Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's Turkey Time!

This kind of snuck up on me this year. I was sitting down, thinking about all I have to be thankful for, and -- wham! -- "Uh-oh, I forgot to choose my Turkey of the Year."

So I'm going to dispense with the long introduction and get right down to the countdown, which will lead to the latest in this parade of  lunkheads, losers, scammers, slimeballs, chokers, cheaters, bullies, boors, pouters and pitiable punching bags:

Mike McCaskey (1998); Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells & Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron (2002);Sammy Sosa (2003); Sammy Sosa (2004, the only repeat winner); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry & Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley(2009); Mark McGwire (2010); Joe Paterno & Penn State Enablers (2011); U.S. Ryder Cup Team (2012).

As always, this is dedicated to the late, great Gene Seymour, my Copley columnist predecessor and good friend.

10. DOLPHINS OFFENSIVE LINE. You know the old saying: The only time you hear the name of an offensive lineman is when he commits a holding penalty. Or when he leaves voicemails for a fellow lineman filled with vulgarity, profanity and racist taunts. What a mess. It's tough to stay, um, Icognito with this stuff going on.

9. TIM TEBOW. By all accounts, he's a great guy and a noble human being. But being a turkey isn't only about being a wretched human being. Sometimes, it's just about being a wretched quarterback. (And yet he still won one more playoff game as Denver's QB than Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler combined!)

8. GATEHOUSE GANGSTERS. Hey investors! Shares of stock in my former employer can be had for 3 cents apiece! Warning: After systematically gutting the editorial staff over five-plus years and emerging from bankruptcy just this week, it's high time for the pencil-necked weasels who run GateHouse Media to give themselves yet another round of raises and bonuses. Capitalism at its finest!

7. TIGER WOODS. He was golfer of the year and deservedly so. How, then, does he end up on this list? Four more majors by the board, four more also-ran finishes, five years without the only titles he considers truly relevant. As for that two-stroke penalty he had to take for his illegal drop in the Masters, well ... gobble, gobble!

6. DENNIS RODMAN. After befriending Kim Jong Un, Wormy McDiplomat's next project is Charles Manson. "Dude's just a little misunderstood, man."

5. ROB FORD. OK, he's not an athlete, but he is the mayor of a great North American sports town, Toronto, so I'm winging it. Hey, I never thought any politician could top the 2012 GOP presidential circus acts for pure comic relief, but this crack-smoking, drunken-stuporizing, foul-mouthed, real-life Chris Farley character takes the cake. And falls face-first in the frosting on a regular basis.

4. MANTI TE'O. The Notre Dame linebacker enthralled the national media with his heartbreaking story about his longtime girlfriend, who supposedly suffered a tragic death. Problem is, his dearly departed squeeze was no more real than Jan Brady's George Glass. Meanwhile, Alabama showed that Notre Dame's title hopes were an illusion, too.

3. RYAN BRAUN. The Brewers slugger had everything -- fame, talent, money and a legion of loyal fans. But that wasn't enough, so he juiced and made things worse by lying about it. Now, nothing he ever does on the ballfield can be taken seriously. 

2. RILEY COOPER. Eagles wide receiver and infamous cracker threatened to "fight every n----- here" at a Kenny Chesney concert. My immediate reaction: Black people go to Kenny Chesney concerts?



Cheater. Liar. Druggie. Professional Victim. And now he's little more than a pathetic, broken-down lowlife. Yes, the 2012 runner-up was an easy choice as this year's top turkey. 

These days, A-Roid is the poorest multimillionaire on the planet. His wife divorced him. Most of his "friends," no doubt, are the people he pays to stay close to him. Even Yankee fans, not a particularly discerning lot, must have to take long, hot showers after rooting for this miscreant. (I'm talking about the few fans who don't come to the ballpark to boo him.)

There was a time when it seemed possible that he could be the greatest ballplayer ever. Now? As the old-timers would say:

He's just another bum.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be!

The Mamas & The Papas had it wrong.

Monday, Monday ... CAN trust that day.

This week, anyway.

Last week wasn't the best sports week of my life. I lost the first two games of my coaching career, including a close heartbreaker on Thursday. And then my Marquette Golden Warriors looked like a bad 7th/8th grade basketball team in falling to Ohio State on Saturday.

Then came Monday, and I was living large.

First, I hung out in downtown Charlotte with one of my fellow writers, a Boston transplant who now lives in South Carolina and goes by the pen name "Chowder" -- shoulda been "Chowdah," I always tell him. We had a great two hours talking about investing, sports, families and life. There was plenty of playful trash-talk, too, as he's a big Patriots fan and I'm a relatively new Panther Backer.

I drove from downtown to the city's south side, where my Scholars Academy Eagles took on United Faith Christian. And we played our best game of the season, using absolutely swarming defense to get our first win. We still had trouble hitting shots, but you don't need to hit many if you hold the opponent scoreless.

Yes, that's right, we pitched a shutout!

Here are five of my gold-clad -- and victorious -- Eagles:
Hannah, Maddie, Sienna, Olivia and Charlotte. 

The girls have worked so hard, it was satisfying to watch them finally have reason to celebrate on the court. Winning isn't everything at this level, but it beats the heck out of the alternative. They have improved so much and they care even more. What a fun group to coach.

Finally, the Panthers capped off Monday with a dramatic, well-deserved victory over Cheatin' Bill and his Patriots. Cam Newton, extremely talented but criticized for never leading comeback victories, used his incredible skills to rally the Panthers in the final minutes. Tom Brady had one final chance -- as he almost always does -- but his last pass was picked off in the end zone.

It was an incredibly fun game to watch and it cemented the Panthers as legitimate contenders. They now have won six straight after a 1-3 start -- the last two victories coming at San Francisco and at home over the Patriots. It's fun to have a relevant sports franchise in my adopted town.

So maybe The Mamas & The Papas had it right after all:

Monday, Monday ... so good to me.

Monday, Monday ... it was all I hoped it would be!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coach Mike's newest challenge

Wish me luck.

Wait ... let's amend that ...

Wish me lots and lots and LOTS of luck.

My amazing life journey has led to my first head-coaching position. I am the girls basketball coach at Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, a K-8 Charlotte public charter school for "highly gifted students." (Those are their words, not mine, but I have found the kids to be incredibly intelligent and motivated so far.)

Our first game is tomorrow -- Tuesday, Nov. 12. Here's hoping the Eagles are ready to fly!

Some might remember that I have been an assistant coach over the years. Before this, however, the only team I had run was my son's co-ed rec-league squad back when he was 10 -- and one of our girls showed up to play in ballet slippers. Nuff said.

Coaching the Eagles has been an interesting experience so far. Our tryouts were Oct. 29 and I chose the 10-girl team that evening. The next day, I got an email from the mother of the only returning all-conference player, saying her daughter had to quit to participate in Mock Trial competition. Such is life at a school for highly gifted students.

That leaves us with nine girls. It's supposed to be a 7th/8th grade team but we had to open it up to younger girls to fill the roster. Here is our breakdown:

Two 8th-graders, one of whom is a soccer player trying hoops for the first time; two 7th-graders; four 6th-graders; one 5th-grader.

We might be small in numbers and experience ... but we also are small in stature. Our tallest players are in the 5-6 range. I don't know for sure because I'm afraid to measure them for fear of learning the truth.

But I will say this: These girls are tough and smart and coachable and fun, and there is some talent. Our captains are good leaders, and some of the younger girls really have a chance to be nice players.

From what the older girls have told me about the conference, I'm guessing we will be overmatched by a team or two and will have to scramble like crazy to win some games. So scramble we will.

Of course, winning and losing isn't what's most important at this level. I doubt I'll be fired based on game results, and I'm pretty sure the girls won't be scarred for life no matter what the record is.

Still ...

There will be a scoreboard in every gym. The parents will be looking at it, as will the girls, as will Coach Mike. The final scores will be recorded, standings will be updated, and there will be a conference tournament at season's end. A champion will be crowned.

So yes, it is competition, and everyone involved will be keeping track. Which is as it should be.

Long-term, I'm not sure where this adventure of mine is going to take me. But I am enjoying the teaching and team-building and striving for common goals.

And then there's this: Those who know me well know that I am an extremely organized, prepared guy -- OK, sometimes the word folks use is "anal" -- and I do like being in control.

Well, I got what I asked for.

So, again, wish me luck.

And, given what's happened to several high-profile, 50-something-year-old coaches recently, wish me good heart health, too.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

12 Nadels, 1 Town ... run for your lives!

The proof is in! A once-in-a-decade occurrence actually did occur! I present to you ...

A Nadel Family Reunion.

Front Row: Caroline, Lesley, Katie, Tara, Fran, Rob
Back Row: Al, Don, Lee, Mike, Ben, Russ

(Proof that pix can play tricks: Yes, Ben is tall and Russ is taller, but Ben isn't 4 inches taller than I am ... and Russ sure as heck ain't 6-foot-11. My son and nephew were standing on a hill. No fair!)

Yes, for the first time since 2003, all four Nadel brothers (and our families) appeared in the same place at the same time. The event took place Nov. 2-3 in Washington, D.C.

And they say nothing gets done in our nation's capitol!

My brother Don, who lives in Israel with his wife Lesley, doesn't get to the states all that often. And the last couple of times he did, we weren't all able to get together. Even when my oldest brother Al's son, Russ, got married to Tara in 2008, we weren't all there. Don and Lesley made the trip from London (where they used to live) to Minnesota ... but Lee didn't make the trip from Philly.

So not only hadn't the whole lot gotten together in 10 years, the four Nadel Boyz hadn't been in the same room for a decade. Jeesh!

Here we are, in birth order 
(and, as my parents intended, alphabetical order): 
Al, Don, Lee & Mike

And so, when Don and Lesley announced they were coming to the U.S. for a friend's wedding -- and that they also wanted to have a family reunion -- we were in. The site chosen was D.C. for perfectly logical logistical reasons. Russ, Tara and Al's daughter (our niece) Fran live in the 'burbs there; Al and Lee live in Philly, just a few hours away; and we live in Charlotte, a 6 hour drive. Our kids, Katie and Ben, were planning to visit us in Charlotte the previous weekend; we changed the date so they could join the festivities. And the whole thing became perfect when our other niece Caroline decided to fly in from England.

Wow! A dozen Nadels in one place for the first time in 10 years!

I mean, these days it's rare enough for Roberta and I to get Katie (who lives in Seattle) and Ben (who stayed behind in Chicago when we bolted for Charlotte). So this was quite a bonus.

Now that is one handsome family!

The most festive part of the festivities was the massive Wii Rock Band session in Russ and Tara's basement. I stuck to vocals ... and come on ... you know I absolutely nailed the Freddie Mercury role in Bohemian Rhapsody, right?

I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me. (He's just a poor boy from a poor family. Spare him his life from this monstrosity.)

Anyway, it was great seeing everybody again, all in one place.

I hope it's not 10 years until we do this monstrosity again!