Monday, October 27, 2008

On The Tunney Side of the Street #200, Oct. 27, 2008 (

After Further Review … As I watched young participants play in a recent Junior Golf Tournament at a Par 3 local course, I was impressed by the brightness of their faces, the determined look to do their best, and, most of all, their CIVILITY. I’ve seen those characteristics before in youth tournament competitions; then watched them grow from kids to young adults, and some even onto the professional tour. As they aged, their faces hardened a bit, but not their civility. So the question becomes – where has civility gone in our sports world today? I’ve never seen a Junior Golfer throw a club in disgust; never heard a “discouraging word” – the 4-letter variety; and never found anyone who didn’t always want to do his or her best.

Do the values of the game get lost as players get older? Do we lose respect, courtesy, honor, and integrity as the pressure of winning increases? Has winning at all costs overtaken the basic values that we first learned as kids?

Sports that require physical contact (e.g. football, soccer, hockey, basketball) often elide the traits mentioned above. Let’s use NFL football as a case in point. In “It’s the Will, Not the Skill” we say “dancing (celebrating) in the end-zone” evinces disrespect for one’s opponent. Yet in golf, the pumping of the fist, the thrust of the hand overhead as an emotion of celebration does not seem disrespectful. Emotional energy is part of creating momentum, and, perhaps, a way of building self-confidence.

Where civility gets lost is when the “celebration” goes overboard. Granted, in the “emotionality” (if you will) of the occasion, does one think of that impact on an opponent? It hurts to lose, especially when you see your opponent flaunting success. Does that mean you should not celebrate? Not at all. Celebrating is as natural as breathing – an inherent right – an earned privilege of winning. Winning is important – “you play to win the game” (see page 190 in It’s the Will, Not the Skill), but moderation in celebrating must be considered.

We’ve all seen the ugliness of competition influence kids because of ADULT – coaches, parents, crowd, etc., behavior. Typically, kids are out there playing because they love to play. Adults, far too often, are the ones overly exerting pressure on them to win. That being said, congratulations go to parents and coaches who promote good sportsmanship by making sure that, if their kids win, they treat celebrating with concern about respecting others.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

On The Tunney Side of the Street #199, Oct. 20, 2008 (

The recent physical altercation between Dallas Cowboys Safety Adam Jones (aka “Pacman”) and his bodyguard in a Dallas hotel at 1:30 AM (note: “Nothing good happens after midnight,” see page 55 in “It’s the Will, Not the Skill”) induced Jones’ indefinite suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ( Tim Montgomery, former Olympic Gold medalist and world record holder (at 9.78 seconds in the 100 meters) was recently found guilty for heroin dealing. Montgomery is already in prison, completing a 46-month sentence for “check-kiting.” He fathered 4 children with 4 different women – one of whom was Marion Jones, the disgraced Olympic sprinter star, who also was stripped of her Gold medals, after being found guilty of using steroids.

Tammy Thomas, former elite cyclist, recently was sentenced to six months home confinement for lying to the Grand Jury about her steroid use ( And, of course, former San Francisco Giants home run king Barry Bonds, who pleaded not guilty to 15 similar charges, is due in court next March with his six attorneys for alleged steroid use and perjury. Then we have the recent conviction for kidnapping, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, amongst other charges, for former NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson ( This brings a question to the forefront: Are those mentioned above-sports stars or athletes? How do you define “athlete?”

No disputing the physical prowess of Montgomery, Jones, Bonds, and/or Simpson, but, wait - this is NOT about them; they are merely today’s examples of how sports performers have squandered their talents and acclaim (along with the money that came with it) as well as disgraced themselves. No, this is about the question: Do these – and other sports performers who have fallen from grace – meet the criteria as “athletes” or are they merely “physically talented?”

Most dictionaries define “athlete” as: “one trained to compete in athletics involving exercises and games requiring physical skills.” No doubt that those named above qualify as “athletes” by that singular definition. But not in MY dictionary! I have been taught, and always believed, the definition of “athlete” embodies more than just “physical skills.” The following dozen attributes incorporate my definition of an athlete:

· Positive mental attitude
· Being a T.E.A.M. player
· Willingness to go the “extra mile”
· The Will to win (remember “It’s the Will, Not the Skill”)
· Loyalty
· Dedication
· Accountability
· Integrity
· Enthusiasm
· Trustworthiness
· Coachability
· Physical skills

Will you measure your sports stars as athletes only if they possess these characteristics?

Friday, October 10, 2008

On The Tunney Side of the Street #198, Oct. 13, 2008 (

Last month former – and disgraced – National Basketball Association Referee Tim Donaghy began a 15-month prison sentence on felony charges involving wire fraud and transmitting wagering tips through Interstate Commerce to gamblers on NBA games Donaghy refereed. The gamblers were ‘friends’ of Donaghy.(

15 months? “Don’t you mean 15 years (Donaghy is 41)”? Nope! 15 months in a minimum-security Federal Penitentiary in Florida. Not only did Donaghy blemish the game of professional basketball, as well as all sports, more importantly, he damaged the INTEGRITY of officiating – at all levels. (

The “perception” of fans is often that officials “play favorites” – e.g. favorite players (super stars) and/or favorite teams (perennial champions); or that officials call “even-up fouls” in the event that an earlier call may have been called incorrectly. From my 40-year career in officiating, both football and basketball at all levels, trying to “even up” doesn’t work – much like trying to get your sideburns even when shaving! Yet, the perception (of favoritism) exists.

What is more disturbing than the absurd 15-month sentencing, is the accusation by Donaghy’s defense attorneys, as well as his father, that other NBA referees are involved in gambling issues. Gerry Donaghy, Tim’s father who, by the way, was a former college basketball referee, is “angry at the whole NBA” and said his son is “no worse than a lot of other people who should have been helped, not chastised, by the NBA.”

Donaghy Sr. said “there’s at least 10 other guys who are doing things – just as bad.” Gerry fails on a couple of counts: First, the recent NBA 14-month investigation report revealed “no other referee, other than Tim Donaghy, engaged in any illegal activity.” Second, Gerry (the father), who by the way agreed his son deserved the punishment, said the “NBA, especially Commissioner David Stern, should be “helping him (Tim) instead of chastising him’”. My question is: where was the father’s help in raising a son who fell victim to greed, moral and ethical offenses? Whenever we point a finger at someone, we must remember there are 3 pointing back at us.

We can only help and teach our children to do the “right thing.” We cannot ensure they always will. However, an attempt to implicate others in order to reduce the stigma of one’s misdeeds does not live up to the definition of taking responsibility.

Will you step up to take responsibility by doing the right thing?

Friday, October 3, 2008

On The Tunney Side of the Street #197, Oct. 6, 2008 (

After Further Review ...What incentive is there for an NFL T.E.A.M. to WIN when rookie players are paid with signing bonuses in the multi-millions even before they put on the pads! Contracts of similar (or more) value follow. Some players who are drafted, yet didn’t succeed, walk away with more money than many people earn in a lifetime!

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ( is concerned about the hefty, and still escalating, bonuses paid to 22-23 year-olds just out of college – some not even graduating. Now, I don’t want to get off on a rant, here, that’s not my purpose. However, having been on the NFL field with players in the 60s-70s-80s-90s, I witnessed first-hand what meager salaries those players – now the ‘legends’ of the game – were paid. Are today’s pro athletes thinking of money first and the love of playing second? Your call.

Let’s segue to our kids in school today. As a life-long educator, I ask - should we pay kids in elementary and/or secondary school an incentive – call it motivation – to get good or better grades? When we were kids we all had ‘chores’ for no pay, just because Mom/Dad said it was “part of being a family.” Do kids today practice that same philosophy or do they want (demand?) pay for household chores?

Incentives for ‘getting good grades’ is an ever-growing issue. In a recent USA Today survey (, more than half of the 74 CEOs interviewed said it was a “good idea.” And 50% of those said they do pay their own kids for good grades. While this idea is not new, it’s gaining more support. As a parent, what is your response when your youngster says “Well, Billy’s mom pays him $5.00 when he gets an ‘A’”?

Sports, as well as the business world, provides us with a lesson. Many coaches at the professional and college levels receive bonuses for winning performances, or getting their team in the playoffs, or winning the conference championship, etc. One coach in the college ranks this year will receive (in addition to his million dollar+ salary) $125,000, if his player-graduation rate equals that of the overall student population! I thought helping a student-athlete graduate was part of – not in addition to – the coach’s job! Foolish me!

Then, too, our business world is rampant with bonus and/or incentive programs for doing what you were hired and paid to do. How then can we fault our kids about what their adult role models are doing, when they want the same?

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