Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski

In 1930, George Halas and co-owner Dutch Sternaman of the Chicago Bears hired Ralph Jones, who was athletic director at Lake Forest Academy, to coach the Bears.  Jones made innovative adjustments to the Bears’ offense that gave the team a more mobile attack.  The Bears also added University of Minnesota standout, Bronko Nagurski, who gave the team one of the greatest power-runners of all time as well as a bone-crushing tackler and a terrific blocker.  With Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, and several other excellent players on the roster, the Bears were a formidable power.  

Bronko Nagurski was a one-of-a-kind fullback and linebacker who played in the 1930s.  “Bronk” had the size, strength, and speed of modern fullbacks coupled with the toughness of a freight train.  Like many players of the Era, he played both side of the ball. He was what the media would call a complete player. On offense, sometimes Nagurski would also throw a jump-pass--he would fake the run, pedal backwards, jump for a clear view of the receiver, and throw. He later became a professional wrestler.  He was a professional athlete for three decades.  
If you are every up by International Falls, Minnesota, you might like to visit the Bronko Nagurski Museum at 214 6th Avenue.  The museum is attached to the Koochiching Historical Museum.  Nagurski never moved from the area. He farmed on property his family had owned and ran a gas station. His family donated much of his memorabilia to the museum after his death. 

About my book






Reading Books to Jacob


This is my stepgrandson Jacob and my daughter Alanna at the local Dairy Queen. Jacob lived with us for a year and he loves books. In fact, I often read him 4 or 5 books before bed and it has become a tradition that can't be broken. I would never have thought of reading that many books a night on my own, but he loves to "read" with me and he is a good listener (usually). Jacob comes over every once in a while and often spends several days. I have a hundred or so children's books that I have from my kids and my brother, a national expert in children's books. Jacob picks the books we read and he hasn't found that a problem.

I carry Jacob down the stairs in the morning and everyday I remind him that when he gets really big and strong he can carry me downstairs. Jacob is nearing 5-years old. He is going to be big man. 

As a parent and grandparent, I love the Lyle the Crocodile series, Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp, the Little Critter books, Good Night Gorilla (this was a favorite of Jacob for a long time and it's easy to read), Madeline  (my girls loved these), Moondogs, Harry and Lulu (this one I can't praise enough), Owl Moon, the Charlie Brown booksTommy dePaola books, Richard Scarry, etc.  Everyone has their favorites and kids react to certain ones better than others. They will let you know if they don't like one. You read a bunch and sooner or later you have your lists of favorites.  When my kids were in the primary grades a couple of them had difficulty and we had to read the same book over and over and over.  I hated that because I wanted to read a variety, but for learning purposes, kids are helped by reading the same words over and over--so you go with the plan. 

About my book.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

McCaskey Covers Greatest Coaches on NFL History

Pillars of the NFL covers the 10 greatest coaches in the NFL. For a good strong work on football history, I suppose we could have started with players, teams, or coaches. We decided to start with coaches. Author Patrick McCaskey is the grandson of George Halas and he suggested how we could choose the ten greatest coaches of all time and I thought his idea was brilliant. We chose the 10 coaches by who had won the most NFL championships. 


As we got into our project, we were creating at history of the NFL. It may not have been a perfect history, but reading our book, people would have a good sense of just how the league began, how if functioned in the early days, and how it became what it is today.

We were creating a model that reflected our best efforts towards features and an organization that would work across time because the coaches were from different periods of time. 

We came up with the idea of starting off with a brief "you are there" piece to bring the readers attention to starting out by seeing the coaches as human beings and getting them interested in what makes them tick. For Halas we chose the College All Star Game of  1963 when the Packers lost to the College All Stars. For little known coach, Guy Chamberlin it was difficult.  But the thing I love about Chamberlin is that he was a great coach and a great football player. Chamberlin was a Nebraska farm boy who thought professional football was going to die out. So when his playing career ended and he lost a coaching job, he did not pursue any further jobs in the league.  He went home approaching middle age and settled in.  In our "you are there" section, we imagined his coming back home and looking out on the Chamberlin Gage County farm at the start of another chapter in his life. [After Pillars of the NFL published, Patrick McCaskey spoke about the greatest coaches at the Gage County Historical Society in Beatrice, Nebraska, the area where Chamberlin was raised]

These little present tense clips take a few seconds to read and are very brief, but we thought them worthwhile: The confident Lambeau out on a field in Green Bay; Paul Brown in a classroom; Weeb Ewbank in his office after talking with a players mother; Lombardi at Saint Norbert's College testing his and his players' patience in his endless pursuit of perfection; Noll in his living room at the end of his playing career; Walsh at a critical point in a Super Bowl XXIII; Gibbs at a critical point in a Super Bowl XXII; and Bill Belichick on the practice field being instructive and demanding physical as well as mental play.

After the present tense introductions, the coaches early years and school years are briefly covered. And when we get into their pro careers, we cover briefly their playing career (for those who had one) and their coaching. For some like Brown, following a career that spanned high school, college and pro coaching (in 2 leagues and on 2 NFL teams from the start of the franchises) was difficult. Covering 10 coaches and knowing that readers will not want to get mired in the details, the challenge was always trying to determine how to cover the facts without killing the story. We include a list of key players, which looks innocent enough, but was not easy. At the end of each coaches chapter, we include his contributions and timeline. And more than most sports books, we used endnotes throughout. Covering coaches that include some born over a hundred years ago is not a piece of first-source work (interviews with the coaches and players, etc.). It involved a lot of use of written sources and articles. We tried to include most of those as we prepared the manuscript.

Covering each coach was like researching and  writing a separate book for each one. There was no shortcuts although the written materials are short and sweet.  We also did one other thing that we thought was significant.  We hired a friend of mine, Bill Potter, to draw illustrations of each coach. I have my favorites, but Bill draws in the style of those newspaper artists who would create multi-posed biographical montage that summarizes someone's achievements in a short space.

Pat loves football stats so he also gave us some tables that summarize championship stats. And we also included an 19 page index.

Sometime after we far along on our Pillars book, ESPN created a web site where materials were posted on the Greatest Coaches in NFL History. The site confirmed that we were creating a work that many people were interested in. 

You can enjoy Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by purchasing it from Amazon.  The book is 432 pages in all, paperback, 2014, 6" x  9". If  you would like to purchase quantities of the book, write me at lmj.norris@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chip Off the Old Block by Patrick McCaskey

A book series that I enjoyed as a child was the Chip Hilton series written by Clair Bee, a Hall of Fame basketball coach. Chip was a great sport and near perfect in many ways. He always helped his teammates improve their game and their values. He was one of my heroes and I suppose still is today.

In Book 12 of the Chip Hilton Sports Series, “Ten Seconds to Play,” Coach Ralston evaluates Chip:
“Once in a long time, once in a blue moon, a player comes along with the spark of greatness which can mean the difference between a mediocre team and a great one. This spark of greatness or spirit or soul or genius—call it what you wish—is a combination of wisdom, leadership, intuition, loyalty, and unwavering courage.”

The series is highly collectible and the originals published by Grosset & Dunlap  are out of print. Another series by a second publisher was published in the late 1990s and is also out of print.  But for parents looking for that Chip Hilton experience for their own children, used copies can be found on Amazon, eBay, and others places. 


About Sporting Chance Press:

Our goal at Sporting Chance Press is to provide entertaining books that can give readers a lift in sports and in life. We publish books that give readers insight into the hero within each of us. When sport is at its best, there is a payoff constantly taking shape – a payoff "at work." We are improving—whether it is building self esteem, improving health, developing strong social skills, or learning the habit of achievement. There is a discipline needed in preparing for sports contests and life contests. Getting our bodies and minds in shape for the competition is critical. If we can approach sports training and life with enthusiasm, the contest is pure joy. If we can approach sport and life with passion and not pressure, we can achieve and release that fearless hero within. 
Lawrence Norris

Saint Giles by Santiago de Compostela by Patrick McCaskey



Living in southern France along a Camino route was Saint Giles. According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints, St. Giles was one of the more popular holy figures of the Middle Ages.[i] He lived from the mid-seventh to early eighth century.[ii]  


Saint Giles was a hermit saint. His reputation for piety made his recluse lifestyle impossible when followers joined him. He became an abbot. He lived on a Spartan diet and deer’s milk, an animal with which the saint is often pictured. 


Saint Giles was struck in the knee by an arrow shot by Wamba, a Visigoth King, who was aiming at a deer who had befriended the Saint. Giles accepted his wound as an exercise in humility and suffering. He suffered from it for the remainder of his life. 


King Wamba admired Giles. He gave Giles land for a monastery that became the Abbey of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard.  The abbey is on one of the official routes of the pilgrimage to St. James. The city of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard is a World Heritage Site of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela. 

According to AmericanCatholic.org (Franciscan Media), in Germany, Giles was among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread.


Known for his piety and fortitude, Saint Giles is the Patron Saint of the handicapped, lepers, and nursing mothers. Like many saints, much of what was written about Saint Giles was done hundreds of years after his death and the facts are mixed with legend. Saint Giles feast day is September 1st.


[i] The Middle Ages or medieval period roughly lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. Some historians use the term Dark Ages to denote the earlier Middle Ages from the 5th to 10th century, but it’s use has declined recently.
[ii] Butler’s Lives of the Saints can be found in many different editions and readers have been educated and entertained on the book for many generations. It was written in the mid-1700s. Irish writer Frank McCourt writes in Angela’s Ashes on a visit to the library on a rainy day, “I don’t want to spend my life reading about saints but when I start (Butler) I wish the rain would last forever.”

Copyright 2016, Sporting Chance Press


Sporting Chance Press publishes the Sports and Faith Series of books that centers on Christian Athletes that lead exemplary lives. The Second book in the series is Sports and Faith:More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout published in 2015. Our Next Sports and Faith book is tentatively titled, Pilgrimage.  Look for more information here to follow.


About Sporting Chance Press:

Our goal at Sporting Chance Press is to provide entertaining books that can give readers a lift in sports and in life. We publish books that give readers insight into the hero within each of us. When sport is at its best, there is a payoff constantly taking shape – a payoff "at work." We are improving—whether it is building self esteem, improving health, developing strong social skills, or learning the habit of achievement. There is a discipline needed in preparing for sports contests and life contests. Getting our bodies and minds in shape for the competition is critical. If we can approach sports training and life with enthusiasm, the contest is pure joy. If we can approach sport and life with passion and not pressure, we can achieve and release that fearless hero within. 
Lawrence Norris

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bret Favre Goes to the Hall


This weekend was the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2016 inductions and speeches. 

There was a big crowd from Green Bay on hand to see Bret Favre's enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Favre, a man known for his imperfections as well as his near perfection on the football field, gave a speech filled with child-like enthusiasm for his sport. He thanked the people who supported him in life and spent time discussing his motivation that came in large part from his father, a football coach.

We have published a couple eBooks on some great Hall of Fame Packers before, Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau for Packers who love their history.

Irv Favre helped develop Bret's insatiable appetite to succeed and play. Like Favre himself, his motivations, though tangled in guilt and a never ending sense of "not-good-enough," led to a beautiful player who was a beautifully imperfect human--one that most of us can appreciate.  Favre was the worst nightmare of Packer's opponents, but one that visitors or home team could not take their eyes off.  I certainly couldn't, even as die-hard Bears fan.

Today's quarterback lesson plans seem to call for a machine-like ball tosser who is exploiting the opposing team by throwing with precision with plays that call for deadly plodding up the field. Eliminate mistakes and win. Favre was too fun-loving for such an approach. And on most Sundays his methods worked.  

Brett Favre was certainly one of the best quarterback ever, although he sure threw a lot of interceptions.  In his 20 seasons, he led the league in interceptions 3 times.  His 29 interceptions in 2005 gives him the 12th highest mark for the single season interceptions for all time. If you watched Favre play, you knew he had a gunslinger mentality and he was going to do his best to resurrect a game even if it made him look foolish. And as good as Favre was, sometimes he did look foolish.

Favre had 336 career interceptions. In this way, Favre was a QB equivalent of Babe Ruth. Ruth led the league in strikeouts, but holds several other more coveted records.

But the final tally on Favre has to be a winning number for fans, not his missed marks. Fahre's 1996 Packers won the Super Bowl; his 1997 Packers lost it. In his post-Packers years, in the 1999 season with the Vikings,  his team came within 3 points of winning the Conference Championship against the New Orleans Saints and going on to another Super Bowl.   The Saints were the only team to possess the ball in overtime and won the game on a field goal--this was before the rules were changed to give the opposing team another possession under such circumstance.

Packer fans had to be "in for a penny, in for a pound" with Favre.  He would work miracles in one game with his efforts, though heroic in some ways, and then in the next contest he might take more risks than necessary. But for Favre it was always a game, a sport, and a lifelong love--never a business.


Copyright 2016 Sporting Chance Press 
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Sporting Chance Press's Pillars of the NFL by Patrick McCaskey looks at the great coaches and brings the reader into their world.  The coaches early life, schooling, playing days, coaching days and their contributions to the game are all there for you to see and examine.  Packer fans will appreciate Pillars of the NFL, which includes coverage of Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau.  Order this classic title from the publisher or order from Amazon.

See our eBooks on Lombardi and Lambeau


About Sporting Chance Press:

Our goal at Sporting Chance Press is to provide entertaining books that can give readers a lift in sports and in life. We publish books that give readers insight into the hero within each of us. When sport is at its best, there is a payoff constantly taking shape – a payoff "at work." We are improving—whether it is building self esteem, improving health, developing strong social skills, or learning the habit of achievement. There is a discipline needed in preparing for sports contests and life contests. Getting our bodies and minds in shape for the competition is critical. If we can approach sports training and life with enthusiasm, the contest is pure joy. If we can approach sport and life with passion and not pressure, we can achieve and release that fearless hero within. 
Lawrence Norris



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Charles Henry Noll Grew Up in Cleveland

Copyright 2014 Sporting Chance Press 

Charles Henry Noll is the son of William Noll and Katherine Steigerwald Noll. His parents married in 1917. They were of German descent. Katherine was the oldest of 13 children. Her father Henry built a house on Cleveland’s east-side, and the newlywed Nolls lived there with the Steigerwald family through the Depression. On January 5, 1932, Katherine gave birth to her fourth child, Charles Henry Noll. Charles joined an 8-year-old sister, Rita, and a 12-year old brother, Robert. Katherine and William had another child, Beatrice, who died in infancy in 1928.


The Nolls’ original Cleveland neighborhood was residential with a few factories mixed in. It had a large black population at the time and still does today. Many of the area’s factories are shuttered now, but were operational when Noll was growing up, giving the area a gritty feel. The east side of the city is also known for its lake-effect snow, which often packs a winter punch the rest of the city does not experience. 


Older brother Robert played high school football long before Chuck could even hold a ball. As a kid, Chuck Noll played on a neighborhood football team that included Harold Owens, a nephew of Olympian Jesse Owens, and Burrell Shields, a future half back of the Baltimore Colts.

Growing up on Cleveland’s east side, Noll adopted a “color-blind” outlook at an early age. He retained the outlook as a coach. Noll sought the best players regardless of race. Longtime Pittsburgh sports reporter, writer, and broadcaster, Myron Cope, would say that when Noll looked at players like L.C. Greenwood, a 10th round draft choice, or Donnie Shell, a free agent, his thinking was simply:

Can this guy play? Can we make him a player?

Chuck’s father, William Noll, was a butcher and his mother Katherine worked in a florist shop. William suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which came on when he was still a relatively young man. The disease put additional financial burdens on the family, but everyone chipped in and made due. 

Noll’s sister Rita said:


We never had much, but we always thought we didn’t have to have those things. We had one another, and that is what really made us a good family.
 
The family surroundings may have been humble, but clearly Noll grew up confident and determined to make good.

For a concise examination of Coach Noll's football life, see

Chuck Noll: Ten Greatest Coaches of the NFL Volume 7 (Ten Greatest Coaches of the NFL Series) Kindle Edition

For a print examination of Chuck Noll's football life, please see:

Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Three or More Championships.  

About Sporting Chance Press:

Our goal at Sporting Chance Press is to provide entertaining books that can give readers a lift in sports and in life. We publish books that give readers insight into the hero within each of us. When sport is at its best, there is a payoff constantly taking shape – a payoff "at work." We are improving—whether it is building self esteem, improving health, developing strong social skills, or learning the habit of achievement. There is a discipline needed in preparing for sports contests and life contests. Getting our bodies and minds in shape for the competition is critical. If we can approach sports training and life with enthusiasm, the contest is pure joy. If we can approach sport and life with passion and not pressure, we can achieve and release that fearless hero within. 
Lawrence Norris