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Jim Brown, 81, still runs his game between the tackles

Athletes make choices on what not to play
September 1, 2017
Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick and hall of fame running back Jim Brown in 1994. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Jim Brown - I walked next to Jim Brown inside the Philadelphia International Airport in 1964, a year before he retired and the year the Browns won the NFL title. I said nothing but thought, “Man, who tackles this guy?” I saw him play in person in Philly against the Eagles. He just ran over people, then walked back to the huddle. He also played basketball, ran track and played lacrosse at Syracuse. His No. 44 at Syracuse and No. 32 in Cleveland have been retired. Brown, who is now 81 years old, just came out highly critical of all athletes who don’t stand and respect the flag and national anthem. His name was dropped in the middle of the Colin Kaepernick controversy as many black leaders - none of Jim Brown’s stature - are disappointed in Brown’s position. Brown is iconic - not perfect, as he’s had his own issues - but if he’s an old man, he’s his own old man and whatever he says, he will own it. 

Blame game - Blaming Obama for the Trump presidency is like blaming Tom Landry for Jason Garrett or downtowning your high school for your lack of college success. “Own it! Whatever it is, own it!” I left track coach Bill Degnan with less talent than what I had enjoyed the previous three years. He went out that next year (1986) and won a Division I state title, and I owned it. Bill was a great track coach, better than me perhaps, all humility aside, and the coach before me was Tom Hickman, a loved legend and World War II hero. I wasn’t him either. But I was the best Fredman Cape had ever seen. Coaches and their programs are expected to perform and take responsibility when they are in power, and the same goes for politicians.  

What and where to play - Smart people decide what’s best for them and often follow their passions, not necessarily their talents. There are fast people who don’t run track. There’s soccer talent that gives up the sport after middle school. There are even basketball players who could start on a high school team who just don’t play. Field hockey and girls’ lacrosse each have lost players who may have contributed to state championships. And obviously there are some sports at certain schools that offer the athlete a better chance to play at the next level. Sometimes parents with too much invested get blindsided when maybe a kid says, “I don’t want to wrestle. I don’t care that I’m good. I want to wear a wetsuit and surf the winter waves off the naval jetty.” Coaches will tell you it’s sometimes tough to harness and develop talent while keeping the athlete interested over four years of high school.

Snippets - Hannah Pepper was recently hired as a teacher at Milton Elementary, and Lynn Shoop will coach the Mariner field hockey team.

Last October, granddaughter Katie Fred tore her ACL at Champions Stadium in a 4-0 win over Lake Forest. On Aug. 30, Katie, a senior, was cleared for full contact and to resume sports. In her sophomore season of field hockey, she scored 13 goals and played with her older sister Lizzie as Cape won the state championship over Delmar. I remember her saying, “My hockey season could not have been any better.” But challenges waited around the bend like a cow on the railroad tracks. Katie stayed close to her lacrosse and field hockey teams. Good teams always include their injured players in everything they do.

Villanova coach Rollie Massimino passed away at the age of 82. Everyone is writing about the 1985 national championship win over John Thompson’s Georgetown team, but in 1988 at McGonigle Hall, it was No. 1-ranked Temple, coached by John Chaney and led by future NBA player Mark Macon and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tim Perry, defeating Villanova 98-86. The game can be found on YouTube. Temple would eventually lose to Duke 65-53 in the regional final and finished the season with a 32-2 record. Tommy Sheehan, Tim Widdoes and I visited Temple in 1999. We were being shown around by a student manager. Inside the giant weight room of McGonigle Hall was Mark Macon. Tommy spotted him, “What’s Mark Macon doing here?” he asked the manager. In typical Philly attitude the manager said, “Can’t hit the open 15-footer,” referring to an NBA career cut short. Macon, now 48 years old, is the former head basketball coach at Binghamton University, but mostly he’s just another guy at the Wawa coffee counter, stirring two Splenda and nonfat milk into a 20-ounce coffee, who can’t hit the 15-footer just like the rest of us. Go on now, git!

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