Thoughts regarding sports and mentoring.
Caution: Severe Tennessee Titan, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Cubs, and Scott Stallings bias.

Hope of Hernandez

July 2nd, 2013 | Comments Off on Hope of Hernandez

Fatherlessness in America claims a new victim. Sadly, Aaron Hernandez’s tragic story is not unique or even unexpected. Where did it all go wrong?

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Fatherlessness is responsible for…

63% of youth suicides (5 times the average)
71% of high school dropouts (9 times the average)
75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers (10 times the average)
80%
of rapists with anger problems (14 times the average)
85%
of youths in prison (20 times the average)

(courtesy of Sabrina and TheFatherlessGeneration.com)

Unlike the statistics listed above, Aaron Hernandez grew up in a home with both of his parents, Dennis and Terri Hernandez. In high school, Aaron displayed his immense talents garnering national attention as a top tight end prospect.

And as late as 2006, he was still planning to attend the University of Connecticut, following in the footsteps of his father. Then, everything changed.

During a hernia operation, Dennis Hernandez suddenly and unexpectedly died as a result of complications from the surgery. Aaron was just 16. Terri Hernandez said,

“He would rebel. It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.” (courtesy of USA Today Sports 2009)

:: It is important to note at this point, that I personally believe Aaron Hernandez deserves his day in court, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that if he is found responsible for murder, that he should be held accountable. ::

Fatherlessness can alter the destiny of a child.

Aaron enrolled in the University of Florida in 2007, fleeing Connecticut and his troubles in hopes of finding himself or perhaps a fresh start. Instead, he found more trouble, including a juvenile arrest and several failed drug tests.

In 2009, then Florida coach Urban Meyer seemed to affect change in Aaron’s life. Meyer’s limited mentoring uncovered a clear understanding of the fundamental absence from the talented tight ends’ life.

“When your guy, your idol, your soul is taken from you, how do you deal with that? I just think there’s a part of his life that was not there. He needed discipline; he needed someone to talk to.” (courtesy of USA Today Sports 2009)

Unfortunately, mentoring is something that most coaches are not equipped to handle, nor are they hired or expected to maintain after players graduate.

Now 5 years removed from his time with Meyer, the 23 year old Hernandez is quickly sinking to the unreachable and murky depths of the fatherlessness life.

Becoming just another father that will not be around to watch over and protect his 7 month old daughter.

Fatherlessness does have one weakness.

Other adults showing up, offering the disciplines of life and someone who will listen.

Be a part of preventing fatherlessness.

Mentor a young man or woman today. They can be a neighbor, a teammate or classmate of one of your children, a child of a single-parent coworker, or any number of children that are a part of organizations like Boys & Girls Club of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the Mentoring Project.

The Lead Block has been showing up for players and coaches since 2011. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

 

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Shake It Off

June 14th, 2012 | Comments Off on Shake It Off

There is a growing trend of athletes not shaking hands or congratulating an opponent following a tough loss.

Bill Belichick walked off the field before Super Bowl XLII was officially over.

A young Lebron James exited the 2009 NBA Eastern Finals sans fist bumps.

The British Olympic Association is encouraging its athletes to not shake hands in the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics.

And now Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are joining in on an ugly fad of not acknowledging an opponent following a tough loss.

Following one particular game (during the ceremonial sportsmanlike handshake line), I childishly told each player that they were bags of garbage and played like garbage.

Inevitably, word got back to my father (one of my coaches), who made himself very clear. Not only was I going to apologize to the opposing team, but if ever did something like that again, my sporting career would be over.

When you fail to honor an opponent, you fail to honor the game itself. And a game without honor is a game not worth playing, much less winning.

Aside from accidentally motivating your opponent to play better, risking further humiliation during the post-game handshake was a great deterrent to trash talking an opponent before or during a game. Who would risk eating their prideful banter in the grinning face of their victorious opponent?

If this petulant behavior continues, expect severe insults to increase, on-court confrontations to escalate, and respect amongst competitors to diminish.

Don’t believe me?  Ask Mr. Garnett how his peers feel about him.

The easiest way to practice for honoring your opponent at the end of the game, is to honor your opponent throughout the game.

The Lead Block challenges players and coaches to honor their opponents, on and off the court. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

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Always Bittersweet

February 9th, 2012 | Comments Off on Always Bittersweet

How do you deal with a bitter loss suffered by you or your favorite team?

Quickly I brought the ball past half court and checked the clock one last time. Down a point with 10 seconds left, the time was now. Ducking into the lane, I scanned for an open teammate underneath the basket. No luck, only the lane was open.

The final shot of the game would be mine to make or miss.

As I jumped and released the ball, a nearby defender swept my arms down and the ball fell helplessly short as the buzzer and an official’s whistle sounded simultaneously. Clearly a foul occurred, but what happened next changed everything.

The foul was ruled a non-shooting foul.

So while our team was in the bonus, now I would only get a 1-and-1 instead of 2 guaranteed free throws. Despite my coach’s protestations, the official sent both teams to their respective benches and called for me to shoot my untimed free throw.

The fate of an entire game was my burden.

As I started my pre-shot routine, my mind filled with the 3 possible outcomes.
1. Make the first free throw, get a second free throw, make it and be the hero.
2. Make the first free throw, miss the second, and play overtime.
3. Miss the first free throw and be the goat.

As I released the ball, I knew the moment it left my hand that I had missed it and could only watch as it hit the left edge of the rim and ricocheted to the right.

Game over.

Watching the other team (our arch rivals) celebrate, I turned to face my teammates and felt shame. It is the only time in my entire sporting career that my emotions got the better of me. And to this day it is the most vivid loss I can remember.

Like death is a part of life.
Losing is a part of winning.
One cannot exist without the other.

So, how do you deal with a bitter loss?

Do you blame the officials for a missed call or two?
Second-guess the coach’s game plan or decisions?
Verbally berate or assault an opposing fan?

Our passions tempt us to forget that every loss is bittersweet.

In victory, no one struggles with this paradox. We celebrate together unashamedly, in the full knowledge that half the people present just experienced a crushing defeat.

No one needs a helpful guide in how to celebrate a championship or hallowed rivalry victory. We already know how to do that. What players, coaches, and fans need is a simple guide in how to handle a difficult loss. And it is easier than you might think.

The key to mourning a loss is the same as celebrating a victory.

You weep, embrace your teammates, and fans. And eventually, you move on.

Like winning, losing is always bittersweet…

The Lead Block encourages players, coaches, and fans to mourn losses like they celebrate wins. To find out how you can become an encourager, click ABOUT.

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Bucking Bronco

January 16th, 2012 | Comments Off on Bucking Bronco

Maintaining composure and playing hard in a losing effort shows toughness.

The Denver Broncos were already off the map. Few expected them to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers the previous week, and even fewer considered them much of a threat to the seemingly invincible New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady.

After a quick start for the Pats, the Broncos appeared to weather Brady’s opening salvo in a game that again looked poised to live up to all the pregame hype.

One quarter and 28 unanswered points later, this rematch (like the first game) was once again out of reach for any Tebow Time heroics. Spurring tweets like…


and…

To be fair, no team needs to explain building a large lead in the first half of a playoff game. And to quote Herm Edwards… the Patriots were playing to win the game.

Winning and losing are guaranteed in competitive sports.

Fortunately, winning and losing has nothing to do with character or toughness.

But, what happens when the losses are by large margins?

This week I witnessed first hand a high school basketball team beating a rival by more than 50 points. It was an uncomfortable situation to experience as a fan.

Both coaches struggled to manage the passions of their players. The winning coach demanded humility – the losing coach, hustle and heart. The final minute of the game awkwardly ran down with a player standing with the ball on his hip unguarded.

At least football has the kneel down.

Unfortunately, the aggressiveness and passion required to play competitive sports with heart and hustle sometimes overwhelm humility and result in ugly displays.

On Saturday, rookie linebacker Von Miller allowed frustration to get the best him.

Come on, Von. You are the Defensive Rookie of the Year and already demand the respect of peers, experts, and fans with your toughness and quality of play.

Losing with humility shows toughness.

Don’t be that guy.

The Lead Block challenges players to play with humility, heart, and hustle regardless the score. To find out how you or your organization can become a part, click ABOUT.

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Titan Thursday – Week 4 Predictions

September 29th, 2011 | 1 comment

Every week, Titan Thursday will share predictions of each week’s NFL match-ups.


Overall Record: 29-19

Week 3 (Record: 11-5)

Shame of the Week: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick is right to cry out for relief. Because Andy Reid nor his offensive line seem interested in answering that call. And calm down Giant fans, for every one of these games from Eli in September there is the opposite lurking for December.

Pick ‘Em Again: Patriots over Bills
If the NFL played these games again this weekend, under the same conditions, I would pick the exact same way.  And I genuinely believe I would be right this time.

Shoulda’ Known Better: Buccaneers over Falcons
On any given Sunday… ah, this is the only way these games could ever end.


Week 4

Tennessee Titans over the Cleveland Browns
Okay, so the Titans have not dazzled in their two wins, Chris Johnson is depressingly bottled up, and Kenny Britt is lost for the season. But, Matt Hasselbeck and the stingiest defense in the NFL will maintain their winning ways for another week.

Detroit Lions over the Dallas Cowboys
I hate to pick against Tony Romo after he just willed his team to another tough win. But, expect this Cowboys secondary to struggle against a good quarterback (Matt Stafford). Something they have yet to see (i.e. Sanchez, Smith, and Grossman).

 

Steelers over Texans
Steelers are sloppy, but win this one close. The Texans just look like a .500 team.

Bears over Panthers
Cam Newton came back to earth last week. And the 1-2 Bears are no 1-2 Jaguars.

Vikings over Chiefs
It is sad to see recent division winners struggle so badly. The Vikes can’t lose this.

Bills over Bengals
Although I am impressed with the Bills, I feel a letdown coming on. Just not yet.

Rams over Redskins
Both looked bad in defeat last week, but the Rams have played better teams so far.

Eagles over 49ers
Vick’s overblown injury should go away quietly, just like the 49ers will in the 4th.

Saints over Jaguars
Not even a monsoon could help the Jags win this game. Drew Brees is too much.

Falcons over Seahawks
The Falcons are struggling, but it is nothing a visit to the Seahawks cannot fix.

Giants over Cardinals
An easy match-up for the Giants sure smells like a trap game. Cards can steal it.

Patriots over Raiders
There is no way Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lose back-to-back games. Is there?

Packers over Broncos
Attention Fantasy Owners, insert all Packer offensive players… put the D in, too!

Chargers over Dolphins
What if the Chargers and Dolphins actually played up to their potential? Hmm…

Ravens over Jets
Rex Ryan should really consider Joe Namath as an option against his old team.

Buccaneers over Colts
Being wrong about these two teams has cost me 4 games. Will they make it 5?

 

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Titan Thursday – Week 2 Predictions

September 15th, 2011 | 2 comments

Every week, Titan Thursday will share predictions of each week’s NFL match-ups.

 

Week 1 (Record: 6-10)

Shame of the Week: Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
Tony Romo may be a better quarterback than Mark Sanchez, but unlike Rex Ryan and the Jets, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have not idiot-proofed the Cowboy offense.

Yet.

Pick ‘Em Again: Falcons over Bears, Titans over Jags
If the NFL played these games again this weekend, under the same conditions, I would pick the exact same way.  And I genuinely believe I would be right this time.

Shoulda’ Known Better: Texans over Colts, 49ers over Seahawks
On any given Sunday… ah, this is the only way these games could ever end.


Week 2

Baltimore Ravens over the Tennessee Titans
The Titans defense tightened the screws late in last week’s game, but the problem will be beating a resurrected Ravens defense. Last week, this unit terrorized Ben Roethlisberger, causing 7 turnovers. Expect another close loss for the Titans.

New England Patriots over the San Diego Chargers
If there is an offense in the AFC capable of keeping pace with the Pats, it is Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Honestly, this game could easily go either way. But, I give the edge to the Pats (who always start fast) over the Bolts (who always start slow).

Bills over Raiders
Fitzpatrick should shred the Raiders as easily as he did the Chiefs. Maybe easier.

Saints over Bears
Are the Bears for real? I think not, look for the Saints to get on track and after Cutler.

Lions over Chiefs
The Chiefs are not THAT bad. But, apparently neither are the Lions anymore.

Colts over Browns
The Browns are more disappointing than the Colts. At least Indy has an excuse.

Vikings over Bucs
Picking against the Bucs again, because I trust in AP more than Josh Freeman.

Packers over Panthers
Cam Newton will see his first NFL defense his week… yes, the Cards are that bad.

Redskins over Cardinals
(See above) But, which Rex Grossman will show up to play this Sunday?

Steelers over Seahawks
Poor Seahawks.  I actually feel pity for what is going to happen to them this week.

Cowboys over 49ers
Tony Romo is a better quarterback than Alex Smith… (sigh) … I think.

Jets over Jaguars
The Jags offense is a one trick pony about to be saddled by Rex Ryan’s… defense.

Broncos over Bengals
Orton’s tenure depends on a win here. Otherwise, Tebow chants will only get louder.

Texans over Dolphins
Henne looked good, but Wade Phillip has given the Texans defense quite a bite.

Falcons over Eagles
Look for the Falcons to recover and take advantage of a weak Eagle offensive line.

Rams over Giants
Sam Bradford and the Rams have my attention. This game will decide if they keep it.

 

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Weekly Block – Pursuit of Perfection

September 14th, 2011 | Comments Off on Weekly Block – Pursuit of Perfection

Each Wednesday, the Weekly Block will cover everything that matters in the world of sports.  To me.  And maybe you, too.

1. Scott Stallings (46th in FedEx Cup Points)(34th on the Money List)

The BMW Championship is up next. Best of luck, Mr. Stallings.  Also, if you are in the Knoxville area on October 7th, get a free lesson from Scott at D1-Knoxville.

2. Chicago Cubs (65-83)(5th in NL Central)

Starlin Castro is far from perfect, but this year makes it clear he is the future of the Cubs organization. In sad personal news, this year’s trip to Wrigley is cancelled.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (Taking a Charge)

Shane Battier, the master of taking charges, shares who is the best at avoiding him.  But, it may surprise you who he avoids taking a charge from the most in the NBA.

4. Tennessee Titans (New Team, Same Story)

Without previous punching bags Jeff Fisher and Vince Young for fans to bemoan, Matt Hasselbeck jumped out to early lead as the Titan’s Sunday scapegoat.

5. Final Block (Pursuit of Perfection)

Is it just me, or is Tom Brady getting better every season?

He started his NFL career with 3 Super Bowl championships in 4 seasons.

A couple of years ago, I was sure he was a better quarterback than Peyton Manning (the only other active NFL quarterback that belongs in a conversation with Brady).  Then, Manning won a Super Bowl of his own AND rolled over Brady’s Patriots to do it.

I admit, I reconsidered the Brady vs. Manning debate after that game.

Then, Brady threw more touchdowns (50) than any quarterback in a season. Ever.
Simultaneously, he led the Pats to the first undefeated regular season in 30+ years.
Last year, he threw 36 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. Are you kidding me?!

Now this.

In the last 10 seasons, the Pats only missed the playoffs twice (one of which, Brady was injured), while posting an astounding regular season record in games Brady started.

Tom Brady: 126-29 (.812)
Peyton Manning: 125-45 (.735)

Ben Roethlisberger: 70-30 (.700)
Aaron Rodgers: 21-11 (.656)
Drew Brees: 80-44 (.645)

Peyton Manning may be the most valuable player to his team.
Aaron Rodgers may be the current defending champ.
Ben Roethlisberger may have 2 Super Bowl rings.
Drew Brees and Philip Rivers may be amazing.

But, Tom Brady stands alone among active passers in the NFL.

Previous coaches rave about him, almost as much as splashy new players.

Most importantly, the ball is not the only thing Brady spreads around the field. Do not take for granted Tom Terrific’s humility and willingness to share the credit. Winners face temptations as frequently as losers.

Tom Brady is not perfect. But, maybe his pursuit of perfection is the next best thing.

 

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Titan Thursday – Week 1 Predictions

September 8th, 2011 | 3 comments

Every week, Titan Thursday will share predictions of each week’s NFL match-ups.

Green Bay Packers vs New Orleans Saints
Most defending Super Bowl Champs struggle the following season.  But, the Saints seem more likely to suffer a hangover following a humiliating first round exit that made Marshawn Lynch a football god overnight.  Whoever has the ball last will win.

Tennessee Titan at Jacksonville Jaguars
Despite the spin control and downplaying by both teams, David Garrard’s release is HUGE. The Titans can still lose this game, but look for a surprisingly dynamic Titan offense to pour it on the Jags at home.  Will Jerry Gray’s defense come ready to play?

Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams
The Rams will be tough this season. If Mike Vick finishes this game, the Eagles win.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Each year the Ravens defense gets weaker, while the Steelers remain dominant.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Buffalo Bills
Matt Cassell’s health is a concern, and the Bills like to play close games.  But…

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
Look for the Falcons to get out in front and harass Jay Cutler all afternoon.

Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two up-and-coming teams should deliver a great game. Lions by a field goal.

Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals
The AFC North Chumpionship game should give a clue who is in worse shape.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Kerry Collins is not Peyton Manning. But, neither is Matt Schaub. Calm down.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Rex Grossman and Eli Manning are equally likely to disappoint or dazzle.

San Diego Chargers vs Minnesota Vikings
My AFC Super Bowl pick should steam roll Donovan McNabb and the Vikes.

Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers
Kevin Kolb is more tested than Cam Newton and the Panthers are a mess.

Seattle Seahawks at San Fransisco 49ers
Tarvaris Jackson is on my fantasy team. A pick that may twice prove foolish.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez is the worst quarterback on a good team. Tony Romo is better.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are a dominant combination in the regular season.

Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders
Oakland’s off-season moves (or lack thereof) left them weaker on defense.

 

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Weekly Block – Locked-In

July 27th, 2011 | Comments Off on Weekly Block – Locked-In

Each Wednesday, the Weekly Block will cover everything that matters in the world of sports.  To me.  And maybe you, too.

1. Scott Stallings (22nd at RBC Canadian Open)(88th in FedExCup Points)

Holding strong in the top 100, Stallings added another strong finish to his rookie season.  He also shared this interesting article about the PGA’s labor situation.

2. Chicago Cubs (42-61)(5th in NL Central)

One of the most difficult skills to learn in baseball is locking in on a ball in the milliseconds it takes to cross the plate. And Starlin Castro is a perfect example.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (Lockout Love Letter)

From Shane Battier: Dear @NBA, the @NFL makeup has inspired us all. How’s this sound? You, me, a house at the shore, some Asti, and that mixtape you made me?

4. Tennessee Titans (Locker Era Begins)

As expected, Baptist Sports Park was open to Titan players who flocked to the facility from all parts of the country.  Jake Locker made the biggest statement, arriving first.

5. Final Block (Locked-In)

Unless you live under a rock, you heard that the NFL Lockout officially ended yesterday morning.  With that highly anticipated settlement will come a flurry of activity not seen in the modern era of professional football.

But, what does this mean to the average NFL fan?

First, your favorite team will probably make some significant roster changes.  The player salary cap (shared NFL revenue allotted for players’ salaries) is lower than 2010.  More importantly, the NFL will now impose a salary spending floor.

This means that several teams will reduce their star-studded rosters (Cowboys, Giants, Raiders, and Steelers), while others will be required to expand (Buccaneers, Seahawks, Bengals, Bills, and Bears).

Second, your favorite team will probably under-perform early in the season.  Off-season training activities were missed league-wide and even though training camps will start this week, most are already way behind schedule.

This is good news if your team has a difficult schedule early, because it is likely the opponents will not be at their best.  Then again, perennial powers (i.e. Patriots, Steelers, Colts) will be ready from running consistent systems.

Finally, if your favorite team is in a transition, prepare for a tougher season than usual.  The lockout wasted critical introduction and installation months for new front offices, coaches, coordinators, and players.

Look for the Titans, 49ers, Panthers, Cardinals, and Vikings to struggle early and often as they scramble to make up for lost time from this off-season.  Keep an eye on the Cards though, because they have the best opportunity to prove me wrong.

At the end of the day, the resolution to the NFL Lockout really only means one thing… football is back.  Amen.

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