Remember who passed you the ball

Legendary college basketball coach Dean Smith preached to his players who scored to acknowledge the player that passed them the ball. Think about why that is important in a team game.

It can also apply to everyday life. So, at this holiday time, let’s acknowledge those who pass us the ball. Or, we could honor them by paying their kindness or help forward. Here are a few random thoughts.

Let’s start with teachers, who do not get paid near enough to do the many things they have to do. Parents should not expect perfection, but hope they have teachers who care and can reach the hearts and minds of their students. They deserve thanks.

Let’s move on to healthcare workers who tend to the basic need of patients whether it is at a hospital or long term care facility. They are not paid a King’s ransom to put up with people’s s**t, literarally and figuratively. Yes, we want our loved ones taken care of, but we should put what these folks do in perspective and offer them some appreciation.

Wait staff in restaurants are not on any highest paid lists. No question, we should want good service in a restaurant, as we are spending our hard earned monies. Being a waitress or waiter is hard work, especially when someone does not show-up and people have to cover for them. But, two golden things might help us all – that golden rule is one, while the other is honey. Treating service people with dignity and as a person, will improve your service.

I picked these examples as we seem to live in a world where people are more demanding and less kind to service providers. Of course, we should want good service, yet we could do ourselves and others a favor to understand the context. Acknowledge those passing the ball. It would be a nice birthday present to the guy who said that golden rule thing.

Football coach suspends team as a lesson in character

This may be one of the more adult measures I have witnessed by someone in authority in some time. It is worth sharing as we must always strive to treat others the way we want to be treated. Matt Labrum, the football coach for Union High in Utah, took a profound step to suspend his entire football team after witnessing and learning of poor behavior to others and an overall lack of accountability. With the support of his fellow coaches and, eventually the parents, he kicked everyone off the team and told them later how they could earn their way back.

The final straw that precipitated the action was some cyberbullying of a fellow student that was strongly believed to have been fueled or done by members of the team. Yet, before then, he had observed or been told of football players skipping class, showing disrespect to teachers and not being accountable to teammates. More on the subject can be gleaned by clicking on the attached link to Deseret News: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865587020/Taking-a-stand-Union-High-coach-suspends-entire-football-team-in-lesson-about-character.html?pg=all

The kids were devastated, but understood the message. We cannot tolerate poor behavior to others and you are responsible and accountable. Character is more than a word, it is something you earn by doing right by others. The team was told what they needed to do to earn their way back onto the team: community service, write an essay, and do day-in and day-out what we all should do – treat others like we want to be treated. The impact on these young men will carry with them the rest of their lives. Being a man is much more than being physically gifted. In fact, being physically gifted has nothing to do with being a man. It is being responsible and accountable. Per the line from “Rob Roy,” one of my favorite movies, Your honor is a gift you give yourself.”

What is also terrific about Coach Labrum’s actions is the echo effect it will have on others in the school and who are aware of this story. They will say to themselves, if it can happen to them, it can happen to me. So, please help me share this story by telling others about someone who is of the finest character – Matt Labrum and his fellow coaches. Well done.

The Mighty Casey – Tribute to a Great Teacher

Queen Latifah, whose mother was a teacher, is hosting a documentary show called “Teach.” The show highlights the passion, caring, capability and tenacity of several teachers at various grade levels. Peppered throughout the show, are small segments where actors and others come into view and highlight teachers that made a difference to them. It caused my wife and I to reflect on the teachers that meant so much to us. I had several in my K-12 years, but I wanted to highlight one from my college days, as I had his classes several times. I will call him The Mighty Casey, which is actually a nickname from another venue. More on that later.

Teachers come in all forms, shapes, and styles. Some are more demonstrative than others, while some are fairly studious even in front of a class. The Mighty Casey was actually more of the latter. He had a great sense of humor, yet did not use it as part of his teaching method. He was interesting beyond his subject matter skills (more on that later), but did not use those interests as props in his lectures. His gift was his magnificent ability to explain complex things for many to understand. And, if you did not get it, he was very generous with his time after classes to help you understand. He was quite genuine and approachable. This man, who could have had a large-size ego on exhibit due his reputation and authoring of books and papers, was not one to condescend and make you feel stupid.

We even drafted him to play on our basketball team at the college, which may have been the worst team ever. As one of our departing gifts at graduation, we framed a quizzical picture of him in a rag-tag basketball shirt. I reflect on that with an open question – how many students would give a picture of their favorite professor wearing a ill-fitting basketball shirt? But, that was part of who The Mighty Casey was and is. His love of sports was a reason behind the nickname he chose for a radio sports talk show he used to call into.

The DJ had a quiz format at the end of each radio show. Over a period of months which turned into years, when the questions were not answered by any listeners, our professor would call in and correctly answer the question. Instead of giving his real name, he chose the nickname “The Mighty Casey.” Many Americans know the reference to the Mighty Casey, from a baseball poem about a hero who strikes out to end the game called “Casey at the Bat” written in 1888 by Ernest Thayer. But, our professor rarely struck out. He became so proficient, he became the go-to guy on tough questions, not unlike his ability to explain complex topics to students. When the DJ needed to conclude the quiz part of the show when it ran long, the DJ would ask if “The Mighty Casey,”  “Casey” or even “Case” was listening. He usually was and would call in and answer the question correctly. And, it was not unusual for him to provide some deeper context to the events around a question.

Not using his name on the sports quiz show is a look into the character of this great teacher. He did not desire the acclaim for his name. He just loved to share what he knew so others could learn. I think that is the best way to think of him. His joy was helping people learn. He did not want people to only know the answer. He wanted people to be able to solve for the next answer using what he taught them. The Mighty Casey was a mentor and teacher to many. He made a huge difference to my career and life. His patience, understanding and love of learning and teaching are remembered well by many people.

Thank you – The Mighty Casey. You did not strike out when it mattered the most. All the best to you and your family. Readers, please feel free to share your favorites and why. I would love to hear your stories.

Teach Your Children – A Tribute to CSNY

You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.
And so, become yourself, because the past, is just a good-bye. 

Teach, your children well, their father’s hell, did slowly go by.
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you’re known by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

The lyrics of “Teach Your Children” are highly representative of the songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I was torn with leading off with a number of their songs, yet I chose this one as the song starts with teaching our children to seek their dreams and letting them go with your guidance and love. The song is even more profound today, as it concludes with a stanza on “teaching your parents well.” With technology so rapidly expanding and changing our world, the song is emblematic that we can learn from each other.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and later Neil Young formed a group of songwriters and singers who wrote and sang eloquently. Their harmonies made great songs even better. I have an entire post devoted to Young, so I will not highlight some of his many contributions, but let you take a peek at your leisure with this link: https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/heart-of-gold-a-tribute-to-neil-young/. Young added guitar-might to the stage presence of the initial trio and had played earlier with Stills in Buffalo Springfield. Crosby was a key part of The Byrds and Nash was with The Hollies. So, CSN and then CSNY became a blend of some prolific musicians and songwriters.

LIke earlier posts, I will leave off some of mine and others’ favorite songs. My intention is to highlight a few songs that resonate with me and leave others for your perusal. If you have not dived into CSNY, I would encourage you to do so. Many of their lyrics will be apropos today, like those in the above song.  One that is hauntingly compelling and so simple is a lament over those who pay the ultimate price fighting wars in the name of freedom. From Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom” here is only a small taste:

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down

I started to quote more lyrics, but I thought these words state the obvious very succinctly and could be used easily to describe those honorable, young men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq for uncertain ends. To me, the next song can be used for multiple separations from those you love, but I interpreted it along the above lines of someone going off to fight a war. I will let you judge from the sample lyrics from “Just a Song Before I Go:”

She helped me with my suitcase,
She stands before my eyes
Driving me to the airport,
And to the friendly skies.

Going through security
I held her for so long.
She finally looked at me in love,
And she was gone.

They have so many great songs: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Judy Collins, “Our House” which even our kids know word for word, “Deja-vu”, “Helplessly Hoping,” Helpless,” “Southern Cross,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Guinevere” are just a few. I also won’t highlight “Ohio” which I did in the earlier post about Young. It needed its own space as it spoke volumes against President Nixon who called out the national guard on US college students at Kent State and a couple of kids got shot. This was a stain on Nixon before his Watergate Waterloo.

Another favorite is “Wooden Ships” as it is a great tune with great lyrics written by Crosby and Stills:

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
 Talkin’ ’bout very free and easy…
Horror grips us as we watch you die,
All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
Stare as all human feelings die,
We are leaving – you don’t need us.

To me, these words say go live your life and pursue your dreams. Don’t stand by and watch life pass you by. Don’t save it for later, so take time to explore and you will learn something about yourself. Otherwise, you may be on the shore waiting to die. This same theme is picked up by Nash’s song “Wasted on the Way:”

And there’s so much time to make up
Everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way

Oh when you were young
Did you question all the answers
Did you envy all the dancers
Who had all the nerve

Look round you NOW
You must go for what you wanted
Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved.

There is so much more to write about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I would love to see newer artists start covering their play list more. Their songs need to be heard by more people. Let me close, with their most iconic song “Woodstock:”

Well, then can I roam beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel myself a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, said maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

“I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.” These are profound words. I have tried to teach my children this. Never stop learning. I often say you can judge people’s intelligence by their awareness of how much they don’t know. And, getting back to the theme, even old farts like me, learn something new everyday. So, teach your parents well. Thanks guys for the journey which has not stopped.