2011

No talking: II

The official internal memo sent out by the Delaware athletic director.

In a word: Cowardly.

January 19, 2011

Dear Men’s Cross Country and Men’s Track & Field Student-Athletes:

Later this morning the University will announce that the UD men’s cross country and men’s track & field teams will be reclassified as club teams and will no longer compete at the NCAA-sanctioned varsity level, effective at the conclusion of the 2011 outdoor season.

Please know that this decision was not reached quickly or without careful examination.  We regret the disappointment that this decision will cause you and are especially sensitive to the impact this decision will have on each of you. We will take great care to assist those of you who wish to transfer in order to continue your athletic careers elsewhere, and we will honor the athletic scholarships of those who wish to remain at UD.

I would have much preferred to inform you of this decision in person rather than through an email; however, given the fact that we are in winter session and many of you are away from campus, we felt it was important to get this information to you as soon as the decision was made.  Doing so would give you the opportunity to explore your option to transfer, should that be your wish.  In addition, we felt it was imperative to inform the prospective student-athletes who will soon be making their college decision.

I understand from Coach Fischer that you all are scheduled to train at 3:00 PM today.  If you would like, I will be available to meet with you at that time to answer any questions you may have.  We have reserved the auditorium in the BCC from 3:00 – 4:00 PM.   Brian Baptiste will also be in the meeting to answer questions regarding transferring to another institution, if that is your wish.  For those of you who are not on campus, I will have another meeting once the Spring semester begins; however in the interim if you have questions related to transferring, please contact Brian Baptiste at baptiste@udel.edu

As this information becomes public, you may be contacted by members of the media.  Please remember that our media relations staff is here to assist you with any request you receive.  The members of the media know that it is athletic department policy that no student-athlete, coach or staff member should engage in interviews – either in person or by phone, text, or email – with a member of the news media unless it has been arranged by a member of the UD Athletics Media Relations staff.  If you are contacted directly by a member of the news media, please instruct that reporter to contact the UD Athletics Media Relations Office first and they will arrangements will be made for him or her to visit with you, should that be your wish.

Again, I look forward to visiting with you this afternoon or soon thereafter, at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Bernard Muir

Director of Athletics and Recreation Services

No talking

So here’s something infuriating: The University of Delaware kills it’s men’s track and cross country programs, then sends an e-mail to all the athletes insisting they don’t speak to the media.

A. Who is the AD to order such a thing?

B. Why shouldn’t they speak? Their hearts have been broken, their program has been stolen …

Ugh.

Today’s si.com column …

… is an extremely personal one for me.

I was not an especially good runner at the University of Delaware. Truth be told, I had little business being part of a Division I program. But Coach Jim Fischer wasn’t a guy only looking for the fastest and strongest. He was a man who majored in self-improvement and inner-strength; who wanted competitors who believed in themselves and ran with passion and dignity.

I learned more in my one year running as a Blue Hen than I did in all my high school seasons pieced together. That Delaware is dropping men’s running kills me.

It absolutely kills me.

Paul Stanley turns 59

Today is Paul Stanley’s 59th birthday.

I’m not sure why I’m choosing to blog about such an occasion, save for the fact that I grew up loving KISS and, especially, Paul Stanley.

First, Paul Stanley (born Stanley Harvey Eisen) is Jewish, which was a huge deal for me as a kid. Second, he and the rest of KISS intimidated the hell out of me when I was a boy. I remember, vividly, sitting in my den, listening to the Destroyer album, staring at the cover for hours upon hours. In its prime KISS was a bad-ass band, and that the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame continues to overlook the group’s impact is shameful.

I’ve actually interviewed Stanley twice, both via phone. The first time was unmemorable—KISS was coming to Nashville and I got him for, oh, 10 minutes. Three or four years ago, however, we spoke again. This time I was doing a freelance piece for a children’s magazine. The topic was Why Kids Love the Music They Love. At the time my daughter Casey, age 3 or 4, has followed my lead and loved all things KISS. She had a KISS poster above her bed (my wife insisted we had to use black marker over Peter Criss’ bare chest), she once had Gene Simmons makeup applied to her face at a state fair (the moment I most wished I’d had a camera with me) and, in the car, we listened to KISS Unplugged over and over and over again. Her favorite song was Rock Bottom, and we probably heard it, oh, 400 times. She’s 7, and she still digs it.

Anyhow, I got Stanley on the phone, and when I told him about muy daughter he was genuinely tickled. He spoke about Unplugged and Rock Bottom at length. When we were wrapping up he said, “OK, Jeff. Do me a favor and give your daughter a big kiss for me and tell her I appreciate her loving our music.”

I thought that was incredibly cool.

If you’re looking for a great sports book

So I wanna admit at the top of this post that Jon Wertheim, SI‘s excellent senior writer, happens to be a close friend. I met my wife at his wedding (his wife and mine are best buds), we’ve known one another for years, talk semi-regularly, blah, blah, blah. Great scribe, great guy.

That being said, if Jon wrote a book that sucked, I would never recommend it here. Would I tell you it’s garbage? Of course not—I’d just avoid bringing it up at all (that being said, Jon’s probably not capable of garbage. The guy can flat-out write).

Ugh … babbling. I wanted to break from my normal political/athletic ranting to say that Jon’s newest book, Scorecasting, hits stores this week, and it’s fantastic. A smart, insightful, detailed look at sports and the conventional thinking that, upon further review, shouldn’t be so conventional, Scorecasting is the Freakonomics of courts, fields and nets. Terrific is an understatement. It’s marvelous.

So, for that matter, is Jon. This will probably sound silly to many, but perhaps it’ll resonate with some. Throughout my 16 years as a journalist, I’ve grown increasingly tired of wanna-be-celebrity writers. They’re out there, visible to all, preening, boasting, yelling, bragging. Obviously Skip Bayless and Jay Mariotti come to mind, but those are only two of the worst offenders. There are, literally, dozens upon dozens of so-called professionals more interested in being recognized in an airport than doing quality work.

Jon, however, isn’t one of them. He’s a guy who prides himself in knocking out a story; in finding the overlooked details and bringing them to the forefront.

Trust me on this one.

Happy Anniversary, Earlie!

Today, January 19, 2011, is my 9th wedding anniversay. I know everyone says this sort of thing, but I’m at a loss how nearly a decade has passed. It truly seems like two or three years ago that we actually got married. Time—so weird.

I digress. Though it’s cliche to say such things about one’s wife, I am 100 percent sincere here: I have lived a great life. A career I love, kids I cherish, parents who couldn’t have been better. But when I asked Catherine to marry me, well, it was my finest moment.

There are good people and great people and amazing people, but I’m married to an exceptional person. Enormous heart. Unlimited empathy. Has taught me more about giving than I ever knew. A mother unsurpassed by any other mother. As loyal a sister as there is. Tremendous with advice and kind words. Will do you a favor and never look for gratitude. Loves having people around. Just the best human being I know … and she married me!? Lame ol’ me!?

Nine years down, and this still blows my mind.

Happy anniversary, Earlie. You’re the Queen of Good.

Smoooooooch!

William Green

We stopped at the store on Main Street in Windham, N.Y. yesterday afternoon. Didn’t have an actual reason—the store was just there. Really, that’s what establishments like the Mountain Top Dollar Plus thrive upon … wayward passers-by, blessed with free time and packed wallets after a day of skiing, mesmerized by the potential of hundreds of random items selling for a single dollar.

Not that everything here was, literally, $1. Some trinkets were $2. Some, even $2.50. “It depends on what we get shipped in,” said Mina, the silver-haired Greek émigré who has owned the shop for three years. “Prices vary along with the quality of the merchandise.”

Though demure and understated, Mina seemed proud of her goods, from the 50-cent coffee mugs that read, without explanation, SONS, to the random $1 patches to the plastic toy guns that shoot green ping-pong balls. She was particularly smitten by the ones stacked together in aisle three, neatly displayed near the front of the store. Here, arranged with no particular rhyme or reason, was the world’s strangest collection of sports bobble-head dolls.

Or, to be stated differently: As I sit writing this column, I am staring at my brand-new William Green Cleveland Browns bobble-head. The figurine cost me $2.99 and, according to its base, is No. 665 of 5,000 “Limited Edition Handcrafted Collectibles.” (No lie—I just removed Green from his plastic case and watched as his left arm fell off. One must wonder if the 4,999 others have experienced similar fates).

Although Green came home with me, it was hardly an easy choice. I could have selected the Stephen Davis Carolina Panthers bobble-head. Or the Matt Leinart Arizona Cardinals bobble-head. There was Mark Mulder with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bobby Carpenter with the Dallas Cowboys, Gary Payton with the Miami Heat, Byron Leftwich with the Jacksonville Jaguars. On and on the list goes—once-upon-a-time athletic bigwigs reduced to $2.99 trinkets on Mina’s shelf. “They come here,” the owner admitted, “when there’s nowhere else.”

I evoke my visit to Mountain Top Dollar Plus up not to dog Green (whose disappointing four-year NFL career was plagued by legal and personal problems) and his bargain-basement cohorts, but to offer the members of the NFL’s four remaining playoff teams an invaluable reminder: Seize the day.

No matter how great you think you are, no matter how many fans beg for your autograph, no matter how large the checks and how fine the groupies and how sweet the wine, the odds are strong that one day, not all that long from now, you too will find yourself in Mina’s shop, begging for someone to plunk down $2.99. Actually, scratch that—odds are you won’t find yourself here because, for every Mark Sanchez and Clay Matthews, Jr. and Devin Hester inspiring the world’s bobble-head creators, there are dozens of other Bears, Jets, Packers and Steelers who 99.9 percent of Americans have never heard of. Their football careers will come and go like the wind, brief life stops in between the bliss of college and the punishment of the real world.

So, seriously, cherish this. Embrace this. When you run into the stadiums at Chicago and Pittsburgh this coming weekend, smell the stale beer and feel the vibrations from the cheers and remember the cold winds snapping against your cheeks. The majority of former professional athletes I know cite this as one of their greatest regrets—being too young/naïve/unfocussed to enjoy the moment at hand. When your coaches insist that you pay no attention to the rival fans, well, to hell with that. Pay close attention. When your captain yells, “The only thing that matters is winning!” well, to hell with that, too. You’ve made it here, and anyone who says, “It’s all about the Super Bowl” doesn’t grasp the importance of a journey. Win or lose, this is your journey; your adventure; your life.

This weekend, the real William Green will likely be sitting before a TV inside his home in Absecon, N.J., watching the NFL playoffs with an indescribable emptiness. He will think back to what he had, and wish for one more glorious afternoon in the sun.

One day, you will, too.

Girl v. Boy

I have two kids. My daughter is 7, my son is 4. They’re both wonderful, both inventive, both my joys. When I walk into the house and hear shouts of “Deedee! Deedee!” I melt. (They call me “Deedee.” I’m not sure why. My daughter came up with it, and it stuck).

Recently I was talking with a friend about children, and girl v. boy, and puberty expectations. Specifically, how will you feel when you find out that one of the kids—way, way, way down the road—has had sex. My answer is unfair, but (in my heart) true.

Let’s say my 17-year-old-high-school-junior daughter has sex. It can be with a boyfriend, it can be hooking up at a party, it can be in her bedroom, at a hotel after a prom … whatever. No matter the situation, I’m pissed. That’s a violation of my daughter; the girl I raised from diapers; the girl whose hand I held as she crossed streets; the girl who used to wear princess dresses and her mother’s dress shoes. Sex? No. No. No.

Now, let’s say my 17-year-old-high-school-junior son has sex. It can be with a girlfriend, it can be hooking up at a party, it can be in his bedroom, at a hotel after a prom … whatever. No matter the situation, I’m concerned. Very concerned. But, knowing that he used protection and was respectful of his partner and all that, well, a small part of me has a little of the ol’ ‘Way to go, son!’ attitude.

Is that righteous? Definitely not. But I imagine that’s the way I’ll be.

Sigh.

PS: On a side note: Boy, was I off about the Jets and trash talking. Hey, whatever works. And, somehow, it worked.

Beverly Hills Cop

Went skiing with a few friends this weekend. Got into a discussion with Greg about the movie “To Be Or Not To Be,” a Mel Brooks flick from the 80s that both of us remember loving.

“It might be terrible,” Greg rightly noted. “But I loved it when I was 12.”

That sentiment is the story of my kid-adult cinema experience. Of all the films I raved about as a tyke, 99 percent—in hindsight—suck. As a boy, I couldn’t wait for the next Police Academy installment. Same went for the three Star Wars films. And Goonies and Goonies II. Mainly, though, I was an enormous Eddie Murphy diehard. If Eddie was starring in a flick, I was going to see it. Hell, I even thought The Golden Child was amazing—and, of course, it was dreadful, times 1,000.

Just a few seconds ago I got up from the couch after watching what was perhaps my favorite movie from the era—Beverly Hills Cop. This was Eddie at his absolute best: Kicking ass, cracking one-liners that would have rendered Benson speechless, making fun of gays and old people, shoving bananas in tailpipes. Were Murphy the king, this was his throne. Beverly! Hills! Cop! Hell, yeah!

Now, however, I have a different take: The film blows.

Seriously, let’s count the ways:

1. Implausable plot, times 1,000. Honestly, I’m still not 100 percent certain what went on here, but it involved drugs, coffee beans and Los Angeles.

2. The bad guys have Murphy, with a gun pointed to his head. They’re in a secluded warehouse and he’s uncovered their diabolical plot. Victor Maitland all but orders his goons to kill Axel Foley. I mean, he literally notes the irony of Foley threatening to kill him (Maitland), when Foley is about to be shot in the head. So what do the thugs do? They punch Foley in the stomach a few times, until Billy Rosewood shows up for the big rescue. We went from “He’s gonna die” to “Let’s sock him!” in mere seconds.

3. Axel’s friend Lisa works as a clerk at an art gallery. She has the key to the warehouse where the drugs are allegedly stashed. Axel, a cop, asks her for the key, and she insists she’s coming with him. So he takes her to the scene of major drug action, where men with guns await. For no good reason. Like, not one moment of sound reasoning.

4. I have no idea what Bronson Pinchot is doing in this film.

5. At the time this film was released, we couldn’t have known about the nonstop Eddie-is-gay rumors, or Murphy being found with a transvestite hooker. But, looking back, this film might have been a cry for help. So many gay references, and all over the top. What was he trying to say?

6. I’m tired. But you get the idea …