Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jeremy Lin's Story Continues

Jeremy Lin Featured in Documentary
Jeremy Lin is an interesting man and NBA player.  His parents came from Taiwan to settle here in the United States where Jeremy and his two brothers were born.  His dad loves the game of basketball; it rubbed off on his kids.  Mom supported anything the kids did that was positive as long as they kept up on their grades.  Jeremy is a devout Christian and he thanks God for the good things in his life.  He does his best to cast off doubts and discouragement by falling back on his faith. 

The Lin's settled in Palo Alto and Jeremy became a basketball star in high school.  In his senior season, 2005–2006, Palo Alto soared to a 32–1 record and beat a powerful Mater Dei High School, 51–47, to win state in their division.  Although considered by many to be one of the best players in California, Lin did not get much scholarship attention going into college.  High academics, intelligence, and a superior work ethic made an impression on Harvard and he went out east without a scholarship. 

Lin was an excellent college basketball player and his height settled in at 6-foot-3.  The All Ivy League guard became one of the best all-around college players.  In fact, he was the first player in the history of the Ivy League to record 1,450 points (1,483), 450 rebounds (487), 400 assists (406) and 200 steals (225).  Lin has great respect for his Taiwanese parents and their ancestors who go back to various parts of China, but he is very much an American.  Lin does not look like an NBA guard except when he is on the court.  And many people have misjudged his abilities based on his ethnicity.   He has had a rocky career and his play never seems to be appreciated any place for long. 

Un-drafted, Lin has struggled in the pro game since he was originally signed by the Golden State Warriors in 2010.  Playing in San Francisco with its large Asian-American population was marketing heaven and NBA hell for Lin.  Every time Linn got into a game, the home crowd would often erupt in applause, but it was a pressure cooker of a place to play.  Lin was not suitably prepared for NBA competition.  He was back and forth between the Warriors and their "D" League  team, the Reno Big Horns.  In the off-season, he improved his strength and skills that needed work.  Lin had always been  relentless at practice and preparation.  Yet, Golden State released him before his second season although he was much better prepared.  Lin was circling at a certain contract level in the NBA that is vulnerable.  Players at a certain depth on the squad can be signed and released very quickly.

The Houston Rockets picked up Lin in December 2011 and released him a few weeks later.  The New York Knicks picked him up, but were in no hurry to use him and it looked like he might get cut again.  Injuries and a horrid clutch of losing games helped get Lin some playing time in February 2012.  Lin played  like a super star and his blistering point production helped the Knicks crack-off 7 wins in a row.  He continued to run red hot, although he struggled with turnovers.  The term "Linsanity' was coined for Lin's fantastic play and later a Linsanity documentary with that title would be produced that covered his story.   In March, Lin injured his knee and surgery put an end to his season.  In New York minute, fans were treated to a phenomenal performance, but at season end, Lin was a restricted free agent.

Words cannot describe the incredible shots that Lin as able to make in all kinds of odd angles and positions for the Knicks.  In so many cases, he would be driving towards the basket, fouled and falling, but would somehow be able to toss the ball up at an odd angle and see it drop through the hoop.  He also dazzled the crowd with great passes and a determined super high energy play on every inch of the court.  Lin  also hit key "three pointers" and game-winners for the Knicks during his "Linsantiy" period. 

The Houston Rockets made a excellent bid for Lin's services that the Knicks failed to match.  Lin played hot and cold for the Rockets, suffered some injuries, and was traded to the Lakers in July 2014.  Many believe he has both the physical gifts and the work ethic to play very well for the right team.   Most believe that he has to settle down and play more composed.

Will the Lakers give him the opportunity he needs?  He needs to reduce his turnovers and improve his foul shooting.  But, he also needs to feel secure for an extended time and he needs a long-term home base--things not necessarily readily available to NBA players.  Analysts suggest that Lin has been trying to recreate his magic NY moments, but that bar is a little too high.  They believe that he has repeatedly put too much pressure on himself and when he does, it actually hurts his play. Most players suggest that when Lin's confidence is up, he is hard to stop.

Best of luck, Jeremy Lin.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

This post was created for our next Sports and Faith book by Patrick McCaskey, due out later this year. 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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Noll's Success Started with a Different Approach



The greatest coaches of the NFL had different approaches and vastly different personalities.  The Green Bay Packers had dominated much of the 1960s and in some way Lombardi had redefined the public’s view of the great coach as motivator. The Packers’ great coach of the era, Vince Lombardi, recalled the brilliant oratory of coaches like Knute Rockne. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Coach, Chuck Noll,  did not motivate his team by speeches, but he did inspire. He was able to communicate by a few words and example. Like the best coaches, Noll taught young players what it meant to be a good football player as well as a man. He exuded a maturity and toughness that players could understand. 

Steelers’ running back Rocky Bleier would say that Noll would simply tell the team before a game that they had practiced what they need to do and they need to just do it, to execute. At halftime, Noll would talk about adjustments and basically say the same thing; they now know what they need to do, and they need to just execute.

Linebacker Jack Lambert liked Noll’s approach because it worked with many different types of players—he was able to keep everyone on the same page.   And Noll was able to win without leading cheers in the locker room at halftime. 

Noll was also looking for new talent for the team--he needed many more good players before he could contend.  If he had the players, he believed he could coach them in his own style. 

The Rooneys had made overtures to Bill Nunn, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Sports Courier, who covered black colleges and their talented players. Nunn did some work for the Steelers beginning in 1967 and expanded to fulltime when Noll arrived, looking for players from schools that had been overlooked. Initially, Noll would focus on defense. He would say: Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it.  Success would come from getting the best players and making sure they had the right preparation. 

With Nunn helping scout players, the Rooney's support, and Noll's coaching skills, the Steelers would soon be on their way to championships.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press.   This post is taken from a new book called Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey--available at  Burghardt's Sporting Goods in Wisconsin,  a growing number of select stores in Illinois such as Lake Forest Book Store, Millikin College Bookstore, C & A Inspirations in Champaign, Love Christian Center in Kankakee, the Little Way in Crystal Lake, St. Anne's Gift Shop in Orland Park,  the Christian Shop in Palatine, and more.   The book can be bought online as well on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

George Halas's Contribution to the Game



George Halas coached for 40 seasons and accumulated 324 wins, 151 losses, and 31 ties. The Bears won six NFL Championships with Halas as coach and two more as owner. He was enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame’s charter class of 17 members on September 7, 1963. Halas was named AP Coach of the Year, the Sporting News Coach of the Year, and the UPI NFL Coach of the Year for the 1963 and the 1965 seasons. If anyone could be called the Father of the NFL, it would be George Halas. In this way, his nickname, Papa Bear says it all. 

Halas loved the fans and was dedicated to his friends, family, and faith. On Thursday, December 10, 1981, Halas appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., with Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue.  He explained how the NFL was like a wheel: The league was the rim and the teams were the spokes. If you have a weak spoke, you have a weak wheel. That’s why the teams with the worst records get to draft first. That’s why the league schedules the games instead of the strong teams just playing each other. That’s why the teams share the television money equally. 

Halas and a small group of men developed the framework for professional football in the most humble circumstances—a meeting in a car showroom in Canton, Ohio. It took decades to make it work. No one worked as hard or as long as Halas.  He never really retired from football. Any awards and honors that came his way would take place during his “career.” 

When he received the Sword of Loyola at the Conrad Hilton, he said:  



Sixty years ago I offered my heart and my helmet to the Lord. My heart is still beating and my helmet still fits. I pray the Divine Coach finds me worthy to be on His first team.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press.   This post is taken from a new book called Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey--available at  Burghardt's Sporting Goods in Wisconsin,  a growing number of select stores in Illinois such as Lake Forest Book Store, Millikin College Bookstore, C & A Inspirations in Champaign, Love Christian Center in Kankakee, the Little Way in Crystal Lake, St. Anne's Gift Shop in Orland Park,  the Christian Shop in Palatine, and more.   The book can be bought online as well on Amazon. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bears-Packers Rivalry



The Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals are the two original professional football teams that survive from the first national team organization that was established in Canton, Ohio.  The organization was called the American Professional Football Association (APFA).  George Halas in particular was not fond of the name; the league leaders changed it to the National Football League in 1922.  

At the time of the league formation, the Cardinals were called the Racine Cardinals because most of its players came from Chicago’s south side around Racine Avenue.  This has confused people from the beginning—even an official league document has “Wisconsin” typed out after “Racine.”  Eventually, the Cardinals moved from Chicago to St. Louis and then on to Arizona.  Certainly, the rivalry between the Bears and the Cardinals was passionate, especially when they were competing for the loyalty of Chicago fans.  Never-the-less, the Packers-Bears rivalry exceeds all others in the NFL for intensity. 

APFA’s first season was in 1920. The Packers joined the fun a heartbeat later in 1921.  Green Bay newspaper man George Calhoun was perhaps the prime-mover of the rivalry.  His fiery articles in the Press Gazette did much to get the fans’ blood pumping.  The Chicago Tribune stoked the fire in the Windy City.  George Halas remembered feeding Chicago newspapers stories about the Bears using hyperbole generously.  But he and other early pro football managers were fighting an uphill battle in the press because the college game was king and would remain so for decades.

Newspapers and every other media continue to stoke the competitive fires today over 90 years later. The Packers and Bears coaches and players continue to maintain the rivalry that is considered without exaggeration one of the greatest in all sports. 

Lambeau-Halas: A Personal Rivalry 


Modern fans may not appreciate the fact that there was also a strong personal rivalry between Lambeau and Halas.  In many ways, the rivalry may have been more about their likenesses than their differences. Although Lambeau only owned the Packers for one season, he was the face of the Packers and managed the team for decades as if he was the owner.  Lambeau and Halas faced each other on the field as players during the first decade and as coaches for many years.  Although football consumed both men, they both had successful business careers outside the game.  They were competitive in all they did.  Both men also had very strong ties to their communities.  Lambeau was synonymous with Green Bay.  He put Green Bay “on the map.”  Halas loved Chicago unconditionally. In later years, Halas patiently remained in Chicago while teams all over the country were moving their operations and stadiums to the suburbs.  

Lambeau and Halas attended rival universities and were excellent college athletes who played under legendary coaches. Halas had attended the University of Illinois where he played football under Coach Bob Zuppke.  Lambeau had played at Notre Dame under Coach Knute Rockne.  Both Lambeau and Halas came from immigrant families with hardworking parents.  

At some point, Lambeau and Halas took different paths.  The Green Bay story of the small city taking on the big boys would draw national attention to Curly Lambeau.  Some would say that Lambeau “went Hollywood.”  Movie-star handsome, he would seem to fit right in with Hollywood celebrities, but it did not last for long.  He spent much of his time back in Wisconsin keeping an eye on the team he had devoted his life to—the Green Bay Packers.  After his death, the name Lambeau Field would honor his memory.  Even after Vince Lombardi renewed the Packers franchise and dazzled NFL fans for a decade like no other coach had before him, Lambeau would continue to receive credit for his early work. 

Halas would not stay home with his Monsters of the Midway either in that he went to the Pacific during World War II, his second term in the service.  Following the end of the War, Halas went directly back home and to the Bears and winning football.  His position as league founder and owner would also keep a good part of his attention drawn to league business. 
As the NFL moves towards its 100 year anniversary, the Bears-Packers rivalry remains one of the most heart-felt themes in football.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press.   This post is taken from a new book called Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey--available at  Burghardt's Sporting Goods in Wisconsin,  a growing number of select stores in Illinois such as Lake Forest Book Store, Millikin College Bookstore, C & A Inspirations in Champaign, Love Christian Center in Kankakee, the Little Way in Crystal Lake, St. Anne's Gift Shop in Orland Park,  the Christian Shop in Palatine, and more.   The book can be bought online as well on Amazon.