Thursday, October 25, 2012

World Series of 2012 and Public Bonehead of 1908

You may have seen stories recently in the sports news on the Giants—Tigers 2012 World Series that refer to the famous Merkle game of 1908. The stories point out that the 2012 Series is the first time the Giants and Tigers have met in the fall classic, but back in 1908, they came pretty close to meeting. In 1908, the New York Giants lost the Pennant to the Chicago Cubs in a special tie-breaker game. The sports stories disclose that the tie-breaker would not have been necessary, had Fred Merkle run the bases properly in a key game on September 23rd.

The Merkle game is one of the most publicized events in sports history and it has as much relevance today as it did back in 1908 when it occurred. The “Merkle Game” was not only a remarkable baseball event in a most remarkable baseball year, but to history buffs it serves as a center point from which we can understand flesh-and-blood Progressive Era America. But, even beyond that, the Merkle Game provides a lesson in bullying for those of all ages. Oddly enough it’s often adults who need more education on the issue of bullying than children and we believe the story of Fred Merkle, Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball’s Fred Merkle can help do that for many.

In Public Bonehead, Private Hero, we have a wonderful adult sports/history book that examines the circumstances and the life of the most maligned and bullied sports figure of all time, Fred Merkle. Mike Cameron's book is thoroughly entertaining, historical and engaging. Merkle played in the era where newspapers were at their most powerful; America was flexing its muscles, Ford was making a car for everyone; and the Wright brothers were proving the potential of air travel.

In the midst of a hotly contested pennant race, NY Giants’ Fred Merkle walked off the base path after the apparent end of a game. He was following the practice of the day, but was ruled out on a technicality. The Giants cried foul, but the press focused its muckraking venom on Merkle, calling him “bonehead.” Public Bonehead, Private Hero reveals how the press never tired of recounting the “bonehead episode” and seeing Merkle relive the ignominy.

Author Mike Cameron discloses that the real Merkle was a sensitive intelligent man who went on with his life to become a great role model for today. Public Bonehead, Private Hero is an excellent sports book that is crisply written and provides a bit of American history on the side. It’s also a book that reminds readers how painful it can be for the victim and family when they are on the receiving end of ridicule especially when it goes on and on.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Mike Cameron's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle and other fine sports books. To order.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Another Thought on the Great Gatsby

There used to a popular TV show that featured a young single Mom and her involvement with a secret agent and the agency (CIA I assume). It was called the Scarecrow and Mrs. King. I liked this show in part because I liked Kate Jackson who played the Mom and Bruce Boxleitner who played Lee Stetson, the "Scarecrow." I also liked Billy Melrose, the boss, who was played by Mel Stuart. The show was of course unbelievably unbelievable, pure escape.

I was bothered by one small item in the show. In TV, sometimes a point must be gotten across in a fast and cheap way and there are ways that this is done. The show kept trying to suggest that Lee Stetson was a suave kind of Jame Bond guy. As a fan of the show, I just don't think they ever made that work. I suppose women certainly thought he was attractive. He was certainly muscular and in good shape, but suave just never seemed to stick to Stetson. Boxleiter was more of a John Wayne kind of actor than a Sean Connery type. Personally, I thought Boxleitner was magnificent along James Arness in the TV series "How the West was Won."

The Scarecrow and Mrs. King TV show attempted to convince the audience that Stetson was suave by visual evidence. They kept putting him in tuxedos. That's how TV sometimes works with character development. Books on the other hand are expected to work a little harder at such things.

More than anything else in a novel, I like a good story. But even the best authors often do not illustrate character traits through action. They may use narrative explanation or other characters' "projections."

In the Great Gatsby, the secret of just who is Jay Gatsby is central to the story and keeps the reader interested. I suppose somethings are revealed in time, but the actual stabs at character development in the book are some of the more interesting aspects of it and perhaps some of Fitzgerald's best writing.

The character of Nick Carroway serves as the narrator and he is an astute judge of character in many ways. He states right up front that his father told him that before he criticizes anyone, he should remember that "all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." But Nick is sometimes judgmental in his narration to others in the book.

Nick gives us his impression of Gatsby's smile a short time after their first meeting. I think it is a wonderful piece of writing. Nick does not let it rest after he says some positive things about Gatsby, but I did think these particular lines that Fitzgerald hung onto the mysterious Gatsby provide a means of understanding what it would have been like to have been around the mystery man.

Nick's response to Gatsby's smile:
...It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced-or seemed to face-the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.


Although Carraway sense of wonder at Gatsby smile instantly evaporates, in this short section, we feel what it was like to meet Gatsby first hand and it serves as beautiful means of character development without Gatsby doing anything more than smile.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ebooks to Eden

I do not believe reading books has ever been very popular. When you consider the number of people in the United States and the statistics that are issued on book reading, it's pretty pathetic. The statistics from different sources do not appear to be very consistent other than most sources seem to show that about 25% of the population does not read a single book a year. It looks to me like about half the population reads less than a book a month and the other folks read more than a book a month. I know when I talk to people about reading books many of them say they skimmed through this or quickly read through that. I think when you ask people how many books they have read, they are not going to be very honest about it.

I've written before that I thought ebooks were OK, but they are after all, well "electronic." And sooner or later, everything electronic gets more complicated and offers more features--they get suped-up. Once you start to promote suped-up books to the public, the ebook will morph into something completely different. Today's ebooks will look like pong games. Children's publishers are creating a much more interactive and exciting experience for kids with ebook-like products and it will only be a matter of time before such products reduce today's plain-Jane ebook market to mush. But the problem that occurs is that once the electronic viewing and information device (my name) and whatever it is that substitutes for books starts to drive the market further and further away from actual words on a page, the actual words become less important--not that words become trivial in all cases, just less important.

We already have works that have for the most part evolved from the book--they are called movies, plays and television. Although no one can argue, for example, that Shakespeare's words in his plays are not central to the experience, in most plays the language is at least in part lost in the movement, action, staging, and other visual elements. Great books often include narration that movie makers frequently cut and a few seconds of film often replaces a page of beautiful prose. I think it's fair to say that ebooks will morph into a kind of eye-candy-coated miniature movie--perhaps with lots of interactions and other things we haven't even imaged. However, the ebook will be so far removed from a book, marketers will stop calling them ebooks altogether. (Won't they soon be calling those little thin wafers so prevalent today something other than phones?)But for now, ebooks are riding the coattails of centuries of book-making and book-writing.

I am not suggesting that plays, TV and movies cannot be wonderful experiences in themselves, I am just saying that when we lose the written word found in books, it will be a great loss. On a positive note, when future polls set out to find out how many "books" Americans "read" in a year, if the experience becomes as passive and brainless as watching a bad TV show, that 25% of former non-readers may rack up as many "books" as everyone else.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Great Gatsby Alert: You Saw It Here

Right next to my bed I have a pile of books that I have been working through. Just recently, I pulled out my copy of the Great Gatsby and put it in the pile. I wanted to reread the part of the book that describes the bespectacled eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg that are on a sign in the midst of kind of dead man’s land of ashes that the characters pass through between more attractive destinations. I think way back when we read the book for school, someone had said something profound about the sign and its meaning in the story.

One of the characters in the book is Tom Buchanan a former college football star whom Fitzgerald tells us is one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anticlimax.

A couple days ago, I came across a web site that allows teachers to post some ancillary materials to sell to other teachers. I wondered if Gatsby is even assigned these days. I don't recall any of my kids reading it in high school English. It turns out there were many Gatsby ancillaries, so apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is alive and well in many schools. In fact, interest in Gatsby may just explode next year as yet another Gatsby movie is coming out in May 2013. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Gatsby and Toby McGuire plays Nick Carraway, the book’s narrator and main character. I checked on WorldCat and there are well over 5,000 libraries that have the Great Gatsby book. There are roughly 1000 foreign libraries that carry it.

Having worked in a bookstore for several years, I know when book is made into a movie, there is often a new edition issue with a new cover featuring the movie images and new price tag as well. Librarian who like to plan ahead for displays may schedule work on a Gatsby display--perhaps featuring a roaring 20s kind of theme with flappers, long luxurious automobiles and other images of the era. If the movie does well it is likely to rekindle an interest in the book. Of course, if the movie bombs, that’s a whole other story. Library patrons might be more interested in Goofey than Gatsby.
Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 Commandments of Trick or Treating: Kids Guide to Halloween

Sporting Chance Press publishes The 10 Commandments of Baseball, which inspired us to produce the Halloween Trick or Treat guidelines that are listed below. This is not a complete list and it does not include the serious stuff like don't eat any candy that looks weird or is unwrapped or don't go to the strange houses. This list is strictly for fun, but offers some good ideas none the less. Here are our 10 Commandments of Trick or Treating.

1. Nobody becomes a Trick of Treat legend by slowly walking from house to house. You've got to hustle--nothing dangerous or stupid mind you. Make sure your costume does not inhibit your vision or movements--and don't go jumping over any iron fences with pointy things.
2. You will never get a lot of candy unless you put some effort into it. Call out "trick or treat" loudly and proudly. Don't be one of those "I'm too good to say trick or treat" or "thank you" kind of kids. Make the master or mistress of the house want to give you the candy.
3. Don't soap windows and egg houses. If you come to a house where the people don't give candy or they left a bowl of candy on their front doorstep and the earlier kids emptied it out, don't waste any time soaping up the windows or knocking their pumpkins over, etc. What's over is over, move on.
4. Make sure you look good at all times--take pride in your Halloween appearance. Don't be one of those kids who wear their regular clothes and put on a monster mask and then tip it up to the top of their heads like sunglasses so no one even knows what you are supposed to be. Life requires creativity and effort.
5. Decide on the course you are going to follow and stick with it. Be decisive. Don't go down a few houses on one block and then skip over to the next--willy-nilly criss-crossing the street. Make sure your parents know where you are going.
6. Don't make excuses about your costume or how little candy you end up with in your bag. Achieve good results by great effort. Resist eating mounds of candy while you are still raking it in.
8. Don't shout "Trick or Treat" once and then give up. Give each house you visit your best shot at finding someone home. Shout a couple times. Some kids sound the words out to make the words longer: tri-i-i-i-ick or tre-ee-ee-eet. Now that's hard to ignore.
9. Don't criticize the master or mistress of the house based on the candy you get. Don't be one of those kids who say stuff like, "Oh, I don't like Bit-o-honey" or "Sugar Babies stick to my teeth." No matter what the brand, take it and express gratitude. Remember, you don't have to eat everything you get. Maybe your parents like the stuff that you don't!
10. Maintain control at all times. Work fast, hang with good friends who behave themselves and get home when you are supposed to get home. It's a lot more fun that way and it just isn't cool to scare your parents on Halloween by being late.
Copyright 2011 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cutler and Romo Walk Fine Line in the Media

Jay Cutler expressed his frustration in the Chicago Bears early-season loss to the Green Bay Packers when he gave a "shout out" and bump to left offensive tackle J'Markus Webb. Webb had the unenviable job of blocking the Packers' Clay Matthews who was credited with two and a half sacks. Two weeks later, in Monday night's impressive Bears win in Dallas, Cutler was noticeable miffed and disrespectful to Bears Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice. Cutler was clearly getting some coaching as Tice sat next to him on the sidelines after a failed third-and-short play when Cutler jumped up out of his seat ignoring Tice in front of national television. Both Tice and Cutler have stated that there is no rift--it was not a big deal. Tice suggests that he had already belabored a point to Cutler. Cutler called it a non-issue all the way around. Of course, we sit in front of our TV sets assuming that Cutler knows how bad this looks on TV, but it must seem a lot different on the sidelines during the contest.

Without having any inside information, it seems that Cutler gets frustrated with the pace of Tice's play-calling. Choosing the best play for each and every down can be a daunting job these days especially when a coach must concern himself with not only the success of the play, but the endless expert analysis and game postmortems that follow each loss.

Cutler, of course, is under great pressure and scrutiny himself. Quarterbacks are measured with a rating system as well as the final score. They also are credited with an incomplete pass when a receiver misses the ball regardless of the accuracy of the throw. For Cutler, the attention routinely goes beyond his performance. He's been criticized for being stoic in defeat one week only to be criticized for being over-the-top emotionally the next.

If the Bears miffs and muffs seemed to have gotten some attention here in Chicago, the talk in Dallas must be wildly animated in comparison. It would seem to me that the one person saddled with the heaviest burden was Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo. Rarely will a quarterback play well when his receivers drop catch-able balls and mess up on their routes. Yet, much criticism seems to fall on the "inconsistent Tony Romo." I think there are a lot of NFL teams who would love to have the Cowboys "inconsistent" quarterback. The Bears were only leading Dallas 10-7 at half--not exactly a blow-out. I think if the Cowboys receivers would have played better, the game would have been a lot tighter rather than a 34-18 blowout.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press, Inc.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways. Order online.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wilson Footballs and the NFL

I recently saw an official NFL football that had been used in a game and was given to the parents of a serviceman who had died in the line of duty. It was given to the officer's mom and dad by a Bears player and it was obviously something they treasured very very dearly. There was a question that the mom had concerning some numbering on the ball and I wrote Wilson to figure it out and they were kind enough to provide an answer.

I suppose for some people, the mere mention of markings on a football may seem a trivial topic in the face of tragedy. Yet, sports often invokes powerful feelings and profound meaning for fans. In sports, there is often relief to those who are suffering and inspiration for those who are feeling unimportant. For many others it just takes them away from the cares of everyday world.

I can remember my dad at a stage in his life when he was battling disease, sitting in front of the TV set during a heavyweight boxing bout moving his shoulders back and forth unconsciously mimicking the moves of one of the fighters. During football games you might see him thrust forward in his chair to add strength to a quarterback sneak on third and one. At one time he had been an athlete himself and he could somehow relive it watching sports on TV. I have come to understand that even things that might seem trivial can connect us with those things we deem most important in life. So here is a trivial posting about footballs that I hope will mean something more to some of its readers.

Wilson Football Facts

The official football of the NFL since 1941 is the Wilson football and for any sports lover who has seen one, it is a thing of beauty. Each NFL team receives 108 game footballs a week. Half are used for practice and half are used during the weekly gridiron contest itself. Special balls used by kickers are marked with a "K." These balls are delivered separately to the officials' hotel room about two and a half hours prior to kickoff to avoid any player "doctoring." Special precautions are taken to prevent tampering with the game balls as well.

Balls are handcrafted and marked with the date of their making using a number scheme that follows the letters "WK." The numbers indicate the month and year the ball was made. Wilson footballs are made at a special football factory in Ada, Ohio that employs about 120 people who make 700,000 footballs a year for the NFL, the NCAA, many high school associations, American Youth Football and others. These workers are special people who develop exceptional strength in their hands, arms, fingers and wrists depending upon their part of the operation. From what I have read, they love and revere their work although it is difficult and demanding.

The NFL ball was lovingly named "The Duke" in 1941 at the recommendation of George Halas to honor Wellington "Duke" Mara, the son of New York Giants founder Tim Mara. Wellington Mara led the Giants for decades and was inducted into the NFL Hall of the Fame like his father Tim. Wellington Mara was known as a man who was committed to the good of the league, the game, and the spirit of its people--both athletes and fans--more than the profit margins of his franchise. The Duke model was replaced by another Wilson ball after the 1969 season when the NFL and AFL merged. In 2006, Wilson again used the name "Duke" for the current NFL ball to once again honor Wellington Mara who passed away in 2005.

Every October, NFL footballs take on a new appearance and a new mission. Game balls are produced with pink ribbon decals to support breast cancer awareness. These footballs are used in games and subsequently auctioned off as part of the NFL's support of the fight against breast cancer. Again, there is profound meaning and emotion in a football.

Wilson is owned by Amer Sports of Helsinki, Finland. Amer Sports is a sporting goods company with internationally recognized brands including Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Arc’teryx, Mavic, Suunto and Precor. In 2011, the company’s largest markets were the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Canada and Austria. Wilson Sporting Goods corporate headquarters are in Chicago.

On a personal note, I'd like to express my appreciation for Amer Sports keeping their football manufacturing operation here in the states. We can use those jobs!

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press, Inc.


Sporting Chance Press publishes fine books on sports that are entertaining to read.  See them here

Monday, September 24, 2012

Merkle Game Revisted: September 23rd Each Year


We reached another anniversary of the famous Merkle Game yesterday--September 23rd. This day is the anniversary of the game that started it all. Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron wrote the book on Fred Merkle. Literally. We call it Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.

On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran against the mighty Chicago Cubs of Tinker, Evers and Chance fame. The pressure was on when Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1. With two outs and Moose McCormick on first, the youngster rifled a single to right field easily advancing the slow-footed Moose McCormick to third. Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell, up next, whacked a low liner that knocked the second base umpire down on its way to shallow center field. As McCormick crossed the plate with the “winning run,” Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse.

Modern fans know that even if a team scores on such a play, the all base runners need to advance to the next base and tag it to avoid a force-out. The score is nullified on the force out.

Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different. Merkle was called out, the game was ruled a tie, a protest ensued and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series.

Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead" from coast-to-coast.

Each year, the Merkle game is discussed in TV and radio booths, in newspapers and in other printed and electronic venues. Media contacts looking for a Merkle expert can write us here at Sporting Chance Press (lmj.norris@gmail.com) to set up interview time with Cameron who is happy to help explain the context of the game and what happened to Merkle during and after his playing career.

One of Merkle's greatest fans is David Stalker of Watertown, Wisconsin. Watertown is the birth place of Fred Merkle. David is a sports historian who has been instrumental in honoring many of baseball's greatest players from the Deadball Era. Here is the Facebook page that shows the monuments that David has put up. Here's a wonderful short piece on Fred Merkle written by David.

You can get the inside scoop any time by simply ordering your own copy of Public
Bonehead, Private Hero at Sporting Chance Press.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Friday, September 21, 2012

When the Sharks Come Sniffing

My last few posts have examined sports metaphors that have application to business and education. This one does as well.

Professional sports teams benefit by athletic development and training in college play and in the case of baseball, the minor leagues. In similar fashion, big business gets plenty of help in product and service development through small business. Although big business does not have much "skin" in the small business development engine, they certainly benefit from it. Businesses that may not be very good at organic growth and spend little on new product research and development, can still compete with new products and services through acquisitions. In our legal system and economy, they are able to pick and choose from hundreds if not thousands of small company opportunities.

To illustrate this point, say there is a company that offers textbooks and needs to develop new services to teachers that will attract adoptions and cement long term relationships with it customers. Often, textbook ancillary development can be more expensive than textbook creation itself. The textbook publisher acquires a company that has developed software that allows for easy creation and sharing of custom media-rich test bank questions. This new software may be the latest and greatest of many generations of such software developed over years. The company that is acquired fought its battles in the trenches with a few dozen other companies--most of which have gone out of business. The large publishing company buys the small company for an amount that equals four times its annual revenues. By making this kind of acquisition, the large company avoids a decade of new product in-house research and development work that may have cost the company ten times what they paid for the successful company they acquired. Besides, the small company already fought its competitive battles and has developed a winning product that is in demand. The large company represents a huge segment of the market and the remaining independent test bank providers are essentially driven out of business within a few years.

The down side of this kind of product development for the economy is that hundreds if not thousands of small business employees receive little reward for their part in the process just when the products in their marketplace are at their most valuable. They were not on the winning team although they may have contributed greatly to the competitive process that led to the state of the art creation on the part of their competitors. In the end, they lost their jobs, and the entrepreneurs who developed the products, lost their capital. Developing new product offerings by acquisitions allows companies to avoid traditional research and development expenses.

An athlete can be like that small company that has a terrific product of service to offer a team. Athletes of course now have agents who help them understand their potential value to a team and negotiate accordingly. A small business should be aware that there are professionals who can help them understand their value to a large company just like there are agents who represent athletes. The small business value to the acquiring company may be much greater than the small business assumes.

In business valuation, at the most basic level there is what is called a rule of thumb valuation. A retail business for example may be valued at 3 times annual revenue by a business broker. A hot dog stand may be valued the same way using a different multiplier--say 2.5 or 3.5 times revenue just for illustration. Rule of thumb valuations are fairly simple and are generally used in traditional small business sales. Businesses may use different and much more complex methods that require a complete business valuation report based on special standards and performed by a business valuation expert who is likely conversant in both accounting and finance. A business valuation collects an exhaustive amount of data and also makes a series of adjustments that allow values across a long period of time to be compared. For the small business that becomes a target of a large enterprise, a good business valuation can also look at something that might increase the sale price--the value of the business to the potential buyer. They may look at the projected value of the enterprise to the buyer.

Revenues from the small test bank ancillary company mentioned above, may have been limited to a small customer base. But if one of the largest publishing companies in the world was going to offer the product to its customer base, the value to the large company is likely to be many times over the calculation using the multiplier. When the sharks come sniffing by the small business pool, it may be time to call in the reserves--the trained certified business valuation expert. Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Large Corporations Buy the Best of Small Business: Not Quite Like Farm Teams in Sports

Successful professional sports teams often benefit from the development of players at amateur levels. Professional football players hone their skills in college and most everyone wins. College players often receive an education through scholarship and the college itself often benefits from the "gate" and media rights to the games. In some sports like baseball, professional teams have established "minor league affiliates" that continue to develop players who are not quite ready for "prime time."

Large corporation of most every type have their "minor leagues" as well in small business, but they don't have much skin in the game. Despite what is often presented in the media and political circles, small business isn't called small business for nothing. In good times, sources indicated that about 2/3rds of all business fail within 10 years. Entrepreneurs often use up their own capital in these exercises and despite the fact that employment gains may be present, employment loss is almost assured when working for a small business.

During our recent recession, small business failures rates are thought to have increased in some areas by 50%. Logic suggests that such failures may be about as under reported as unemployment statistics. People have a tendency to drop under the radar of unemployment statistics after they have searched for so long. Some small businesses may be kept alive under poor economic conditions for any number of reasons that have little to do with potential success.

The constant turn of small businesses is a boon for big businesses especially in technology. Large companies can make up for creative lapses that can drag down organic growth, by buying creative new products and services through acquisitions. Many large companies can invest much less in internal research and development processes because they sift through the work of hundreds or even thousands of small companies and purchase what they need. The failure rate of small business that develop new technologies is appalling, but the continued incubation of new products by small companies insures the success of large non-innovative companies who grow by acquisition. Big slow "Sumo-sized" businesses can grow today as long as they are able to buy the creativity of others and leverage their size to throw opponents off balance. One has to wonder, what would happen to employment figures if large companies were taxed on such poaching efforts so heavily that they were forced to develop their own products and services.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Good Habits Make Good Students, Athletes, and Organizations

Most people know that good activities that might be difficult at first to practice become engrained in us after a certain amount of repetition as habit. Once an activity becomes a habit, it seems easier to perform and difficult to end. Sporting Chance Press author, J.D.Thorne, (The 10 Commandments of Baseball) likes to advise, "practice the difficult and make those good things which are difficult a habit." Thorne uses the example of a baseball first baseman who gets plenty of practice catching balls on bad hops. Chances are, that first baseman is going be very good in game conditions when his infield teammates have to throw under all kinds of situations.

Pursuits Outside of Sports

In pursuits outside of sports, the same dynamic is found, but good habits must be accompanied by good judgement. For example, in business, the MBA tool set was touted as the answer to all business problems for decades. But in time, business school practices were maligned in large part because of overuse. The problem comes from how the tool is used, not the tool itself.

Business schools preached the use of profit and loss reports for all individual company offerings. Yet, regardless of how disciplined an organization, those reports must be read within the context of the business conditions at the time. A product introduced during an economic slump, a product that was delayed due to a leadership change, a product whose costs doubled due to a temporary parts shortage--these products must not be judged like other products produced under ideal business conditions. Creating the P & L is the good habit, but using the figures indiscriminately is folly.

Yet, a bigger mistake is made if managers decide to forgo the P & L, because "they are just not accurate in today's business climate." This is a sloppy habit of neglect.

In MBA-speak, the term "activity standards" is so simple yet groundbreaking for a business operation. Activity standards are those things that need to be done in business when triggered by a certain event or decision. For example, when a new product is introduced, a press release is issued; a planned advertising campaign is launched; and the new product is put up on the company's web-based catalog. If an organization creates activity standards, but lets them lapse or does not adequately support them, the organization gets into sloppy habits and its business will suffer. A business that does not review and enforce its activities standards over a period of time will be troubled.

For kids, activity standards are just as important. Following each school day, a child needs to spend a period of time set aside for homework. Each new morning signals the need for kids to make their beds. A responsibility may be given to a child to take care of a larger project each week on Saturday. The challenge for parents is working within so much school schedule shuffling that inevitably goes on in schools today. Again, good judgement is required to determine how and when the activity standards can be applied.

It's difficult to establish habits when schedules are so often in flux. It's difficult to establish good habits when a student might need to be at school one day at 6 a.m. for band practice and then must stay that evening for soccer. Difficult as good habits may be to establish in a modern home, if they are not established, kids will suffer. Good habits lead to accomplishment and reinforce responsibilities, which in turn build self esteem.


Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press
Image of farm boy doing early-morning chores, Library of Congress.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Technology Can Encroach on Education: Use Technology Sensibly

I have written a number of posts stating that athletics can be used to improve achievement in academics. I believe that many athletic principles can be viewed as life principles--and coaches, parents and teachers need to point this out to their kids. It's an age old idea--see if you can instruct and motivate kids to perform in school with the same effort and passion that is relatively common in sports. I like to mention that our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball offers some great principles that can be used in academics and other areas for improving achievement. Unfortunately, we are swimming against a technology steam in many ways.

I find more and more that countless commercial and media messages advocate technology to fix most every problem in our world today (there's an app for that). I am not against technology, I am just against the idea of humans being led by it in their every activity. Our world is beginning to look more and more like the setting for a tragic science fiction story.

If you are breathing and blinking today with real lungs and eyeballs, you know there is a lot of money behind technology. If you are not living in a virtual world using a phone that is smarter than you, texting people the minute you wake, and maintaining constant contact with your peeps even if it's to just say you ate wheat toast and yogurt for breakfast--well you are just not tuned in. If you dare speak against such practices, well, you are just one of those hopeless people who can't deal with life in the real world. Similar messages are being sent to teachers these days with respect to life in the classroom.

If you follow education news, you know many people are constantly advocating new technology to improve academic achievement. There is huge money in education despite what anyone says about budget constraints. Technology pundits advocate that schools buy software to test Johnny to find out if he can read or not-- and then buy more software that can teach him to read. Lately there is also an effort to develop software to determine if Johnny's teacher can teach. You can see where this is headed in part. "Get a test score printout, fire the lowest quartile of teachers."

Teachers unions of course are not buying it, but all I can say is keep your eye on the money. Prepare yourself for studies to show that technology solves one problem after another. At some point, education technology studies may make the drug developers blush in comparison with their brazen claims. Perhaps at some point the tech companies may face the same barrage of personal injury suits faced by the drug companies.
"Your honor, my client was injured by Professor Bucky's Beanstalk Learning Program that failed to improve his understanding of adjectives, which has subsequently cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings."


I have a friend who is a math tutor and I believe after a session or two with a new student she can tell what the student needs to work on. She does not need an expensive software application that might require that she double her rates and align herself with one of those tutor franchise operations. She does not need a personality analysis or advanced programs on curriculum -- she sits right next to her students and gets to know them well. She knows the curriculum in the district and her students have their own textbooks that she is familiar with. It doesn't get much more personal than that. I make this point not to disparage tutor companies, but to suggest that tutoring does not have to be something only millionaires can afford. If technology makes education advances, but makes those advances unaffordable, it simply should not be used. Do we want an education system that looks like our health care system? Something that looks good in theory, but bankrupts the country.

Reading of course is a big deal in technology products as well as endless amounts of special programs and attention is provided at schools. A few of my own kids have benefited greatly from reading specialists. But when I talked about reading to a friend who has four decades of experience in teaching and administration, she cautions that many teachers today are not being trained properly in how to teach reading. The best reading practices and skills of regular elementary teachers are being lost in some programs as reading is becoming a specialty and one that is danger of being driven with technology and not teachers. The more education students have to spend on learning new technology, the less time they have to learn the most important teaching fundamentals. For every action there is an equal and ....

I hope it all gets sorted out soon. One thing I know is that if we see that teachers coming up in the ranks are the caring decent hard-working people that have traditionally populated the profession, they will find a way to teach our kids if left to their own initiatives. On the other hand, if we put our kids future in the care of corporations who by the very nature of their structure, are focused on increasing revenues and market share, pushing profit margins and beating competition, we are in trouble. Corporations are not going to change their stripes because they are working in education--that's just not how it works. We cannot expect them to be anything except what they are.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Technology in the Classroom: Professor Swift's New Method to Increase Test Scores

I have written a number of posts in which I have espoused the idea that athletics can be used to improve achievement in academics. I posited that many athletic principles can be viewed as life principles. Often I point out that our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball offers some great principles that can be used in other areas for improving achievement. I find more and more that others advocate technology to fix most every problem in our world today.

If you follow education development, you know many people are constantly advocating new technology to improve academic achievement. Essentially, they advocate schools buy software to test Johnny to find out if he can read or not-- and then buy more software that can teach him to read. Lately they also advocate software to determine if Johnny's teacher can teach.

There are many stories on recent education technology developments. Here are a few items that I spotted:

1. States are collecting test data, but not very good at using it.
2. Software that can predict behavior—predictive analytics—can help schools see what lies ahead for students by looking at how they have done in past.
3. More frequent testing is needed so that more frequent intervention can be used at more frequent intervals.
4. Studies are looking at a value-added model for teacher valuation. The model first predicts student's future achievement based on past performance and then measures any upside in the actual future performance under a specific teacher.

After reading articles on these developments, my head started to spin--were any of these initiatives worthwhile? When I can't figure things out, I sometimes call an educational guru that I know, Professor Johnny Swift of Dublin. I wanted to share my recent line of inquiry with Swift here:

SCP Larry: Professor, studies are showing that in some places much education data is being collected on student performance, but not used. What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: Data will always run free and have its own way. Collecting data is like collecting field mice in your house and then letting them go free in the back yard. They only get back into the house and poop all over it. You have to kill the data or stop wasting your time collecting it.

SCP Larry: Professor, much is being written about predictive analytics--looking at what's gone on with students to determine future outcomes. What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: Well, I used to think that understanding how a student did in the previous grade was helpful. But then there were many researchers saying that a teacher was better off having no preconceived notions. They said that students performed to levels of teacher expectation so keep the teacher ignorant of any past experience. I am glad to hear it's going back to the old way, know your enemy before the term starts and plan accordingly.

SCP Larry: Professor, how about the idea of frequenting testing that can lead to more frequent intervention? What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: I always gave my students a lot of tests and found frequent punishment was better than just giving them a whack every once in a while. But I don't like the idea of computers to help me--they just screw up too often and it's always bad when you whack the wrong kid. If you don't want to correct all those papers, have the student up at the chalkboard and if they screw up you can see it real time and punish accordingly.

SCP Larry: Professor, what are your thoughts on the value-added model for teacher valuation. This model predicts student's future achievement based on past performance and then measures any upside in the future performance of the same student under a specific teacher.

Professor Swift: Ah yes, we did this long ago in our fresh air room classes.

SCP Larry: How did that work professor?

Professor Swift: Well, we used to take poor students who did not respond to our various methods and toss them all in one classroom. Then we'd open the windows wide. The idea was that if we couldn't teach them anything, they'd still get plenty of fresh air to breathe. Every once in a blue moon, we would take a student from the fresh air room and toss them into a classroom with an actual teacher. Against all odds, if that student improved, we would increase the teacher's salary by a dollar.

SCP Larry: A dollar an hour?

Professor Swift: No, a dollar a year. We weren't made of money in those days you know.

SCP Larry: Professor, you were famous for your proposal on how to reduce the number of poor children back in Ireland. Any big ideas for us here in the states on education?

Professor Swift:Yes, I have one idea that is guaranteed to increase test scores for many years. Throw the lowest 10% of the students out the door each year. Chase them away from the school building and make sure they don't come back. You'll see your average test scores jump right through the ceiling.

SCP Larry: Can technology help in this effort?

Professor Swift: Yes, use a shredder to destroy their student IDs on the way out.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life Lessons from Father Joe Freedy

In Patrick McCaskey's book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, Father Joe Freedy is the first athlete featured in the book and his image appears on our cover. For Sporting Chance Press Talk, we have been writing recently about life lessons learned in sports and Father Joe's story is worth repeating here.

Joe Freedy was a typical young man in many ways, yet he was exceptionally gifted in athletics. Coming from a strong Catholic family, he was expected to go to church and practice his faith--although young Joe Freedy was going through the motions. Like many of us, he was attracted to those things young people find exciting--the admiration of our peers, parties and the thrill of being a big shot. But once on scholarship at the University of Buffalo, he was "hitting" just 1 for 3. Although he was an excellent high school athlete, he was so far down the depth chart, he had about as much chance of playing in a game as the team mascot. He was not the admiration of his peers nor was he a big shot. So party he did.

After his red-shirt freshman year, a series of mishaps to every quarterback ahead of him on the depth chart reminds one of Old Testament stories of Divine Intervention in battle. Joe Freedy was thrust upon his team as the top quarterback. When the rubber met the road, young Freedy worked extremely hard and was up to the task. He excelled. At the same time, a young woman came into Joe's life and also helped him find his way. A third positive influence was his dad and one of his dad's books that helped him make sense of a faith he had taken for granted.

In the next few years in school, Freedy would develop a sense of priorities that included faith, hope and love over fun, self gratification and recklessness. For Freedy, sports had pointed in one direction at one time in his life and then pointed in another. His path led him to a life of service. The discipline required of Freedy to develop into a true Division One quarterback in the face of many challenges and mistakes comes in handy today in his new job--Vocation Director for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Freedy still holds records at the University of Buffalo and the track record of vocation growth at the Diocese of Pittsburgh looks bright as well.
Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways. Order online.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Important Life Lesson from Sports

I began a recent writing campaign to once again suggest to my school contacts that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. I wanted to key on one sports lesson that I think is especially timely today. As I've mentioned in several recent posts, sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book: The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.

One of the baseball commandments from our book is:
9. Do not find too much fault in the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you.

The problem in blaming the umpire is in part that you might be making an excuse for losing or poor play. But perhaps more important than that, it can become a habit and a bad one at that. Some sports psychologists point out that athletes with higher skill levels generally look at internal explanations for sports outcomes (The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports: A Self-Help Guide, Larry M. Leith). Others may look at external explanations. When athletes look internally after a loss they can focus on things they can do to improve. When they focus on the external, they often blame other players or conditions and are thus not so likely to seek to improve their own performances. In other words, better athletes take wins and losses personally even in team sports. Better players make fewer excuses.

What a great life lesson is conveyed in this commandment. No matter what we are doing, whether learning a new skill, developing a new business, or seeking a better job, if we find ourselves pointing at external reasons for not succeeding in our efforts, we are doing nothing to improve the outcome through our own adjustments and efforts. In fact, we are probably just wasting our time. The person we can most change is the one who stares back at us in the mirror every day.

Kids, of course, need a lot of positive encouragement and they need to know they can succeed. But we don't help them when we teach them to make excuses--the way many of us adults do ourselves! For kids, success requires learning how to succeed. And kids learn how to succeed when they do things themselves, when they take the necessary steps for success--set goals, study, learn new skills, practice and work hard to achieve.

Yes, one important lesson from sports that everyone should learn at a very early age is that we are most likely to improve "our game" when we start with ourselves and look internally rather than seek someone else or some other conditions to explain our performance. People who succeed at sports and life focus on improving themselves.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.

Image at top of post is from the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Teaching Kids Values Through Sports

I began a recent writing campaign to once again suggest to my school contacts that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. Sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.
It seems to me that almost everything that's important for us to pass down to our kids cannot be accomplished strictly by lectures or what I would call a frontal assault on kids brains. From our ideas on character to our desire to see our kids learn the benefits of hard work, from our faith to our valuing a good sense of humor, most everything we deem important cannot be passed on to another generation by simply touting it.
You hear a lot about learning through the use of games today in school--like this is something new because much of it will be done on computers. Good teachers have known from the earliest days of education that you have to work some fun, some culture, some real life experiences into those lesson plans. In the new testament, Jesus told parables to get His lessons across. The Old Testament is full of songs, stories and poetry for the same reason. Even the most profound and valid ideas the world has known need interesting stories or experiences to get them across.
Rather than conflict with studies and other pursuits, we believe sports can help motivate kids and be used to teach principles that will be helpful in all walks of life. Sports lessons can be life lessons. But it's going to take some effort. From the PE instructor to the coach, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to connect the dots for kids. For example, if kids are not taught the connection between teamwork on the field and teamwork off the field, they may miss it altogether. If players are taught to look out for their teammate in the game, but someone is not there to enforce the same principle to help kids look out for others who are being bullied, a great opportunity is missed. If an student learns not to deride a fellow player who makes a mistake, that same student ought to be told that the same principle holds true in the classroom.
At Sporting Chance Press we are doing our bit to help connect these lessons through our books, but a coach, a teacher, an aide, and a parent can make a greater contribution. Competition is a key ingredient in sports and it is one of those things that will be with us until the end of time in life as well. Most people in sports and physical education believe that without competition, sports lose much of their attraction and power with kids. But schools need to build in other goals for their sports and PE programs--and be serious about those goals. A ten minute pep talk on fighting bullying is going to help...a little. But the values we want our kids to embrace need to be emphasized and acknowledged by those who run the programs repeatedly, just like drills that are used for skill building. But the one thing we all should never forget is that in sports lessons can be fun and engaging. In soccer for example, there are drills that show how three players who are working as a team can pass the ball back and forth to frustrate a two-man defense. A coach might simply ask the kids at the end of a practice if they can see how this kind of teamwork may help in other areas of life to get kids thinking about the power of helping each other out. It can be that simple, but repetition is key. Values must be built into all programs and never let go.
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. Image at top of post is from Library of Congress: School kids in Maine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lessons for Starting the School Year Off Right

Kids need to get off to a good start in school. At Sporting Chance Press we believe that sports can help. Rather than conflict with studies and other pursuits, we believe sports can help motivate kids and be used to teach principles that will be helpful in all walks of life. Sports lessons can be life lessons.

At Sporting Chance Press our books serve a purpose, to improve people's lives, to promote the good, but at the same time we want our books to be accessible, entertaining and interesting. Perhaps there is no better book on sports that meets this criteria than our first book: The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.

McCarthy's principles are simple statements that guide athletes, but also can be used to help kids understand what they need to do to achieve in the classroom. Below is a list of McCarthy's principles and suggestions on how these can demonstrate life lessons for kids when properly "coached" by parents, teachers and coaches.

McCarthy's 10 Commandments of Baseball



1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.


Kids learn to hustle in sports. Kids who succeed do; kids who don't hustle, fall behind. Kids who hustle in school will improve their schoolwork and other pursuits.

2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.


Anything that's worth achieving, takes effort and perhaps more than that, takes some risk. Just like an athlete needs to risk failure by taking the bat off the shoulder to hit, a student needs to raise a hand in the classroom, answer questions on a test, and respond to homework. In sports, kids learn to step up to the plate, it's really the only acceptable action for a batter. Shouldn't we teach kids that they need to do the same in class?

3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.


This classic sports statement tells us that at some point, you have to cut your losses and look forward not backward. It tells us not to get too clever with our play. In school, if a kids misses an assignment, admitting one's mistake and looking forward is what a student needs to do--as opposed to continuing an effort to dissuade blame.

4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.


Just as an athlete wants to maintain self confidence by staying alert during a game, so to should students want to listen, respond and work hard so they achieve. If a student achieves in school, they keep their head up and not down. Like an athlete, a student who feels achievement in the classroom is more likely to seek more.

5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may have to change a good leg for a bad one.


Indecision can hurt an athlete, it can hurt a student as well. A good student will decide on a topic for a paper, meet peers on time in a group project, make time for studying when there is time, and by doing these can control his or her destiny.

6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.


In sports, the good player admits a weakness and decides to improve--learning to do the difficult. A good student, admits his weaknesses as well and sets out to improve skills and knowledge.

7. Always run them out, you can never tell.


Kids learn to not give up in sports. The extra effort it takes to excel may come at the end of a play, the end of a game, or the last moment of a season. The same is true in school. As the term wears on, it might be tempting to ease up on homework or studies, but it pays dividends to keep going.

8. Do not quit.


Similar to running them out, kids learn to grow in sports by finishing what they start. Kids who quit in sports often find themselves moving from one activity to another--and failing at everything. And just like quitting in sports, quitting in other activities may seem like the easy way out, but often it just amounts to a bruised and battered ego that may never repair itself.

9. Do not find too much fault with umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you.


Evidence in sports shows that players who look outside themselves for reasons for poor play or results are not the best athletes. The best athletes focus on improving their own game rather than making excuses. Sports have also demonstrated that players who get upset or annoyed over officiating are likely to perform at less than peak levels. Only those who can shrug setbacks off and focus on the game do well. Yet how often to people respond in ways that harm themselves and their "teammates" in sports and in life when something seemingly unfair occurs. A student who constantly argues about grades needs to be redirected to focus on what he or she can do to improve--reminding these students of how the best athletes approach setbacks can be valuable. Parents who encourage such arguments over "umpiring" and "grading" might also be advised to look at this principle.

10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

Self control is key in sports. An even temper, steady effort and self control is what leads to success. In life, controlling our impulses and building emotional maturity is key. Despite how some athletes may function in various states of maturity, the best ones are under control.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. Image at top of post is from Library of Congress: School kids in Maine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Success in Small Things: Lessons from Sports and Slumping Athletes

Honus Wagner Works the Basics (Bain Collection, Library of Congress)
In The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life), there  is a very brief section on "running 'em out" in which fighting off a slump is discussed. Nothing is more frustrating for an athlete than a slump. Suddenly, a good hitter just can't "buy a hit" or a good pitcher seems to have "lost his or her stuff." It seems the harder the player tries, the worse it gets. A slump can make the news and be a sore subject with a coach who is asked daily about when so and so is going to "come out of it."

How do you get out of a slump and regain your confidence? You don't put a lot of pressure on yourself to somehow get more hits or pitch better. You work on the basics. Are you practicing good mechanics? How's your footwork? Are you swinging level? You go back and practice the basics, over and over again until you are sure that you have them right. Once you have confidence that your fundamentals are in order, your game comes back.

Of course, slumps are seen in other sports as well. You often see football players at skill positions who have a few bad games in a row. In one game a quarterback completes nearly every pass and then misses most everyone in sight other than the defensive backs the next. You see a running back who gains over 100 yards one game only to average 2 yards per carry the next week. At least in football, a player generally has the opportunity to focus on the small things for a number of practices before the next game. Film can be studied. A quarterback will work on his footwork, his timing, his release and other basics. A running back may ask himself if he was patient enough? Was he following his blocks? Was he predictable in where he was running. But his coaches may have him running basic drills that focus on cuts and quick movements.

Hockey is like baseball, a seemingly never ending series of games with short intervals inbetween. In hockey, goalies can be very streaky--shutting out the opponent one game and then a human sieve the next. But it's not easy to work the kinks out in a day. The next game is always just around the corner, but somehow they manage.

Working on fundamentals to improve performance is one of those sports lessons that can also help us in other pursuits as well. If things aren't working well, maybe its time to look at the basics rather than focus on improving the end game. We can break things down and work on the basic parts of "our game." It's not rocket science, but it's one of those good sense ideas that can help us be more successful.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Psychological Lessons in Bears Preseason Loss to Denver

Many Bears fans weren't rattled by the Bears losing to Denver 31-3, especially when so many top Bears starters were out: Brian Urlacher, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Julius Peppers. But what are the lessons in the loss?

Some sports psychologists point out that athletes with higher skill levels generally look at internal explanations for sports outcomes (The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports: A Self-Help Guide, Larry M. Leith). Others may look at external explanations. When athletes look internally after a loss they can focus on things they can do to improve. When they focus on the external, they often blame other players or conditions and are thus not so likely to seek to improve their own performances. In other words, better athletes take wins and losses personally even in team sports. Better players make fewer excuses.

Some argue that athletes need to be able to blame losses on external factors to preserve their own egos and confidence. They say a confident player is a better player.

This is true, but if athletes look externally too often, improvement is not likely to follow. There is no better time than the preseason for players and coaches to look at individual performance and seek improvement. The fact that many of the top Bears did not play in the Denver game should not be used by players and coaches to excuse the loss. The loss should provide more reflective thinking and more determined action to improve. Bears coaches and players will no doubt spend much time looking at film and evaluating individual performance--not just for roster placement, but for pinpointing things that individual players need to address in the coming weeks.

The preseason offers some woeful spectator experiences. But on a positive note, a great deal of improvement and adjustment can be made before the pundits come down so hard on athletes once the season begins. In preseason, new players can be "making improvement;" during the season, the same players might be described as "washouts" or "disappointments." Things get harsh very quickly in professional sports. An emotionally healthy NFL athlete will look at his performance throughout the season critically, but use his assessment and his coaches assessments to map out where he needs to improve and what he needs to do to get there. Team members must support each other and play unselfishly, but they must pay the most attention to their own performance and progress. Perhaps there is not better summary of this approach than New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick's famous mantra "just do your job." Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways. Order online.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Product Management, Technology and Sports Metaphors

Developing new business opportunities and making them succeed is critical to today's companies. How it's done is something that changes every so many years. Many times, new methods come to light when a management consultant writes an article about how a company or entrepreneur has developed new procedures that create great new products or services. Others join the information fray and soon a new management theory is explored, analyzed, mapped out and processed for consumption.

At some point, the new development is taken out of its own specific context and a new "generic" process is created that allows people in any organization to manage products using it. Process allows product managers from consumer electronic companies to manage medical equipment products. It allows product managers from sausage companies to manage cosmetic companies and others from law practices and shipbuilding to manage sports franchises. Often product managers are neither content experts nor particularly creative. They are excellent process people who are often supremely confident and forthright.

Big organizations have big challenges. Expectations of double digit growth in the weakest of markets often fuel desperate management hyperactivity without much rational thought. Processes must be running full speed at all times. What will be our latest new product? Run a needs analysis and focus groups to find out. Hire consultants who can take the process deeper. Who should we hire to lead us to new heights? Define each position by a standard certified skill set and hire those who possess the latest credentials in the area. For more sensitive higher positions, hire consultants to manage the search. What should our goals be for the new initiative? We want to be the "state of the art" provider of such services and products. How do we define state of the art? Hire consultants to define it for us.

How do organization manage, or more to the point, how do they promote product development hyperactivity? They organize business units and groups according to markets so they can be staffed with product managers. PMs are often given authority to shake off everyone who wants to do anything outside the core goals and push everyone to work longer and harder to develop, produce and market product. In many ways, process is king in many product management driven organizations.

But...... Company leadership should take note that the folks in silicone valley have found a lot of flaws with making process king. First, almost all new initiatives fail. If you just line up your initiatives in a product road map and keep processing them, you keep heaping failure upon failure. Things change too fast to think you can line up your ducks and keep firing at them. Those involved in new technology find that you need to pencil in a list and keep making adjustments as you go along. It almost works counter intuitive to old project management principles. Hard and fast doesn't work so well when everything around you is constantly changing. Product definition may need to change as you move along. Some products need to be dropped altogether. A product manager's job today requires a continuous eye on product definition and market changes. Product Managers need to work much more collaboratively with project managers as well as engineering, content creators and others who actually create the product or service.

What about product discovery? How many times have you used a test version of software that constantly seeks input on making things better? Silicon Valley product development has used an ongoing process that continues throughout the product development time frame called product discovery. This is essentially an ongoing communication and testing by potential customers of a new product or process as it is being developed. Yep, it is a process. But if it is done right, it is not so much like other processes that grind outside inputs into a hash that can be served in a preconceived shape. Product discovery can be just good communication and ideas that help you get it right. This is likely one of the greatest innovations in technology sector product management.

Genius trumps process. Next, in silicone valley they find that creativity trumps process when ideas come from the top innovative giants in an industry. When a company is led by an innovative genius, the best approach is to adapt the process to what your genius envisions. Follow the leader and adjust as needed. Genius is in fact, genius. Manage your processes around such people. If your product managers decide to push these people around...well you are going to have problems.

Oops, our customer just died! Another problem in the ever-changing business of product management is changes in the marketplace. These can happen in a matter of days or weeks today. Many companies might seem "too big to fail," but more than likely they may just be "almost too big to fail." Product plans often need a Plan B for a marketplace adjustment.

The problem has gone away. Another thing that happens in business today, is someone else may solve the problem before you in a better, faster, cheaper way. Maybe there is not much that you can do about it, but it may require that you dump what looked like a promising product before wasting more time and money.

Silicon Valley is not unique. The people in Silicon Valley believe their business is especially challenging and their methods have to be more nimble and faster than other markets. I am not so sure. Technology is a modern Medusa that both attracts and haunts most every type of business today. Education, medicine, accounting, book-selling, government, automotive repair, movies, telephones, and so many other industries are tied at the hip to technology. The entire notion of Silicon Valley as the cradle for technology development is itself a notion that is out of date. Such development must live with business today wherever that business is conducted. Product managers today must work much closer with everyone else involved in product creation and marketing. They can no longer crack the process whip and simply keep everyone in line focused on static products, project and goals.

Sports Model. I found an interesting post on product management certifications at the Silicon Valley Product Group site. Silicon Valley Product Group (SVGP) is a company that helps other companies develop successful new technology products. I recommend you visit this site for lots of great posts.

As a sports publisher, I especially liked SVGP's Marty Cagan's statement that a product management model cannot be cloned from what another company does. I read this to mean that product management is not all process. He goes on to write that product management is like running a sports team. He says skills are important, but ..."winning requires having a game plan or strategy...working well as a member of a team, adapting to your opponent, the playing field, and the conditions."

Too often in my own career have I seen product managers who were not team players. At Sporting Chance Press we believe that sports provides many lessons that can be used in life. Sports competition and contests as a metaphor for life and business struggles often allows us to see things more clearly. Our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball, for example is chocked full of sports metaphors that are simple life lessons. Every product manager should read it!

Below are the sports principles upon which our book is based, McCarthy's 10 Commandments of Baseball. We'll let readers think about how these principles may be applied to their own responsibilities in the modern workplace.

McCarthy's 10 Commandments of Baseball:

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. Do not quit.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

U.S. Women's Soccer Win Over Canada in Olympics Reminds Some of Merkle Game

On Monday, the U.S. Women's Soccer Team defeated Canada in a very tough contest that featured several come-backs on both sides. Both teams are known for their tough physical play and this one was no exception. It will also be remembered as one of the most exciting soccer contests in Olympic history--a game that went down to the wire and beyond.

The scoring began when Canadian star forward Christine Sinclair nailed a shot into the left side of the net after moving around the U.S. defenders right. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe scored the first U.S. goal off a corner kick. Sinclair put Canada up again when she headed in a cross from teammate Melissa Tancredi. Rapinoe scored again when she let fly a long-distance shot that bounced off the left post into the net. Canadian Christine Sinclair countered by a heading midfielder Kaylyn Kyle's corner kick a few minutes later for a hat trick.

It looked grim for the United States late in the game as they trailed 3-2 when an indirect free kick in the box was awarded as a result of Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod holding the ball too long in perhaps a tactic to delay the game. According to some reports, the U.S. players had openly complained about McLeod's holding the ball for long periods during the match and one of the officials had warned the goalkeeper. According to some sources, the goalie was blatantly violating the rule throughout the game. Additionally, according to some sources, when the infraction was called, she had held the ball for 15 seconds, over twice as long as the rule allows.

On an indirect kick, no goal is awarded unless the ball contacts another player before crossing the goal line. In soccer, players stand the allowed distance from the kicker on an indirect kick forming a barrier. This is where you see players put their arms behind their backs to avoid using their hands or arms to deflect the ball and get called for a "handball." A handball called inside "the box" results in a penalty shot. In this case, the indirect kick shot out towards a Canadian player who turned to avoid getting hit straight on and her arm contacted the ball. This is exactly the play that teams dread when defending an indirect, but this is how it works in soccer. Such contact is routinely called a handball at high levels of play and it resulted in a penalty shot. Abby Wambach tied the game when she nailed the penalty kick. Both sides had opportunities during the extra time allowed, but it was Alex Morgan who headed a cross from Heather O’Reilly over the Canadian goalkeeper for the win in the waning moments.

The U.S. Team heads to the gold medal match against Japan. The game was played at Old Trafford, the home field for Manchester United. The gold medal match is Thursday, August 9, at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Canadians were frustrated. Christine Sinclair made a comment that referee Christina Pedersen who made the call against the Canadian goalie had “decided the game before it started.” Remarks like this often result disciplinary action. The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has stated that they are not in a position to take action prior to the bronze medal match between Canada and France on August 9th. Some suggest that this is a concession to the Canadian team. It should be noted that Sinclair is a veteran professional soccer player who has played for 10 years on the Canadian National Team.

It's hard to argue that the calls went unfairly against Canada when the goalie blatantly disregarded the rule even after she was warned. Also, another play has gone viral since the game that shows Canada's Melissa Tancredi apparently stomping on Carli Lloyd's head that was undetected by the officials. Many have made a case that the stomping was the biggest miss of the game by the officials. Many believe Trancredi should have been ousted from the game. Like Sinclair, Trencredi is another veteran player who plays professionally. in fact many players on both teams have extensive professional experience.

Some posts indicates that Trancredi made negative comments to the referee about favoritism towards the United States. If this is true, one would imagine that some disciplinary action may result.

We are reminded by Erich Murphy of the Pontiac Daily Leader in his August 7th post that the rule enforcement in the U.S.-Canadian game is somewhat reminiscent of the famous baseball incident by Fred Merkle that has been immortalized in thousands of newspaper accounts, books and postings--as well as our book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero.

Fred Merkle, was a young 19 year old New York Giant who was filling in for an injured veteran in an important game against the mighty Chicago Cubs in 1908. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning in the Polo Grounds. Merkle who was on first, walked off the base path and ran to the clubhouse after the apparent end of the hotly contested game when a teammate on third scored on a base hit to the outfield. Merkle was called out for not tagging second based on a rule that was rarely enforced (if ever) under the circumstances at the time. The flight from the field was even more common the Polo Grounds because the second a game ended a large part of the crowd exited right through the field. In those day, if fans didn't like a player's performance or an umpire's call, they might take it up with them right on the field seconds after the game. In some ways, you would have been a "bonehead" to stick around after a game!

The main reason why Merkle was called out that day is because Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers had primed umpire Hank O'Day for the call by discussing the particulars of the rule after a similar situation had occurred when the Cubs played the Pirates a few weeks earlier. A baseball article had also appeared in a newspaper question and answer feature calling attention to the rule and thereby calling attention to its obscurity and lack of use at the time.

Because thousands of fans had run onto the field on their way to the exits, the umpire ruled the game a tie rather than attempt to have the crowd return to their seats for extra innings. Merkle's team cried foul, but the press focused all of its muckraking venom on the unfortunate Fred Merkle and christened him “bonehead” for the remainder of his life. Merkle became baseball’s number one scapegoat and obviously continues in that role over 100 years later despite the efforts of Mike Cameron and others to set the record straight.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Mike Cameron's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle and other fine sports books. To order. Of course, there are also several great differences between the Merkle call and the one that went against Canada in the Olympics. Unlike, the Canadian goalie, Merkle's infraction was a one-time occurrence that came without any warning. In Merkle's case, the ruling negated the winning run--in the case of the Canadian loss, the ruling was just one point in a series of mistakes. A second mistake (handball) was needed to cause the damage and the game went on another ten minutes plus extra time before the United States scored again to cement the victory.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press