A.31 Speaking at Awards Banquets (14)

1. While this is a special time for you, your time is limited.

2. Rehearse your speech and try to finish 2 minutes under your allotted time.   Brevity is the soul of wit.

3.  Respect your audience.

4.  If you speak for too long, you infringe upon the other speakers’ time, and create the potential for audience discomfort.

5.  Many speakers “get in and can’t get out” — it’s okay to just stop telling a story and move on.   Practice it.

6.  Some speakers are surprised by their emotions.    Talking about parents, family, team mates, coaches and schools can trigger deep and powerful and surprising emotions.

7.  The monitor runs the show.   It’s essential that the moderator make the ground rules for speakers clear in the rehearsal.   If you should exceed your time limit, the monitor will rise.   This is the signal to wrap it up quickly.

After many years and events, I believe the moderator has the right to protect his or her audience.   Too many times I have heard “he talked too long,” or “she ruined it for others,” or “I’ll never go back to another one of those.”  (NOTE:  ARTICLE 72 HAS SOME HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS ABOUT SPEAKING AT ATHLETIC BANQUETS)

A.26 ATHLETIC BANQUETS: PART 2 (72)

Earlier I wrote SPEAKING AT ATHLETIC BANQUETS (see article  14) .    I  do believe some took this to heart.    The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame  (2013)  was well run.    I was pleased that our state inducted Mrs. Mildred Southern this year.    And Mildred stole the show (more to follow).    Her brief talk stimulated my thinking about the good talks, comments, and speeches I’ve heard at past athletic banquets.   I’ve selected a few,  some original,  some “stolen”,  and some used too often.    Mrs. Southern acknowledged Woody Durham’s glowing introduction by saying  “…yes, Woody, I’ve won a lot of tennis matches,  volunteered  a lot of time and effort and leadership , given money to support tennis and North Carolina  specifically.”   But then she revisited a simple beginning tennis lesson to a young boy :  “I tossed him a ball, and he missed it.   I tossed him another ball.  And he misses it.  Another and another,  and he missed”   An unspoken question  stirred through the audience :  How long is this going to go on?”   Mrs. Southern concluded,  “…then I tossed him a ball and he HIT IT”!    She paused,  then added, “…the look of joy on his face was why I  did it all”   She sat down.    WOW!     Last year (2012) my friend and certainly a coaching mentor,  Henry Trevathan gave a similarly remarkable and short talk…Remember  “1.  Practice is mine, 2. The game is yours, 3.  We rule the hall.”?   Kelvin Bryant got a good laugh this year when,  after the usual thank you’s,  he realized “…I guess I need to add my ATTORNEY to this list!”  Coach Russ Frazier told his wife they were moving to the beach!   She said she’d have to have a new bathing suit…”Why?”  Coach Frazier asked.   His wife replied, ” …cause the old one has a hole in the knee!”   At an Elon Hall of Fame banquet a recipient,  unable to attend,  simply sent a letter.  The next inductee,  Coach Sid Varney,  began by quizzically saying “…I  didn’t know you could send a letter!”  One tale on Coach Varney was that he took his football team to a game in Florida,  where their opponent vastly over matched  his team.   Six Elon players were injured to the point of hospitalization….Picking them up at the hospital the manager asked good Coach Varney  “…Coach,  should  I go in and get them?”   Varney’s reply:   “Nah!   Just blow the horn!”   Every school used to have some “hard” coaches..here are some standard comments.   Reporter:  “Coach,  what do you think of your team’s execution?”   Coaches response;  “I think it’a  good idea!”   Again—Stunned fan states “…that guy looks like he doesn’t know the meaning of fear.”   Coach: “THAT guy doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”   Another coach summarized,  “…we started slow and tapered off”.   M.L. Carr did an interesting thing by honoring a friend.   While entering the NC Sports HALL of Fame “with your spouse”, M.L. was accompanied by a male.  Turned some heads.   M.L., when introduced said rather than spotlight himself he had elected to spotlight this friend,  a man who had befriended and mentored him as a  youngster in need of help.    He chose this special time to recognize his depth of appreciation for an unattached  person who saw  fit to help a  struggling youngster.   Bill Weathers was an inductee into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame some years back.   A fine golfer as well as a stellar tennis player,  Bill snuck up on us in this way:   He would cite a time he went off to play golf or in a tennis tournament and tell some detail about his “play”.   He would then add what his Wife did while he was away.   Bill described his use of that time, generally some kind of play.   He would then compare his wife’s use of that same time,  which included “minor” issues such as childbirth,  a job, child rearing, helping a friend in need, dealing with serious health problems, and the like.    She had done some truly tough and good things.   And while Bill used his time to thank and recognize her,  she rose to say “BILL WEATHERS—when we get home  I’m gonna kill you.”   What a fine woman and tribute.   Coach Jerry Moore asked his wife,  “…honey,  did you in your wildest dreams,  ever think this could happen to us?”   Wife’ answer?   “You weren’t in my wildest dreams.”   OUCH!    Actually this one has been passed around quite a bit.   We are getting more creative.   For years the old one about “Peahead’ Walker,  the Wake Forest football coach,  taking a Wake  recruit to Duke’s campus and later calling it our “western campus”, was told at every banquet.    Guilty myself ,  I used a line from a European tennis player,  who when asked about the inconvenience of coming from Europe for his induction into the  Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame,  asserted “…I would have walked.”  Me too!   Here is a good opening line:   Inductee;   “What should I talk about?”  Monitor:  “Talk about 5 minutes.”  Remember  that one if nothing else.   An old timer,  “Lefty” Briggs  of Elon rose to accept his award:  “I’ve practiced my speech so much, I’m  too hoarse to give it.  Thank you.”   And sat down.   Bobby Bowden of Florida State University’s football  team spoke for F.S.U.  when they tied The University of Tennessee’s  women’s basketball team for ESPN Team of the Year.    Coach Pat Summit of U.T. was unable to attend and was represented by a U.T. athletics administrator who spoke of the tremendous strides of women American sports.   Coach Bowden struck a blow for male chauvinism when he followed her speech with this jewel:  “My  wife really wanted to be here.  She’s been planning for weeks.  Been packed for days.  But what the heck,  you can’t remember everything!”   Surely one can get over the line with smut, length, politics, religion, cliches, etc.   And not all great people are great speakers, or interviews.   I think its best to memorize you speech.   Have  a glass of water nearby.   And watch your emotions.       Humor is certainly helpful.   One source I’ve used lately is, oddly,  obituaries!   Here are a few examples.  1.  A  professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, bothered by all the recent criticism of athletics penned several obits that featured the deceased’s loyalties to college sports programs, i.e.,  “…he was a lifelong Tar Heel fan!”   Or,  “…ever loyal to the Wolfpack” etc.   One he cited was a man from Wisconsin.  He was said to “…love the  Badgers,  the Green Bay Packers, and MOST of his grandchildren.”   Another fanatic, no longer able to attend games in person,  watched his favorite school every time they were on TV,  “…often  from a three point stance.”   Most recently a Cleveland  resident and Cleveland Browns football diehard requested six players from the Browns to be his pallbearers.  He said he wanted the Cleveland Browns to “,,,let him down one last time”.    A man named Tom Taylor of Chapel Hill, and a cancer victim had called and asked if he  could renegotiate with the crematory.     His reasoning:  ” I’ve lost down from 180lbs. to about 120lbs and think I deserve a discount.”

A.21 TOASTS (346)

Picked up TOASTS FOR EVERY OCCASION at the local library. As usual my “smart-ass” gene kicked in.  Here’s a few:

  • “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu toast.”  Mark Twain
  • May you two grow old on one pillow.
  • May you live a hundred years with one extra year to repent.
  • Here’s to a friend who knows you well and likes you just the same.
  • When I read about the evils of drinking,  I gave up reading.
  • What would you like to drink too?  To about three in the morning.
  • In heaven there is no beer so we better drink it here.
  • Here’s to the good time I must have had.
  • “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”  Ogden Nash.
  • To man.  Give him an inch and he thinks he is a ruler.
  • Here’s to our  coach –a man who will lay down our lives for his school.
  • Here’s to the honest politician.  Who when bought stays bought.
  • To the big-bellied bottle.

J. LENOX RAWLINGS, INDUCTION ACCEPTANCE INTO NC SPORTS HALL OF FAME (135)

Below is the text of the induction comments by Lenox Rawlings, upon his entrance as a member of THE NORTH CAROLINA SPORTS HALL OF FAME.
Lenox is a retired writer. This become obvious. What was equally impressive was the way he presented his insights.
lenox is a “homey” from Wilson,NC. A lot people were proud of Lenox, me certainly included. But none more than BROTHER RUSSELL

LENOX RAWLINGS
NC SPORTS HALL OF FAME
MAY 15, 2015

When I was a boy growing up in Wilson, my grandfather would pick me up on Sundays around lunchtime and drive downtown to the Cherry Hotel newsstand across the street from the train station. He would buy a New York newspaper, and then we’d ride over to Fleming Stadium and enjoy the lazy hour or so before a Carolina League baseball game. I’d lay across the back seat in his Buick Special and get lost in the sports pages of the Herald-Tribune or the Times. We’d ask each other questions and exchange opinions – none of which I remember specifically. But I do remember feeling completely at peace.

It’s impossible to say when my love of sports and my love of language met at the crossroads, but one thing led to another, and now that I’m my grandfather’s age, I’m somewhat astonished to find myself standing here tonight accepting this great honor. There are lots of people to thank, beginning with my family, who taught me the difference between right and wrong and encouraged me to be myself and to do whatever I wanted to do in life.

My parents read at the beginning and end of every day and took us to the library where my mother later worked. My father, Lenox Jr., was a masterful storyteller with a dancer’s fine sense of timing, and he could leave a room roaring with laughter. My mother, Gloria, had a dry wit and precise powers of observation and considerable insight into human character. When I was about 11, she handed me her new copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and said, maybe for the only time, “I think you should read this.” She was right, of course. My brothers John and Russell and my sister Ann supported whatever I did and read my columns even if they had little interest in the subject. My wife Janice was a bit more discriminating. She preferred the good ones or the unusual ones, like that one about the alleged intelligence of the elusive largemouth bass. Janice reinforced the importance of intellectual honesty in everyone around her. She carried on cheerfully whenever I took off across the country to cover another story, and she traveled with me far and wide, especially after Jennifer and Barak grew up.

All of them sacrificed something for my freedom of movement.

So did my editors and publishers at the Winston-Salem Journal and other newspapers. They gave me freedom of expression. They defended my freedom of speech whenever they had to, which required more spine than you find in fair-weather guardians of the First Amendment. Fortunately, most of my interview subjects were civilized and cooperative. Many of the people I’ve written about and many of the writers I’ve worked beside are loyal friends. I’ve been lucky that way – in so many ways, really.

From elementary school through college, certain teachers recognized my affinity for descriptive writing and reacted positively. This happens every day in every school around the state, so it galls me when I hear politicians lump all teachers together and criticize them for failing to fix every breakdown in our society.

I’ll admit to an inherent bias. My other grandfather was a high school teacher and football coach before he became the town manager of Wendell. And, for half a century, I have watched teachers and coaches help young folks change their lives for the better. I’ve seen the modest home where my high school teammate Carlester Crumpler lived, raised by his loving grandmother. I’ve seen the neighborhood where Rodney Rogers grew up. I’ve seen the backyard goal where Kay Yow and her sisters and brother learned to shoot, long before women had a tangible future in basketball.

The beauty of sports – the democratic essence of sports, really – is that everyone stands on his or her own merits. Success depends on talent and work and persistence and passion, not privilege. These are basic values that endure long after the cheering fades. I’m more impressed with Carlester as an adviser to college students than Carlester the teenage legend. I’m more impressed with how Rodney has handled personal tragedy than how he handled basketball glory. I’m more impressed with Kay’s legacy as a cancer pioneer than her record as a pioneering coach.

They represent the best among us, but they aren’t alone. This room is full of people whose formal educations began in North Carolina’s public schools, people who developed a love for fair competition and helping teammates reach their potential, people who can look back through the clutter and clatter of modern times and recognize the wisdom of these simple ideas. When I was young, North Carolina was a leader in public education, but we’ve slipped. We should vastly improve the public schools for a future beyond our time – not because it’s the liberal or conservative thing to do, or the black or white thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do. And because out there tonight in North Carolina, other kids are sitting in cars reading their electronic devices – maybe even reading the New York papers – and wondering how their stories will turn out. They deserve a fair chance, too.

N. MY DANNY TALBOTT STORY (404)

Danny Talbott lost his war with cancer. Many thought he’d win. He won every thing else. Danny was a baptist preacher’s kid. In the 1960’s in North Carolina he was legendary. His pre-integration time called for every able bodied, red blooded male to play football. Most added basketball and baseball, as did Danny. Tennis and golf were for sissies. No one had heard of soccer. Maybe Pele. No girls allowed.
Coach Henry Trevathan coached Danny in Rocky Mount, NC. He said Danny was like another coach on the field. And not just in football. Rocky Mount won state titles in football, then basketball, then baseball, then football again the next year.
I was a “Peacock” in 1963/64. Danny’s freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill. Peacocks were so called as our graduate school advisor was the beloved Dr. Bill Peacock. There were thirty college grads who taught the UNC freshman classes. I was teaching a basketball class on the Woolin Gym floor when Jack Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Having lived in Wilson,NC, 18 miles from Talbott and Rocky Mt., I knew of his career. And told my fellow Peacocks who were mostly unaware of his feats. Freshman were ineligible then, and my colleagues hardly believed my hype. As basketball arrived Danny changed uniforms like a superhero. Shoulder pads for sneakers even after basketball and the remarkable Bobby Lewis show had started. All my buddies were there to watch Lewis. When they inserted Danny into the lineup, I loudly alerted them to his entry. Sure enough he was shortly on the foul line with two free throws. Nothing but foul lane, 1 and 2. howls and chagrin. Exit Danny until the game’s end, when fouled out Tar Heels dictated his reentry.
Sure enough, with one point down and seconds on the clock, there is Talbott on the line, with game on the line. Swish goes #1, swish #2, Game Talbott.
Come spring time there he is on the diamond, first year of an outstanding college baseball career. He later told me, “…I probably should have pursued pro baseball.”
Danny was easy to like. Big smile, rosy/rusty cheeks that glowed. Made you feel great. Bobby Dunn and I are friends and he and Danny were very close. When Danny went into sales after pro football, Bobby said he missed competition and was considering tennis. Send him over, I suggested.
Low and behold here he came to our college courts. Coat and tie abandoned for shorts and racket, on the run.
Danny was ambidextrous. He was hitting groundstrokes left handed forehand and backhand. His beginning shots looked good to me. “Why are you so discouraged?” I asked him.
“Watch this serve” he whimpered. He was correct. I never thought I’d see Danny Talbott look awkward at anything, but this was pretty awful to watch. He tried a couple of more serves. Then the duh? moment. Left-handed serve?
“Danny, aren’t you the quarterback that holds the NCAA record for 28 out o32 pass completions in the EAST/WEST All-Star game?” A puzzled “yes”. Did you throw them left handed ? Well, no of course.
Below is the quickest, most productive lesson I taught in my career:
1. The serve is a throw. Put the racket in your right hand. Turn your grip a little this way (“first knuckle, first bevel”). Now serve it like a throw.
2. Your wrist action at hit moment is much like a fast ball or slider is thrown.

I’m not sure if it was the first serve he tried, but I know it was before the fourth, that repeated ace like rockets zoomed over the net. I know he wanted to stop and thank me but he was having too much fun, I was too. So, I’d toss him a ball and a big “thump” would echo. I only asked about the grip, as that action is hard to see? “Yeah, fastball, slider, I got it!”
He would show up with questions and conversations. Eventually he played right handed while serving, left-handed on both ground strokes. On overheads he hit ones on the right, right-handed. The ones on the left, left handed.
It wasn’t long before I was getting reports that he was right in the middle of NC senior tennis tournaments. And, later, he did a similar thing with golf, becoming an accomplished player there too.
The last time I saw him was a year ago in Wilson’s DICK’S HOT DOG STAND. He was with a man I didn’t know, but later Danny said was his “cancer doctor”. “We go out to eat once a month”.
Rocky Mount named their hospital’s new cancer center after Danny Talbott.

Danny was so gracious with me. He always said “…that’s my tennis coach, he made my game.” But I always knew the “Big Coach” made Danny. He made a masterpiece.
PS–you guys who play sports up there. He’s coming. But you better be ready. He’s competitive.

 

2. 6 COACH JIM LEIGHTON (428)

There were four coaches there including me. Coach Leighton rolled up with rackets & balls. He wore traditional white and it matched his hair. He looked like “Colonel Sanders”.
After pleasantries and introductions he began speaking in a new language. Two puzzled coaches left in ten minutes. The other at noon. Coach Leighton was a master teacher, and my first introduction to someone that knowledgeable about the game. I was fascinated. One of his players, Paul Caldwell, was with him. When the other guy left, leaving only me, I was embarrassed, both by how much Leigh- ton knew, plus my own misjudgment about my greatness: I offered to abandon the afternoon session. I was delighted and impressed as Coach responded, “Tom, we’ve agreed to stay until 4:00. I can tell you are interested in learning. As long as you’ll stay, we’ll stay.”
Our college offered two hundred dollars per year for “professional growth” at convention trips. I never again spent mine on anything but my new mentor. Coach Jim Leighton. He would try to refuse my money, but I’d have paid triple.
I was in his home, at his club, at his varsity practices, watching tapes on every- thing from his current players to sequential pictures of Ellsworth Vines.
He had just completed “Inside Tennis: Techniques of Winning.” This book, much of the information by Leighton himself, also included contributions by Den- nis Van Der Meer, Welby Van Horn, Chet and Bill Murphy, Wayne Sabin, Pauline Betz Addie and others.
I loved Leighton and the book. I had so many questions. I’d book time on his Buena Vista Road home in Winston-Salem. We’d talk about the book, with explanations by Coach Leighton. I felt like Moses on the Mount.
The USTA held our annual Teacher’s Convention just prior to the US Open in Flushing Meadow. One year Jim and I made all most every session. Every coach seemed to want to use his session to further his tennis standing. At one session Leighton’s bullshit detector kicked in.
A coach was trying to sell a lame idea as the end of all tennis instruction; Leighton politely questioned the man’s premise.
The clinician sloughed off this old white-haired guy’s puzzlement.
Again coach queried: “I want to make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying.” An abrupt “am I not speaking plainly enough?” Selling the same lame premise, the clinician was startled when Leighton rose and stated: “Sir, you are addressing the tennis teachers of American and beyond. Never have I heard such a crock of baloney.”
He turned to me and said “Get up Tom, we’re getting out here!” I followed beside him.
One day at the New York host hotel he asked, “Do you want to hear someone who knows tennis? Sure! “Meet me in the lobby at 6:30 AM for breakfast.”
I joined Coach and Chet Murphy in a downtown café. Chet and Bill Murphy were Californians who knew the biomechanics of tennis. I’d heard Chet Murphy as a clinician. He seemed nervous, my having heard so much about him, but once the first technical question was asked, he was off and running. This morning Leighton did something I’d never seen him do. He deferred to Murphy, asking questions the way I’d asked of him. And while there was great mutual, respect. I’ve got to say Murphy was impressive.
I was all ears. This was a time when all kinds of research was being done in tennis. I was pleased with the next question asked by Coach Leighton. “Chet, how do you feel about what we’ve done?” (Meaning the old time proponents of “classic” tennis instruction.)
Chet thought a moment and said: We should have let them hit more western grip forehands. Other than that everything was right.”
Coach Leighton was buried the day the “Jimmy Powell Tennis Center” was dedicated at Elon in 1988. It was in Wait Chapel on the campus that had named their stadium after this fine man, coach and friend.

3. ECHOES FROM THE VAN

Maybe the saddest conversation occurred late one night after a match. Driving silently the boys talked about the spring break they’d just returned from.
Another kid stated, “My mom drinks gin all day. She’s a drunk.”
“Hmmm. I came home four nights last week and passed by my Dad, drunk in a chair. He never recognized me.”
Silence. Then from the back Rocky Peed spoke: “You guys don’t know any- thing. Last year I saved $50, all I had, and bought myself a new racket for the high school championships. I got dressed to leave and couldn’t find my racket. My father had sold it for $5 to buy a pint of whiskey.”
That one touched me.
Rocky had been a “need” case. I first heard about him when some one said he was going to attend Atlantic Christian.
I knew he was a pretty good player but he had no phone. He lived with his grandmother. She was his only family, having kicked Rocky’s father out.
Not only could I not call him, when I went to the tournaments Rocky was in, he ducked me.
Finally I cornered him in front of a small group of junior players. I introduced myself and commented that I’d heard he was interested in our school.
Rocky was 6’3”, longhaired, and really nice looking young man. He blushed and asked “Could I speak to you over there Coach?”
In private, he told me he knew who I was. Sam Modlin had told him all about our school. It sounds great.
“But Coach, I can’t go to college. I don’t have any money. All the kids I play with talk about their college plans all the time. I just said I was going to Atlantic Christian to save face. I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Rocky, you can come to AC on the B.E.O.G. (Federal aid for needy kids.) If you want to come, I’ll get you in. Don’t worry about the money. Rocky, a 1975 graduate, is now a grandfather, and highly successful insurance agent.
He also won a District Singles title. I bought his racket for him.