Alabama vs. Villanova: Championship Basketball Recalls Magical 1982 Season

Today’s ‘Bama vs. ‘Nova matchup is more than just another basketball game. Second round NCAA tournament slot be damned, this is Alabama’s National Championship.

The Crimson Tide basketball program has not been a storied dynasty of multiple national championships; in fact, Alabama has never won a national championship in basketball, and advanced to the Elite Eight only once after defeating number one seed Stanford and then Syracuse on their way to losing to eventual National Champion Connecticut in the 2003-2004 season. But over the years it has been competitive.

The program has produced many successful NBA stars, among them, Robert Horry, Antonio McDyss, , T.R. Dunn, Gerald Wallace, and some more notorious than others (Latrell Sprewell). Alabama players have played with 9 NBA championship teams, earned six All-Star selections, six All-Defensive Team honors, and three All-Rookie honors.

The Elite Eight showing and brief number 1 national ranking in 2004 notwithstanding; arguably the Tide’s best was the 1982 team. Their highest national ranking that year was 5, and their overall record of 24-7 was best in the SEC, and they defeated a loaded Kentucky team in for the conference championship.

‘Bama’s Achilles heel that season though was inconsistency and turnovers, something that may haunt this year’s team if they are not careful. But when the Tide was on they were virtually unstoppable. Point Guard Ennis Whatley (1983 NCAA All-American), who went on to play 12 NBA seasons with 7 NBA teams, was magic on the floor and played toe-to-toe with one Michael Jordan in the Midwest Regional Semifinals in 1982. Jordan and Whatley were freshman. Ironically, Whatley later played two years in Jordan’s shadow with the Chicago Bulls before moving on to the rest of his journeyman’s NBA career.


Ennis could get the most stoic crowd on their feet with his showmanship, no-look passes and incredible ball handling and leaping ability. I have never seen a more physically talented player, although ‘Bama’s current point guard and magician Collin Sexton is inching toward that pedestal. Ennis could and would dunk the ball on breakaways.

At power forward, Alabama had Eddie Phillips, a finesse player when needed, but a Phi-Slamma-Jamma in crunch time who could produce thunderous dunks if left alone for even a blink of an eye with the ball near the hoop. Eddie was the quiet leader of the team and could play with nearly every other best player they faced at his position.


Another phenom on the team was Bobby Lee Hurt, center, and constant presence in the paint. He could just as soon block your shot as look at you. All-Time leading Alabama field goal percentage leader (63%), he had the sweetest and almost automatic turnaround jump shot I have ever seen, to this day.


Setting up in the paint with his back to the basket, his too-long arms stretched high above his 6’9” frame, getting him the ball there was an almost guaranteed bucket. His method was always the same if someone was on his back, fake one way with an elbow in the chest, pivot away and then release a high arching, impossible to block, soft-as-a-feather shot which would more times than not elicit a sweet, “String music!” call from long time SEC basketball analyst and announcer, Joe Dean, as it swished through the net.

Bobby Lee frequently got the better of SEC opponent, Charles Barkley, aka the “Round Mound of Rebound,” whenever ‘Bama played Auburn. Sir Charles was confounded and rejected many a time by Bobby Lee, though they were a well matched pair overall.


Rounding out the frequent starters were Mike Davis, guard and reliable shooter to Whatley’s flash and dash, and Phillip Lockett, a 6’ 11” goal keeper who could match up against the best big men in the paint, but knee issues saw him needing frequent stints on the bench. With Lockett, Bobby Lee and Eddie Phillips on the floor at the same time virtually no other team in basketball at the time could match up.

The Midwest Regional Semi-Final vs. a stacked North Carolina team, who were the eventual tournament champs, included Jordan, Matt Doherty, Sam Perkins and James Worthy. The game was see-saw. When Jordan was out, Whatley and ‘Bama crept in. When Jordan was in, North Carolina pulled ahead, as if shifting into another gear. The margin of defeat for ‘Bama was five points.


Only a freshman at the time, Jordan was obviously the best player on the court, and probably in all of the NCAA, if for no other reason than his leadership, as he was mature and confident beyond his years. The Tar Heels lost two games that season, and only beat Georgetown by a point in the championship game, but Jordan was Mr. Refuse-to-Lose. Dominant, defiant and breathtaking.

The college game has changed however, since 1982. It is faster, brasher, more entertaining with current hairstyles (Alabama obviously leads this category), super talent and acrobatic displays unlike any before.


Alabama has perhaps two of the best players in the game today, both freshman and both with nothing to lose. Collin Sexton and John Petty can explode and blow open any opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana Tech at Alabama

But taking care of the basketball will be an essential key to defeating a Villanova team that just does not make mistakes.

Villanova is not big, and ‘Bama can go bigger (6’9” Donta Hall, 6’11” Daniel Giddens, 6’ 9” Galen Smith). Villanova is not deep (tending to stick to a seven man rotation), and ‘Bama has depth, experience and talent. Villanova can and does shoot the three point shot well, and ‘Bama tends to rely more on penetration and opportunity shooting inside the three point line. Good team defense on both sides should help add up to a classic tournament nail-biter.


Historically, this is usually as far as an Alabama basketball team gets. But these are the days of surprise and opportunity. Alabama is scrappy, impossible to intimidate, and just might put together something special this afternoon, for this is their championship game. A win today would propel this team into the stratosphere of Alabama Basketball, and then everything else after would just be gravy on the biscuit.

I know, I know, one step at a time. But having watched that 1982 ‘Bama vs. NC tournament game, and having attended the University of Alabama from 1980-1985, I have Alabama basketball on the brain, and it’s been that long (2004 notwithstanding) since I have felt this excitement.


Roll Tide, ‘Bama! Make us proud!

Fisher House: Shut Down Doesn’t Mean Troops Will Be Shut Out

Unless special provisions are made, families of fallen soldiers whose death benefits will be suspended could be hit especially hard during the current government shutdown. These benefits include vital monetary support for dependents of fallen soldiers who suddenly, and unexpectedly, find themselves facing financial hardship at one of the lowest moments in their lives.

In 2013, the Fisher House Foundation stepped in to cover the lost benefits and last Thursday night, the Foundation announced that they will be stepping up to do it again. Below is a statement from CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, Ken Fisher and a release from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)


Ken Fisher Statement: Government rules and regulations can often prevent it from doing what is best for our military. A perfect example of this occurred during the 2013 government shutdown when DoD could not pay the death benefits earned by service members through their ultimate sacrifice. Fisher House Foundation was there to fill the gap for grief-stricken military families. The Foundation volunteered to help the federal government meet this need and, though the crisis ended quickly, wound up providing $750,000 in grants to 30 families.

According to Ken Fisher, “Families like the ones we helped in 2013, are very deserving. They are deeply dedicated to overcoming the challenges they confront. Helping them isn’t charity but rather this nation’s solemn duty. In these very tough situations, they don’t quit. Neither should we.”


Senator Manchin has worked with the Ken Fisher, to make sure these families are taken care of in their time of greatest need.

Senator Manchin Release: The Fisher House generously agreed to offer the families an advance grant until the government can make reimbursements at an appropriate time. The Fisher House will also cover flights, hotels and other incidentals for family members.

“Today I spoke with my good friend Ken Fisher who generously volunteered to help our military families and ensure there is no funding gap during a time of unfathomable loss,” Senator Manchin said. “I applaud Ken and the Fisher House for their dedication to serving our soldiers and their families during their time of need and especially as this senseless shutdown looms. It’s shameful that our military families could bear the consequences of this shutdown and that’s part of why I will never vote to shut down the government. I’m grateful for Ken’s leadership and generous spirit.”

Fisher House Foundation is best known for the network of comfort homes built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers nationwide and in Europe. Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members as well as the Hotels for Heroes program using donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge. The Foundation also manages a grant program that supports other military charities and scholarship funds for military children, spouses and children of fallen and disabled veterans.

Walmart’s Military Showcase Offers Officially Licensed Military Products

Last month Walmart launched a vetted showcase where customers can shop to salute the nation’s military, veterans and their families. features an assortment of officially licensed products across all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces — U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard. The showcase launched with an initial assortment of nearly 3,000 products offered across a variety of categories.


“As a 31-year U.S. Army veteran I’m proud to wear my Army gear, and I’m thrilled that Walmart is providing a way for all of us to shop for officially licensed military merchandise with confidence and convenience,” said retired Brigadier General Gary Profit, Walmart’s senior director of military programs. “It’s a privilege to be part of such important efforts to remember our service members, veterans and their families every day.”


Since Memorial Day 2013, Walmart has hired more than 188,000 veterans and promoted more than 26,000 to roles of greater responsibility. The company is well on its way to reach its hiring goal of 250,000 veterans by 2020. Interested veterans can contact their local Walmart store or visit for details.

“The trademark licensing program leverages the importance of pride, performance and personal development to build brand awareness and create multiple touch points for Americans to show support to the U.S. Army,” says Paul Jensen, director of U.S. Army trademark licensing.


Each military branch independently determines which quality products and vetted suppliers are deserving of their respective licenses. These official licensees may then apply to be included in Walmart’s Online Military Showcase.  As more suppliers join this program offered through Walmart Marketplace, a broader range of assortment will provide shoppers even more choices.

Military Showcase.5

When asked what the inspiration was for the showcase, BG (Ret.) Gary Profit said, “The Marketplace team, which includes a few veterans, one an Army captain and one a PO2, saw an opportunity to provide an online destination where our customers could shop with confidence and convenience for officially-licensed products.”

The curated products for sale through the showcase are sold by individual sellers authorized by each U.S. military branch. Walmart worked directly with representatives from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to gather input on top categories and popular products that our customers shop for and purchase to include in this showcase.

The online Military Showcase is specifically designed as a single destination for customers eager to show their support for the U.S. Armed Forces through products that represent each branch, and even specific units. These products are officially licensed so that customers hoping to purchase items benefitting the military can do so with ease. is filled with officially licensed merchandise with the goal to continuously expand the assortment to meet customer demand, and be a place where customers come to discover those hard to find items.

Military Showcase.2

While many of these licensed products are for sale in Walmart stores, they are organized and shelved differently due to Walmart’s effort to have stores reflect the needs of the community. On Walmart is able to offer a much larger assortment of officially licensed military merchandise. While Walmart stores near U.S. military installations tend to have more military-specific products, the curated digital space for officially-licensed merchandise is an online concept at this time.

Many of the suppliers of products in the Military Showcase are veterans or have a personal connection to the military community through a family member. Walmart is eager to support service members, veterans and military families during all stages of their service journey, including through potential supplier partnerships.

In fact, Walmart recently hosted and sponsored VetSource, a first-of-its-kind event created by the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business (CVOB) supporting the success of veteran and military spouse-owned businesses by connecting them to Fortune 500 procurement opportunities.

vetsource image


Walmart’s Military Showcase is special for other reasons as well. The military branches are authorized to expend the excess of the licensing fees after expenses to morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) activities. The MWR program provides military members and their families quality of life programs and services aimed to boost morale and resiliency, with benefits such as fitness centers, libraries, parks and picnic areas, restaurants, family child care and youth and school-aged services.

Military Showcase.4

BG (Ret.) Gary Profit shared, “In 31 years of military service, my family and I have personally experienced the value MWR programs bring to military communities, enriching the lives of all they touch. I believe that MWR programs are essential to the long term viability of the all-volunteer force.  That’s why I am excited that Walmart is able to provide a way for all of us to shop for officially-licensed military merchandise with confidence and convenience.”

Military Showcase.3

And talk about commitment!  To help address challenges many veterans face when returning to everyday life, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have pledged a total of $40 million for veteran reintegration programs through 2019. The funding supports job training, education and innovative public/private community-based initiatives.


In addition to supporting veterans, Walmart assists active service members and their families through collaborations with organizations dedicated to providing support and services in times of need. Recently, the Walmart Foundation granted $500,000 to Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance program to help meet the unique and urgent needs of military families affected by the 2017 hurricane season. The funding supported financial needs for military family members struggling to make ends meet in areas impacted by disaster, including hotel costs for those displaced from their homes, car repairs, utility bills, housing costs and groceries. The grant will also help those service members who deployed to help with recovery efforts that may have a shortfall in income due to their time away from work.

During Memorial Day 2017, Walmart announced major changes to its military leave of absence policy. The enhanced policy now offers differential pay to associates for ANY military assignment, including basic training, allowing associates who are considering enlisting in the armed forces to do so without fear of losing wages.

Lastly, Profit says, “Through our Military Family Promise, Walmart guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel and military spouses employed by the company who move to a different part of the country because they or their spouse have been transferred by the U.S. military.”


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What if NYC Terrorist was bin Laden?


The question is asked because even though President Donald Trump initially said that the man who killed 8 and injured about twice as many in an Islamist rampage on the Lower West Side of Manhattan bike lane using a rental truck should be sent to Gitmo and tried as an enemy combatant, but then later changed his mind, saying it would take too much time compared to a Federal prosecution.

He had it right the first time.

If the NYC terrorist is an unlawful combatant in the Global War on Terror, then he belongs at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a.k.a. Gitmo).

The problem is Obama’s 2009 Military Commissions Act, which gives unlawful combatant detainees accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a Federal court of law. That’s why it’s taken years for several accused detainees to come to trial.

The Law of Land Warfare (U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10) and the Geneva Conventions allow accused war criminals only the same rights as an accused U.S. soldier would have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Giving accused terrorists (unlawful combatants) an opportunity in U.S. Federal Court to be read Miranda rights, go free on technicalities, go to a Federal prison where they can spread their rhetoric and recruit other inmates and then eventually be set free puts us all at risk. Expediency should never come before security.

Gitmo is legal, and it is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we defend ourselves in the Global War on Terror.

Trump needs to get Gitmo right and use Gitmo as a tool in our efforts to defeat the Islamist threat. He is fence-sitting, and it doesn’t suit him or his objective of winning the Global War on Terror.

Imagine for a moment that Osama bin Laden had been captured instead of killed in a raid. Would the President believe he should be tried in Federal court or a Military Commission? Why?

If Osama bin Laden had been captured it would have been the ultimate test of legal and political wills.

We are either at war or we are not at war. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) provides the legal permission to wage war against terrorists. It allows us to capture, interrogate and retain detainees. Once captured, the Law of War and Geneva take over as guiding edicts on treatment and privileges for those detained and those accused of war crimes.

Would bin Laden have been tried in Federal court or a military tribunal?

His status as the leader of al Qaeda and the planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, would make him the top commander for the opposing forces. Surely if anyone could be tried for war crimes it would have been him.

Why then is there even a debate about the status of those who followed his example and perpetuate the jihad against the infidels?

Lawfare and politics.

Using the liberal legal system of the United States against us is not a new tactic, and has been practiced vigorously by our enemies since the very beginning of the Global War on Terror, shortly after the attacks of 9/11/01.

An al Qaeda manual captured by British intelligence prior to 9/11 revealed our enemy’s protocols if captured. They should lie about their treatment, claim they were abused and tortured, disrupt detention operations, threaten and harass guards and demand a lawyer.

That last part has proved most advantageous. The result? 730 Gitmo detainees have been released. None have been executed, beheaded, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.

Never mind that at least 30 percent of released detainees are either confirmed or suspected to have returned to the fight. My concern is more about the 70 percent of released detainees we don’t know about. Where are they, your neighborhood, trying to rent a truck?

Even in a game of Capture the Flag the jailer knows not to release captured members of the other team until the game is over. Why then has our strategy been to release unlawful combatants before the end of hostilities? That’s not a winning formula, and it sends a message to the enemy that we are inferior and weak.

Some released detainees have been paid off by their governments of origin and profited from published book proceeds. So, if you survive the jihad and get captured by the Americans, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Former Gitmo detainees were allowed to claim habeas corpus, even though precedent dictated that even lawful combatant POW’s could not challenge their wartime status in civilian court. How then did we get from there to here, where an obvious and confirmed case of jihad has been turned almost matter-of-factly into a civilian crime? Expediency?  Convenience?

My patience with the POTUS on this one is running thin.

If your gut tells you that the NYC terrorist should be held and tried at Gitmo then so let it be done.

If bin Laden would have been taken and then tried at Gitmo, then so too, should the lowest member of the group.

If not, then we are not at war with unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us; we  are victims of random, disconnected violence, and should study the childhood of every terrorist and attempt to empathize with their disadvantaged upbringing and feel sorry for them and others like them, and then bear our throats for beheading.

Bergdahl and Honor

The US Army Values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl apparently forgot these when, on June 30, 2009, he deserted his unit in Afghanistan, where he wanted to, in his words, “make the world a better place.”

SGT Bergdahl also forgot that he was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, and that armies fight wars. He signed up. No one forced him into service, and no one forced him to continue service if at any point he decided he had had enough.

In the Army there are legitimate avenues of redress of grievances, and now more than ever before. Your chain of command, the Chaplain, a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, or even the highest commander above where you think your problem lies.

SGT Bergdahl had whipped himself into an almost psychotic state of isolation, from his unit, from his battle-buddies and even from himself. In the end, the enemy seemed more desirable than the mess he had made in his foxhole.

The circumstances under which SGT Bergdahl was released, the trade of five Taliban leaders, notwithstanding, there is a reckoning on the way. That trade has its own implications of treason, but for another time.

As we enter into the penalty phase of military legal proceedings to determine not whether or not he is guilty of the crimes of desertion and  misbehavior before the enemy, for he plead guilty to those charges, but what punishment he will receive.

Some say SGT Bergdahl has suffered enough.

Some say he is not fit to live, let alone wear the uniform.

Several witnesses have testified about their war injuries and losses they claim happened because of Bergdahl’s desertion.

There were rumors but no evidence that SGT Bergdahl had given the enemy critical information about the unit and its operations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This would allow the enemy to anticipate the unit’s movements and tendencies, deadly information.

Some say while searching for SGT Bergdahl they were hit and men died. One man, a former Navy SEAL, claimed tearfully that his service dog was killed on one such mission.

In my opinion, all this testimony is over-engineering. It’s all good, but shouldn’t be necessary to complete the project. He deserted in time of war.

How do you maintain good order and discipline if you allow folks to just walk away?

There is no claim of insanity. There is no plea bargain. There is no excuse.

The punishment for desertion can be death.

The reason for this goes back to the beginning of human conflict. If you run in the face of the enemy you have abdicated your responsibility as a member of the group to help keep the group safe.

In our own Revolutionary War and subsequent conflicts, such as the Civil War, it wasn’t so much power and punch that won the day as which side would run first.

Name a war or conflict, and what wins the day more times than not is the will to win or survive. Fight or flight.

This is why the American Army is so effective; we are trained that in war the mission comes first. We are trained to never leave a soldier behind. We are trained be good teammates. We are trained to care for each other, help each other and protect each other. And in the foxhole, when the bullets are flying, it’s about you and your battle-buddy, fighting for your lives.

The bigger picture is that you are defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, part of the oath of enlistment that SGT Bergdahl breached.

But if you allow soldiers to run and then suffer no consequences, what are you telling everyone else who swore that same oath. What then does it mean?

In our politically correct, social media, “If it feels good, do it” society, oaths and promises seem blasé and passé. In fact, they are our life’s blood. If we let one instance of obvious and blatant desertion slip through the cracks, what then do we do with the next one, or the next?

Kneeling for the national anthem and the absence of even one American flag on the opening night of a national political convention are not simply warning signs, they are signs of the apocalypse that feed the idea that SGT Bergdahl did nothing wrong. That he is innocent of desertion because he was oppressed and that somehow his actions were free speech.

It’s not about any of that. It’s about loyalty. The number one most important Army value, and value in life.

The acronym constructed out of the Army Values is LDRSHIP (Leadership). The Army aspires to train every soldier to be a leader, because in the American Army, even E-Private Zero, Snuffy Smith is expected to carry out the mission if all the leaders above him are incapacitated, in the spirit of Audie Murphy, the highly decorated farm boy turned hero from WWII who was battlefield promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant and saved many lives with his heroism, over, and over again, all at 5’4” and 112 pounds.We owe it to the memory of all those who gave their lives in defense of this great nation. We owe it to those who were injured and may have died while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, and we owe it to the future of this nation that Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment fit the crime.

The only question that remains is whether or not the military court hearing the evidence against Bowe Bergdahl will see it that way.

Blowing Up #TakeAKnee


If I spit in your face do you really want to hear what I have to say?

Of course not.

The same tactics used by the Alt-Left, ANTIFA, Democrats and Leftists of all shapes, colors, sizes and genders are taking hold in the National Football League.

Please don’t be confused. NFL players are not self-motivated to #TakeAKnee. They are tools of the Alt-Left.

This is the same Alt-Left who attacked through the entertainment industry at the 2016 Academy Awards, infecting many black actors and entertainers who chose to boycott the award ceremony.

One black actor who chose to attend, despite the hubbub, was Oscar Winner Louis Gossett, Jr., who, when asked on the red carpet before the ceremony what he thought of the protest, simply said, “We are all part of the same family, the American family.”

Louis Gossett

I have a feeling that if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were alive today he just might say something similar. Although Dr. King was famous for civil disobedience, he never shamed his country by taking a knee in anything other than prayer.

I can’t help but recall Dr. King’s famous quip: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

The content of their character.

Dr. King’s dream may not be yet fully realized, but it won’t get there any quicker by what’s going on in the NFL today.

There was a time when the American flag represented freedom and liberty to all Americans. Dr. King never marched without it, and it was a symbol of love, togetherness and justice for all.

Martin Luther King.2

Adrian Cronauer, American Entertainer once said: “Martin Luther King, Jr., didn’t carry just a piece of cloth to symbolize his belief in racial equality, he carried the American flag.”

But the objective of the Alt-Left is to divide and conquer.

Now that everyone is in the middle of visceral and passionate responses to #TakeAKnee, few can see clearly to help us understand and then pull us out of our collective cultural nose dive.

Like any politically charged issue, we are talking past each other and not to or with each other, and no one is listening because everyone is right, in their own subset of political thought.

When someone pushes, there is push back. When someone is told what to do, they resist. Exactly what the Alt-Left thrives on.

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys (a.k.a. “America’s Team”) tried the linked arm, #TakeAKnee before the National Anthem, and then stand for the Anthem ploy. Nope. We weren’t having it. Compromise did not work. Who is more important, your players or your fans? Because you can’t have it both ways.


Mike Tomlin, Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, tried sequestering his team for the Anthem. Nope. Alejandro Villanueva (Address: P.O. Box 6763, Pittsburgh, PA, 15212), a former Bronze Star decorated US Army Ranger snuck out of the tunnel, put his hand over his heart and sung. He sung like a hero, a patriot, a true American.

Coach Tomlin’s goal of trying to protect his players from having to make a political choice (“Do I stand or do I kneel?”) by keeping them inside during the National Anthem was based on a false premise: that standing for the Anthem is a political statement. It is not; it is a patriotic statement.

Trouble was, the Alt-Left influenced Tomlin, who promptly made Villanueva apologize for not being a good teammate or player, and for being so personally selfish as to color outside the lines of what is acceptable . . . to the Alt-Left. The forced apology reminded me of fake confessions produced by ISIS and al Qaeda of their captives before beheading them.

Villanueva’s Pittsburgh Steelers football jersey (#78) is now the number one seller among all NFL jerseys (let’s all keep it that way), even better than Odell Beckham, Jr.’s, jersey. That’s right, OBJ, the multi-millionaire twenty-something superstar receiver for the New York Giants, who, after scoring a touchdown recently got on all fours like a dog and then lifted a hind leg as if to take a pee. He said it was in defiance of a statement made by President Trump.


In contrast, last year, during the Colin Kaepernick controversy, Rashad Jennings, a black athlete who plays for the NFL’s New York Giants, channeled Frederick Douglass (who loved to play the Star Spangled Banner on his violin) in his support for the National Anthem and the American flag. Jennings told the Daily News he was “proud to stand” for the song.

NFL: International Series-New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams

President Trump at a speech in Alabama, wondered aloud what a patriotic NFL owner might say to a “son-of-a-bitch” football player who disrespected the flag and Anthem. “He’s Fired,” he said, “He’s FIRED!”

That of course threw gasoline on the Alt-Left fire.

No one who supported Trump before that statement had much bad to say about it. No one who hated Trump before he said that had much surprising to say about it. But emotions and rhetoric erupted. NFL ratings went down.

It used to be that the NFL went to commercial during the National Anthem. Then things changed after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which included a rule that said everyone would stand, helmet in the left hand and right hand over the heart, facing the flag, not talking and showing respect. In fact, NFL Rule A62-63 states just that.

As a business model it’s never a good idea to alienate your customers. But it appears that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell (and the Owners) are betting the fans will return after all of this blows over. If they alienate their players they may strike, refuse to play, or refuse to play well. Then they would lose . . . money. And losing money would be very bad for business.

Remember, standing for the National Anthem to honor America is not a political statement, and it’s not about oppression, free speech or Donald Trump, it is a display of patriotism, togetherness, you know, like the national motto: “E Pluribus Unim;” From Many, One.

Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March

The Civil Rights battle was won. Civil Rights law was passed in 1964. That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, or ever will be, but if we take a phrase from our own Declaration of Independence, “In order to form a more perfect Union,” we understand that the Framers knew that striving for perfection, aiming for excellence, would force us to keep getting better. And that’s what we’ve done, despite the forces of evil that oppose our progress.

There is one culture in the United States, the American culture. And anyone who would divide us for any reason is un-American.

Unfortunately, the Alt-Left has a history of shunning the American flag and patriotism. Opening night at the 2016 Democrat National Convention (DNC) saw not one US flag on display. Not until that fact hit the national news and social media like late summer hurricane did several flags finally appear on the DNC stage, but virtually nowhere else. Not one delegate displayed the flag nor were there any flag-like clothing or hats worn, nor any flags on signs or posters. The flag has always been about politics to the Alt-Left.


In contrast, there was hardly a corner of the 2016 Republican National Convention without a US flag, and various versions of red, white and blue seemed to be everywhere.

Trump Flags

Message imagery.

To the Alt-Left, the American flag has become a symbol of the Right, by default; another tactic of the Alt-Left to easily identify the enemy. That’s right, law abiding, gun toting, bible thumping, flag waving Americans are the enemy to the Alt-Left. If you wear the flag in any form you are a target.

Our battle is a moral battle, it’s right or wrong, good vs. evil, not black or white.

In solidarity – black, white, brown; man, woman; young, old – stand proudly for the flag and Anthem. After that, speak with your American brothers and sisters about whatever you want. Just please avoid spitting in their face or peeing on their shoe to get their attention.

True Americans are better than that.

Politicizing standing for or properly respecting the National Anthem, our flag or any patriotic public tradition is simply part of the manipulative agenda of the Alt-Left aimed at controlling the thinking of the People. Not this time, and not these People.

The Alt-Left says you have to pick a side, a “Yes” or a “No.” I say, be like Louis Gossett, Jr., and remember who you are, a member of the American Family. You are not who the Alt-Left says you are or should be. We’ve all come too far for anything else to make sense.




Of Flags and Football


Marcus Peters

Imagine that you invite me over for dinner, and we’re going to relax in the living room before the meal. You tell me I can sit anywhere I like, except for the big easy chair in the corner, because you say, that was your deceased father’s chair, and no one has sat in it since his passing.

I walk over and then sit in your father’s chair.

You are in shock. Then you are incredulous.

“I asked you not to sit in that chair!” you say.

“I know,” I say, “but this is a free country, and I have a right to sit wherever I like.”

I continue, “When I was growing up my father had an easy chair just like this that he never let us kids sit in, and I’m tired of people telling me where I can and cannot sit. There’s no law against me sitting here, is there?”

You get the point.

In fact there is a law that says we “should stand” for the National Anthem:

36 US Code, Section 301 – National Anthem

(a) Designation.— The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—

(1) when the flag is displayed—

(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, § 595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)

Although the law does not specify a criminal charge nor penalties for not standing for the Anthem, it is nonetheless illegal to sit for it.

So who would enforce this affront to national patriotism? Local governments may pass ordinances that establish penalties if they so choose. What a rude awakening it would be if, for example, Kansas City Chief’s cornerback, Marcus Peters, who sat for the Anthem in a Thursday night NFL football game, was arrested on enforcement of a Massachusetts ordinance requiring adherence to the law.
Who would come out of the woodwork to bay in his defense? How many other NFL players or Hollywood stars would come out and offer to pay his bail?
In my humble opinion, jail would be too easy for him and others who pretend to be disgruntled over this or that. A public mocking, me thinks, would be in order. Put them in the public square in stocks! Make them work in veterans outreach programs, or clean toilets at the VA. Something that might get their attention as to why people like me may have had a violent reaction to his antics that fateful Thursday night.
There I was, watching the end of the pre-game show, nestling up to the almighty tube, in the comfort of my own home, my castle, my abode, when the music of one of the most beautiful songs a veteran can hear began to play. A song that still brings a tear to my eye, as the music and the flag bring me back to deployments at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Iraq.
While the music plays I can’t help but reflect on my and the sacrifices of millions of Americans, today and in years past, of my own ancestors who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War. I think about those who died on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, or those who were killed storming the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. I think of the Koren War veterans, the Vietnam veterans, the Desert Storm, Enduring and Iraqi Freedom veterans, and today’s proud and wonderful volunteers.
As this is going through my mind, and I am anticipating a really good football game, I see this scum-of-the-earth, two-bit wannabe, sitting on the bench with his helmet on! It’s bad enough you can’t stand, but you double-down and keep your head covered as well?
I had the worst Post Traumatic Stress episode I can remember.
I served 22 years in the Army, National Guard and Reserve, from October 1986 to December 2008. I was an enlisted combat medic for five years and then became a Medical Service Corps officer and finished as a major in rank. I spent about 2 1/2 years away from my family for three deployments between 9/11 2001 to December 2005.
I was angry for a time because it seemed like no one even knew or cared that there was a war going on. Then it hit me. that’s why we do what we do, we oathkeepers and sheep dogs. We do it so that everyone at home can go about their daily lives, unafraid and free.
I had some difficulty adjusting after Gitmo, and then after returning from a 14 month Iraq tour. I wanted to drive in the middle of the road. I shook and jumped at loud noises and fireworks. I have tinnitus. I didn’t sleep well.
All in all, it wasn’t that bad though, and the symptoms didn’t last that long. My loving and devoted family were always there for me. I am truly blessed that way.
I wrote a book  for catharsis, and then had it published. My friends and colleagues and Tweeple are all so very kind and supportive. I am truly blessed, and every day is a blessing.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I was happy, relaxed and excited about the game.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I loved professional football, head injuries and last season’s nonsense with Colin Kaeprinck notwithstanding.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I had my stuff together.
Then, it happened.
I lost it. Literally lost it.
I jumped up and started cursing uncontrollably. It was just me and my wife in the room, so I don’t think the kids heard anything. I was lit!
I turned the TV off, cursed the player, whose name I did not know until after the Anthem was over and NBC Sports announced it. I had turned the TV back on in hopes of taking a photograph of the player. They showed him again at the end, standing, looking around for some approval or recognition from someone, anyone. Nope. “You’re on your own, buddy,” I thought.
I turned the TV off again and then fumed.
How dare he? How could  he? Doesn’t he realized countless American patriots, including African Americans and all races, creeds religions and color DIED so that he could defy US Code and sit on his brains during the Anthem?
I shook, I blathered, I spat, I paced, I sweat, I breathed fire.
I didn’t even react that way when Kaepernick pulled his stunts last year. He went from knee to sitting out of “respect” for the military? Not good enough. I boycotted the San Francisco 49ers. Not hard to do in New York.
A few other players did similar stunts, but now it’s gotten wide-spread with the Seahawks, Packers, Rams, 49ers, Raiders, Eagles, Browns and Chiefs all having at least one player sit, eat a banana or show some other sign of protest (disrespect) during the National Anthem.
Let me explain to you just why I had that reaction. I have figured it out. We watch football in our homes. And like the “My Father’s Chair” scenario I painted for you in the beginning of this piece, our home is our personal, private domain, where we control everything that happens. We invite the NFL into our living rooms, dens and bedrooms for our own pleasure and entertainment. So when some knucklehead SITS for our National Anthem on TV, it is happening in OUR HOME.
That is offensive and disrespectful, just as if I had told Marcus Peters not to sit in my fathers chair . . . not only did he sit in it . . . he defiled it.
If any of these guys called for a press conference to discuss their pity-party snowflake fake news butt hurt NO ONE would come, and NO ONE would listen. They are a privileged few.
Less than one percent of all high school football players ever play football on scholarship in college. Less than one percent of all college football scholarship players ever make it on an NFL team. Who are they kidding? Who do they say they represent when they sit? Why can’t they start a fund, or a charity? Donate time and money to causes they care about. Why disrespect all patriotic Americans on national TV?
It’s a drive-by assault on American values.
And the NFL? Completely complicit. The NFL FINES players for wearing the wrong SOCKS on game day. And if a player SITS during the national Anthem? Nothing. Whose values do the Commissioner of the NFL and NFL owners (who are also complicit) pretend to represent when they allow players to SIT for the National Anthem?
The NBA has it right. They require players to stand for the National Anthem. But for how long?
If anyone doubts that standing and showing respect for our National Anthem isn’t the internationally respected norm, witness this video of world champion Jamaican, Usain Bolt, interrupt an interview to show his class and respect for our Anthem.
There was a college basketball coach who invited some veterans to a practice one day, and then told the players how and why they will stand for the National Anthem. Watch it. Have your kids watch it. Send it to your favorite NFL football player.
Of flags and football. It’s about RESPECT.

To Save a Life

Resort Pool

Family vacations don’t often start out so dramatically, nor finish so profoundly, but lately it seems I have had a summer of visceral experiences surrounding what most might consider “leisure time” with the family.

Our first day at the resort pool recently, while minding my own business with my own children, ages 21 – 8, and with my wife, I was snapped out of my vacation mode daze by the lifeguard’s whistle. A young girl, apparently swimming alone in about four feet of water, was drowning.

Too far away for me to get there before the lifeguard, I watched in stunned amazement as the lifeguard wadded quickly to the girl’s side and then lifted her out of the water.

The girl had no flotation device, but clearly had no clue how to swim or float on her own.

No parent came running to snatch her up.

The lifeguard brought the girl to the edge of the pool and then assisted her up and out, where the girl was met by an older sister. The girl was coughing and was wide-eyed but otherwise seemed fine.  Just moments before she was clearly in distress, gulping water while trying to suck in air as her head bobbed up and then slowly down into the water, limbs uselessly flailing.

This brief moment of horror triggered memories of similar experiences over the years with my own children in pools. My wife and I are extremely vigilant, but realize our limitations. From young ages we exposed our children to water, their grandparent’s pool playing a prominent role.

My four boys are all Boy Scouts, the two oldest are Eagle Scouts and have aged out of the boy program, the next boy is a Life Scout working on Eagle, and then the youngest is a Tenderfoot Scout, just turned 11 years old. For all of them, the first Eagle Scout required Merit Badge they earned was the Swimming Merit Badge. My oldest son also earned the Lifesaving Merit Badge.

Swimming Merit Badge

We also gave our children swimming lessons from very young ages. We live on an island. It seems like every other family has a pool or a family member with a pool. How could one not teach their children how to swim?

My wife and I are so paranoid that if one of our children is invited to a pool party, my wife goes and then stays, at pool side, every second our child is in the pool. Helicopter parents?  Maybe. Alive children? Definitely.  My wife was a lifeguard as a teen, but takes no chances, even when the odd pool party includes a teenage lifeguard. She’s there.

Every summer it seems there are stories about toddlers or other young children drowning in pools on Long Island. We don’t even have a pond in our backyard. Not taking any chances.

At the last pool party my 8 year-old daughter attended, my wife told me she stayed pool side even when our daughter was high and dry doing something else. She said she did it because no other adult was watching the children, even though there were toddlers in the pool. She said one mother, after putting “water wing” inflatable arm flotation devices on her toddler child said out loud, “There, now I don’t have to worry about you,” and then walked away.

Is it millennial parenting? Is it naivete? Lack of common sense?

A first time parent colleague of mine with a month-old son told me that millennial parents were avoiding mini vans because that’s what their parents had. He included himself in that category. Are millennial parents also rejecting helicopter parenting because that’s what their parents did?

When my wife and I had just two children, at a time when our second child was super rambunctious, we went to a water park for kids. While moving from attraction to attraction we used a harness and, for lack of a better term, a leash on him. We felt that because of the crowds, and our resistance to using a stroller (we practiced attachment parenting for all of our children), we felt the leash would give him the freedom to walk (OK, “toddle”), but also keep him relatively safe. Also, we wouldn’t lose the little rug rat among all the others!

Wouldn’t you know it that my wife was verbally assaulted by a young lady who obviously had no children of her own, for being a “horrible person” for putting a leash on our child?


The following year, this same child, without the leash, went missing at the very same water park. I had taken the two boys into the changing-slash-men’s room. We took adjoining stalls and I told the boys to wait for me, “outside the stall door,” and then we would all leave together.

I changed quickly and then found my oldest son waiting outside the stall. “Where’s your brother?” I asked him. He didn’t know. Of course, panic sets in almost immediately when you think you’ve lost one of your children. I calmed myself and then figured the younger boy was still changing. He was not. After a frenetic search we discovered he was not in the facility at all. He was gone.

If you’ve ever lost a child, one of the most difficult things you do is tell your spouse you’ve lost a child. It didn’t go over well. Cooler heads prevailed, however and we began searching together by making concentric circles around the place we last saw him. The park was very crowded and was about to close. The thought of him being taken and never seeing him again began to creep into my mind and soul as we searched and couldn’t find him.

Eventually we got fairly far from the changing room and in our desperate exasperation happened to notice the Lost Child building. My wife and I looked at each other and then nearly sprinted to the place.

We saw him through the glass in the window. He was being spoken to by an attendant who was on bent knee to get to his level. My son was in tears. But he was safe, and we had found him.

He told us he thought I meant for him to wait outside the restroom. So he went outside after being the first one to finish changing. He looked around (while we searched for him inside) and then figured we had gone to meet up with his mother, who was changing in the women’s facility. He went the wrong way and then found himself lost in the middle of a very large bustling crowd. He said he began to cry which was when a very nice woman with her own child asked him if he was lost. He said he was, and then she took him to the lost child area.

A happy ending, but a terrifying experience for both parents and child. One we will never forget, and one that caused us to re-double our efforts. We both neurotically count to five – the number of children we have – when we are out and about with everyone . . . most of the time.

Of course, none of us are immune from these things, no matter how vigilant or careful or caring. One gets distracted, and it only takes a split second.

So on this most recent trip, experienced as we are at staying relatively close in crowded areas, and never feeling comfortable splitting up, we lost one again.

This time, after seeking shelter from a sweltering Central Florida sun, we left the coolness of a souvenir shop to visit an attraction. All of us that is except for the 10 year-old. He had apparently found something very interesting in the store to look at, looked up, and then noticed we had all left him behind.

Instead of panicking and running out of the store looking for us and then getting hopelessly lost, he stayed put. He positioned himself near the entrance to the store and then waited.

My wife, who immediately rushed back to the store, found him grinning at the entrance. When they met up with us outside the attraction he calmly stated that he knew exactly what to do because he had recently earned the Boy Scout Search and Rescue Merit Badge, which taught him to stay put in a visible area if he got lost. Bingo.

We survived heat indexes of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and our vacation was coming to a close, when we sought out the refreshment of the resort pool prior to leaving for our flight home. It was the coolest day of the whole vacation, overcast, not too humid and only around 75 degrees. A blessing!

We had all walked and average of over 9 miles per day in the amusement parks; seeking shelter most days from noon until four or five in the afternoon.

My body ached. Every part of my body ached, including my head, as I had picked up a wicked sinus headache the day before.

My plan was to sit in the hot tub for fifteen minutes and then jump into the pool, over and over again.

By the third time I was feeling much better. I highly recommend this for any ailment!

I had just gotten out of the hot tub for the third time and was wading into the now very cool water of the pool; kind of in a temperature transition daze, really immersed in the experience and the pleasure of feeling better than I had felt since starting the vacation, and then I saw him.

The drowning toddler wasn’t far away, and he was looking straight at me, right in the eyes, which burn into me as I recall this. The eyes said, “I’m dying and there’s nothing I can do about it, please help me.”

I had seen the look in my own children’s eyes, when, as many parents have experienced, your young child starts taking on water and then disappears underneath the surface. You quickly yank them to the surface, they cough a bit and then everything is fine. Lesson learned.

This boy had water wings on, but he had splayed his arms out so far that the flotation devices were actually preventing him from keeping his head above water, as his head became the unsupported center. The water wings supported only his little arms.

He gasped and then gulped as he began taking on water, a lot of water, and then he disappeared under the surface.

I took two steps toward him, heard the lifeguard’s whistle blow, and then pulled him out with one hand, then grasped him under the armpits with both hands holding him up as if to say, “Hey, I have someone’s child here.” He coughed and gasped, but seemed OK, despite his wide, terrified eyes.

The millennial father came around from behind me just then, grabbed his son from me and then said, breathlessly, “Thanks.”

The lifeguard, who had jumped in, apparently seeing what I saw about the time I saw it, turned and then got back out of the pool. She went on about life-guarding everyone else. Not a word or a glance. Par for the course?

I didn’t even turn to watch the father leave with his son. I was feeling kind of stunned by the whole thing, which probably took place in a span of about five or six seconds. I knew what he was feeling and I didn’t want to exacerbate his embarrassment by engaging him.

The boy was safe, that was the important thing.

The parents had been fortunate that the lesson they learned that day was not a tragic one, but only a near tragic one.


Life comes at you fast, but then so can death. It is God’s blessing when we are in the right place at the right time, and then do the right thing. How long will it be now before I can truly relax in a resort swimming pool?

Just please remember, these things are not “accidents.” Every tragic or near tragic incident has precipitating events, some controllable, some not. Hopefully, this story will help some “hands-off” parents think twice.

There’s nothing embarrassing or un-cool about doing what you feel is best and safe for your children, no matter their age or experience. We know our kids best, and we have to live with the consequences of our actions or inaction’s.

Our most important job as parents is always to protect and keep our children safe and secure. Letting go as they get older is another story. But for now, let’s be safe out there, our children’s lives depend on it.

Tragedy on the Gridiron


(Updated as of 8/15/17).

Very recently in my community there was a tragedy on the high school gridiron. A 16 year old high school junior, attending an off season football strength and conditioning camp, was struck in the head while participating in a Navy SEAL-like teamwork, strength and endurance drill with a 10 foot long “telephone pole” type wooden log.

There are few specific details publicly available, only that it happened while five boys, including the victim, were participating in the drill and that the victim was said to be in the middle of the group and the boys were raising the log over their heads. Was the grass wet? Did the boys lose their grip?

In any case, the boy was struck in the head during the morning workout. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The same hospital where all five of my children were born, now ages 21 – 8.

“Can you imagine,” my wife said after learning of the tragedy, “dropping your child off in the morning at a place you would think he would be safe, and then getting a telephone call that he had died?” I cannot.

This part of Long Island is no stranger to high school football fatalities. Less than three years ago another young man, who was playing in a local regular season high school football game collided with an opponent, head on, collapsed and then died from his head injury.

As a former football player and athletic administrator, I can tell you that head injuries and injuries in general are a painful reminder that we can never be “too safe.” I remember vividly a rainy night football game played on natural turf, where the field conditions were less than desirable, and within five minutes of each other two players were removed from the field with broken bones. It happens that quick, and without warning.

But there is something different about this fatal injury.

U.S. Navy SEAL training techniques have become more and more popular as slowly over the past several years, the Navy SEALs have become more and more demystified through movies and books that take us inside the elite group’s training and performance methods.

The Log Drill is a series of physically, mentally and emotionally challenging maneuvers in which a team of about five men perform these drills with a log weighing approximately 400 pounds. If everybody does their share, that’s 80 pounds each.

When was the last time you lifted 80 pounds over your head? Could you lift 80 pounds over your head? Why would you lift 80 pounds over your head? What part of playing football requires a player to lift 80 pounds over his head?

Yes, these are strapping young men, strong, with endurance and fortitude, being taught how to work as a team, the hard way.

As an athletic administrator for public school programs on Long Island, I emphasized to coaches that the student athletes who chose to participate in their programs did so because they enjoyed playing the sport. I told the coaches that it was vital to remember that their student athletes were kids and not adults, no matter how much like men they looked, and not to treat them like college or professional athletes. It would have never occurred to me to tell them not to treat them like elite warriors.

I encouraged my coaches to study child psychology and to employ those principles in their coaching style. I encouraged my coaches to “Always make practice fun.” “End each practice with a fun activity, so that they go home happy and wanting more, and feeling good about themselves.” Drill and kill makes for unhappy players.

In the professions of physical education and athletic coaching safety must always be the first consideration. Physical educators are trained to always inspect the gym or teaching space and the supplies and equipment to be used prior to teaching their lesson. Good coaches do the same. But at what point does common sense kick in? At what point do you say to yourself, “Gee, I wonder what would happen if one, just one of these boys slipped and the 400 pound log came crashing down one of their heads?”

We call what happened a “tragedy” because it is a classic example of what a tragedy is. Some call it a “tragic accident.” Some will call it negligent. And that will be for the police and lawyers to figure out. But those of us with military experience (I served 22 years in the Army, as an enlisted Combat Medic and then as a Medical Service Corps officer) know that a dead soldier is an ineffective soldier. So we teach and train safety first, especially out of the combat zone. In the combat zone, we say “Mission First, Safety Always!”

As soldiers, we knew what we did was inherently dangerous, and could cost us our life, limb or eyesight. But in a civilian setting, where children are involved and looking up to and trusting the adults around them who are legally in loco parentis (“In place of the parent”), to keep them safe and healthy as a parent would, my opinion is that there is never an excuse for potentially putting their life at risk for the purpose of team building, conditioning or any other reason. Nothing we do as adults responsible for the health, safety and welfare of a child should ever potentially cost them their life.

We are deceived by the size and athleticism of today’s young student athletes. We forget that our public school interscholastic education programs are just that, interscholastic education, and not life or death scenarios.

Coaching egos and over training have taken the place of always doing what’s in the best interest of the student athlete. We allow false dreams of college and professional success and fame to cloud better judgement as more and more youth’s who participate in athletics are tracked to one sport over another, with year round training and travel leagues. Less than 1 percent of high school athletes ever play on a college scholarship. Less than 1 percent of college players ever play in the pros. And the average career in the pros lasts only from 3-5 years.

Football is the modern equivalent of war in the minds of some. We “Fight, fight, fight!” “Kill, kill, kill!” “Rip ’em apart!” Believe me, when General George S. Patton, in a speech to his troops during WWII implored his men to grease the wheels of their tanks with the guts of the enemy, he wasn’t talking to teenagers preparing to play a game.

The rhetoric and techniques used by youth coaches need to be developmentally appropriate. I’ve had coaches disciplined for inappropriate language, tobacco use and other behavior detrimental to the proper development of young student athletes, yet on any given day you could walk through even a youth league practice and shouldn’t be surprised the hear things that would make your mother blush.

Foul language and Navy SEAL drills don’t grow hair on the chests of young men. Using fun cooperative games, sports and activities leads to better teamwork and leadership skills than making them put a 400 pound log over their heads.

Youth leaders need to work smarter and not harder. Even the pros are reconsidering bulk work outs in favor of resistance training. Lean core fitness, speed and quickness drills, push-ups and sit-ups yield a far healthier and effective student athlete than over-working bodies and muscles to the point of musculoskeletal failure or injury. Form is more important than weight. When the body is tired and fatigued it is most susceptible to injury. Why didn’t these “coaches” know this?

Last few points. In a local front page news article about this tragedy, public school athletics officials were quoted as saying there was “only one out of season practice rule” for interscholastic student athletes, that they not be forced to participate in out of season activities. That is in fact only half of the regulation. The other half is that out of season workouts need to be open to anyone.

This is from the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), Inc., Bylaws and Eligibility Standards, page 130, Section 22. (NYSPHSAA is to governing body of New York State public high school athletics and is affiliated with the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations (NFHS); the local governing body in Suffolk County, New York, where the tragedy occurred, and which answers to the state association is Section IX).

“c. School sponsored activities conducted out of the sport season such as general
conditioning, weight training, weight lifting, intramurals, recreation, open gyms, club
activities and camps are permitted: 1) if such programs are not mandated by coaches or
school personnel; 2) if such programs are available to all students.
“d. Non-school sponsored activities are permitted if such programs are not mandated by
coaches or school personnel. It is recommended that no school equipment be used for
these programs as per State Comptroller Opinion 85-37.”

(Corrected from 8/12/17 version.) So a “non-school sponsored activity” (the strength and conditioning camp that contributed to the death of the 16 year old) can be mandated through a booster club, by non-affiliated coaches and trainers – just not the actual team coaches.

This off season work out had nothing to do with the school district’s official activities. The booster club sponsored the activity. According to the article, each boy had to pay $325 for the camp. Since it was “non-curricular” the state law (New York State Commissioner’s Regulation 135, Guidelines for the Coaching Requirements, pp. 48-73) requiring coaching certifications for anyone working with the student athletes in a scholastic setting didn’t apply. There could be any nut case working with these boys who were hired by the booster club. And oh, by the way, the bulk of that $325 went to salaries for these fitness and conditioning “specialists.” These things you won’t find in the article.

Public school districts need to take a hard look at what activities they allow on their premises, and booster clubs need to hire licensed teachers and coaches for their extra season camps if they are going to use school facilities.

After this tragedy, if this was the case, there is no excuse for allowing non-certified coaches/trainers to work with public school student athletes, ever. If a parent wants to seek out a “professional” trainer for their child on their own, that’s their business, but for public schools to allow and facilitate it is unconscionable. If a “trainer’s” only qualification is that they were a Navy SEAL, or college or professional athlete, an alumni perhaps with no other proper coaching qualifications or certifications, take a pass. No disrespect intended.

Intentions aside, without the proper training and coaching style, it’s only a matter of time before tragedy or negligence strikes again.


A Scout is Reverent

There is something deeply profound in watching your children grow and learn.

A parent’s hope is that their child will be safe, healthy and successful. How often do we get the chance to help direct that hope into reality?

If you have a son in Boy Scouts, or a daughter in Girl Scouts, you get that opportunity frequently, but it all depends on how involved you want to get. It’s like anything else in life – you get out of it what you put into it.

Boy Scout Oath

For me, and two of my four sons (the oldest two are Eagle Scouts and have aged out of the boy program), the concentrated microcosm of life, an opportunity to grow exponentially, right before their father’s very eyes, comes each summer, the third week of July, at a Boy Scout camp like no other, at Yawgoog (pronounced YAH-goo) Scout Reservation, in Rockville, Rhode Island.

In the woods of West Central, RI, a ferry ride and short drive from Long Island, New York, there is a Boy Scout camp over 100 years old that holds the spirit of Peter Pan and Lord Baden Powell close. It is a magical place known only to those who have witnessed its inspiring works.


Like trying to catch lightening in a bottle, to describe the impact of the place is impossible. I can only scratch the surface, but that may be enough.

My ten year old son, newly crossed over from Webelos Scout (Cub Scouts) into a Boy Scout troop, finally getting to go to Boy Scout camp was almost too much to bear. Bouncing off the walls does not begin to describe his pre-camp status.

My wife and I tried as best we could to focus him on being productive prior to going to camp. We had him think about and prepare things to pack in his footlocker trunk. We had him complete Merit Badge packets (lengthy assignments that usually go with earning Boy Scout Merit Badges). We and his brothers told him stories of his brothers and Yawgoog past. We forced him to do laps in the grandparent’s pool in preparation for the swimming test and Swimming Merit Badge. The “I gotta pee” dances when he talked about going to camp continued, but he did everything that was asked of him and more.

His capacity for absorbing information seemed limitless. Bright eyed and very bushy-tailed, my 10 year-old son was going to simply burst if he didn’t get to camp soon.

My 15 year-old son was going into his fifth year at camp. He had just finished the final Merit Badge he needed to begin working on his next and final rank: Eagle Scout.

Several months prior to going to camp he had earned the leadership rank of Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL), right next to one of his best friends, who was selected as the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL), the head of the boy leadership for the Troop.

A week before we left for camp the Scoutmaster, someone who was counting his 21st trip to Yawgoog, asked my 15 year-old and I to come to his house to check some forms and to have a talk about camp. I suspected what the meeting was really about, but wanted the Scoutmaster to bring the topic up with my son.

We handed in some medical forms, which the Scoutmaster meticulously examined as we sat, the three of us, at his dining room table. A place I was very familiar with, as it was the place where countless Boards of Review had been held over the years.

A Board of Review is a meeting that takes place where the Troop Committee (volunteer adult leaders) considers the advancement in rank of a Boy Scout. It is semi-formal. Boy Scouts must be in full Class A uniform, from head to toe or they are sent home or not advanced.

The boy is questioned on his knowledge of Scouting, but in reality the review is an opportunity for the Committee to seek information from the Boy Scout about his Scouting experience. Open ended questions are asked in order to evoke what Scouting means to the boy. It is an opportunity for the adults to peer into Scouting from the boy’s perspective and get thoughts and feelings from the boy on how things are going in the Troop and how things might be improved.

It was at this table that the Scoutmaster asked my son if he knew why he had asked him to his house. My son, nodded, head down.

The Scoutmaster said he had received an email from the SPL’s father that day saying that the SPL’s mother, who had been battling breast cancer for a long time, was entering hospice, and did my son know what hospice was?

My son said he didn’t, but that the SPL had texted him earlier in the day to tell him his mother was not doing well. She had been in the hospital (again) and the prognosis was grim.

We explained that hospice meant the SPL’s mother did not have long to live. It could be days, and probably not weeks before she passed. Hospice was a place to make people as comfortable as possible before dying.

We let that sink in. My son’s head remained bowed. I could see by the expression on his face that he was battling tears.

The Scoutmaster broke the silence by saying that the SPL was probably not going to summer camp.

Summer camp was usually the culmination of the leadership trail for SPL’s and ASPL’s. My oldest son had been SPL for nearly a year and then led the boys at summer camp with his best friend and genius as ASPL. That ASPL later would earn a full ride scholarship to Cornell University, studying computer science and then later working on Watson, the IBM supercomputer that, among other things, can diagnose illnesses better than a team of human expert doctors. These two boys rocked Yawgoog that year. My oldest son brought his guitar and would sing to the Troop at night, accompanied by other close friend-Scouts. It was truly a magical year for him and his friends, and for all of us who witnessed it. But that was my oldest son’s personality. He is outgoing, unabashed, gregarious, ice in his veins in front of a crowd. In his senior year in high school, on a whim, he tried out for the school play, Beauty and the Beast. He won the role of Lumiere, the singing French candelabra. He nailed it, including an authentic sounding French accent that was both understandable and comical.


My 15 year-old was none of those things. He could get in front of a crowd, but his leadership style was opposite of his oldest brother. He is subtle, shy, and an assimilator. He is understated, but thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent.

The Scoutmaster asked him how he would feel about being SPL for summer camp in place of his friend.

There was a long silence.

In education (I have been an educator for over 30 years) as in Scouting (I have been a Scouter for over ten years), we learn to wait for an answer, to give the person time to think and formulate a good answer.

We waited.

Finally he said, “Well, it’s kind of out of my comfort zone, but yes.”


Relief that he answered (we don’t wait forever), and relief that he said “yes.” I was proud, not so much that my son would be leading the Troop at summer camp, but that this boy chose to move forward, in spite of the tragedy brewing with his friend’s mother. He chose to go out of his comfort zone and accept the challenge, a challenge of leadership and a challenge of the heart.

Life is hard, and is full of difficult and challenging moments, the toughest of which seem to just spring up without warning or reason. This was going to be his Crucible.


My Great Uncle Harry (God rest his soul) once told me, “M’boy, courage is not the absence of fear; it is doing what you fear for the right reasons.” I could not have been more proud of my son at that moment for his courage. Comfort zone? Terror zone. But that’s what life and Scouting are all about, going outside of your comfort zone and surviving and then thriving.

Summer camp is many things to a boy: adventure, challenge and fun. For parents who are fortunate enough to go as adult leaders and witness and participate in summer camp, it is work, hard work. But we don’t talk about that, we just do it. We do it because we love it, and the boys.


Comfort zone? There is no comfort at summer camp, no creature comforts, that is. Bug nets, heat, walking. Oh, the walking! I logged 6.7 miles on average per day shadowing my 10 year-old. All good, barking dogs and all!

The food was much better this year than in the past. The meat looked and tasted real; the vegetables, fresh and delicious. “Bake Shop,” the name for the daily cake or cookie treats, were made in the dining hall kitchen rather than in the past ordered and received from a commercial baker. The baked goodies at camp were almost always “special,” in that they were almost always birthday Bake Shop. The boys whose birthdays fall within the week are sung to by the whole camp in the large dining hall, with an emphasis on an extra (and extra loud) “YOU!” at the end of each phrase.

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There was always lots of singing, chants and noise in the dining hall. Some troops would get up and sing (always during the meal) popular songs by the Beatles, Monkees and others. Sometimes, out of nowhere, the boys would get up and do something that if aliens witnessed it they would keep going to another planet with sane people on it. The “SPOON!” event must be seen to be believed. Just grab your spoon and then stand and raise it over your head and yell, “SPOON!” for no apparent reason. The boys loved it, and the adults didn’t seem to mind either. Heck, how many times in your life do you get to do something completely different and not be judged? The boys have had this tradition for years, and even had t-shirts made the previous year that had a large spoon on the front that said, “It’s a Yawgoog thing,” on the front, and on the back “You wouldn’t understand.”

It was in this spirit of fun and fancy that camp got off to a normal and exciting start.

My ten year-old practically bucked out of the starting gate, and it was all I could do to keep up with him once he figured his way around. This boy is a born navigator. Wherever we go, whatever we do, he wants a map. He likes to lead. He strives to be first, no matter the situation. The kid bought a black scarf in the Trading Post (nicknamed the “407” – no one knows why) that has a map of the whole camp reservation (Yawgoog is actually three camps in one on 1,800 acres) in white on it.

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My ten year-old was so psyched he wanted to earn six Merit Badges! He had done pre-requisites for some at home prior to coming to camp, and was ready to do as many as he could. The average for Scouts is about three Merit Badges. First Year Scouts tend to do more, as we strongly encourage them to do at least one “as needed” badge they can complete on their own time, and then one evening Merit Badge that meets after dinner, usually Indian Lore. The idea is to keep them busy, completely exhaust them, so as to reduce the tendency for down time and home sickness. Whenever I have had a First Year Scout I have volunteered to shadow and guide all the First Year Scouts. If ever there were an achievement segment (little colorful pictographic arched patches that go on a circular felt patch that hangs on the uniform) for Herding Cats, I have earned it several times over.

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As fun as it is frustrating, by the end of the week, when the boys are most comfortable with you and then asking questions, and asking questions, and asking questions, patience becomes the overriding virtue of being an Assistant Scoutmaster. We pretty much “father” all the boys at camp except for our own, who we try to let be more independent. Our own sons may still spend time with us, but are encouraged to ask Scouting questions of older boys and the other adult leaders.

At each campsite, one for each Troop, there is a flagpole. The boys learn proper care and handling of the American flag in Cub Scouts, so by the time they are in Boys Scouts, it is second nature.

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By the second day in camp, things are organized and ready for the routine of getting up, taking care of personal hygiene, or what passes for personal hygiene at Boy Scout camp (we all know a Boy Scout is clean, right?), the boys have assigned jobs in the morning, such as latrine duty (cleaning toilets), filling lanterns, Camp Police (trash detail), Water Buckets (since everything is made of wood or canvass, at each lean-to or tent there is a large red coffee can that needs to be filled with water each morning for the potential of fire – these cans also circle the fire pit), and tidying up the living quarters. Just before heading off to breakfast and a day of fun, the SPL (my son in this case), calls the Troop to, “Fall in at the flag pole.”

The boys fell in at attention. The SPL, standing with an assistant at the flag pole unfolds the Troop U.S. flag, and then called for the Troop to give a “Hand salute.” He attached the flag and the assistant raised the flag.

What happened next astonished and surprised us, but no one moved. No one flinched. There had never been a deeper silence in this Troop, nor, I can imagine in these woods.

As the flag reached the top of the pole, the assistant slowly brought the flag down to half staff.


This was the subtle beauty of my son’s leadership style and loyal friendship. The half staff flag posting was in memory and honor of his friend’s mother, who had passed away the morning the Troop left for camp.

No one had mentioned the passing except in reverent whispers.

The boys had thought of the gesture, asked and then received permission from the Scoutmaster, who had said nothing to the rest of us.

This simple but profound gesture was all that was ever publicly said about the death of a Scout’s mother. It was all that needed to be said or done.

This was not done just once. It was done every morning, and the flag hung that way until the boys retired the colors after dinner each evening. Every time we entered or left or sat in camp, there it was, a constant reminder that one of us, one of the Troop, was in pain and mourning and therefore so were we. All for one . . . .

Camp went on. Merit badges were earned, and my 10 year-old earned his six. 135 were earned by 42 boys.  A boy earned first place in the mile swim, we won the Water Carnival, and earned the distinction of Honor Troop for the week. Many boys earned rank advancements. Most did something they’d never done before, such as catch a fish, paddle a canoe, MAKE something with their hands, learn about Native Americans, and experience deafness and blindness on the HAT (Handicap Awareness Trail) experience.


And every boy learned what it meant to be reverent. Every boy learned what it meant to be loyal. Every boy learned what it meant to honor a friend. Every boy learned what it meant, even if ever so slightly, what it meant to be a man.