‘Round the Block with Bill

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Contributing Writer
Bill Burk

Best Ever
So Yogi Berra, who died at 90 plus years old last week, played for the New York Yankees for 17 years, went to 14 World Series and won 10 of them, fought at D-Day in WWII, won a Purple Heart, a Distinguished Unit Citation, two battle stars, and a European Theater of Operations ribbon. How American can one guy get?
Yogi had 8,359 at bats and only struck out 414 times (less than 5%) and managed to hit 348 home runs while playing the hardest position in baseball. He caught the only perfect game in World Series history, and if you know anything about catching, you know he gets at least a third of the credit for that. How does his name not come up when we mention the best players of all time, much less the best Yankees ever?

Bad Coach Good Coach
Let’s apply a little sport psychology and logic to youth coaching for a few words, shall we? The prefrontal cortex of the brain, the region that helps you and me make wise choices, isn’t fully developed until after the age of twenty-five (explains a lot about teenagers, doesn’t it?). The brain before that time is still growing, adding cells. Adversity and stress can hamper neurogenesis (the production of new cells in the brain), and impair the circuitry of the brain. This in turn can artificially create negative emotional states, especially in kids. Abuse can have this negative effect and start a vicious downward spiral; negative feelings create stress which then creates more negative emotions which create more stress, etcetera, etcetera.
Negative emotions narrow attention and awareness. We almost literally get blinders on under stress. Conversely, positive experiences expand awareness. Studies have shown that peripheral vision actually widens when people experience positive emotions. Negative coaching therefore is physiologically less effective at developing young athletes and building youth sports teams than positive coaching. Kids who get negative coaching can easily fall into that negative emotional spiral. Coaches who use sarcasm and abuse are not only ineffective, they can be dangerous. My point is, the next time you hear a coach yelling at a kid, ask that coach why. Chances are it’s what they think will work best, or an ego trip.
Coaching rules of thumb; be demanding, not demeaning, and use a 5 to 1 ratio of positive emotional feedback to criticism.

By the Way Department
Did everyone else know that The Levy is a bar in Rye, NY, and in the song “American Pie” Don Mclean sings, “And me and the boys were drinking whiskey IN Rye”? And not “whiskey AND rye” (which always seemed redundant to me…I mean whiskey and rye are the same thing, right?)?
And did we ever figure out why the Howells, Thurston and Lovey, were on the Minnow?
Want to feel old? Farm Aid is 30 years old.

What I Won’t Talk About
I never argue music or politics…you never get anywhere. That said, Bobby Jindal, presidential candidate (by the way, nobody’s putting someone named Bobby in the White House unless he’s a Kennedy), said he eliminated 30,000 government jobs in Louisiana while governor. My question is: What happened to those people? Are they unemployed? Did they have to sell their homes? Why is he so excited about 30,000 pink slips? I get we don’t want government waste and people abusing the system, and I appreciate the private sector that says government workers live off our taxes, but isn’t it also good that those government workers are able to buy things? Thirty thousand people without jobs, unable to contribute to the economy? That’s a great thing? What am I missing?

Big Sports
We’re coming up on the busiest, most fun time of the sports-viewing year. Major League Baseball playoffs (the only “must-watch” ball in a seven month season), college and pro football in full swing (the Bills aren’t mathematically out of the playoffs yet), college basketball cranking up (pro too, I suppose), and the National Hockey League. Only thing missing is important golf.
I was amazed when C.C. Sabathia put himself into alcohol rehab the day before the Yankees one-game wild-card playoff game (baseball’s version of a 3-hour over-time shoot-out). Teammates and Brian Cashman HAD to be publicly supportive, but they also had to be saying, “Hey C.C….at $23 million a year, how about you check in tomorrow…or maybe a week from now.”
Most profiles I read about high-level athletes say they are humble and down-to-earth, uncomfortable in the spotlight and shy about their fame. I believe this almost never.

To read more of Bill Burk’s reflections, astute observations and a rant or two on the wide world of sports, visit www. jamestowngazette.com and click on Bill Burk’s page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.