Friday, September 25, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports, “Just do the Right Thing” - #248, Sept. 28, 2009

The National Football League is experiencing “disconnects” i.e. ‘some things just don’t make sense’) in its 2009 season. Here are a couple:

1) In the Sunday night game with the New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys new stadium, Giants place kicker #9 Lawrence Tynes lined up to kick the winning field goal with 4 seconds remaining. Dallas Head Coach Wade Phillips waited until the play clock had almost expired, then, standing alongside the line judge, quickly called “time out.” The New York Giants center snapped the ball on count and Tynes kicked it through the uprights - “field goal good” – Giants win! But wait – the time-out was called just before the ball was kicked.

Coach Phillips did what other coaches have done, and what the NFL rules permit. But is it right? “Freezing the kicker,” as it is euphemistically called, is a legal strategy and, although it seldom works, you never know …? The Giants reassembled and Tynes kicked it through the second time – Giants 33/Cowboys 31. A possible solution: not allow a time-out once the kicking team has broken the huddle or has set its formation. Question: What happened to fair play?

A 2nd ‘disconnect:’ how ‘bout Michael Crabtree, the first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers? This All-American wide receiver from Texas Tech was selected because he is thought to be the next Jerry Rice. You kiddin’ me? Crabtree, as of the end of September, has yet to report. He wants more money, saying the $20 million that was offered was not enough. Crabtree and his agent – and, therein, may lie the real issue – said he deserved to be selected higher.

Well, excuse me! No one said the NFL draft was perfect! Example: Alex Smith drafted No. 1 by the 49ers in the 2006 draft and Tom Brady drafted #199 by the New England Patriots in the 2000 draft are miles apart in accomplishments. So while the selection process isn’t perfect, how does a player, who has NEVER played one NFL down, believe he is worth more than $20 million? Players want to play; yet some agents seem to be looking out for the money to be gained, rather than the importance of the player playing. What kind of T.E.A.M. mate will Crabtree be? It seems to me that he could live very nicely on $20 million. Question remains what happened to fair play?

Will you see the big picture when making these kinds of decisions?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports, "Maintain Your Focus" - #247 - Sept. 21, 2009

“When you lose focus, it’s no good” I wrote in our book “It’s the Will, Not the Skill” ( That phrase became an issue in the first week in the 2009 NFL season, and not just on the football field. Does the name Serena Williams come to mind? Williams, the USTA’s #2 professional women’s tennis player, lost her focus in the semi-final U.S. Open tournament on Sunday (1st week of the NFL).

During that semi-final match against Kim Clijsters with the second set score at 5-6, 15-30, Williams was called for a foot fault on her second serve by the line judge, making the game score 15-40. Williams then berated the line judge with vile language. The Chair Umpire penalized Williams a point for that outburst, making the set score 7-5 Clijsters and THE MATCH! Williams received a fine of $10,000 for “unsportsmanlike conduct/using threatening language and gestures.”

This incident is about behavior and loss of focus. Williams, has since “sincerely apologized,” saying, “In the heat of battle, I let my passion and emotion get the better of me.” While anger is possible in any of us, keeping our “cool” is vital to remind ourselves what our main focus must be.

Loss of focus also happened in the Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants second quarter as Redskins WR #89 Santana Moss and Giants CB #23 Corey Webster got into a pushing/shoving altercation that developed into a slugfest with both players going to the ground. Although offsetting fouls were called, perhaps both should have been ejected. Offsetting fouls have no loss of yardage for either team, and while the NFL philosophy is “try not to eject” players, this type of fighting needs a stronger game enforcement. While both Moss and Webster will be fined, expulsion from the game would be a powerful reminder of the consequences, when focus is lost.

In Cincinnati, with 11 seconds remaining, the Denver Broncos defeated the Bengals as Broncos WR #14 Brandon Stokely reacted quickly by catching a tipped pass and running 87 yards for the winning touchdown. Stokely kept his focus by (1) not quitting on a pass thrown to a teammate; (2) and, more importantly, as he approached the goal line well ahead of the defenders, Stokely ran parallel at the 1-yard line consuming some 3-4 seconds of time. That’s maintaining focus.

Will you maintain focus on “W*I*N” (What’s Important Now)?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports, “Sportsmanship can’t be Legislated” - #246, Sept. 14, 2009

After Further Review … It’s a classic irony: For the 2009 College football season, the NCAA instituted a “High Five Walk Through” following a football game, as well as several players from each T.E.A.M., not just the captains, shaking hands at mid-field prior to the coin toss. The NCAA is attempting to create a sportsmanship-among-collegiate-players-image. The effort is well-intended, albeit misdirected, as was the case at the recent Oregon vs. Boise State game.

The irony came about when University of Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount threw a punch that sent Byron Hout, Boise State’s DE, to his knees. Blount delivered that punch immediately following the game as the players met in mid-field to share “pleasantries.” The Ducks lost to the Broncos 19-8.
Expected to be the star performer, Blount didn’t have a good game that night finishing with a minus five yards on 8-carries. The University of Oregon took strong action and suspended Blount for the entire 2009 season. Blount, a senior, said in a tearful statement, that he understands “I made a mistake and have to pay for that mistake!” Some said that his “cheap shot” is “the way the Oregon team was being coached.” I disagree. Blount alone must accept full responsibility.

If you’re going to blame the coach, then it follows you need to blame the University President and so on. When looking for answers as to Blount’s behavior, you need to look deeper. Without placing the blame on anyone but Blount himself, the question becomes: Was he not disciplined early in life? Where and how did he learn responsibility? Did anyone teach him to keep his “cool” (i.e. poise) in heated times? The absence of these behaviors in one’s youth fails to give needed direction when one reaches adulthood.

Further, the hateful behavior of the Bronco’s Byron Hout, the player who “taunted” Blount and “tapped him on the shoulder” should not go unnoticed. What responsibility does the perpetrator, (Hout), have in this matter? Words, however derogatory, should never be an excuse for physical retaliation. Trash talking is often the fuse that sets off fights, riots and the like.

The real issue seems to be: Can we legislate sportsmanship? I think not. Sportsmanship is best taught by example – from parent to child – and from coach/teacher to player/student. Ample situations occur in our lives each day that create important, positive, and meaningful lessons, if attended to

Will you recognize teachable moments in good sportsmanship?

To learn more about Jim Tunney, or if your organization would like to secure Jim as a speaker, please visit
and click on Jim Tunney

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports, “Officials are part of the Game” - #245, Sept. 7, 2009

After Further Review ...“You know what I want to know about referees and umpires? Absolutely nothing,” writes Sports Illustrated writer Phil Taylor in a recent back page article called, “Hey Ump, just make the call.” Taylor said in his article that Umpires (i.e. game officials) should have “an absence of personality, be charisma-free and as bland as baby food.” Hmm, wonder why Taylor had his picture included in this story?

But I digress. I do agree with Taylor’s assumed premise, which he failed to state, that fans are interested in players, coaches and teams – not officials. Fans don’t go to the games to watch officials; most fans don’t even know who the officials are -- until one makes a call against their team. It is important, as well, for officials to remember the game is for players and coaches.

Taylor continues “Once officials get a whiff of fame, it raises the possibility that they’ll play to the crowd or the cameras.” Fame? Infamy, maybe! Notoriety surfaced in the NFL in 1976 when the Referee (white hat) was required to announce – at the time of penalty enforcement – the player’s number, the type of foul committed, declined or accepted, and the yardage involved in the penalty. When that occurred, television scripted the Referee’s name as he announced the foul and penalty. Why? Because the sportswriters in the booth and TV announcers wanted to know this information. The officials didn’t ask for it. I personally disliked telling the world that “#76 was holding,” thereby causing his team to be set back 10 yards or even costing his team a touchdown. But the fans want that!

What is needed today is an encouragement of young sports enthusiasts stepping up to put on an official’s uniform to help our school sports programs survive. Almost every newspaper today has a call out for “officials needed.” The intimacy of putting on the official’s uniform and experiencing what officials must deal with helps one understand the game. (Give that a try, Mr. Taylor!) If we regard sports as an important opportunity for young people to learn how to get along with others, how to deal with setbacks and the value of fair play, we need officials. While I am in full agreement with Taylor on the issue of anonymity, officials must be there too!

Will you maintain your focus on players and coaches, and not officials, while watching a game?

Visit to learn more about Jim Tunney; if your organization would like to secure Jim as a speaker, please visit
You can also tweet Jim at