Posted 5 days ago

SELECTING CANTALOUPES

For several summers around one particular Central Valley feedlot, we had cantaloupe fields planted. There are few simple pleasures that beat a cantaloupe, fresh from the field, on a 100+ degree San Joaquin Valley evening. Never mind that my buddy and I were carrying shotguns, patrolling the fields from dusk until nearly dawn, protecting against the “fruit stand banditos” that roam and pluck fruits and vegetables from fields to sell along the roadside. Nobody ever got shot, but we did fire a few warning rounds in the air to send a message.

I am so easily distracted. Back on task. Rather than sharing a BBQ tip or a recipe, let me help you to better enjoy a summer staple, that goes great with any cook-out:

  • Smell: this is the #1 criteria for me. I can smell an entire box of cantaloupes at the market and pick the winners and losers. It needs to smell slightly sweet with a hint of green. This ensures a firm melon. Too sweet and it may be overripe. Too green and it will be underripe;
  • Color: not green, mostly beige/brown. If it is too dark brown, pass on it. Sometimes, there will be a little green, which is fine if it smells right. Color is less important than smell.

Preferred method of serving: room temperature (I prefer letting it sit in the yard to warm-up!) with cracked black pepper (light).

Posted 5 days ago

The family and I were cruising up or down the PCH the other day and since I was driving, I had control of the CD player. My choice; groove some Jimmy Buffett.  It was the License to Chill album, with a lot of guest appearances from a variety of country artists. Probably my favorite tune on the album is Sea of Heartbreak.  My wife and I were singing along, and trying to figure out who sang the original version. Therefore, I present you with the original Don Gibson version, which reached #2 on the country charts back in 1961. Enjoy your weekend!

Posted 6 days ago

During my time off, I received approximately 500 emails. No big deal to some people, but to a quasi-simpleton like me, it felt like a lot. I don’t read them all; there were a lot of sales pitches and ads, a lot of recruiting service info, etc. There wasn’t a lot of real “business”, but there were nearly a dozen from friends of the program and personal friends of mine asking me about the d3football.com Top 25. 

My take on polls is that they’re beauty pageants.  Even when we’re ranked, that’s still all they are. Good for marketing and recruiting, something to write about if you’re in the Sports Information business, not much more than that. The d3football.com poll is the only one that has a handle on Division III football, and Pat, Keith, and the crew are the best in the business at covering our level of college football. I read their columns regularly during the season, and one can learn a lot about what’s going-on around the West and around the Nation. I appreciate their efforts.

So, with the SCIAC being blanked in the Top 25, what do I think? I think that’s fine. It will change if ourselves, the guys from east of here, and/or Brandman can knock-off any of the Top 25 teams that we’re facing in the non-conference schedule, and eventually, the leader in our conference will work their way into the rankings. At this juncture, they’re pretty spot-on. I think the other two SCIAC teams return the most starters and experience, and they’re about where I’d put them if I were voting. I was slightly surprised that we received votes after our performance in 2013, but I love where we’re at and how we’re setting-up for the next three seasons especially. Are we going to be nationally relevant in 2014? We’ll see. That’s not the focus, and we won’t be looking at polls or rankings or statistics until the end of the season. We will be rooting for UR and CU to win their non-conference games (so sweet of me to reference them by name, almost), and I’d love to see them (and us) break into the Top 25 at some point in time, but knowing Coaches Maynard and Owens, none of us are focused on that.

To answer the original questions: yes I’ve seen the poll, yes I believe it is accurate, and no I won’t think about it again until after the season!

Posted 1 week ago

VACATION

The family and I rolled back into town yesterday, a little road weary and a lot more tan.  Here are some highlights, without getting too personal:

  • Wherever there is saltwater, there are sharks. No, I did not go shark fishing, but we had a 12 foot White scaring people off the beach a little late in the trip. If he would’ve arrived earlier, we would’ve had the place to ourselves!
  • The Zac Brown Band concert was outstanding!  We saw them two years ago as well, and both concerts were among my all-time favorites. Not only did they play their stuff, the covered Metallica, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. I did not take the video above, but it will give you an idea of what it was like from up-close;
  • Celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary with the family. I am blessed and truly amazed at how good God has been to me;
  • Kept the cell phone completely turned-off for 8 days. No email, no texts, no phone messages, it was great! Now, the wife had hers in case of emergency and to check on the dog, and we used the iPad once or twice for reference, but otherwise, all was quiet;
  • Spent time stargazing with the family. Possibly my favorite part of the trip;
  • Dominated all-challengers in bocce on the beach;
  • Tried reserving a fire-ring on the beach by simply placing five, shrink-wrapped logs in the ring and propping two seat cushions that we found washed-up on shore against the ring. The result: we returned ten hours later to a campsite full of rednecks with enough firewood and alcohol to last ‘til kingdom come. Decided not to press the issue due to the fact that my wife and kids lacked experience rumbling on the beach, so we roasted marshmallows over the BBQ on our deck;
  • Speaking of the BBQ, the place had a decent gas grill and I cooked burgers on it one night. In my opinion, gas is fine for burgers and occasionally chicken, but I’m still partial to my Weber.

And so we return, with football season looming out on the horizon less than a month away. I’m not ready to give-in and call it a summer just yet, so we’ll find some more adventures in the days and weeks to come. I’d still like to get that bonfire in…

Posted 3 weeks ago

INDEPENDENCE DAY

I hope that anyone that is reading this had a safe and Happy 4th of July holiday!  Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays, because it usually means a little time away from the office, some quality family time, a chance to work the grill, nice weather, and loud fireworks, just to name a few things that I like. Here are some thoughts from my extended weekend:

  • I always wanted an American flag for my house and finally installed one last weekend. Feels right;
  • One family tradition that we have on the 4th is for me to make homemade ice cream. Broke that tradition this year as we were in Bakersfield;
  • "Bakersfield? Why?" This is the standard response my friends gave me when they asked what we were doing. Every single one of them said this! My wife’s family is there and we got invited and had a great shindig at the home of my brother-in-law and his family. It was 106 degrees when we arrived (78 when we left Thousand Oaks) but didn’t feel much hotter than 103;
  • Another thing Bakersfield has going for it as a 4th of July destination: FIREWORKS! Real ones, illegal ones, ones that shoot into the sky, it is the Wild West up there when it comes to fireworks! In fact, we pulled out of town at around 10:30 pm, and speeding south on Highway 99 from Olive Drive to Panama Lane was like escaping a war zone on the opening night of an invasion! There was a low-hanging cloud of smoke and gunpowder, and aerial explosions both to the east and west of the freeway. Quite distracting to the driver, quite entertaining for the family. Bakersfield College cancelled it’s show due to turf installation at Memorial Stadium, but who needs that when you have the free show going on all night;
  • Although I missed being the cook, my brother-in-law did a great job keeping us fed with high quality grub, and lots of it;
  • The Fourth of July is a time of historical reflection for our family. Kids ask lots of questions and share interesting tidbits of trivial knowledge that we as adults sometimes forget that we learned during our schooling. My favorite fact that a kid dropped on me? George Washington never lived in the White House.

Due to my chosen profession, Independence Day is the only summer holiday that I celebrate.  I have either practiced as a player or as a coach on every Labor Day since 1983, so that holiday is non-existent to me. Independence Day is really the final holiday until Halloween for me, and that really isn’t a holiday, so it’s the final holiday until Thanksgiving. I feel like I got my money’s worth, thanks to everyone that helped make that happen!

Posted 4 weeks ago

SUMMERTIME

People always politely ask me, “what are your plans this summer?” Here are a few things that our family likes to do on a typical summer day and/or night:

Work: Yes, our office is open and we are preparing for training camp, finalizing transfer recruiting, and game planning for our season. It is pretty relaxed, but we get a lot done. People are stunned to learn that we don’t just show-up in August and roll the balls out.

All-Stars: Winding down, we have one tournament remaining. We are not of the age that goes to Williamsport to play in the LLWS. That’s called District All-Stars, we’re non-District because we’re younger. The best thing that is happening right now is that we are getting markedly better every single time we hit the practice field. I wish we could have started practicing with this group about a month sooner because we would have performed better than we have in the tournaments we’ve played, but we were a lot better last weekend than the weekend before, and had our best practice last night.

Beach: Within 30 minutes, we can be on the sand anywhere between Zuma Beach and Carpinteria (ok, that’s closer to 40 minutes away).  I prefer Carp on a weekday, but also like the less crowded Ventura beaches. Grab the blue bag of bocce balls and I’ll walk halfway to Mexico playing. I am still hoping to find time to learn how to surf consistently, it takes more than one session.

Concerts: I haven’t attended any concerts since last summer, and members of our family are scheduled to see, in no particular order, The Zac Brown Band, Jack Johnson, The Beach Boys, a myriad of free concerts in the area, and Shakespeare performances in Kingsmen Park.

Sporting events: We’ll hit a rodeo, maybe watch some dirt track racing in Ventura, go to another Dodgers game, and maybe catch an Angels game.

Perhaps my favorite summertime entertainment in our family is a Sunday evening BBQ in the back yard. We’ll pitch horse shoes, play bocce, throw baseballs, listen to my eclectic iPod, hit volleyballs, chase the dog, spray each other with the hose, and shoot baskets until dark. Then we can sit around and listen to the frog concert from the nearby creek and look at the stars.  Actually rocked my 14 year old daughter to sleep last Sunday evening in a backyard chair, pretty nice time.

Posted 1 month ago
WHAT I’VE LEARNED AFTER MANAGING ONE LITTLE LEAGUE ALL-STAR TOURNAMENT (OF THREE):
I took the reigns of our local 7U All-Star team a couple weeks ago, and it has been a great experience. You are never too old to learn in this professions, and here are some things that I’ve picked-up, thanks to a great group of kids:
Little guys feel pressure. Our job as coaches and more importantly parents, is to alleviate that pressure and help them to feel confident about themselves;
Coaching youth sports is even more joyous when the entire roster enjoys practicing and doesn’t act like you’ve taken them hostage when they show-up at the ballpark;
7 year-olds know the score even without a scoreboard. They’ll fight and scrap to get back into a game they trail in, and they’ll shut it down and cruise if they’re ahead by a bunch;
There are some people that live within a 50 mile radius of here that take 7 year-old baseball very, very seriously;
Hitting a baseball, at any level, is difficult. How they’re hitting affects their mood. Their mood affects their outlook. Their outlook affects their performance. Their performance affects my mood. My mood affects my relationships. Must keep perspective…
The concept that each pitch of an at-bat is it’s own entity, not connected to the pitch before or the next pitch, is hard to get across to them. Must focus on what is directly in front of you in life;
Don’t stand behind the dugout, or sit in the stands, or at dinner afterward, and tell your kid a million things that they need to do better. It’s too many voices.
Looking forward to this weekend after a great week of evening practices. Nothing better than being on a Little League ball field with your glove and your kid as the sun goes down on a summer evening. I am blessed!

WHAT I’VE LEARNED AFTER MANAGING ONE LITTLE LEAGUE ALL-STAR TOURNAMENT (OF THREE):

I took the reigns of our local 7U All-Star team a couple weeks ago, and it has been a great experience. You are never too old to learn in this professions, and here are some things that I’ve picked-up, thanks to a great group of kids:

  • Little guys feel pressure. Our job as coaches and more importantly parents, is to alleviate that pressure and help them to feel confident about themselves;
  • Coaching youth sports is even more joyous when the entire roster enjoys practicing and doesn’t act like you’ve taken them hostage when they show-up at the ballpark;
  • 7 year-olds know the score even without a scoreboard. They’ll fight and scrap to get back into a game they trail in, and they’ll shut it down and cruise if they’re ahead by a bunch;
  • There are some people that live within a 50 mile radius of here that take 7 year-old baseball very, very seriously;
  • Hitting a baseball, at any level, is difficult. How they’re hitting affects their mood. Their mood affects their outlook. Their outlook affects their performance. Their performance affects my mood. My mood affects my relationships. Must keep perspective…
  • The concept that each pitch of an at-bat is it’s own entity, not connected to the pitch before or the next pitch, is hard to get across to them. Must focus on what is directly in front of you in life;
  • Don’t stand behind the dugout, or sit in the stands, or at dinner afterward, and tell your kid a million things that they need to do better. It’s too many voices.

Looking forward to this weekend after a great week of evening practices. Nothing better than being on a Little League ball field with your glove and your kid as the sun goes down on a summer evening. I am blessed!

Posted 1 month ago

FEARLESS 2014 WORLD CUP PREDICTION:

Argentina.

That is my final football post barring anything spectacular or horrific involving Americans.

Dodgers open a big series tonight vs. the Cardinals!

Posted 1 month ago

REASONS WHY THE SUBPAR 2013 SEASON WAS ALL MY FAULT

The following was written one night last December and tucked-away in my Drafts folder for later use. Figured a Friday in mid-June is as good a time as any.

With the 2013 football season in the books, it is a time to do some self-reflection. I’d never experienced a roller coaster ride like this one, I’d never experienced a sub-.500 season as a head football coach, and at times like these, I feel that it is best to start by looking in the mirror to explain what went wrong:

  1. Need more sweater vest.  In my time as the head football coach at Cal Lutheran, we have rarely lost football games in which I’ve donned either a purple or black sweater vest. In 2013, I went away from that look more times than ever in my previous six seasons, and it hurt our cause;
  2. Less hair. Back in 2004, for personal reasons, I made a pact that I would never grow my hair out again. I lost sight of that in 2013 and let the hair grow out after the 2012 season, to the point that it required product. It is never a good thing to break those sort of promises, and I will be cutting it shortly;
  3. Too much beard.  A little beard is good sometimes, especially in November. But not as much beard as I was sporting. I dressed like one of the Duck Dynasty guys to walk my kids around the neighborhood at Halloween. That is too much beard;
  4. P&L Burger. Needs to be consumed EVERY Sunday night after meetings and before game planning begins;
  5. Black Jersey Switcharoo.  Even when we advertise the Blackout Game, and 5,000 people know we’re going to wear black jerseys, we need to come-out in purple. Duh;
  6. Assumptions. My old coach here at CLU, Joe Harper, is credited with the greatest quote about assumptions that I’ve ever heard, but I can’t post it. I can’t assume that anyone cares as much about CLU Football as I do;
Posted 1 month ago

WORLD CUP Q&A

For some strange reason, every four years people approach me and ask me questions about soccer, it’s relationship with American Football, and if I even like the sport. I played two years of soccer, 2 of the 3 McEnroe kids have played some form of soccer, so we’re cool. I even hear Scott Wheeler is quite the girl’s soccer coach. For the record, regarding the most frequently asked questions I receive:

  • "Are you concerned about soccer taking over for your football?” No, there’s room for both of us. I’ve never been one of those football coaches that bashes that football. Some of the best high school football players I coached, including one currently playing in the NFL, spent their entire childhoods playing club soccer. The more sports they play, the better for kids. Let them choose;
  • "With your football being so dangerous, are you worried that everyone will switch to soccer?" Nope. I’m more concerned with false data and scare tactics in the media and used by ignorant coaches in certain sports to get players to quit “my” football or to attract kids to other sports.  That generally hasn’t come from soccer, but is a frequent argument of, say, lacrosse parents that I’ve spoken with. There is an inherent risk involved in every sport. Don’t speak negatively about something you don’t know about.
  • "Did you see the TV ratings for the US-Ghana game?" No, but I heard they were bigger than the NBA and NHL finals, and that’s great. But do not expect a similar result for the MLS unless you live in Portland or Seattle. This happens every four years, and the MLS will see a spike, but they almost folded after their last spike so be careful. I will tell you that I hate the way that American commentators and former national players talk-down to the viewing audience. I will be watching matches on Telemundo from here forward. It isn’t 1992, we know how to watch a match;
  • Do you watch the matches? Put our flag on it, call it USA, and I’m in. I don’t care what we’re doing, where we’re doing it, I’m ALL IN for the USA. However, I have not reached the point where I am entertained over the course of 90+ minutes watching a match between Third World Countries and the Axis Powers from WWII. If it is a critical USA game, I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, but that’s about it. I might even watch an elite UEFA Champions Cup game or something, but only in spurts, and the next time will be the first time;
  • What do you think about players flopping and rolling around on the pitch after a foul? I think it is ridiculous and pathetic. It may be part of “soccer culture”, but it is ridiculous and it is not an art form. Get up, play on;
  • Have you seen the way they carry everyone off on a stretcher? i love that and think every sport should do it. They load those cats onto the stretcher and run them off the field. It is awesome! I also love the magical spray they always try spraying on an injured player, ever seen that one? What’s in that bottle?
  • When will the USA be able to compete with the great international powers? Will they have to take football players? I have a theory on how to win a World Cup for the USA in the next 20 years, but it is somewhat controversial, would require the federal government to support it (thus closing-down a few irrelevant aid programs) and would require a sea change in the way we approach the sport. I may or may not share the plan publicly, but I’ve had it in the back of my head since the last World Cup and if anyone at USA Soccer is interested, shoot me a line. It will require a few American Football prospects, but there are enough to go around;
  • Football, at that level, is such a thing of beauty, don’t you think? Yes, I agree. But so is a Puig throw to the plate, Kershaw tossing a no-hitter, Kobe or Jordan pulling-up for a 12-footer at the buzzer, Barry Sanders snapping ankles, etc. This sport, played at the highest level, is just that; the best at what they do, playing against the best at what they do. It’s professional sports, they better be good! They’re all gazillionaires, and they get paid because they ARE that good. I truly appreciated the goaltending of Guillermo Ochoa for Mexico on Tuesday, but how was it any more impressive than Jonathan Quick’s performance over seven games the last two weeks? 
  • "But it’s the World Cup…" I know, and a lot of people are watching. More than watch the Super Bowl. That doesn’t make it better or worse, it is what it is. Pressure builds diamonds. More people play football than any other sport, because all you need is some sort of a ball and a few friends. And that is awesome, and beautiful, and exciting. Enjoy it for what it is!

That’s right, I called it football. If we want to be taken seriously, we should all call it football. I’m fine with my sport being called American Football because I want U.S.A. Football to win the World Cup someday. We’re a long way from it, but if it’s worth playing, it’s worth winning.