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Sunday at the Post

News and notes: Elijah Alexander, McNabb trade talks, JaMarcus Russell’s weight and more. Michael Lombardi

Print This March 28, 2010, 09:13 AM EST


“As a professional football player, I learned long ago about the value of teamwork, and I bring that sports mentality to the fight against childhood cancer and myeloma. When you are part of a winning team, you work with others to focus your energy in a single direction.” -- Elijah Alexander

Sadly this past week, Elijah Alexander lost his battle with cancer. He left behind his wife Kimberly and two sons Elijah IV (age 14) and Evan (12). Elijah also left us with the community he started called the Tackle Cancer Foundation, an organization to help others deal with cancer.

When Alexander was first diagnosed with cancer, he would go to the hospital for treatment and refused to feel sorry for himself. Instead, he noticed other families trying to deal with the perils of this awful disease. Alexander decided to form a team off the field to help people fight the same disease he was trying to defeat. As a professional football player, he learned long ago about the value of teamwork, and he brought that sports mentality to the fight against childhood cancer and multiple myeloma once he learned about his condition.

Alexander left us last week at the age of 39, but his gift of love and caring for others will always be with us. His 10-year career in the NFL was filled with great memories, great teammates and great accomplishments, but his gift of giving lives on in his foundation.



“By seeing the seed of failure in every success, we remain humble. By seeing the seed of success in every failure, we remain hopeful.”-- Anonymous

1. From what I hear, the Donovan McNabb trade talks center on two teams: the Bills, who have an interest but are concerned about McNabb not having an extension in place, and the Raiders, who are looking at every quarterback option. A team executive told me the Raiders and Vikings are discussing the availability of backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Trading Rosenfels would only happen if the Vikings know for certain that Brett Favre is coming back.

2. Many executives I talked to last week wondered why the 49ers are not actively pursuing McNabb. With McNabb, the 49ers would be the favorites to win the NFC West. As I often write, the biggest problem in the NFL is evaluating your own team, and the 49ers really believe they’re set at QB.

3. Nonstop reports about Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s disputed weight are comical. Had he been in shape, would the Raiders be interested in McNabb or Rosenfels? The Raiders send out false weight reports to help the player keep the pressure off, but what they fail to realize is that Russell is indifferent. They care more about Russell becoming a good player than Russell does.

4. Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is virtually untradeable because of the contact he signed last year. His high base salary, along with no franchise rights after the 2010 season, make teams cautious about trading for him.

5. The Redskins seem more intent on drafting a left tackle than a quarterback in the first round, so all those Jimmy Clausen rumors to D.C. might be premature. I’m hearing Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung might be the pick.

6. The Rams might be talking to all the top prospects, but their pick, pending a solid workout this week, will be Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

7. Don Banks of reported that teams are worried about the increased use of marijuana by many of the 2010 college draft prospects. There’s no question it’s a concern, but with the increased use of drugs, the other concern centers on prospects coming from some very tough upbringings with dysfunctional families. The lack of home life and parental guidance worries many teams. They must do great jobs researching each prospect and knowing exactly the kind of person they’re drafting. If a team fails, it will be because it didn’t grade the player’s character correctly.

8. Florida corner Joe Haden has had some top-10 visits, but I keep hearing he’s not a top-10 pick. Hard to pick a speed-deficit corner in the top 10 and pay all that money. Remember, the rookie pay scale overpays the players from the first to the 12th pick in the first round; the rest of the salary structure is effective.

9. Haden might be slipping, but another Florida player’s stock is rising in the draft. Quarterback Tim Tebow has impressed everyone who has worked with him privately, and there’s a strong feeling he’ll be gone before the end of the first round.

10. Tight end Jimmy Graham of Miami is rising very quickly in the draft based on his size, his athletic skills and his potential to keep improving. Don’t be surprised if he moves into the bottom of the first.


“Hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age.” -- Ernest Hemingway

I found a great new blog this week (thanks, Ken), the Samuel Bacharach Blog, which centers on how to improve your skills in every area of your professional and personal life.


Ernest Hemingway may go down in the history books as a hard-drinking, big-fishing, Nobel-Prize-winning writer, but he was also a productivity guru. Throughout his career he often gave advice to young writers and openly talked about his work habits and writing style. Even if you aren’t a writer, Hemingway’s tips and tricks can help you increase your productivity.

Following is a list of productivity tips that come from Hemingway himself…and they aren’t just for writers.

1. Don’t Waste Words and Be Clear: Hemingway is famous for getting to the point and killing unneeded adjectives. When he was challenged to write a six word story, he wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Clearly, he knew how to be economical with his words. If you want to get things done you need to exercise the same verbal restraint. Meetings, email exchanges and conversations often spill into the late afternoon because people employ too many words. Keeping it short, simple and clear will save time, cut down on confusion and get everyone back to work.

2. Make a Schedule: Every day Hemingway would wake up daily at 7 a.m. and try to write between 500 to 1,000 words. The rest of his day he devoted to a combination of fishing, hunting and drinking. Give yourself a schedule. As Jeanette Winterson, another writer, says, “Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.” Routines and schedules give leaders the ability to be creative and consistent.

3. Quit While You’re Ahead: Hemingway said, “The best way [to write] is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck.” If you do one task well and you know what to do next, it might help to pause and tackle it the next day. Getting something done every day will increase your confidence and keep momentum going.

4. Keep Your Mouth Shut: According to Hemingway it is bad form for a writer to talk about his work. He said discussing writing takes off “whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk’s feathers if you show it or talk about it.” Don’t discuss your project or new idea until you are certain it is clear and well thought out. Talking about a new proposal or plan too soon can give your competition time to coalesce against your idea. Productivity will suffer if you spend more time talking about your idea instead of committing to it and making it better.

5. Don’t Give Up: Hemingway once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” You need to be able to be critical of the work that you do complete. Not everything you do will be perfect. Increased productivity will help you make a lot of progress, but you need to approach it with a critical eye. Don’t get frustrated and give up because you feel you are doing a bad job. Keep producing and moving forward. Eventually you will do one thing very well.

6. Work Standing Up: Hemingway wrote standing up because of a minor leg injury he got in World War I. However, he isn’t alone. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Donald Rumsfeld, among other popular figures, chose to stand up while they work. Standing while working can increase productivity by fighting fatigue, napping and distraction. According to the New York Times, it can also help you lose weight.

7. Lastly, Hemingway said, “Never mistake motion for action”: Leaders have to remember that productivity is about action and getting things done – not running around in circles.

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"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears." -- John Lennon

It Takes Time and Experience to Find Your Leadership Voice

Are You Squandering Your Intelligent Failures?

Chet Simmons, a Founding Force of ESPN, Dies at 81


“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” -- Albert Camus

Carl’s Garden ?

Author: Unknown?

Carl was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much.

He would always greet you with a big smile and a firm handshake. Even after living in our neighborhood for over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him very well.

Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning. The lone sight of him walking down the street often worried us.

He had a slight limp from a bullet wound received in WWII.

Watching him, we worried that although he had survived WWII, he may not make it through our changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs and drug activity.

When he saw the flier at our local church asking for volunteers for caring for the gardens behind the minister’s residence, he responded in his characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up.

He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared finally happened.

He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members approached him. Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked, “Would you like a drink from the hose?”

The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah, sure,” with a malevolent little smile.

As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down. As the hose snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled.

Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg. He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help him.

Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it.

“Carl, are you OK? Are you hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet.

Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head.

“Just some punk kids. I hope they’ll wise up some day.”

His wet clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose. He adjusted the nozzle again and started to water.

Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you doing?”

“I’ve got to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately,” came the calm reply.

Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could only marvel. Carl was a man from a different time and place.

A few weeks later the three returned. Just as before their threat was unchallenged. Carl again offered them a drink from his hose.

This time they didn’t rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head to foot in the icy water.

When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the hilarity of what they had just done.

Carl just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth-giving sun, picked up his hose and went on with his watering.

The summer was quickly fading into fall. Carl was doing some tilling when he was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him. He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches.

As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for the expected attack.

“Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.”

The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl. As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl.

“What’s this?” Carl asked.

“It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back. Even the money in your wallet.”

“I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?”

The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease.

“I learned something from you,” he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt people like you. We picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it. But every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn’t hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.” He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.”

He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he walked off down the street.

Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.

He died one cold day after Christmas that winter.

Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather.?In particular, the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church.

The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life.

In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.”

The following spring another flier went up. It read:

“Person needed to care for Carl’s garden.”

The flier went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door.

Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the flier. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said.

The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl.

He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”

The man went to work, and over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done.

During that time, he went to college, got married and became a prominent member of the community. But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it.

One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.”

“Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?”

“Carl,” he replied.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi


Add a Comment
Mar 28, 2010
09:35 AM

Why does everyone keep mentioning the 49ers needing McNabb? The Cardinals situation at QB is worse. Alex Smith has better numbers than Leinart. Each team signed a backup for $3 million this year so that is about the same in Carr and Derek Anderson. If the Cardinals got McNabb that would keep them atop the division too at least to the writers. If the 49ers got McNabb he would have to learn a new offense as his whole career has been in the West Coast offense, same if he went to the Cardinals. One observation about McNabb who I like but, he ihas a career completion percentage of 59% - that is horrible for the West Coast offense! Last year was 60% and only once in his career has he been over 61%. Also with all the changes for the 49ers I think it would be a bad idea to get McNabb. This is the first year in how many they have had the same coordinator. How well would McNabb's career gone if he changed offenses every year he was in the league too. Smith may never be great but for this year I think he would do better for the 49ers than McNabb would.

Mr. Murder
Mar 28, 2010
09:52 AM

Elijah Alexander's final game was so controversial. That makes his fight against cancer, and helping others in that fight, a winning note to life's most important game of all, life itself.

Mar 28, 2010
10:01 AM

Nice story, but giving up the garden because he had a child, isn't right. First, maturing means learning how to do ... more. Every day. I know people who put in 10 hours of charity work after 50 hours on a job, each week. Second, it won't be long for that baby to grow and be able to help and learn from that garden. I applaud the young man for turning his life around, but the situation could have turned out even better.

Juan Loco
Mar 28, 2010
10:06 AM

I find it funny that college prospect pot useage is a major concern for NFL brass. I'd smoke a joint for pain relief if I battled on the gridiron and practiced my ass off all week, or everyday, now that players are 365 day a year employees. Dont worry about college prospect steroid use, just worry about college prospect medicinal or recreational pot useage. Sounds like the proper priorities are in order. Then again, we're talking about NFL owners/GM's...what do they know about priorities: rams pick Chris Long over Matt Ryan; Lions...just typing "Lions" proves my point.

Mar 28, 2010
11:03 AM

It's amazing one week we're told not to listen to what we hear this time of year from teams, yet we're supposed to listen to what Lombardi is hearing around the league?

Where are the lines between rumor, truth and fiction?

I think all we know is McNabb is available at the right price. But so are a million players (including Kolb probably in the offer was outrageous).

When the 49ers say they aren't interested (which may or may not be true), you need to add the line "... at the current cost."" on the end of that statement.

I would think the same applies to Arizona, Carolina or a host of other teams. When the Raiders are involved, the whole sense of "cost" gets thrown out the window anyhow. When an owner uses the #7 overall pick on Darius Hayward-Bey, how much is McNabb worth to that man?

People and teams are allowed to be interested, but only at certain prices. I would love a Porsche for $20k, but when it's $75k that's another story. We're making way too much out of blanket statements like "not interested" or "interested" like it's black and white.

Mar 28, 2010
12:30 PM

lombardi, I love you buddy, but you need to dial back on the saccharine garbage. Your obituaries are riddled with cliches, and your use of the word 'great' is less than great.

I mean you're no Peter King, but how about practicing just a little of what you preach?

mark f
Mar 28, 2010
01:00 PM

In fairness to McNabb, and his completion %, he was never blessed with the most dynamic skill position players.

mrmurder what happened his last game?

deljzc-good points. I would guess those demands would go down too if there are no's impossible for me to imagine McNabb going back to the Eagles at this point.

Michael in the first, and well written comment, I agree 100 %. Lots of teams could use McNabb and it's gotta be only about money. After all why would signing Anderson eliminate the Card's? The only reason I can think of is money.

Lots of good points this morning.

Pats fans last year were aghast that Cassel only brought a high 2nd round pick. Now we see with McNabb that that was a good deal. Overall I just don't understand it.

McNabb would simply change the 49'ers into an instant playoff contender. How can these people who are so football smart, and they are smart relative to football, not see the obvious when evaluating the QB position?

Most of us feel McNabb has 3 top level years left. It's an eternity in the NFL. What are people thinking? A 2nd round pick for a 3 year window? 5 or 6 teams should be fighting over him.
How many 2nd round picks or even late first rounders instantly opened up 3 year windows to compete in the playoffs?

Ken B
Mar 28, 2010
01:55 PM

I read your columns daily and unlike other commenters I do not want to criticize. I find them interesting and worthy of some thought. I particularly like the quotes and articles that surrround pure football stuff. All of the conjectures about this player or that player really serve no purpose since nothing happens until something happens. The lessons from Hemingway and Carl however provide some sense and some beauty to the day. Please continue to provide these terrific moments.

Mar 28, 2010
04:06 PM

Excellent article, but please do not ever put Rumsfeld in the same sentence as Churchill and Jefferson. Those two men cared deeply about their countries. Rumsfeld did not.

Mr. Murder
Mar 28, 2010
04:38 PM

"The rest of his day he devoted to a combination of fishing, hunting and drinking."
A man of his priorities, that much is certain. Hemingway shot the bullshot, when he wasn't busy being chased by them in Barcelona streets or chasing stouter stuff.

Felt it better not to say something Rumsfeld, the man who walks around with a clicker on his belt to measure te amount of steps he takes in a day to better track productivity ratios in his work. If Dr. Strangelove was cloned with a pocket protector it would have Donald Rumsfeld's smile on delivery. He never did get that five to one kill ratio established to the point he could justify ground wars with China during the 'Nam years, everything else for him after that was an example of letdown syndrome.

Mac Mahler
Mar 29, 2010
04:07 AM

It was interesting to see the Hemingway article coupled with the fact that you say "the biggest problem in the NFL is evaluating your own team".

Hemingway's discipline allowed his creativity to flourish. Certainly (most) NFL coaches are noted for disciplined work. But what is it about personnel evaluations that teams often fall short on in finding creative solutions to?
Is it not knowing your own players as well as you could, or is the system too rigid, players or coaches not flexible enough, etc.?

Maybe an article could be forthcoming.

Excellent work as usual. But I would have to agree with Patspsycho and Mr. Murder that Rumsfeld was never a statesman, only a failed and narcissistic opportunist.

Mar 29, 2010
10:26 AM

"Every day Hemingway would wake up daily at 7 a.m. and try to write between 500 to 1,000 words. The rest of his day he devoted to a combination of fishing, hunting and drinking"

Two comments. First, I can't believe that immediately after saying, "don't waste words," you say, "every day Hemingway would wake up daily." Second, I have decided to become a writer. But instead of hunting and fishing, I am going to play golf and fantasy football. Sounds like Ernest was living the life. At least until he took it.

"If a team fails, it will be because it didn’t grade the player’s character correctly." This seems like an oversimplification, especially since it is difficult to tell which 21 year old kid is going to make a stupid decision and which one is going to mature out of those idiot decisions. I know, Mr. Lombardi, you say the best predicter of future behavior is past behavior, but a lot af these guys have very similar resumes of past behavior. A team can make all the right judgments and still get a problem child on their team, no?

Patrick Star
Mar 29, 2010
01:49 PM

As a former soldier I resent Rummy's name included with Jefferson & Churchill. Rummy & his ilk were all draft dodgers come 'drugstore conservatives'. Diplomats and Bureaucrats are two different Species!.

Nice story

mark f
Mar 29, 2010
06:29 PM

Rumsfeld wasn't a draft dodger I don't think. He served his hitch if I'm not mistaken.

Apr 02, 2010
08:51 AM


I know your a football guy (and a pretty good one at that), but I want to thank you for the life lessons you teach. Your one of the few guys who I'll follow just for their perspective.


Jul 27, 2010
02:55 AM

I have been checking out your posts for the last couple of hours, and it all has been very informative and well written. I just wanted to tell you that for some reason this post doesn't seem to work in Internet Explorer. On a side note, I was wondering if you wanted to swap blogroll links? I hope to hear from you soon!

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