Sunday, December 2, 2012

Giving Her Gifts

I suppose I was the typical guy when I first got married many decades ago. When it came to buying my wife gifts on her birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary, I was clueless. I wasn't brought up to be sensitive or knowledgeable about such things. My dad was a hard working, hard drinking man from the old school and didn't provide much of a model on gift giving to a wife. I never heard Mom complain about lack of gifts so I just figured that's how it was. Maybe Dad got her more gifts than I thought but didn't say much about it. I only remember a few. And I'm afraid I didn't provide much of a model to my own son - I could've done better.

Very early in our marriage, and I hate to admit this,  I bought her some pots and pans for Christmas. She seemed very pleased and happy with them. Good show on her part. I later learned that is NOT a good gift for a wife. Maybe Dad told me. Another year for her birthday I bought her sexy lingerie. I later learned that was really a gift for ME. It took me awhile, but I think I finally got it right. I'm not the quickest learner in the world. So men, listen up - I have some advice and you can decide for yourself.

For birthdays a card, dinner, movie and a gift of clothes or jewelry seems to be to her liking. This is not my big jewelry gift, but it's nice. For Christmas she loves clothes number one, maybe another small piece of jewelry and then after that electrical gadgets like an ipod, a book, pottery for the house, etc. Christmas is a good time for variety but do NOT get her stuff for cooking or cleaning. "This is a top of the line vacuum cleaner, hon," is not what she wants to hear. For anniversaries I go straight jewelry. And it's my big jewelry gift. Now I would love to get her a $5,000 necklace or ring but I simply don't have that kind of money. But I have given her some nice keepsakes in the $100 - $500 range when I can. Flowers fade quickly, clothes grow old or out of date in a blink but jewelry, ahh, jewelry is beautiful, beautiful on her and lasts forever. It can eventually be passed to our daughters and grandaughters. So when our most recent anniversay rolled around last week I gave her pearls. I had never given her pearls before and this necklace caught my eye as I was browsing.

So i took her to a nice restaraunt and gave her the pearl necklace after dinner. This is what I do husbands, and I feel good about what I've learned over the years. Our wives deserve to be pampered. She has now accumated a modest collection of nice jewelry (necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings) due to my gifts. Young men today might be more sensitive and knowledgeable about such things but I'm dishing out my advice anyway. Some of you may be as clueless as I was.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Firing Time Again

College coaches are under intense pressure to win, to fill the seats, and keep the fans happy. Everyone wants to be a big winner. Heck, so do I, but the reality is not everyone can be the big winner. Last I checked, every weekend the wins and losses are exactly the same. If 100 games are played every weekend there will be exactly 50 winners and 50 losers. If you don't believe me, start checking and counting every weekend (don't really do that). Over the course of a season if 2,000 games are played there will be EXACTLY 1,000 wins and 1,000 losses. It will never change but yet we all want our university to win big and win big every year. And if they don't, fire the coach. Some fans think they have the RIGHT to have a great team every year because it says a certain name on the uniform. Come down off of your high horse.

There are several head jobs open right now in DI football because coaches, good coaches, have been fired. It's the reality we live in now. i don't like this intense pressure to win and the millions we pay college coaches but that's how it is. Here's my proposal.

We're gonna go back to the days when you simply go to one of the professors in the Physical Education department and ask them if they would like to be the football coach. Now, this professor is already making about $100,000 so that's pretty good money in my book. We tell him we will cut his teaching load down from 4 classes a week to only 2 a week to give him more time to coach the team. Just like back in 1920. We'll save a lot of money and keep our coach because he's tenured. And every week, 50 teams will win and 50 teams will lose. nothing will change. It will look like this:

"No one will go see the games!" you cry. Sure they will. They packed the stadiums in 1920 and they'll pack 'em now. We love football and love our teams. Will this ever happen? Of course not, but I had fun talkin about it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lincoln, Storyteller

Sometimes I go see a good movie and it leaves an impression on me. Had another one last week when my wife and I went to see "Lincoln". Now this movie may not be for everyone because it's not typical Hollywood fare. You know, cars crashing, buildings exploding, karate fights, vampires, the usual. But what you will get is a great history lesson, superb acting and directing, and a fairly realistic look at President Abraham Lincoln's last four months in office. My wife and I REALLY enjoyed this movie and would recommend it as a "must go".

Maybe it's because I'm a history buff, and a civil war buff that I liked it so much but beyond that it gave a picture of Lincoln's personal life, political life, and personal resolve. But one thing it really brought to life was Abe's ability to tell a good story. It's well documented that Lincoln was a story teller but this movie showed how effective he could be when in tense political moments. It reminded me of how effective Jesus was at story telling. Now, I'm NOT comparing Lincoln to Jesus, heaven forbid, but he copied Jesus' example of using stories to makle a point. Remember how when Jesus would tell a good story and his disciples would walk away saying, " What's he talking about? What does that mean?" Well, the same was true for Lincoln. At times he would tell a sory in the middle of a heated cabinet meeting and his cabinet members could be heard saying, "What was that?" But there was always a point. I like story telling and always thought it was an effective way to communicate. Most of his stories were humorous too, which was entertaining.

Oh, by the way, the week before we saw "Skyfall" the new Bond movie. Full of action like explosions, fights, car chases and stuff. I liked that too. In fact, maybe the best Bond movie I've seen yet and I've seen Bond movies since 1965.

On another side note, do you believe Notre Dame started the season unranked and now they're 12-0 and playing for the national Championship? Just goes to show, never rely on the polls. Anything can happen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Forgotten?

It seems like anymore these days there's a big buildup for Halloween and then when Halloween is over the Christmas decorations go up. I love Christmas, don't get me wrong, but what the heck happened to Thanksgiving? And why the big deal and increased emphasis over Halloween? Nice day to let the kids have some fun dressed in a costume and go out and get some treats. But anymore it gets treated like a national holiday when it's not. I even had a woman at work tell me it was her favorite "holiday". I just smiled and nodded. OK, I got that off my chest.

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I love the family time it always brings, the warmth of being with my family, the feast before me and yeah, a little football. It just seems to be a great atmosphere and such an appropriate time to give thanks to the Lord who supplies our every need. The crops have finally been harvested and here in America it's always bountiful.

To be truly thankful requires a humble heart. We have to put away our self sufficient pride and humble ourselves before God. Sometimes in my pride I think I am the one who needs to figure things out, I am the one who needs to provide all for my family. If that's the case, I really don't need to be thankful to anyone or anything other than myself. And believe me, if I or anyone else is counting on me for anything, they're in trouble.

So, I am taking time this week and on Thanksgiving Day to be truly thankful to the Lord for my family, my house, the bounty at my dinner table, the freedom to worship as I choose, my country, and most of all to Jesus Christ who had the courage and love in his heart to make a path for me to be with Him and the Father.

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck to all those high school football coaches around the country playing for state championships this weekend.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


As can be perceived from my last post about the carreer of James Taylor from Peoria, IL, you can probably guess that I would be against "cutting". You know, that practice of keeping only a designated number of players for the roster and telling the other kids who tried out for the team that they didn't make the cut. They can find something else to do.

Now, I understand why some sports have to do it, but I still don't like it. Space is limited, uniforms are limited, and coaches are limited. Basketball may be the best example. It's not unusual for 50 kids to go out for the freshmen team but only 15 can make the squad. Therefore, tryouts must be held and 35 prospective athletes get cut. But is it possible that one or two (or more) of those kids cut could be a star in waiting? We all know the answer. Yes, that is a real possibility. Baseball is another sport that unfortuntely has to cut lower levels sometimes. The sports that I coached, football and wrestling, cutting was unheard of and I was thankful for that. I always recruited our halls for football players and I was a relentless recruiter for wrestling. Believe me, wrestling is NOT a sport where you open the doors and kids are pouring in to the wrestling room. But I have heard of a few schools around the nation who actually do cut in football. That means James Taylor, featured in my previous post, the future all stater, all american, and pro, likely would have been cut because he was a little bit of a late bloomer. I was fortunate enough when I coached wrestling to work with a heck of a basketball coach. Not only was he a winning basketball coach but we worked well together. When he made his cuts, he would gather the kids together and encourage them to give wrestling a try. I really appreciated that and actually picked up some kids who turned out to be outstanding wrestlers. So, in that instance, cutting helped my program. But I think that might be an exception.

So, what's the answer? I'm not sure. Intramurals could be promoted more, it seems they've lost their popularity. But that requires space, facilities, and personnel too. A "Taxi" squad that practices and works out but doesn't dress and then next season trys out again could be a possibility. I would love to hear some of your ideas. You can post them here or go to the forums at and chime in there. I'll have a thread ready just in case.

Final word; explore all possibilities before making cuts. I would hate to lose a kid that is full of potential but we just haven't seen it yet. Is there anything more rewarding than watching average or below average kids turn themselves into contributors or stars because of their desire, hard work, and our coaching? I think not.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

They Called Him TUNA

They called him Tuna. I don't know why. And no, this was not Bill Parcells of the New York Giants because this was the fall of 1970. No one had heard of Parcells.

 I had just graduated from high school one year before. We lived about three blocks from my high school, Woodruff High in Peoria, IL. I always went over to the practice field on Saturday morning during the football season to watch the freshmen and sophomores play.  At 9 a.m. the freshmen team played and at 11 a.m. the sophomores played. The fans would stand along the sidelines and watch the game. I just loved watching high school football and hey, these were my guys, my alma mater.

As I walked behind the freshmen team I noticed  one of the bench warmers. The kids called him "Tuna". He was standing passively in back of his team away from the action. It was obvious he would NOT get in the game. He was big, but so big he looked like he had trouble moving. I thought he looked like Baby Huey. Baby Huey was an old comic book character from the 50's and 60's. He was a big duck with a huge rear end. He was all butt.That's what this kid looked like as he stood there chewing on his mouthpiece watching the game. I felt sorry for him knowing he couldn't play and would probably never get in a game. I was right. He rarely played his freshman season and only played the last series of a game if the result was not in doubt. Poor kid, he was terrible. 

After football season was over I heard from my brother Danny that Tuna, (his real name was James Taylor) went out for wrestling. Danny was a senior on the wrestling team and  was one of the stars. "What a sight that must be", I thought. Danny said Taylor was not a good wrestler but he was a nice kid and worked hard. I didn't give it much thought. He wrestled heavyweight, of course, and was on the JV team. I actually saw him win a match and was surprised. He usually got pinned.

The next fall when I went over to watch the sophomores play football games, I didn't see Taylor on the sidelines. "Poor kid didn't go out", I thought. Just as well, he'd probably just get hurt. Then I noticed a big kid with a huge butt on the field playing defensive tackle. It was Tuna, but his rear end looked a little smaller, slightly slimmed down. He wasn't very good, but he was playing and he was holding his own. I was impressed; the kid was actually contributing. Good for him. When football was over I went to the wrestling meets to watch my other brother Kenny  wrestle. Taylor was not the the starting varsity heavyweight and was still the back up. He was moving better and showing a hint of athleticism. "He sure is a nice kid and really works hard", my brother told me. By the end of the season he was emerging as a heavyweight to be reckoned with. In fact, I think he could've beaten the senior starter. Man, had he come a long way.

The next season I went to the Friday night varsity football game. Starting at D tackle for the varsity was Tuna, James Taylor. He was making plays, the opponents had to double team him, and his butt had slimmed down a little more. He was 6'3" and weighed 275 lbs. They couldn't handle him. James made all conference that football season and maybe even special mention all state. I can't remember all the details. But when wrestling came that winter he was dominant and placed 5th at the Illinois High School state wrestling tournament in his first year of varsity competition. By the way, Illinois is a very good wrestling state. Everyone talked about what a good student and hard worker he was. Yeah, I had heard.  His senior year he was an all state football player and got beat by a point in the semis of the state wrestling tournament and finished third. He was a stud. He was all everything.

What's the end of the story? Well, James wasn't finished. He was recruited by the University of Missouri and started at offensive tackle for the Tigers for three years. He was named to the Big Eight all conference team, played in the Blue-Gray all star game, the Senior Bowl, and was a named a third team All American. Drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 2nd round he had an excellent pro career for four years before hurting his knee. He ended his last season with the Chicago Bears. Moral of the story? Good kids that work hard can go a long way. Even kids that weren't good enough to play their freshman year in high school. Don't ever give up on a high school kid if he's willing to work.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Coldest Night Ever

Early November 1988 - almost exactly 24 years ago today. It was Saturday night and we were warming up for our second round playoff game against Clifton Central, a very good 9-1 team. We were 10-0 and had just won our first round playoff game the previous Wednesday night, 20-0 against University High School from Normal. Yep, we had just played Wednesday night and here we were on Saturday playing again. That's how we did it in the early days here in Illinois. In order to get a 32 team bracket decided by Thanksgiving, we had to play two games the first week. (It has since changed) Wednesday night had been a beautiful night for football. Forty-five degrees at game time with no wind. You could see your breath and it just hung in the air. Perfect! Now, just three days later it was completely different.

It was 35 degrees with a stiff 25 mph wind blowing out of the northwest. The precipitation was going from a freezing rain to sleet, to snow flurries, then back to sleet. It was cold and miserable. OK, you guys from North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have better stories but believe me, it was cold. The wind and sleet was making it numbingly cold. I remember our guys jogging out of the locker room and most of them were bare armed. No under armour, it hadn't been invented yet, no sweatshirts under the jerseys, just t shirts and short sleeved jerseys. The guys obviously wanted to show how tough they were and that the weather didn't bother them. Well, I was bundled up. It was going to be my job that night to be the coach in the pressbox on the walkie talkie. But I wasn't IN the pressbox, I was going to be on the roof. After warm ups I headed up to my post.

The football field sat right next to I-57. There was nothing to block the wind. Over my coat I also put on one of those old fashioned long parkas like the Packers used to wear in Green Bay. I don't remember much of what I told the coaches down on the field that night. All I remember is that we won a hard fought game that night 10-0. And I was cold. When the game was over I took off my parka and it stood up. My back had been against the wind and there was an inch thick coating of ice on my parka. That's why it stood on it's own. I wish I remembered more of the game but mostly I rember how cold it was on that pressbox just off the interstate. Cold and sleet coming down so hard it hurt. But you know what? It actually made a great memory. Now we look back and say, "Hey remember the Clifton game of '88? Man that was a miserable night but our guys toughed it out and won a battle.They were in short sleeves". Then we laugh. "Yeah and we had carry you down," they kid me.

Memories. When you coach long enough you have a lot of them. And even the bad memories are good. Like a frozen night on the press box.