yours truly first recommended to Pistons fans, back in the summer of 2009, in a now-defunct thread concerning the proper use of Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Will Bynum, at a fan-based site named “Detroit Bad Boys” … Lawrence Frank is demonstrating that he actually knows what he’s doing, as a competent NBA-level head coach, unlike John Kuester.
PPS. Btw … He who laughs last, laughs best.
On the merits of the T-Wolves’ increased use of the Pick-and-Roll:
After Monday’s morning shootaround Popovich talked at some length about his impressions of Rubio and the retooled Wolves lineup.
“There are a lot of changes, not just Ricky Rubio,” Popovich said. “But you can see a lot of good.”
Especially when it comes to the relatively pared-down Wolves offense late in games.
“It’s basketball,” he said. “We all run the pick-and-roll. John [Stockton] and Karl [Malone] ran the pick-and-roll [in Utah] for a gazillion years. It was pretty simple, but it depends on who’s doing it. And [Rubio] is very good at it. No reason to make something complicated if someone is great at doing something simple.”
On the improvement of Kevin Love:
“He’s more confident than ever. In the past he wondered, ‘Should I shoot this shot or not?’ Now he knows. He knows he’s a stud. He’s out there to win and to kick … ”
Well, you can finish the rest.
“He’s a complete pro at this point who knows he’s one of the best players in the league,” Popovich said.
On the coaching ability of Rick Adelman:
“Rick has, in many ways, been under the radar for a long time,” Popovich said. “He’s always one of the first people owners want to hire, but he always manages to stay in the background, because he’s that kind of guy. But he probably did a better job than anybody in the league for two, three, four years in Houston with all the injuries they had. I’m not sure anybody figured that out.”
On the recent direction of so-called ‘American culture’:
“These guys, they travel around the world,” Popovich said of international players such as Rubio and Ginobili. “They’re more cultured than we are. Everyone acts like Americans are the ones … we have sort of an arrogance about us. Like we’re the cultured ones? Are you serious?
”Have you watched TV lately? Have you seen what Americans do? How many languages do you speak? And you wonder how they’re going to adjust to our culture? I hope they avoid it and keep their own!“
Classic stuff, on several fronts, from one of the very best coaches in the history of the NBA.
Until the N.B.A. has true revenue sharing, as do Major League Baseball and the N.F.L., competitive balance will be difficult (although not impossible) for the small-market teams to achieve. And the collective bargaining agreement is too convoluted with provisions counterproductive to the viability of the game. Until those issues are addressed, which they will not be for at least six years, teams will continue to spend too much money on both unproven players and proven mediocrities.
With or without revenue sharing, it is a big challenge to put a team on the floor that competes for the championship year after year. Only a few franchises, including some in the smaller markets, know how to do it. It takes more than money. Attracting high-priced free agents — even those who are worth the money — will not guarantee a winning team overnight. It takes a deep, balanced roster and a system that gets the most out of the talent on hand. Star players might draw at the box office, but fans will also support teams that are not star-driven but play exciting basketball and win consistently.
In an earlier era, the Lakers had Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, but the title in successive years went to the Boston Celtics (in Bill Russell’s final season), the Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks before the Lakers finally won.
Whenever an authentic giant speaks, do yourself a favour and listen intently.
If you really do, then, it will make THE difference between future failures and successes.
The most important story you will read about on-line today is courtesy of Dave Zirin:
1968 Olympian Lee Evans has a brain tumor and no health insurance
Lee Evans needs our help. The Olympic Gold Medalist and political activist, who exploded all records in the 400 meters at the 1968 Olympics, has been hospitalized with an aggressive brain tumor. The prognosis for the 63-year-old Evans is not good. As his fellow 1968 Olympic activist John Carlos said in an email, “All of our teammates want to go out and say some prayers. All there is left to do is pray.”
But the situation is made far worse by the fact that Lee Evans, after four decades teaching and coaching at schools ranging from the University of South Alabama to Nigeria, doesn’t have health insurance. This has meant, according to Lee’s sister, Rosemary, that he has been terribly mistreated during his hospitalization. Rosemary said to me, “I heard his doctor in the hall and I heard him say he wished [Lee] had been transferred somewhere else because he didn’t have insurance…. Lee is in intense pain. Not even morphine is helping. He hasn’t eaten in several days, yet there was no IV in his arm when I first went into his room. He’s lying in his filth and nothing is happening. If family members aren’t vigilant… If we aren’t vigilant, I don’t know what would happen.”
Thanks to this pressure and vigilance, the basic conditions of Lee Evans’s room has improved in the last 12 hours. But the fact that his care is even a question constitutes a national disgrace. Lee Evans, in addition to his 1968 Olympic gold medals in the 400 and 1600-meter relays, is a central part of athletic and American history. A founding member of OPHR, the Olympic Project for Human Rights, Lee Evans helped turned the sports world on its head by attempting to organize a boycott by African-American athletes of the ’68 Olympics to protest racism and oppression both at home and abroad. They wanted South Africa and Rhodesia disinvited from the games. They wanted the Hitler-sympathizer Avery Brundage removed as head of the International Olympic Committee. They wanted Muhammad Ali’s title, stripped for his opposition to the war in Vietnam, restored. They wanted more African American coaches hired. They pledged to boycott, protest, and raise hell if their demands were not met.
This protest was punctuated with Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s famous raised fist salute after finishing first and third in the 200 meters. As for Evans, he famously wore a black beret, in a nod to the Black Panthers, on the medal stand. Recently, Evans has been working to build a school on 13 acres of land he purchased in Liberia. He has even been trying to sell his gold medals to raise money for this dream saying, “I don’t need the medals,” he said. “I need money to build the school.” Evans’s wife, Princess, is a Liberian refugee and his dream was to build the school and name it after her.
Read the following quote from this article, concerning the supposed “new” status of the LA Clippers …
“The hardest thing we said in this whole process was, ‘We’re good. We have a chance to be good, and do we really break this up for the home run?’ ” Olshey said. “We told Mr. Sterling we had two really good directions: We could continue to build – we’re going to be better this year than we were last year. We have this draft pick. The players are going to keep developing.
“Or we have a chance to completely change the culture of the organization and make us a contender right away.”
The Clippers opted for the latter, surrendering Gordon, the draft pick, Chris Kaman and forward Al-Farouq Aminu for Paul and two future second-round picks. When the deal was done, Roeser and Olshey celebrated with champagne at the practice facility.
“I’ve enjoyed times of hope and times of agony,” Roeser said. “And I’ve never been more excited for a team at the beginning of the season.”
While the Clippers look good on paper, they will begin the season with the unlikely burden of playoff expectations. They also know they have to win to keep Paul, whose contract runs through the 2012-13 season and Griffin, who could become an unrestricted free agent in 2014 if he doesn’t sign a contract extension. Paul and Griffin also have had knee injuries in recent years that will continue to be a concern.
But instead of worrying about any of that, Paul and his Clippers are focused on the present. For a day or two, at least, the Clippers have become the talk of the town.
and, then, remember them verbatim, 3 years from today.
When you sacrifice the “near future” for what you believe to be the “present” … and, your team’s current roster still has major holes in it, at multiple positions:
PG/Chris Paul + PG/Chauncey Billups + SF/Ryan Gomes + PF/Blake Griffin + C/Deandre Jordan
PROJECTED KEY SUBS
PG/Mo Williams + OG/Randy Foye + SF/Caron Butler + PF/Trey Thompkins + PF-C/Brian Cook
G/Willie Warren + PF/Adam Koch
PG/Eric Bledsoe [inj.] + PG/Blake Ahearn + G/Travis Leslie + F/Renaldo Major
Vinnie Del Negro
rather than being an authentic moment of well-deserved celebration, what it actually is, is a truly sad day, in the inglorious history of your pro sports franchise.