Friday, October 23, 2009

“Coming up next … O Captain, My Captain,” October 26, 2009

Afer Further Review ... Walt Whitman wrote “O Captain, My Captain” about President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 emphasizing the importance of Lincoln’s leadership in troubled times.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Jackson evidently didn’t read much of Whitman’s writings, or if he did, decided to ignore the challenge of leadership. Jackson, who was named the Warriors captain for the 2009-2010 season, recently renounced that title.

“Being captain was over-rated to me, anyway. You don’t do anything but go out before the game and talk to the refs. I don’t want to do that, anyway.” Jackson was quoted by AP writer Janie McCauley. There’s somewhat of a disconnect here. In the world of sports, being named captain is: 1) an honor, 2) a privilege, and 3) above all, a responsibility.

Jackson was named captain by Warriors Head Coach Don Nelson, even though Jackson and Nelson have had their ‘run-ins.” Jackson claimed that Nelson failed to support him in a confrontation Jackson had in a game last season. Perhaps Nelson’s idea to name Jackson as captain was to “jack-up” (little play on words) his confidence, as well as help to bring the Warriors together as a T.E.A.M. – a move that obviously didn’t work.

Denying his team’s captain role is certainly Jackson’s right. However, his disgruntled response smacks as narcissistic. Being a captain, Mr. Jackson, is not about you, but about your role as a leader of your T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Accomplishes More). Jackson’s athletic history certainly highlights his physical skills and prowess, but at the same time, raises questions about his background as a leader and team player.

In a recent speaking engagement to a corporate audience, whose conference theme was “Leaders of the Pack,” I related a subject matter I often use: “Leadership is not so much about ability, as it is responsibility.” A leader “steps up” to help others. Michael Jordan comes to mind. It has been said about former NBA star and Hall of Famer, Jordan, that his leadership and abilities made others (his teammates) around him better.

Leadership in today’s climate is challenging. Coach Nelson was undoubtedly trying to express confidence in Jackson’s abilities, as well as pull the Warriors together as a team as they begin the season. If the Warriors lack a player who can do that, the season may be already lost.

Will you step-up to accept responsibility when it comes your way?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports; “Coming up next … Character and Courage” #251, October 19, 2009

After Further Review … “’By rights the NFL should be able to celebrate a history of abiding enlightenment,” writes Alexander Wolff in the October 12, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated. The subjects of Wolff’s article were Woody Strode (#27), Jackie Robinson (#28) and Kenny Washington (#13), who made up the backfield of the 1939 UCLA Bruins.

My father was Kenny Washington’s high school coach (Lincoln – Los Angeles). I met Jackie Robinson when he was a halfback at Pasadena (California) Junior College. Other than Fritz Pollard, a black QB in the 1920s, Washington became the modern day (after WWII) “first” black NFL player.

Gridiron magazine called Washington “the greatest football player we have ever seen.” Legend has it that Kenny once “threw the ball 100 yards.” My dad said it was true – not legend. (Kenny says “it was only 93 yards.”) I stayed close to Kenny in his later years (he died at age 52), since he had been part of my father’s CHARACTER and COURAGE. My dad’s character was to acknowledge Kenny’s athleticism, not his skin color, and the courage to support and encourage (there’s that word courage again) him to go to UCLA and onto the NFL. Few NFL teams had black players; others (George Preston Marshall, Washington Redskins owner, as well as George Halas, owner/coach of the Chicago Bears) chose to keep their teams “lily-white,” as Wolff says in his article.

The NFL didn’t move much beyond the segregation that blacks faced in the 40s, 50s and into the 60s. Doug Williams, a black quarterback, led the Redskins (yes those same Redskins), to a Super Bowl title in 1988. Today’s black players are not only dominant in the NFL, but respected as well – except for those few who tend to imperil the game by show-boating and trash talking.

While the efforts of the NFLPA are working towards benefits for current and retired NFL players, we must not overlook, but applaud, the ongoing DIRE Need Fund and the Caring for Kids program of the NFLA (Alumni). Under the 17 year tenure and leadership of CEO Frank Krauser, the character and courage that the NFLA promotes stands tall along with those who supported and encouraged the Washington’s, Robinson’s and Strode’s some 70 years ago.

Much has yet to be accomplished in helping indigent former players (of all colors). Only when the NFLPA and the work of the current NFLA come together, along with a better effort from the owners, will character and courage win out!

Will you keep character and courage first and foremost in helping others?

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

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports; “Coming up next … A Good Reminder” #250, October 12, 2009

After Further Review ... “’Cause I’m the hall monitor,” said 9-year old Lin Hao, the Chinese schoolboy who marched in the Opening Ceremonies of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing, with China’s Flag Bearer, 7”6’ Yao Ming. Yao Ming, of course, you know as the Houston Rockets NBA star, who played in the Olympic Games for his native country China.

Lin Hao, perhaps, is a name you don’t know – yet. When an earthquake hit Chengdu’s Sichuan Province, China, killing 70,000+ people, Lin Hao was among those buried beneath the rubble, yet survived. Lin Hao had pulled a classmate out of the rubble, then ran back in to rescue another, when he was caught in the tumbling walls. Alive when the rescuers got to him, Lin Hao was asked “Why did you go back into that building that was crumbling?” Here was 9-year old Lin Hao’s response: “’CAUSE I’M THE HALL MONITOR!” You may call it responsibility, or leadership or determination. Whatever you call it, please put “HERO” next to Lin Hao’s name! Extraordinary!

There is no question that the spectacular opening of the 29th Olympic Games was the finest I have ever witnessed. The precision and splendor of that opening was exceeded only by the people who directed and performed in it. It was easy to be convinced that the light show, the drumming sequence and especially the ‘cube’ happening was controlled solely by electronics. I was delightfully surprised when it was not, as the performers beneath those cubes popped their heads up at the conclusion. Extraordinary!

Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening ceremonies, said “We (meaning every ‘cube’ performer) worked for 4 months - 8 hours a day - and we never got it perfect – until that opening night performance.” Personal responsibility and a “never-give-up” attitude, coupled with TEAMWORK, gave the world China’s extraordinary best.

Critics knocked the Chinese performers as “sterile” and lacking passion (they missed the fact that there are 1.3 billion Chinese!). I disagree. When you witness perfection, it may appear “sterile” and “passionless,” but what often is missed is the extraordinary effort given to achieve perfection. Extraordinary performances are given by ordinary people giving extra effort to perform the extraordinary!

Will you practice responsibility when it comes your way?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tunney Side of Sports, “Coming up next: The Culture of a T.E.A.M.” - #249, Oct. 5, 2009

After Further Review … “We’re not just going to beat ‘em, we’re gonna embarrass ‘em” was a statement by an NFL player talking about an upcoming opponent. Football, as it is with any contact sport, is an emotional one. Players must get themselves emotionally ready for every game. You can’t take an emotional week off.

Granted that this player was probably “psyching” himself and his teammates up for that game, however, he unknowingly also provided some incentive for his opponent. What reaction would you have if someone said that to you? Most players would respond by giving extra effort to ensure their best performance. That sort of trash talking also breeds ill will.

The real issue is the disrespect of opponents by saying “We’re gonna embarrass ‘em.” Some players need to be reminded that football is a G.A.M.E. – important yes, but needs to be kept in perspective. It is healthier to show respect for an adversary, than insolence. I have never felt good about being an intimidator, mostly because I never liked being the “intimidatee.”

In my book “It’s the Will, Not the Skill,” we decry players who “dance in the end zone” after scoring a touchdown. By scoring, you have already frustrated your opponent; there is no need to “rub salt in the wound.” Sure, players should get excited and celebrate success, but not to extremes. How often have you seen the sack of a QB by a lineman, who then celebrates as if he’s just won the Nobel Prize, and his team is behind 35-0?! That word T.E.A.M. certainly says more than just the 4 letters themselves. In football, no running back scores a touchdown without the effort and support of the other ten.

Teams need to develop and sustain a T.E.A.M. culture which becomes their “face.” The NFL’s greatest teams had such a culture, e.g. Lombardi’s Packers, Landry’s Cowboys, Shula’s Dolphins, Noll’s Steelers, Ditka’s Bears, and Madden’s Raiders. Different in nature, but their own face.

At the risk of offending some of today’s great coaches, let me cite the culture that second year Head Coach Mike Singletary is bringing to the San Francisco 49ers. One only needs to recall last year the way he handled rookie TE Vernon Davis. Mike is a no-nonsense guy and stepped-up to not only be the 49ers leader, but to establish a culture that is focused on creating a winning climate. Of the 12 years that I spent on the field with Mike (#50 MLB Chicago Bears), I never once saw him disrespect his opponent.

Will you develop your own “culture” to be an example of civility?