Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. The players tell their stories in their own words.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

Sports Medley: Alcohol and Performance 27 Jun 16

by Tony Medley

It’s said that Babe Ruth used to take the field with a debilitating hangover and belt out multiple home run games, that Grover Cleveland Alexander was roaring drunk when he stuck out Tony Lazzeri with the bases full, and that Joe Namath prepared for a big game with “a bottle and a babe.”

A couple of decades ago I was scheduled to play a game of duplicate bridge (a highly competitive form of bridge in which all the players play the same hands) with my partner, Arlen O’Hara, the wife of UCLA volleyball legend Hall of Famer Mike O’Hara. We were meeting for dinner before the game. Since she was late I ordered a glass of wine. I had finished it by the time she arrived so I ordered another when she ordered one. Then we went to play.

During the game we were on defense on one hand and when it was over I said to the table that our opponents were down two (in duplicate bridge two partners bid to a contract, like four spades, meaning that they can take 10 tricks, out of the 13 total tricks available. If they only take eight tricks they are said to be “down two,” which means that they fell two tricks short of their contract). Arlen said they were down one. So I counted them out, one, two, three, four, and said they were down two. I kept adding in a fifth trick, even though I was counting them myself. Finally everybody convinced me that we had only taken four tricks and that they were down one. I sheepishly agreed and the game proceeded.

However, I was bothered by my inexplicably poor reasoning and realized, immediately, that it was due to the alcohol I had ingested before the game. After that I was careful not to drink an alcoholic beverage before I played. And I noticed that when I did deviate from this policy and had a drink before playing I was often severely tempted to take flights of fancy and make uncharacteristic wild, crazy bids, and, also, that I did not play the cards as well as I usually did.

What was doubly interesting about this was that I did not feel alcoholic effects whatsoever. I was not giddy, not lightheaded, and not dizzy; I had absolutely no feeling that I was having any effect from the alcohol. But my reasoning was definitely affected.

I had two other partners, both of whom are excellent bridge players. Both were enormously affected by alcoholic consumption, after which they would exhibit wildly irrational and uncharacteristic bidding. One of them was one of my regular partners and was a fine player. But if she had one drink she would be bonkers. I finally told her that if she wanted to continue playing with me she had to promise not to drink any alcohol before the game.

So I am not alone in the effect that alcohol has on the brain. What was revealing, and frightening, to me was the way that alcohol negatively affected the way I reasoned even though I could not consciously feel any aftereffect of the alcohol. I felt perfectly fine, but when I tried to reason, my reasoning was clearly askew.

Recently I was in a tournament that started in the afternoon. I had nothing to drink beforehand but I realized during the tournament play that my reasoning and hand evaluation and play were off, definitely below par. I traced that to the fact that I had had an alcoholic beverage the night before. So over the next few months I paid attention to how I played after I had had a drink 18 hours before playing, and came to the definite conclusion that even having a drink that long before the actual play still had an effect on my reasoning. So now if I am competing I refrain from any alcohol, not only the day of the game, but the day before the game.

I don’t want anyone to get from this that I’m a big drinker, because I’m not. I drink socially and often weeks will go by without my having a drink. But now when I do have a drink I realize that it is affecting my brain and reasoning, even though I do not feel those effects.

Ruth, Alexander, and Broadway Joe to the contrary notwithstanding, alcohol has a negative effect on anyone’s brain and subsequent behavior, regardless of whether or not they can consciously feel it.