blue hens

Steve Steinwedel

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Back before Sports Illustrated and John Rocker and Walter Payton and Showtime, I was a kid at a student newspaper.

A giddy one.

The year was 1992, and as an assistant sports editor at The Review (the University of Delaware’s student newspaper), one of my tasks was to cover the men’s basketball team. It was an absolutely dazzling experience. The Blue Hens were in the midst of the best season in school history—a 27-4 record, a future NBA Draft pick (center Spencer Dunkley), the best dunker in the nation (forward Alexander Coles), a freshman point guard with uncommon on-court charisma (Brian Pearl), two dead-eye three-point gunners (Kevin Blackhurst and Ricky Deadwyler) and … and … and …

Steve Steinwedel.

Stein was the Blue Hens’ coach, and well, I didn’t much care for him. He was aloof and, at times, sorta snide. I once arrived five minutes late for his weekly press conference and—in front of the entire room—he bellowed, “We’re graced by the presence of the famous Jeff Pearlman!” It was mortifying.

That said, Stein could coach. Like, really coach. He turned an awful program into a marvelous one; recruited a caliber of athlete the Hens never before touched. When he arrived, the team played in a dark and dank field house. When he left in 1995, they resided in a state-of-the-art facility.

Was he difficult? At times, yes. But he was also the man who brought Delaware into March Madness. And he’s mellowed a whole lot.

Today, Steve Steinwedel lives in Delaware. He’s a father, a grandfather, a retired basketball coach, a former counselor at Delaware Technical College … and the 198th Quaz Q&A.

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Steve, I’m gonna take you back. It’s March 1992, and you’ve led Delaware to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. You’re playing Cincinnati in the state of Ohio, and Cincy is loaded. Van Exel. Corey Blount. Herb Jones. I mean, really explosive, really good. I was 19, thinking, “The Hens can do this! They really can!” But, I wonder, did you think you’d win? Or was it more, “If everything goes absolutely right, we might win?” Is there a realism a coach has that a fan lacks? And what do you recall from that game (which the Hens lost, 85-47)?

STEVE STEINWEDEL: Playing Cincinnati in Dayton. Well, that was big in so many ways. As the pairings were being announced on TV and we were all waiting excitedly in the Scrounge I had this moment, just before, that it was going to be Cincinnati and it was going to be in Ohio. I’d played high school basketball in Cincinnati, I spent seven years there and I started my coaching career at West Virginia with Bob Huggins—Cincinnati’s coach—as our graduate assistant. Over that year we became very close and certainly shared a lot of the same philosophy around how the game was to be approached, played and coached. So it was quite synchronistic in a Jungian sort of way.

I thought we could play with them but that we’d have to get some breaks and have to play very well. I thought they were the most underrated team in the tournament and they proved that by their play throughout. We had some opportunities and didn’t convert early and that hurt and if we could have played again well … just us and them in some remote gym, I honestly believe we would have kicked their asses. It was all so much to handle. I know it was for me. I mean, I didn’t sleep for nights before the game. So I can only imagine how it was for the players. We were almost too ready and it showed. Plus, Cincinnati was really good.

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J.P.: You seem like a truly warm, engaging guy, and I’ve loved seeing that because—just being honest—when you were coaching Delaware and I was covering the team, I found you intimidating, a bit arrogant, sorta smug. And maybe it was just the perception of a college kid. But you didn’t seem particularly happy or jovial. Am I off on this? Or, looking back, you were, well, sorta jerky? (No offense).

S.S.: This is not the first time I’ve heard these thoughts about myself—surprise, surprise! I was very intense and determined, I cared a lot about what I was doing and it showed. Was I a jerk? Well, yes. I’m sure that I was, but like all of us I’m much more than that and I’m not sure many experienced the other (many other) Steves. I certainly didn’t help that and I was very young (how does it go? Young and dumb?) and I thought I had all the answers (or at least most of them), when in fact I didn’t even have most of the questions. One of my former players said it best: “I hated him for four years and loved him the fifth.” He was our graduate assistant coach for a year after he played and he got to  see a whole different side. His perspective shifted considerably, not only of me but of how things are from the coaching side of things. It’s unfortunate that not to many of us get to see and feel, touch and taste that perspective. Because it’s eye-opening. Now, all that being said, could I have handled myself differently? Of course. But then again, who knows?

Oh, and no offense taken.

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J.P.: Despite the previous question, I’ve long felt you didn’t receive the credit you deserved. Mike Brey is a great guy, and he did fantastic stuff at Delaware. But when people spoke of his “turnaround job” at UD, I’d always say/think, “No, the guy was Steinwedel.” Have you, through the years, felt at all slighted? Do you not get the credit you deserved?

S.S.: Well, you know, now that you mention it … yes, it does hurt some. To be honest. Not to take away from Mike at all. He did some really good stuff.

Of course, the place was a lot different when he came on the scene 10 years later. First, he was left with some talented players, not to mention facilities and a different realization from within the whole athletic department about what it would take to build a successful program, I’m still amazed at how many people think that Mike helped build the BOB (Delaware’s state-of-the-art arena, which broke ground during the Steinwedel era). And I’m quite sure he would say that he had a much better situation than the one I took over. But that’s the nature of the beast. Mine was better than Ron Rainey‘s, etc … etc.

J.P.: Coaches are hired all the time to revive programs or establish programs—and you actually did it. What did you find when you arrived at Delaware? And what were the steps you took to turn the program around? What are the keys to making something out of nothing?

S.S.: Well, as you know unfortunately it’s recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. And eventually we were able to put some very talented players together in a way that when it happens is kind of magical. As I mentioned above, it is an education project, too. You have to change the mindsets of the key people and get lucky, which in a way we did. I had a great staff, too. They have gone on to great careers in the business so that confirms it and they worked very hard and we got lucky. I can remember when I first started talking about a facility like the BOB. People and administrators looked at me like I had lost it and said things like, “Not in our lifetimes.” Well, things change. I grew up in Seymour, Indiana—pop. 12,000 with a high school gym that held 8,000 seats. So this was a very real possibility from my perspective and it happened eventually.

J.P.: Before coming to Delaware you spent two years as an assistant at Duke, then five years at South Carolina—all under Bill Foster. I’ve often felt Foster didn’t get the credit he deserves as a coach. So … what was he like to work for? Why was he so impactful? What did you learn from him?

S.S.: Bill is a great guy and the reason I got a shot at the Delaware thing at all. He was very smart and very intense, but in a different way that I was. He was inwardly intense and not something you felt in his manner. That was much different than myself—you could feel mine. He had a heart attack while we were playing Purdue, and that allowed me an opportunity to take over for the rest of the year and helped my career a lot. What he did at Duke with “Forever’s Team” (John Feinstein’s first book) was amazing. By the way he (Feinstein) served in the same capacity as you did when he was an undergrad at Duke. He was in our offices all the time. But Foster was much more approachable than I was. Ha. Coach was very innovative and creative in his approach to the game and I learned a lot about building a program. He moved around a lot and one of his favorite quotes—regarding the coaching profession—was, “Your friends come and go, your enemies accumulate.”

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J.P.: Delaware let you go after the 1995 season, and I was convinced you’d turn up somewhere. Maybe not immediately at Duke or UNC, but certainly a Jacksonville, a Bucknell, a James Madison. Instead, you vanished—and never coached again. Why? What happened? And did you/do you ever miss it?

S.S.: Well, I guess in many ways I was ready for something different and on a deep level I was definitely  moving in a new way. At the time I would have told you I wanted another shot, but after about six months I realized I wasn’t working very hard at finding that next basketball thing and nobody was knocking my door down. I had lost that fire, I guess you could say, and I didn’t really enjoy all the travel and the recruiting thing. My daughter was still very young and I didn’t want to leave her, so there were several factors but the biggest was my heart was not in it and I was being pushed in a new direction.

J.P.: Leading up to Delaware’s second NCAA tournament appearance, against Louisville in 1993, Spencer Dunkley, your center, guaranteed a win—and said he’d walk home if it didn’t come true. I wonder, as a coach, whether you were pissed about this. I mean, Louisville had more talent, was playing closer to home … they probably didn’t need more incentive …

S.S.: Yes, I was pissed and no, they certainly didn’t need anything else. But in an odd way it helped some of our other players change their attitudes about the game and open their minds to the possibility they might be able to beat Louisville. So, much to my chagrin, it may have helped some. Who knows?

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J.P.: When I hear about pro coaches considering a return to college (Jim Harbaugh, for example), I think, “Who the hell would want to recruit?” It just strikes me as the worst imaginable task—you’re in your 40s, 50s, begging a 17-year-old kid to attend your college. So … what was recruiting like for you? Great? Awful? And what was your highest moment recruiting a player?

S.S.: You’re right. My most memorable recruiting moments were after the fact because I was always surprised at how my least-recruited players ended up being my best and the ones I was initially so hopeful about never really panned out. Brian Pearl, a point guard out of York, Pennsylvania was the one exception. We knew when we recruited him he would would have a great impact right away and he did.

J.P.: I’m gonna throw a weird one at you, and it’ll illustrate how naïve I was, too: Back when Dunkley was a senior, I found myself sitting courtside next to a scout for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was asking me about Spencer, and I starting saying the team also has this great guard, a kid named Brian Pearl, who could possibly … blah, blah, blah. The guy rightly looked at me like I had an IQ of 6. Steve, what’s the difference between an excellent college player and a pro prospect? There’s a line, clearly, but I wouldn’t recognize it. How do you explain it?

S.S.: Great question! The line is very fine indeed. I tell people it’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent who make it. Every college player was one the best in his region; the top 1 percent of the high school players. So those who are good enough and lucky enough to extend that career to the pros … well, it is the same percentage of all the college players who make it. You are in rarified air indeed when you get all the way to the best of the best.

J.P.: What’s the difference between a crap college coach, a good one and a great one?

S.S.: Easy. The players.


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• Five most talented players you ever coached?: Mike Gminski, Gene Banks, Jim Spanarkel, Jimmy Foster, Spencer Dunkley, Brian Pearl, Mark Murray, Anthony Wright and Steve Lubas. Well, maybe not Lubas.

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Denard Montgomery, pecans, Tom Carper, Meghan Trainor, Dick Allen, Cindy Blodgett, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Elkton: Denard Montgomery, Dick Allen, pecans, Elkton, Tom Carper. I’m not sure I know the others.

• What can you tell us about Steve Lubas?: He’s a funny guy who it’s hard not to love.

• Five greatest basketball coaches of your lifetime?: Bill Foster, John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski.

The WNBA calls right now—they’re starting a team in Philly and want you to be the head coach. You in?: No way.

• Best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?: A win over Bucknell.

• Three things you can tell us about your mother: She was smart, she was funny, she was crazy.

• I’m increasingly worried that climate change is going to destroy humanity sooner than later. Thoughts?: I hope not.

• What’s the most overrated quality of a basketball player?: Jumping ability.

Jim Fischer

If you’re ever searching for ideas on the perfect way to mistreat an honorable and loyal employee, contact the University of Delaware’s administrative offices. That’s where someone will be able to explain to you how, two years ago, Jim Fischer—the school’s longtime (hell, legendary) track and cross country coach—was unceremoniously called into an office, dismissed from his position and told, oh, we’re also killing off your program.

Have a nice day.

Predictably, the athletic department cited the need to “exercise fiscal responsibility and remain in compliance with Title IX”—bullshit explanations that failed to mention, ahem, cross country’s paltry $20,000 budget, 12 roster spots and zero full scholarships. (Translation: Running doesn’t draw fans or generate revenue. Football—what with its 103-man roster—does. You can read all about the catastrophe here).

If this seems particularly personal to me, that’s because, well, it is. Back in 1990-91, I was a member of Delaware’s cross country and track teams. I was an awful Division I runner who didn’t belong at that level, but was nurtured and developed by Coach Fischer, a saint of a man whose impact on hundreds upon hundreds of Blue Hens cannot be measured.

Here, Coach Fischer talks about the end of his job and the death of his program; on why college running is under attack and whether it can survive the hugeness of football and basketball. He also dispenses some fantastic advice to aspiring marathoners. Coach currently operates his own running program in Delaware. One can follow him on Twitter here.

Jim Fischer, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: You were the track and cross country coach at the University of Delaware from 1982 through most of 2012. Then the school chopped your head off. Coach, I know you’re a polite, kind, soft-spoken man … but can you tell us what, exactly happened? How did you learn of the dismissal? How did it affect you, emotionally? And are you really, really pissed?

JIM FISCHER: Well, obviously I’m upset that the program was cut and that I lost my job. Let me deal with my position first. I really loved my job. I enjoyed going to work every day, working with kids and trying to put all of the pieces to the puzzle together. I know that being a coach is not one of the top ten essential jobs in the world, but I enjoyed being part of an activity that many considered part of their college experience. I was told through the years that I would always have a place in the academic department and the same was said about the cross country/track and field program. Nothing was in writing. New administrators came in and promises were forgotten and went up in smoke.

When the men’s indoor team was cut a few years ago, we were upset. In the long term, we thought we had dodged a bullet. So, when the whole program was cut, I was to have a regularly scheduled meeting with my direct supervisor. I received a call that said the meeting would be moved up a day—no problem. I walked into her office and there was no supervisor (she was in another part of the country at a meeting). Instead, there were two athletic directors and two people from human resources. The meeting lasted 10 minutes—the total men’s program was cut and I was retiring. I was totally shocked, stunned. We had kids performing at a high level athletically and were always at or near the top of the department academically. And, we cost almost nothing.

J.P.: It seems like college administrators are increasingly willing to kill off running. Hell, Delaware’s getting rid of its indoor track as we speak. Why do you think this in? When did you first notice the trend? And is there something that can be done to reverse it?

J.F.: My theory is that it’s easier to interest the general public in team sports. Everybody can tell when a basket or touchdown is scored, so it’s an easy sell. People should be able to tell who’s won a race, but they don’t know who the winner is and if their performance was a good one or not. All of the team sports wanted a turfed indoor facility at the ready in case of inclement weather. The sacrifice was an indoor practice and game facility for the track and field. Why they couldn’t have bubbled one or two of the existing turf fields is beyond me. It would be the maintaining of another facility and I don’t think it was ever a strong possibility. My undergraduate college of 1,700 students in Minneapolis has had a bubbled turf field for many, many years. Another thing is that many administrators don’t understand track and field and have very little idea how a program is run—and they don’t try. I’ve had administrators tell me they don’t understand track and field after having been “in charge” of the sport for years. If the people don’t care about learning or have trouble comprehending everything, that’s a problem. Also, practices and meets look like unorganized chaos. The perception is that there is no control leading to thoughts that there isn’t anyone in charge of the program.

J.P.: As you know, shortly after you learned of your dismissal I was working on a Runner’s World piece that ultimately didn’t run. I found two things: 1. Most of your former runners at Delaware absolutely love you. 2. Most of your former runners at Delaware wanted you to stand on a chair and scream, “This is bullshit!” They wanted you to fight the decision, fight for the program and, really, for running as a college sport. It doesn’t seem like you did this, at least not in a bombastic manner. It felt sort of like you were hoping for a resolution, and therefore didn’t want to overly rock the boat. Am I off on this? And do you at all have regrets?

J.F.: First of all, I was so very upset that this was being taken away from not only the current students, but it was also taken away from past and future students. I was advised to stay out of it to protect my job, what was left of it, and my family. I guess I could have been out front and risked my position, really stood up for it all. I was always hoping that there could be some compromise. I did feel helpless and hopeless. I had put in 30 years and really enjoyed what I was doing. There were many of the alums and community members who were working on many fronts. Looking back, I’m not sure that I would have done anything different. I’m not an attacking-type person. The sense I got very early on from the administration was that any and all comments fell on deaf ears. They had a “frequently asked questions” column posted on the day the announcement came out and made no effort to respond to any comments or questions. The program was cut and they moved on. My regret is that I couldn’t figure out a way to reverse the decision.

J.P.: Why running? Like, what’s the love for you? The pull? How would you explain this to non-runners? The beauty of the sport and such?

J.F.: For me, it was always something I did well. I liked testing myself against others, against the many different courses, against the clock, and against myself. Running is a simple activity without much equipment to buy. You can step out your front door and go. It’s great when you get in good enough shape to be able to explore, go up hill hard, go fast or slow when you want, and to be in control. I seem to learn my way around new cities much more quickly by running than by driving.

J.P.: I know you’re from Minnesota. But how did you get here? What was your path from guy looking for work to 30-year Division I coach?

J.F.: My undergraduate degree is from Augsburg. I taught and coached for ten years in a suburban Minneapolis school district, Robbinsdale, and during that time, assisted during an indoor season at the University of Minnesota. That helped me to get a job at a division three school, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, as an instructor, track and field coach, and assistant football coach. After two years, I resigned and was moving back to Minneapolis when I received a call from Delaware. I had applied for the women’s cross country and track and field coach opening at Delaware. That was filled. When the men’s coach moved on to another job, they already had resumes and interviewed from those. I flew out, had a day of interviews, and accepted the job before I flew home. This was August, so it was a quick change in plans. I had no idea I would be at Delaware that long.

J.P.: What separates the OK runner from the great runner? Are there attributes the best of the best share? Can a good runner become great, or do we all have caps and limits?

J.F.: A talented athlete who is motivated is tough to beat. There are many who are talented who rely on their talent and never reach their potential. The person has to be driven to attain the very top level. The person also has to be resilient to injury and illness. I think some of it is genetic, some of it is training intelligence, and some of it is luck. The person has to be patient. The runner has to develop a sense of training and racing. The athlete also has to have help, developing a training program and receiving support to be able to live, work, and train all at once. I do not think there is a way for everyone to get to the top just by working hard. I do believe that everyone can reach their potential, whatever that is, through hard work and persistence.

J.P.: When something ends as badly as it did for you at Delaware, can you still have a love for the school? Can you still root for its teams? Or did you have to, more or less, put on blinders and move forward?

J.F.: I really like the school. My step-daughter just finished her freshman year and she absolutely loves it. Having said that, I am struggling with my thoughts and emotions on a daily basis. And now, to hear some of my long-time coaching friends from the other sports be elated at the prospect of the school “turfing” over the indoor track so they can have an indoor practice facility distresses me to no end. It was fun to watch the women’s basketball team this year. I tried very hard to separate my feelings. It’s hard. I know a lot of alums feel the same way. It does feel like my whole time at Delaware had very little meaning. I’ve watched other long-time coaches have department-sponsored retirement parties and celebrations. No one from the athletic department has made any official acknowledgment of my tenure. Other than a few people telling me they were sorry and saying that they didn’t understand the thinking, there has been nothing. I am gone and they’ve moved on. That does hurt. I was proud to work at the University of Delaware and represent it. That has been tempered and I have an empty feeling.

J.P.: I know you’re now working as a personal coach. How has the adjustment been for you, since the departure? Are you OK? Down? Are you able to get by OK, financially? Do you still get something out of working with runners?

J.F.: I am trying to get a personal running business started, but it’s tough. I have had a weekly training session for the community for the twenty-nine years. They have been free to the public as part of my “giving back” to whomever. It’s tough for me to start charging for what I have been giving to people for so long. I hate asking people for money, so that doesn’t bode well for my finances. This whole situation has been quite a hit for my ego and our family finances. We have a big mortgage and two kids in college, although the University of Delaware is honoring their commitment to helping with tuition. I am struggling with not having a full-time position. I’m sure it’s similar to what all retirees go through. But, I expected to and still wanted to work at something I really love to do for a few more years. I may soon be taking and job just to make money, That’s not the way I wanted to finish my career. I love working with people and seeing them realize some success. In the meantime, I am trying to put together a book on the way I view running, training, and racing. I am coaching part-time. I need to find something so I can have legitimate reasons to excuse myself from cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and tending to the yard work.

J.P.: I’m wondering what you think of the whole “Born to Run” craze? The barefoot approach, the thin-soled approach? Do you see merit to it? Is there an argument to be made against the $100 pair of Nikes?

J.F.: I have had people do running and drills barefoot and think that it strengthens. I feel that if people progressively increase the amount of time spent running barefoot, that it can be a good thing. There is science that helps to explain and I understand the reasoning. I have trouble with exclusively running barefoot from a practical perspective. I know it can be done. It would be tough to do hard training and to be safe on the hard surfaces in addition to all the glass, metal, and trash.

J.P.: Why did you allow crap runners like Jeff Pearlman to be on a Division I team? I’m actually being serious—I was never going to be competitive or win you a meet? Neither was Mike Halbfish or Paul Sedacca or a bunch of us competing in the JV races? You coached some marvelous runners in your career, and some truly unworthy (of DI) runners. Why allow the unworthies to stick around?

J.F.: I loved the challenge of working with Division I runners. But maybe I shouldn’t have been a Division I coach. I guess I am a developmental coach. I want to be a coach to everyone in the world. I don’t say that to be arrogant or to say that I know everything or even what’s best for everyone. I want to see everyone have the opportunity to improve, to reach their potential, whatever that is. My goal was to have a community of athletes, working together to get better. People told me many times that the athletes who never going to be competitive on a conference, regional, or national level were just taking time away from the top level athletes. That may have been true. That’s just not the way I wanted to do things. I had kids who never ran varsity be great examples of how hard a runner could work. I had kids who never ran varsity who were great teammates, friends, alums, and people. I had kids who came out of nowhere to become great athletes. You just never know. I wanted numbers. I wanted to include everyone. I guess that’s not division one thinking.


• Five greatest runners you’ve ever coached?: Mike DiGennaro, Nadine Marks, Steve Plasencia (high school), David Sheppard, Andy Weaver. (I’ll also include Candy Cashell and Alex Coles, but both were high jumpers, not runners. And, of course, Vicki Huber Rudawsky (the greatest, but I worked with her in her 30s and 40s. Really, I watched her do her workouts and learned. I can’t say that I coached her.))

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Marc Washington, Carrie Underwood, LA Gear sneakers, Alberto Salazar, candied yams, K-mart, Elena Delle Donne, the spork, Air Supply, Delaware State, Mookie Wilson, 100-degree days, Martin Luther King, Mitch McConnell: Tough—this will change if you ask me again tomorrow. Martin Luther King, Marc Washington, candied yams, Alberto Salazar, Elena Delle Donne, Carrie Underwood, Delaware State, Air Supply, K-Mart, 100-degree days, Mookie Wilson, the spork, LA Gear sneakers, Mitch McConnell

• You have to run a marathon next week. What’s your time?: If I would finish, it would be in about eight hours. Because of my knees, I would have to walk the whole way. I love to run, but I can’t run on hard surfaces and I can’t run on soft surfaces enough to get back in shape. I have good fitness from weight training and machines, but it’s not the same.

• Best single piece of advice for a new runner?: Stop when you could have done one more rather than you should have done one less.

• I’m freaking out about climate change. Why do I feel like I’m all alone?: You are not alone. It seems strange that with all of our scientific advancements, that we can’t figure out a way to put everything back to the way it should be, protect the environment.

• Most overrated item runners buy for a race is …: Special drinks.

• Eating advice you’d give a runner about to do his/her first marathon: Don’t do anything dramatically different than normal. Eat solid meals in the three days leading up to the race, including a high percentage of carbs. Don’t gorge yourself as your activity level is down and you don’t want to upset your system. Avoid high fiber. The night before, eat your favorite meal, making sure your carb stores are full. Don’t eat late and don’t eat anything that is going to upset your system. Get up three to four hours before race time to eat a light breakfast of easily digestible carb-ladened foods and then go to the bathroom. Drink a glass of water every thirty minutes. Eat a light carb snack an hour before the race.

• My mom always used to tell me running will ruin my knees and isn’t as healthy as walking. Did she have a point?: If you have some biomechanical issues and you run a lot on roads, she may have a point. I wish that I would have run a lot more on trails. Walking doesn’t have nearly the impact forces that running does, and that’s if you have good form and structure. If your structure is bad and your form is bad, the forces on your legs can be much greater.

• Celine Dion calls—she wants you to be her personal running coach. She’ll pay you $2 million annually, but you have to move to Las Vegas, change your name to Pablo Escobar-Fischer and only eat wheat germ, cheese sticks and bacon bits. You in?: I’m in! I am awaiting the call!

• Have you ever seen an actual blue hen? And, if so, do they bite?: I saw one in a cage at once. I would guess that it pecks. Legend has it that they were fighting hens. All others that I have seen have been stuffed.

Spencer Dunkley

Spencer Dunkley battles Louisiville’s Clifford Rozier two decades ago.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Delaware losing to Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a huge day for me. I was a college journalist at the time, covering the game for the student newspaper. Though the Hens trailed by 18, they cut the lead to six toward the end. It was an excellent effort.

In memory of that team, I wrote a Facebook post a few days ago, accompanied by pictures of some clips from the ol’ paper. A friend of mine wrote a somewhat snarky comment about Spencer Dunkley, the team’s center, not playing especially well.

Dunkley responded by making fun of the “pussy” of the poster’s wife.

This is where things got weird. I told Dunkley I found his words to be beyond inappropriate. Spencer and I aren’t friends, but we’re Facebook friends, and I’ve dropped his (unique) name a couple of times in Sports Illustrated pieces.

I wrote this:

I’ve been a supporter over the years. I’ve dropped your name in SI multiple times, wrote a small thing when your son was born. But this really, really disgusted me.

Spencer, are you 12, talking about a man’s wife’s vagina because he tossed out a stupid basketball insult? Really?

You should strive for better.



He responded with this:

Jeff you my man. basketball is my wife

When I was 12 I would have whoop his ass.
I wrote this:
For insulting you about a basketball game from TWENTY years ago? Who cares. Seriously, Spencer. I get called shit all the time. All the time.
He wrote this:
You dont understand. You dont get it. You can write about it, but you dont get it.
I wrote this:
I get that what you wrote was immature, pathetic and without dignity; I get that there’s a right way to handle something and a wrong way; I get that you have a daughter, and if someone spoke of her the way you spoke of this man’s wife, you’d be furious.
He wrote this:
When you talk shit, write shit about athletes you open yourself up for a ass whoopin, mama cracks, wife cracks, tell your bitchass boyfriend keep my name out his mouth and he wont get his little feeling hurt. He does not know me. You will never get it. Your a writer im a warrior.
When you talk shit, write shit about athletes you open yourself up for a ass whoopin, mama cracks, wife cracks, tell your bitchass boyfriend keep my name out his mouth and he wont get his little feeling hurt. He does not know me. You will never get it. Your a writer im a warrior.

When you talk shit, write shit about athletes you open yourself up for a ass whoopin, mama cracks, wife cracks, tell your bitchass boyfriend keep my name out his mouth and he wont get his little feeling hurt. He does not know me. You will never get it. Your a writer im a warrior.

When you talk shit, write shit about athletes you open yourself up for a ass whoopin, mama cracks, wife cracks, tell your bitchass boyfriend keep my name out his mouth and he wont get his little feeling hurt. He does not know me. You will never get it. Your a writer im a warrior.

If my daughters man was talking shit and they ceacked on her. I would tell him shut the fuck up. Its all fun and games till the dog bites back.
And now, by my choice, we’re no longer Facebook friends.
Eh, go Blue Hens!

A Great Super Bowl for a Hen

I love Super Bowl matchups like Baltimore-San Francisco, because none of us know who’s about to win.

I mean, back in the 80s, when I’d watch the games from my living room with a bunch of pals from junior high and high school, it was always sorta obvious. Nobody was beating Joe Montana, nobody was beating the ’85 Bears, nobody was beating the Giants. We’d hope for close games, pretend we truly believed Denver could pull it out but, in our hearts, we knew. We just knew.

So we’d gather around the TV, eat our subs and chips and feign interest as some NFC powerhouse jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead.

That was a long time ago.

I love this upcoming Super Bowl for myriad reasons. Ray Lewis’ final game. The Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh coaching matchup. San Francisco’s return to the big stage. The emergence of Colin Kaepernick. My hometown hero, Ray Rice.

Mostly, I love seeing Joe Flacco, a Delaware Blue Hen, start at QB.

To hell with Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Miami, etc … etc. Delaware, my alma mater, is about to have its second quarterback start a Super Bowl. The first came 10 years ago, when Rich Gannon and the Oakland Raiders got smoked by Tampa Bay. Now, Flacco.

This might be hard to understand for someone who attended an enormous university with a stellar program, but there’s something … special about attending a non-football powerhouse, then watching its players excel. You know the fields they trained on, the system they ran, the halls they walked, the dorms they lived in, the pressures they experienced. You know that, were Flacco to hear about the Stone Balloon or Klondike Kate’s, he’d know whereof you spoke. That’s cool and funky and neat and special.

Even if the quarterback during my days at Delaware was …

Bill Vergantino.