Performance Versus Potential · 23 August 2014

As people prepare for a new football season, I pause to wonder what armchair managers think about what the Seattle Seahawks did in the offseason.

After the NBA draft, I had to wonder about the status of professional sports. Top picks were made from kids not even in their twenties yet. There were kids who became millionaire athletes without even stepping onto a court. Apparently, it is all about potential. Do not get me wrong. I do not begrudge those people their money or fame. I just wonder about the message it sends. I wonder how many people see pro sports as an analogy for life. I wonder how many young people think they are entitled to a good job just because somebody told them they have potential.

As foolhardy as paying untested athletes may seem to the average sports fan, it is even more incredible to me that professional soccer teams sign kids who do not even have two digit ages. I remember reading about one of the premiere teams in Spain signing a seven-year old and a Dutch team signing a toddler who it seemed to me could barely walk (See Real Madrid). Real Madrid was ready to put the seven-year old into their soccer player making machine, where he would learn to be a professional soccer player and hopefully how to read and write. At least that is what my jaded mind was thinking when I read the article a few years ago.

Which brings me back to the Seahawks.

It seems to me that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have the right formula. The general manager and head coach are willing to pay talent. But only once it has manifested itself. They are not willing to throw good money at potential. They are old school. They want to know what they are getting for their money.

Schneider and Carroll also take intangibles into consideration when they sign players. They want people who will fit their scheme. They want players who will add to the mystical thing called team chemistry. They know that players who are disciplined and will work as a team are the ones who will succeed. They know that doing things right and getting the job done will create wins. And they are willing to hunt for the players who can subvert their own goals for those of the team. They do pay top dollar for top players. As long as they are willing to be part of the team.

I have been a jaded professional sports fan for many years. Much of it stems from the perception that the identity of a team becomes the identity of a superstar. With football, that is usually the quarterback rather than any defensive player.

Call me old fashioned, but I miss the days of the No Name Defense in Miami and The Orange Crush in Denver. I miss the days of dominant defenses in the NFL. Which is why I am rooting for the Seahawks. I like that Schneider and Carroll place a premium on a dominant defense.

And, of course, a really good offense.

As an armchair manager, I like the moves that the Seahawks have made. I like that they have a great offense to go with the best defense in the league. I like that they recognize greatness when it is proven rather than paying for potential. I like that Schneider, Carroll, and Company want to put together the best team that they can instead of piecing together a hodgepodge of players to complement a superstar. I am not sure what other armchair managers think, but I like what the Seahawks have done in the offseason to get ready for some football.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 31 July 2014 in Take 2 | The Seattle Times



Tribute to a Great Man · 16 August 2014

Photo courtesy of Drew Matsushima

A great person died this week. Not Lauren Bacall or Robin Williams. They were great actors. They contributed much to their craft. But to judge greatness you need to know a person. You need to spend time with him or her. You need to have a relationship and know the kinds of relationships the person had with others. I did not know Ms. Bacall or Mr. Williams so I must let those who did judge their greatness. But I knew my uncle, and Uncle Hank was indeed a great man.

We can immediately see the reaction to any news in this age of social media. Facebook and Twitter were inundated with images of Bacall and Williams this week. People posted memories of the great actors’ works and the feelings they evoked.

The passing of Uncle Hank had a more personal feel. It seemed all my relatives posted new profile pictures. Ones with them and Uncle Hank. I felt remiss that I did not have any pictures like that. That I had missed out on one of those simple but amazing tributes.

Then, I read a moving tribute by my cousin’s son, Drew. He talked about the qualities Uncle Hank showed with all people. His generosity. His thoughtfulness. His time. And he blessed our uncle with the highest compliment when he said that Uncle Hank was another grandpa to him.

Again, I felt out of the loop. I too had written about some of my memories, but it had been so long since I had been in close contact with Uncle Hank. We had lived too far apart for too long. But Drew’s tribute helped me realize that Uncle Hank was still the great man he had always been, and that I could continue with my own tribute.

Our Auntie Sachi would say that Uncle Hank was a great man because he put up with her for so many years. I would argue with her that he was a great man because he brought up three wonderful sons, Danny, Andy, and Derrick. He was great because he imparted happiness into all the lives he had been around. He was great because he was loving, thoughtful, and kind. He was great because he gave people his ear and his time, and sometimes his sage advice. But I would also agree with Auntie Sachi. He was great because he put up with her for all those years.

Uncle Hank was always smiling and happy. Looking back over all the years, I can only remember Uncle Hank being sad once. When Danny died. I am sure there were other times when he was not the smiling Uncle Hank that we all know and love. But they must have been few and far between or he kept it all behind closed doors because I do not remember him doing anything but smiling. And giving that smile to others. We will all miss that thin grin. That mischievous smile. We will miss him giving that same grin to each of us. Even when we did not want it. Nobody could be sad when Uncle Hank was around. Thankfully, we will still be able to see it in Andy and Derrick. And we will still see the Auntie Sachi version too.

One of my fondest memories of Uncle Hank is of just hanging out at their house on Hoyt Street long, long ago. (I even think that most of it is true and not just part of the trick that time can play on our minds.)

We kids were young and had been playing all day in the yard. Toward the end of the day, Danny had made up some basketball game so that our younger siblings could play too. Uncle Hank and Dad came outside and watched for a while. I do not remember all the details, but not long after they came outside to watch, Dad and Uncle Hank started shooting with us.

Naturally, we ended up playing PIG. We were all competitive that way. The old guys gave us a run for our money, shooting all sorts of crazy shots. Short shots, long shots, layups, and probably even some behind the back shots. Maybe I was just young and naïve and did not know that parents could do physical things like play basketball, but Uncle Hank was making everything. He was amazing.

Then came the shot of all shots.

It was the winning shot to get Danny out (or my mind is playing one of those time tricks and melding memories together). I remember watching in amazement as Uncle Hank walked out to a spot, kept facing away from the basket, and without looking back, tossed up a shot that went right through the hoop. Swish. He did not even look after it went in. My dad chuckled while all of us kids moaned.

Danny was up to try to make the shot and stay in the game. Being a stickler for rules, when Danny tried to look back before shooting, Uncle Hank made him start again. He made him walk up to the line and toss the basketball backward without looking, just as he had done. Danny glanced over at all of us watching trying to get a little encouragement before he walked up to the line and threw the ball up toward the hoop. He missed and we all groaned again. But we still had a little hope. Since he was knocking Danny out, he had to prove it. He had to do the exact same shot again. So Uncle Hank walked to the same spot, never looked back, and threw the basketball up. If the scene had been in a movie, the shot would have been in slow motion taking its time as the camera followed the ball’s arc. It would have shown the faces of all us kids looking on in anticipation and amazement. But as it was, the ball just went through the hoop. Swish. Again. Uncle Hank still did not look. He just grinned.

I will miss Uncle Hank. I will miss his kind words. I will miss his listening ear. I will miss just sitting at the same table with him taking in all that goes on, sometimes offering a word or two. Sometimes just smiling. I will miss that mischievous smile.

Uncle Hank may not be remembered by the rest of the world like Lauren Bacall or Robin Williams. There will be no nightly news coverage of his passing. But his family and friends noted it with poignant tributes and loving hearts on social media and in person. And we will all remember him long after the tributes are gone.

I mourn along with all of Uncle Hank’s family and friends. We are sad to see you go. But we are all thankful that we got to live, even if just for a short time, in the presence of a great man.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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#6Words · 9 August 2014

Six little words. Count them. Six.

Six words (#6words) is a writing challenge that author and entrepreneur, Kelsye Nelson, puts out to the world on a regular basis. “In six words or fewer, write a story about…” is her prompt and challenge to writers. It is a tough challenge, but one that should be taken seriously.

But can a story really be told in six words or less?

That depends on the writer.

And the reader.

An author friend of mine, Bernadette Pajer, talks about triggers. Good authors try to evoke triggers with their words. The smell of baking break conjures up memories of Grandma’s house and bakeries for me. And just like the real aroma brings up the images, so too should the words. That is the key to writing a six-word story. Bringing up images.

The thing is that the images do not need to be the same for every reader. The aroma of baking bread might bring up other images to other people, but usually, those images are of comfort and safety. They are of loving and caring. They are of being around the people who matter most. That is what story telling is all about. Not everybody needs to see the same picture to get the most out of a story. They just need to see and experience the story in their minds. And if the story that the next person experiences is a little different, that is okay. Which is why I like the challenge of the impossibly short story.

Six words.

So far, I have taken the challenge of writing stories in six words or less a few times. One, was a cheat, but I still think I told the story and evoked some images. The others were good kick starts to my writing day. They helped me to get the creative juices flowing. (And of course, they all led to writing this current piece of prose.)

Here are the stories:

Who me?
Blank page. Should be writing.
DISCIPLINE: No muse necessary.
I just need faith to see.
I did it my way.

These stories came from specific prompts, and when I first thought of writing this piece, I thought that people ought to guess what those prompts were. But as I thought about it more, I came to the realization that like any other story, these six-word stories ought to stand alone. They ought to make somebody laugh or cry or have some sort of emotion. With or without knowing the prompt.

I believe these stories do that. Even though they are short, they evoke some sort of emotion from and create images for the reader. Those emotions and images are certainly not the same for any two readers, but they are created. How well the story is written is determined by how strong the emotions and images are for the reader.

Maybe I am over analyzing the whole #6words story thing, but it is a fun exercise. It is a great kick starter for writers to mull over six little words to create a story.

By the way, the prompts (in order) were:

In six words or fewer, write a story about a lie you told.
In six words or fewer, write a story about what you see right now.
In six words or fewer, write a story about an artist’s muse.
In six words or fewer, write a story about the one thing you can’t live without.
In six words or fewer, write a story about a regret you have had.

Knowing the prompts probably changes the stories for most readers, but that is okay too. After all, it means you get two stories for the price of one.

Thank you Kelsye Nelson (@Kelsye) for the prompts on your website and in your tweets. They might be frustrating at times, but they are certainly inspiring and fun. (As are the responses you get to them.) Like you said, “It’s like playtime. Good for the creative soul.”

I for one will keep writing the six-word stories. (And longer ones.)

By the way, if you did not notice or were not keeping track, the first line of this post is one of those six-word stories (albeit not a great one). I even did it without a prompt.

Six little words. Count them. Six.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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