Category Archives: Sports

Phil Simms on a Dream Started on a Kentucky Farm

Well, I never knew. I always liked and respected Mr Simms, and now I think perhaps I know some of the reasons.
WSJ Feb 3, 2017
The former Giants quarterback recalls his demanding father, playing sports with his seven siblings and starting to earn money at an early age.

Phil Simms, 61, is the former quarterback for the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowl titles and set an NFL record for highest pass-completion percentage in a championship game. He is the lead analyst for “The NFL on CBS” and CBS’s “Thursday Night Football,” as well as an analyst on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.” He spoke with Marc Myers.

I was born on my grandfather’s farm in Springfield, Ky. One day when I was 4, I was playing football out back and ripped one of my socks, so I ran into the house to get a new pair. As I pulled open my dresser drawer, I said to myself, “I’m going to play pro sports when I grow up.” I never forgot that moment.

My grandfather owned 399 acres and grew mostly tobacco, though he also raised milk cows, cattle, pigs and sheep. My four brothers, three sisters and I were expected to work the farm, just like my dad.

Our family lived on the first floor of a two-story redbrick farmhouse. That’s all the space we could afford. The second floor was sectioned off because my parents couldn’t afford to heat it. The boys slept on a mattress in the hallway.

By the time I was 6, I milked cows and followed my father’s tractor as he weeded the tobacco fields. My job was to make sure the tobacco plants weren’t covered by soil after the hoe pulled out the weeds.

My dad, Willie, farmed, and my mom, Barbara, took care of the family and the house. There was nothing she couldn’t do. She upholstered the furniture, made the curtains, cooked and made all of us clothes if she had to.

Of the eight kids, I was the fifth to arrive. My mom had seven kids in a 10-year period, so we weren’t far apart in age. Everyone inherited everyone else’s clothes and shoes, whether they fit perfectly or not.

To say that my father loved baseball is an understatement. That’s all he talked about. He had been a minor-league pitcher. Every Sunday, all of us would play baseball on the farm. Even my sisters could throw. When we were older, they played in neighborhood games, and they weren’t picked last.

When I was 5, my family moved an hour north to Louisville. My father had a falling out with his father over his share of the farm’s profits and how much work he was doing. Louisville offered better-paying factory jobs.

The first house we moved into was a rental—a white ranch house. A year later, my father bought a three-bedroom house that was actually smaller than the rental. There was one bedroom for the boys, one for the girls.

In the boys’ room, there was a queen-size bed and a single. My oldest and youngest brothers shared the small bed while the rest of us shared the queen. During the winter, we’d fight over who got the middle to stay warm.

My father first worked for a cabinet factory, while my mom worked for General Electric. After she was laid off, they both went to work at Brown & Williamson, the cigarette company.

My dad was tough. He told us, “If you want something, you better find a way to earn enough money to get it.” So we cut grass, cleaned houses and did odd jobs. From the time I was 8, my parents never had to buy me articles of clothing, schoolbooks or anything else.

Starting at age 9, I also delivered newspapers—the Courier-Journal in the morning and the Louisville Times after school. My brothers and I would get up every day at around 5 a.m., and no matter what the weather, we’d run ¾ of a mile to pick up our papers. We did this again in the afternoon.

I was consumed with sports and my first passion was baseball. Then one day the coach of the fifth-grade football team asked me to play. He wanted me to be the quarterback. I found I could really throw the ball, especially long bombs down the field.

I liked being the quarterback. I was in charge. I also liked wearing a helmet. I felt I was in disguise and could be the person I wanted to be. When I enrolled at Morehead State in 1974, I was still a better pitcher than quarterback. In my sophomore year, I switched from pitcher to playing first and third base to focus on hitting.

But I began to lose my passion. After my junior year, I decided to play football instead. What drove me to football was how darn hard it was and being at the center of so many players.

I also really enjoyed the feeling of the ball leaving my hand in a perfect spiral and watching it go to my receivers. The goal wasn’t balls and strikes but putting the football in their hands.

When I was drafted by the New York Giants in May 1979, my mother never worried about me going to New York and falling in with the wrong crowd. The days of her worrying were long gone. Working the way I did as a kid, I was always self-reliant and responsible.

Today, my wife, Diana, and I live in Franklin Lakes, N.J., on 19 acres. We have a two-story house with six bedrooms. I love the kitchen. When my three grown kids come over with the grandkids, it’s a great place to hang out.

After a few years in the NFL, I bought my parents a house in Louisville. It was on a beautiful piece of property next to one of my sisters. Later, after my dad died, my mom didn’t like being alone so I bought her a house in a subdivision.

Dad was a hard guy, but he taught us so many things. Sometimes I wish I had been more like him—the structure and the toughness. But while his approach may have worked back then, it’s a different world now.

I do a lot of reading and still have five newspapers delivered to my home each morning. This goes back to my childhood. I know that on the other end of those papers is someone up early working hard.


More than sound bites

So, you want an athlete not just spouting off?
NFL tight end Benjamin Watson goes beyond the conventional wisdom
By Andrew Branch July 25, 2015

Marriage and race crises haven’t been lost on athletes, but the online world of sound-bite activism was one-sided. Christian athletes largely kept their two cents in their private circles, away from media. ESPN, alternatively, collected the cheers and rainbows of LGBT-affirming teams, athletes, and celebrants who identify as LGBT.

New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson doesn’t go for sound bites, though. No matter the issue. His November journal as Ferguson burned brought an international spotlight, “liked” on Facebook more than 860,000 times. Embracing the attention, his blog migrated from more abstract spiritual topics drawn from football to a raw advocacy for racial reconciliation, starting with the church. “[It’s] pride that’s in each and every one of us to make us think that we’re better than somebody,” he told WORLD.

Benjamin Watson

The church alone models what a foundation in the imago Dei means, he says, which extends beyond race. Watson put aside allusions to marriage with an 1,100-word manifesto after the Supreme Court ruling. Sharp words like “attempting to normalize illegitimate behavior by law does not make it acceptable” were alongside self-repentance, compassion, and his broad brush that touched numerous sins. Perhaps accordingly, his words have gone unscrutinized by secular voices.

The root of both issues is a loss of absolute truth, he says. That “all men are created equal” isn’t an American invention, and neither is marriage. “If you don’t have any absolute truth, then truth is dependent on the people who make it up,” he told me.

Watson applies disdain for relativism more to race in his writings than marriage and same-sex attraction. His Ferguson quip that racism is “a SIN problem” not a “SKIN problem” was not just a cliché. In either issue facing athlete and average Joe alike, the gospel “is ultimately what can change people’s hearts.”

He acknowledged it’s not always easy to balance truth with compassion. “I’m not condemning anyone. That’s not my role,” he told me. “My role is to simply share truth, and that’s what I’m doing.” And if that angers some in the marriage debate, “that’s a risk that I’m willing to take.”

With soon-to-be five children—and, at 34, looming NFL retirement—Watson faces an uncertain future, perhaps in broadcasting or in using his finance major to help athletes with their finances.

But he’ll continue to speak, crediting his parents, who fostered discussions of current events with their children. It can be easy to throw up one’s hands, he said, particularly as cities burn with racial animosity toward the police. But “Christ says he has overcome the world,” he told me, “and that gives us hope.”


Fans of CrossFit Training Brag About Extra Bulk

My son is into Cross Fit – and good at it too.  I would say that this article is intended to take a look at Cross Fit from a bit of a humorous perspective.

By Rob Copeland
Feb. 16, 2015 8:52 p.m.

Claire Koch is proud of her hard-earned physique. So she wasn’t bothered when her jeans went up a size or when a seam split on her pencil skirt.

But when the 27-year-old student weighed herself after a recent shower, she lost it.

“I wrapped myself in a towel, walked outside and threw the scale away,” Ms. Koch said.

 Kaitlyn Viola, 28, has seen her size swell after committing to Crossfit workouts. Photo: Kaitlyn Viola

Ms. Koch is a disciple of CrossFit, a fast-growing fitness trend that emphasizes quick spurts of heavy weightlifting. And her exasperation is becoming increasingly common as the movement goes mainstream.

There are no ifs, ands or “butts” about it: CrossFit athletes, as all participants are called, are finding that their bodies morph in unusual—and sometimes inconvenient—ways.

“I’ve gotten re-proportioned,” said Rachael Ashton, 24, a former college cheerleader turned CrossFit enthusiast in Houston. In a twist on the conventional pre-wedding diet, Ms. Ashton, a construction project engineer, cut back on her workouts last spring to slim down for her walk down the aisle.

Crossfitters of both genders alternatively complain, and brag, about broad shoulders that won’t fit into jackets or long-sleeved shirts. Some who live in cold climates wear shorts year-round because they can’t find long pants that will contain their buttocks.

A typical CrossFit hourlong session mixes pull-ups, squats, overhead lifts and a brutal pushup/jumping-jack combination known as a “burpee.” Many of the more intense sequences are aimed to be completed in 10 minutes or less.

Traditional stand-alone cardiovascular activities, like running and biking, are largely verboten. The reason: CrossFit is among several fitness upstarts, like Barry’s Bootcamp, which pitch themselves as more effective because their constantly-changing workouts provide both cardio and strength training, while preventing the body from becoming static.

CrossFit is owned by privately-held CrossFit Inc., which licenses its name to CrossFit “boxes”—the term “gym” would be too gauche. The spaces clang with the sound of falling weights, and are usually set up in an open warehouse with no mirrors.

After a few months, recruits often have to learn to embrace a new body type, too.

“You start building this passion for squatting and cleaning and suddenly you can’t fit into your clothes anymore,” said Troy Monroe, 33, of West Hartford, Conn. Cleaning, for the uninitiated, doesn’t refer to scrubbing the tub. Rather, it is a move that involves lifting a weight off the floor and onto one’s shoulders in one quick motion.

Company spokesman Russell Berger said the program was designed to improve overall fitness among its participants, rather than lead to any specific body shape.

“We’re not in the business of telling people what to think about their bodies,” Mr. Berger said.

Indeed, to some, the resulting bulk can be a badge of honor. Mr. Monroe recalled a recent physical examination, during which his doctor solemnly delivered the news that he’d gained 10 pounds in one year.

“I said, ‘awesome!’ ”

The former graphic designer decided to help start a fashion business to solve some of the sport’s resulting sartorial problems. His company, Relentless Jeans, sells pants for CrossFit members whose existing pairs are “so tight on your legs you can’t get them up.” The jeans are a blend of denim and spandex, the stretchy material helped made infamous by Richard Simmons’ fluorescent duds in his 1980s workout videos.

The first order, of roughly 2,000 jeans, sold out online in six weeks, said Mr. Monroe.

Relentless is marketing to CrossFitters like Kaitlyn Viola, a 28-year-old physician’s assistant who said pulling up her medical scrubs had become a difficult task.

Last year, she was custom fit for pants. “The woman measuring me put the tape around my thigh and said ‘whoa,’ and then put it around my calf and said ‘wow.’ I was like ‘OK, I get it—that’s why we’re here.’ ”

Ms. Koch, the Denver resident who threw away her scale, co-hosts a CrossFit-themed podcast. She recently became certified as an introductory-level CrossFit trainer. Her new muscle tone, she said, gave her the confidence to wear more tank tops.

And then there is her bottom half.

“You say ‘oh wow, is that where my butt is supposed to go?’ ” said Ms. Koch. “It is its own category.”

The CrossFit movement has attracted plenty of detractors, who say many of the high-repetition exercises lead to injury in untrained athletes and frown upon the de-emphasis on cardiovascular activity. CrossFit Inc., based in Washington, D.C., went so far as to sue the National Strength and Conditioning Association last May for publishing an otherwise positive study that included information on injury rates. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Southern California, asked for the study to be recalled, among other demands. NSCA has denied the allegations as “frivolous” and asked for a jury trial. The litigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Crossfit’s popularity continues to boom. It now counts more than 11,000 affiliate gyms, up from around 1,000 in 2009. This month, hundreds of thousands of people world-wide are expected to take part in Crossfit’s annual “Open,” a month-long competition of rapid-fire, punishing workouts. Participants submit their best times and are judged against the larger pool.

Trace Tackett, a 42-year-old amateur drag racer, said a year ago she was an “empty bag of skin”—the aftermath of a 113-pound weight loss from a new diet and a membership at a more traditional gym.

After a few months of consistent CrossFit, she started putting on new weight in unexpected places, like a ball inside of her knee. She calls it her “soccer muscle” because of the shape.

“I went from wearing men’s jeans—and they were tight—to finally wearing women’s jeans and now I can’t wear them anymore,” said Ms. Tackett, a private security officer in West Portsmouth, Ohio.

The upshot is that Ms. Tackett can now dead lift 300 pounds and is less fixated on her weight.

“I used to think skinny was what I wanted to be,” said Ms. Tackett. “If someone calls me skinny now, I want to punch ’em in the throat.”

Write to Rob Copeland at


How Urban Meyer Took the Buckeyes to School

Very interesting. And its very hard to argue with UM’s approach/style after watching Saturday’s game: nothing short of ‘speechless’.
By Jonathan Clegg

Ever since he arrived in Columbus three years ago, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has set about finding the most efficient ways to educate his players about the intricacies of his high-powered offense.

What he hit upon is an approach that is increasingly popular in academic circles, but still mostly unheard of in the hidebound world of football coaching: flipping the classroom.

In academia, flipped learning turns the traditional classroom-teaching model on its head, delivering lessons online outside of class and moving homework into the classroom via individual tutoring or activities. A football team might seem to be an inapplicable environment for this, but Meyer employed a similar approach after taking over the Buckeyes, who went 6-7 the previous season.

In an effort to speed up the installation of his spread-option playbook—an offense that devastated defenses while Meyer was at Utah and Florida—Meyer decided to abandon old-school chalkboard sessions. Instead, he devoted team meetings to hands-on exercises, such as walking through plays and doing situational drills.

Now, three years on, Meyer’s “flipped coaching” technique has helped take Ohio State to the brink of a Big Ten Conference title and a possible berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The fifth-ranked Buckeyes face No. 13 Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, although Ohio State is a slight underdog  [ops…] now because of the loss of injured quarterback J.T. Barrett.

“That team is as well-prepared and well-coached as anyone in the country,” said Russ Lande, a former NFL scout who is now an analyst for the Big Ten Network. “They’ve really opened up the playbook, but his players are in complete command of what they’re being asked to do.”

For most of his career, any discussion about Meyer’s qualities as a coach has focused on his team’s offensive scheme, which spreads out the defense and enables the quarterback to use his talents as a runner. Under his command, Utah’s Alex Smith went from a two-star high-school prospect to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Florida’s Tim Tebow became one of college football’s all-time greats.

Ohio State’s success this season has underscored Meyer’s ability to impart his ideas and bring inexperienced players up to speed in a hurry.

When senior quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury 12 days before the opener, Ohio State’s outlook appeared bleak. Since then, Meyer turned Barrett, Miller’s redshirt-freshman backup, into a Heisman Trophy contender with a lineup featuring six freshmen and 11 first-year starters.

“It really speaks to his skill as a teacher,” said Keith Grabowski, a former college assistant and founder of Coaches Edge Technologies, an online aid for coaches. “They are on the cutting edge with the methods they use.”

Meyer delivered a detailed breakdown of his approach to teaching at a clinic for Ohio high-school coaches shortly after he was hired by the Buckeyes.

He didn’t use the flipped classroom term to describe his approach, but outlined his belief in “on-edge” teaching, in which players are kept on the edge of their seats during team meetings by a barrage of impromptu quizzes and individual interactions designed to keep them engaged.

This approach is fundamentally the same as in flipped learning, which has become something of a buzzword in recent years as online video has become more widely available.

The theory behind it is that introducing students to new material through short video lectures, screencasts or online slideshows outside of class time allows for the lower levels of cognitive work—gaining knowledge and comprehension—to be performed outside the classroom on their own schedule and at their own pace. Class time can then be repurposed into workshops where students can inquire about the material and interact with hands-on activities. These help accomplish the harder task of assimilating knowledge.

“The whole idea is that if you can get players thinking about it and doing the mental work prior to being in the football facility, your time in the classroom will be that much more productive” Grabowski said.

For Meyer, that has meant ditching the time-honored method of installing an offense, in which players listen passively while coaches draw up plays during team meetings before heading back to their dorm rooms to memorize the assignments with their playbooks.

Now, instead of lecturing players on X’s and O’s, Ohio State coaches send them schemes and game plans via videos and interactive graphics that can be accessed on phones and iPads. Time at the facility is then devoted to walk-throughs and other interactive exercises. Kirk Barton, a graduate assistant at Ohio State, says meetings are used for situation-specific drilling.

He might ask an offensive lineman to diagram a particular play against a particular defensive front, for instance, or draw up their responsibilities against a blitz. Barton says he also texts players outside of meetings to ensure they have the assignments nailed down.

Former Buckeyes defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said it isn’t uncommon for Meyer to interrupt meetings and pepper inexperienced players with questions to ensure they understood the playbook.

“When he came in, he would usually ask a freshman: ‘What do you got?’ ” said Hankins, adding that Meyer’s “on-edge” techniques ensured no one put their feet up during meetings. “You never knew what you were going to get from coach Meyer. That’s just how he is. He’s always keeping people on their toes.”

Saturday’s game against Wisconsin figures to provide another stiff test of Meyer’s ability to get his players up to speed in a hurry. Ohio State lost Barrett to a season-ending ankle injury in last weekend’s 42-28 win over Michigan, the second time in three months this team has had its starting quarterback go down for the year.

It means that the Buckeyes will enter the biggest game of their season in with their fortunes resting on Cardale Jones, a third-string quarterback with 11 career completions entering his first collegiate start.

“It’s his show; he’s got the keys to the car,” Meyer said. “He’s been studying film and getting ready to go. We’ve just got to teach him up.”

—Stu Woo contributed to this article

How Urban Meyer Took the Buckeyes to School – WSJ.