Dec 27 2017
At The Players’ Tribune, we do many features that dive deep into the psyche of competing in athletics at the highest level. This is not one of those features.
- When I was a kid I had a pet raccoon. I really liked raccoons — still do. I know an inordinate amount about raccoons actually. People fuss about raccoons all the time, but I’ve never had a problem with them. At my place in Key West, raccoons will show up sometimes and I’m always happy when they do. I named my pet raccoon after one of my favorite book characters, Bilbo Baggins. We got Bilbo when I was pretty young. I grew up out in the country in Wyoming, and there was a guy near us who had a baby raccoon he wanted to get rid of, so my family took it in. I will say Bilbo did a fabulous job as a house pet. Got along great with the dog, got along great with the cats and he usually got along with the people too. The one thing about Bilbo is that he loved pots and pans. Pots and pans were his favorite thing. Raccoons are drawn to shiny objects. Bilbo could climb really well — raccoons look cumbersome but they can get wherever they want — and he used to go into our kitchen and sneak into the cupboard. He could get the door open because raccoon hands are similar to human hands and their feet are similar to human feet. There’s a lot of dexterity. Really smart animals. So anyway Bilbo would get on the counter and I’d see him staring at those pots and pans, just captivated by their shininess. Then he’d start knocking them around, interested in the way they clanged together.
Every now and then the house would be quiet and suddenly there’d be a crash! And there Bilbo would be in the kitchen, hanging off the cupboard above the sink, just knocking the pans out so he could play with them. Interestingly, he didn’t care for glass at all. Never messed with the cups or the plates. The only way those would break was if they were in the way of a shiny pan. Great pet. He was so smart, even knew his name and would come whenever he was called. But eventually he hit a point when he started to reach adulthood and got more temperamental. He slowly became kind of feisty and would snap at us a little bit. It wasn’t his fault. Bottom line: I just think raccoons, like some humans, reach a point when they’re ready to grow up. One night, Bilbo got particularly feisty, so my dad and I drove him out to woods. Once we found a good spot, we stopped and I put him on the ground and took his collar off. He kind of ambled about, taking in the new surroundings. I preface this next part by saying I do think humans and animals share an unspoken understanding, to some extent. That’s why it’s so easy to bond with pets. So this is how I remember saying goodbye to Bilbo: He wandered 10 yards away or so from the truck, and then he turned and looked at us and kind of had this expression like, It was nice knowing ya. It was this moment where like, both I knew and he knew that we’d had some good times, but this was it. It was onward and upward for both of us.
- Hawaii is awfully hard to beat as a vacation destination. Firstly, you’re across the ocean but there’s no border stuff or currency confusion, which gives it a big leg up. Beyond that, I’ve always thought Hawaii is more beautiful than advertised, more grand than advertised and more laid back than advertised. It definitely surpasses the hype, and there are not many places that do that. I mean, there’s visiting Disneyland for the first time as a kid, which is just an incredible experience that’s better than the build up — but that’s only if you can avoid the lines.
- In my opinion the best sports movies are about baseball and boxing. I think the pacing of those sports just lends itself better to cinematic storytelling because there are so many natural pauses. You can’t really talk about great sports movies, though, without mentioning Talladega Nights, that Ricky Bobby one. That movie is off-the-charts funny — and after getting to know some NASCAR guys over the years, I realize that it isn’t just a straight comedy. It’s part documentary. I know people who do stuff like name one of their kids Walker and the other Texas Ranger. If you go to any elementary school classroom in Texas, some kids in there are going to be named either Austin, Dallas or Houston. That’s basically the same thing. I wouldn’t do that, or at least I’d try to get more creative with it. Name your kid Amarillo or Carrizo Springs. You know what, I’m going to move back to Texas, have another kid and name him Fort Stockton.
- I’m a thin-crust pizza guy. I respect people who like thick crust, but in my view it’s mostly bread. I like a lot of cheese topped with Canadian bacon, black olives and mushrooms.
- Before I ever got into coaching, I got my law degree at Pepperdine. I think the legal profession is getting somewhat corrupted. When it comes to lawyers, I think it’s kind of a Catch-22. On one hand, there’s so much process, procedure and mess caused by the legal profession. But on the other hand, the only way to sort through all that process, procedure and mess is through the legal profession. That’s why I think lawyers are both very destructive and very necessary. It’s like if you have guys coming after you with a sword, well, you better have a sword too. It’s a shame though. We definitely don’t observe the Constitution like we once did. Now we treat it as more of a suggestion — but that’s a whole other conversation.