Mike Rice Followup

The responses to my post on the firing of Mike Rice (April 18th) were varied but most seemed to have questions about the decision.  There was also comment on the sharp line between being a tough coach and being a sadistic one.   

Sooooo — if you were Tim Pernetti, the Athletic Director of Rutgers (who was just lauded for getting Rutgers into the Big Ten), would you have fired Mike Rice?  Hmmmm??  Tim Pernetti did not fire Mike Rice.  He suspended him for 3 games and fined him $50,000.   But after the media got hold of the story, Rice was fired.   Then Pernetti was fired for not being “tough” on Mike Rice.   Was that right?   If you say “yes,” I would be critical of your decision unless you know the background of this story.   

When the videos of Mike Rice’s antics (antics which players said were rare) came to light last year, Tim Pernetti consulted the Legal Department of Rutgers – and Human Resources – to get their input.   An independent investigator recommended the suspension and fine.  John Wolf, the General Counsel of Rutgers agreed.  Pernetti thought the suspension and fine were enough.  Legal agreed.  HR agreed.  The independent investigator agreed.   What happens?  Mike Rice was suspended.  And fined.  But — our wonderful media got this story.  And smelled news.   Played it up big.  And made Mike Rice and Tim Pernetti bad guys.  Scapegoats.  The media didn’t give a hoot about background.  And truth often gets in the way.   So Mike Rice was fired.   And then Tim Pernetti was fired – even though he acted promptly and went through proper channels.   John Wolf the General Counsel then resigned.  And Rutgers is in the doghouse.  Many of the righteous ones “tsk tsk.”  But they never heard the whole story.  And perhaps don’t care. 

So what does this say about us?   The notions of fair play, reason and trying to do the right thing?   What does it say about giving a fellow human a second chance?  The words and actions of Mike Rice were not defensible but when an oversight consortium makes a reasoned call on what should be done, should their decision be given deference?  Or should our highly-biased media serve as our nation’s appellate court?  I don’t often give editorials but this post probably qualifies as one . . . .      

42 Degrees

I walk from my house to the train and from the train station downtown to my office.  Three plus miles a day.  It’s fine in the summer and shoulder seasons but the winter is something else.  I do not like the cold. But the cold doesn’t really bother me.  Unless there’s wind. . . .

Up until about ten years ago, my threshold temperature was 42 degrees. Over 42 degrees and – if I was wearing a suit or sport coat – I would wear no overcoat or trenchcoat. Under 42 degrees, I wore a trenchcoat.  One winter, I went all the way through wearing nothing but a trenchcoat. Wait a sec – let me rephrase that. I wore a trenchcoat AND a suit, shirt, belt, tie, socks, shoes and my Jockey Juniors.  These days, as age inches upward, my threshold temperature is more like 50 degrees.  Or more.  Even when it’s over 50 degress, I sometimes bundle up like Admiral Byrd.   When it hits 80 degrees, I’m just ducky.    I still don’t like the cold but it’s not bothering me less and less. . . .  

The Star Thrower

One of my favorite short stories is “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977).  The author gets up early one morning and goes walking a beach at the coast.  The gray fingers of dawn barely touch the horizon.  It is dark but he can see that the sand is covered with starfish – live starfish being swept in by the tide.  He keeps walking. 

Off in the distance on the beach, he sees a figure that stoops — and throws.   Stoops — and throws.   The author continues walking.  And as he approaches the figure, he sees that it is a young man.  Who is picking up starfish and slinging them back into the sea.  As he reaches the young man, he stops and watches.  The author looks at the young man and says “look at the beach.  It’s covered with starfish.  What you’re doing doesn’t make any difference.”  The young man looked back as he picked up a starfish “you see this one?  It makes a difference to him” and he threw the starfish into the waves.

To me the message is so powerful it brings tears to my eyes.  What are your gifts?  What do you do well?  What do you like to do?  What lights your fire?  What can you do to make a difference?  We are each blessed with special gifts.  Talents.  Abilities.  We may not be able to throw a starfish into the sea but we may be able to throw a lifeline to some person.  With a kind word.  A generous deed.  It may not mean much to us.  But it may make all the difference in the world to someone else.   

The Firing of Mike Rice

The slurs are one thing. They are degrading, insulting and unnecessary.  Mike Rice should be on the carpet for that.  Fired?  I dunno.   For words?  Should one be able to say “I’m sorry – it won’t happen again?”   And be forgiven?  You ask forgiveness on Sunday at Church or on Saturday at Temple.  And you are forgiven.  You get out of prison and you’re back in society.   You are rehabilitated.  But it seems like if you say the wrong word, the political correctness police condemn you forever.   

Mike Rice also pushed players.  Threw basketballs at their legs.  Yelled at the players.  We’re not talking the violence and mayhem you see in the NHL (“Number 43 – 2 minute penalty for high sticking and attempted murder“) or the disgusting displays of savagery and bloodthirst one sees in ultimate fighting.  As to coaches, I think about Bobby Knight — not the most reserved of coaches when dealing with players, fans, referees or the media.    I also think of my high school football coaches who shall remain nameless — who got in your face, turning purple with rage.  Grabbing, shoving, swearing, pushing and so on.  I think too about the 6th grade lesson I learned from Mrs. S (see post of November 23, 2011).  I had pushed Tim H. in the girl’s bathroom and held the door closed.  Mrs. S grabbed my shoulder, spun me around and slapped me so hard my ears were ringing.  Yet it was an epiphanal moment.  A Damascus Road conversion.  She wasn’t a coach — she was a teacher.  And by darnit, she sure taught and I sure learned. . . . .  So do players.  It is interesting to hear some of the Rutgers’ players actually defending Mike Rice.  Listen to their words. . . .     

For me, the operative question should be what crosses the line for a coach? Obviously coaches – and players – want to win. But sometimes if players need extra “encouragement” is it okay to provide some tough love?  Yelling, screaming and swearing?  Pushing?  Tossing a basketball?   I don’t like it but is it wrong given context?  You tell me. . . . . .  

200 Posts

This is my 200th post. I never thought I would have so much to say.  It is actually kind’ve fun trying to ponder new and quirky topics which may be of interest (“renaissance-esque”). And then trying to write something which is cohesive and coherent.  And keeping it under my self-imposed limit of 300 words. 

I have some “subscribers’ plus another 30 to 50 receive copies of each post.  And each day I get between 5 and 300 “hits” on my website.  Average is maybe 20.  The most hits came on the recent post “The Wedding Ring.”   American Airlines picked up the post and referenced it on their Facebook and Twitter pages.  AA wrote me that they’d had over 640,000 “views” on the article!  And 300 souls logged onto my blog. I’ve had hits from Canada and South Korea. Go figure.  Early on, I posted every day. Then every other day. Now Thursdays and Sundays. Surprisingly, I’ve not run out of things to say.  I actually have five posts in the hopper — ready to go. Not sure how long this will go on but I expect for awhile.  Fasten your seat belts. . . . .


In my post of July 23, 2011 (“Just Turn it Off“), I spoke of things we can all do (that cost nothing) — to save water, energy and clean air and to cut down on pollution.  Little things like when taking a shower, turn on the water, get wet – then turn off the water and soap down.  Then rinse.   You’ll actually get cleaner and you’ll save gallons of water that otherwise simply pour down the drain.   Just think if everyone did this. . . .

Speaking of showers, here’s another thought that saves money and helps the environment.  Shampoo.   A few years ago, I was in the shower and there was no shampoo.  I had an empty container from which I could squeeze nada.  Grrrrrrrrr . . . . . So I unscrewed the top, held the container under the water swirled the liquid in the bottle and – voila – shampoo.  It was a little watery but it worked every bit as good as the thick gloppy stuff.  It actually lasted for a few more days.  Today, when the shampoo bottle is making that distinctive “Pfffftttttt” sound when I squeeze it, I unscrew the top, let water drain in, screw the top back on, give it a shake and I have shampoo for another week or two.  Try it.  You’ll like it.  So will your wallet.  And the sewer system . . . .  

Collecting Meteorites

When I was a Boy Scout, I subscribed to Boy’s Life magazine. I read it cover to cover.  Sometimes twice.   Great tips on everything (if a dog attacks someone, pick up the dog’s hind legs or wrap your belt around him; drowning people rarely splash – watch their head; Polaris – the North star – never moves, is true North and determines your precise North latitude; etc.).    Great articles.   Good stuff.   Even a page of humor. 

One article that I remember to this day is how to collect meteorites.  Yes, meteorites.  Every day, the earth is bombarded with cosmic debris — including an avalanche of tiny meteorites.  Not the big splashy ones that whoooosh through the air leaving trails of brilliant light and make the news when they smack into a house.  I’m talking about dust.  Meteorite dust — and particles.  So how do you collect this cosmic detritus?  Boy’s Life spoke of getting a large tin pan, a piece of cloth in the bottom and setting it outside – perhaps in the garden.  And leave it there for a week.  Then go out with a magnet and run it through the particles that have collected.  Those that stick — especially the pencil-dot sized nuggets — are likely small meteorites.  There may also be remnants of “fly ash” (from coal-burning stoves or fireplaces). 

Good articles and videos about this subject today on line.  The best (probably quicker) way suggested to collect meteorites is to put a bucket under a gutter downspout — and then hose down the roof.  The roof is a good collector of such material.  The water from the downspout pours into the bucket.  The heavy stuff (like when you pan for gold) settles to the bottom.  Pour out the water and use your magnet to pick up these visitors from outer space.     

Hugo Chavez

The day after Hugo Chavez died, I walked to the train station after work.  Outside the station there were about 25 people standing around.  Some were waving the Venezuelan flag.  Some held pictures of Hugo Chavez.  And a few had signs like “We love you Hugo.”   One woman appeared to be crying.  I walked by this group thinking to myself are you people out of your minds?

Venezuela was an oil rich – driving economy before Hurricane Hugo hit the country.   Since 1999, Venezuela has been on a steep and slippery slope.  Picking up speed as it slid into the abyss.   Today, the country is in a literal shambles.  It has one of the highest inflation rates in South America, the highest murder rate on the continent, mountains of debt and food shortages.  The infrastructure of the country is crumbling.  Businesses are confiscated (then often self-destruct).   Land and assets are “redistributed.”  Human liberties and freedoms are squelched.  Newspapers print what they are told.   Political repression is the norm and freedom takes a back seat to ideology.  With this track record, I have to wonder how anyone can lament the passing of this era.