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October 31, 2012

East players the real losers in eligibility fight

You know, if there's one thing I hate, it's rules applied to me.
Don't get me wrong, I think rules are important—they keep us safe and level the playing field—I just think they they are ridiculous when I have to abide by them, or when they make my life difficult, painful or inconvenient.
Take for example driving on the freeway: sometimes, I like to sit in the center lane and cruise at about five miles-per-hour over the posted speed limit. When I'm doing this, I will always curse people who drive at more excessive speeds and dart in and out of lanes.
"Where's the cops when you need them," I'll grumble, often with a few choice curse words thrown in for good measure.
Of course, if I'm speeding...well, let's just say no cop is a good cop who pulls me over, you know what I mean?

You know, this topic reminds me of something...
Oh, yeah, the decision by the Utah High School Activity Association Board of Trustees to let East High School play in the post season after four ineligible players were found to have participated in seven games.
This column is not about the nuts and bolts of the decision, or the silliness in the wording of the rules that allows for interpretation and arbitrary application. Those topics have been adequately covered. But, in case you missed it, following the tearful pleading of officials from East, the trustees decided to make East forfeit just six of the seven games in which ineligible players participated, and even in that case, they forfeit only those games that keep them in the fourth-place spot in the region.
The argument from East was that the eligible players should not have to suffer the oversight of the school's administration, whose job it was to ensure the eligibility of all its athletes.
The decision had a lot of victims, such as teams that thought they had made the playoffs but were bumped when East shuffled, or Herriman, the No. 1 seed from Region 7 who earned the right to play a legitimate fourth-seed team, not one of the best teams in the state.
I think, in a "big picture" sort of way, the biggest victims of the decision are the football players of East High School.
Few are the high school coaches you will ever hear say, "Winning is the only thing." In fact, just the opposite is true. Most coaches will say that winning is nice, but that is just the result of the process and experiences that teach bigger life lessons, and it's those lessons that are the true gold of the high school sports experience, not a trophy. I personally see a logical disconnect between the trustees' decision and the "big picture" ideas of high school athletics.
In most cases in life, success is a collective thing; if one person fails, the group also fails, or at least faces serious obstacles. In my business, if the sales people don't sell ads, or if the editorial staff doesn't write stories, or if the printing crew fails to print the paper, it's a big problem, and we all lose.
Similarly, in the case of East High School, one part of the athletics process broke down, but instead of having to suffer the consequences that fair play demands, a good sob-story got them off the hook.
I hope East's coaches and administration follow-up with the kids, and let them know that the board of trustee's decision is nothing like real-life, and that their post-season run has no good lessons to teach.

October 5, 2011

Don't hate the call, love all that

led up to it

My wife was mad last Friday night after the Bees' double overtime loss to Mountain Crest.
I'd like to tell you what she said, but without the curse words (this is a family-friendly publication, after all) the sentences would make no sense. So, instead, I'll paraphrase.
"Robbie Gunter is as dumb as a box of hair," was the essence of the filth-laden tirade which spewed forth from my lovely bride's mouth as we made our way home.
I'm sure many people had similar sentiments after a failed two-point conversion attempt in the second overtime resulted in the Bees' second consecutive loss.
But not me. Not then, and not now.
See, to me, what happened Friday night is the reason I love sports.
Friday was not a routine loss, nor the kind of mind-numbing dominant win like the Bees had against Weber and Clearfield to open the season.
After allowing 14 points early in the first half against the Mustangs last Friday, the Bees stiffened, refused to break, and put up 11 unanswered points in the second half, which included a heroic late-game drive with big catches and a dramatic dive at the pylon for a game-tying two-point conversion, and big defensive stands.
It was as incredible a spectacle as I've ever seen in sports. It was heart and guts and will and desire and fight and I loved every breath-stealing moment of it.
That doesn't happen without a coach who knows how to motivate kids. As a parent, I know how hard that is, which is why I think Robbie Gunter is one of the smartest men I know.
Sure, it may not make up for a call that cost them the game, but I don't even fault him there. After all, as Gunter told me, it was the kids who wanted to go for it. The Bees had succeeded on a two-point conversion to get the game into overtime. They were fired up, and went for the kill and came up just short.
Gunter's call last year against Bear River to pass the ball (which got intercepted) when the bees were in field goal range and down by just one point, was much more questionable, in a game that wasn't quite as memorable.
Remember last year's play-off loss to Highland? Or the blowout wins against Weber and Clearfield earlier this year? I'd much rather watch last Friday's game again than any one of those contests.
I'm okay with the call. I'm okay with the loss, and I hope the kids are, too, because that one game, to me, held a decade's worth of excitement from post-season appearances and a whole season's worth of excitement from routine wins.
To me, the fight, fire and heroics that I witnessed—a group of kids making superhuman efforts and plays—is the reason I watch sports; why I love sports. I can't turn away because I don't want to miss something spectacular.
For one quarter and two overtimes last Friday, we all witnessed something spectacular, and we should thank the kids—and the coach—for the experience.
(All that being said, I still think it would probably be best if Gunter didn't say anything to my wife for a couple weeks.)

March 2, 2011

This week full of

accomplishments and inspiration

"I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people's accomplishments; the front page nothing but man's failures."
—Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, 1968

Well, that may have been true back in the days of Ozzie and Harriet, Mr. Warren, back when Eddie Haskel's disingenuous and insincere compliments about June Cleaver's hairdo or clothing were the most scandalous things on the airwaves. It may have been true when every man worked 9-5, five days a week, and women were content to stay at home, do the laundry and keep the kids fed and out of trouble.
But no longer, Mr. Warren—Camelot has lost its shimmer. Michael Vick's dogs left a mess in the courtyard; Big Ben's antics have tarnished the towers; MLB is in the stables juicing, leaving the horses to fend for themselves; and NASCAR—well, let's just say there's more than a few broken down Camaros and Mustangs littering the garden.
I'm sure you've already turned in your grave.
But don't give up hope Mr. Warren—I almost had until this week.
But this week I was honored to tell three inspirational stories. Stories about teamwork, loyalty and dedication, and personal accomplishment that makes me think your famous quote is not completely anachronistic.
First, there is the Box Elder High School basketball team's come-from-behind overtime win against West Lake to make it to the state tournament.
Facing some pretty tough odds, the Bees managed a win. They found what they needed to obtain victory from their sense of brotherhood with each other. They did what they needed to do because they felt accountable for not living up to their promise—they lost a number of close contests this year that they had every opportunity to win.
Last Saturday, however, the Bees made plays again and again that brought the crowd to its feet and resulted in a win and at least one more game.
After the game, as the home crowd erupted in cheer that was no more or less that they had given their team all year, Brant Mecham said, "We couldn't let these guys down again. We've let them down too much this year, so we figured, one more time—we'll give it to them."
And what about McKenzie Johnson? A kid who simply wanted to improve her health and physique and ended up with a Div. I scholarship. It's certainly a message that could be useful in a day and age when childhood obesity is considered an epidemic.
Larry Ostler, a man saddled with disabilities from Fragile X Syndrome is headed to the Special Olympic World Games. His appointment to Team U.S.A. is not necessarily the sole inspiration here, it's also the vehicle that brings attention to this hard-working, loyal, self-motivated man.
Ostler is a dedicated employee who will ride his bike or skateboard—in almost any weather—to his job seven miles away (I wish I had that level of ambition). He is reluctant to accept help from his parents, but will take rides from the friends who see him on his nearly daily commute. His parents say he is cogent that a man his age shouldn't be dependent on his parents, and so he tries to be as self-reliant as he can.
Anyway, Mr. Warren, I just thought you might like to know that even though it often seems like the rest of the sports world is taking a short trip down the long road to Hell, there are small pockets of inspiration where the sports pages are still chock- full of accomplishments.

February 2, 2011

Have fun, let wins take care of



In all my time covering sports, I don't think I've been witness to a more exciting series of games than that of this year's Box Elder High School boys' basketball team.
I've never seen so many close calls, bad bounces, near misses and nail-biting finishes as this year's squad has managed to put together. They lost their six games this year by a combined 13 points. That's an average of 2.2 points per game. That's just a little more than one field goal inside the arc or two made free-throws. Often those game winning shots and free-throws are made with just a few seconds left on the clock.
Head coach Keith Mecham told me the other day that he felt his team was trying so hard to live up to the expectations of fans, friends, peers and media that they often play "tight." They play too cautious, he said, hoping to not make a mistake—or more appropriately the mistake—that may cost them the game. Because in games that are so close, one mistake could do it. One ill-timed turnover, one moment of indecision, one poorly selected shot has made all the difference this year.
After losing yet one more game by two points last week at Logan, it appeared the Bees were facing a similar situation at Ogden when they were down by five early in the fourth quarter.
But coach Mecham told his team something during a time out. He told his kids to not worry about expectations. He told them to quit worrying about making a mistake that may cost them the game. He told them to just play the game they knew how to play.
He told them to "just let it loose."
The result was magnificent as the Bees made four defensive stops in a row followed up by four consecutive buckets, two each from Brant Mecham and Shad Watson. One of those stops was a great steal by junior guard Kolby Quayle.
Anyway, the point here is that the players quit worrying about what others thought and played the way they know how to play.
Which brings me to this: The only expectations the team should worry about are those they set for themselves. And not to bring up the past, but senior leader Brant Mecham told me at the start of the year that his primary goals were to have fun, work hard and win.
Please notice that "fun" came first, after which Mecham listed "win."
I don't think that was a mistake or coincidence. Too many times, concerns about winning can take the fun—and wins—out of a season, when just having fun can lead to winning, which is fun on top of fun. That's especially true for the Bees, I think, considering how talented and deep they are.
And that's not an expectation, that's a fact. We have two of the best shooters in the league with Brant Mecham and Watson, and should some team manage to shut them down, Justus Brown and Chad Talbot have proven that they can easily get the job done underneath.
Just let it loose, have fun, and the wins will take care of themselves, especially with a team so talented, deep and dedicated.
Those of us who watch and who care about the team will have fun and support the team, win or lose. We will celebrate with them in their success and commiserate with them in their failures.
The team needs to remember that, and join the rest of us in enjoying the show that is the 2010-2011 Box Elder High School boys' basketball season.
I, for one, know that I will, regardless of the end result.



January 5, 2011

You're only as old as people say

you are


I've received a number of inquiries over the past couple of months about why this column is not running as frequently as it probably should.
Whenever I hear that I take a little umbrage because I'm assuming that what a person means when they ask is, "Where are the humorous anecdotes about your wife making you look like an idiot?"
In any case, the first and foremost reason is space in the newspaper. If I run out of space the first thing to go is my column.
The second reason is that nothing seems that funny or interesting to me anymore.
Not so long ago my wife asked me why I hadn't written a column for so long, and I told her that. I told her I must have lost my cynical edge.
She asked about Buffalo Bills' wide receiver Steve Johnson, who, after he dropped a game-winning touchdown pass, Tweeted the following:
She said I could have a field day with that.
And maybe at some point in the past I might have. At some point I had hoped to hear someone blame God for their failures; I thought it would be a funny counter-point to athletes crediting Him with their success.
But not anymore.
I told her it wasn't funny. I told her Johnson's reaction was exactly what was wrong with this country. No one has any accountability for their own actions and everyone's looking for a scapegoat to blame for their lack of whatever it is they lack. I said it's not God's fault he dropped the ball. Johnson should have been paying more attention to the game. I thought it was nice, even if a little out of context, that Johnson ended the post with gratitude..."THX THO..."
My wife asked me what if Johnson had caught the ball?
Well, I said, God certainly would have played a role in that.
My wife said that I was right. I wasn't funny anymore.
"Sometimes I feel like I don't even know you," she said.
But yesterday, it hit me. On Tuesday, January 4, 2011, I realized what's wrong with me...
I'm old.
It may have had something to do with the fact that yesterday was my birthday, and I turned the big "36," and all my Facebook friends insisted on posting the same comment, "happy b-day old man," but my inability to see the humor in almost any situation has been declining for sometime.
I can no longer participate in good conscience in the hair and clothing styles of the younger generation like I used to not so many years ago. What's more, I've almost lost the ability to be interested in or even ignore those styles that bother me the most (skinny jeans and Justin Beiber hair, just to name a couple), and I have to exert a significant level of self restraint to stop from tackling those kids, cutting their hair, putting on a pair of pants that fit and strapping them above the waistband of their underwear with a good old-fashioned leather belt.
Likewise, in the past, when someone said something completely devoid of logic or any sense of rational thought, such as the comments from television broadcasters about Tiger Woods' infidelity and its relationship to his golf game, I could laugh cynically about how idiotic they sounded.
Now I have to turn the T.V. off or risk throwing something through it.
I've had thoughts that maybe this isn't normal. Maybe this isn't a normal stage in the transition from youth to wisdom (see, I've even started referring euphemistically to getting old). But then I think of my father or grandfather and the constant comments they made to me about by hair or clothing, and how they would rage at the television news, and realize that, at least for my family, this is normal.
I expect that canes and cardigan sweaters will become regular gifts, and before too long I'll have a rocking chair on the porch. I'll start every sentence with, "remember when," or "back in the day," and yell at the "hippies" to cut their hair and stay off the lawn.
This column will slowly degenerate into incoherent ramblings about how willow switches properly applied to children's backsides will cure the nation's ills and how football and war are the only noble pursuits for young men of a certain age. I will constantly remind readers about how kids are coddled and weaker than they were when I was a kid...
My wife just reminded me that I'm only 36. She said 36 is the new 20. She said that 36 isn't even middle age anymore.
And you know what? I did some research and she was right. Everyone who's anyone in the field of midlife crisis said that I shouldn't be feeling this way for at least another 10 years.
I told my wife to get the phone and get the kids ready to go. I needed to schedule a hair appointment and buy some new jeans.



October 20, 2010

Remember, dark horses can

still kick Apparently, the statewide high school football rankings by the Deseret News are just as arbitrary and capricious as those in the BCS.
Spanish Fork, a team Box Elder beat 28-25 earlier this year is ranked 25th, and Mountain Crest, a team that beat the Bees 34-7 is 11th. But nowhere in between will you find Box Elder. Even Logan, a team Box Elder largely dominated defensively in a 21-17 win two weeks ago, is ranked 18th.
But still the Bees fail to make the grade.
There may be a number of reasons for it, but I believe the primary reason they don’t appear in the rankings is the exact same reason they’ll quietly make a lot of noise in the post-season.
Box Elder doesn’t have a go-to guy for statewide media outlets, such as Alex Kuresa from Mountain Crest or JD Neilson from Logan. Kuresa has committed to BYU and Nelson is the younger brother of currently injured BYU QB Riley Nelson.
Instead, the Bees have 11 players; almost none of whom are currently on the radar of any major program. All they have are 11 “no-name” athletes who are churning up and spitting out teams that most people expected to beat the “lowly” Bees.
What’s more, the Bees’ roster has many of the same players as it has last year, when the team went 2 – 7, but this is not the same team. On paper, the Bees look like they should be a punching bag; but on the field they punch back—hard.
Of course, you can’t hold it against the Deseret News. They are too busy covering the easy targets of high school football to notice that the Bees came very close to having a 7-1 record instead of their current 5-4 mark. They see the final score, not everything that happened up until the clock hit 0:00.
For example, the Des News can’t know that the Bees should have beaten Weber in the season opener. They can’t know that the worst no-call I’ve seen this year allowed the Warriors to hit a last-second field goal to win.
They can’t know that the Bees were driving and in position to beat Bear River until a major coaching gaffe by Robbie Gunter led to an interception that saved the win for the Bears.
And the Des News doesn’t care that the Bees held Mountain Crest to just 14 points through three quarters while recording three sacks and three interceptions against Kuresa—a feat not repeated before or since by any other team.
And the loss at Morgan last week? Well, that one’s tough to swallow and certainly gives some level of legitimacy for the Bees not being ranked.
And so, here is: Sean’s First and Most Important Rule
of Winning Football Games

1. The game is four quarters—There’s a reason team members of every program in the nation, from little league to the pros, hold up four fingers at the end of the third quarter: It’s to remind them that there’s one more period left, and in that time it is possible to lose—or win—a game. However, it goes both ways. A team also can’t sleepwalk on to the field and hit the snooze button for the first 12 minutes of the game and expect to not lose.

That notwithstanding, the Bees have the best defense in the region—without question. When considering the region results of the top three teams in Region 5, Box Elder has allowed 68 points, Mountain Crest has allowed 83, and Logan has allowed 90.
Even when considering the 34-point shellacking from Mountain Crest, it’s important to note that struggles on offense (a fumble deep inside MC territory) and special teams (a punt that only netted 23 yards), combined with the desperation of the situation to give the Mustangs great field position. Mountain Crest only had to put up 162 yards to get their final three touchdowns.
Utah’s big media outlets can’t know all that. And largely, neither does anybody else.
And that’s just fine.
After all, a dark horse can kick just as hard as the one you saw coming.

October 6, 2010

Going out on a really thin limb It’s dangerous for fat guys to go out on limbs, but I have faith that the Box Elder High School football team can help me out, so, I’m going to say that the Bees have a 50/50 shot at claiming a share of the region title.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear it now: “Sean, you’re an idiot.”
But no, my friends, I only play an idiot on T.V., and when my wife asks me if I can fix something around the house.
And besides, you didn’t let me finish. The Bees have a 50/50 shot of sharing the region title, but there are a couple of caveats attached to that.
First, however, let me set the stage: As of last Thursday, Logan and Mountain Crest were undefeated. Logan had beaten Ogden 49 – 21 and Sky View, 35 – 14. Mountain Crest beat Bonneville, 41 – 27, and Box Elder, 34 – 7. Logan pulled an upset when the Mustangs failed on a two-point conversion at the end of the game. The Grizzlies won, 35 – 34.
So now, Logan is undefeated and Mountain Crest and Box Elder are tied at 2 – 1 after the Bees beat Bonneville last Friday, 21 – 3.
Okay now, pay attention. There’s some important things to note as regards the results listed above.
Please notice, not even the mighty Mustangs could hold Bonneville to just three points the way the Bees did. As a matter of fact, only the Bees have been so effective against the Lakers all year.
And remember, the Bees held Mountain Crest to one touchdown for all but a couple of minutes of three quarters of football. They sacked Alex Kuresa three times and intercepted him by the same number. No team has done that against Mountain Crest. Also, Box Elder beat Sky View 33 – 14, about the same margin as Logan beat the Bobcats.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Bees have the best defense in the region (does this limb seems to be shrinking?).
Box Elder’s front seven held Bonneville’s Chase Shaw to 48 yards. Against Mountain Crest, Shaw scampered (at will, it would seem) for 133 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, as a team, the Lakers only got 88 total rushing yards. They got 174 against Mountain Crest.
The Bees have forced 20 turnovers on the season. The bulk of those (12) have been interceptions by a secondary that is second none.
And let’s not forget about their offense. The Bees have sputtered and struggled at times, but when they’re in a rhythm they’re nearly unstoppable. Remember that 28 – 25 win over Spanish Fork earlier this year? In the three games since, the Dons have outscored their opponents 116 - 13.
And so what does all this mean?
Well, it’s simple. The Bees only have to worry about one thing when they host Logan this week: Themselves.
It’s sad, but true, that the Bees have become their own worst enemy, particularly the offense, which commits turnovers often and gives the defense terrible field position. They also struggle to find a rhythm; to get in a flow. Which is sad, because they’ve got the weapons to do it. And when they do, opposing teams are on their heels until Box Elder either scores, gives the ball over with a turnover, or stymies their drive with penalties or other silly mistakes.
So, here is my prediction: The Bees will win against Logan and claim a share of the region title if they can follow:
Sean’s Six Simple Rules for Ensuring
Victory Over Logan on Friday
1. Don’t stop “D”-lieving—The Bees need to keep playing the defense they’ve been playing, but with a little more self-control than they did against Bonneville (the defense had its portion of three personal foul penalties and a total of 80 penalty yards).
2. Mix it up—Without fail, the Bees score more efficiently as soon as someone other than Sean Smith makes a big play. The Bees have more weapons than anybody in the region. Sure, other Box Elder players benefit from the attention Smith warrants, and healthy doses of Smith are absolutely necessary, but the Bees don’t use other weapons early enough. Shad Watson has got to have the highest per-carry average of anyone on the team and I pretty sure tight end Bucky Farr has not dropped a single ball that’s been thrown his way. What’s more, Farr has turned every one of those short passes into big gains. Mitch Parrish is a beast to bring down in the open field and often leaves in his wake shoes and other equipment of defenders he’s juked. Unfortunately, he too often gets caught up in the backfield.
So, get Parrish into the open field, mix in an early dash of Watson, sprinkle in some Farr, and, just for kicks, threaten a splash of Justus Brown, and the Grizzlies should be running in circles by the start of the second quarter.
3. You have to have the ball to score—’Nuff said.
4. Your defense hates it when you give the ball away—Okay, this time for sure: ‘nuff said.
5. Don’t turn the ball over—That was the last time, I promise.
6. Obey the rules—penalties are just as effective at killing drives as, say...um...turning the ball over.
Of course, even with all this, it could go south. After all, I only gave the Bees a 50/50 chance. But, it couldn’t hurt if as many of us as possible could show up. After all, a healthy dose of fan support goes a long way to energizing the home team.
Sean’s Six Seven Simple Rules for
Ensuring Victory Over Logan on Friday
1-6. See above.
7. Build your downline—That’s multi-level marketing talk for “get as many people involved as you can.”
‘Nuff said.

September 29, 2010

Eating Crow: I am a bad fan

Well, I did it. I became the thing I dislike more than dentists: I am a bad fan.
There’s a couple of problems with that. First of all, I often sit astride an awfully high horse when it comes to good sportsmanship and appropriate fan behavior, so I’m a hypocrite of a pretty high degree, which bothers me so much I can barely stomach it.
Second, my job as a journalist is to impartially observe and report. I am not a fan. I am a reporter. And I need to act accordingly.
But I didn’t at last Friday’s Mountain Crest vs. Box Elder football game. I got caught up in the contest. So when the referees made some decisions on plays that I didn’t like, I let them know it.
What’s worse, my behavior cost the Bees. I let them down, I let the fans down, I violated my professional integrity, and maybe worse of all, at least for me, I let head coach Robbie Gunter down.
Gunter is a man I truly admire and respect for the way he treats the players and the game of football. If he questions a call, he generally asks a ref what happened, patiently awaits the explanation, then says, “Okay, thanks.” (He did get a little heated last Friday, however.)
I’m not going to describe the series of events that led me to behave in such a way. I don’t want that to be mistaken as an excuse for what I did. There is no excuse. No level of poor performance from a referee justifies what I did. As my dad always used to tell me, two wrongs don’t make a right.
As I was leaving the field after the game, my stomach was turning. I was sick. The adrenalin and embarrassment of the encounter left me shaking and upset. But what’s more, I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to make amends to readers and fans, and most of all, the Bees.
No level of private scrutiny, self-evaluation or self-inflicted punishment would help ease my conscience. I knew I had to out myself in public. I knew I had to write this column documenting my disgrace.
As I was thinking about the column, I turned to my old standby defense mechanism: humor. I thought about writing a column where I tried to punish myself in private: “I tried spanking myself, but my wife walked in the room, and with wide-eyed disbelief said, ‘I don’t want any part of this.’
“I tried giving myself a time out, but ended up breaking my son’s plastic ‘Finding Nemo’ chair. Apparently those things are not weight-rated for people of my stature and girth...” As I thought further about it, however, I realized that humor would do nothing to convey how I really feel. Instead, humor would mask my raw nerves and insulate me against legitimate criticism.
And so, with no further ado and no defenses: I’m sorry.
I apologize from the deepest regions of my soul to the Box Elder High School football team, who worked so hard and so valiantly against the Mustangs and suffered a penalty they didn’t earn because of the actions of a self-absorbed journalist who mistakenly identifies himself as a standard bearer for the team. I’m sorry most of all to you.
I apologize to coach Gunter and his staff. They are always fine examples of professional, respectful behavior, many of whom I consider friends.
I apologize to fans and readers who have had to suffer through my diatribes and high-lofted speech about good sportsmanship and fan behavior; I am most ashamed of that.
I apologize to the Mountain Crest chain gang at the game, who were witness to my loss of self control. I should be a better example of Box Elder than that.
I apologize to the Utah High School Activities Association. They offer the privilege to journalists to be on the sidelines to do their jobs, and I severely violated the terms of that agreement.
I apologize to my peers who maintain their professional integrity. The actions of one person can influence attitudes about all of us, and I promise to work from this point forward to be a positive example.
My wife, and others, have said that I’m being too hard on myself about this; that it’s not that big of a deal.
For nearly a decade I’ve understood and respected my professional ethics and obligations. I’ve held myself to a higher standard and almost without exception I’ve lived up to that. Because of that, I’ve often held others to that standard. And as a great book once said, Judge not the mote in thine brother’s eye before thou hast removed the beam from thine own (or something like that).
But maybe, no time before now have I cared so much about a team. Maybe I’ve never been so invested in a group’s success. And so I’ve learned something: My self-restraint and self-control upon which I’ve so prided myself has limits.
I now understand the measure of those things is not when everything is fine, but instead when everything is on the line.

September 8, 2010

Athletes are not good role

models I called my wife two Thursdays ago and told her I wanted a divorce.
“At least until the snow comes,” I said. “Then we can get back together.”
She asked me what I was talking about. She asked if I needed a psychological evaluation. She said it would be in my best interest if I was just kidding.
I told her I’d get a restraining order.
“Why do you want a divorce?” she asked.
“Did you see what Tiger did today?” I responded. “He’s in the clubhouse tied for the lead.”
Indeed, on the first day of The Barclays tournament Tiger Woods finished at 6-under after hitting all but one green and three fairways in regulation. He hadn’t hit that many greens and fairways combined in all the tournaments he’s played so far this year.
“So you want to marry Tiger Woods?” she asked. She told me I’d have to grow some hair and lose some weight and that maybe I’d better wait to see if I could do that before I dump her.
“No, no, no,” I said. “Don’t you see? This is Tiger’s first tournament back since his divorce was finalized. He dumped that European bag of bones and voila! He can play golf again.”
My wife told me that Tiger was the one who got dumped, not the one who did the dumping. I told her she was splitting hairs. She said as soon as she saw me she was going to split my head. I told her I’d get a restraining order.
I changed the subject. I told her I hadn’t played any good golf all year and that there were still a few tournaments left. If we got divorced quick I could maybe do well in some of them. I told her we’d get married again in November, maybe October, depending on the weather.
She said okay. She said she didn’t know what she was thinking in the first place by saying, “no,” and that she should have jumped at the chance.
“Thanks,” I said. “See you when the snow comes.”
The lesson here is that a person shouldn’t jump the gun. A person should wait until the “fat lady sings,” before basing a decision about divorcing his wife on the performance of a person who used to be the world’s greatest golfer.
Tiger did what Tiger has been doing and wasn’t even in the same universe as contention by Saturday. Similarly, I played the front nine of my weekend round spectacularly before imploding on the back nine.
Luckily, there’s a pretty significant delay before a person can get a divorce, so legally, my wife had to let me back in the house.
But she made me promise to not make any major life decisions, or extrapolate ideas, from the lives and/or results of professional athletes. She said that what athletes do in their lives or in competition has no bearing on what I can or should do.
“They’re not role models,” she said.
She made me repeat it after her.
“After all,” she said, “If Tiger jumped off a bridge, would you?”
I started to say “It would depend on how he golfed in his next tournament,” but thought better of it quickly enough to avoid getting smacked.
She narrowed her eyes and said she was glad that knowledge of Tiger’s indiscretions came when it did—after he had started his decline due to injury and swing changes. She said she shuddered to think about what might have happened if I had found out about Tiger’s infidelity while he was playing some of the best golf of his career, because he was most certainly being indiscreet while dominating the golfing world.
“But they’re not role models,” I said.
“That’s right,” she said.
I’ve given up on Tiger anyway. I now find my excitement in the professional golf world by watching the new and interesting ways Dustin Johnson implodes after holding a three-day lead.
I figure no matter what he does, I’m enough like him I wouldn’t want to be like him anyway.

August 11, 2010

Rare stories have value
(hear that Brett Favre?)
To anybody from ESPN who might be reading this, I’d like to relate a little story:
There once was a Viking from Green Bay who couldn’t make up his mind. The End.
And the moral of this story? If a sports superstar announces his retirement twice and comes out of retirement twice, maybe you ought to be a little more particular about kicking a poor old lady out of your studios when rumors start flying that he’s retiring for a third time.
The conversation at ESPN should have gone like this:
ANONYMOUS CALLER: Brett Favre is retiring.
ESPN GUY: Sure he is anonymous caller guy. [click]
But I suppose most of you want to know about the “poor old lady” comment above.
So here’s the story, Norma Clark of Brigham City, who drained a once-in-a-lifetime-50-foot-putt for $10,000 three weeks ago, was invited to ESPN studios in Salt Lake City to do an interview.
So Norma got dolled up and “put on her best smile,” according to her husband Dean, and the two took the drive to the big city.
They got to the studio, and Norma was sat in a chair with the camera trained on her. About 15 minutes later the cameraman said the studio had cancelled Norma’s interview because Brett Favre had announced his retirement.
Norma got off the chair, had the headphone removed from her ear, and she and Dean headed home.
I’ll bet those stupid ESPN guys didn’t even give Norma a muffin or a pat on the head for all her trouble.
The stupid thing is, by the time Dean and Norma got back to Brigham City, the news was that Favre was discounting the rumor that he had announced his retirement.
I may be biased, but I think that a 77-year-old woman hitting a 50-foot putt for $10,000 so she can put new windows in her home is much more interesting than the on-again, off-again antics of once great football player clinging desperately to the fading vestiges of his stardom.
As a journalist and sports writer, I’ve pondered this issue, trying to decide which is really more newsworthy; An exciting accomplishment from an unlikely source, or covering the death throes of a superstar’s career.
I suppose, that across the nation, more people might care about Favre than Norma Clark. I can understand that in the case of such a large outlet as ESPN, bigger is always better.
And you know what? They can have it. If I had to choose, I’d rather just have one story like Norma’s than the countless retirements it seems we’ll endure from Favre.
Thanks, Norma, for sharing with us. While the rest of the world trades in the valueless commodity of big names and big stories, we’re richer for our experience with you if for no other reason than because it’s so rare.


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