Dean, Clive and Mr Sam Brody

January17/ 2000

… Dean Smith, Pat Summit, Red Auerbach or “Paul Jones” ???  Stanley Marcus, Sam Walton, or “Mr Sam” Brody ???  Homer, Charles Dickens, or Clive Cussler ???  The folks at Guinness chronicle who does “the most” of something ever how bizarre, but no one can or ever will determine who “is” or “was” THE BEST at something.  I said “BEST” not “GREATEST”.  The prominence of “the stage” can measure Greatness but, thankfully, there is no common criteria for “Best”.   

    Society is now, and forever, obsessed with stratifying achievement in every imaginable category.  Whether a particular field of endeavor even has a quantitative unit of measure does not stop us from trying to identify who is “The Best” at it.  Thankfully, like alchemy, (and the lyrics to La Bamba and Looey Louie) it will forever challenge, fascinate, and defy mankind.



BobLee was “on TV” at 10 PM (Monday) on the Triangle & Charlotte area’s CableNews station News14 at 10 PM.  Swagger, of course, landed a few “I can’t believe he said THATs”.    

Post Show Review – Swagger “Nailed it”


    County fairs have competitions to measure baking prowess and pickling skills.  The Olympics in its original form measured men’s abilities to run, throw, jump, and lift.  As the planet homogenizes thru technology the size of “arenas” expand.  For those fortunate enough to be allowed to perform on those large “stages” the mantle of “Greatness” beckons, but is “Greatness” a measure of proficiency or simply of exposure?

   Tennessee womens basketball coach, Pat Summit. recently passed Dean Smith in total games won in “college basketball” prompting the ubiquitous comparisons.  Obviously one coached “young women” and the other coached “young men”.  Lenny Wilkens coached “professional men” and won far more games than either Pat or Dean.  John Wooden coached more collegiate National Champion teams than either, but Red Auerbach won more World Championships (NBA-style) than anyone.  But was Paul Jones or Morgan Wooten or some anonymous (to me) fellow in Indiana or New Mexico actually “The Best” basketball coach?

   Paul Jones was my high school coach.  He won more than 650 games over a 35 year career all at one 1,200 student high school in Eastern North Carolina.  Morgan Wooten was the legendary high school coach at DeMatha High School in Maryland.  Given the same “stage” as Dean or Red, how would Paul or Morgan have fared?

   “Coaching basketball” is broadly defined by the parameters of the sport and the rules at each level of competition.  Teaching fundamentals to participants, preparing those participants for competition and then executing strategy during the actual competition.  Wooten, or Wooden?? … Coach Jones, and your favorite local coach may well be as proficient at that as anyone ever has been.  

   The extraneous demands of coaching beyond the local high school level redefines how we must measure and “rank” the individuals in that activity.  Dean Smith operated in a crucible far different from Pat Summit.  Hank Iba and Phog Allen were not on a comparable stage to Smith any more than Dean Smith’s “coaching career” can be equated to the redefined circumstances that Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski deal with in the 21st century.      

   While Greatness may be defined by “the stage” … proficiency may be defined by the individual.

   Auto Racing has its IROC series which brings together the top drivers in each category of racing … NASCAR, Indy, Formula One, etc.  Each driver is issued identically engineered cars and they race on the same track with the only variable supposedly the on-course driving skills of each individual.  It’s a hokey contrived competition but as close as any activity comes to matching individual skills under “laboratory conditions”.

   In any form of athletic or sports competition we are limited to comparing competitors within the same era.  Is Tiger Woods “better” than Bobby Jones or Byron Nelson or Ben Hogan?  Is it even possible for Tiger or anyone to be “better” than those past “Greats” of the sport of golf?  Given the relatively unchanged “rules of golf”, the primary variable is equipment.  We have to leave it to video game simulators to equip Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger with identical clubs and balls and put them on St Andrews for an ultimate round.

   Going back to “Olympic” competition, we can use quantitative “times” and “distances” to say so and so ran the fastest 100 meters or the fastest mile or jumped the farthest.  Equalizing advancements in nutrition and exercise physiology (and, must we add, pharmaceuticals!) was Jesse Owens or Jim Thorpe a “better athlete” than Carl Lewis?

   Take this same premise beyond sports.  Above, I mention Stanley Marcus, Sam Walton, and “Mr Sam” Brody.  Stanley (Neiman Marcus) and Sam (Wal-Mart) you have likely heard of.  “Mr Sam” and his family owned a regional department store chain (Brody’s) in Eastern North Carolina.  As a young BobLee I never went into Brody’s and came out empty-handed.  As a retail merchant you simply could not be more efficiently proficient than “Mr. Sam”.  Going in “just looking” invariably turned into a suit (with an extra pair of pants), a shirt, tie, belt, socks, and maybe even an umbrella.  “Mr. Sam” would add in a package of handkerchiefs at no charge.

   You know a “Mr. Sam” or at least you did.  The art of “retail persuasion” may have been reduced in 2005 to Circuit City vultures pitching “service agreements” or a half-hearted “ya wanna Super Size that?” at a drive-thru; but those of us in the post WWII generation knew the “Mr. Sams” … as good as it gets in “retail”.  

    Let it be noted … The Stadium boys, Hyman and Abe, could give “Mr. Sam” a run for his money in local retail prowess.

   Lions hunting gnus on the Serengeti would love to have “Mr Sam’s” kill ratio.  When we cleaned out the Swagger Homeplace I found a stack of unused Brody’s umbrellas in the “coat closet”.  Damn you “Mr. Sam” you lovable old rascal!   

    I love Clive Cussler adventure novels.  What separates one of Cusslers’ Dirk Pitt adventures from a James Fennimore Cooper Leather stocking Tales of Hawkeye and Chinachgook?  I can lose myself in either and curse in dismay reaching that final page.  

   Any comparison of artists and artisans of different eras prompts never-ending debate.  Were The Pyramids “greater” engineering marvels than The Chunnel or The Petronus Towers”.  I suspect the respective engineers of each would have absolute respect for each other. 

    Were Lewis & Clark “greater” explorers than Armstrong & Aldrin?  Thomas Edison versus Bill Gates?  Bob “Happy Little Clouds” Ross versus Van Gogh?  

   Was “Alexander” really “The Great” or simply “The Best” Warlord in Asia Minor at that time?  Did J.D. Power & Associates ever give Alexander one of those cool awards for his credenza?

   A big ol’ Swagger SA-LUTE to guys and gals who are “Very Good” at doing something.  It may be impossible to agree on who is “The Best” at anything but let’s all agree to applaud those all around us who via sweat, toil, perserverance, circumstance, or genetics are “good” at what they do.

Note:  In discussing “best” we purposely left out any mention of barbecue, BBQ, or barbeque either as a noun, a verb, or a religion. 


 Swagger’s Stumper

 Where are The Petronus Towers located?


   “Juanita” worked at “the diner” and, in one episode, at Wally’s Gas Station but she created such a fuss Wally had to let her go.  Mayberry’s menfolk were lollygagging around watching her check dipsticks.

    The “short list” as possible successors to Dickie Baddour got “shorter” this weekend as Eric Hyman was named AD at Univ South Carolina.  Eric was one of FOUR UNC alums to accept new jobs in the past three days … Buzz Peterson to Coastal Carolina, Matt Doherty to Florida Atlantic , and Mick Mixon as Voice of The Panthers. 

   WELCOME TO SUBSCRIBERS FROM SIMPLYSWAGGER!  We have morphed the subscriber bases from the two sites into one.  Don’t fret about occasional obscure references to “Dickie Baddour”, “Wuffies”, or certain eccentric coaches.  Believe us, you are far better off NOT knowing such silliness.

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