Saucy Characters, Indeed

These two men have seen as many football games as Belichick and Brady. One is a retired college football coach, the other, a sportswriter-turned-P.R.-exec. The coach now writes. The scribe now refs. Both are Italian. One is the father of four girls, the other, the father of four boys. Both had a profound impact on my life. And both just reviewed The Long Shadow of Hope, my first novel, the setting for which is a college football program at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

Shadow Copy thumbnailWhat else does Coach Tony DeMeo and Tom Aluise have in common besides a love of laughter, a taste for great pasta, and a boatload of athletic stories? Insight. Here’s what the coach, who once worked cubicle-to-cubicle with “Jimmy V” Valvano at Iona, and the sportswriter, who knew NFL Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss before he scored his first high school touchdown, had to say about The Long Shadow of Hope.

Tony DeMeo: The Long Shadow of Hope is a great mystery for any football fan. I really enjoyed the way Spradling developed the characters in the book. By the end, I felt like I knew them. The plot was intriguing & suspenseful. I think this book would make a great TV movie mystery.

Tom Aluise: Andy has created a work of fiction that is stocked full of interesting characters, jaw-dropping plot twists and page-turning drama. Not usually a big fan of fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading Andy’s second book!

Powerful words from icons in their respective fields: DeMeo, who, after head coaching stints at his alma mater Iona, Mercyhurst, and Washburn, returned The University of Charleston (WV, formerly Morris Harvey) to football glory before his retirement; and Aluise, a Marshall University grad and beloved 30-plus-year Charleston Daily Mail veteran. And, reviews 27 and 28 for “Hope” on I am quite thankful to both of these fine gentlemen for their time and efforts.

CommonsenseIncidentally, I’m currently reading Coach Tony D’s Commonsense Rules for Everyday Leaders (also available on, a book filled with inspirational stories and simple, everyday rules and insights for achieving goals and succeeding at being a leader in any field, told by T.D. in a way only he can tell it. I highly recommend it!


The Art of Victory

Author’s Note: Book business to the side, the former sportswriter needs a moment… Thanks for reading, A.S.

I’ve watched a good bit of high school basketball in the past months, both my youthful alma mater, and other local teams as well. From what I’ve seen versus what I remember, a glaring fact emerged. There is an ART to closing out a win on the basketball court.

If you’re a high school player, the biggest lesson to take from this is (I’ll put it on top rather than make you work for it): Every Possession Matters!

If you lose a game by a basket, 3 points or less, afterwards, think back or watch film about all the wasted possessions. I’m not just talking about turnovers, because some T.O.s are inevitable. BUT, SOME ARE NOT! Some come from forcing a pass that wasn’t there, rather than making two quick passes to get the ball to the same place, or from dribbling too much RATHER than passing. Or from NOT PLAYING WITHIN YOURSELF, or in other words, trying to do more than you are capable of. Know your limitations.

How many times have you seen a great defensive steal followed by a mindless turnover, trying to force a fast break basket that isn’t there – trying to make that night’s highlight reel? You won the battle, back it out and relax, run your offense. When you gain an advantage, keep it.

Next, forcing a ridiculous, needless, ill-advised or just plain bad shot does not show up in the statistics as a turnover, BUT IT SHOULD!! There is not a shot clock in high school basketball. Take good shots! No defender can run as fast as you can pass it. If you are winning a game in the waning minutes and you force a (include above adjectives) 3-point shot – any shot – your opposition should shake your hand or kiss your cheek as they go the other way to win the game. YOU GAVE THEM THE GREATEST GIFT THEY COULD ASK FOR!

Conversely, NEVER reward the opposition’s offense by fouling a shooter putting up a desperation, low-percentage shot, or any 3-point shot. They are trying to turn the ball over to you – let them. Don’t give them a chance to correct their mistake at the charity stripe.

On both offensive and defensive fast breaks keep sprinting to the basket until there is a result. As I’ve told the biddy teams I’ve coached, if we have a fast break there’s a good chance we’ll miss the layup, just like the opposition. Keep going to the basket. When a second or third shot is made on a fast break by a second or third player, it’s because the defensive team got OUT-HUSTLED, hanging back and watching. You see it all the time after the first shot gets blocked. THIS MIGHT BE THE ONE POSSESSION THAT CAUSES YOU TO LOSE THE GAME!

Lastly, if you want to win basketball games, PRACTICE YOUR FOUL SHOOTING. If you can’t hit your foul shots down the stretch of a tight game, chances are you’re going to lose. This is partially your coach’s fault. If you’re not shooting 50 to 100 foul shots every day in practice – some of them while your winded – you’re being set up to lose. Shooting them in street clothes at lunch doesn’t count. YOU’VE GOT TO CARE ABOUT IT. Find your shot, work out your routine, do it exactly the same way every time, learn to concentrate, making them amid distraction. Until you AND your teammates do, you’re going to drop the close ones. If you’re one who hoists 3’s with reckless abandon, you shouldn’t be shooting less than 75 % from the line. AGAIN, CONCENTRATION IS THE KEY! The teams I played on shot just under 70 % from the line and won over 80 % of their games (combined).

When I played in the early 1980s our style was pretty boring I suppose. We passed it until we had an open shot. In fact, we passed up good shots for great shots. We could also nurture a win down the stretch. I watched two different teams recently lose late leads, and then, the contest. I asked myself is Coach Tex Williams’ “Victory” offense obsolete? If the man-to-man “D” gets too aggressive, you go to the line. If they overplay, you cut backdoor or back it out or take it to the other side. And, you can score out of it if need be.

If winning is everything, “Victory” is relevant.

© 2018


No Imminent Danger

Andrew Spradling

NEAR forty years now, in a bustling place,

Where learning and winning was accomplished – not chased.

A boy lost his life from a flick of a finger,

A mind full of hate, but no imminent danger.

Till the mind told the hand, “You must pull the trigger.”

And the finger and hand, they complied – with vigor.

Footprints in snow, blood in the hallway,

Three slugs put poor Arthur down that day.

The very idea was so horribly shocking,

There was no hint of a threat that folks should be stopping.

I spoke with his father, so many years later,

A gentle old man, who did us a favor.

Still trying to make sense of the loss of his son,

A boy of fourteen, his race just begun.

And now that these murders are so commonplace,

An overlooked clue might lead to disgrace.

So look lively, and sharp, and…

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First Person – A Sense of Discovery
When I began this blog, in the Fall of 2014, my immediate intention was giving a home to “Railroaded” a short story I’d recently written. I wanted to practice writing a character in first-person. Both my novels, The Long Shadow of Hope and The Lost Lantern, in different stages of production then, are written in third-person omniscient point of view, they have an all-knowing narrator, someone who can be in the head of everyone involved. This makes life a little easier for the writer, although if you read “Lantern” you’ll realize the weave of the story was problematic enough. I have plans for a novel in first-person, where the protagonist stumbles along, making mistakes and discoveries along with the reader. That’s where “Railroaded” takes you, if you have time on a cold, Super Bowl Sunday. Thanks for reading, A.S.

© 2018

Andrew Spradling

Author’s note: This began as an exercise in first-person and became nearly 11,000 words. Thanks for the interest. A.S.

THERE WERE AT least five reasons I believed that Joe Early murdered Carmel Richardson. But they didn’t become clear to me until I read the flower-arrangement card signed by Joe and some railroad co-workers some ten years after Carmel’s funeral.

Can you imagine? Eight names on one of ten or twelve cards, tucked away in a file by my grandmother, Audrey Fulks Raines Richardson, saved in an upright, four-drawer file cabinet my mother refused to get rid of after Grandma’s death eight years ago. That cabinet has been relocated twice as I’ve moved my mother’s unsellable, garage-full of obsolete, particle-board furniture. I’m not talking about estate sale items, if you catch my drift. She’s a hoarder, plain and simple. Not to the point of paths through the home. She has a…

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