Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly, Canto CIX: Plant Your Coaching Tree

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Gentle cabrones:

Unless you’re a sports fan or a Miami native older than 35, you probably don’t know much about legendary NFL coach Don Shula, who passed away earlier this week.

He never crossed over into popular culture like other pro sports coaches and managers ala Tommy Lasorda or Vince Lombardi. But Shula remains the winningest head coach in NFL history.

More importantly, he’s a prime example of what sports fans know as the coaching tree.

The premise is simple: Someone mentors someone, and that someone mentors someone until all that mentoring looks like — take your pick — the roots or branches of a tree.

In Shula’s case, he’s one of many disciples of Paul Brown, namesake of the Cleveland Browns and the Yggdrasill of football. Shula, in turn, taught Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Knoll, who mentored Tony Dungy, the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. Who did the same to the second African American coach to win a Super Bowl, Mike Tomlin.

And so forth.

I’ve always loved the idea of a coaching tree, because I’m obsessed with legacy. I believe our mission in life is to not only achieve personal happiness, but to teach others what we know so they can go on to better the world long after you die.

So much teaching that one day, you can map out your own coaching tree, look back on life, and think:

The people I’ve mentored have done some good in this world.

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I’m at a point in my career where former bosses of mine are retired, former colleagues are now editors or have jobs at prestigious publications, former interns of mine are making a name for themselves, and younger reporters tell me they grew up reading me.

Is this middle age? I don’t care: I was born old.

I digress.

But I’m also at a point in my career where I can say I have a coaching tree.

And few things make me prouder than to say that.

Lemme humblebrag for a bit and tell you about some of the branches in my coaching tree.

Gray Beltran is a multimedia graphics editor for the New York Times.

Javier Cabral is the jefe-in-chief of L.A. Taco, associate producer for the James Beard-nominated Netflix show Las Crónicas del Taco, and co-author of Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.

Priscella Vega is my Los Angeles Times colleague.

Cynthia Rebolledo ended up becoming publisher of my late, great former publication.

Michelle Woo was the first writer I officially edited, and is now an editor for Medium.

Julio Salgado was my radiola producer before becoming the undocuqueer artist genius he now is.

There are others. There will be more.

I’m proud of them all. And I’m humbled I could help them when they needed it.

What’s your coaching tree? You don’t have one?

To paraphrase Andy Dufresne, get busy mentoring, or get busy dying.

GRÍTALE A GUTI

This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…

Murals can be cool, but they can also be the outward symbol indicating, “This neighborhood may have pride, but we all know it sorta sucks.” What’s your opinion on more public murals, and should we have more or fewer of them?

Here’s what I think. I expect much of my readers, and either you’re not paying attention, or you’re just trolling. Either way, your question sorta sucks.

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.

**

Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Loquats from a friend’s treet. Ever tasted the fruit? It’s like a less-sweet, snappier apricot. They’re all over SanTana right now, and my wife is going to do some cool stuff with them at her store — details to come…

LISTENING: I’ll Never Smile Again,” Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers. One of the first non-Beatles, non-oldies CDs I bought was RCA Victor’s compilation of this legendary collab, and this is one of my favorites: melancholy, warm-sounding, simple, and with a voice and a trombone like few others.

READING: Reasons for Liking Tolkien”: You’ll probably be able to read this 2001 London Review of Books because you’ve probably never read this publication — but if you can’t or hit your article limit, then subscribe like me to their newsletter. During this pandemic, they unlock a classic of theirs a day, and this one is definitely a classic — long at 12,000-plus words, but funny, smart, and with a KILLER end section.

Gustavo Community Office Hours!

I’m rebooting my stint as scholar-in-residence at Occidental College’s Institute for the Study of Los Angeles! Every Tuesday, from noon-3 p.m. people can book half an hour with me and we can Zoom (over a secure line, of course) one-on-one about WHATEVER. Interested? Email me here!

Coronavirus in California: Stories from the Front Lines

This is my latest project for the Los Angeles Times, a 15-minute podcast that appears Monday through Friday. Do me a favor: Download them all, stream them, then leave me a five-star review on Apple–each one helps!

Coronavirus Budget Blues”: A conversation with California State Senator Holly Mitchell about the state’s budget apocalypse.

Funny You Should Mask”: I talk to comedic actor Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, Hot Tub Time Machine) about a great comedy special he made to fundraise for doctors and nurses.

Culture Captures Quarantine”: Me and LA Times staff writer Carolina A. Miranda talk the Florentine Codex, In-n-Out, and Samuel Pepys!

Don’t Mourn, Organize!”: Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrice Cullors talks activism in the time of pandemics.

Local News Struggles”: Me and Coachella Valley Independent owner-editor Jimmy Boegle on the troubles alt-weeklies and other local news orgs faced and now face.

Gustavo in the News

We Need to Fight to Make Sure Our New Normal Is a Better Normal”: Coachella Valley Independent editor-owner Jimmy Boegle gives me a shout-out after he appeared on my #coronavirus podcast.

Orange County vs. Gavin Newsom”: I appear on Slate’s “What Next” podcast to talk about OC’s war against California’s governor over the closing of beaches.

Netflixeando: 5 Foodie Shows to Watch If You’re Craving Tacos”: Remezcla gets over the fact they unceremoniously fired me a couple of years ago to shout out my appearance on David Chang’s Ugly Delicious.

Gustavo Stories

Bobby Lee Verdugo, East L.A. student walkout leader and Latino youth mentor, dies at 69”: An LA Times obituary on someone who got rightful fame — yet his best contributions are just barely getting attention by the mainstream. KEY QUOTE: “His advocacy for young fathers earned Verdugo speaking invitations as far away as Oxford, England, and positions on federal and state councils. He also became a regular presence at Latino high school youth conferences across the country.”

Protests in Orange County continue over beach closures, stay-at-home orders”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about what the headline says.

You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc. And don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres!