Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tim Tebow and Bobby Douglas

Tim Tebow has moved on from the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets to New England. Bill Belichick may have some great plans for Tebow and it will be very interesting to see how things pan out there. 

Tebow reminds many Bear fans of Bobby Douglass. Douglass was the Bears QB from 1969 to the beginning of 1975. After leaving the Bears, Douglas played for San Diego, New Orleans and Green Bay. Both Tebow and Douglass are left-handed and big men. Tebow is 6-3, 235 lbs. Douglass played at 6-4, 225 lbs and like Tebow, he did a lot of running. For his career, Douglass had 507 completions on 1178 attempts giving him a 43% completion rate for a total of 6,493 yards and 36 touchdowns. In one of his best games, he was 10 for 15 passing—sounds Tebow like? His career rushing yards are more impressive. He had 410 rushes for a total of 2,654 yards and 22 touchdowns. In 1972, Douglass had 968 yards rushing and an incredible 6.9 yard gain per run. It would be decades before the NFL would see another running quarterback of the caliber of Douglass--Michael Vick. Like Tebow, Douglass was a fearless runner. He played aggressively, he was a scrambler and was not likely to hang around the pocket much and take a sack. Although his throwing stats were never great, he had the strongest arm in football and with seemingly little effort could throw a ball 70 yards. Douglass himself said he could throw at least 90 yards and probably 100 in certain conditions. 

The Bears were awful during the years when Bobby Douglass played—they never had a winning season. Watching Douglass many years ago, fans were frustrated with the Bears passing game, but were never quite sure who to blame. The Bears were very predictable. And many times Douglass threw the ball into the hands of the receivers, but his pass velocity seemed uncatchable. A good Bears fan of the era was accomplished at grunts and groans when one opportunity after another seemed to fall by the wayside. Nevertheless, Bears fans of the era knew Douglass was something special, but pundits were never quite convinced he was in the right position. Some thought he would have made a better running back or tight end. But in some ways, he was a perfect fit and personality type for the Monsters of the Midway. Toss reason aside and put your heart and soul in the game! Chicago fans love their teams as long as they are interesting--winning has never been a prerequisite to support. A Bears team with Dick Butkus was fun to watch regardless what was going on offensively. A Bears team with Dick Butkus and Gayle Sayers was great. 

It’s difficult today to know what position Douglass would play in the pros or whether new methods, training techniques or strategies could be employed to make him more successful –who knows maybe some fancy new gloves would have helped receivers hold on to more of those rockets that he threw for passes. It will be interesting to see what Belichick is able to do with a Douglass type talent like Tebow in the 21st Century. I am no genius by any means when it comes to football strategies and plays, but if you go back in history, it was the halfback who threw the football in some of the old formations. In some of the older schemes, teams had two or three players in the backfield who could pass. 

I suspect that Denver could have built a system around Tebow, but the problem with that strategy is what do you do if Tebow gets hurt. I suspect that if a team wanted to create a system with multiple throwing-running backs, it could be done, and it certainly would be difficult to defend against, but it would require a huge commitment. You'd have to pick up multiple passing backs. Every back would have to very mobile and all would have to run and pass well. 

It's not likely Belichick has anything like that in mind. If Belichick is planning on using Tebow in certain situations, the challenge is to keep the team centered on their regular game and somehow avoid distractions. If the plan is to mold Tebow into something more conventional, whether a more restrained quarterback or running back or tight end, that's a long term commitment.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Maddie Takes the Ice On America's Battle of the Books Reading List Again

If you are looking for summer reading for middle grade girls, Maddie Takes the Ice, is an excellent choice. Written by figure skater and skating coach, Nicolette House, Maddie has been selected as an America’s Battle of the Books selection for the second time--now for the 1913-1914 school period. This honor followed two glowing reviews by top figure skating sites. There is enough drama and excitement to keep readers interested while they are being encouraged to learn from Maddie. Sportsmanship, friendship and the challenges of dealing with pressure are all examined in a wholesome yet honest way.

Here’s what two top figure skating authorities have to say: This book is one of the most accurate and "true to life" fictional books about competitive skating…It not only will inspire, but will also give those interested in the sport some insight on what it takes to be a competitive figure skater.— Skating, Jo Ann Schneider Farris House, a psychology major, has done us parents a real favor. Maddie’s teen readers will want to give Maddie advice as they’re reading. .. I like this kid [Maddie]. She and the great psychological lessons in the book make this a worthwhile read.— If you would like more information on Maddie Takes the Ice please see our web site at

If your school is participating in the America's Battle of the Books Program contact them to see if copies are available through the library. Otherwise, the book is also available now through Amazon as both a print book and ebook.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Openers Sound New Start to Another Year of Merkle Misunderstandings

Spring is a good time to write about how Fred Merkle was lambasted for what many people perceive as a base-running error. It is perhaps the most famous story in baseball history, but one that is often misunderstood. Merkle ran the bases pretty much the way it was done in those days.

In Mike Cameron's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle the complete story is told. Yet, Merkle continues to be the butt of jokes on screwball plays in sports. It seems like every time a big-time goof is made in sports, the Merkle base running story comes up.And you can bet that the 2013 season will serve up more stories that will conjure up the Merkle game of 1908 and no doubt most of them will "have it all wrong."

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 players' flight from the field was even more common at the Polo Grounds because once 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.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Now's the Time for Schools and Libraries to Start Planning for Winter Olympic Speakers: Consider Author and Figure Skater Nicolette House

It is not too early to start thinking about the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The 2014 Games will be hosted in Sochi in the Russian Federation. The host city Sochi has a population of 400,000 people and is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia. Now is a good time to book ice dancer, figure skating instructor and Sporting Chance Press author, Nicolette House for a presentation.

Nothing helps energize and inspire students more than a positive role model. In Nicolette's program, young readers get many strong positive messages. Students get a first-hand glimpse of what it takes for a young athlete to compete at a very high level. Nicolette talks about the importance of discipline in practice, the need to respect authority and communicate with Mom and Dad, and the necessity of a healthy diet to be at one's best. Nicolette also talks about how she came to write her book: Maddie Takes the Ice, a compelling figure skating story for ages 8-12 that has received high marks from many reviewers and educators. Nicolette's presentation is suited for elementary and middle/junior high school audiences and parents. It is a fun "show and tell" program that offers an up close and personal look at a positive role model for students.

Nicolette is a figure skater and coach. Nicolette House is a four-time U.S Figure Skating gold medalist. Skating since the age of three, she went on to compete in European, World, and international ice dance competitions. Like her presentation, her book Maddie Takes the Ice keeps readers attention with plenty of drama and social interaction--life lessons included. More on Maddie Takes the Ice. If you are interested in having Nicolette speak at your school or library, please contact us at

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life Lessons and Values from Sporting Chance Press Books

All our books at Sporting Chance Press convey positive values. The idea behind Sporting Chance Press is to produce books that do convey something worthwhile, something that will make the world a better place even if it is in a very small way. It helps to connect the dots from the various sports activities to the values to get the benefit.

In our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball, the connection is very direct in that the book is about Joe McCarthy's baseball principles that can easily be applied to life. The author, J.D. Thorne, has given dozens of presentations on the baseball commandments and the fascinating people whose lives illustrate these principles. He's been to schools, community groups, clubs,  churches and synagogues with his entertaining message.

Perhaps even more easily seen is the value proposition in Patrick McCaskey's book, Sports and Faith. Unlike the other Sporting Chance Press books, Pat's slant is specifically Christian because it is entirely personal to his life and religious commitment.  Pat's subjects demonstrate value in their lives, from Coach Wayne Gordon who founded the Lawndale Community Church to Father Ignatius McDermott, the "Skid Row" Priest. He often features people doing their best for those who are the least fortunate around us.

In Public Bonehead, Private Hero, Mike Cameron examines Fred Merkle's "character assassination" in 1906 when he was labeled 'bonehead" by the press after his performance on the baseball diamond in a critical game. It may have been 1906, but the story couldn't be more timely when we look out a world that continues to haze, bully, and unjustly criticize others. The harm is especially wrong-headed when it is done for a kind of perverted entertainment value. Mike Cameron's fascinating story of good man who faced endless unfair criticism, discloses the harm that we do when we pass along unjust criticism of others and engage in name-calling.

You have to get into Maddie Takes the Ice a little deeper to appreciate the positive messages from this middle grade book.In this way the book avoids turning its highly sensitive audience off. We all know stories about "misfit" kids who are maligned by their peers. In Maddie, Nicolette House explores the world of someone who is not odd or an ugly duckling, foolish or forgetful. In fact, Maddie is a good student, an excellent athlete, and she comes from an excellent home. She is hard working in both figure skating and schoolwork. But the author shows that even in such a positive environment, a young athlete opens herself up to certain pressures, petty jealousies, and other challenges when she attempts to achieve something exceptional. The pressure Maddie puts upon herself is oppressive and it starts to impact her in unhealthy ways. In the end, she learns to seek help from those who are closest to her. She opens up to her mom and her coach, and it makes a big difference in her life.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How Libraries Can Engage the Community

Here are some event strategies that we at Sporting Chance Press have seen work for libraries attempting to engage their communities:

1. Brand your event series. If you brand your events, each time you promote one, you promote the series.
2. Seek a media sponsor for those branded events. If you have a media sponsor, they can contribute to costs and they will most likely be willing to help insure that your events are well publicized.
3. Work with like-minded organizations and mine their relationship. For example, say you have a sponsoring newspaper and you see that a large fitness club is a frequent advertiser in the paper. Seek out a sponsorship relationship with the fitness club as well. The club and the media sponsor can work together to promote your events.
4. Keep your library board and trustees in the loop, especially if you have celebrities coming to put on events. Use the events to strengthen the relationship with the board and give the board members an opportunity to meet with the speakers.
5. Make sure photographs are taken at the event and sent to media outlets. Often post-event publicity is just as important as pre-event publicity when it comes to a series event. This is lost on many organizations, but most media like photos of events and those are often only available after the event occurs.
6. Make sure your event is fun and keep your sense of humor even if you have a low turnout. Give those who attend special thanks and don't be discouraged.
7. Help insure a crowd one way or another. Invite your local high school cheerleader squad or like kind group to kick things off. Photos can be taken for the school paper!
8. Have a prominent place on your library web site for keeping information on a series event, even long after it is finished so people can view the whole program of what you offer over a long period of time.
9. Create attractive posters if you can afford them, distribute them to community sites and keep a copy on  your web site. Use lots of color!
10. Consider the time of your events carefully. If it is easy to have your event at noon on a weekday, but your attendance for such events has been poor, consider moving it to the evening, even if it is not convenient for staff.
11. Consider two speakers with related topics for one event. For example a diet and exercise program with a dietician and a personal training may increase attendance. An author who writes books that appeal to young boys might need to be teamed with an author who writes for young girls if you need to attract school  groups.
12. Put any event disappointments or disasters to the side for a few moments, and think positively for more ideas. You can do it! 

One Thing Learned about Vince Lombardi on the Way to Another Book

Sporting Chance Press has another book in the works, tentatively titled Pillars. It will include a thorough discussion of the top ten coaches in NFL history. The selection of coaches is based strictly on championship wins: Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Guy Chamberlin, Curly Lambeau,  Bill Belichick and George Halas. 

When doing research for our book, we spent a lot of time reviewing mounds of material and eventually got a vision of each subject as a person and a coach. When you are researching someone in modern times, you can also see that person and his contemporaries on film, which is often instructive.  There are many things that strike me about Lombardi, but I will focus on one for this posting:

Lombardi had a core group of players in place when he joined Green Bay and he turned them into a championship team. 

When Lombardi joined Green Bay in 1959, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg,  Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, and others were already on the team. One might say that with those players, how could Lombardi fail. Well, keep in mind that the Packers record in 1958 was 1-10-1 with those players. Bart Starr was not doing very well when Lombardi came on board. The Packers young running back and kicker, Paul Hornung, was not lighting the world on fire either. Frankly, many of the future Packers' stars were hardly glimmering. Lombardi lit a fire under his players like few coaches in history.

Some look at the Packers after the Lombardi championships and they see the collection of Hall of Fame players on the team. They suggest that many coaches would have taken the Packers to the championships, but they'd be wrong. Lombardi simply brought the best out in players, better than most of the players themselves would have thought possible. His fiery temperament at first brought out disdain and hate from many players, but once the Packers started winning, much of the ill will departed and most players came to love the man who had been breathing down their necks every practice.

Some of the great coaches were superb at judging talent, some were organizational geniuses, some were skilled at systems and schemes,  and then some like Lombardi, were superb at motivating men to perform at their best.