Category Archives: Writes

Sports Talk Radio Wisdom for Troubled Times

I heard two things of infinite wisdom over the past month on sports talk radio. I know many people think sports are trivial and just a side gig to life. I’m not one of those people although I do now try to keep sports in perspective. In other words, sports have always been an integral part of my life but not my life. 

The first piece of wisdom came from Sports Radio 810 host Soren Petro in a discussion about when Major League Baseball would be able to start and how upset people are becoming over the possibility of the 2020 season not happening at all. He said something that has stuck in my head and is about as truthful a description of America 2020 as I’ve heard. To paraphrase, he said,

“Americans believe that what’s inside their own head is the way things have to be.”

The second nugget of wisdom was heard on 1350 KMAN’s afternoon sports talk show, The Game. It came during a discussion of basketball recruiting at Kansas State University. The hosts, John Kurtz, former Clay Center Tiger noseguard Mitch Fortner, and Mason Voth were discussing the recruiting rumor mill. John Kurtz pointed out the distinction that has to be made between what’s fact and what’s BS. His nugget of wisdom is a great piece of wisdom for our times,

“Don’t place stock in Uncle Bob’s Facebook posts.”

There you have it, a couple shots of sports wisdom to get you through the COVID-19 crisis.

First, pay attention to reality whether you like it or right. Reality is not looking for your personal seal of approval. Reality doesn’t give a rat’s ass what on individual thinks. Reality is reality. It’s right there, see it and react accordingly.

Second, hone your BS meter. Take a few minutes to let the information you find on television, radio, and social media sink in and be processed through your brian’s logic filter. Then dig a little deeper before you file the information as reality or pass it along. Uncle Bob on Facebook is rarely a credible source of information (unless he’s posting about how awesome my Traeger skills are).

Stay safe. Be kind. Learn something new.

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A COVID-19 Exercise: What Next?

As we transition from the first phase of COVID-19 into what comes next, I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. No, I don’t mean recovery-wise, I mean what do we do next to make sure we are prepared when the next pandemic threat knocks at our nation’s door?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do some reading and studying and maybe even ask for your opinions on the subject of “what’s next?” One thing that is 100%, minted in gold, true is we CANNOT respond to the next pandemic disease threat like we responded to this one. As a nation, we got caught with our pants down. We failed to realize the looming threat. We failed to imagine it could happen to us. We failed to respond rapidly and with intent and the virus spread like a wildfire.

We tried to throw cow poo to cover over the problem while telling everyone it was chocolate. The best nation on the planet with the finest people, a great health system, and all the data we needed fell flat on its face. It will take years to recover from the loss in life, health, security, economics, and trust in our elected officials. Years.

The blame falls on everyone. We should have done better. Period.

We can do better. We need to do better. We should demand better from our leaders. We have the plans, the data, the institutions. What we lack is a cooperative system that has a green light to track, analyze, and respond to international, national, state, county, city, and neighborhood threats. This type of system has been bouncing around in my head for weeks. Sound impossible? Maybe. But think about a system you rely on daily and that you really don’t give a second thought to its complexity.

The weather report.

Meteorology relies on data collection, analysis, and modeling to predict what will likely occur in an hour, a day, a week, months, etc. Maybe the weatherman gets a rain shower wrong every now and then but they rarely miss the big threats, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

In public health and infectious disease, we have data, we have analytical tools, and we have computer models. What we need is to make the infectious disease reporting system and response as rapid and as commonplace as our weather service.

I envision a system that can give officials rapid, accurate, point-specific information to help them make decisions about how to best implement responses, resources, and social contact initiatives.

Can we do it? Absolutely!

As they said on the Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology.”

It’s a question of do we, as a nation, have the resolve to do it.

Lives are at stake. We cannot accept the loss of 50,000+ Americans to a pandemic again. Never, under any circumstance or political environment or world events.

We need better leadership. We need to use our resources. We need to understand and react.

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again! ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men.

AWIPS-3-head-workstation

 

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Paul Harvey Wisdom

“Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.” – Paul Harvey.

I miss Paul Harvey. I didn’t always agree with everything he said but I always learned from his common-sense approach in studying our country and our world. This short quote is one that is peppered throughout his 2003 Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. The links to his Landon Lecture are below. It’s worth a few minutes to watch it or to read it.

It is a quote that always pops to mind in times of national unrest. We are a great nation when we are a disciplined nation. We are not a great nation when we become haphazard, unfocused, and selfish.

Where we go as a nation in 2020 depends on our collective individual ideals and actions. The question becomes a matter of discipline and sacrifice so we can ensure the future of our republic.

Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Click here for a transcript of the lecture.

 

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A COVID-19 Exercise: Theoretical effect on local hospitals

Note: This post is the product of my brain working quite a bit on the COVID-19 pandemic issue. It is not meant as any kind of official public health or medical advice. I’m a molecular microbiologist. I’m not a doctor or public health official. There are people A LOT smarter than me supplying official information. There are also many buffoons spewing idiocies out there. In difficult times, knowledge is power. Do the work. Find the truth. Ignore the myths. The most valuable tool we have right now is the same powerful tool we have at our disposal every single day of our lives. Our brain.

On 4-9-2020, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), through their excellent COVID-19 Resource Center web page, reported 1106 confirmed COVID-19 positives with 263 requiring hospitalization (a 23.8% rate). These numbers got me thinking about how my small Kansas town and our excellent local hospital might be affected by the coronavirus. 

I did some calculations on what might be in store for our local medical resources if the coronavirus becomes community transferred in our fair city. Information on our local hospital’s website says they are a 25-bed facility. In an emergency, I imagine they can swing another 5-10 beds but I don’t know for sure.

Doubling times are important in a contagious infection scenario. They mean it takes X number of days for the number of infected individuals to be doubled. The latest I heard last week was that COVID-19 was running at a doubling time of four days, so I included that in the table as well as an eight-day doubling timeline. The whole goal of social distancing and flattening the curve strategies are to extend the doubling time as far as possible. By stretching out the timeline of infections, as you can see in the table, a community can keep the number of infections and patients needing medical services within the limitations of the local medical system.

The public health issues rise exponentially once the illnesses overburden the system. It is vital to stay under these critical numbers and to stay within the limitations of our medical systems. As you can see in the table below, for our community hospital, in theory, the key period will be how fast we go from around 50 total positives (~10 patients hospitalized) to 250 positives (~50 patients hospitalized). If we don’t alter the doubling time of 4 days, our medical system will go from adequate to overwhelmed in about ten days. Ten days!

Bottom line. Stay home. Do what the local and state authorities advise. Be safe. Be kind. Help each other out.

# of COVID-19 Positive Cases Local Hospitalization (at a 20% rate) Days @ Doubling Time = 4 days Days @ Doubling Time = 8 days
1 <=1 0 0
2 <=1 4 8
4 1 8 16
8 1.6 12 24
16 3.2 16 32
32 6.4 20 40
64 12.8 24 48
128 25.6 28 56
256 51.2 32 64
512 102.4 36 72
1024 204.8 40 80
2048 409.6 44 88
4096 819.2 48 96
8192 1638.4 52 104
16384 3276.8 56 112

Here are a few things I’ve posted elsewhere about COVD-19:

Novel Coronavirus 2019: Scientist Roundtable

April 6, 2020 Facebook post about antivirals.

What are antivirals? They’re medications that reduce the virus making more of itself. They do their job in a variety of ways from affecting the genes being made into functional proteins to the proteins not being able to be put together properly to make new virus. They don’t completely kill the virus. They are effective because they can reduce symptoms or shorten the length of infection.

What antiviral drugs aren’t are miracle cures. You don’t inject an antiviral and expect to be protected or to stand up and walk out of ICU in a few hours. They may have serious side effects that may cause more harm than health so the balance has to be weighed between the doctor and the patient. That’s why antivirals and vaccines and all other drugs undergo extensive testing to give the doctor and patient the best information to make the best decisions.

Antiviral drugs are important in new outbreaks. In pandemics, like we’re in now, reducing and shortening hospital stays is vital. But, we have to remember one of the first tenets of medicine as we move to use existing antivirals in novel scenarios, “First, do no harm”.

The best way to stop pandemics? Prevent pandemics. That, my friends, is something I’ve been thinking a lot about and will write about soon. It’s time to elevate infectious disease defense to the level of national defense.

Have a good day! Stay safe. Be nice. Help each other out.

March 31, 2020 Facebook post on Social Distancing

Unacast has some interesting data tools they use to track movement by GPS. Below is a link to their Social Distancing Scoreboard.

Yesterday, Dr. Lee Norman of the KDHE talked about the importance of the stay-at-home order. At our current ~35% reduction in Kansan movement, the infection doubling time is around 3.6 days. If we can get to a 45% reduction, the doubling time increases to ~6.5 days. At a 55% reduction, it jumps to almost 10 days.

Why is this so damn important, you ask? Because at 55% reduction & 10 days doubling time, Kansas has ample medical resources to handle it. 45% & 6 days pushes the health systems to their limit. The health system becomes stressed and overloaded at our current 35% reduction or anything below that.

Stay safe, friends! Minimize movement and help each other out, if only with a wave and a smile.

 

NY_Foundling_Hospital_-_Operating_Room_-_circa_1899_-_Byron_Company_-_MNY25924

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Thai-beñero Sauce 2019

A bubba has to eat—and eat well to fuel their body and allow them to perform. Really this goes for any athlete. Good, well-balanced food, water, and at least eight hours of sleep a night is vital to a teenage athlete’s performance and their health. This is one of the reasons why I learned long ago to cook. Today, I’d like to share a kitchen experiment I made recently to add a little flavor and pop to my food, thai-beñero hot sauce.

Last May when I shopped at our local hardware store for the traditional jalepeño peppers plants for my garden, Thai and habeñero peppers were all they had left in their temporary greenhouse. I was a bit disappointed but jumped at the chance to jump into an experimental garden addition for 2019. The weather was weird for gardening and not the best for tomatoes and peppers. Wet, cool, wet, and then even more wet but we survived and even thrived with an abundance of cucumbers that were absolutely delicious. The hot peppers, however, were slow and few and far between. I did harvest enough green peppers, tomatoes, and Thai peppers to make a batch of homemade salsa. The extra kick from the Thai peppers tasted fantastic and made for some excellent salsa that was eaten before it needed to be canned. 

The slow production of the hot peppers disappeared in mid-August as the weather turned hot and dry. By the end of September, the plants were loaded down with both Thai and habeñeros. I had a plan to pickle some and maybe put a few in the freezer for winter stews. Then as October rolled around, the weather went Kansas-haywire and we had a forecast of a whole weekend of sub-freezing overnight temperatures. After work that Thursday, I went out as the thermometer plummeted and picked all the hot peppers on the plants. I felt pretty good about myself saving those perfectly fine and perfectly flame-throwing vegetables. After a week of sitting in a bowl on the counter, though, Mrs. Hays began to send friendly death glares in my direction about the dangerous bowl sitting out in the open. I ignored her as usual. The next week, the peppers began to wrinkle so I decided I had better do something about them.

A flash of brilliance descended upon my mind. A vision from heaven. Inspiration at it’s highest and most powerful. I thought about one of my grandfather’s favorite condiments, Tabasco sauce. I thought, you know they have to make that from a recipe and if they can make such a delicious sauce, why can’t I? I searched the food websites and found a recipe for Homemade Cayenne Pepper Sauce at the Chili Pepper Madness site.

It was pretty easy. It tastes great. It smelled even better simmering on the stove. It’s a winner and well worth purchasing a Thai and a habeñero plant again next year solely for hot pepper sauce purpose.

  • Rush out in a biting north wind and pick peppers before covering them with a tarp.
  • Let them sit on the counter until the other people in your house can’t stand it anymore or else they begin to wilt.
  • Wearing protective nitrile gloves, rough chop the peppers, seeds and all, and place into a pot.
  • Add the garlic, a half cup of white vinegar, and two teaspoons of salt.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the stove and allow it to cool for 30 minutes or so.
  • Pour all the contents of the pot into a blender and blend on high until liquified. Add water slowly until you achieve the consistency you prefer.
  • Strain through a colander into a glass bowl.
  • Transfer to a canning jar or glass container. Label properly because this stuff can be dangerous if not handled properly.
  • Keep refrigerated and use as is, or boil process for long-term storage.
  • Place the solids filtered out in the colander on a piece of aluminum foil and dehydrate overnight. Use these dried solids as a seasoning in your favorite stews, soups, or meat rubs.

That’s it! The result was a sauce with a bite but with an exceptional flavor. I’m happy with it and have already enjoyed it on eggs, pasta dishes, and soups. Plus, I look forward to adding the dried seasoning to a dry rub the next time I smoke a pork loin or shoulder for a little extra kick.

Wow! Take one more look at those beautiful hot peppers.

 

Bon appetite, Bubbas! As you hit the offseason for football and look toward your other sports, remember to keep eating a balanced diet. Your energy and your health affect your performance. Never forget this simple fact. Eat well, drink water, and get 8-10 hours a sleep a night. Learn to appreciate the food you need to grow and develop as an athlete. Your body will thank you.

 

 

 

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Competing: Part Two

“Winning is not a sometime thing: it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do the right thing once in a while; you do things right all the time. Winning is a habit.”  -Vince Lombardi

 

This quote from Coach Vince Lombardi sat at the top of every Clay Center Community High School summer conditioning, winter conditioning, and baseball offseason workout sheet I put into the world. You want to know what sits at the core of my parenting, coaching, working, writing, and life philosophies? It’s pretty much all in that quote (Plus, I’d add “smile and try to be nice” in there somewhere).

If you’re a regular reader of The Coach Hays blog, you might wonder what sort of burr attached itself to Hays’ backside to get him so worked up about competing and winning and losing. I owe you at least that since you’re taking a few minutes of your valuable time to read this.

Here’s the deal. A week or so, I ran into a young man who is going to be a freshman next year. I asked him if he was excited about summer conditioning and being a part of the high school program. He said he was but that he was very nervous. I told him that was okay. It’s good to be nervous because it means you care enough to want to do a good job. He looked at me sideways and provided the classic and wise response of a rising eighth grader, “Whatever…”

I ignored the lack of enthusiasm in his response and continued on to ask how many in his class were going to play. He paused, counted the fingers on one hand and deftly moved to count the fingers on the other. Half expecting either the right shoe or the left to be shed next, he answered, “I think there’s only going to be about six.”

“SIX!” I responded.

He answered in the affirmative, although taking a step away from me slightly shocked at the intensity in my response.

I took a few deep breaths and asked him why so few.

For the record, I can live with just about any excuse for not wanting to play a sport or participate in an activity. Everyone has their own interests, likes, and dislikes. Football, especially, is not for everyone. I’m honestly and truthfully a supporter of kids doing what they enjoy. If there are only six kids who want to do the work and enjoy playing the game the right way, so be it. But this excuse I heard sucked the life out of me.

“They don’t want to lose.”

It made my coaching heart hurt to hear this.

What was left out of the youth sports experience for these kids? Did they not experience or learn the joy of sports lies in the joy of competing? Where is the system did they not learn that failure is part of becoming a “winner”.

I thought of all the things I’d do if I were their coach. I thought of the quote from Vince Lombardi for the first time in several years. I thought of the years coaching and the fun we had competing and preparing. I thought of all those football and baseball games where we went into the contest knowing we always had a chance for success because we prepared the best we could.

Somewhere along the line, did these kids miss playing in such an environment? If so, I don’t know where or when or who. It doesn’t matter. There are no fingers that need to be pointed. All that matters is these situations is that it can be changed in an instant. A coach or a parent or a program director can change the philosophy from a pure win/lose focus to one where the focus in on getting better every day by being challenged every day.

Failure is all part of the process of achieving success. Dream big, fail, regroup, work, and try again. Repeat until you succeed and then dream bigger.

My hope and my expectation are that these dozen or so young athletes will eventually change their mind and continue to participate in football next fall. My advice to them is to give it a try and get past the fear of the unknown that comes with a big life change from middle school to high school.

Coaches, parents, and athletes. It’s up to you to make things better.

Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.

You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do the right thing once in a while; you do things right all the time.

Winning is a habit.

Develop good habits and good things will happen. Keep the focus on improvement, not W’s and L’s. In the end, if you learn just this one thing from sports, you will be a winner…no matter what your won-loss record was.

Hard work is the magic.

 

 

 

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Competing: Part One

Something’s been bugging me lately. On the surface, it’s sports related. Scratch the surface, though, and it seeps into many problematic areas of American life in 2019. Sports, academics, parenting, politics, etc.

Competing.

  • Trying hard things.
  • Challenging yourself and accepting being challenged.
  • Winning.
  • Losing.
  • More important, winning and losing with class and respect for the opponent.

I’m calling this post “Competing: Part One” because I foresee several posts on this subject. I think I have things to say, things to work out, things to question, and things to learn. To kick off this exploratory project of the problem of competing, here is a post I wrote in 2013.

When Everyone Wins, Nobody Wins

There’s a trend in amateur sports which threatens a healthy future and perhaps even their survival as we know them. This disturbing trend is the misconception that competing means winning.

Behind this philosophy, we are eroding the joy in competing. We are smashing the inherent joy of working hard for a goal, by lowering the bar to give everybody the “win”. We continually are diluting the competitive structure to allow the most winners. Let’s hand out a ribbon to everybody, whether they earned it or deserved it. That’s unhealthy.

ribbons

One of my favorite movies is THE INCREDIBLES. One of the best lines in the movie is when the antagonist, Syndrome, tells Mr. Incredible he is creating superpower technology he’ll eventually sell to normal people. Syndrome says, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

Is that where we are going? Are we headed in the direction where only winning matters, so we need to make sure we create a system where everyone wins? That, my friends, is not a system which promotes the values and life lessons intended by sport. Teamwork flies out the door and the disciplined and dedicated approach to self-improvement soon follows. The reward for preparation is severely discounted. Using failure, or the potential of failure, to drive a desire to improve is swept under the rug.

Honestly, most of the true innate joy in sports is in competing. The joy of competing is in the working of one’s tail off to get better day after day in practice. The joy is in the going out on the field to give every last milligram of fight and intensity to compete with purpose, pride, and passion, win or lose. That’s what competing is.

Wins and losses will fall where they may, the competitive effort awards the athlete to a higher degree than any medal or trophy or ribbon. In fact, as much can be learned about oneself from a defeat as from a victory. Three of the most talked about football games in our tenure (even years after the games were played) were against 4A state powerhouse Holton Wildcats. These three games were massive, epic battles, games which felt like two rams rearing back and hammering horns together for four quarters.

These boys, now men, still talk about those games with a gleam in their eye. Do you know the common factor in those three Holton games? We lost. We played out heart out, we fought against the odds, we ignored the preconceived notion we were underdogs and vastly over-matched. We still lost. We ENJOYED those games enough to remember every detail ten years later, despite the final score.

THAT is what I am afraid to lose as we slide down the gravel slope to the pit where competing = winning.

In fact, I felt we found out more about who we were as human beings in how we responded to a defeat. We found out so much about ourselves as players and coaches by how we picked ourselves up from the muck of failure and worked to become something better. And for us adults, who’ve survived our share of hardships in life, isn’t that a great lesson for young athletes to learn?

Athletes remember the competition. The defeats and the victories often fade over time, but that feeling of having competed to the maximum of one’s abilities leaves a trail of satisfaction and has staying power.

As parents, coaches, and administrators let’s turn the tide, let’s once again turn our focus to the promotion of competition, instead of a focus on winning. We don’t need to eliminate losing. We don’t need to a ribbon or a trophy to be a winner.

We need the joy of competing to the best of our ability to make us winners.

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