I Once Made An Amazing Basketball Play … That My Coach Hated

Though I now love basketball as an adult, I wasn’t into it at all as a child.  In fact, I didn’t really start playing basketball until I entered seventh grade.  I’m guessing a four inch growth spurt (also, my last growth spurt) prompted this interest in the sport.

I liked it a lot, more than football, but had some catching up to do with the guys who played in the youth programs.  Luckily, I was from a small town, so if you tried out for the team … you were pretty much on the team.

Seventh and eighth grade basketball treated me well.  I wasn’t anything better than average, but I learned a lot about the sport and, even more importantly, had a great time.

By ninth grade, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I still wasn’t anywhere close to being the star of the team, but I regularly did particularly well on the “B” team, so I thought I still had plenty of room to improve, and I believed that I would improve.

With my confidence soaring, I once made a play that I thought was inspired, efficient, and full of style.  My coach completely disagreed.  Thankfully, this all happened at practice.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I somehow gained possession of a loose ball while playing defense.  I remember I had to chase it down and bend over to retrieve it.  I knew members of my team were already fast breaking to our basket.  Sure, I could pick the ball up, turn, and then thrown it down court to them, but that would waste precious seconds, seconds that would allow the defense time to catch up.

In perhaps one of the most ingenious moments in basketball history, I figured out how to bypass those three wasteful moves into one economical motion that would surely result in two points.

I bent over to grab the ball with both hands.  I spread my legs nice and wide.  And then, with the efficiency of an NFL center and with my butt facing the basket in which we wanted to score, I launched the ball with both hands right between my legs to the lead fast breaker.

I’ll never know if my teammate scored because I stopped watching him when I heard my coach scream, “AXLE!”

A quick side note: My coach called me “Axle” after the character “Axle Foley” from Beverly Hills Cop.  Remember, this was all happening in the early ’90s.  I kind of liked the nickname.  “Axle” always sounded pretty cool.  Of course, looking back, I’m pretty sure half the time he wasn’t actually saying “Axle.”  Apparently, my unorthodox methods often befuddled him.

Coach had a brief chat with me about my pass.  He said something along the lines of, “I never … ever … want to see that again.  … Ever.”

I’ve watched a lot of professional basketball since that moment.  I’ve loved the NBA, and, more specifically, the NBA playoffs, since ninth grade.  In all the games I’ve watched during the last thirty years, I can attest that Coach was right.  I’ve never seen that pass executed by, well, anyone.

To this day, though, I maintain that it was a brilliant pass.  I hit my breaker right on the money.  Sure, it looked silly, but it was so efficient.

Man, I loved basketball.

Maybe I should have played past ninth grade.

Maybe one day I’ll tell you why I didn’t.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

 

 

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The Weekly Weigh-In: Still Ahead Of Schedule

I felt very nervous about sharing my weight with you a few weeks ago.  That’s a truly personal thing to throw out onto the internet, and, if I failed to lose any weight, a rather embarrassing defeat.

On the other hand, I know myself well enough to realize that the pressure of going public might actually encourage me to try harder and hold myself more accountable.

It would seem that I’ve used the correct strategy.

Thankfully, at 213 pounds, I managed to come in a pound under my target weight last week.  For this week, I hoped to maintain that amount from last week–213 pounds–because that was my projected weight for this weekend.  Whatever happened, I just didn’t want go back up to 214 pounds.

I’m very happy to reveal that the extra pound trend is continuing.  I weighed 212 pounds this morning.

While this is more than I expected, I want to be careful not to rush things.  It’s generally agreed that a pound a week is the healthiest way to lose weight.  I’m going to assume that this extra weight loss per week is simply the immediate result of healthier portion control.  I don’t expect to maintain an extra pound a week, and I certainly want to make sure that I don’t pressure myself to do so.  It’s exciting, but it’s also not necessarily sustainable.

I made two major changes to my diet this week that seem to be reaping benefits.  Firstly, I’ve switched to eating a sensible cereal for breakfast.  I’m currently enjoying Special K with honey and oats.  I had been eating two microwave oven sausage patties and three microwave pancakes with syrup.  Wow.  Now that I see that in writing–yikes.  Secondly, I’m having a single serving of maple and brown sugar oatmeal for my afternoon snack.

Other than that, I’m simply eating less than I normally would.  For example, we had breakfast night Thursday evening.  I normally make three biscuits for my “biscuits and gravy.”  Thursday, I only had two.  I also did not make sausage patties to go with it.  We were already having bacon, so I figured that was enough.  Typically, I would have made sausage, too.  These little tiny changes, while not earth-shattering, are contributing to calories not being consumed.  Of course, if we burn more calories than we eat, we lose weight.

So, next week I’m hoping to maintain the 212 pounds from this morning.  That will keep me on schedule.  If that extra pound trend continues–fantastic.  If not, no problem.  The primary goal is to leave 213 pounds in the past.

Hope your journey is going well, too!  Good luck!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s e-book series HERE)

A Few Thoughts Concerning Outlander: Season 4

I’ve had an interesting ride with Outlander on Starz.  When it debuted in 2014, my wife and I thought it would be a good show to watch together.  Neither of us knew exactly what it entailed, just that it was a popular book series and that a lot of people were looking forward to it.

Though it ended up being more intense than either of us expected, we loved the story, the acting, the costumes, the settings, and the charisma between Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, the two main characters played by Caitriona Balfe and Same Heughan.  Again, the violence surprised us, as did the very graphic adult content, but overall we were won over.

The second season did not impress us as much as the first.  Claire’s penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time began to wear thin with me, as did Jamie’s constant frowning.  However, the time travel element got more and more complex, as did the historical aspect of the show in regards to Scotland and it’s struggles with England.

That being said, I can’t lie–I quit the third season after a few episodes.  The coincidences became too outlandish, the situations too forced, and the dynamic between Claire and Jamie a little too stale.  It seemed like the same things kept happening over and over, just in different settings.

However, the premise of the fourth season fascinated me, so I came back.  Claire and Jamie are now living in the New World.  Jamie has built a cabin in the wilds of North Carolina and has been given a vast amount of land.  He and Claire, along with his nephew Ian, must learn to coexist with the Cherokee as they also navigate the growing political unrest within the colonies.

A much-needed complication arises with Brianna, their adult-daughter, and Roger, Brianna’s on-again-off-again love interest.  We last saw them quite a bit in the second season.  At the risk of spoiling the latter half of this latest season, Brianna and Roger make their way from the 1960s to the late 18th century.  Why do they visit Colonial America?  I won’t give that away, but Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin bring a refreshing energy to the show.  Though we’ve seen them before, we’ve never encountered them facing real danger.  Brianna and Roger are both thrown right into the frying pan after traveling to Claire and Jamie’s era.  Though Brianna and Roger’s relationship can be infuriating, seeing them interact with Claire and Jamie brings a new vitality to the show.  It’s also captivating to see Jamie playing a father to the daughter he never thought he would meet.

This fourth season isn’t perfect.  For example, Claire’s habit of finding skulls is … weird.  Jamie still seems to only have three or four facial expressions.  Roger is flat-out unlikable through much of the season.  Brianna takes unnecessary risk after unnecessary risk, effectively replacing Claire in that regard.  And there are once again some far-fetched coincidences, inexplicable actions taken by characters, and bizarre plot points.

But, overall, I really enjoyed the season.  Jamie and Claire’s characters are growing, the change in scenery is fun, Brianna and Roger are interesting, and the stories involving both the colonial politicians as well as the Native Americans are gripping.  The sets, though subtle, are stunning, and the costumes are–as always–fantastic.

Be warned, though.  This season can get very explicit in regards to adult content.  There isn’t anywhere near as much nudity as the first season, but there are several disturbing moments of sexual violence.  It’s very upsetting–as it should be.

I’m glad I came back to the show.  If you moved away from it like me, I recommend giving the fourth season a try.  I think Outlander will recapture your attention.

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 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Worst Football Hit I Ever Experienced

If you had the pleasure of playing football with me, you know I wasn’t the top talent to ever go through Beardstown High School.  In fact, it seemed as though I got progressively worse as my experience grew.

I’m joking.

… Mostly.

I loved running the football.  Loved it.  Defense, though?  I didn’t care for defense a whole lot.  Initiating contact wasn’t really my thing.  More on that in a moment.

Honestly, I thought about getting hurt back then–a lot.  More specifically, I worried about breaking my neck.  I know now it’s pretty unlikely, but it happens in football more often than people think, and it sometimes even results in paralysis.  I knew I wasn’t great at football–not even good enough for a small college.  (Not that I had my sights on a small college).  The thought of permanently injuring myself for a sport that wasn’t going to take me very far … it always lurked in the back of my mind.

During my junior year, I broke a bone in my left hand while at practice.  I thought it was a sprain, so I kept playing on it.  My right hand is my dominant hand, so it wasn’t too bad.  Three months went by before I went to the doctor.  I thought it was a sprain–everyone thought it was a sprain.  Turned out a little tiny bone was broken kind of where the thumb attaches to the hand.  I had to wear a cast up to my shoulder for three months.  The same cast.  (I actually ran track with it on, which made it, well, a little smelly by the time our relationship ended.)  Needless to say, that was enough football for me.  I didn’t play my senior year.  There’s more to the story … but I won’t get into it here.

When I think about my old football days, one hit sticks out to me more than any other.  Keep in mind, I got tackled all the time.  I played second-string on varsity, so I had to practice against the first-string defense, which resulted in getting hit a lot.  The fact that one hit is as vivid today as the day it happened over twenty years ago is pretty astounding to me.

We were playing a game during the daytime on our home field.  I couldn’t begin to tell you who we contested.  I was playing secondary on defense.  Remember how much I liked defense?  I saw a running back break through the line and so, without even thinking, I rushed at him.  We hit helmet to helmet and both fell to the ground.  Everything went instantly quiet.  I didn’t have a ringing in my ears–just the opposite.  Everything went silent.  I popped right back up, and so did the other guy.  The whole thing lasted only a few seconds.  I looked over at my coaches and saw one of them, usually a pretty stoic guy, losing his mind and congratulating me on the hit.  The game continued.  I didn’t have a concussion or any other injury, but even in that moment the impact struck me as unnatural and it still does to this day.

I imagine that guys at the collegiate and professional level experience those kinds of hits literally all of the time.  I can’t even begin to fathom what that must be like.  More and more research is coming out connecting football collisions to brain damage, and let me tell you, that one hit I had scrambled my circuits for a moment or two, no doubt.  It’s probably one of the most violent blows I’ve ever experienced.

I wish I could tell you that I miss those glory days.

I don’t.

I love to watch football.  I love the sport.  I especially love the Chicago Bears.  But, I’m totally fine without playing tackle football ever again.  Even though it was my senior year and I’d played since seventh grade, I was relieved when I finally had the guts to give it up.  Isn’t that crazy?  I felt like it took more courage not to play.  I don’t begrudge anyone who lets their children play tackle football, but there’s no way in hell I’d let my son play the sport–if I had a son, that is.  That single time I got my bell rung told me all I personally needed to know.

I don’t think of myself as a wimp, but maybe you do after reading this.  If that’s the case, that’s fine.  I’ve been called a lot worse, trust me.  But take it easy on those families who don’t let their kids play football.  Give those boys who don’t want to play a break.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid injury.  Some might say it’s even smart to try to preserve your health if it doesn’t seem as though a professional career awaits in the future.

Below is a picture taken by Ralph Sabetti for the Beardstown newspaper.  My mom kept a scrapbook of all my childhood and teenage doings.  She gave it to me a few years ago.  I’m running the ball with pure joy in my heart.  I’d like to tell you that I broke the tackle that guy is about to put on me and ran for a touchdown, but I honestly don’t remember.

I’m guessing not.

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 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Dan Le Batard, Alexa, and Me

Alexa and the Amazon Echo always kind of freaked me out.  Amazon is pretty direct in admitting that the Echo is always listening for “Alexa,” its activation phrase.  And then, about a year ago, stories started circulating that people could hear a faint laughter emitting from it.  This unsettled me to the point that it inspired a horror story.

However, some family members recently bought a few Echos for their house and, admittedly, they were super cool.  My kids loved asking Alexa questions and, personally, I found the option of just asking about the weather or any other kind of information without having to run to my phone or laptop pretty enticing.

Unfortunately, the idea of that thing always “listening” still gave me the creeps.

I bet you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Dan Le Batard.

If you’re not familiar with Dan Le Batard, he co-hosts a program called The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio.  I discovered these guys a few years ago and I listen to them almost religiously.  Dan is a former sports writer who ventured into TV and radio as he foresaw the decline of print.  I find Dan’s sense of humor clever, but he’s also very insightful and, in my opinion, often calls things correctly.  He recognizes the ridiculousness in sports and isn’t afraid to contradict popular talking points.  Half of the time, he doesn’t even talk sports even though it’s technically a “sports” show.

Stugotz is every boneheaded sports fan to have ever existed, and we love him for it.  He speaks in cliches, he wins arguments by making you prove him wrong, and if you haven’t done anything for him lately, then what have you really done for him?  Jon Weiner is playing a character with Stugotz, but mostly in the same way your teacher plays a character.  Stugotz is Jon Weiner, and Jon Weiner is Stugotz.  I imagine that Stugotz is just Weiner enhanced and unfiltered.  The guy is so popular, he has his own army.

I listen to these men virtually every night as I cook and wash dishes.  Their radio show ends around noon, but they strip the morning program down to it’s best moments with a podcast available on ESPN.com.  You can find their archives here: http://www.espn.com/espnradio/podcast/archive/_/id/9941853

So what does this have to do with Alexa and the Amazon Echo?

Often, when I’m doing dishes and enjoying the show, one of my children comes into the kitchen and asks me a question.  Because I listen to it loudly enough to overtake the sound of water, pots, and pans, I have to dry my hands, go to my phone, and then hit pause.  After I deal with whatever they need, I then push play again and go back to my dishes.  This typically happens a few times a night–night after night.

I got to thinking … wouldn’t it be nice if I could just say “pause” or “volume down” instead of going through that whole process?  There was just one problem.  I didn’t think ESPN entertainment would be available through Alexa. I kind of figured the whole Amazon and Disney competition would render that an impossibility.

However, I did a little research, and it seemed that because The Dan Le Batard Show With Studgotz is available through many podcasts outlets, it should be generally retrievable by Alexa via the internet.

There was only one way to know for sure.

The next time I was at my family’s house, I approached their Echo.  I said, “Alexa, play The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz.”

A half second passed.

It felt like a century.

And then … I heard that wonderful music coupled with Papi’s introduction.

I ordered my Echo that night.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Ben Affleck … I’ll Miss You

You may remember that I’m a strong supporter of Ben Affleck’s Batman.  In fact, I wrote a lengthy article a few years ago encouraging Affleck to stick with the role.

While Michael Keaton will always be my favorite Batman, with Adam West coming in second, I thought Affleck playing an older, beaten-up Batman worked really well within the context of an inexperienced Superman and a fledgling Justice League.  It was a side of Batman we hadn’t seen on film before, and I thought it was largely successful due to that originality alone.  Plus, as an added bonus, Affleck is a physically imposing man who can pull off Batman’s impressive stature, inherent arrogance, and undeniable charm.

Unfortunately, Deadline is reporting that Affleck is not on board to star in the 2021 movie obviously titled The Batman and even went to so far as to wish whomever will play the Dark Knight Detective good luck.

Remember that Affleck was originally tapped to write, direct, and star in this film, but things changed for a multitude of reasons.  Matt Reeves is now directing, and they have yet to cast a younger Bruce Wayne.  Apparently, this movie will try to play up the “detective” aspect of the character.

If we’re being honest, I’m not even sure this movie is necessary if it doesn’t build upon the Batman that Affleck established.  I only say that because we don’t really need yet another Batman origin story.  That’s been done to death.  I also don’t want a grim and gritty solo Batman trilogy, either, because Christopher Nolan already did that about as well as it can be done.

There’s only one direction that I feel would warrant a new Batman series.  With the financial success of Aquaman and the critical success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I think it’s time they go all in on the “comic book” aspect of the hero.  Audiences seem far more willing to embrace the more fanciful aspects of these characters.  They should take a deep dive with all of the Robins and their complex stories, his stranger villains like Man-Bat, Killer Moth, Blockbuster, or Firefly, and even draw in the entire city of other heroes that he’s inspired.  I’m not suggesting a campy Batman like from the 60s, but one that is more in line with the two movies mentioned above.  The Dark Knight doesn’t always have to be so, well, dark.  Otherwise, I think Reeves will be destined to come up short in comparison to Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton.

At any rate, say what you will about Ben Affleck, I will always appreciate what he did with the character and I’ll miss his performances as the Caped Crusader.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Polar Vortex Has Created a Unique E-Learning Opportunity

With the polar vortex hitting Central Illinois tomorrow, many schools have wisely closed for the day.  In some cases, some schools have actually preemptively closed for several days.

Incidentally, a new Illinois law now allows for “snow days” to be counted as actual “school days” as long as e-learning occurs.  This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for both educators and families.

It’s thrilling for several reasons.  The most universal and obvious reason is because it solidifies the school calendar.  If “make-up days” are now taken out of the equation, families can count on their kids getting out for the summer on a certain date, which will allow for summer plans to commence even sooner.  Of course, while that’s probably the sole reason we can all agree on, it’s not all that beneficial in terms of education.

Another reason that I’m fired up for this is because it keeps learning consistent.  Look, we all understand that students are not going to engage at home like they do in the classroom, and we recognize that teachers are not going to give work to do at home that requires their immediate presence in order to provide explanation, but as long as some kind of learning occurs, that’s a good thing.  My biggest gripe about summer vacation is that so much learning is lost.  Students come back from summer and take weeks to get back into the groove of things and remember what they learned from the previous year.  It doesn’t sound like it should happen, but trust me–it does.  On a much smaller scale, the same thing happens with “snow days.”  So much of education is routine and structure.  By asking students to initiate their education while at home, it keeps them focused, on task, and exercising their minds.

Furthermore, many schools, including my workplace, are now one-to-one.  This means that students in junior high and high school are provided a laptop.  Our district even provides internet services to families who can’t afford it.  We’ve been a one-to-one school for several years now.  I’m exhilarated by the fact that we are moving forward with our technology and encouraging students to use their laptops for explicit educational purposes at home.  Laptops mean that we no longer have to lose out on a day due to inclement weather.

I must admit, though, that I’m being a little selfish.  When our school initiated one-to-one, I created a website for each class that I teach which updates daily.  I particularly did this so that homebound students or students absent due to illness, field trips, college visits, etc., could keep up with us on a day-to-day basis.  Every audio we listen to has a link, every video we watch has a link, every activity sheet we do has a download, every website we visit has a link.  And my class site continues to evolve.  I now take advantage of the District’s educational resources such as BrainPop! and Microsoft Forms to provide even more learning opportunities.  Does it take a ton of work to update three different class websites on a daily basis?  You bet it does.  But it provides the chance for absent students to keep up and learn along with the present students, which is the whole point.  My practice is tailor made for “e-learning days,” and I’m selfishly happy that my efforts are proving fruitful.

This “alternate learning” will take time to perfect, though.  For example, the elementary teachers do not have the benefit of students with laptops.  They cannot contact their students directly via the internet.  They will have to work through their students’ parents or guardians, which complicates matters for everyone, to be sure.  As is often the case, they will have greater demands to meet.

Taking attendance is also an imperfect enterprise at this point.  I won’t go into our district’s plan, but it relies heavily on the “honor code.”  I wish I could tell you that 100% of our students, students’ families, and even educators are honor-bound, but we all know that’s not true.  It’s hard for anything to be 100%.

I also understand that it could prove burdensome for families in terms of childcare.  With this option now legally viable, more and more districts are going to utilize it.  This could result in families having to figure out childcare more often.  I recognize that for some, this is a serious issue and not one to be taken lightly.

Consequently, I’ve heard some educators say that this begins the end of our profession as we know it.  To that I say … maybe?

On the one hand, I don’t believe that “brick and mortar” schools will ever disappear.  As stated above, we provide an invaluable service.  Look, I’m a career educator.  I take this field very seriously.  I take education and learning very seriously.  I have two college degrees.  But, if I’m being perfectly honest, if nothing else, we provide a safe, structured, stable environment where people can send their children while they go to work.  People need “brick and mortar” schools so they have somewhere to send their kids during their shift.  I’m loathe to admit that, but it’s true.  Heck, I praised God the day both of my kids were out of daycare and at the local public school because it freed up a LOT of money that could go elsewhere.

Will our profession change as a result of e-learning at home?  Yes, it probably will.  While common sense dictates smaller classes are better, and while no one should argue against the benefit of an actual, present human being teaching impressionable youth, e-learning could result in larger classrooms with fewer teachers.  Research leads us to believe this would be detrimental to kids, but it’s a likely scenario.

Truthfully, though, I’m a big believer in necessity driving innovation.  We often don’t come up with new ideas unless we have to.  While our district’s educators didn’t get much notice that this would be enacted, and that rightfully proved stressful for some, I personally would much prefer that we dive into the deep end rather than endlessly discuss it for years and years.  Oftentimes, when lives and livelihoods are not at stake, the best way to start something is to simply do it and figure it out as you go.

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 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)