The King of golf, Arnold Palmer, died last weekend. He was a gentleman among gentlemen who set an impossible standard for how professional athletes should conduct themselves on, and off, the field of play.
Also famous for his army of fans and namesake beverage, Palmer first mastered, then transcended the sport of golf in a manner that will never be duplicated. Golf fans will sorely miss Arnie, but so will the world at large – especially during this drought period when class and grace are in such short supply.
As a former sports agent, adjunct professor of sports marketing, and sports business owner, I’ve worked with thousands of professional and elite athletes for more than 30 years and I’ve seen all brands of boorish and reckless behavior. The answer to remedying most of it: WWAD (what would Arnie do).
I don’t understand why more professional athletes can’t honor their sports and their fans in the same way that Arnold Palmer did for more than 50 years.
Closer to home, I don’t understand why Bill Belichick isn’t universally recognized as the greatest coach in NFL history.
Beyond Belichick’s impressive resume (four Super Bowl wins, 226 career wins as a head coach, 73 percent winning record with the Patriots, etc.) – what’s most impressive is that there is nothing outwardly “impressive” about him. Belichick doesn’t care about impressing you, me, the media, fashion gurus, or anyone really. He just cares about his own Zen-focused, tireless pursuit of excellence, while seemingly discounting everyone and everything else as mere distractions.
It’s easy to overlook Belichick’s genius beyond the statistical glare of his success. But to me, Dr. Belichick, the master psychologist, is much more impressive than Coach Belichick, the tortured sideline soul wearing the sweatshirt/scowl combination.
In more than 40 years of NFL coaching, Belichick has consistently motivated thousands of players to sacrifice their own individual interests (personal glory, fame, money, etc.) for that of the team. It’s his unique behavioral approach and highly disciplined motivational system that is at the root of his football success – much more so than any X’s or O’s in a playbook. (A “system” that seven former Belichick assistants over the years have tried to take with them to their own head coaching roles with other NFL teams; by any measure, they’ve all failed.)
A final fun fact about Dr. Belichick is that he is the only NFL coach not included in the Madden video game series, because he’s also the only current NFL coach not a member of the NFL coach’s association (NFLCA), which handles licensing for NFL coaches. The only one. You can almost hear Belichick’s internal thought process when this issue first came up; “Will joining an association or being in a video game help me win games? No. OK, I’m not joining.”
As I start the back nine (golfing nod to Arnie) of this column, it’s getting dark outside during a period (afternoon) that should be reserved for daylight. I’m not ready to give up on bright skies, warm days and iced coffee.
The first day of this week held 11 hours and 58 minutes of daylight, with sunset here in southern Maine falling on us at 6:31pm. By the end of this week we will have lost 18 minutes of daylight, with sunset at 6:20.
I understand the realities of springing forward, falling back, and earth’s position relative to the sun; I just don’t enjoy 4 p.m. darkness on the edge of town, which leads me to Bruce Springsteen. How is it that most of today’s generation are unfamiliar with the greatest American-born rock singer, songwriter and live performer?
He’s won an Academy Award, multiple Golden Globe Awards, 20 Grammy Awards, sold more than 124 million records worldwide and played before tens of millions of fans during epic shows all around the world.
“The Boss” first came on the scene in the early 1970s and now at 67 years old, he’s still getting it done. His autobiography, “Born to Run,” was just published and I urge anyone with even the smallest measure of music appreciation to go buy it.
A few other things I don’t understand:
• Is there anything left in the world that requires pumpkin spice? Pies, coffee drinks, ice cream, beer, cereal, chocolate, and the latest dubious addition, pizza. What’s next, pumpkin spice gasoline?
• Regardless of partisan politics, and reflex tribalism when it comes to how we view politicians in today’s scary world, can we all agree that Vice President Joe Biden is one of the most decent men to have ever served our country at the highest levels? I don’t understand how anyone can view Biden’s personal and political background and not be deeply moved by his commitment and selfless service to our country.
• Oakhurst Dairy will start producing and shipping their world-class egg nog on Oct. 21. Count me in as a fan – I just wish that the egg nog makers would take some marketing tips from the “pumpkin spice” folks and get their products out there more!
Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week. He can also be heard Saturdays at 11 a.m. on WLOB 1310 AM and 100.5 FM.