The NFL’s Parity

The playoffs and the march to the Super Bowl has begun. Fame and glory awaits the winners. In terms of finances, it is amazing to learn a strong playoff run has a minimal impact on a team’s bottom line because the NFL’s business model is based on socialist principles.

Colin Kaepernick

Collective Security

No lie. This is not a story for the Onion.  As the players sacrifice their short-term and long-term health for their contracts and the Lombardi Trophy, the billionaire owners have crafted a business model like central planners. Their plan regulates the distribution of income to guarantee them riches regardless of their teams’ performance on the field.  

The fix is in. Years ago, the owners agreed the league couldn’t survive unless every team shared equally in the spoils. They determined the fans didn’t want to watch lopsided games or cheer for a team going 3-11. They didn’t want a few super teams trouncing the competition year in year out. Parity is what they wanted even though parity is a bad word to capitalists.

It seems once one is RichAF capitalism doesn’t matter. It’s time to work together. So, the collective strength of the NFL props up the lesser franchises. The team with the worst record, not the best record, receives the first pick in the college draft. The weak teams are not scorned. They remain members of their gentlemen’s club.

How Much Is Enough

The NFL TV right keeps cable alive

How is this done? All the “national” revenues generated by the league are placed into one pot that is equally distributed to each club. This not only includes the TV contract which is a monstrous ten year deal worth $321B but also licensing fees along with a portion of each teams’ ticket sales, merchandising, concessions and parking revenues. 

Riches must await the teams that make the playoffs. Nope. Every team shares equally in all the revenues generated in the playoffs. The home teams of playoff games do, however, keep their concession and parking receipts. Clearly an extra million or two dollars is meaningless if one already has a billion.

Open Secret

Forbes, The Atlantic and other reputable magazines periodically report this story. Deft marketing that wraps the league around the flag keeps the fans from digesting the truth.

The game day pageantry which includes honor guards and the singing of the national anthem links the game to patriotism. In turn, the symbolism connects the game to support of the troops. Militaristic jargon like blitz, bomb, pistol, air attack, shotgun, ground game and formation peppers the broadcast and reinforces the patriotic sensations.

Religion even seeps into the messaging with “Hail Mary” taking on a new meaning thanks to Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer/Navy graduate Roger Staubach. The leap from patriotism to capitalism is not a stretch. Subsequently, the league’s socialistic roots are obfuscated. Thank you for your service Aaron Rodgers. 

Tell a fan that the NFL operates on a socialist business model and the reply is, “You are misinformed. Come on, the players are the strongest, swiftest and most courageous in the land. They’re paid really, really well for their performance. That’s not socialism.” 

Worker Solidarity

Such thinking misses the point. The players are the workers. Of course, they have to fight to get their money. Subsequently, they are represented by the NFLPA, one of the strongest unions (socialistic) in the country. The unity of the players and their commitment to fight for the rights of everyone is why 48% of the NFL’s revenues are allocated to the them.

Moreover, as stated earlier, the owners call the shots. Their interests are protected. The worst team in the league will always get their 1/32nd cut of all the league’s revenues. This is why the Washington Football Team (WFT), one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the league, is still the NFL’s 5th most valuable franchise. In spite of a 142-191 record over the past twenty-one years and lowest attendance of all the league, the WFT is worth $4.2B.

Owner Daniel Snyder of the Washington Football Team. In spite of having the leagues worst attendance, the Washington Football Team is the 5th most valuable NFL franchise at $4.2B

Capitalistic Spain?

Spain, Italy and France are generally labeled as socialistic but their futbol (soccer) is capitalistic. For example, La Liga, Spain’s top soccer division, gives each of the twenty teams an equal allocation of 50% of the television money. The remaining half is divided in two equal parts and distributed based on sporting results over the past five seasons and “social influence”, which includes the number of fans. To the victor goes more spoils.

As with any capitalistic system, the higher the risks, the greater the rewards. In La Liga, the three worst teams are relegated to the Segunda Division. The top two teams in the Segunda Division and the winner of a playoff are promoted to La Liga. This makes for gut wrenching season ending drama for the fans of teams on the verge of relegation or promotion. No tanking or load management for these teams. Every game counts so the integrity of the games is never called into question.

Super Teams

Messi and Renaldo: The Super Players for the Super Teams

The distribution of TV revenues in La Liga ranges from €158M for La Liga Champion and €48.5M for the bottom dweller.  This revenue chasm has made for super teams just as the precinct NFL owners feared. In the past twenty-two years, only five teams have won the La Liga Championship: Barcelona has won ten while Real Madrid has won seven. The success of these Super teams comes at the expense of the rest of the league. Conversely, thirteen different teams have won Super Bowls during the same time span and the league’s profitability and fan interest has never been better. 

This picture makes it easy to conclude maybe Socialism isn’t such a bad word. 

Perhaps, the cooperation among the NFL owners should be more clearly articulated to the public. Could America’s game become a new symbol for America’s capitalism? The point of the matter is capitalism needs a reboot. A look at the NFL could help open conversations to speak more civilly about fiscal policies.

It’s Over!

The mother of my son’s best friend is Italian. When he was a little boy and out of control she would scream at him, “Basta Lorenzo, Basta!” (Stop it Lorenzo, Enough) 

Please Tiger, retire!

Basta Tiger, Basta!

Someone needs to speak truth to power. Earl’s no longer with us. I don’t know Tiger but maybe someone without a hand in his pocket needs to take a stand.

Basta Tiger Basta!

Dude, you have nothing to prove. So what, Jack Nicklaus will have won more majors than you. Did Nicklaus ever win a major on a broken leg?

I can’t stand these talking heads that state, “If anyone can come back from these horrific injuries it’s Tiger.” The man doesn’t need any more pressure. Can’t we even wait for his condition to stabilize? Then I read a source close to the 45-year old athlete states, “He doesn’t want his career to end like this.” Who is this person? I hope the tail isn’t wagging the Tiger.

The Decline

Plans to end athletic careers are like plans for an aging parents’ care. A transition is inevitable but no one wants to make the plan. Tiger, you should have ended your professional golf career after your 2019 Masters victory if you had a plan. Now, it’s no longer your decision.

It would be unfair of me to callously view the loss associated with the end of a fabulous athletic career. I ran track professionally until I was thirty-one. I know the end is like the death of a child. 

Duct Tape and Gum

Injuries are usually the culprit. Mine was plantar fasciitis and bursitis. I could have tried for just one more season. I, however, knew I’d never be a contender with my wings clipped. On the other hand, Tiger won matches severely compromised. Think again about that broken leg.

Sadly, Tiger ignored the fact he could no longer string together phenomenal workouts day in and day out, week after week for months. He refused to accept fleeting sessions of brilliance are fools’ gold. They aren’t a sign of hope. They are mirages. Your former self would be appalled to think you entered tournaments so unprepared. 

Father Time is Undefeated

Tiger, you will not win another major. Championships are not won on hope as you inferred when Jim Nantz asked your status for the Masters two day before your accident. Majors are won after the work has been done.

The injuries have compounded. The body has worn down from wear and tear and surgeries. Father time is undefeated.

What’s the resistance, Tiger? Who could be better positioned to move on? You have fame, money and power. An almost completed Stanford degree may even open a few more doors for you.

There is life after golf. Tony Romo finished his stellar football career carted off the gridiron as the result of a grizzly back injury. Three years later he’s one of the NFL’s best color commentators. Twenty years from now more people will know him as an announcer than as a football player. Think of John Madden and Pat Summeral. 

The Canvas Was Complete

My former coach told me as my career wound down, “Don’t draw a mustache on that beautiful landscape you painted.” One comeback story may complement the horizon, five comebacks from back surgeries can destroy the whole scene. 

Has there ever been an honest discussion about the toll Tiger’s injuries have had on him and his career? The eleven year drought of a Major victory coincides with Tiger’s rash of injuries, surgeries and the accident with the fire hydrant.

The subsequent thirteen years have been nothing but fits and starts in tournaments coupled with rehab and incomplete recoveries from surgeries. The time has been painful. Physically painful. Emotionally painful. Yet, people want Tiger to come back and play. Can’t we just let him heal first?

A 2015 New York Times article casually notes, “Woods does not sleep well in the best circumstances.” Woods attributed his tough time/fatigue to the ninth year anniversary of his father’s death and his recent breakup with Lindsey Vonn. Physical pain is also a profound contributor to insomnia. Why hasn’t anyone listened?

It all came to a head five weeks after Tiger Woods’ fourth back surgery. On May 29, 2017, Tiger was arrested on a DUI. It was eventually reported he was under the influence of “THC, the active ingredient for marijuana; as well as the painkillers Vicodin and Dilaudid; the anxiety and sleep drug Xanax; and the anti-insomnia drug Ambien in his system when he was arrested.”  The man was in pain.

On the Treadmill

Nothing changed after this incident. Sure, Tiger went to rehab but three months later he was cleared by doctors to swing a club again. That club should have gone where the sun doesn’t shine.

The cycle continued. Fits and starts. Miraculously, the stars aligned and in April 2019 Tiger won the Masters in spite of a neck strain which forced him out of a tournament that March. Who knows what other injuries he played through in spite of the pain. The man won a Major with a broken leg. Oh yea, his ACL was also torn.

The events which led to Tiger’s near fatal accident on February 22nd will never be known. What is clear is that he was in familiar territory: Recovering from his fifth back surgery in December.. “Good morning heartbreak, you old gloomy sight.”

Eyes Wide Shut

It’s incredible no one is willing to say which famous celebrity Tiger most closely resembles. It’s Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was also an insomniac and in a great deal of physical and emotional pain. Remember, Jackson was preparing for his final tour right before he died. Many peoples’ livelihoods and millions of dollars depended on his ability to perform. The pressure broke him. It broke Prince too. It breaks many people whose names we don’t know.

Forget about golf Tiger. You’ve owned golf for a generation. Don’t let it use you anymore. It looked like you had the time of your life  caddying for your son Charlie as he won a junior tournament by five strokes. You can now put your golf career in the rearview mirror.  The game’s future may even live in your own house. It’s time to move on. Take joy in your children. Finally, enjoy life. You deserve it.

New Direction at Dundalk

Irish soccer news rarely reverberates beyond the island nation’s shores. The summer interim appointment, however, of the 50-year-old Italian Filippo Giovagnoli to coach the Irish Premier League team Dundalk FC is a tale of interest for the entire soccer  community. Filippo arrived at Dundalk via the United States youth academy Metropolitan Oval in the New York City borough of Queens. His journey is a story  of an American Dream ultimately realized in Ireland. 

Allenatore (coach) Giovagnoli

Filippo’s career as a professional soccer player never reached beyond the Italian third division  level Serie C. The 6’1” former left back with a shaven head and beard looks like the menacing  defender he claims to have been. He once whimsically said of his playing days, “I was an  animal as a defender. I was a killer.” Beneath the bravado is a self-aware, intelligent and  strategic man not to be underestimated. Ironically, until the appointment at Dundalk his  coaching career has always been at the youth level. 

Met Oval’s sporting director, Jeffrey Saunders, who has ties to the American ownership group  of Dundalk recommended Filippo along with his longtime assistant Giuseppe Rossi to the  Lilywhites. The team’s supporters were dumbfounded by the hire. The press described the  move as a “left field” and “shocking” appointment. Filippo and Giuseppe were undeterred and  in a matter of weeks they righted a team in disarray and improbably led them through  qualifying to a group stage berth in the UEFA Europa League. 

American Youth Soccer

I know Filippo from the five years my boys played at Met Oval. I can attest to his contention  that his youth soccer experience amply prepared him to coach Dundalk. In the States, soccer  is overwhelmingly a pay to play affair. Annual fees for Met Oval’s U8 to U19 teams are more  than $2000. This excludes uniforms, travel and other sundry expenses. Parents expect a great  deal for their expenditure.  

The Met Oval players represent the mosaic of the boroughs of New York City and suburban  Long Island. On one of my son’s teams, parents cheered their kids on in Portuguese, Spanish,  Italian, Polish, Greek, Dutch and English. Some kids are ferried to and from practice by car  services while others rush from the pitch as quickly as possible to catch the unreliable Q54  bus, which notoriously runs on its own schedule. Filippo and his coaching staff held this  disparate array of people together through an obvious love for the game, expert technical and  tactical soccer knowledge, guile, passion and, when needed, a heavy hand. 

Met Oval

The location of Met Oval gives the club its identity and character. Aptly, the club is simply  named for a nearby street, Metropolitan Avenue; Oval is what many fields at the time of its  founding in the 1920’s were called. The pitch is only six miles from midtown Manhattan. Yet  driving along its namesake Metropolitan Avenue to the grounds one passes a prison, a  junkyard, body shops and other industrial blight far removed from midtown’s gleaming spires.  

The entry gate to the pitch is flanked on its north by trees and the tracks of the Long Island  Railroad. Modest row houses are to the south. As one pulls into the gravel driveway leading to  the parking lot, the pitch is not immediately seen because it sits in a gully.

The initial sight to  the west is a panoramic view of Manhattan. Look downtown to the left and the Woolworth  Building comes into view. Look straight ahead into midtown and the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the newly erected One 57, one of the tallest residential buildings in the  world, fill the skyline. The view would be a tourist attraction to rival the Top of the Rock if it were closer to the city. Parents from visiting teams always ask if the view ever gets old? The answer is always “No!” Met Oval is an oasis amongst the unseeing surroundings and everyday life. 

A sixty foot by twenty foot flat-roofed cinder block clubhouse couples the gravel parking lot  east of the field. The Met Oval Logo is proudly stenciled on the outside walls. Underscored in  bold letters is: Youth Center of Excellence.

The cramped office quarters are lined with white  boards to map out game strategies, rosters and schedules. The linoleum floor is perpetually  covered with artificial grass and mud from the coaches boots. A few trophies are displayed  while others have been given away because of a lack of space. Fans and space heaters do  their best to keep the inhabitants as comfortable as possible.

Coaches rarely discard their parkas when they enter the clubhouse after cold December practices. The only luxury is a flat screen TV primarily used to glimpse a soccer match during a rare spare moment. Saunders refers to Daniel Coyle’s book the Talent Code to explain the hidden spirit of Met Oval. Coyle writes, “Luxury is a motivational narcotic. It whispers, Relax, you’ve made it. Talent hotbeds are  sometimes called chicken-wire Harvards. Simple, humble spaces help focus attention on  deep-practice tasks at hand. When given the choice between luxurious and spartan, choose  spartan.” Filippo was right at home. 

New Blood

Filippo’s transition to Met Oval may have been more of a challenge than his start at Dundalk.  His predecessor was the Brit Paul Buckle, the first coach in 24 years to lead a non-league team  to victory over a Premier League team in the English FA Cup. In January 2013 his Luton Town  team stifled Norwich 1-0 in spite of a young Harry Kane playing as Norwich’s striker. The Met  Oval parents and kids were elated a coach with such a strong pedigree now directed their club.  Buckle was fully committed to Met Oval but a sense loomed that he longed to return to the  professional ranks in England. Sure enough, in less than a year, he headed home to coach  League 2 Cheltenham. Subsequently, Filippo’s arrival was viewed with heavy scrutiny given the  thinness of his resume compared to Buckle’s.  

As the head of a youth academy, Filippo’s primary charge was to develop talent. The parents,  however, were largely fixated on winning games. Age groups were split into blue and white  teams. Blue was to comprise the club’s top players and white would be made up of the next  level of players. Initially, Filippo ignored this norm and compiled rosters according to a vision known only to him. Grumbles met the email containing each week’s game line-up as people  attempted to decipher why their child was matched to his team. Filippo’s only response would  be, “Blue, white, what difference does it make? Just play the game.” In probably his only nod to parent dissatisfaction, Filippo eventually bowed to the norm, designating the blue team as  his strongest and white as the second best.  


The tiering of teams only created a new problem because parents were asked to mark their  child’s availability for the blue and white games even though they had a designated team. Unfortunately, this also encouraged one parent to  attempt to game the system and only mark his child available for the blue matches even through his kid was firmly rooted on the white team. Filippo immediately sniffed out stunt. He subsequently placed the child permanently on the blue team but barely played him.  Filippo knew a non-believer was in his midst. The father realized his colors were discovered and quit the club.

Two years later the child returned with his new team for a match against Met Oval. The father anxiously watched the teams battle to a 2-2 draw that saw Met  Oval level the score in the waning minutes. As he despondently walked to his car, he crossed  paths with a woman giddy from the exciting game and called her a fat pig. The situation nearly  came to blows as a Met Oval father demanded an apology. Filippo’s intuition about the man was confirmed.  

Early in Filippo’s Dundalk tenure, team captain Brian Gartland offered his assessment of Filippo  and Giuseppe. Gartland was actually impressed. “On the first day Filippo addressed the players. He told us what he wanted, how he wanted us to do it and told us the plan. They’re confident,  organized, structured and know what they want.”

Filippo’s approach is reminiscent of lessons out of my Management of Organizational Change classes from business school or the FIFA Pro License study guide. Who needs stinking licenses? Passion and commitment are Filippo’s lodestar. A person driven by these qualities is bound to figure it out. 

Buy In

At Met Oval, Filippo and Giuseppe periodically addressed the parents and explained their  vision for the club’s teams. At the end of each fall and spring season, the players received an  assessment called TIPS: Technical, Insight, Personality and Speed. The evaluation is based on  the methodology popularized by the famed Dutch Academy, Ajax. It gave substance to the  coaches’ observations.

The coaches spoke of the curriculum and expectations they had for their players with the same intent and seriousness as teachers addressing parents at parent/ teacher conferences. They taught us the importance of technical development and why they  would wait until the boys were U13/U14 before they began to emphasize tactics. Many people  fail to recognize that youth coaches need to be able to work well with adults as well as kids.  The parents have to be sold before they sign the kids up for the program. 

Any Dundalk fan who has watched Filippo and Giuseppe coach clearly sees the passion they  bring to their jobs. Their animated sideline histrionics are already legendary. They expressed  the same enthusiasm at Met Oval when they coached games only a few people watched and  even fewer would remember.  

One of my favorite memories was a U12 game where Filippo was on the sideline as an observer to support a young new coach. The game started off poorly. The boys were not in synch. They were lethargic and unmotivated. Filippo was agitated but respected the young coach’s dominion. The young coach silently observed each errant pass and weak run. He clearly embraced the lessons from his licensing classes, which taught coaches to let young players figure out solutions to the problems in a game on their own. Don’t shout instructions. The kids should learn by trial and error. Let them play the game without influence from you. Winning isn’t important. The process is key.

The boys were down 0-2 at the half and Filippo was furious—not at the boys, at the coach.  One trait Filippo demanded was desire. He passed the same licensing courses but he clearly  did not subscribe to the entire curriculum. He believed players derived energy from their coach.  Unimpassioned leadership was intolerable regardless of what the licensing committee deemed  appropriate. 

Dai! Dai! Dai!

Filippo’s face bore the pain he felt for the boys as they played far below their potential. As the  second half began, the reins he placed on himself in the first half slowly loosened. At first, he  subtly motioned for a defender to play farther up, a winger to fill a lane. One could clearly see his hesitance to interfere but he could no longer contain himself. Next, words of  encouragement from Filippo began to pepper the pitch. The young coach remained mute. Met  Oval scored midway through the half. It was 1-2. Filippo and the boys were encouraged.

As the  boys played better, Filippo became more engaged. His trademark “Dai! Dai!” (come on, let’s  go) echoed throughout the field. His discretion gave way to animation. Filippo began to wave the boys along the pitch as if his movements would lift them to the spot he wanted them on the field.

The boys began to win the 50/50 balls they weren’t even close to in the first half. Suddenly, the score  was level. The parents became excited, Filippo was in full form and the boys were now playing with passion. Honestly, I can’t remember if the boys won this game. What mattered most was the unbound energy and joy Filippo instilled in them. Filippo may have even said they played like animals. So much for FIFA licenses. 

U14s Looking like pros

Filippo met the press on the second day he took the helm at Dundalk. Rumors swirled that the  ownership team would interfere with his team selections. When asked whether he would allow his authority to be undermined should any board member attempt to influence team matters,  Filippo firmly replied, “This is not the deal that we have. No, I’m not going to take words. I’m  the boss.” He channeled José Mourinho, or anyone else exceptional at his or her craft.

Filippo  knows soccer. He doesn’t need help to do his job. He doesn’t refer to a manual for guidance.  He told anyone who questioned his decisions while at Met Oval, “The field speaks.” Filippo  hears the field as clearly and effectively as anyone in the business. He is a testament to hard  work and belief in one’s self. The kids and parents at Met Oval will miss him. Dundalk is lucky  to have him as their new head coach.

Mike Fanelli

Mike Finelli died this past November from brain cancer. I’m hesitant to say he battled his illness since brain cancer is generally terminal. More appropriately, Mike lived as well as he could under the circumstances. He only revealed his diagnosis to family and a few friends as he lived life the best he could.

The Curator

Throughout his illness, Mike continued to maintain his museum grade collection of running memorabilia which he passionately housed in the Track and Field Garage next to his home in Napa Valley, California. In addition, he continued to update his Facebook page for his more than 4000 followers who checked in to read his historical posts and view relics from his collection. In one of his last post in November, Mike showed his typical self-effacing irony and humor when he wrote, “damn rodents ate ALL of my award ribbons (in approx. 1998)….like 60 of them…chewed them up to make rat bedding…gross…even peed on my high school varsity letter too… BUT, they spared the patch…only ONE way to get such a patch and that was to win outright an association championship. In Feb 1979, I surprisingly won the 50K (31.1 miles) road championships in 3:05:13 (5:53 per mile for 31 miles) at age 23.”

The Runner

Running was Mike’s passion. By his count and documented in volumes of journals, he ran two laps around the world. In the last half decade or so these miles were compiled in spite of enormous pain from the erosion of cartilage in his feet. 

Mike vaguely mentioned his running career in his numerous Facebook posts. He preferred to share the stories of the sport’s headliners and highlight their memorabilia. Yet, in my eyes, Mike was a badass runner. I know, first hand.

Fittingly, Mike and I first met at a road race almost forty years ago. I had just finished college and entered a local 8K in Washington, D.C. The race remains indelibly etched in my mind. At the gun, Mike and his brother Gary bolted into the lead and never looked back. I was astonished that two guys dressed as the Blues Brothers whooped me so soundly. It’s all relative and to this 800M runner, Mike was World Class.

The Ambassador

A few years later when I reminded Mike how we met, he was sheepish. He seemed to want to distance himself from his past silliness. Instead, Mike had begun to forge his identity as one of the most able and passionate champions of Athletics. He represented the sport with the same dignity and commitment that the athletes waged to achieve their feats. He embodied what running means to all of us who derived as much joy from the sport as he did.

The Meet Director

As many have noted, Mike wore many hats. One label he proudly wore was “Meet Director.” In his 1992 Pacific TAC meet, he gave San Francisco its first sub 4:00 mile. Moreover, Mike defied the IAAF on that day. 

Only a week prior to Mike’s meet, the 400M World Record holder, Butch Reynolds, was ordered by the IAAF’s General Secretary Istvan Gyulai not to run the Bruce Jenner Classic in San Jose, California. At the time, Butch was suspended by the IAAF for a failed drug test. However, enough questions surrounded the protocol of Butch’s positive test that a U.S. district judge issued a restraining order not to interfere in Butch’s participation in any U.S.A track meets.

The Agitator

In defiance of U.S rule of law, Gyulai reiterated Butch was banned by the IAAF. He also threatened to suspend any runners that competed against Butch and strip the Jenner Classic of its Grand Prix status if he ran. The spineless Jenner meet director, Bert Bonnano, enforced the ban. Butch’s chance to run an Olympic trials qualifying mark looked bleak. 

Mike’s Pacific TAC meet was probably Butch’s final chance to hit the trials standard. I can not speak directly to Mike’s motivation to have Butch run in his race. I’m sure “athlete’s rights” was one explanation. Patriotism could have been another. Nevertheless, it would take courage, intelligence, guile and a host of other traits embodied by Mike Fanelli to get Butch to the starting line without jeopardizing other athletes eligibility.

The plan Mike devised was that only a few people could know Butch was slated to run. The secrecy was necessary because only athletes knowingly competing in a meet with a banned athlete could be suspended. In turn, Butch’s race was the last competition of the day. This gave everyone who ran before the 400M plausible deniability that they knew Butch was running that day. The athletes who raced against him assumed the risk. 

Butch did a clandestine warm-up. He miraculously appeared in his lane, slipped into the blocks and got his Olympic Trials qualifying mark. 

How do I know all this? I’m sure Mike never spilled this story at the Wild Duck winding down with a few beers after the pre Classic. He was too modest.

I only know this story because I trained with Butch in Palo Alto at the time. When I first shared my memory of that day with Mike he chuckled and said, “I can’t tell you how many times the IAAF faxed me to get the list of runners who ran against Butch in that 400M. They were NEVER getting those results.”

The Friend

Mike was teaching us until the very end. As Renay conveyed, “Mike preferred to live his life as if he was living, not dying.” Sadly, this stance didn’t give most of us a chance to say good-bye. Yet, my vanity and ego tell me otherwise. Mike posted a picture of a victory of mine only a month ago. I’m honored to have been on your mind. Your friendship will be with me forever.

Don’t Play with Fire

Watch out for the woman that races with a bow in her hair

A few weeks ago a post of Alahna Sabbakha, a University of Virginia track star, crushing the NARP (Non-Athlete Regular Person) friend of her boyfriend in a 400M race popped up in my social media feed. Her thumping of the young man subsequently went viral. I guess for some people it is still a novelty to see a woman trouncing a man in an athletic contest like Billie Jean King did to Bobby Riggs in a tennis match fifty years ago.

Billy Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in straight set 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to win the Battle of the Sexes September 20, 1973

Let’s nickname Alahna’s opponent Ken as a counterpart to Karen. He was a gift of humiliation and stupidity to social media. The race was a car crash that no one needed to apologize for watching.

Quite Confidence

Major media outlets such as The USA Today, Runner’s World and The Independent covered the event as a feel good story. Sabbakhan’s conciliatory attitude theorized that some male non-athletes think they can beat female athletes because, “We make it look so easy. People who sit on their couch … it’s so easy for them to just sit there and say, ‘Oh, I could do that, too, if I tried, if I trained for a little bit’ — not realizing how hard it actually is.”

In reality, Alhana’s race is a testament to the numerous challenges women face as they seek to establish viability in their lives and careers. Unfortunately, a satchel of disrespect, arrogance and hubris exists to marginalize the achievements of talented women like Alahna Sabbakha. 

Some people have an inflexible view of the world. Anything that does not conform to their outlook is dismissed. They believe in alternative facts and label the news as fake.  

Ken could have easily used Google to determine Alahna’s competency. I’m sure his friends who knew Alahna told him, “That girl is for real.” Instead, he ignored reason and set out to prove his righteousness. He even invited his parents and friends to watch him confirm their idea of male superiority. 

They’re Legit

This is not hyperbole. The world has witnessed too many inspiring women’s World Cup, Grand Slam and Olympic triumphs not to know women athletes are as skillful, tough and committed as men. A person who denies this fact is biased and misogynistic and their harmful thinking hinders the advancement of all women.  

TAMPA, FL – MARCH 05: Unites States forward Christen Press (23) dribbles through Brazil traffic

It’s called unconscious bias. The mindset will discount a woman’s grades and devalue her degrees. It magnifies missteps and disregards accomplishments. It explains, to a large degree, inequity.

Life hasn’t forced Alahna to see this side of the world. Her parents and coaches have aptly prepared her for success in the insular college environment she currently operates. As she noted, “I don’t compare [myself] to others. I focus on my journey and my progress and where I used to be and where I want to be, because it’s just going to waste my time and drain my energy to be focused on everyone else.”

Haters Gonna Hate

Sadly, the Kens and Karens of the world will inevitably intrude all our lives. In addition, their seemingly innocuous actions will perpetuate and reinforce their harmful beliefs. We can’t count on the Alahna’s of the world to win every contest and thwart their existence.

How can I read so much into a silly match race between two college kids? The orchestrator of the 2020 Muslim ban and other divisive, xenophobic and hateful policies of the past presidential administration pulled a similar stunt to Ken’s. Senior Advisor to Trump, Stephen Miller jumped uninvited, into the final stretch of a girls’ track meet when he was in high school.

Some people viewed Miller’s move as an attempt to prove his athletic supremacy over the opposite sex. Others saw it as merely “a high school prank.” Regardless of his intentions, it is common knowledge that the jerks in high school and college remain jerks.

Most importantly, The antics of Miller undermines the legitimacy of women’s achievements and seeks to diminish their existence. His mockery of women isn’t a funny joke. As Miller has proven, his youthful misbehavior is indicative of more than bad judgment. It is representative of a rigid worldview that has no place for those who do not conform to it. 

Ken could just be a prankster. Maybe the beatdown Alahna gave him was enough to knock some sense into him. Maybe we just need to chill. Then again, “First they came for the communists

Fun Run

My high school coach, Mr. Grant, held a picnic at Seneca Creek Park, Maryland for our cross-country team to celebrate the end of our summer training. He told us to bring our running gear because we would have a little run before the festivities. “The country roads would make for a beautiful jaunt.”

Close to four dozen of us gathered at the park. In addition, a number of parents and siblings joined us for the day. The picnic area was flush with all the foods, drinks, games and sporting equipment needed for a fun afternoon. We didn’t see Mr. Grant, so the allure of the setting begged for the picnic to begin. 

The grill wasn’t fired up but liters of colored sodas and bags of snacks were devoured. A few games of wiffle ball and catch were buzzing along when Mr. Grant and his assistant Pat finally arrived. 

Little did we know Mr. Grant was late because he was mapping out a course for our run. Not privy to this fact, we casually listened when Mr. Grant gathered us together and told us how great the summer training had gone. He spoke of goals for the fall. Then he dropped the bomb on us and proceed to describe the course for our six mile run.


Our jaws dropped. We swore Mr. Grant wasn’t going to have us run once he saw all the fun going on. We were ready for hot dogs and hamburgers, not a run. Who interrupts a party for a run?  

We should have known better. Mr. Grant always took care of business. His commitment to our team was equal to his commitment to his family. Our training sessions were mostly filled with him barking instructions from Pat’s van while we ran along Rock Creek Park and our other training routes. His presence could silence a room of boisterous students. He channeled the gentlemanly demeanor and physical stature of Barack Obama before the world even knew who Obama was. 

Damian Hackett and Pierre Attiogbe are two former StA runners now at Cornell. Their coach, Jim Ehrenhaft, was at the famed picnic and learned his trade from Coach Grant. Damian is a 3:57 miler as a Cornell sophomore and the freshman Pierre ran a 4:02 mile in high school

Despondently, my group of the varsity guys set out down the country road. Our pace was far slower than usual. Fanta is certainly not a pre-practice hydration drink. We grumbled and slogged along for a handful of minutes.

Out of the distance, we heard a distinctive voice, “I don’t see much running going on up there.” It wasn’t the voice of Big Brother it was Mr. Grant about fifty yards behind us. He was fortyish but as lean and fit as the best on the team. We automatically began to hammer it.  Not another word needed to be said. 

We were hauling but continued to fuss about having to run. A few minutes had passed. Certainly, we had dropped Mr. Grant. One of my teammates coaxed me to turn around to see if he was still in our view. Before my head turned 90 degrees, he bellowed, “I’m still here.” Our easy picnic run turned into a nice steady state. 

All in one afternoon Mr. Grant taught us to “Keep your word”, “Walk the talk” and “There are no days off.” 


Time and time again I ask, “When will these football players get into shape?” Joe Buck instantly called it. “ Breece Hall ran out of gas” on his 83 yard run against the Bills the other night. Right next door on ESPN2, Eli Manning preached it as he saw Hall fade fifteen yards before Christian Benford ran him down. eli screamed, “He’s not in shape, he’s not in shape, ” Hall could smell the end zone but tired legs couldn’t get him to the house.

Only Speaking Truth

Noah Lyles would have been better off telling the sports world that few, if any, athletes train harder and are in better shape than him and his fellow track athletes. Forget the world title nonsense. Lyles should have pronounced to the world no one works harder than track athletes. Yep, I’ll throw those field people in there. I’ll bet you Brian Crouser can dunk a sixteen pound shot put. 

A track athlete that gets gassed or isn’t in shape is In the Stands watching the people who did the work get the job done.

Kids are taught from the time they start playing sports to work hard and get into shape. The reality is if an athlete wants to know what being in shape feels like they gotta run track.

Years ago, there were a few track people who ran track and excelled on the gridiron. Two who come to mind are O.J Simpson and Herschel Walker. O.J even ran on a world record 4×100 relay team when he was at USC. Herschel was on the U.S Junior track team before football consumed his time. Bad examples but they prove the point, “One has to be a little crazy to work as hard as it takes to excel at track.” 

The Real Work

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1968: O.J. Simpson #108 of the University of Southern California Trojans looks on from the sidelines during an NCAA college track and field event circa 1968. from 1967-68. Simpson played football for USC from 1967-68. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Now it’s all about throwing around some weights, taking a few hits and running a few twenty or thirty yard bursts to be on the football team. You want to crush workouts that make you see your life flash before your eyes? Run track. Then you will really know you did something.

Watch Carl Lewis and Mike Marsh make this 6 x 200 look like a stroll in Sam Houston Park. They ran these 200s in 28 seconds with about a minute and half rest between each interval. I promise no football player can do this workout. Maybe a few Premier League or Bundesliga League players can match the effort. The shit is hard. This is how true world titles are won.

People will argue this is an apples to oranges comparison. People will say spending time on running is a misallocation of the time necessary to prepare for the game. Wrong!

Bread a Butter

The workout in this video trains speed endurance. It makes one swift and nimble while everyone else is tired. It’s a recipe for second and third efforts. It keeps you focused on the game because you’re not looking for your next breath. It keeps you on your toes in the fourth quarter when everyone else can’t feel their legs.

So, they go to the weight room to get a little more strength instead of the track to find some speed and endurance. Riddle me this. What does every football player need: Twenty pounds on their max or a tenth of a second off their 40? Speed kills. 

Athletes that ran are etched in history. Everyone knows Jerry Rice. Few know he had a crazy hill he ran all Summer to prepare him for training camp and the grueling season. Many tagged along to see what the magic was. Two, three days later they were gone. It was too hard.

Train Hard. Run Track. It’s worth it.

Brian Flores

This entry was actually written at the time Brian Flores’ suit was announced in February 2022. One thing led to another and I only got to posting it now. The update is Flores still waits for his day in court. The case will most likely go to arbitration.

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL. His complaint highlights sham interviews and a directive to purposely lose games. Black financial advisors waged a discrimination claim against Merrill Lynch that cited similar indignities. The eight year battle resulted in a  $160M settlement for the plaintiffs in 2013. A look at the parallels between these cases shows how discrimination in the NFL is a reflection of the country’s shortcomings on matters of race. A greater awareness of this environment may help identify solutions to the problem.

Court or Arbitration

The complaints cited in Brian Flores discrimination lawsuit are certainly headline worthy. Sham interviews, payments to lose games and player tampering all compromise the integrity of the game. It is questionable, however, if the suit will even make it to court since the NFL may have the power to force it to be heard in arbitration. 

If Flores does have his day in court, he must not only prove he faced indignities and suffered damages because he is Black but also that the NFL implemented a league-wide policy which supported the mistreatment. This is the tricky part. There may be evidence of a double standard for the evaluation of Black coaches compared to white coaches. The question is whether or not the differentiation is a matter of policy.

Is It A Class Action?

As Michael Zimmer, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago notes, “ A class suit alleging unintentional yet systemic bias, is extremely rare. Roughly 15,000 discrimination lawsuits are filed each year, fewer than 100 make similarly broad claims.”

The Merrill Lynch advisors case rested on proving Merrill Lynch intentionally designed a retention program which discriminated against minorities. Time after time, judges ruled their claims did not have the strength to survive a legal challenge by the defendant. This happened because Merrill Lynch could not be held accountable for the behavior of managers in the company unless their behavior enforced a Merrill Lynch policy.  As a franchised partnership, the NFL may be able to make a claim that the league office is not responsible for a teams hiring practices. The thirty-two franchises operate on their own accord and set their own hiring rules.

Is It Like A Fraternity?

Linda Friedman, who represented the Merrill Lynch advisors, changed the tide for the advisors when she persuaded a judge that the Merrill Lynch policy on the formation of teams hindered the success of minorities in the same way a police department’s teaming policy discriminated against women. 

Friedman cited case law that affirmed “If police departments allowed veteran officers to pick their own partners, the force would never have been integrated.” When Friedman made this point the presiding judge inquired, “It’s like a fraternity? They’re not picked? This opened the door for the class to be certified and the case to be heard in court. 

This may mean the fraternal nature of the NFL coaching echelon may be the real pressure point for Flores case. Is there something inherent in the way coaches are hired that discriminates against minority applicants? 

Gruden Spills the Beans

John Gruden’s nickname is Chucky because when he’s angry he resembles the gleefully homicidal doll, Chucky, in the horror movie Child’s Play.

Comments from John Gruden when he was named head coach of the Oakland Raider offers a glimpse at how people are locked out of coaching positions in the NFL. He stated, “When you become a head coach, you can’t just go get the guys you want because they’re under contract. A lot of these guys are head coaches now, guys that you worked with. Over the years, I’ve always tried to keep a close group of friends and people that I have a high respect for on red alert, just in case an opportunity could arise.”

This attitude reflects the mindset of hiring managers in any industry. The problem is compounded once Gruden’s misogynist, racist and homophobic emails come to light. It begs the question: What does it take to be a close friend of Gruden’s? Surely, he has hired minority coaches in the past. Yet, how many people were repelled by his derogatory behavior? How many people didn’t click with him because they didn’t share his offensive attitudes? This isn’t simply a minority issue. It’s a cultural issue the entire league faces. It also explains why matters of race and other critical issues have been so hard for the NFL to resolve. It seems few thoughtful and open minded people are on red alert for open jobs at the NFL.

Got to Be in Lockstep

The New York Giants new general manager, Joe Schoen, offers another example of the clubiness of coaching in the NFL. He openly stated the criteria for the head coach he hires is that he “​​must be somebody who’s in lockstep with me. Someone that I can work with and have constant communication.” If you’re not on the inside, you’re on the outside.

Schoen’s statement ignores the contention that the best qualified candidate will be hired. In reality, all the candidates for C-Suite jobs are qualified. It’s a matter of having the attributes the hiring team seeks. Once again, Schoen makes it clear only a person from his sphere is qualified to be hired as the coach of the Giants. The system is like a fraternity. This is why they’re not picked. Can Flores’ make this case in legal terms and expose the bias in the hiring of NFL coaches?

People Like Us

Gruden’s and Schoen’s mindset also ignores accepted research that diversity is a gift for an organization. Divergent ideas can energize an organization once a homogeneous team exhausts its imagination. Research also proves companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams—not only with respect to absolute representation but also of variety or mix of ethnicities —are 33 percent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

The Brian Flores lawsuit certainly exposes the underbelly of the NFL. As many pundits have predicted, the embarrassment of the league may be enough to force them to address their hiring issues. Remember the Merrill Lynch case never went to court. It was settled because it was a public relations nightmare. Yet, the NFL have previously survived public relations fiascos like the Colin Kaepernick protest, CTE, the misogyny and racism of the Washington Commander’s owner Daniel Snyder. The billionaire owners know their league is teflon. We will see if the Brian Flores revelations will be any different.

The Match Race

A small segment of the sports world endlessly debates the reasons why track and field is not more popular. Many consider the sport the backbone of the Olympics. In off years, however, it barely holds the attention of even its most ardent fans. 

At the recent Brussels Diamond League press conference, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a 13x World and Olympic Champion in the sprints, showed the world why track and field doesn’t captivate its fans’ attention. Fraser-Pryce shamelessly displayed a lack of appreciation and comprehension for the intricacies and complexities of an event other than their own. How can a sport thrive if its own athletes don’t value the scope of their fellow competitors’ talents?

No She Didn’t

In a frank exchange, Fraser-Pryce challenged Mondo Duplantis, the pole vault Olympic Champion and World Record Holder, to a 100M match race. Mondo gleefully accepted the challenge and exclaimed he’d bet a lot of money on himself to win. Startled by Deplantis’s hubris, Fraser-Pryce inquisitively asked Duplantis, “Explain to us how sprinting and the Pole Vault work?”

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, of Jamaica, competes in a women’s 200-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Duplantis went on to educate Fraser-Pryce that sprinting was integral to his event. He calmly corrected her that his runway approach was forty-five meter not ten or fifteen and that he posted some pretty swift 100M times in high school. In fact, his 100M PB of 10.57 in high school is faster than her 10.60 PB.

Nothing really changes. Years ago when I competed on the circuit, two friends who competed in the field events gathered their gear to leave the stadium in the middle of the all-time great Said Auiota’s 3000M race. I was shocked and shouted to coaxed them to watch the race, “Auiota is on world record pace. He’s running close to four minute miles and you’re leaving? One of my buddies replied, “Ray, I don’t understand anything over the 800M.”

The drift of our fans is because the sport is too damn complicated. Yes, all the winner has to do is jump or throw the farthest or run the fastest. On the other hand, the sport makes no sense if one doesn’t understand or appreciate the beauty within each event. 

How Hard Can It Be?

Casual fans don’t understand how speed is just as important as “hops” for the high jump or that shot putters traditionally score the best on the vertical leap test compared to all other track and field athletes . Subsequently, fans only care for about thirty percent of a two hour event. How can a track meet be relevant if fans aren’t captivated by more than fifty percent of the show?

This fact makes the Duplantis vs Fraser-Pryce match race a brilliant idea. It bridges the sexs and events. The race tells a fascinating story. Most importantly, it is a legitimate competition. The challenge may have been orchestrated but it’s okay with me. Anything tasteful to call attention to our sport is a victory.

Remember Bobby Riggs was fifty-five when he played the twenty-nine year old Billie Jean King in the Battle of the Sexes. Duplantis vs Fraser-Pryce are at the top of their games. Their race would teach the world what sprinting has to do with the pole vault and how phenomenal all track and field athletes are.

It’s a Throwback

The proposed Duplantis vs Fraser-Pryce contest also reminds me of a stunt from the days of the Profesional Track Circuit of the 1970’s. At the end of competitions, the 6’5 and 275lbs shot put world record holder, Brian Oldfield, would race the winner of the women’s 100M race in a 55 yard dash. Oldfied won every time. What does sprinting have to do with the shot put?

Every track event is about a transfer of energy which is driven by speed. Oldfield threw the shot put with his legs not his arms. His leg speed allowed him to generate the power to thrust the shot put to world records. Duplantis’ flight down the runway creates the energy needed to propel him over the crossbar. His vault is like an airplane taking off. No speed, no lift, no flight and no height. 

Bring it on. I haven’t been to Brussels in years. I can’t wait.