WINNERS AND LOSERS…but not really

I’ve seen so much written and spoken, negatively, about the Rio Olympics and admit to falling into the same negativity with the Zika virus, dead body parts found in beach sand, fecal matter in ocean water, the hidden favelas, participants robbed at gun point and, on a lighter note, how much side boob or butt crack some of our beach volley ball players might be showing. No I was not negative about our volley ball players and MORE than JUST appreciated the buff female forms in bikinis, stretching and diving athletically for their sport. I really don’t understand why people involved in high levels of athletics are not supposed to look good doing it, male or female, without coming under so much public scrutiny. Originally weren’t the first Olympics performed au naturale? Here’s to the good old days…oh wait…they were male only? Let’s just forget that idea. I was also negative about how much the Olympics actually pulled the world’s people together and wondered if any of us were burning with the fire of the Olympic flame as we ridiculed “outspoken” people wearing hijabs or failing to put their hands over their hearts.

In my first attempt at writing badly, Winning was Never the Only Thing, I attempted to convey the idea that sports was more about the people who participated in athletic endeavors than the act of winning itself. Whether it was winning a game or losing an event, paramount was recognizing that even the losers put forth great effort…and display a “winning” effort. No I don’t believe everyone should get a trophy but everyone should be recognized for the effort that they put in to “winning or losing” and just not for the winning. Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, Michael Phelps and the rest of the medal winners should be praised for their accomplishments but what embodies the Olympic Spirit, and winning in general, for me, was exemplified when Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand became tangled with each other in the five thousand meters. After Hamblin went down, D’Agostino tripped over her and also fell to the ground. Though the US runner’s leg was badly injured, the runners helped each other to their feet, and Hamblin cheered on the American as she stumbled, in obvious pain with an Olympics’ ending knee injury, to the finish line…in last place. After finishing, both runners embraced in what ABC’s WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS would have called “the agony of defeat.” I would call it displaying a “gold medal” attitude despite the fact I could hardly see the display due to the tears in my eyes. On the same day, Haitian hurdler Jeffery Julmis face planted on the first hurdle in the one-tens losing any chance of a medal. Instead of staying down in humiliation, Julmis untangled himself and completed the race to finish last…because finishing must be important.

Are there really any losers in the Olympics? I’m not sure we could call the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team “world class” but they did qualify and later had a movie made about them. The same year Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, Great Britain’s “heroic loser” finishing last in the seventy and ninety-meter ski jumps but also had a movie made about his efforts. How can “losing” be important enough to have a movie made about it? More to the point I ask “Is Carrie Walsh a loser for not winning the gold in 2016…after two golds in previous Olympics?” The same could be asked about Gabby Douglas, who won an individual gold in 2012 but didn’t in 2016. I think the answer is no…and would add all the non-medal finishers to my list, BUT NO THEY DON’T GET TROPHIES FOR PARTICIPATING.

I am proud of what the United States has done and the legends we have been made but I am also proud of the losers too. To make the Olympics is a major accomplishment and all of the athletes deserve our heart-felt applause if they display the “Spirit of the Olympics.” Despite the comments of a certain US soccer goalie and the failure of an Egyptian to shake an Israeli’s hand, most participants have kept their “humility” in both victory and in defeat despite the inappropriate saying “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.” Show me a good loser and I’ll show you an Olympian.

For more of Don Miller’s unique outlook on life please click on the following link to purchase a book, view links to his blog or just to follow. Thank you.


Forty years ago, on a Monday much like this one, I stood on a practice field awaiting the start of football practice. There would have been great anticipation and nervous excitement this particular morning as there always was great enthusiasm on the first day of practice. By Wednesday’s afternoon practice, bumps, bruises, muscle soreness and “dead” legs would strip the some forty or fifty players of their enthusiasm…but this was still Monday morning.

The practice field, freshly cut low was adorned with sharp white lines. The grass would be moist with the early morning dew, as it always was for twenty-nine years. Before the end of practice, the air would become uncomfortably hot and humid. For twenty-nine seasons hot and humid was always this way. Football in the South begins the last week of “hot” or the first week of “hotter still” and no matter where you are in the deep South you cannot escape the late summer heat and humidity.

This would be the first of two practices, the second would begin with even more heat and the humidity would continue to rise higher as practice went on until it finally concluded with ten perfect plays and ten perfect forty yard sprints. Blow an assignment or a snap count, we started over at one. Forty or fifty young men dressed in orange helmets and shorts, with short, light gray tee-shirts, now dark gray with perspiration. This is the fortieth anniversary of Mauldin High School’s one and only region championship in football. Maybe being the only one is why it is so special.

For those not familiar with the city of Mauldin, located in the upstate of South Carolina…or too young to remember, it was more rural than city forty years ago. The town was a strip of businesses and industry laid out along a crossroads navigated by people on the road between distant Columbia and nearby Greenville. There was no “named” main street and only a couple of signal lights on US 276 to impede their travels. The population was scattered from the outskirts of the small town of Simpsonville to the south and north to Interstate 85. It is part of an area now known as the “Golden Strip.” A couple of years would have to pass before it attained the moniker. Little was golden about the strip in those days, just a few business and a citizenry primarily located in suburban developments separated by large tracts of land farmed by families who had been in the area for decades. We were so rural it was easy to be viewed by our rivals as the “Southern Rednecks” of the county. I would say, at the time, we took this to be a compliment.

The community had embraced this “newer” school, beginning its fourth year of existence. Because of its youth, athletic success had been fleeting, especially in the area of men’s sports. Everyone…community, student body, faculty and administration seemed to be holding their collective breath as the season began. It did not take long for them to exhale and our team’s enthusiasm seemed to be a transmittable disease. As the victories piled up so did the fever pitch of our fan base.

Forty years ago we played old school football; “butt blocking, put a hat on ‘em, slobber knocking, knock his d!@# in the dirt” old school football. We didn’t know it was old school, we thought we were on the “cutting edge” of football innovation with our “acid soaked” tear away jerseys. Like most schools we were a run first, pass “when all else fails” or as my wife, Linda Gail, continued to point out throughout my career, “The forward pass is not a trick play.” For us it might have been. We weren’t a “three yards in a cloud of dust” kind of team, we were a finesse, run the “veer option and get the ball on the corner” kind of team and we did it well.

There was nothing finesse about our defense. We did our best to intimidate on defense…which we did quite well…and yes maybe we were a little dirty. We taught “eyes to the throat” and “run through the ball carrier till you hear glass break” tackling. We used the face mask as a weapon. It wasn’t we wanted to intentionally hurt people…well, maybe we didn’t want to hurt people. We did give a “skull and crossbones” helmet decal for the “Hit of the Week”.

The ’76 Mavericks were ten gallons of fun poured into a five-gallon bucket. It was inevitable some of the fun would spill out and it seemed much of the fun was agitated by one particular member of the team, Bucky Trotter. Any time I talk to a former team member, Bucky Trotter’s name comes up. Who else would deliver a Halloween gift to the opposing team’s captains? A dead squirrel hanging from twine fashioned into a hangman’s noose. I recently spoke with the Greenville High coach from those days and he remembers it well…and not happily I might add. An intimidating HELTER SKELTER chant after quick cals dissolving into something resembling a bar fight, a Wednesday night meal followed by a “fake fight” held in different areas around the community, one so realistic the police were called out. Thursday practice “war games” were followed by the coaches meeting at Jay’s for steak…for eleven straight weeks. Every Friday the coaches had to go to the principal’s office to rub a good luck charm we called “the little man with the big d!@#”, a small brass figurine with a big d!@#. These were a few of the rituals we employed to feed our superstitions and to keep ourselves amused.

Yep, more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Friends and former peers always ask if I miss coaching football. I miss the game night competition, I miss the bonds formed with players and coaches but I have not missed many practices. This group might be the exception because they made it fun. Everything was a competition, a chance to prove themselves. It didn’t matter if it was a game or practice, every play was a chance to excel or grow. I remember the daily linebackers versus offensive linemen board drills, three on three drills and the now banned Oklahoma drills. There was no going through the motions. Fun but also special AND NOT JUST TEN WINS SPECIAL.

I hope we have a reunion. I have put a few bugs in a few ears. A chance to rekindle old friendships and a chance to relive old memories. 1976 was a special year, in a special place with a special group. It would be fitting to have a special celebration.

Don Miller has also written three books, including “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…”, stories from forty years of teaching and coaching. They may be purchased or downloaded at


I wonder how many YEARS of my life have actually been spent driving mowers and tractors in circles? In my own yard, on football and baseball fields? Finishing up where I started only to do it over again…and again…. I find that my mind drifts with the repetitive mindlessness of the job…until I run over something I shouldn’t or cut a clump of Linda Gail’s flowers.
This time of year, the hot and humid doldrums of summer, my mind “circles” to twenty-nine seasons as a football coach…despite not having coached football in fifteen years. It’s been that long? With the coach’s clinic this weekend I am reminded that the football season is just around the corner. The smell of my freshly cut grass, along with the heat and humidity, takes me to the fields of my past. Twenty-nine first practices followed by twenty-nine first games. Fields freshly manicured with sharp white lines almost glowing from the reflected light from above.

In some ways my twenty-nine seasons were a study in frustration. Eight seasons finishing above .500 and a small, very small, handful of break-even seasons. We have at least three coaches in South Carolina with eight or more state championships during their career. It gets much worse, five of those winning eight seasons occurred during my first nine seasons. Three winning seasons over the last twenty. My own tenure as a head football coach boasts one winning season, six wins out a total of thirteen over four seasons. What made me think I was head coaching material?

I spent this past Friday morning with best friend, former boss and Linda Gail’s former high school classmate, Mike “Hawk” Hawkins. I was lending “moron” support as we attempted to erect a backyard swing from scratch. The “blind leading the blind” didn’t quite describe it. More like the “blind leading the stupid.” Somehow with a bit of “cussin’” on my part and a lot praying on his, we got the job done. Maybe it won’t collapse in on itself. More importantly, being around “Hawk” reminded me of why I coached football for twenty-nine years despite the frustration. It was the people and the personalities surrounding high school athletics.

My last game coaching football was Mike’s last game as head coach at Riverside. No man could have put more into a program than he did but it wasn’t in the cards. My first five years as his assistant netted two winning seasons and a couple break evens but then the wheels fell off the jalopy. To quote Linda Gail and thousands of others, “You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears.” We had great kids who tried and worked hard but were “athletically challenged” proving that you could do most everything right and still not be successful. Weekly we found our X’s to be much smaller and slower than our opponent’s O’s. Tasting just a bit of success is what made my last game much sweeter.

I don’t know how many games we won my last year…it wasn’t many. It doesn’t matter because we won the last one. A playoff bound Mann team came to the River and our kids rose up and smacked them in the nose. Hawk devised what I have always called a “bastard” defense, throwing caution to the wind and our kids executed it. As the seconds ticked down a senior defensive end who, in a normal defense, would not have been dropping into pass coverage, did. Geoff Rigsby intercepted the confused Mann quarterback to ice the victory…my last victory. I didn’t know it was my last game at the time. I was living vicariously through “Hawk” who was being carried from the field on the shoulders of his players while what few fans were in attendance were bring down the goal posts…well bending the goal posts.

A friend who used to coach with Hawk and I, Rick Scott, once said, “Winning is better than sex.” I bit, “How is that?” “Sex only last a few minutes. A win lasts all week long.” Well! I would guess he is correct. I’ve enjoyed my last win for fifteen years.

For more humor by Don Miller click on the following link:


I don’t think Virgil, the originator of the quote “love conquers all,” had baseball in mind when he made it. He was dead several centuries before Abner Doubleday was “credited” with inventing the game but ‘love’ appeared to be the big equalizer in Coastal Carolina’s unexpected and unprecedented run to the College National Championship in Omaha.

Coach Gary Gilmore had his own quote which he just managed to choke out as tears rolled down his face. “We may not the most talented team in America but we are the champions.” Talent is a funny thing. Too much talent may not be enough to get you to the pinnacle of a championship if there are too many egos to deal with. Too little talent may not even get you into the same zip code. There has to be enough talent but talent will only take you so far. There has to be more and the Chanticleers displayed not only talent but all of the clichés we coaches have a tendency to use. Tenacity, heart, and hustle were but a few that I thought of but one that is often over looked, especially when it comes to men’s athletic endeavors, is the love that was apparent when these young men and their coaches took the field. It is a love only “championship” athletes and coaches can understand.

I had no expectations when Coastal took the field against the “Juggernaut” that was Florida. I remember telling my wife how small they looked compared to the Gators. By the time they recorded their last out against Arizona I found they had grown just a bit, at least in my estimation. Being able to continually find a way to “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat” takes much more than talent. I am reminded of a Lew Holtz story he told early in my coaching career when he coached at NC State. When questioning an undersized defensive end about his ability to “whip” a certain all-American offensive tackle, the young man exclaimed, “No Sir…but I’ll fight him till I die.” This was a mentality shown repeatedly by the Coastal team. Thankfully, no one was able to make the kill shot.

I only met Coach Gilmore twice during my career and I doubt he would even remember who I was. I remember him well from a clinic I attended and later when I got to coach the South Carolina team in the North Carolina-South Carolina Challenge held at the Chanticleer’s stadium. I remember he displayed two major attributes. Passion and Humility. I get to add another, love for his players. From listening to his players in their postgame news conference, his love was returned tenfold.

When I think of my most successful teams I can’t help but draw parallels. They were all talented enough to overcome bad coaching, mistakes, and poor officiating. All of them had a love for the game and a love for each other. They wanted to do whatever needed to done to win…not for themselves but for their teammates. Many times it is not the “nine best” that wins the championship. In Coastal Carolina’s case it was the “best nine,” or best twenty-five that came home with the gold. Congratulations Chanticleers. For this season at least, fairytale rooster or not, you are the “cocks of the walk.”

More humorous nonfiction by Don Miller is available at


I have been fortunate to have had great relationships with all but just a few of my administrators and athletic directors. Most of my administrators were great people. Louie Golden was one of the great ones but I had to mature and develop some wisdom to see it. When some of these stories were taking place it did not seem so. It was never smooth sailing and some people might have thought Louie’s first name was either “f@#$%^&” or “g#$%^&n” as in that “F@#$%^& Golden!” You might have thought I had the same first name.

For those who do not know who Louie Golden is, he began his career as a head basketball coach at Beck High School during the days of full and token segregation. In 1970 at mid-year, full desegregation was implemented during semester break and Louie lost a basketball team so good its players were purposely split among four area high schools. All four schools made the state playoffs and a previously mediocre Wade Hampton team went on to play for the State Championship. Louie went on to win state championships at both Riverside and Southside High Schools. If you count his days at Beck, Louie retired with over seven hundred victories, five state championships, and another four upper-state championships. In 1993 he was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. As an athletic director, Louie started the program at Riverside from scratch and retired with nearly a quarter of a million dollars in the athletic account. He was a success by any standard of measurement.

Because I had been in the area for about fifteen years, I was familiar with Louie. I had also heard many stories about his obsession with saving money, his eating habits and the accusations of recruitment. Money and eating I can attest to but will not go into the recruitment of players because I don’t know for sure anything illegal took place. Despite all of the stories that I had heard about “Big Boy”, nothing in my life or any other life prepared me for him. Three or four inches taller and a good and conservative seventy pounds heavier, he reminded me of a big brown jovial bear. When you talked to Louie you got the idea he wasn’t the brightest light on the tree. It was an act. Louie cultivated his sometimes laughable persona the same way John Wayne cultivated his trademark walk. Louie’s attitude about spending money or the lack thereof, grew as a result of his childhood. Louie had grown up in St. Mathews, outside of Orangeburg, and like most black youths from the area and the time period, he grew up poor. Growing up poor would cause an economic philosophy to develop that could be said to be miserly or downright frugal. His wife Betty will swear it wasn’t just about spending school money.

When he became athletic director at Riverside, Louie was given an athletic budget of zero “monies”. No equipment, no uniforms and no start-up money. Louie had to go into debt up to his eyeballs and as he told me later felt he had been put there as a “token” who was expected to fail. The “Greenville County Way” was to pay coaches stipends and to put down fertilizer on fields and not much else. At Riverside, topsoil was bulldozed off of what would become fields, fences and a press box put up, stands erected and that was it. You could not play a football game without a whole lot of equipment. Somehow Louie was able to get it. Louie begged, borrowed and went into debt but somehow kept his head above water. There was an unconfirmed story that he gave the golf team a dozen balls that were labeled “Fished from the Finest Lakes in South Carolina.” I would say Louie fooled the powers that were and became the success they were not expecting.

Because of Louie’s childhood and Riverside’s indebtedness, to say Louie squeezed a penny is like saying a two hundred and seventy-pound hungry anaconda is giving you a little hug. You never got anything from Louie without a battle. The process seemed like begging and forcing you to beg for money was Louie’s way of finding out how much you wanted something. It was tiresome and more than just a little demeaning. I have this mental picture of Oliver asking “More Please.” I don’t know how many times I heard “Miller you likes to spend too many monies.” That is the way Louie said it. “Monies” with a face all scrunched up like those gross little babies in a bottle. Some people quit asking, some people went to raising funds to support their own programs, some people seethed in anger, while others openly battled him. As far as Louie was concerned the first three actions were great. They did not cost him anything. If you opted for battle he was going to make you give up a pound of flesh.

As a basketball coach he was extraordinary. He could teach the game in simple, uncomplicated terms, was a great game manager and motivator. Louie also understood people and knew which buttons to push. The late Steve Kahler told a story about Louie cutting his C team. Kahler had so many kids trying out he needed help. Louie came in and brought the kids trying out together. He asked who the best seventh grader was. Fingers pointed at one of the kids. Then he asked the eighth and ninth graders who could beat him one on one. Hands went up. Louie turned to those who hadn’t raised their hands and said: “You’re cut!” That took about thirty seconds and took care of too many kids to work with. Louie did not get one phone call from a disgruntled parent.

After a bad scrimmage, instead of the normal film breakdown, Louie loaded his team on a van and told them they were going to get fitted for shoes. He drove them toward Duncan lecturing them about running the flex offense, playing with hustle on defense and not working hard enough to be in shape. Five miles out on a rural highway between Greer and Duncan, Louie pulled the van over, ordered them all ot of the van. He told them they better be back for the official start of practice and anyone who didn’t was cut. All of them got back and they went on to win another state championship for Louie and Riverside High School. I do not think he could get away that in today’s legal climate.
Humor aside, you have to give Louie credit for what he accomplished. He took kids at a predominantly white, economically entitled school and was successful. He then went to predominantly black, economically depressed school and was successful. Louie even took a girls’ team that had not won in over a decade and took them to the playoffs. Why? Obviously he knew basketball. Most importantly, he coached kids and never put the game ahead of them, which is a testament to his character.

This is an excerpt from “Winning Was Never the Only Thing” which can be purchased at the following link:


Henry Aaron was born today, eighty-two years ago in Mobile, Alabama. Known forever as the man who broke Babe Ruth’s career homerun record, a record he held for thirty-three years and a record I believe he would still hold had baseball not entered a period of illegal steroid use. He was much more that a homerun hitter or a baseball player for that matter. In addition to his career seven hundred and fifty-five home runs, he finished his career with over three thousand hits, a career .305 batting average, and major league records in runs-batted-in, extra base hits and total bases. He is also very proud of three Gold Gloves earned playing right field. In 1963, Henry came within a “whisker” of winning a Triple Crown. He led the league in homeruns (44), runs-batted-in (130) but finished third in batting average, hitting .323. Henry also became only the third person to hit over thirty homeruns and steal thirty bases.

Henry was much more than a baseball player. He was a great ambassador for his sport, his race and “human-kind.” Quiet to the point of being stoic, Henry was only known as “Hank” or “Hammering Hank” to the media or “Bad Henry” to opposing pitchers. For a man squarely in the limelight, it was illumination that he did not want. He only wanted to play the game well, something he did for nearly a quarter of a century. In 1973 and early 1974 no one other than Jackie Robinson had come under more racial pressure in sports than Henry Aaron as he approached Babe Ruth’s career homerun record. Henry broke it early in 1974.

Henry received a plaque from the US Postal Service for receiving nearly one million pieces of mail in 1973. Unfortunately, much of it was hate mail as a black man neared a white man’s record. There were also verbal taunts and death threats. Outwardly, Henry was a rock, mostly calm and quiet. Internally I’m sure he seethed. Sometimes it is what you don’t say that tells a story. In a 1974 interview, a visibly tired Aaron said, “I can’t recall a day, this year or last, when I did not hear the name Babe Ruth.”

Late in his career, I went to Fulton County Stadium to take in a double header. The woefully bad Braves were playing the woefully bad Mets but I didn’t care. I would see “Hammering Hank” and another Hall of Famer to be, “Say Hey” Willie Mays. Except I didn’t. Both Aaron and Mays got the day off and the only homeruns were hit by pitchers. “Story of my life!” At least Mays got to pinch hit late in the game. Happy Birthday Henry.


I am old school…although I “fully” admit to be having embraced my “hippy” gene in my old age. Despite the discovery of this hippy gene, I am sure my former players and coaching chums will be somewhat surprised to read the view I am going to express. “Act like you’ve been there before” was a mantra I used or have heard used a thousand times that had been expressed by the immortal Bear Bryant. If you are in athletics you understand, “Act like you’ve been there before,” is an old school statement about celebrating…a score, or now, even a first down. Old school was all about anything other than “self-expression.” “There is no ‘ME’ in TEAM!” Whether it is the “Ickey Shuffle,” “Lambeau Leap” or “dabbin’,” I still would like to see them score and just hand the ball to the official but we are in a “hey look at me world,” in a game that should be about having fun. What’s so bad about that?

Cam Newton has re-defined the definition of “having fun” …and the position of quarterback along with the word “polarizing.” Loved by Panther fans and hated by everyone else, I would predict that he could care less about those who use detractions like, “showboat,” “braggart,” and “classless,” which are some of the mild ones I have seen. In fact, by his own admission, he uses the detractors as motivation. With the frame and strength of a linebacker, a strong arm and better than average “pro” speed, he is the “freak of nature personified” and probably does not need any more motivation to be successful. With good looks and a “million dollar” smile, I do admit to a bit of a man crush.

Do I wish Cam would just hand the ball to the official when he scores? Once I did, but seeing the faces of the youngsters who have received his game ball “gifts”, I have to agree with his particular brand of “having fun” even when he goes into his Superman pose. I once described a very good high school baseball player as having a “little league” mentality. This description was not a putdown. I was remarking about his ability to “have fun” in the same way as a “wide-eyed” little leaguer despite the pressure to receive a college scholarship or becoming a draft pick. He received both and had a career in the major leagues, both as a player and as a coach. I see Cam the same way, as in playing as a youth league player. There seems to be a “child-like” wonderment along with the “million dollar” smile. Yeah, he makes a boat load of money playing a child’s game but I would bet “his” money that money is not his primary motivation.

I try to live by, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” or at least keep my mouth shut and only “sin” in my mind. With many of our sports idols and “role models” I find myself asking, “What were you thinking” when it comes to some of their “off of the field” activities. As Johnny Manziel is finding out, Social Media is not your friend when you, yourself, are your own worst enemy. When one Google’s Cam Newton, there is very little “smut” to dig up. No arrests, no drugs, no spousal or girlfriend abuse. Yeah Cam had the wreck with many assuming incorrectly it was drug or alcohol related, and there is an “out of wedlock” child that he recognizes and takes responsibility for despite the lack of wedding band on his hand. He brought some baggage with him from Auburn, but was it his fault or the fault of an overly involved father or the climate that is college football? Not as tame as Tim Tebow but a far cry from Johnny Manziel. More importantly is his foundation for disadvantaged kids and his many activities giving back to the Charlotte and Atlanta communities. Not only does he provide money but he also invests his time. Gee, I hope he is a good guy…did I forget the “Santa Cam’s Surprise Sleigh?”

Professional athletes have the opportunity to do much good and it is heartwarming for a retired teacher and coach to see a young man who GETS IT and DOES IT. Johnny maybe you should go talk to Cam about what you might do with your time. Is Cam perfect? No way! Most twenty-six-year-old men will have skeletons in their closet that, in twenty or thirty years from now, they will wish weren’t there. I am sure Cam will be no different…than I was.

Viewing this year’s Super Bowl will be interesting and a win-win for me regardless of the outcome. I will pull for the local Panthers and their brash young quarterback but can’t help but pull for “old school” Peyton Manning and hope he gets to ride off into the sunset with a second ring. I will be disappointed whichever team comes up short and I guess I will be pulling for both offenses.

When I watch Cam Newton “having fun” I think of a brash pitcher from the 1930’s who was once quoted to have said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.” Dizzy Dean had predicted that he and his brother would combine to win forty-five games in 1934. He was wrong…they won forty-nine. Win or lose on Super Bowl Sunday, Cam ain’t braggin’…but I guess we will have to wait and see how the game plays out to see if he is dabbin’.

Don Miller has written and self-published three books that may be purchased through or downloaded on any device with a Kindle app.

Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING by Don Miller #1.99 on #Kindle

“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle

“Baby Boomer History” in Don Miller’s PATHWAYS $3.49 on Kindle


Too many years of getting up early at early thirty I guess. I am standing in front of my western facing kitchen sink window admiring the full moon as I prepare my morning coffee. It is cold and crisp with not even a whisper of a breeze. “La Luna Llena” seems so close that I might be able to reach up and touch it and I have no clue as to why I think of it in Spanish. The moon light is causing the snow that still lays on the ground to glow brightly and seems to brighten my backyard forest, illuminating it in an eerie light.

I normally don’t have to set an alarm to wake up by five o’clock despite having no place special to be and an icy driveway that would prevent me from going out anyway. This morning my rambling “dream thoughts” awoke me at four thirty along with a puppy dog wanting to go outside. It is mornings like this that I am glad my “dream puppy” awoke me. Most mornings in a time gone by I would get up at four-thirty so I could run or walk before school. This habit has been hard to break. I always knew that if I waited, my labors would not get done and I really didn’t want to feel that elephant sitting on my chest again that I associate with an earlier heart attack. As scary as the outside darkness could be, even with my “miner’s lamp” style flash light, I loved running, probably more so walking, on mornings like this…even with the twenty degree temperatures.

The light cast from the full moon was so bright that most of the time I really didn’t need to use a flashlight. I would climb up the hill on Airline Road and crossover Highway 11 to the drive leading into Lookup Lodge. It was as if the moon was following me, always right over my left shoulder until it disappeared behind the small mountains to the west. Above me, and to the east, Orion still hunted despite the pre-dawn glow of the still unrisen sun. As I chugged, wheezing and gasping, out of what I called the hole and climbed the asphalt path up toward the lake, I always knew that both the moon and Orion would be waiting for me as soon as I topped the next hill and found my way to the eastern side of the lake. I also knew that I would pause, stop timing my run, and admire the scene of the setting full moon over the lake.

It is still too icy for me to get out this morning and with an attack of sciatica trying to hang on, I will resist my urge to do so. I think I am going set my alarm for four-thirty tomorrow, just in case. I think there will be enough light from an almost full moon left to make it worth it. If not, it will still be worth it.


I read that the Buffalo Bills have hired a new assistant coach. Ordinarily news like this would not find its way out of the city of Buffalo but today it is nationally news worthy. And why would that be? Their new, full-time, specialty teams, quality control coach is a female and the first of her kind. Kathryn Smith is the first full-time NFL assistant coach. This comes on the heels of Jill Welter’s internship as she served as an Arizona Cardinal linebacker coach during the summer. Back in April of 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female NFL official. I guess these would be major steps in women’s rights. It doesn’t seem that long ago women newscasters were arguing with the league for access to the side lines and, GASP, the locker room. My guess is, once the furor and the abusive and stereotypical comments die down, they will be successful in this bastion of testosterone. I do find it interesting many men still believe that “A woman’s place….”

I have been involved with many firsts when relates to Women’s Rights. I taught for the first female principal in Greenville County, South Carolina, coached the first female to be allowed to play high school soccer and the first coed to play football at the varsity level. I was looking for none of these firsts and had the media not made an issue of it I would not have known. Title IX now that’s another story.

I wrote the story “Liberation” for the book FLOPPY PARTS and with the news of the day decided to dust it off. I hope you enjoy.

Even though Charlotte, NC was close by, we were sheltered from the rapidly changing outside world. It was a long twenty miles to the Queen City on a two-lane blacktop and, by the way we grew up, possibly a decade in time removed. We had gone through the duck and cover drills that assured us that any textbook would protect us from a nuclear attack provided we took all sharp objects from our pockets. We were raised to be stoic and to be seen and not heard. In some ways we were raised to be “un-included.” Words like duty, reverence and respect were a part of our vocabularies. We still believed in the “American Exceptionalism” of the post-World War Two United States despite the warts we tended to ignore. We were decidedly Republican and my grandmother openly worried more about having a Roman Catholic in the White House than a democrat.

Still, being typically male, I was more aware of my floppy parts than world affairs, and, beginning in the late Sixties, they both got tied in knots.
Even though any available female was fair game and a target for our raging hormones, we had been taught to respect women. It was okay to pursue, but you didn’t lay a hand on a woman. You gave up your seat to women and you opened doors for women. As males, we did this not because we viewed women as weaker but as a sign of respect, the same way we were taught to say “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Ma’am.” Most importantly No Meant No and not maybe. It was easier in those waning days of the Sixties because the girls had been taught the same way… and they didn’t have The Pill. I admit I may be looking through “rose-colored” glasses because I had been surrounded by such STRONG female role models. I believe with all my heart that women who grew up in rural settings during the depression and World War Two were taught to be stronger than their urban counter parts. I remember asking my grandmother to describe the changes she experienced during the Great Depression. She laughed and said, “We were farming on the lien and it was so hard already we never noticed.” That would be that she was out in the fields with my grandfather doing hard “man’s work.”

Regardless of my beliefs, all of them began to change as I welcomed the new decade and my address changed to Newberry. There were many movements spawned by the period. Native American Rights, Gay Rights and environmentalism were a few that joined Civil Rights during the “Age of Love”. Also, there was my favorite – Women’s Rights. There was one positive about the Women’s Liberation Movement – bra burning. Whether they were wearing a bra or not, women deserved to have the same rights as men despite the chauvinist argument “I don’t know why they want to climb down off of their pedestals?” After watching MAD MEN I wonder how high that pedestal actually was and who really had the power. I am sure this portrayal was “exactly” the way it was in the Sixties.
Liberation was a battle ground where if you picked sides you were either labeled a eunuch, if you agreed with the cause, or a chauvinist pig if you didn’t. Most of the Newberry coeds were southern gals (Is my chauvinism showing?) and had grown up under the same Biblical tenants as mine. The “times they were ah changing” and it wasn’t unusual to hear discussions about “Who should pay for the cost of birth control?” or “Who should make the decision about getting an abortion?” Fifty years later I still avoid expressing opinions on those questions because to do so would be to spoil for a fight.

Women’s Lib finally tied me in knots in the early Seventies. I remember walking up to the campus library door and seeing the reflection of a coed approaching me from behind in the door’s polished glass. Her reflection was dressed in bell bottoms and a pea coat, fashion staples of the period for those individuals who took political positions somewhere left of center. I also had time to notice her really short dark hair and the narrow, hawkish shape of her face. Nevertheless, I paused and opened the door for her. Smiling, I nodded my head and then got my ears pinned back. With a face that truly had turned hawkish she spat, “What are you asking me to do? Inviting me into to your male-dominated world? Baby Dicked Chauvinist Pig!” If you are waiting for my snappy comeback, hell may freeze over first. I still don’t have one. I should add, she still managed to enter the library ahead of me through the still-opened door but then so did the next fifteen people as I stood with jaw “slack and agape.” Baby dicked? Where did that come from?

Despite wearing khakis, oxford cloth and penny loafers during most of my adult life, I find myself embracing my “Old Hippy” side with flip flops, blue jeans and tee shirts to accommodate my move to the center left of politics as I have retired. Hawaiian shirts are a far cry from bells and pea coats but I wear them proudly. I believe in equality above all else. Equal rights, whether racial, gender, sexual, religious or economic, should be our goal as a country or as a people of that country. Women should have the same opportunities to succeed or to fail as men and it should be for the same pay. I was again sheltered when I chose teaching as my vocation. Teaching opportunities and pay were always equal and, as far as pay was concerned…Sorry, wrong movement. Now, I don’t know about upward mobility into administration but I do know that if I were ranking principals, women would take the top two positions as the best of the many I have had. The best one asked me during my interview in 1974 if I would have a problem working for a woman. She kind of leaned in as if she were going to tell me a dirty joke when she asked me. I thought, to myself, “I want this job so badly I would work for an orangutan.” To her I simply answered, “No problems whatsoever, I love women. My mother was a woman.”

I think there might have been a price for the equality so deserved by women. I read more about the rise of attacks against women or spousal abuse and see that doors are not opened and seats not given up nearly as often as they used to be even here in this hotbed of Southern chivalry. I guess I should add despite a little hawk-faced witch from 1970. Could that be the price that women pay? Maybe they did knock themselves off of their pedestal.

During the late Seventies, athletics were equalized due to Title IX legislation…except it wasn’t, at least in the school district in which I toiled. Rather than add resources to girl’s athletics, resources were taken away from men’s athletics which left a bitter taste in most male coaches’ mouths. I remember being told that, as a baseball coach, half of any money raised by my baseball team could be spent by the softball team whether they participated in the fund raiser or not. Luckily I had great relationships with my softball coaches and this never happened. Everyone didn’t have those great relationships that I fostered with malice and forethought.

While sitting quietly in a graduate course that included a study of the distribution of monies for athletics, a young female coach commented that it did not matter. “God Football” gets it all and until they fire all of the football coaches, girls would get nothing. At a break I could not help myself and strolled over to advise her that, while her feelings might be warranted, expressing them in an open forum might not be the best idea, especially if she were looking for a job. I also pointed out that football paid the bills and probably was what allowed her to have a job. She said something about having to “audition instead of interview” and that she was not “giving up the cause” just to get a job and that “maybe I should wait until my advice was asked for.” Her bell bottoms and pea coat were showing and no good deed goes unpunished. Several months later as we were looking for a girls’ softball coach, I received a call from my principal informing me that he was sending a prospective coach to be interviewed. Yeah, it was her and the look on her face was priceless. No, she didn’t get the job. Instead, we hired a softball coach who was also an offensive line coach. To her credit, she didn’t back down either, but then I am sure she knew she was doomed from the start. Does this make me a chauvinist? I don’t think so… but I do admit to being a realist.

If you enjoyed this story you may download it and other “STUPID MAN TRICKS” in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle

SANDLOT BASEBALL: A story about Indian Land from PATHWAYS

I have spent a large portion of my life sitting on a tractor, riding mower or John Deere Gator doing nothing more than traveling in circles. Cutting fields or dragging infields for untold hours, always ending up where I started. Miles and miles going absolutely nowhere. Occasionally, I did try to cut in different directions so that I might unwind myself. My last field, a middle school field, in Greenville County, South Carolina, was a palace compared to any of the fields that I played on in high school. It was a different time on a different planet, it would seem. My statement doesn’t mean that I didn’t coach on some pretty poor fields.

Our field was no different from any of the other fields that we played on in that it was terrible. Like many other fields, it was built as an afterthought. It was, however, terrible in different ways than the other terrible fields. Every field has its own…ah…ambience for lack of a better word. Ours was a football field adjusted to accommodate a baseball field. The backstop was constructed from creosoted “re-purposed” telephone poles and chicken wire. A skinned infield was located off of one end meaning the right field fence would have been about two hundred and fifty feet from home plate…if there had been a fence. Instead of a fence we had a steep drop off that was studded with pine trees. The left field line went on forever following the general path of the football sidelines until it ended with a fence. While much deeper, at least there were no light standards to navigate in left although there were goal post to worry about. In right you had to worry about light standards and goal posts. David Jowers, a big, blond-headed lefty, ripped a line drive so hard that when it hit a light standard he was almost a “3 unassisted” at first base from the rebound. After striking the standard it one-hopped back to the first baseman.

I found myself “camped out” in right field my sophomore year as the starter. Proud to start, normally right is where you put your worst fielder if you are playing on a little league team. Thank goodness this wasn’t little league or I might have gotten my feelings hurt. I think I played in right because I was the most expendable. No big loss if I ran into one of the light standards or got tangled up in a goalpost.
My first start was not on our terrible field, however, it was on someone else’s terrible field, Mt. Pisgah I think, and my first start was almost my last. Their field was not a football-baseball combination, it was an afterthought stuck behind the gym which took up a lot of the area of right field along with its high brick staircase that led up to court level. Just behind the infield a hard-packed dirt road ran through right and on into left field. Did I mention the outfield grass had not been cut and mounds of clover pushed up through the dormant Bermuda? To further complicate my field of dreams, the fans brought their lawn chairs and sat in the shade created by the high gymnasium walls and the tall staircase. If there were any ground rules involving fans I was not told them.

Early in the game a ball was hit over my head. I thought I could reach it…back then every ball that was hit I thought I could reach. Doing my best impersonation of Willy Mays at the Polo Grounds, I spun to my right and sprinted to the point I thought the ball was going to land. All I could see in front of me was a sea of fans…well maybe not a sea, more like a small pond of fans. All I could hear when I looked back over my left shoulder for the ball was the SNAP, SNAP, SNAP of lawn chairs being closed as fans vacated the area. No, I did not catch it. I watched the ball pass cleanly between my extended glove and my nose right before I stepped into someone’s green and white lawn chair. At least they didn’t have to cut me out of it.

Late in the game a flare was hit between me and the second baseman. I decided to field it on its first bounce but the ball didn’t bounce. Instead, it died in a clump of clover and my glove passed harmlessly over it. Slamming on brakes I then fell down, got up, overran the ball again before the “third time being the charm” came into play. All I could do was hang my head. When we finally got them out Coach Gunter met me at the bench and asked “Do you need to take a stick with you?” “Sir?” “So you will have something to hit it with!” Yeah, maybe. Later a popup between the second basemen and myself would turn into a double as I waited for it to come down…AFTER IT BOUNCED! The ball hit the hard-packed dirt road. Momma, I want to go home!

Thirty plus years later I would find myself standing at home plate behind Lockhart High School thinking about the fields that I had played on and wondering if I had just stepped through a time portal. In the spring, their outdoor athletic facility was a football field that doubled as a baseball field. In dead centerfield was a press box with bleachers that extended into left and right fields. Both sets of goal posts were in play as were several light posts that ran behind the bleachers. The right field foul line actually split the goal post which made them in play. The infield was placed off of what would have been the actual football playing field but dimensions were strange. Somewhere near four hundred feet down the left field line, nearer to five hundred down the right and a mere two hundred fifty feet to dead center if you hit a ball over the press box. What really bothered me was the water spigot with the bucket turned over it in center field and the hole filled with tires beyond the right field goal post. The coach had used more chalk to lay out the out of play areas than he had used to line the field. During the longest ground rules meeting in the annals of baseball, I was told that if a ball rolled into the hole filled with tires it was a ground rule double. I was more concerned with what happened if my right fielder fell into it. This game was a tort liability waiting to happen. I decided the best thing for me to do was to put the outfielder I could most afford to lose in right field…just like my coach had done thirty-plus years before.