Sports Stories of the Ridiculous, Sad, and Wierd

Hoops

By now many have heard of the girls basketball team in Texas who outscored a lesser opponent 100-0.  The Covenant School, a private Christian school beat Dallas Academy like they were the, dare I say…. the  Philistines.   Later after refusing to offer an apology, the coach was fired.  I happen to think it’s a good fire considering the circumstances.

As a sportsman, I appreciate competitiveness and playing hard.  This isn’t the first time I have seen such a lop sided score.  I remember when my high school girls team beat another local team 105-10.  I don’t think you should tell kids to let up and not do their best either.  However, what is equally important is the way in which one competes. 

As a basketball official, I see a lot of blowouts.  Sometimes one team is just more advanced than another.  Some teams are more talented than others.  It takes about two minutes or less to figure out whats going to happen.  Pretty soon, the lead is so big that we won’t stop the clock on the whistles.  With that said, a smart coach who gets it will not allow the best players to continue to dominate and humiliate the other team by putting on a full court defensive press or continuing to shoot three pointers.   Sure he will let the stars start the game.  Perhaps by the time they break a sweat they lead by 25.  But then coach will take them out, put in the reserves and run a more conservative offense without a press.  In some tournaments there are no pressing rules after a team leads by a certain amount.  This is not necessarily the case in official high school play.  But this is where intelligence should have taken over. 

Instead of backing off, this jerk continues to have his team press and run fast breaks complete with three pointers.  I wonder once it got to be 76-0, did he think the other team had a chance to come back? 

When players are pros and getting a paycheck I got no problems with putting up big numbers.  It’s bad karma in my opinion to throw Hail Mary’s in the fourth quarter of a football game if your up by 35.  And MLB teams normally don’t steal bases past the 7th inning with a 5 plus run lead.  If they do rest assured somebody is going to get a 100mph fast ball in the ass at some point.  The players will police themselves.  But when its amateur, the coaches need to show respect by restraint.  He should have put his reserves in and if they still scored the same 100 by running a standard offense that did not call for three’s being hoisted like fireworks on the 4th of July, and they at least picked up the defense in the front court, then so be it.  I wouldn’t advocate telling his players not to score.  But there is a way to do everything.  And putting it to some kids who haven’t won a game in 4 years who also happen to have learning disabilities is not making his team better. 

I can tell you now that as an official, I would have stopped the game if the coach didn’t back the heck up.  And if I were the other coach?  Let’s just say I would have had a little something-something for him before that game was over. 

Football

Meanwhile, in Kentucky a high school football coach has been charged with reckless homicide in the heat stroke death of one of his players.   Initially I’m not too sure how I come out on this.  The widow of former NFL player Korey Stringer just settled with the league after he died of the same thing a few years ago.  Heat stroke is no joke, and training football players is unlike any training in sport.  Traditionally, its not unusual at all for players to sweat and be worked into exhaustion during training camp situations.  It’s summertime and temperatures are generally at their highest levels.  Certainly guys like Lombardi, Bear Bryant, Bo Schembechler and the likes rode their players into oblivion they are revered for making tough men.  I am sure it’s challenging for a coach to know when he is pushing a player too hard or how to recognize when a kid, especially a young kid really needs a break or is not giving his best. 

Still I got to say that if it’s true that the player was not allowed to receive water on a hot and humid Kentucky day, that is a judgement that may cost the coach his freedom.  I will be keeping an eye on the case as I don’t want to assume much of anything before the facts come out.  Still, it’s pretty sad. 

Torre

I am biased when it comes to Joe Torre and I though he was a smooth operator when he led the Yankees to several World Series titles,  kept his cool within the media hot-bed capital of the world, while putting up with an owner who didn’t know when to shut up.  I though he was shafted by the Yankees having to leave for the Dodgers especially when he was not mentioned at all during the ceremonies on the last day at the old Yankee Stadium.  But this book deal where he supposedly talks about Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) being called A-Fraud by teammates, saying he was obsessed with Derek Jeter and that GM Brian Cashman was silent when he got run from NY is something I can’t wrap my brain around.  Torre was legendary for being professional and keeping team business in the clubhouse even in the midst of turmoil.  Just because he went to Los Angeles to manage, still he was the last guy I thought would go Hollywood and do a Phil Jackson tell all book.  I mean, where does that get him?  What does he get out of it?  I am sure he was disappointed with A-Rod’s performance or lack thereof especially in the playoffs.  Maybe he thought it cost him his job.  But damn, don’t hate too much.  Torre himself, be it successful with the Yankees, was horrible as manager of the Cardinals.  And he didn’t do great with the Mets and Braves either. 

Truth be told the Yankees took a chance on him in 96 and it worked out well for both parties.  They went to the playoffs each year, and won four World Series titles.  Torre got the benefit of managing several hall of fame players and he did a great job.  But he also got a lot of credit and a lot of money from The Boss. 

His Dodger team was just OK until Manny Ramirez made his way out west and put the entire city on his back.  My thing is this.. if you’re going to do that book, do it when you’re still with the Yankees not after you leave.  Now you just look like a bitter old man.  I guess vanity gets to the best of us.  I just thought Torre was above it.

A Salute To Coaches

One of the most important names a man/woman can be called is, “coach.”  At first glance a coach merely looks like a guide or a teacher of sporting fundamentals, teamwork, competition and sportsmanship.  But often they are so much more.  They are mentors, and are often looked upon by players as people who can help them accomplish something important. 

I’ve followed and participated in sports all of my life in some form.  I’ve played for some coaches I adored and some I abhorred.  This had nothing to do with whether a coach was a hard liner or an encourager in terms of style.  I am talking about other areas that make the difference.  These are the two questions I ask of my coaches.

“Does Coach know anything about the sport he/she is trying to teach me? ”

“Is Coach in this for me or for him?”

I could always tell on the first day of practice what the answer to these questions were.  And that determined my experience on the team. 

A coach can have a tremendous amount of influence on a kid.  The right coach can get a player to do things he never imagined he could.  He can help the player to learn some terriffic lessons in navigating in life through sports.  On the other hand a coach can be a horrible influence and teach young people the total opposite of how to handle situations or themselves.  I have seen both sides of these.  And one thing I cannot tolerate to see is a coach who works with young people for the sake of his/her own ego and sense of glory.  One of the coolest thing to see is a coach who loves the kids he/she works with. 

As a basketball official, I see coaches all the time.  Many of them I’ve worked often. 

A case of knowing a coach is in it for the right reasons is one that I ran into recently at a tournement.  This guy is a two time Missouri High School Coach of the Year and won a state championship.  Certainly he is one of the most respected basketball coaches in the state.  His players go to Division 1 universities and some have gone to the NBA.  When I officiated one of his games recently I would have expected to see high school teens getting ready for the upcoming season.  What I saw instead was a group of 5th graders learn at the hands of one of the best.  From the tip off to the final buzzer this guy taught, instructed and encouraged his players to an easy victory.  His team was calm, seem to feel no pressure and really enjoyed themselves.  This wasn’t the first time I saw a coach who could coach pretty much anywhere he wanted take time for younger underdeveloped players.  Though I don’t care who wins the games I officiate, it felt good to see adults who understand the importance of taking time out for our youth – and who can handle this great responsibility correctly.  Some of these coaches are nuts and shouldn’t be around young people at all.  Most of them (even the ones that don’t seem to know anything about the game) are caring and compassionate towards our future leaders of society.

For everyone who takes time to coach and guide our youth the right way… I salute you!