Put me in, coach.

I thought it fitting to provide the world with ABC/ESPN’s Joe Paterno montage from 2008, as College Football slams back into action this weekend. JoePa has become not only synonymous with the Pennsylvania State University, but with College Football as well.  Paterno has held his position at PSU since 1966,  and in that time he has acquired the record for the most victories by an FBS football coach and has more bowl game victories than any other coach in collegiate football history. His numbers will certainly live on in dusty record books (or on dusty hard drives, I suppose), but it is his demeanor and his spirit that cannot be contained by simple statistics.

The best coaches are like that. They have the it factor, the ineffable thing that makes young men and women willing to follow and be shaped. How do we describe the ‘best’ coaches? Do we measure them by their records, or their effect on those who passed under them? Of course it is both when coaches are considered in historical perspective, but the true effect they imprint on the lives of men and women, from grasshopper soccer league to elite level competition, is where their greatness (or the genius) lies.

Here are two other examples:

PAT SUMMITT

She was offered the Tennessee men's head coaching job but turned it down, saying it would be a 'lateral move'. God, I love this woman.

Pat Summitt is currently the Tennessee Lady Vols Women’s Basketball head coach. Summitt is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women in any division. She is also one of only three collegiate coaches with 1,000 victories.

“She taught me that it’s OK to let down your guard and allow your players to get to know you. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Pat Summitt

JOHN WOODEN

RIP

John Wooden (1910-2010), was the first person ever to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. While at the helm at UCLA, he led the Bruins to 10 national championships in 12 seasons – a feat unmatched by any other college basketball coach.

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” – John Wooden

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Coaches drum up the sometimes-dormant passion in all of us. They can coax out the last inch, the last breath – down to the last bead of sweat – athletes have within themselves. But I think a coach’s reach extends beyond the lines, out of the locker room and sweat-stinking weight rooms into the stands, the TV sets and, most importantly, the hearts and souls of the fans, who stand behind their leaders with as much vigor as any competitor.

Hurts so good.

I certainly hope so.

I woke up today with what felt like two grapefruit-sized knots in my back, sitting betwixt my shoulder blades (otherwise known as the trapezius muscles, for you kinesiology/anatomy nerds). This in and of itself isn’t strange. The strange thing is that I liked it.

Though I wrote about cracking a ball on the sweet spot of a bat, and though I was sore this morning from old school gymnastics exercises I foolishly decided to try, I no longer consider myself an athlete. I exist on the periphery of that world nowadays with what I’d call ‘athletic tendencies’, but I still think it’s incredibly interesting to consider how athletes vs. non-athletes view pain.

These are personal musings; I’m not backing this up with research studies or what have you, but here’s my perspective. From my experiences on and off the field, I have found that a large number of athletes (present and former) seek out and subsequently thrive on pain of some kind. Or at least they willingly accept that pain is a necessary constant in their lives. It’s just something else to battle through. Let’s take a look at some quotes you’re likely to find on the walls of locker rooms across the country:

“Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit. ”

“Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”

“Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.”

Does the end justify the pain? Does the end even matter? I’m not sure it does. There is indeed a goal, but the process is what counts. The fight, the grind – the fact that it sucked and you still persevered – that is what athletes thrive on. I know I do.

This is not to say that all athletes feel this way, and I’m not lumping every human who didn’t happen to play an organized sport into one clump either. There is just a gap between the psyche of athletes and non-athletes when it comes to facing pain. Sometimes I think pain is taken too lightly in the athletic arena – there is generally a reason you feel pain, pain is there to tell you something, like maybe stop, you just tore your ACL. There are so many moments in sports history where an athlete has pushed through a legitimate injury just to finish, just to say that he or she did it. Therein lies the glory, and the feeling of being a champion.

Who could forget this... or hearing her voice for the first time.

All I know is I can’t shake the feeling that if I go home and do push-ups until my arms collapse, I’m going to enjoy every second of it.

The Sweet Spot

Legitimately me. Boom.

Nothing feels better than connecting with a pitch on the sweet spot of your bat. If you haven’t experienced it, I suggest you find your nearest batting cage and get to swingin’.

Hitting the sweet spot feels delicious – it’s almost indescribable. I think there are similar ‘sweet spots’ in life, but they certainly don’t appear or take place every day.

Today is a special day, though, because I have a fat pitch coming right down the pipe (in the form of a job I legitimately can’t wait to take part in), and I’m swinging away. The moment I step onto the set (where said gig is taking place), I know that satisfying feeling  I’ve been longing for will drape itself around me – the feeling of connecting with something in stride, at just the right moment, in just the right place.

I can’t wait.

I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.

High five.

Roger Clemens. Where to start? I’m not a fan… I’ll just get that out of the way now.

Seven Cy Young Awards is one hell of an accomplishment in a career, but Clemens may have had some help along the way in the form of steroids and/or HGH. But that’s not what got him in the hot seat.

As the picture above depicts, Clemens swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but a federal grand jury indicted Clemens yesterday for allegedly lying to Congress about his use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

In legal-ese, Clemens was charged with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements, and two counts of perjury – this coming from his sworn 2008 testimony in front of a House committee investigating steroid use in the MLB. The Rocket could legitimately face 15 to 21 months in prison if convicted. The maximum sentence would be 30 years and a $1.5 million fine.

Yikes. Might want to rethink that whole “Let me be clear, I have never taken steroids or HGH’’ statement. Especially since Clemens popped up in the now-infamous 2007 Mitchell Report calling out more than 80 professional ball players for testing positive for steroid use . Can you really continue to vehemently deny your (alleged) illegal behavior if drug testing proves you were in the wrong? The Rocket thinks he can.

In response to the indictment, Clemens took to the most respected news source there is – Twitter. “I never took HGH or steroids. And I never lied to Congress,’’ Clemens tweeted. “I look forward to challenging the government’s accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court. Rocket.’’

I, for one, can’t wait for his day in court either. I have an unflinchingly rigid stance on steroid use and users, and that is one of zero tolerance and/or compassion. The entire steroid era (including the most recent Barry Bonds debacle) has besmirched the sport of baseball, and that pains me to my core. Baseball is America’s sport (or so I’m told), but no matter what you call it, baseball is unifying, it’s ours, and it’s been casually pissed on by guys who thought they couldn’t progress, win, or whatever – without juicing.

The argument that ‘steroids were not illegal during this period of baseball’ is absurd and cheap.

I want the days of Roberto Clemente, a guy who would do all he physically could (to the point of shocking opposing infielders) just to beat out a slow grounder.

Instead, we get this:

I mean, I guess Barry kind of used to look like Clemente?

He ate a Backstreet Boy before the pic on the right was taken.

I can joke about this to a point, but I truly hope Clemens gets what’s coming to him, whatever that may be.

BREAKING PREDICTABLE NEWS – Brett Favre will return. Again.

Remember this?

Wah.

That was back on March 4, 2008, when Brett Favre announced he was retiring from the great American sport of football.  He was ending on a high note, with years of QB success to his name, and a fan following that spanned the country, not just the state of Wisconsin.

Look at that mean mug!

Young and hungry!

This is now…

Whoa... greybeard.

I’m tired of Favre taking up news space. The announcement of his return for the 2010 season is underwhelming at best. I’m not trying to take away from the fact that Favre actually had an incredible season last year with the Vikings (only to throw a costly interception in the final minutes of the NFC Championship game against the eventual Super Bowl Champion-New Orleans Saints). He had a laughable season in 2008 with the Jets, and leading the Vikes to and almost through the playoffs last year was a great turnaround – and what some thought would be the perfect opportunity for his exit.

It would have been a prime bow out opportunity, but Favre thinks he owes it to the Vikings to give it another go. Heavy, audible sigh. Haven’t we heard this before? Haven’t we heard this more than once?

We have. I just hope we don’t hear it again next year.

Writer’s block.

Grumble, grumble.

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve written anything. Not just on this blog (cough, October 2009, cough), but in all realms. I haven’t been able to find my words. For someone who’d rather write down everything than attempt to say it, this is devastating. I stare at my notebooks; filled with years of musings on heartbreak, confusion, love, self-aggrandizement, self-deprecation, dreams and desires; and I wonder why I can’t seem to open a fresh page. Or ready a thought for print.

After a solid year’s worth of actively trying to get my shit together (pardon my shit), I’m inclined to think I’m ready to start inking up some pages and providing the internet with a few of my brain sparks.

I’ll be back later to talk about why Brett Favre won’t go away.