The magic of perfection

About two years ago, my assistant coach, Lori Hopkins, and I came out of a meeting with our Sports Information Director.  Lori, my devoted and loyal assistant, was mocking me.  Our Sports Information Director had informed us that his office would no longer print media guides.  He wanted to spend more time blogging.  Lori said, “I read Sherri Coale’s blogs all the time.  Why don’t’ you blog Stein?”  Sherri is the women’s coach at Oklahoma.

The funny thing is I really like to write.  I have no idea how other people view my scribbling.  I figured I could tell a story, hope it was semi-interesting, put it on the website where it would die from the being ignored by readers of women’s basketball website.  I’m not sure, but I think a few of you actually sit down and read the blogs.  For that I thank you and present to you Blog #100.

One-hundred is a number of perfection.  If you are giving 100% effort, you really are giving the most you are capable of unless you can find a way to give 110%.  How can you give more than perfection?  Every fall, my team holds a free throw marathon to raise money for our program.  You are just about perfect if you can make 100 consecutive free throws.  Shelly Martin did it when she was a freshman, Emily Hauder hit somewhere in the 110‘s the next year.  That’s almost perfect.

There are a lot of middle school students who achieve perfection in one or more of their classes.  I could never claim such perfection and unfortunately, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  My son, Sam, doesn’t claim perfection in the classroom either.  I still claim that I would have found mathematics perfection in the fifth grade if Cheryl Sagehorn had not been in my class.  I loved math.  Once a week, Mrs. Hunt, the scariest third, fourth, and fifth grade teacher Clatonia Elementary School had ever seen, had a speed contest.

It worked like this; two of the slower math students went to the black board.  One picked a function (add, subtract, multiply, or divide).  Mrs. Hunt would then give them a problem and whoever got the correct answer the quickest survived for another round.  The loser would be banished to his or her desk and the winner got to pick his or her next opponent.  Of course, any halfway intelligent fifth grade student would pick the slowest student left in the contest.

I really was pretty quick at all the functions, but not terribly accurate.  I was usually picked somewhere in the middle.  The first math-challenged student was disposed very quickly.  Then I did something really stupid.  I picked Cheryl Sagehorn for my next victim.  When I did, there was a loud groan from the rest of the students.  You see, Cheryl Sagehorn was the fastest human calculator in the entire Gage County area.  As far as I knew, Cheryl could probably have been a national champion if there ever was such a thing.

Mrs. Hunt would carefully give us an addition problem with the sum of 8 different numbers being the challenge.  She might give us a multiplication problem with four or five numbers to be multiplied.  I would tear through the problem with lightning in my piece of chalk.  My mind was coordinated with the problem on the board and chalk dust flew as I headed toward sure victory.  I would furiously circle my final answer and whirl with a yelp to let Mrs. Hunt know I had finished her ridiculously tough math problem.  Almost always I would turn to sneer at my defeated opponent.  Almost always, Cheryl was patiently waiting for me to finish so she could embarrass me once again in front of the entire class.  One time I beat my dreaded female foe, but my answer was not correct.  Once Cheryl actually printed the wrong number on the board, but had plenty of time to casually erase the wrong answer for the correct one as I struggled to finish the first half of my problem.

My quest for mathematics perfection was constantly stomped out by the blinding speed of Cheryl Sagehorn’s work.  The contest that was supposed to last an hour was effectively over.  Cheryl could beat everyone else with one hand tied to a fence post and he eyes covered with a burlap sack.  No one else stood a chance, and opponent and opponent went to the slaughter of the speed math contest.  Sheryl had perfection and I had a goal.

The quest for perfection has the number 100 in many sports.  As a little kid, the first time you broke 100 in bowling felt like you had just beaten Earl Anthony, the greatest bowler of my youth.  If I play 18 holes of golf and score 100, it feels as close to perfection as I can get on the golf course.  I know 100 is a poor score for most, but not me.  There are two things about golf I always acknowledge; I never cheat.  What’s the purpose of cheating?  If I score 115 instead of 114, will I feel like a success?  The other thing about golf is a line I love from the golf movie, Tin Cup.  Kevin Costner, who plays the down and out professional golfer named Tim Cup, said about golf, “Perfection is unattainable.”  However, if I ever break 100, I’ll take it as perfection and never play golf again.

If any basketball team scores 100 points in a game, I feel like we are pretty close to perfect on offense.  However, if we give up 101 points to our opponent, then we are far from perfection on defense.  Wilt Chamberlin must have felt perfect when he scored 100 points against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962.  Wilt was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors at the time.

One far out fairy tale is the Kansas City Royals will win 100 games in a season in the near future.  If that happened, the lowly Royals would still lose 62 games.  If we could repeat our basketball season record year after year, it would take over 12 years to lose that many games.  However, in Kansas City, 62 losses would be a God-send.  Sixty-two loses means a trip to the playoffs, a division championship, and the undying love for a success-starved franchise.

Baseball is a funny game.  What other sport can you fail at the bat seven out of ten times and be considered for the All-Star Game.  It’s true that if you fail 50% while shooting a basketball, you are looked at as the second coming of Michael Jordan.  100 wins will give you a shot at the World Series in baseball.  100 losses in baseball and you tell the owner to get ride of the coach.

This is my 100th blog.  I don’t know what the number means toward any successes.  However, in honor of that hallowed number, I give you a brief statement as I stand on my soap box, giving you a brief update into my ranting and raving of baseball, specifically the Kansas City Royals.  This is my favorite topic.

It is true that if you fail seven out of 10 times at the plate, you are considered a success.  Can we call any of the Royal batters successful when the most successful Royal gets a base hit at most 2.9 times out of 10?  Last week, Sam, Bryce, a friend of his, and I went to a Royals game.  Much to the boys’ delight, a group of 13 year old girls from a Chicago-area softball team was at the game.  I have mentioned this in the past, but the Royals have a weak designated driver program.  You get one, lousy, 10 ounce cup of cola and a wrist bands that ward off all beer salesmen.  If you sign up, you get your name in a drawing.

Last week, one of the parents of the softball group won the drawing.  The trouble for me was none of the parents were drinking.  This obnoxious fan of the White Sox was so cheap, she waited in line for one, little cup of cola.  No one in their party was drinking.  Who was she designated driving for?  She stole the only valuable prize for the people who had to suffer through a Royal’s game sober, while their friends drink like it’s their last drink or they are so depressed over the Royal’s roster.

I could go on about how you have to pay to print your tickets on your home computer with your own printer ink.  I could mention how the dictator-like ushers won’t let a father (who looks like a grandfather) and his two kids to sit in the lower level of the stadium, even in the last innings of the game.  Never mind there are 30,000 empty seats, don’t be fan friendly.  However, I need to calm down and finish this blog, which is #100.

My first blog was about one of my players who were just beginning her sophomore year after a troubled freshman year.  I want to update you on how things are going for Tara Roach.  Tara, from Elkhorn, NE, is now getting ready for her senior year.  In truth, her sophomore year didn’t go all that well.  Then Tara really got into a mess.  With the help of her family and her eyes wide open, Tara took her medicine and got stronger for it.  She was probably our most popular player among the fans during our 29 – 5 season.  One elderly fan delayed some minor surgery to be at our team banquet.  When she woke up from surgery, she opened her eyes to see her two favorite players, Gentry Dietz and Tara Roach at her bedside.  I think after another 52 blogs, Tara will have a great story of success to tell. Maybe she makes perfection – 100%.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.