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Sunday at the Post

News and notes: Bill Romanowski, Chris Johnson, OT rules and more. Michael Lombardi

Print This May 23, 2010, 08:29 AM EST

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

"My daughter, Lauren Hammond, age 21, has been involved with Best Buddies for about eight years. She has Asperger's Syndrome. As parents of this special girl, we are most grateful to all of the young men and women who are buddies to people like our daughter. You may never know the true value of the time that you have so generously given to these kids...but we know. The lives of all involved in this program are enriched, including ours." -- Lori Hammond

On June 5, celebrities, athletes, individuals with intellectual disabilities and people just like you will take the challenge and come together on bike and on foot to make a difference and change lives. It's much more than a ride, a run or a walk. With VIP treatment along the way and a private concert by KC and the Sunshine Band, lobster bake and party at the finish, the Audi Best Buddies Challenge is an experience of a lifetime. 

Even though Best Buddies has advanced tremendously in our short existence, many areas of the country and many regions of the world still lack programs to help people with IDDs become part of mainstream society. Our goal is to continue expanding nationwide and at the local community level, while more broadly engaging the global community through our programs.

“Special Olympics athletes are spokespersons for freedom itself -- they ask for the freedom to live, the freedom to belong, the freedom to contribute, the freedom to have a chance. And of all the values that unite and inspire us to seek a better world, no value holds a higher place than the value of freedom." -- Eunice Kennedy Shriver

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL...

“The greater you become, the more you must practice humility.” -- Ben Sira

1. I know Bill Romanowski well, and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to performance enhancing drugs. “The only way you can get that substance that he took, hCG, in your body is to inject it, OK?” Romanowski said. “So let's get that clear. So his sob story on TV was, I'm just going to say, was a total lie, OK — from his own admission of usage.” That comment is not meant to be vindictive toward Cushing but rather an honest explanation.

2. The Titans are not going to change their position with regard to redoing Chris Johnson’s deal, but I’m sure his agent, Joel Segal, will keep sending them new ideas and proposals to get them to see his point of view. Johnson has to be proactive in his approach because even though he has outplayed his contract, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not favor his holdout.

3. Typically, the owners’ meeting in May is very low key in terms of rule changes, but there seems to be strong sentiment to move the overtime rules to the regular season. Coaches I’ve talked to seem more willing now to accept the change in the regular season than when it was first passed. This will be a very interesting vote, and I expect it to be very close, especially if there are not many football people in the room.

4. Speaking of no football people in the room, when the owners vote on which city will host the 2014 Super Bowl, it will be done by secret ballot, and owners or their representatives are the only ones to vote. Can the Super Bowl be played in a cold weather city in 2014? From what I’m hearing, it seems more likely now than it did six months ago.

5. It makes no sense for quarterback Jay Cutler or new offensive coordinator Mike Martz to watch any 2009 Bears offensive game tape. The Bears will run a new style of offense, and Martz will be able to teach Cutler what he needs from his old Rams tape, then watching him run the offense.

6. I’m not predicting Brett Favre’s eventual return to the Vikings now, but from all indications there has never been a sign from either party that Favre is not coming back. The Vikings didn’t draft a quarterback, they’ve never seemed worried about the future at the position, and Favre has done the necessary medical procedures to come back. I’m told that the ankle procedure he had recently would not be necessary for a career playing golf, but it is necessary for an NFL QB.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA...

“Taking charge of your own learning is taking charge of your life.” -- Warren Bennis

Joe Girardi: The Life's Work Interview by Katherine Bell, Harvard Business Review

Joe Girardi wrote in a third-grade essay that he wanted to play for the Chicago Cubs. He grew up to do exactly that. After retiring from catching, he coached for the New York Yankees and managed the Florida Marlins for one year, at the end of which he was both fired and named National League Manager of the Year. He then replaced his former boss, Joe Torre, as manager of the Yankees. In 2009, he took the team to its 27th World Series championship.

You’re famous for being information-driven and analytical in your approach to managing.

I love numbers. You can never give me too many numbers. I believe they tell a story, if you have a large enough sample. I have an industrial engineering degree — a degree in problem solving, basically. But my whole family is math-oriented, and that’s always been how I see things.

How do you coach players to know when to abandon the plan and listen to their guts?

If you think too much, you fail, because the game happens too quickly. The key is preparation. You tell the player, “Here’s the information — now go play.” The data has to become instinctual. You can’t think about it in the middle of a pitch. Some players have a hard time using information to improve their instincts, and they usually weed themselves out.

When you went from the Marlins to the Yankees, how did you change your approach from managing a team of rookies to managing one full of stars?

To me the principles are the same. You have to show faith in your players and lead by example. You ask your players to be prepared mentally and physically, and so you have to be prepared. Beyond that, you’ve got to adapt to the type of players you have. If you’ve got a home-run-hitting team, you can’t make them all base stealers and vice versa. When I had young players, we taught them a little bit more about the big-league life. But that only took about 30 or 40 days, once the season started. People think superstars are unapproachable. Most stars I’ve met want to just be normal people. I try to treat them like they’re men — just normal guys. They have an exciting job, they’re on TV, and they’re talked about. But they have normal problems. They hurt just like everybody.

When you were catching and saw a pitcher losing focus, how did you get him back on track?

I would walk out there and talk to him and just say, “Try to change the rhythm a bit. Try to keep it simple.” Usually there’s one pitch that gets a pitcher back to his mechanics and you’ve got to know what it is. When a guy gets traded to the team, you’ve got to figure out that pitch as quickly as you can. You can’t figure it out in spring training because the emotions aren’t quite the same.

When a player — or the whole team — is in a slump, how do you manage that?

Number one, you can’t panic. You can’t have a bad week and start throwing things. Your character has to be the same whether you are winning or losing. If it’s not, then you care about the winning and losing more than you do about the people. What they’re doing is hard. I tell myself every day, it’s not easy to hit, it’s not easy to pitch, they don’t have Nintendo controllers in their hands to help them guide the ball.

I also believe that you can’t say, “I understand what you’re going through.” Because you can’t — you don’t have the same personality. I lost my mom when I was 19. But I would never tell someone who’s losing a parent in their teenage years, “I understand what you’re going through.” I would say, “I lost my mom when I was 19, and it was very difficult. If you want to talk to me about it, I’m here.”

You mentored Jorge Posada, knowing he was going to replace you as catcher for the Yankees. How did you make that relationship work?

I’ve always been taught that it’s team first, and if you want to win as a team, you have to help each other and share your information. It’s also my faith. I believe that God’s going to put me where he wants me no matter what I do. Eventually Jorge was going to take over that spot, whether I helped him or not. So why wouldn’t I try to make our club better?

Jorge made me a better player too. Competing against each other and communicating made us all better.

Now that he’s the senior catcher and there are other people coming up, what have you told him about how to mentor them?

The interesting thing is that when someone mentors you, it comes naturally for you to do it to someone else. I’ve seen it in Andy Pettitte, I’ve seen it in Jorge, I’ve seen it in Mo. All these guys were mentored when they were younger. Everything comes full circle. I don’t really have to say anything. I’ll see Jorge talking to a young catcher just sharing his knowledge and it comes naturally for him.

When you replaced Joe Torre, how did you go about setting your own direction for the Yankees?

Most people, including Joe, advised me, “Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else.” I had to earn the players’ trust. I knew it would take time and I’d have to work very hard at it, because they had been with Joe a long time. I would flat out ask players, “Do you trust me?” One was a little hesitant. I said, “You know what? I’m going to prove you can trust me.” And so I had to go out and prove it to him.

One of the lessons I learned when I was a young boy was from Dave Rogers, my Little League coach on the 11- and 12-year-old all-star team. I was 10, and he put me on the team over a 12-year-old. A lot of parents were outraged. He stuck his neck out for me because he believed in me. At times you really have to stick your neck out for a player. And you have to be thick-skinned enough to take the heat that you might get because of it.

You haven’t talked much about the circumstances in which you left the Marlins. What do you recommend about when and how to confront a boss?

Where and when are the most important things. There’s a respectful way to do it. I tell my players to confront me. If you don’t think I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, tell me. I think it’s healthy when a player can come in and say, “I don’t think I’m getting this,” or, “We need that.” That means they trust you. If I ever get to the point where I don’t want to hear from my players, then I’m not doing my job.

What challenges come with being the most successful sports franchise in American history?

The expectation that it’s going to be done every year is the biggest challenge. I like that expectation, because it pushes people to a higher level. But it can be hard on players. Everything we do is under a microscope. Every player who goes out there this year is going to have a bad day or a bad week or even a bad month. But it’s the overall picture that matters, and that’s why the togetherness we have as a team is so important. You can’t get caught up in what you hear and what you read. Your value can’t come from others. It can’t, or you’ll be torn up.

Demands on your time are also a challenge. When you’re bigger, there’s more attention on you, and you have to manage your time better. People are going to want to talk to you more hours of the day. Sometimes in our business, it seems like we’re always at the ballpark, but family time is instrumental. It’s important that you keep your priorities straight.

During the steroid scandals, the public lost some faith in baseball. There’s a parallel now in business; many leaders are trying to figure out how to regain the public’s trust. How have you handled that?

Everyone says perception is reality. That really bothers me because perception is not reality; reality is reality. Have there been illegal things done in our country? Yes. Have there been illegal drugs used? Yes. That doesn’t mean everyone used them, right? There are people who have done it the right way. My job is not to judge people. My job is to get the best out of people.

I have a responsibility to fans. I understand that and I take that very seriously. But I have a huge responsibility to the team that I need to take care of first. Just like any human being, we’re all going to make mistakes. But we’re trying to make the game better.

Do you ever get bored?

Do games get long? Does the job sometimes become a grind from a physical standpoint? Yeah. But I don’t get bored. I love what I do. I love competition and strategy. I love seeing people succeed — you can be losing a game 19-2 and you can still see that.

27 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable

By Don Meyer, men’s basketball coach at Northern State University

• Think about yourself
• Talk about yourself
• Listen greedily to what people say about you
• Expect to be appreciated
• Be sensitive to slights
• Never forgive any criticism
• Trust nobody but yourself
• Demand agreement with your own views on everything
• Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them
• Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself
• Shirk your duties if possible
• Do as little as possible for others
• Let anger and resentment build up inside of you
• Seek only pleasure
• Do what ever is convenient
• Don’t do your best
• Don’t do what you know is right
• Let your body get fat and out of shape
• Don’t take time to rest and relax to enjoy life
• Take everything seriously
• Be cheap with your money
• Spend your money foolishly
• Don’t ask God for help
• Try to do everything yourself
• Live in the past
• Live in the future
• Try to control the uncontrollable

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING...

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” -- Harvey Mackey

Twelve wins away: Don Meyer's hard road back from the brink

Winning, loyalty or immortality?

STORIES TO SHARE....

“The more we progress the more we tend to progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been accumulated since the dawning of time.” -- Conan Doyle

The Little Boy Who Wanted to Buy a Doll For His Sister in Heaven

On the last day before Christmas, I hurried to go to the supermarket to buy the remaining of the gifts I didn't manage to buy earlier. When I saw all the people there, I started to complain to myself:  “It is going to take forever here and I still have so many other places to go...Christmas really is getting more and more annoying every year. How I wish I could just lie down, go to sleep and only wake up after it...”

Nonetheless, I made my way to the toy section, and there  I started to curse the prices, wondering if all kids really play with such expensive toys. While looking in the toy section, I noticed a small boy of about 5 years old, pressing a doll against his chest. He kept on touching the hair of the doll and looked so sad. I wondered who was this doll for.

Then the little boy turned to the old woman next to him: “Granny, are you sure I don't have enough money?” The old lady replied: “You know that you don't have enough money to buy this doll, my dear.” Then she asked him to stay there for five minutes while she went to look around. She left quickly. The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

Finally, I started to walk toward him and I asked him who did he want to give this doll to.

“It is the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for this Christmas. She was so sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.”

I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus will bring it to her after  all, and not to worry. But he replied to me sadly, “No, Santa Claus cannot bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my mother so that she can give it to her when she goes there.”

His eyes were so sad while saying this. “My sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy will also go to see God very soon, so I thought that she could bring the doll with her to give it to my sister.”

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said: “I told Daddy to tell Mommy not to go yet. I asked him to wait until I came back from the store.”

Then he showed me a very nice photo of himself, where he was laughing. He then told me: “I also want Mommy to take this photo with her so that she will not forget me. I love my mommy and I wish she didn't have to leave me, but Daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.”

Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly. I quickly reached for my wallet and took a few notes and said to the boy, “What if we checked again, just in case you have enough money?”

“OK,” he said. “I hope that I have enough.” I added some of my money to his without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll, and even some spare money.

The little boy said: “Thank you, God, for giving me enough money.” Then he looked at me and added: “I asked yesterday before I slept for God to make sure I have enough money to buy this doll so that Mommy can give it to my sister. He heard me. I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God for too much. But He gave me enough to buy the doll and the white rose. 'You know, my mommy loves white roses.”

A few minutes later, the old lady came again and I left. I finished my shopping in a totally different state from when I started. I couldn't get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local newspaper article two days ago that mentioned a drunk man in a truck who hit a car where there was one young lady and a little girl. The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-assisting machine because the young lady would not be able to come out of the coma that she was in.

Was this the family of the little boy? Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the newspaper that the young lady had passed away. I couldn't stop myself and went to buy a bunch of white roses and I went to the mortuary where the body of the young woman was exposed for people to see and make a last wish before burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest.

I left the place crying, feeling that my life had been changed forever. The love that this little boy had for his mother and his sister is still, to this day, hard to imagine. And in a fraction of a second, a drunk man had taken all this away from him.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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