Saturday, August 10, 2019

Life Lessons from Loopers

I love golf for a variety of reasons.It gets me out of doors, to some of the most beautiful
places on the planet. It allows me to compete on an equal playing field against men and women, boys and girls of all ages. Because of golf, I now speak another language. Ask any golfer the meaning of terms like birdie, bogey and eagle, par, and putt and we will translate. History, aesthetics and the attributes of golf account for a lot to love but one component I value, is the simple fact that golf is the only sport in the world where an assistant, a coach, an ally, a therapist and maybe even a family member—definitely a friend—is allowed on the field of play with the athlete: that person is the caddie.

It might seem strange to love golf because of the caddie. After all, fans aren't watching a person carry a bag, they want to see how far and how accurately their favorite player can hit the ball. However, as shared in the documentary Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk a professional caddie noted, "we live in a world that’s all about “what’s someone doing for me.” It’s humbling to be in a profession that is the complete opposite of that. It’s what can I do for YOU." I can't help but see that when I watch golf. I love the perspective this game offers—it's one I need to remember—and I think it spawns questions to consider.

How easy is it for us to recognize, value and appreciate those people who stand in the service of others? in service to me? Who are the men and women who do their job with humility, day in and day out.... Who are the people that find success in another person's success and "take satisfaction in seeing someone do something very very hard." A caddie does this—the nature of the job won't allow otherwise. When a player wins, a caddie wins. A caddie has the silent hand at play in every players' success.

Loopers, the documentary demonstrates this truth through the up close and personal profiles of several golfing "teams." 
Centuries old and enjoyed by tens of millions of people worldwide, golf is seen by many as more than a sport. Yet what do we know about the other person on the course? The man or woman behind the player carrying the bag. In a narrative never before covered in any feature length documentary, Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk explores the incredible personal bond that a golfer and a caddie develop through hours of time together. 
It is often said that a good caddie does three things: show up, keep up and shut up. But a great caddie wears many hats. They’re the player’s psychologist, mother/father figure, technical advisor and confidante. The film unveils the working dynamic between famous partnerships like the heartfelt story of Tom Watson’s and caddie Bruce Edwards. Conversely, it delves into the making of a caddie’s career with stories like Greg Puga — a young Bel Air Caddie from East Los Angeles who fought his way to Augusta to play in the Masters as a Mid-Amateur Champ. Whether familiar or new, these are stories that will make you re-think the way you look at Golf, and especially the job of the Caddie. 
Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk is a visual tour de force shot on the iconic courses of Pebble Beach, Augusta National, St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Prestwick, Ballybunion, and Lahinch. Crafted in the spirit of documentaries like “20 feet from Stardom”, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and “Step into Liquid”, the film is a must-watch documentary of the game of golf as you’ve never seen it before.
I had a chance to watch this movie on United airlines. I would like to thank the friendly skies for this video treat. Films, like this made the 12 hour direct flight home from Munich less taxing. I hope more folks than just frequent flyers will check this out—the beauty of golf, its history and its characters is included.

And so is the theme. The role of the caddie, used at the highest level of golf, is a reminder the team is never just you. Even in an individual sport, a golfer never takes a long walk alone. Our lives are no different.

Photo Credits
Nick and Fanny
Loopers


Monday, August 5, 2019

The Legging Problem Part II: From Ignatius of Loyola to the University of Notre Dame

Standing in his childhood home in the heart of Basque country is a profound way to learn about the magnanimous life and conversion of Ignatius of Loyola. Born the thirteenth child into family of wealth and great privilege, Inigo was once a gambler and philanderer. With dreams of personal honor and fame, he was competitive, driven and to put it mildly, he was vain. In fact, his vanity was so great that he once had his leg reset and re-broken because a stump of bone stuck out (his right leg had been fractured by a cannon ball). This presented itself to be an issue because of the fashion of the day for men included leggings. Yes, leggings....those form fitting, controversial articles of athleisure that became the target of a letter to the editor of The Observer, the student newspaper at the University of Notre Dame. Thinking about who Ignatius was and who he became and the current tenor of this topic today, I begin to wonder: What Would Iggy Do? What would Ignatius say? I think I know. I believe the Founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola would echo the words from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Oh Vanity of Vanities!
In the Summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine, I learned that "impassioned students organized a leggings day to protest the notion that women bear responsibility for men's behavior—although in practice it could be difficult to know whether a person was wearing leggings in defiant response to the latter, or simply as everyday attire." Stories about the discontent of Mary Ann White, the Catholic mother of four sons who penned the poison, appeared in the The New York Times and The Washington Post, on the Today Show, BBC Radio 4 and more. The post I included in this blog "The Legging Problem: The Struggle is Real" is one of the most popular for 2019. Amidst the fury, I had to wonder Was this  letter and response newsworthy? Is such discontent justifiable? 

A reflection on the meaning of Oh Vanity of Vanities by Brian Overland gave me some insight. He writes
The meaning of “vanity” has changed in English over the centuries. In the time of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, “vanity” did not necessarily mean narcissism and excessive pride; rather, “vain” more often meant “meaningless” or “pointless.” And “vanity” was “meaninglessness.” 
Modern literal interpretations of the opening phrase from the Book of Ecclesiastes, therefore, do not say “You’re so full of pride!” Instead the literal interpretation reads more like this: Meaningless, meaningless, the Preacher said, everything is meaningless! But that’s not as poetic as the Elizabethan language, is it? 
Why, then does the King James Bible say “vanity of vanities”?? The answer is, because this reflects how the original Hebrew doesn’t just say “All in meaningless,” but gives it extra emphasis… something closer to “Meaningless! EVERYTHING is UTTERLY without meaning!” 
And here’s the context of the Book of Ecclesiastes: more than any book of the Bible, the Book of Ecclesiastes is a book of grave doubts; it appears to be the rumination of a poet or philosopher who has tried everything and has come to put his trust in nothing. One generation rises, another passes, and the sun also rises — and yet “there is nothing new under the sun”… meaning, “I’ve seen it all.” The battle is not to the strong, because luck and chance seem to decide things as much as anything. And if everything in the end is the result of random chance, then what meaning can anything have? Every generation passes away in turn, and what lasts forever? 
It is notable that the Book of Ecclesiastes ends by urging the reader to place his trust in God as the only Eternal Being. But how much this ending was grafted on to make it religiously acceptable has been debated. 
The use of “vanity” here is similar to the way it is employed in the Ten Commandments in the King James Bible. “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain” does not mean “Don’t say the Lord’s name proudly.” Rather, it means do not say the Lord’s name frivolously — that is, without proper respect or seriousness of purpose. Or perhaps: “Don’t use the Lord’s name jokingly.” 
But the Old Testament priests felt it was so risky to say the name of God without sufficient seriousness of purpose, it was safer just not to say it at all.
Clearly, the question that White raised is not meaningless to the young women urged to reconsider their attire. What we wear, and where we wear it are indeed worth consideration. Time and place, occasion and environment bear reflection. One worthy question today is—do we?
For Ignatius of Loyola wearing leggings put him in the spotlight and in the right social circle. In this way, his vanity WAS a reflection of his pride. He wanted to be seen, noticed and attended to. To what degree is that true among the women who sport leggings today is an interesting one. For MaryAnn White, it's not a question—she believes men cannot not look at "barely naked rear ends" in the Basilica and so forth. However, to many students today, such a claim is an outrage....to which I say, again, Oh Vanity of Vanities!

Regardless of where you stand, or should I say--what you wear, in light of this (potentially meaningless debate) what has fascinated me most is a newsworthy point raised in ND Mag. No one has been able to find Mary Ann White. "She never surfaced to defend her position in any of the news stories that reported the widespread student eye-rolling and nobody on campus admitted to knowing her. Theories about White's identity have made the rounds. Theories abound and some are pretty good. Maybe it was an Ignatius of Loyola in the 21st Century doing what he can to get us to think critically and constructively about what is meaningful and what is not.....Not always easy in our day and age, though it feels like it should be.

Photo Credits
ND News Report (see link above)
Inigo

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Platforms for Gratitude: Thank you Shane Lowry

Viewing a game, match or tourney through my DVR just doesn't give me the satisfaction that a live feed does. I have to watch sports en vivo—live. For many fans however, the highlight reel is sufficient. If that is all a person can get, so be it. But there is much more to the production and telecast of a sporting event than the game itself. To me, this is not worth missing. If I had, I would have missed out on an important activity for all coaches to consider as they plan for a new sports season: How do we thank our parents? In what ways can our athletes honor them? Thank you to Justin Leonard and Shane Lowry for this reminder. 
As I watched the 2019 Open Championship, I marveled at the pin-rattling wind and the heavy rain that often seemed to be falling horizontally during the final round. I was mesmerized by the Irish crowd who came and stayed, in droves to support one of their own and I was especially moved by one clip they ran featuring past champions. American golfer, Justin Leonard shared his memory of winning it and holding the Claret Jug in 1997 . What followed was a number of golfers—Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods doing the same. While that may not sound remarkable, their reaction was. Each one, had to pause. They stopped talking. They lowered the silver trophy in hand. Many apologized. Each was so overcome with emotion of what had happened, they were moved to tears. Memories like these, shared with the viewers from around the world, said little, but spoke volumes about the significance of this particular win. Humbling to see, delightful to behold.

The timing of this clip made me wonder if this year's winner would do the same. The WSJ writes
With a red, bushy beard and a ball marked with a shamrock, Shane Lowry was a perfectly Irish champion on a perfectly Irish day. He won the British Open with a score of 15 under par, beating Tommy Fleetwood by six shots. In the first Open on Irish soil since 1951, Lowry became the first Irish major champion since Rory McIlroy in 2014. 
As Lowry walked up the 18th fairway, his name already engraved on the trophy, it took a line of marshals to restrain the dozens of fans running up to him from behind. 
It can't get much better than that....but it did. When it was time to hand over the Claret Jug, Lowry did so with open arms. He smiled and held it high for all to see. As written in the Irish Sun, he said
"What can I say? I just have so many people to thank really. First of all, the R&A for such a great event, to have an Open on the island of Ireland at Portrush is amazing. 
This is one of my favourite places in Ireland. I've a lot of people in my team I have to thank. 
My coach Neil (Manchip), caddie Bo (Brian Martin), my management. I definitely wouldn't be standing here without them. 
My family. What can I say? My mum and dad.

The camera turned to feature Brendan and Bridget Lowry jumping up and down. Shane however, had to pause. I knew what was coming. I felt them too. He got choked up. He lowered the trophy and looked down. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, but the tears began. Just moments later however, with Irish eyes smiling, he said, "they sacrificed so much for me when I was younger and I'm so happy you can handle this trophy tonight."

Their selflessness made this feat possible. Their joy and his joy—shared, complete.

Our parents do make our greatest of achievements possible. They are the giver of great gifts, the first being life itself. From that gift, many others flow. Indeed, our parents are not perfect but I do think it is important to express gratitude for what they have done for us. I was reminded how important and meaningful this can be by Lowry's emotion and gesture. 

The platform of athletics lends itself to this easily. I invite all coaches to consider how and when you will have your athletes and your teams thank their parents for giving the gift of sport. Indianapolis CYO director and longtime head football coach at Roncalli High School Bruce Scifres offers a poignant and practical way he had his team give thanks to their parents. In "Five Great Transformational Team Activities" he shares the steps for Senior Letters to their parents: 
Each season for our last regular season home game, I would have each of our seniors write a letter to their parents. I would give them three basic guidelines on Monday of that week:  
  • Thank your parents for the countless sacrifices they make for you. 
  • Tell them that you love them. 
  • Let them know you are proud to be their son!
After giving these guidelines, I would encourage them to create something in their own words that would be a keepsake their parents would want to hold onto forever! I would have the seniors turn the letters in to me in a sealed envelope before the game. I would hand the letters back to the players after pre-game warm-ups to hand to their parents as they were escorting their parents to the middle of the field as they were introduced. The parents could then read the letters after they returned to the stands or after getting home from the game. Over the years, I have had a handful of parents tell me later that this senior letter changed their relationship with their son for the better. They said it opened up their line of communication and provided plenty for them to discuss later. Our parents always appreciated these letters from their sons a great deal.
I dedicated my book Pray and Practice with Purpose to my parents. I wrote "to the giver of so many wonderful gifts—including Sports and Spirituality. Thank you." It shouldn't take writing a book or winning the Open Championship for us to have a platform to extend our gratitude. It's certainly worth celebrating, but we can in the many steps that our parents share with us along the way.

To Brendan and Bridget: ENJOY!
To Shane: I saw you hit a hole in one at the 2016 Masters. Brilliant!


Photo Credits
Crying Shane
Lowry Parents

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ben Hogan: Perseverance and Perfection

The Open Championship is underway at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. Though I am partial to The Masters, and in some years, the US Open, I do recognize the significance and import of what a golf purist would say is THE major of the year. To J.V. fans, it is The British Open, but to those who know otherwise, it is The Open Championship. It needs no other descriptor. 

The colors of the R&A, the time change and the traditional links style courses make for a different fan experience on this side of the pond. While compare and contrast always sharpens our vision, so too does an understanding and appreciation for the history of the game, the players and its past. And so I would like to offer a profile on one of golf's greatest, Ben Hogan. 
Hy Peskin film. Whether it's a 1-iron or a 2-iron is up for debate...
Hogan's name might be familiar for a number of reasons. Long after his 20+ professional career, he designed golf clubs and wrote Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. Next to Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, "Five Lessons" is perhaps the most widely read golf tutorial ever written. In 2013, when the US Open returned to Merion, a photo resurfaced everywhere. I should have. The photographer, Hy Peskin, who captured JFK and Jackie on their sailboat and a great solo shot of Mickey Mantle, admitted that the famed approach shot during the fourth and final round on 18, was his best. While most people hustled to the green, Peskin stayed back. We are grateful his did. The result is a terrific composition depicting grace in a historic moment. 
Whether or not that is why you have heard of Ben Hogan, the primary reason one ought to know about him is captured by Daniel Rapaport of Sports Illustrated. He writes,
When Tiger Woods when the Masters in April, it sealed one of the great comebacks in golf history. But, it hardly compared to Ben Hogan's resurgence nearly 70 years ago, when he won six majors after his car collided head-on with a Greyhound bus—he broke his pelvis, collarbone, ankle and ribs and developed near fatal blood clots. 
It is undeniably the greatest comebacks in all of sports history. To compare what Hogan overcame vs. Woods, is a near insult. Watching the two hour film: Hogan: Perseverance and Perfection will reveal how and why.

Sports Illustrated profiled the film in "Gameplan: The Smart Guide to Right Now." It said

A new film cuts through the mystique surrounding Ben Hogan, the icon who made golf's greatest comeback.

That accident only added to the mystique surrounding Hogan, the subject of a tw0-part documentary. He has long been shrouded in ethereal, but the film offers a revealing look at the legend, showing how he cultivated his iconic swing and parsing his complicated relationship with friendly rival, Byron Nelson. "Ben Hogan is god," former pro Charles Coody says in the documentary. "He's the supreme being as far as golf is concerned. Among those interviewed is another iconic golf figure, the late SI writer, Dan Jenkins, who knew Hogan well and covered the Texan's first Masters win in 1951.
Whether or not one is a golf fan, regardless of your appreciation for history, there is so much to learn about Hogan's great life. Here are but a few nuggets I gained from watching.

"I invented practice."
Far too much attention is given to Allen Iverson and his questioning of practice. Hogan knew of its importance and was committed to it. He said "The only way I could beat them, was to work harder than them. They would work two hours a day and I would work eight." The fruit of practice was his unshakable confidence. He played without fear. Hogan knew what he could do and how he could get to the pin. How? Why? He invented practice.

A Man of Many Words....not so much

Compared to his affable, friendly rival Byron Nelson, Hogan was quiet and serious. He was known for saying little. So little that on opponent shared "the only thing he said to me during a round was 'you're away'."  He didn't settle for imperfection. He asked his caddy for the distance to the pin, only to hear "117...118." In total seriousness Hogan replied "well what is it?" I don't know who we can compare Hogan to today. I wonder if the media would let him be....Would I be fan? My perspective is retrospective, but I'm intrigued.

In saving his wife's life, he saved his own
Driving on a highway between low lying fog inhibited driver visibility. A Greyhound bus sought to pass a truck on the open highway and in the process caused a head on collision. Hogan leaned over to shield his wife Valerie from the blow. In doing that, he saved his own life.

Christianity is rooted in the Pascal Mystery. In death: there is new life. Though Hogan did not die, he was willing to do that to save his beloved. Which leads to the next point....

He drove himself to recover.
A lifetime of disciplined practice paid dividends. Hogan had to learn to walk gain and did so with just 10 steps a day. Ten made way for 20 and 20 made way for 50. He had surgeries and he was in pain for the rest of his life. And still, he made a historic comeback in 11 months time.  As one responded said, "Here was a guy that was SO
 determined that not even a head on collision could hold him back." But what sports fans must realize is that Hogan not only came back, but came back to dominate. 
You could argue that he was better than before the accident.
He probably overcame more obstacles than anybody can dream of....
Hogan's father took his life when he was just 9 years old. The family incurred financial difficulties and Hogan and his two siblings took jobs to help their seamstress mother make ends meet. Though he started working as a paperboy, he realized he could make a lot more money by caddying. He walked six miles to Glen Garden Country Club and started to play golf, a game he loved because he could participate and practice in solitude.

It worth considering that nothing else that Hogan faced in his life would present the same challenge of that of his early childhood. Out of such turmoil and tragedy, however, something was born. Those who saw him play know the answer: his game and his swing. Truly, one of a kind. 
One of his biographer's says it best
There' a purity to beautiful things that is most reserved for art. And Ben Hogan's golf swing comes as close to a work of art as any athletic motion in the history of sport, that's ever been.
I recommend this film for golf fans and sports fans. Coaches,  in particular of a boys' team—I think this is worth watching together. As a coach of a girl's team, I would share parts of it, but to me, Hogan speaks more to the male psyche.

Read the official Golf Film review here


Photo Credits
with Valerie
Book Cover
Peskin Photo

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Sports Hangover....of a different kind

All week, I suffered from a mini-hangover. It lingered. It came and went at a varying intensity. I didn't get this hangover from too much wine or champagne, or even vodka on the rocks. No, this hangover was different. Though I wasn't physically sick, I can't deny it was there. Sports fans might understand; I know many athletes do.
The 2019 men's final at Wimbledon was truly one of the ages, an instant classic. But, I couldn't let go of the outcome. As I recalled the match with friends, I couldn't help but feel bummed—for a lack of a better word. The 37-year old number two player in the world, Roger Federer didn't lose a single game. He did, however, lose the match. Staving off two match points—his opponent—Novak Djokovic beat him in three tie breaks in five sets. As much as I felt the loss—that ache, I wondered What it must feel like for the athlete, for their spouse, their coach, "team" and friends? Hungover, but in a different kind of way, is my guess.

I have read about said hangovers before. In the movie "Venus and Serena" Venus Williams, a five time Wimbledon champion admitted that after she lost, she didn't get out of bed for a week. Phil Mickelson has as much before, too. It wasn't after his fatal fall at the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot. According to Golf News.Net 
The reigning (British) Open champion had what he described was his best chance to finally capture the elusive U.S. Open in June. Instead, he came up short against Justin Rose, posting a sixth second-place finish in the championship -- only adding to a record no one wants to own. 
In an appearance on 'Today" on NBC,  Mickelson said, "My worst, hardest loss of my career was the U.S. Open just a month ago. For days, I didn’t get out of bed; I was tired." 
Once again, however, it was Mickelson's family that helped pulled him out of the funk. 
"It was a trip that we had to Montana that kind of got me out of my funk and I realized that I’m playing great golf, and I can’t let one loss affect the rest of my year," he said.

Fortunately for Fed, the circumstances are slightly different. There is no Grand Slam out of his reach. With eight single's championships, he is not only the winningest man in Wimbledon history, he has twelve others, 20 major championships in all. But what made this win so desirable is to see what we don't often see in a sport like tennis. The great enemy of every athlete is age. Fed responded to that truth by smiling and sharing "I hope I give some other people a chance to believe that at 37, it's not over yet." It does. And BTW: The Maestro will be 38 when he plays the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open.

I think it is important to feel these hangovers and to let them linger. That storm cloud may need to rain for one day, or maybe for three. But it's not a condition or characteristic of today's athletes alone. In the film 'Hogan: Perseverance" Bantam Ben Hogan admitted his struggle in defeat. 

On the 71st hole of the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills Country Club, in Denver CO, Hogan hit a wedge loaded with backspin that went into the water, essentially ending what was another bid for a fifth championship title. He said, "I find myself walking up at night thinking of that shot. Right today. How many years has that been? That's been 23 years ago and there isn't a month that goes by that that doesn't cut my guts out." Wow. 
I don't know what Fed will say weeks, months or even years after the loss. Business Insider wrote,
After the match, Federer was graceful in defeat, joking with the crowd while speaking in his post-match interview. Federer was congratulated for his brilliant performance, with BBC presenter and former Grand Slam champion Sue Barker saying it was a final we would "remember forever."
"I will try to forget," Federer replied, earning laughs and cheers from the crowd.
I'm not sure he will...or I will. I do not believe that a person is strange or selfish, if they are depressed or down after a loss. Why? These contests and competitions are great because we see humanity at its best. We see men and women giving everything—physically, emotionally and spiritually. They literally having nothing left in the tank. Their cup cannot runneth over, that is, unless it's spiked with adrenaline. 

Family, friends and fans can't expect to see one face of greatness—the joy, exuberance and triumph without realizing there might be another. 
The fortnight of Wimbledon is a special time of year. New wine was poured into both new and old wineskins. We drank it all. In spite of the "other" type of hangover, I'd do it again. Thank you Fed. Congratulations Joker!

Photo Credits
Heart on hand
Loss at Merion
Staying Positive
Tough Loss

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Roger Federer: Athlete, Artist and Generalist

Sports fans and tennis fans are familiar with the fact that Roger Federer holds the record for the most Wimbledon titles with eight of them. He will be competing for his ninth against Novak Djokovic on Center Court in the 2019 men's final. But do people know that Roger's mom, a coach—never coached him? Or that when his instructor decided to move him up to play with older, more talented players, he asked to move back so he could stay with his friends? He said "I was just dreaming of just once meeting Boris Becker or being able to play at Wimbledon some time." His mother admitted "we had no plan A, no plan B." I suppose Plan AB, or C or Z that we are seeing today. For nearly twenty years, tennis and sports fans alike have been privy to watch an athlete who is an artist. He is certainly a master and his masterpiece is Wimbledon. Enjoy.
For the past few years, I have wondered how long Federer can and will continue to paint, I mean play tennis on the tour. At 37 years of age (almost 38), to remain so dominant in a sport as physically and mentally demanding as tennis is remarkable. He is one of the game's all time greats, a consummate professional and sportsman. NB: he has not earned Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year title to the chagrin of many fans and postings. And to me, the beauty of sport is all we can learn from the legends. 

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by World by David Epstein offers a unique perspective on what we can learn from The Maestro/Darth Fed/Fed Express (take your pick!). According to Epstein's website: 
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.
Two of the athletes Epstein profiles include Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. Epstein writes "the Roger path to sports stardom is far more prevalent than the Tiger path, but those athletes' stories are much more quietly told, if they are told at all."
Woods' story was familiar to me. I knew he was a child prodigy, holding a golf club at the age of two. I knew that his father, Earl believed "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity," Even Buddha, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. I have also read about the "10,000 hour rule" which we now equate with expertise, in conjunction with Tiger's as he "was not merely playing golf. He was engaging in deliberate practice." But, the contrarian in me longed to hear another story. Enter in Fed's...it's worth exploring. I find it encouraging. I love to opt out...but this might be a case to opt in...to something different.

So many athletes, especially tennis players, tend to put their tennis balls into one basket at an early age. Fed however, credits a wide range of sports, such as played basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis, soccer for developing his athleticism and hand eye coordination. Furthermore, his parents were far from pushy. A Sports Illustrated writer noted that "if anything, they were "pully." Epstein adds,  Nearing his teens, the boy began to gravitate more toward tennis and if they nudged him at all, it was to stop taking tennis so seriously. When he played matches, his mother often wandered away to chat with friends. His father had but one rule: Don't cheat. He didn't and he started to get good." Really good. They never wrote or followed a manual to make him the number one player in the world. Today he is ranked third. 
I encourage you to read "Range" for yourself and develop your own conclusions. Do we need more Fed? Less Tiger? Please share your thought. Regardless, Epstein's work is thorough and it's thoughtful and it offers evidence and story to support that there is always another way. I hope you will watch Fed with a deeper appreciation knowing more about his personal story and his artwork.

Photo Credits
Fed's 8

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Not All Weeks in Sports Are Created Equal: From Good to Great, Thank you Serena Williams

If there's a spring in my step, it's because it's a great week in sports. I have been feasting on outstanding athletics and exciting competition. It started with Breakfast not only at Wimbledon but in Paris, with the Women's World Cup Final at 8:00 a.m. PDT on Sunday. While most of MLB enjoys some respite, I still delight in the All-Star break and all its festivities. I check in on the Home Run Derby and still cheer for the National League to defeat the American League. No such luck (AL 4- NL 3). I am already licking my chops as the the fourth and final major of the year in golf, The Open, which will commence next week at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Northern Ireland. It's a great time to be a sports fan.
Not all great sports weeks deliver great sports. I have anticipated and awaited these critical junctures and been left unaffected and disappointed. I do believe however that the joy of sport is that you just never know. Yes, you will get the good, not great. Things will go flat and our teams will fail. But you will also get what surpasses expectation. You will see what you've never seen, witness what has never be done. Similar to a great meal, these "wow!" moments are special—savor them. You can compare and contrast them to other feats and meaningful memories—that is what we sports fans do best—but I try to enjoy each one for what it is. And, Serena Williams' quarterfinal win at Wimbledon reminded me why I love her and I love sports so much.

In the article "Wimbledon 2019: Serena Williams, Simona Halep Wins Highlight Tuesday's Results" Christopher Simpson writes:
Riske's meeting with Williams was their first singles match against one another. It was also the former's first Grand Slam quarter-final, whereas the latter is in pursuit of her 24th major singles title. 
Williams was twice a break down in the opening set, but she battled back to take it 6-4. 
A strong start from Riske made it a competitive contest from the outset, and she fended off some strong serving from Williams to draw first blood, per SportsLine's Mike McClure:
The 29-year-old responded immediately when Williams leveled proceedings at 3-3, but after the seven-time Wimbledon champion broke back a second time for 4-4, she used that momentum to take the set.
Both players found breaks more difficult to come by in the second set, and Riske kept Williams on her toes with some neat shot variation, catching out her illustrious opponent with a well-executed drop shot.
Riske took the set 6-4. I wondered what Serena, under duress, would do with the deciding one. 

After going up 3 games to 1, Williams dropped two games in a row to fellow American, Riske. When that happened, rather than lose it or get overly down on herself, Williams went inside. Her focus was visible...audible...downright palpable. She started to hit the ball with brute force. She didn't let one return go soft. She served the ball at 116, 118 and even 125 miles an hour. I must admit, Riske was unflappable. She responded with her own velocity. However, Serena was too good.

At 30-all, up 5-3 in the third, Williams served up an ace and on match point, Riske returned the serve. It was out. Serena knew it and offered a primal yawp. A clutch win. A valiant fist pump. Just over the sound of the cheering crowd and Serena's entourage, I heard the chair umpire announce: "Game, Set, Match Williams."
God I love that phrase. What an awesome way to conclude an athletic contest. Summary statement to end all. El Fin. Muy bien. Those three words got me thinking about other great terms in Sports and Spirituality. I have a feeling that will be a future blog posting.... I'll concoct some sort of recipe that will outline criteria....but in the meantime, my belly is full. I do however, always leave room for dessert. 

Dessert came by way mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Serena Williams has teamed up with Andy Murray and they defeated Fabrice Martin and Raquel Atawo in a match that had me smiling, yelling, clapping and standing. Too good! Five star rating. Unfortunately, they just lost in the third round, to the top seeds, Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar. 

Enjoy the rest of the week....Bon Appetite!

Photo Credits
Murray and Williams
Serena getting after it