I usually have a conversation with the opposing coach before each game. I have to admit, there are a few coaches that the less personal contact I have with them the better. However, that number is small and even dwindling as my coaching brethren retire into important roles, such as keeper of the recliner.
Saturday, we faced Washburn University. Their outstanding coach, Ron McHenry, and I usually have a pre-game chat. When I came up from the locker room, I saw my son, Sam, had Ron cornered on the bleachers. I thought it was only polite to rescue the Lady Blue’s coach from a 10-minute dialog of how my son evaluates the performance of the Bearcats. As I set down on the bleacher, Sam must have had his say as he took off to bug some Lady Blue player. During my pregame conversation with Coach McHenry, he surprised me by mentioning he read this blog. I said surprised but I should have said absolutely shocked.
I really am shocked when I find out some of the people that read these mind droppings. Do you know how hard it is to find this particular literary work? First you have to go to the college website, www.nwmissouri.edu. I guess you could go directly to the athletic web page at www.northwestbearcats.com. No matter how you get there, you still have to go to sports and click on women’s basketball. Now you can see some pictures and headlines from Northwest Women’s Basketball. If you are curious enough, you can look at the right side of the page. This week, you’ll see the title, “Who’s Listening.” Then in little blue print, you’ll see the title, Stein’s Blog. I don’t need to tell you all that since you are already reading it.
I only know who’s listening when someone says something to me or I get an email. Oh yah, there’s another way. If I go off the deep end and offend someone, I really hear about that. I think the funniest reactions came when I brought up a little misunderstanding about who got the pizza after a home game with Arkansas Tech. I said something like, “We got our butts kicked and then they stole our pizza.” I really meant to be funny, but the athletic director from Tech took offense to my words. Dr. Bob Boerigter, the Northwest athletic director at the time, was ambushed by the call from the Tech athletic director. After he read the blog, he did make me change one word. I rewrote it to say, “They kicked our butt and TOOK our pizza.” At least they were listening.
My current boss, Wren Baker, found himself in position to reel in my words recently. Trust me, I deserved the restraint. I had said a few tough words about the NCAA and I should have kept my mouth shut. The good news was someone at Northwest was reading this blog. The bad news is they didn’t like what I wrote. Later, I became aware of a filter of sorts that is used for everything that is written at Northwest. Apparently, I sent sirens off with that blog. I promise, I have learned my lesson well. I do know I have one fan over in that area of the college where everything is read. Mitzi Lutz has told me she will check out the blog, maybe even occasionally for entertainment.
It’s like anything that requires attention to succeed. You hear more when you screw up than when someone really enjoys what I wrote, as few of times as that might be. Believe it or not, my blogs have been a small bridge with my family that I see very rarely. That’s my fault not my relatives since my coaching profession draws me away at key family moments.
Once in a while, my brother, Roger, will let me know he read something in the blog. He lives in Lincoln, so you would think that distance would hinder an occasional conversation. Again, it’s my fault, I’m sure he’s read more blog information than emails from his older brother. My cousin, Chris, who lives in Texas, even emailed me about the blog. Her mother told her about them. This is one contact I have to be really careful when asking what they thought. My Aunt Tootie, Chris’s mother, is a retired English teacher. If I use a double negative, I just as well have run my finger nails on a blackboard.
I mentioned Bob Boerigter, my former boss earlier. He told me his wife, Mary, likes the blog. As a matter of fact, I give Mary the credit for informing Bob, who mentioned it to the NCAA magazine and gave me a little publicity. I hope the bad-blog filter noticed my nice reference to the NCAA.
I use my own wife, Michele, as my harshest critic. I do this without ever consulting her. I don’t dare ask, “How did you like the blog?” She’ll never just come out and say, “It was horrible, try again.” It’s more like, “It was okay, what’s next week topic?” The way I use Michele as a critic is to listen while she’s reading the blog. I don’t think I can make her laugh just be talking or telling a joke. However, she is an easy laugh at something she reads.
I remember on one recruiting trip when Sam was a baby; as we were traveling through some really generic roadway in northern Iowa. She asked me to read aloud from the book I was reading. I was in the middle of Skipping Christmas, a book close to my heart about forgetting all the hassle and expense of Christmas and going to the Caribbean instead. By the way, Michele was driving at the time and the very young Sam was snoozing in the back seat. You have to read this book. I thought Michele would pee her pants she laughed so hard.
That’s how I use her as a critic. If she thinks my blogs are funny, she’ll belly laugh her way through the whole thing. That doesn’t mean they’re all the funny, but she’s an easy sell as long as she doesn’t have to look at me. She probably wouldn’t laugh if she knew I was listening to her as a critic.
Some of my players have even begun reading them. To tell you the truth, they may just mention they have read the blog to gain an edge with playing minutes. I probably can be influenced by mention of my blog, but don’t tell my players that fact. The Boeh twins, Candace and Alexis, are the most loyal readers. I teach a Theory of Coaching class and a few of those students have mentioned they check out the blog. I am an easy grader, but I think Laura (a student) mentions the blog so I will overlook her chronic tardiness.
There’s one guy out there that will occasionally email me from Tampa, Florida. His name is John and he’s a friend I met thanks to my baseball crazy son, Sam. It’s been four years ago when Sam and I sat down behind home plate to watch the Tampa Rays in an early August game. I had spotted a turkey leg concession site so I settled Sam into his seat and headed for a pre-game meal. When I came back, Sam and John were in a deep baseball conversation. He was impressed an eight year old knew so much about baseball.
Sam, John and I have kept the conversations going for four years now. John will shoot me an email when my Bearcat team does something great or he’ll email encouragement when we stumble. From what I understand, John is very wise in the way of the world, so I consider his friendship special. I’m glad the blog can at times be a connecting point for Sam and my friend in Florida.
I have gotten emails from recruits, recruits parents, player’s parents and relatives and from someone I had almost forgotten about. I blogged once about a tavern in Humboldt, Nebraska, that served great catfish and carp every Friday. The tavern owner’s daughter somehow read the blog and sent me an email.
Annie was one of my first athletes, pitching for a softball team I coached. We also came up with a great plan to save money on music purchases. Annie and I like the same type of music. She would buy an album (vinyl back then) and I would pay her half the cost of the album. She would let me have the new purchase overnight so I could record to my reel to reel player. Presto, I would have the latest Mack Davis music at a real discount. You surely know who Mack Davis is, right? How could you not know his biggest hit, “Oh Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble.” It was a great system to get music at half price and go to her dad’s establishment for a cholesterol-loaded fish fry.
You never know who you will hear from with this blog. Even when I don’t talk about the basketball team, there appears to be someone who wants to waste 10 minutes of their life reading this website. I hope Coach McHenry reads this week. I can definitely state that he kicked our butts, BUT he didn’t TAKE our pizza.