My Mom would have turned 72 this week. Its really hard to believe I haven’t talked to her in over four years, where as the years go by its sure harder to deal with her passing.

Its amazing how Joan Boulineaux Nabors  has touched my life since then– whether its been in dealing with my kids, my growing business or just the simple things passed on to me from her. I can hear Mom’s voice giving me advice or calming me down from time to time. She passed on so much to me and those around her, but her greatest gift might be her Hugs. Some people aren’t comfortable with Hugs and that’s OK, but as my friends will attest, I won’t hesitate to dish them out and I thank Mom for the hug gene. She taught me the importance of showing those around you how much you care about em.

Mom would have loved a recent story on Columbus,Ohio sportscaster Dom Tiberi.  He recently lost his daughter in a horrendous car crash, and upon his return to workreceived a hug from every member of the Ohio State team  following its recent win over Wisconsin—see video below:  

Hugs are important to me for many reasons and I miss hugging my Mom. Don’t ever take hugging your Mom for granted—just one of my thoughts in this week’s Group Hug around the Naborhood.

MADDON MAGIC: Its funny to me how people resist change—-Rays skipper Joe Maddon is the perfect example of the resistance. For years, the Tampa Bay media didn’t understand his shifts, his different lineups and his contrarian off the field motivations but year after year Joe Magic gets the last laugh. Its funny how the Rays skipper hasn’t wavered but now everybody accepts all the methods to his baseball madness.

I have never covered a more unique figure in sports where Maddon is the ultimate player’s coach but at the same time has his player’s ultimate respect—a rare combo. From his unusual pets in the clubhouse to his creative travel themes, Maddon Magic always seems to work in the end despite all the skepticism. The Rays are once again thriving in the playoffs coming off an unprecedented three straight elimination games against three different opponents—all on the road!

This after the countless local and national critics were all over this team back in May and June for a number of issues that proved to be futile. When will they learn?? For a Rays history lesson, let’s go back to earlier in the season where the buzzards were circling around Maddon for his optimism on more than a few issues:

*Bullpen isn’t good enough?? Sure the Rays pen struggled early as the likes of Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta struggled, but Maddon was confident it would turn around and it did.  Even during the hard times, he called his guys the best in the game. The pen has been huge down the stretch run of this season, highlighted by its big win in Cleveland where all of the above contributed.

*Loney can’t do it all year? Its amazing to me how the Rays continue to acquire journeyman off the scrap heap and  transform them into crucial clutch contributors. First baseman James Loney was hot early in the year but countless critics said he couldn’t maintain it—-guess what??- he finished the year batting 299, his highest average in seven season and has been stellar with the glove work. A definite upgrade over another former journeyman turned big time player in Carlos Pena.

*No way Jose??: Maddon was often criticized for his loyalty to veteran catcher Jose Molina for his lack of offensive punch and his sometime not so stellar defense. I wish I had a dime for every crack about his catcher’s appearance too. The end result was favorable though as ask any of the Rays talented pitchers how much of a difference maker Molina has been calling games? One of the many testimonials came in the Wildcard game where Alex Cobb raved about Molina calming him down multiple times versus the Indians and getting him thorough a tough road environment. Molina does the little things that often go unnoticed except by his manager.

In Maddon I trust— where back in early September he told the media when his team was 9 1/2 back that the Rays would see Boston again and most thought he was crazy. Once again, he was right—see you in Boston!

MIGHTY MARIANO: I’ve never liked the Yankees. Never a big fan of George Steinbrenner and couldn’t stand Reggie Jackson when he played ,but its hard not to appreciate the wonderful career of Mariano Rivera. What an Outstanding and emotional gesture by Yankees skipper Joe Giraldi having Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter take him out of his last game–special stuff.

Beyond the fact that he is the undisputed top reliever in Major League Baseball History, Mariano is a Hall of Fame person as well. I’ve read countless articles of things he’s done for people behind the scenes, has never had a problem off the field, is a great family man and have you ever heard anybody say anything bad about him? ever?

Sports Illustrated had a great profile of Rivera recently where several turned in their favorite  stories. My favorite was from Jeter who remembered when he and Mariano were sent down to the minors in the 1995 season after struggling in their first taste of big league ball. “Mo was devastated. Absolutely devastated. he thought it was his fault we got sent down.” Jeter said. “Everybody wants to think, Oh, Mo he’s so calm….Oh, O.K. We were damn near in tears? That was the first time we got demoted. And you never know when you’re going to get another chance.”

That should give every player hope right? So long to my favorite Yankee—you will be missed by everybody but Major League hitters.

RICHT > KIFFIN: College football is only a quarter old, but we’ve already seen an interesting dynamic on the coaching front . How about the rebirth of a coaching heavyweight coupled by the swan song of a coach who for years has deservingly held the title as the sport’s biggest lightweight.

First let’s talk Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt who to me is everything right about college football. It surely wasn’t his intention but watching him tear up after hugging (yes hugging) his quarterback Aaron Murray after an emotional game against LSU—probably did more for his recruiting efforts than anything else. Parents saw first hand how much the Georgia coach truly cares about his players. I remember talking to Oklahoma State Head coach Mike Gundy a few years ago about how his “I’m a man, I’m 40,” rant may have been blown up in the media, but it was a boon for recruiting as parents saw how he stuck up for his players. Richt didn’t rant, he was human for a few seconds and that should touch us all.

Georgia fans have always been tough on Richt, as one Bulldog caller recently received a lot of attention after Georgia’s loss to Clemson earlier this year as he cried on a sports talk radio show calling for the removal of Richt? How stupid does he feel now—the Dawgs and its coach have reeled off back to back SEC wins over South Carolina and LSU and are still very much alive for an SEC and National Championship. Richt is 121-41 in Athens and has done everything short of winning it all—appreciate him while you have him Georgia.

While Mark Richt shows us what is right with coaching and college football, Lane Kiffin has shown us… well… nothing despite being given multiple at bats. The most overrated coach in the history of college football finally gets what he has had coming for years—he was FIRED. Besides having a famous last name, this nomad of nepotism has brought nothing to the table despite having had three marquee jobs before he has even turned 39.

The sad thing in Oakland, Tennessee and at USC–what exactly was Kiffin’s signature accomplishment?? No conference titles, no memorable victories—just a lot of smug and unjustified trash talk to other coaches who have actually done a few things (see Meyer, Urban). It will be interesting to see what happens to Lame Kitten—-time for him to do something he hasn’t done, how about pay some dues before getting rewarded with jobs he never deserved. Hopefully USC wiped the smug off of his face.

TOOTH FAIRY TALLY: I’ve always wondered if I’m giving the Tooth Fairy her due and finally I have a barometer. According to a survey by Visa, the average tooth fairy gift amount is 3.70. That’s a 23% increase from last year and a 42&% jump from 2011. Glad the economy hasn’t slowed down the loose tooth business where its now clear we have surveys on everything!

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT….Continuing my Joe Maddon love fest, the Bucs need to hire the Head Ray to consult its head coach on people skills. I thought and have always maintained Greg Schiano was a great hire but his mishandling of Josh Freeman who isn’t exactly Prince Charming himself,  has cost his Buccos a promising season and in the end most likely will cost Schiano his job.

Freeman is a flake and needs to get a new agent as he could have handled his demotion with class and probably wound up somewhere else in due time, but now who would want this headache? Finally Josh is “Free-ed” but not after a drug scandal which you know leaves every Buccaneer player not trusting anyone in that building. Schiano you’re not in Rutgers anymore, where its much easier to be the big bully and control every move. This the NFL where you are dealing with grown men—its time for you to treat them like one and in the process act like one yourself.

EXTRA POINT: How about more Joe Maddon who is a beat writer’s dream–the best on the Rays’ beat, the Tampa Bay TimesMarc Topkin passed on this interesting info. Here’s a sample of words the Rays skipper has used in his press conferences this year; “ball-peened, brachycardia,epiphanic, over-boogie, poisontry, and preppyism.” Keep em coming Joe–I’m guessing Casey Stengel couldn’t pronounce any of those……






3 Responses

  1. I try to read your blog whenever I see it — but nothing will get my attention more quickly than a reference to your mom! I miss her hugs, her humor and her down to earth advice about anything and everything! I have a photo of both of us together celebrating her birthday several years ago. It is one of my most treasured items, that and the very first gift I received from her; a very small (2 x 3″ or so) wooden carved music box. Teddy bear the figure on top and it plays “It’s a Small World”. It resides on the top of my dresser..

    So glad you are doing well, Mike. I enjoy reading about your girls (all three of them). Josh and Meredith are expecting their first child in mid-January (a boy, to be named John Paul in memory of Josh’s dad)..

    Josh tells me he heard you on a radio sports show on his way to work a few weeks ago. Can’t remember whose show it was, something on Sirius, but you were talking NFL.

    1. Thanks Terrie,

      Appreciate all the words about Mom, I find it harder to deal with as the kids get older knowing how much she is missing but appreciate all the years I had with her.

      I’m really happy for you and Josh—exciting news. I actually still have the postit you gave me with his email address on it–, but it was sent back—-can you give me an updated email address? I just sent him an email.

      You are a special lady to all of us and I miss talking with you—hopefully we can get together sometime soon.

      Will never forget all the fed ex shipments way back when!!

      Great to hear from you,

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