A PARAGON RISING ABOVE THE MADNESS
COACH JOHN WOODEN
By Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated
On the 21st of the month, the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He'll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He'll say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again.
Then he'll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He'll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again. The stack will be 180 letters high then, because the 21st will be 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died.
In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.
There's never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. He won 10 NCAA basketball championships at UCLA, the last in 1975. Nobody has ever come within six of him.
He won 88 straight games between January 30, 1971, and January 17, 1974. Nobody has come within 42 since.
So, sometimes, when the Basketball Madness gets to be too much — too many players trying to make Sports Center, too few players trying to make assists, too few coaches willing to be mentors, too many freshmen with out-of-wedlock kids, too few freshmen who will stay in school long enough to become men - I like to go see Coach Wooden.
I visit him in his little condo in Encino, 20 minutes northwest of Los Angeles, and hear him say things like “Gracious sakes alive!” and tell stories about teaching “Lewis” the hook shot. Lewis Alcindor, that is… who
became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
There has never been another coach like Wooden, quiet as an April snow and square as a game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way; walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals.
He'd spend a half hour the first day of practice teaching his men how to put on a sock. “Wrinkles can lead to blisters,” he'd warn. These huge players would sneak looks at one another and roll their eyes. Eventually, they'd do it right. “Good,” he'd say. “And now for the other foot.”
Of the 180 players who played for him, Wooden knows the whereabouts of 172. Of course, it's not hard when most of them call, checking on his health, secretly hoping to hear some of his simple life lessons so that they can write them on the lunch bags of their kids, who will roll their eyes.
“Discipline yourself, and others won't need to,” Coach would say. “Never lie, never cheat, never steal,” and “Earn the right to be proud and confident.”
If you played for him, you played by his rules: Never score without acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity, and you're done for the day. Treat your opponent with respect.
He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships. No dribbling behind the back or through the legs. “There's no need,” he'd say.
No UCLA basketball number was retired under his watch. “What about the fellows who wore that number before? Didn't they contribute to the team?” he'd say.
No long hair, no facial hair. “They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym,” he'd say. That one drove his players bonkers.
One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. “It's my right,” he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did.
“That's good, Bill,” Coach said. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We're going to miss you.”
Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.
It's always too soon when you have to leave the condo and go back out into the real world, where the rules are so much grayer and the teams so much worse.
As Wooden shows you to the door, you take one last look around. The framed report cards of his great-grandkids, the boxes of jelly beans peeking out from under the favorite wooden chair, the dozens of pictures of Nellie.
He's almost 90 now. You think a little more hunched over than last time. Steps a little smaller. You hope it's not the last time you see him. He smiles. “I'm not afraid to die,” he says. “Death is my only chance to be
with her again.”
Problem is, we still need him here.
BASEBALL'S GREATEST PLAY
Forwarded by Slim Russell, 5 Jun 2006
The greatest play in Major league baseball occurred on April 25, 1976. Do you know where it happened? Who made it? The teams involved?
Turn up your volume and CLICK HERE [mms://a1503.v108692.c10869.g.vm.akamaistream.net/7/1503/10869/v0001/mlb.download.akamai.com/10869/library/open/features/monday_flag_350.wmv?media_type=wms&av_type=video&event_pk=486348&product=gen_video ].
BASEBALL, THE WAY IT WAS
By Gary Varner
Here's an article I heartily agree with that I thought you might enjoy. It is from my son Gary's website at http://inkmuse.com/imblog/
Tuesday, November 25, 2003.
Yesterday one of baseball's greats, Warren Spahn, passed on to that hall of fame in the sky. The winningest lefty of all time, gives us a chance to reflect back on baseball the way it used to be played before the million-dollar babies, strikes, and other tug-of-wars over the greed that marks baseball today.
In Warren's day, a pitcher pitched until he couldn't any longer. Today's pitchers, for the most part, can barely make the seventh inning (witness the recent painful example of Pedro Martinez in the ALCS). In all fairness, part of this is because of the current managerial trends to replace pitchers willy-nilly in hopes of getting the best statistical matchups. But I think part of the reason has to be mental toughness and a “there's no tomorrow” attitude the old ballplayers seemed to have.
A great example of this was the legendary game between Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal. The game went 16 innings with BOTH pitchers staying in the whole way — a classic showing of this tough-guy approach to the game. At the time Spahn was 42 while Marichal was only 25. When Marichal's coach wanted to pull him out, he said, “A 42-year-old man is still pitching. I can't come out.” Macho stuff. No doubt Spahn would have stayed in even if his arm fell off. He simply would have thrown with his other arm, figuring out some crafty way to get the job done.
Those of us who love baseball are reluctantly used to managers who change players like itchy shirts, and players that seem to have self-imposed limits — not because we agree with these tactics, but it's what we have, what we're given. But I'm still young enough to remember when players played until they no longer could, and “strategic fiddlings” by managers were few and far between. Today's players may be bigger and stronger (perhaps not all naturally either), but the heyday players of old who played until they couldn't are becoming a distant memory.
DIRECT FROM THE PROS
IT TAKES A REMARKABLE ATHLETE TO GO ALL THE WAY
In the midst of Super Bowl week, you may already be hyped out by the endless and often inane interviews of the participants, but I found a very interesting article (among a plethora of very interesting articles) that you may enjoy and appreciate. It relates to the odds against making a pro football team. It is on a great site called How Stuff Works where one could spend a lot of time learning about a wide variety of subjects.
This particular article begins: “There are more than 6.8 million high school football players registered with the National Federation of State High School Association, more than 58,000 NCAA college football players, around 1,700 NFL players, and only about 260 new draftees every year. In other words, most people who start down the road to the pros eventually get sidelined. It takes a remarkable athlete to go all the way. We had a chance to talk to some of these exceptional players and get their perspective on what life in the NFL — and life in football in general — is really like.”
You can take it from there by clicking on http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/nfl-player.htm [http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/nfl-player.htm].
GOLF IN ITS PROPER PERSPECTIVE
Forwarded by Bill Thompson. Original source unknown
Ever wonder why golf is growing in popularity and why people who don't even play the game go to tournaments or watch it on TV? The following truisms may shed some light:
Golf is an honorable game, with the overwhelming majority of players being honorable people who don't need referees.
Golfers don't have some of their players in jail every week.
Golfers don't kick dirt on, or throw bottles at, other people.
Professional golfers are paid in direct proportion to how well they play.
Golfers don't get per diem and two seats on a charter flight when they travel between tournaments.
Golfers don't hold out for more money, or demand new contracts, because of another player's deal.
Professional golfers don't demand that the taxpayers pay for the courses on which they play.
When golfers make a mistake, nobody is there to cover for them or back them.
The PGA raises more money for charity in one year than the NFL does in two.
You can watch the best golfers in the world up close, at any tournament, including the majors, all day every day for $25 or $30. Even a nosebleed seat at the Super Bowl costs around $300 or more - unless you buy it from scalpers, in which case its $1,000+.
You can bring a picnic lunch to the tournament golf course, watch the best in the world and not spend a small fortune on food and drink. Try that at one of the taxpayer funded baseball or football stadiums. If you bring a soft drink into a ballpark, they'll give you two options - get rid of it or leave.
In golf you cannot fail 70% of the time and make $9 million a season, like the best .300 batting average baseball hitters do.
Golf doesn't change its rules to attract fans.
Golfers have to adapt to an entirely new playing area each week.
Golfers keep their clothes on while they are being interviewed.
Golf doesn't have free agency.
In their prime, Palmer, Norman, and other stars, would shake your hand and say they were happy to meet you. In his prime Jose Canseco wore T-shirts that read “Leave Me Alone.”
You can hear birds chirping on the golf course during a tournament.
At a golf tournament, unlike at taxpayer-funded sports stadiums and arenas, you won't hear a steady stream of four letter words and nasty name calling while you're hoping that no one spills beer on you.
Tiger hits a golf ball over twice as far as Barry Bonds hits a baseball.
Golf courses don't ruin the neighborhood.
And finally, why do golf courses have 18 holes, not 20, or 10, or an even dozen? Here's a little slice of golf history:
During a discussion among the club's membership board at St. Andrews in 1858, a senior member pointed out that it takes exactly 18 shots to polish off a fifth of Scotch. By limiting himself to only one shot of Scotch per hole, the astute member figured a round of golf was finished when the Scotch ran out.
What is the shelf life of new golf ball today?
From the Sarasota Tribune 12-6-03
Most new golf balls have a solid core with a durable cover. It is almost impossible to knock them out of round. The shine may wear off after awhile but it shouldn't affect the performance. The shelf life is infinite.
If you are retrieving golf balls from the course ponds, there's no telling how much life has been zapped from the ball. The newer balls will hold up better than the older, wounded balls, but if they sit in the water too long, the performance will probably be affected. If you are using one of these pond balls and it doesn't seem to fly the way you think it should, take it out of play.
WHY GOLF IS LOVED
Forwarded by Bill Thompson
Perhaps as many or more non-playing fans than actual golfers now watch major golf tournaments on television.
Tiger Woods can probably take a lot of the credit for this, but here are some other reasons, along with some beautiful background shots to compliment the message, for your edification and enjoyment
CLICK HERE [http://www.picturesonline.us/golf/ ]