Notes from a Sporting Life May/2016


I still journal here and there but have no team or anything of course.

I wrote this last year, but just saw it (2017) while poking around and somehow seemed interesting, especially based on events that came after, like in October.

May 25


I try as hard as I can to find enough time so I can spend long periods in my tiny little cement pond that sets yonder in a sort of wooden cave (ooh, that sounds creepy), okay redwood cave then, just two steps down from the French doors that open out from my bedroom. There are a couple of tiny, skinny windows to match the overall tiny little décor in the tiny little ‘pool room’. They give a little light to the action in the water.


I keep the water temperature at just about 96 degrees or so and I open the doors to my room wide and I sometimes rotate the flat screen that is sitting on my dresser about 90 degrees so I can watch and listen a little as I stroke on by or do my pretend exercise. I love it in the water because it is the one place that I can feel some physical joy of movement without worrying as much about potential or immediate surgery when done. I can have some tiny little fun pretending that I am a tiny little bit still athletic and at any measure I am getting some exercise with not that much pain along for the ride. So I trot around in waist deep water and I shoot my 5 tiny little basketballs into my one tiny little collapsible basket (dunking!) and in my mind I am Isaiah Thomas (pick one) or CP3 for a half hour as I let jump shots fly and rain down on the hoop from all over (the shallow end). Awesome.


Anyway, I was “swimming” past the TV screen today and I looked up and they were doing a one on one conversation with the Chicago Cubs manager during some baseball game and his name is Joe Madden. The image snatched me up. I need to add a touch of background.


I think it might be some sort of Harry Carey tribute, but newish Chicago Cub Manager Joe Madden wears these solid and thick black-framed glasses that are very Harry Carey. Harry is a Chicago legend. He did Cub baseball games on radio for pretty much ever and later TV, too right up until he died at a fairly ripe old age (maybe 10-15 years ago) and mostly he did it in Chicago. He became quite famous all over, however, as the broadcaster of Cub baseball games, and, as many people still remember, he sang ‘Take me out to the Ballgame’ for the crowd for/during the seventh inning stretch every game played at Wrigley. He would lean out from his press box which already stuck out and over a little, and with microphone in hand he was out with the people, and he let it rip. Everyone sang along and all of baseball fandom ate it up like the peanuts and Cracker Jack in the song. He was quite a character. This was Americana while still at its best.

THE WARHOL WORLD (Andy Warhol was a famous artist in the sixties – zero skill)

I do not recall the word ‘brand’ being used that much the way it is now 30-40-50 years ago, but people came to know Harry Carey so well that he was recognizable by the style and shape of his very thick black eyeglasses that he wore. He was quite blind. The eyewear stood out from his pearly white hair and head almost like 3D, and he became so recognizable that you knew it was he even when only his glasses were illustrated on a plain t-shirt. Not exactly Prince, But you saw that silhouetted glasses image alone all over the place. He was a bit of a rock star for old lady baseball fans in the later half of the twentieth century.


He wasn’t exactly Frank Sinatra, but Harry indeed had a brand all his own, and speaking of which, Harry loved his Buds, and by that I mean his Weiser Buds and he always had a cup of Bud suds nearby, so by the seventh inning every afternoon he was pretty much three sheets to the wind, and lest we forget, it isn’t that long ago when they first put lights on Wrigley Field. Forever there were only afternoon games on the North side of Chicago. That took some time to get done. Those were definitely the days, right (?), when people fought over issues like putting lights on Wrigley Field and the White Sox used a midget as a pinch hitter so the guy could get 4 balls pitched (no strikes) that earn a ‘walk’ if the team needed a runner on base. Midgets don’t have much strike zone for umpires and pitchers to work with. I do not think that many baseball announcers (President Ronald Reagan would be an exception) ever became as famous as Harry Carey, or achieved any kind of fame at all outside of the people in the game for that matter.

So there was Joe Madden up on the TV screen, big as day, and getting grilled by some Syracuse (journalism) educated smart-ass type that is the ESPNer when I saw Joe’s shirt and I had to stop and marvel. Madden was wearing a blue t-shirt (?) with only the black silhouette of his pretty thick black glasses depicted on the front. The drawing of the glasses could have gone either way, Joe or Harry, so I am taking it to be a tribute to the late great Harry Carey. I believe this will continue to be an ongoing tribute, and not just a one hit wonder sort of thing. Harry was a beloved Chicago icon, and Joe can’t lose with the fans on this sort of thing. The Cubs have never won a World Series, though. Never is a long time. They want to.


There are those that think the nicest thing I ever said to a player that I coached was, “You don’t suck”. Not sure if that is totally true, but I did not do much ‘fawning’.

The most wonderful thing for me with this Madden observation was (or is it were?) the words printed on the front of his t-shirt. They said simply, “TRY NOT TO SUCK”. I mean seeing that was almost thrilling for one such as myself. This is right now, not 15 years ago…..and it is still right in my wheelhouse! I am certain that all those POSITIVE COACHING books and seminar folks would find this approach to anything or anyone as abhorrent. Oh Lord! Shield the children’s eyes!

PRETTY IN PINK (I guess that was Molly Ringwald who was pretty in pink?)

I find Joe to be very logical as a leader. His kind of rules and regs make sense to me. For example, Cub players are allowed to wear flip-flops on the road when they travel, BUT only if they paint their toenails. Man, I wish I could have been that clever.


Joe puts it (his take on things) right there for all to use. It IS positive. It (his philosophy) just doesn’t fit in all those little boxes we have made with our politically perfect, social media accepted building materials. Bully. I know it is hard for some to accept, but if you think this Chicago Cub professional baseball team is not really good, look again. They are a functioning family because they all know who papa is, not because they are all the same or all superstars. The manager has some eccentricities that don’t fit much convention, but take a closer look, or better yet, let’s just see how it all looks in October.


Seems simple; just don’t suck and you are good. Everyone is capable of ‘not sucking’. One doesn’t have to be a star to not suck, so ultimately what can be better than NOT SUCKING? I would bet that there is no other manager in baseball that tells his players he wants them to not suck.


I did some ‘coach consulting’ you might say here in 2016. I worked with teams that had some young coaches trying to build teams and programs at different levels. It was so much fun for me to at least dab a little in the coaching waters again.


The thing I most learned with coaching some this spring I already knew. You/teams play in games the same as you practice, and it confirmed my long standing belief of things like any standing around on the field is worse than a waste of time because it also becomes habitual, and muscle memory is big for me on many levels. I hear teams and coaches talk about all that like they understand how important the physical specifics of practicing, breaking things down on the field of play, and the pace of doing it all is, but then I often wonder if they even hear themselves at all as I watch practice unfold.


ON THE (spiritual) ROAD AGAIN (Willie Nelson)

I Have spent too much time in a mental state that serves me not well lately. I think I needed to just journal a little in hoping to get myself out of my own face and funk. I feel much better now. Thank the Lord for small favors! Night……

May Days – am I flipping out?

This past weekend was a great smorgasbord of Division I men’s lacrosse on ESPN. I don’t do much streaming and or apping, so the fact that it was all on the world-wide leader was helpful. There is a variety of stories and styles that make up the final eight contestants in 2016. The King (D.U.) is dead. I think they missed ‘the Goalie Whisperer’, because it didn’t look like the young Trevor Tierney was there and I think this team missed that. Anyway, Long live the King. (?) It will be fun to see what final four will emerge from the games this upcoming weekend and will meet again in final four fashion the following weekend over Memorial Day.


At a time that was long ago and when I might describe myself as too old to be a young coach, but I was one (very young coach), I at one point eagerly became a complete Bill Tierney Wannabe. Hard to argue with that (his) kind of success (maybe 5 National Championships) and it couldn’t have been easy to make a National powerhouse or pretty much Dynasty at Princeton. I first saw him talk about the Princeton sliding style of team defense at about my 12th Coach’s convention somewhere in the nineties. It hit me hard, like the internet had, like something I (as coach) had to have. I always preferred team styled defense over match-ups and complicated zones that are often easy to pick apart, and maybe especially with the rockets launched today when a guy has time and room to shoot.

I watched the tape of the Tierney teaching sliding defense at the convention presentation from 1997 more than I have watched Forrest Gump. No, no, way more than FG, but often and a lot I even emailed Coach Tierney (bugged him) a few times with questions about the defense and adjustments we were seeing and stuff like that as time went on, and he was always both giving and gracious. I think I may have carried the whole thing a bit too far by sneaking around the parking lot at the final four in College Park one year around the turn of the century (2000) watching the Princeton team in their matching navy blue blazers and shaking hands with their alumni at a catered event with glass and table cloths, even following a National semi-final loss. I think matching blazers in the Fort of Collins might have been a stretch for my team of deer hunters, but hey, a boy has to have a dream. At any rate the group of individual talent that Bill assembles still and annually, only now in his Denver Pioneer program, seems like almost a perfect recipe for success on the lacrosse field, and has confirmed Denver and Colorado as a rock solid part of the national lacrosse landscape. The Pios can get you in so many ways, and, of course that includes the coaching box. It was a shocker to see them go down to Towson the other day (2017), but it is so hard to repeat no doubt. They won in 2015.


I might have found my new Dream Lacrosse Team, however, in Brown University’s Bears. So the next time I am young and a head coach (next life) I want my team to look like that did (2016 Brown Lacrosse) on Saturday when they romped Hopkins in the first round match-up in Providence, RI, yesuh by Geezis (New England accent). The Brown Bears come at you with poles and everything else. It is fun to watch and thrilling for fans for sure as they packed a few thousand into their home venue for the first playoff game. Brown poles, especially LXM’s, play offense after they defend and clear at times, and they enforce, or even play traffic cop. As an approach Brown sort of ‘Bears down’ on the prey. They come after you all over the field. I don’t know how many LXM’s they rotate as a team, but they are active between the boxes, and ready for every whistle when they start running, and then they run some more whenever they can. If you (opposition) think you want to hold it. Well, you better hold on tight because the Bear is not interested in watching YOU play catch. I mean Hopkins and all that blue has all that Blue Jay tradition and all those lax players born and bred in their Lax hood not only were beaten, but they had nothing on Brown in any facet of the game and that includes speed, stick work, team work, studliness, you name it. It just seems hard to imagine, but it is a Brave New World. Well yea, but Brown? I know it’s Ivy League and all, but how easy can it be for them to stack the roster to make the game look like Brown men against Blue Hopkins Boys, from Coach down to ball boy. Very cool.


On offense, they have plays for sure, but I think THE play is to work towards getting the defense out of sync just for an instant and then they attack, more than ready as triple threat players to read and dump, dodge, shoot, or start over. They got a guy that will just flat attack you all by himself. He is huge, athletic, and strong; and what? He looks peculiarly Caucasian for a superstar of that variety. He has a good enough stick. He has dodging, but he can back you in or barrel you over in a very MAN sort of fashion. You need or at least love to have that guy that you just hand the ball to with all his size and triple threat-ness. He does not need meanness to strike fear in an opponent, just presence. Maybe the closest thing I ever had that was sort of like this dude was a Bird named Pat and it was once upon a time. Brown uses two poles on the face off wings a lot. Their long poles seem more like an arsenal of weaponry than like one guy playing one defensive, mostly face off position. They allow their long poles to stay on the field to play offense, yes, but also to get the other team’s defense unhappy, or just long enough to make other team uncomfortable because they had to vary the substitution ‘pattern’. It is fun to see them Bears mess with the other team’s head. I look forward to when there is a Brown EMO with at least one long pole in the lineup. Coach is young and it just seems like his team knows what they are trying to do at all times, and/plus it is all in fast motion. Brown sees the Long Stick Middie for what it is, which is really about seven different things that can allow a team to dominate between the boxes. I can’t wait to see what they do this week Vs. Navy.

IN MODERN LAX – YOU WHACK YOU PAY cuz they score on EMO.

They (Brown Defense) are extremely aggressive, but for me they whack too much, even if they do take the ball away a lot. Maybe they have enough talent and scoring skill to send all those foul messages they wish to send and still survive, but I fear to go there as Coach. It seems like a one minute penalty is almost an automatic score nowadays because the stick work is awesome, etc. I prefer using whatever speed and power my team might have to get other team to screw up more than I want to beat them up and take it away (Plonkey them). I admit to a deathly fear as coach of being a man down in lacrosse. Maybe because I have never found a way to coach it very good. Maybe it was just me.

WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN? Bye and Bye Lord, By and By.

Also, and perhaps it was an illusion, but I loved the way the Brown team came together when time was out. They didn’t split immediately upon sideline arrival, but rather gathered in a sort of wheel shaped huddle. The coaches are together in the center and the players spoke out from the coaching hub by position. So Head Coach might say something to all and then they could splinter or sift into offense or defense or special team. So many teams nowadays just automatically split up into the separate groups. The Brown huddle just seemed so family style, yes, but efficient as well. Maybe I just fantasized it all.

Still Standing – Maryland – Towson – Notre Dame – Syracuse – Brown – Navy -Loyola – North Carolina –

CAROLINA IN MY MIND (James Taylor) Tar Heel Nation – May 31 – Memorial day was Memorable.

Great DI lax games this year of 2016, and the final game yesterday was so exciting. It made the game as a sport look great. The final one (lax) earlier in the day was capped last night with the seventh game between Golden State and OK City (NBA). It was a thriller in Oakville.

In lax, both the Carolina men and women won DI. Must be a pretty good party going on in Chapel Hill long about now even if school is out. Neither was favored and the men were not even seeded in the tournament, but they beat the #1 seed, Maryland in the final.

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