When Tommy Lasorda Coached “Danny Kaye”: An Ethics Tale

Brian and Tommy

I wrote about my friend Brian Childers, a brilliant actor, singer, and all-around great guy, in this post, “An Act Of Kindness, Danny Kaye And Me : An Ethics Case Study,” from five years ago. It’s worth reading, if you haven’t already or don’t remember it. Brian continues to have a thriving career in New York City, with a successful album, roles in plays and musicals, and periodically, thrilling audiences with his dynamic recreation of Danny Kaye’s legendary one-man performances, the legacy of an adventure he and I set out upon over two decades ago.

I was recently tagged in a Facebook post by Brian, who related for the first time a revealing encounter he had with Tommy Lasorda, the Hall of Fame manager of the LA Dodgers for many years and legendary for his leadership abilities, lovable personality and positive attitude. Tommy died recently at the age of 93, and baseball fan that I am, I had been trying to justify mentioning him in an ethics post. Well, Brian took care of that with his usual flare.

He wrote in part,

I had the enormous privilege to meet this sports legend while performing at the Hollywood Bowl for 3 nights in 2008. The event was called “A Ball at the Bowl” and it was celebrating 50 years of the Dodgers in LA. I was there to sing Danny Kaye’s “D-O-D-G-E-R-S” song and one other with the LA Philharmonic.

Tommy’s dressing room was right across the hall from mine. On the first night, Tommy, whom I had never met, surprised me by knocking on my dressing room door. He introduced himself and was incredibly friendly. When he asked what I was doing in the event, I said I would be singing Danny Kaye’s Dodgers song with the orchestra.

He was ecstatic, but IMMEDIATELY put on his coach’s hat. “ You gotta go out there and you gotta sing great! You gotta go out there and knock em dead, Just focus on the song and you are gonna knock it out of the park,” he said, just like I was a rookie getting ready to play my first game. I thanked him for his encouragement.

While I was performing, I could hear Tommy in the wings yelling and clapping. When I walked off stage, he pounded me on the back, shouting, “Great job! You hit a home run buddy!”

Continue reading

Is It Ethical For A Criminal Defendant To Take Acting Lessons Before Testifying?

Actors make great witnesses. Especially in movies...

Actors make great witnesses. Especially in movies…(and if you don’t know who this is and in what film classic, you have some cultural literacy to catch up on…)

This is a trial development I have never encountered before. Blogger Janni Allen, a former columnist for the South African Sunday Times, claims that a famous South African actor told her that he coached Oscar Pistorius before his histrionic testimony in court regarding the death of his girlfriend. Prosecutors have charged the famous “Blade Runner” with murder; he claims it was an accident. In his appearance on the stand, Pistorius wept and appeared overcome with grief and emotion.

For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume that Allen is correct, and that Pistorius took acting lessons. Is there anything unethical about a criminal defendant or anyone else who has to testify in court taking acting lessons in anticipation of the experience? Is there anything unethical about a lawyer directing a client or a witness to take acting lessons in advance of a court appearance?

I don’t think they are difficult questions. The answers are “No,” and “No.” Continue reading

Pat Summitt, Failing a Great Leader’s Toughest Test

Be like Lou, Pat...so the next diminished leader can be like you.

Pat Summitt, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who has won more games than any other college coach ever, men’s or women’s, received test results from the Mayo Clinic at the end of May that confirmed early-onset Alzheimer’s type dementia.  The irreversible brain disease is now at work destroying the 59-year-old Summitt’s abilities of recall and cognition, and as it is for the other estimated 5 million Americans with the disabling disease, the prognosis is grim.

Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.

It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit. Continue reading

Pointless, Obvious, Unbelievable Lies: How I Hate Them!

No, I'm not talking about Newt's statement that he is still a viable presidential candidate despite his whole staff quitting. But that too.

From the Washington Post:

A Northern California youth baseball league has barred Barry Bonds’ former personal trainer from coaching his son’s team. The president of the Burlingame Youth Baseball Association says Greg Anderson is not a registered coach and is prohibited from being on the field during games.Anderson, who has coached for years, was told of the prohibition after a parent complained about the convicted steroids dealer’s participation….Anderson spent three weeks in prison this year for refusing to testify at Bonds’ trial on charges that he lied about steroids use. Anderson earlier pleaded guilty to steroids distribution. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Tim Gannon

The choice came down to Greg Anderson or Jack the Ripper...

“Some parents have a problem with him being a coach, but it’s not like he was caught stealing or did some bad things with children.”

Tim Gannon, a real estate broker and father, explaining why he has no problems with Barry Bonds’ steroid-pushing trainer, Greg Anderson, serving as an assistant coach for his son’s Capitol Electric team in the Burlingame Youth Baseball Association, according to an article in Sunday’s New York Times.

It’s seldom that one sees in print a more perfect example of my least favorite rationalization for unethical conduct, “It’s not the worst thing.” This popular and despicable rationalization seeks to excuse bad conduct by comparing it to worse conduct, an intellectually dishonest device that can be used to try to minimize the seriousness of literally any behavior, no matter how heinous. (“Sure, Jack the Ripper did some bad things, but he was no Hitler!” ) It is the ethics embodiment of the dishonest rhetorical technique of the false choice. Continue reading

If Teachers Cheat, What Will Students To Do?

In Worcester, Mass, test scores at the Goddard School of Science and Technology have been tossed out because  school staff “reviewed student work on the assessment, coached students to add to their responses, scribed answers or portions of answers that were not worded by students, and provided scrap paper for students to use during tests,” according to the state commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

School Superintendent Melissa Dillon wanted to make sure these findings weren’t misunderstood, and wanted to make certain nobody got the idea that her teachers were cheating. “The state did not use the term cheating, so I’m not using the term cheating,” she said. School Committee members agreed. “Calling it cheating I think is a little harsh,” committee member Jack L. Foley said.  He described the problem as “probably too much coaching.” Continue reading