It ain’t over till it’s over

white-td

Baseball legend Yogi Berra is credited with coining the phrase “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The statement seems like a redundancy; of course nothing is over until it’s over. However, in sports and in life, we think that way.

And we couldn’t be more wrong. Just look at the last year in sports.

Cleveland was down 3-1 to Golden State.

The Chicago Cubs were down 3-1 to Cleveland.

New England was down 28-3 with three minutes left in the third quarter to Atlanta.

The Cubs broke the curse, the Cavaliers ended the drought, and the Patriots did the impossible.

Yogi was right. These teams proved that a champion has to be willing to go nine innings over seven games, 48 minutes in basketball or 60 minutes-plus in football to get it done.

Never kneel, lie down, or get down on yourself. Two outs isn’t three. Five minutes left on the clock is still five minutes. No matter how bad it looks, don’t give up. Former President Obama said, “The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.”

Or for those of us who speak fluent Yogi…

It ain’t over till it’s over.

 

Can You Stand The Rain?

Heavy Downpour

“On a perfect day I know that I can count on you
When that’s not possible, tell me, can you weather the storm?”

-From New Edition’s 1988 album Heart Break (lyrics by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis).

In sports and in life, everyone loves the perfect day. They’re ready to play and give everything they have. Rain, however, makes playing the game tough. In sports, losing is the equivalent of a rainstorm.

It’s often said that winning cures all ills. It doesn’t. Winning doesn’t cure anything. Think of winning as a painkiller; it makes you feel better, but the underlying ailment is still there.

Winning doesn’t make you like teammates, respect coaches, or share the ball more. Your team will lose again. It will rain again. Those same issues will come back.

Changing attitudes toward each other and the game takes hard work, dedication and patience. Sometimes, you can’t run inside from a driving rainstorm. Sometimes, you have to stand there and get soaked.

Only then will you realize the problems on your team and in your life aren’t as big as you thought.

Rain is just a bunch of water.

 

 

What makes a good citizen?

a066e-dsc004175b15d

A good citizen cares for his family, his neighbors and complete strangers. He knows his own destiny, to channel Dr. King, is bound to the destiny of those around him. A good citizen believes in the basic ideals of American society – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He then works with others to shape policy and develop programs to help those ideals become a reality for all Americans.

When I think about citizenship, I think about sportsmanship. The game, whether on the field of play or in real-life, is more productive and more enjoyable when everyone has the opportunity to play, grow and succeed. A good sport, along with a good citizen, knows the main objective has nothing to do with the day’s score, but the willingness of people to continue playing no matter the outcome of a single contest.

Sports leagues have folded after crowning a single season’s champion. Nations have fallen after the reign of a single, destructive ruler. Good citizens and good sports know that to make society and the game better, they must endure. They also know you are as only good as your bench.

In sports, the star player gets the headlines, but Steve Kerr hit the shot, David Tyree made the catch and Mike Jones made the tackle. In life, presidents and senators make news, but teachers, doctors, attorneys, laborers, and other everyday Americans teach, nurture and encourage the Barack Obamas, John McCains, and Elizabeth Warrens of the world.

A good sport knows there is no “I” in team.

A good citizen knows we are strongest when we are bound so close together, that one of us cannot fall without the rest.

Siena and Rider make a literal mockery of good sportsmanship

Siena and Rider weren’t good sports in their game Tuesday night. Late in the game, a fight ensued between players from both teams. There were ejections and technical fouls assessed among coaches and players. As a result, Rider head coach Kevin Baggett decided to remove his team from the court immediately after the final buzzer.

Rider did not participate in the postgame handshake line.

Siena didn’t, either – except for head coach Jimmy Patsos.

This is a bunch of mess. Baggett totally blew off any semblance of sportsmanship by leaving the court. Patsos decided to imitate a responsible, character-driven coach by shaking hands with invisible players. Young people must have better examples.

College coaches wield a great deal of power when it comes to players. The fastest way to get players to act right is to sacrifice playing time, but that may mean sacrificing wins.

Sorry, what was I thinking?

The saddest MLK holiday ever

I didn’t see or hear this anywhere on Monday:

You probably didn’t, either. There wasn’t even the obligatory “Has Martin Luther King’s dream been realized?” newspaper or TV story.

We didn’t even try.

America has regressed. The fight for freedom and equality has taken a few rounds off. Monday, January 16, 2017, was a day off for schools, banks and a few more random observers. The rest of America conducted business as usual; the very thing Dr. King warned us against in his famous speech.

The NBA played a full slate of games. Cavs vs. Warriors was the marquee matchup. Draymond Green continued his almost nonstop antics with a flagrant foul on LeBron James. Sports networks were abuzz with commentary about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his “salty” language about the New England Patriots.

Sigh.

There were marches, celebrations and other gatherings in honor of Dr. King, but they were in the usual places and conducted by the usual people. Our vigilance has given way to complacency.

I took my family to see the movieĀ Hidden FiguresĀ during the holiday weekend. In part, it tells the story of Katherine Johnson, the brilliant NASA mathematician and physicist, who helped calculate John Glenn’s historic space flight aboard the Friendship 7 in 1962.

John Glenn was in my science books, history books and part of the political sphere when he became a United States Senator. Katherine Johnson, the black woman who made sure he didn’t wind up space brisket, wasn’t even a footnote.

Freedom is a constant struggle that requires daily effort. Indifference is the breeding ground for injustice. Simply put, when you don’t care, you don’t care.

MLK Day is not a holiday just for black people and social justice warriors. It is a day for all Americans to observe and appreciate the very high cost of freedom. Lives have been lost in the name of freedom in foreign wars and on our own soil.

Don’t let Dr. King’s legacy be lost to “back in the day.” Some millionaire athletes, a good movie and even an African-American President of the United States mean nothing if the children on Mehl Avenue in north St. Louis County and the children on Mehl Avenue in south St. Louis County never meet and never play together.

Yesterday was a sad day in our country. Please don’t let it happen again.

Friend.

ruth_name_in_hebrew_letters_necklace_oval_charm

The image you see is the Hebrew translation of my mom’s name. Her name is Ruth and it means “friend.” My friend died January 15, 1994. She was 58.

This time of year we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His dream for America is one we should all want to come true. However, this 40-year-old man’s body still houses the soul of a 17-year-old kid who misses his mom.

I’m generally OK. Writing about her is cathartic. It eases my greatest fear – that one day I won’t remember her as well and forget things. And since I’m one of a select few left on Earth who ever knew her, my writing makes her essentially immortal.

Cool, huh?

I don’t mean to make anyone sad, there is yet motivational gold is these hills. I hope, anyway. Ruth sacrificed for the team. The team is our family and she took losses so we could win. The Sportsmanship Guy isn’t from outer space nor was he created in a lab.

He had a mom…and a great one, too!

I recall one summer day when my friends’ parents wouldn’t let them come outside to play baseball because there was a heat warning. Ruth knew how much I wanted to work on my fastball and decided to meet me halfway.

She said I could pitch to her for 20 minutes and then we had to go back inside. I was nine. Mom was 50. Anyone who’s been around a 4th grade pitcher for more than 30 seconds knows they have almost zero control.

Mom didn’t take me deep, but she took a few pitches off the leg and off the foot. She probably would’ve done better just me letting play video games. That’s how she was, though.

Ruth bought my first barbell set. She reset my broken left thumb. She scrubbed my dirty uniforms on a washboard in the bathtub.

Mom told me I would be the nation’s first black president. Obviously, I’m not, but she thought that much of me. She constantly impressed positive encouragement and expectation on me.

Ruth gave me her last $40 to pay for a visit to Rockhurst University in November of 1993. She never saw my college acceptance letter, but her investment was another drop in a bucket she had been filling since the doc said, “It’s a boy!”

Mom never saw me graduate from high school or college. She wasn’t here for my wedding or the birth of her youngest grandchild. Man, she would love my Junior.

My dream for every kid this MLK holiday is that they have a friend like my Ruth. Every kid should be so lucky. God knows I was.