Thank You Pete Carroll

Two minutes to go the length of field and win back-to-back Sup Bowls. I ask no one and everyone, “Can we really do it again? Can we take it the length of the field?!” “Yes,” I’m assured by some Hawk faithful. And then, sure enough, our offense starts clicking. The more pressure, the more better. Key third down completion. Circus catch for the ages. 2nd and goal on the 1 with enough time and timeouts to run it three times if necessary. Hell yes we can do it again. Just have Wilson keep it or feed the Beast. Either way back-to-back baby!

Wait! No, no, no! Shotgun formation? Are you kidding me?! What on earth are they thinking. “Get back under center!!!” Interception. Ballgame.

People start saying not very nice things about Seattle’s Offense Coordinator, Darrell Bevell, but as my brother-in-law convincingly pointed out to me, the head coach has to take charge in that situation. Pardon the blasphemy, but we also don’t know yet if #3 called an audible.

What to do now. Obviously we need Washington State’s congressional delegation to investigate and determine without a shadow of doubt who made the worst call in football history. Not just professional football history, but street, Pop Warner, high school, college, CFL.

If it was a Wilson audible we’ll keep paying him the same salary for another three years (saving the team about $75m). If it was Carroll, we’ll have to act swiftly to assure his safety. Meaning Witness Protection. If it was Bevell, we should still act swiftly to assure Carroll’s safety, since he should have taken charge of that call. Meaning again, Witness Protection. New name, identity, and location.

In actuality, Seahawk fans owe Pete Carroll a huge thank you because there’s no decision any of us can possibly make in 2015 that will be anywhere close to that bad. That is freeing! Here’s how things will most likely go down in my Post 2nd and 1 household. “I’m really, really sorry honey, even by my standards, I did something really stupid.” Then the sorrowful explanation. Then the Good Wife, “It’s okay, really, it’s not like you decided to throw on the goal line with Marshawn fucking Lynch in the backfield.”

Administrivia

• When I began blogging, I hoped some readers would be moved to comment on occasion. And that overtime, a community of readers would bubble up. I dare say enough time has passed for me to say, not even close. Increasingly, some readers reply via the social media of their choosing. For example, Eldest Daughter wrote an epic reply to my last post on my Facebook page. It was a passionate, insightful, educational response. In my experience, most readers will not comment and those that do will choose different forums. Meaning, the small sum of comments do not equal more than the individual parts.

• Update 1. Education Story of the Year—Jon Kitna Returns to Lincoln High School. Three years ago, when he was hired, Kitna talked about making Lincoln High a state power in five years and a national power in ten. Then a large high school from the land of Friday night lights called. And he said if they’d pay his assistants real money he’d make the move. They said sure, no problem, while retaining their current assistants. Then Kitna said God was calling him to make the move. I’m confused about how the Texas high school is going to pay 10+ assistants’ salaries, not just stipends; and about how Kitna is rationalizing his decision. Kitna’s son, who threw 55 TD passes this year as a junior, is making the move with him. I pity the quarterback in waiting.

• Update 2. Why I Don’t Own a Cell Phone. God called me to buy I bought an iPhone 6+ a few months ago. I dig it, but have to find some other point(s) of distinction to fill the void. Maybe I’ll be the last tat-free guy.

• Shifting gears from the blog to random points of administrivia. Running. In 2014, I kept my 17 year “1,000 miles plus a year” streak alive. Barely. I was injured for three months and so it came down to the wire. Made it by 1%, 1,010 miles.

• Tennis. I love watching the Australian Open. Always so sunny. Male and female tennis players today are so powerful and athletic.The men are serving over 130mph. The greats from the 70’s and 80’s—Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Borg, etc.—would be lucky to make it to the quarters.

• College bball. If someone gives me a coaching job next year and I win 25 games a year, like Duke University’s Coach K, I’ll also win 1,000 games. . . when I turn 93.

• American professional football. The bandwagon has officially left the station. . . the Good Wife will be rockin’ a Seattle Seahawks t-shirt at the local Catholic middle school this week.

• I support Marshawn Lynch’s right to grab his crotch, ignore the press, and run over the New England Pats next Sunday night.

• Song of the night. . . Troubled Man by John Mellencamp.

• Workout of the weekend. The Sunday pre-dusk 10 mile bike ride with the Good Wife. Didn’t do much for my physical fitness, but did wonders for our relational fitness. #probablymoreimportant

• Movies. Selma, yes. Force Majeure, yes. The Interview, hell no. American Sniper, no thank you.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Peace,

Ron

The Five-Figure Bicycle—Who Am I To Judge

Sound like the Pope don’t I?

Yesterday, Rachel Bachman began her WSJ article “The Rise of the Five-Figure Bicycle” with a bang. “Last year,” she wrote, “Ted Perry dipped into his 401(k) to buy a $20,000 bicycle.”

The mind whirls. My first thought. As a public service, let’s plaster TP’s mug on a series of financial illiteracy posters titled “How Not to Manage Your Money for the Long Haul”. Obvious question one, why so damn much? Obvious question two, why, when Perry is 51 years old, use money designated for retirement? Not as obvious question three, why tap money that incurs a 10% federal tax penalty? Even less obvious question four, why advertise such a mind-boggling purchase to the world?

I would be too embarrassed, but maybe, like everything in life, a Perry-like purchase would make more sense in the larger context of one’s private life. With that in mind, let’s play “What if?” Imagine, if you will, the following possibilities:

• The Fed is artificially stimulating the market. Stocks are overpriced. Bonds = serious inflation risk. Cash = semi-serious inflation risk.

• A bicycle lover (BL) repeatedly finishes second to one of his* archenemies on mountain top finishes.

• Our BL receives a MacArthur Genius Grant of $625,000 for creating a comprehensive health care delivery model that addresses the medical and social service needs of high-risk patients in impoverished communities.

• While simultaneously receiving a life-threatening cancer diagnosis from his own doctor.

• Our BL never married or had children and his/her siblings and nephews and nieces are all well-to-do.

• Our BL is leaving all of his/her other assets to a long list of cash-strapped health care non-profits.

It’s conceivable, if all those stars aligned, a Perry-like purchase could make sense. The take-away? Pre-judge at your own risk.

* Had to use the male pronoun because women have way more financial sense.

Women Pace Marathons Better Than Men

Gretchen Reynolds, a New York Times health blogger, summarizes a study of thousands of marathon runners. Abbreviated version:

• The researchers wound up with information about 91,929 marathon participants, almost 42 percent of them women. The data covered all adult age groups and a wide range of finishing times.

• They compared each runner’s time at the midpoint of his or her race with his or her time at the finish, a simple method of broadly determining pace. As it turned out, men slowed significantly more than women racers did. In aggregate, men covered the second half of the marathon almost 16 percent slower than they ran the first half. Women as a group were about 12 percent slower in the second half. Burrowing deeper into the data, the scientists categorized runners as having slowed markedly if their second-half times were at least 30 percent slower than their first-half splits. Far more men than women fell into the markedly slower category, with about 14 percent of the male finishers qualifying versus 5 percent of the women.

• This disparity in race pacing held true in all age groups and finishing times, the researchers found, even among the fastest runners. The difference, however, was most pronounced at the back of the pack. There, female runners were much more likely than men to steadily maintain the same, less hurried pace throughout.

• Using this data to adjust for marathon experience, the researchers found that men, however many marathons they had completed, were still more likely than equally experienced women to slow during the second half of a race.

• The study was not designed to determine why men more frequently fade during marathons. But the reasons are likely to be physiological and psychological said . . . the senior author of the study. “We know that at any given exercise intensity, men will burn a greater percentage of carbohydrates for fuel than women, and women will use more fat. Our bodies, male and female, contain considerably more fat than stored carbohydrates. So men typically run out of fuel and bonk or hit the wall earlier than women do.”

The study’s senior author also found that men are more prone psychologically to adopt a “risky strategy” in their early pacing. “They start out fast and just hope they can hold on,” she says. She points out that strategy can sometimes pay off in a swifter finishing time. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing to push yourself at the start of a marathon,” she says, “if you have not catastrophically overestimated your capabilities. And Hunter notes, “An evenly paced race is not a well-paced one, if you run slower than you were capable of running.”

Reynolds, the Times blogger concludes, “The message of the study, then, would seem to be that an approach to marathon pacing that borrows something from men and women might be ideal. Maybe go a bit harder than you think you can in training, aiming to calibrate what your actual fastest sustainable pace is. Then stick with it during the event, even if your training partners tear away like rabbits at the start. You’ll reel them in.”

Unless there’s a large percentage of women with “gas in the tank” at the end of marathons, which I highly doubt, this conclusion strikes me as odd. As the study’s authors acknowledge in the larger post, evenly paced marathons are almost always faster than uneven ones; therefore, it’s logical to conclude that women marathoners, on average, are tapping more of their potential on race day relative to men.

And why are men running out of fuel and bonking earlier then women? It doesn’t matter that men “burn a greater percentage of carbohydrates for fuel” when every race provides ample fluid and carbs every few miles. Why don’t men do a better job replacing what they’re burning? Are women more intentional then men about integrating race simulation long runs in their training? Are men more prone to winging pacing and nutrition on race day?

Even if the study wasn’t designed to address why men are more prone to run too fast too early, I have a theory. I used to run with a friend who routinely sped up whenever we came upon a female runner or two on our wooded trails. He wasn’t conscious of this quirk. That experience, plus two decades of watching mostly male marathoners start out way too fast, makes me think male runners’ egos get the best of them.

When passed by older runners, heavy runners, really young runners, or heaven for bid, female runners, the self conscious male runner is prone to pick up his pace, with disastrous results an hour or two later.

Knowing this, I always strive to run my own race based upon the quality of my pre-race training. Consequently, when you pass me at a future race, I will wish you well.

Postscript—during today’s 5.5 miler, I realized my playlist needs some tweaking. Which of these doesn’t fit?

Bonus vid for making it to the finish line.

Britteny Griner—Lifesize

Like me, you’ll enjoy this sixteen minute documentary if you have any interest in Skittles, global labor markets, Chinese culture, cross cultural hurdles, and stories of personal growth.

Yao Ming, whose reverse experience closely paralleled Griner’s, would’ve been an ideal friend/cultural ambassador/mentor.

Here’s an excellent and highly recommended Yao Ming documentary.

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LeBron James > Michael Jordan

We kid ourselves when we think we know public figures—whether actors, politicians, or professional athletes. Hell, our next-door neighbors seem like the nicest people possible, but I have no idea what goes on in the privacy of their home. All of us have inner lives and see into the mirror dimly. Despite this, we can make tentative judgements about pro athletes in the media spotlight based upon what they say and do outside of competition.

For the life of me, I do not understand the American sport fan who makes judgements about athletes based entirely on statistics and championship titles. Forget whether an athlete treats people well, obeys the law, inspires fans, and uses their fame and fortune to help others also succeed. Character is irrelevant. Championship rings trump social consciousness.

This is odd. In real life we gravitate towards specific co-workers, friends, and family based upon holistic judgments about their personal attributes—are they kind, generous, positive, self-effacing, humorous, caring? But in sports, job competence trumps everything. That’s why, to the American sports fan, LeBron James isn’t even close to as good as Jordan—two NBA championships versus six.

In the game of life, LJ has MJ beat already. By miles. Many sports analysts are not taking LJ’s letter on face value*. Their cynicism makes them suspicious of his motives for taking his talents to Northeast Ohio. I’m prone to cynicism, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt—he likes living in NE Ohio, feels a sense of obligation to the people and place that cheered for him before he was famous, and wants to inspire Cleveland third graders to also defy the odds of what society expects from them**.

And Jordan? He quit basketball to “spend more time with his family.” Immediately afterwards he signed a contract to play minor league baseball in a different state. What does he stand for besides basketball excellence? Gambling. Hanes underwear. Unbridled ego. Tennis shoes. Cash money.

Granted, I was a third grader in Northeast Ohio, so I might be biased, but LJ’s letter was so beautifully written I might ask my writing students to analyze it this fall. Then, for extra credit, he stuck it to Ann Coulter by acknowledging the World Cup final was a much more important athletic competition than any NBA championship series.

Call me naive if you must, but I’m down with LJ. And it’s important to note he’s not the only basketball superstar whose excellence is even more evident off the court. In sports, as in life, we should make holistic judgments. Magic and Durant (zero titles) also have Jordan beat by miles. There are lots of others.

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* I find this economist’s perspective interesting.

** I suspect there’s one other reason, that I haven’t heard a single person mention, why LeBron chose Cleveland. His wife wanted to return home.

What Sports Parents Get Wrong

As it turns out, some academic research is accessible and relevant to people’s daily lives. For instance, recent work on how best to parent young athletes.

Some of the findings. Travis Dorsch, sports psychologist, “When parental sports spending goes up, it increases the likelihood either that the child will feel pressure or that the parent will exert it.”

Daniel Gould, director of Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, “The more parents do, the more they expect a return on their investment.”

Kevin Helliker in the Wall Street Journal:

This finding is likely to baffle parents who view Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters as star-studded products of heavy parental investment. It also calls into question the validity, at least in sporting arenas, of the so-called tiger style of parenting that spares no expense in the pursuit of top-notch results. Many sports parents struggle to strike a balance between supportive and pushy. A parent in the stands can help a child feel proud about doing well, as well as withstand the disappointments inherent in competition. And without parental help, most children couldn’t afford basic registration fees. But recent research suggests that large amounts of money can transform support into pressure.

Helliker adds:

How deeply Mom and Dad ought to invest in a child’s athletic activities is controversial. Jay Coakley, a University of Colorado professor emeritus of sports sociology, argues that the less the better. Greater parental spending tends to weaken a child’s sense of ownership of his athletic career, sometimes destroying his will to succeed, he says. “Kids are being labeled as burnouts when actually they’re just angry at having no options in their lives,” says Dr. Coakley.

I’ve written before about Richard Williams’ genius. As the story goes, Williams, the father and childhood coach of Venus and Serena, would hide their racquets once a year as a check on their motivation. The first day they’d celebrate a break from his rigorous practices, but by day two they would empty every closet to find the tools of their trade. That was all Williams needed to continue pushing.

Hard to imagine, but Lucy Li, an 11 year-old sixth grader, has qualified for the Women’s US Open this June at Pinehurst No. 2. Ten years ago, I watched 14 year old Michelle Wie play in the Women’s US Open at Pumpkin Ridge, west of Portland. Here’s hoping Li’s parents learn from Wie’s. Wie was considered a once in a generation talent—exquisite swing, athletic, and much longer than the other women. Everyone assumed she’d rewrite the record books. The only record she set was for unfulfilled potential. Most people who cover the LPGA blame her dad for his over involvement in her life and career. Only recently, since graduating from Stanford and establishing her own home in Florida, has she had success on the LPGA tour.

I hope Li’s parents don’t push her too hard. Obviously, the talent is already there. Odds are, her success will hinge on how much she enjoys the game. I have some unsolicited advice for mom and dad Li. Hide her sticks on occasion.

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