In the 1978-79 season, my third year as a head varsity coach, I coached a group of young men who were farmers and ranchers. They knew what it meant to do hard work. They were determined, intense, and gifted. We might have had a loss or two, but that was it.
Shortly after the Christmas holidays, we traveled to Burns, a class B school (we were class C- smaller). At the half, we were down by just under twenty points. It was a miserable offensive and defensive performance. Nothing going right. We couldn’t shoot, got beat up on the boards, and our defense looked more like the ‘de fence around the house’.
After the half, I did the unthinkable.
We were a solid man-to-man team. Aggressive. Trapping everywhere. Run and gun type of offense, especially after a steal or rebound.
I chose to have the kids play zone, and dare Burns to hit from the outside. I figured it would help our rebounding and if we put front side pressure on the ball, that might do the trick.
For some unknown, ungodly reason, it worked. It made no sense to me then, and it didn’t make sense to me now. To go into a zone against a team that had been shooting super well doesn’t make sense. Some parents shook their heads, and there were catcalls. But we stuck with it.
Burns went stone cold. The zone improved our fastbreak and our offense. It certainly helped our defense.
By the end of the game, we won by 33 points. Yes, you read that right. From a deficit of just under twenty to a 33 point advantage, we did it. Just by going to a zone.
I’ll come back to this in a minute …
The Daytona 500 is a yearly car race, one of the biggest. It’s 500 miles, and 400 laps around a tight oval. Cars and drivers decked out in their gear looking like walking or motorized billboards.
The thing about the race: you can lead for 399 laps, but if you don’t lead on the 400th lap and cross the finish line first, you lost. A driver can never lead until the last lap and if he should cross the finish line first, he wins.
Just like our basketball game against Burns, the game wasn’t over at halftime. We still had a second half to play. And at the final buzzer, we finished 33 points above our opponent, and won the game.
In race car driving. In basketball or any other sport. Whoever finishes first, wins.
One last thing …
Each year I coached, kids wanted to be a starter. To have their name called out at the beginning of the game to the cheers of the crowd. There is a certain amount of prestige in that. I get it. But what was more important to me was the first man off the bench- my sixth man. He was the guy who had to come into the game and either light a fire or put a fire out. Besides my point guard (the coach on the court), the sixth man was the MVP of my team. It was a hard sell, but by the time I finished coaching, I had kids honored to be named Sixth Man.
But even more important than that, were the five guys who finished the game. Sometimes they started, but many times, they were subs. Yet, they finished. They were on the court when the final buzzer went off.
In life, we live and make mistakes. We change course. We travel on a path- sometimes smooth and well-laid out. Other times, rocky and rough. But we make our way. Some of us will live a long time, while others have their lives cut short. Yet, each of us finish our own race, and each of us walk our own path to the end, whenever that end comes. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, everything is right about that. Everything. We will be judged by the kindness we showed, by the persistence with which we lived, and by the help we gave to others along the way. Just like in the Daytona 500, it doesn’t matter if you are lagging behind. Just like in basketball, it doesn’t matter if you stunk up the court for three quarters. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first to walk the path or the last. It’s the finish that matters. Something to think about …
Live Your Life, and Make a Difference!
To My Readers:
Books make wonderful Christmas presents! Inexpensive, and a good story lasts and will stick with the reader throughout life. Hint: I have nine available, and I hope you gift someone with one of my books.
My newest, Fan Mail, is Available for Preorder at https://www.blackrosewriting.com/thrillers/fanmail
Use code PREORDER2023 to receive a 15% Discount. If you head over to my author website at www.jrlewisauthor.blog/ you will find the cover to Fan Mail, along with the book trailer, and the first two chapters to preview.
I received some fantastic news!
Blaze In, Blaze Out received the Best Action Fiction of 2022 Award by Best Thrillers! I can’t possibly express how happy and humbled I am to receive it. This marks the fifth award Blaze In, Blaze Out has won.
If you have read one of my books, I would like to ask a favor. If you could go online and write a review or, at the least, give a rating on the book, it would be of great help. Both a review and a rating would be wonderful. The review could be one or two lines. It doesn’t have to be long. Just let others know you read it and hopefully, enjoyed it. Obviously, 4s and 5s are the best. Thanks for this consideration.
Fan Mail: New Release!
A barrage of threatening letters, a car bomb, and a heart attack rip apart what was once a close-knit family of adopted brothers. Randy and Bobby, along with fellow band member and best friend, Danny, receive fan mail that turns menacing. They ignore it, but to their detriment. The sender turns up the heat. Violence upends their world. It rocks the relationship between the boys and ripples through their family, nearly killing their dad.
As these boys turn on each other, adopted brother Brian flashes back to that event in Arizona where he nearly lost his life saving his brothers. The scars on his face and arms healed, but not his heart.
Would he once again have to put himself in harm’s way to save them? And if faced with that choice, will he?
Blaze In, Blaze Out: Best Action Crime Thriller of 2022 by Best Thrillers! A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Readers’ Favorite Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!
Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die. https://amzn.to/34lNllP
Betrayed: Two Top Shelf Awards: 1st Place Fiction-Mystery; and Runner-Up Fiction-Crime; A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!
Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! https://amzn.to/3AfUUpS
late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking.
A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old
boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be
trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Caught in a Web is also available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! http://bit.ly/2WO3kka
found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of
heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the
I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes to find out who is cutting
in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an
ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay. Detectives
Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the
drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives
Photo Courtesy of Chris Moore and Unsplash.