Where are the Olympics heading

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The dictionary explains the condition “disappointment” with many words: dissatisfaction, distress, discontent, disenchantment and regret. In brief, it means the feeling of being let down, a result of something unexpected and frustration.

In 1980, I saw all these things in the faces of 219 United States Athletes who would not get a chance to compete. They had trained diligently and tirelessly for years preparing themselves for this event… for minutes in the sunlight.

With a single stroke of his pen, President Jimmy Carter completely wiped out their dreams, the dreams of their families, and the dreams of their friends and the hopes of a nation.

To these athletes, it was beyond belief. Years of hard work went for naught.

I shall get back to this premise later in my article, but I want to pay attention to something that happened at this year‘s Olympiad. You know, it takes years to build respect if you can possibly do it. Over the years, I have had the distinct pleasure of being part, or associated with 5 Olympiads.  In that time, I have seen both the good and the bad.

I have had the opportunity to work up close with some of the finest people I have ever known. As well as some of the most opportunistic executives I have ever known. My friend Rene Henry, also a veteran of many Olympiads, has pointed out how the Fat Cats get rich off the sweat and toil of the athletes and as dollars increased, greed has permeated the Halls of Power.

Just look at the fall of FIFA… and that is only the tip of the Ice Berg.

Also, over the years my professional career has seen me plying my wares and working in over 50 nations. This learning experience can never be replaced.

Certainly, not by people who sit at desks, write stories, do research and develop hypotheses without first-hand knowledge.  Neither can academics and sociologists who complete study upon study to reach only the conclusions that make up their theses give answers.

I look on these as exercises in futility. It is the man, or woman who has stuck their big toes in the water of life that have the answers.

William Shakespeare once wrote in part during the soliloquy that Marc Antony delivered at Julius Caesar’s burial, “The good is often interred with their bones.” Simply said, that means you can do something good forever, but one misstep and all the good is forgotten.  The misstep is what people remember.

Among the knowledge I have acquired in the years of being in both the sports and entertainment fields on foreign soil is that the United States was once respected, but never liked.

Do you remember a movie starring the late Marlon Brando entitled the Ugly American? Unfortunately, whether we, in our patriotism and yes, even our smugness, would ever admit it, among most countries; the United States has never been the most liked.

We were, however, always respected.  This respect allowed us to build a great trading nation and overcome dislike. I served in Korea and for a time was stationed in Japan.  For quite a while, wherever we walked we were looked on as the enemy, the conqueror to be feared.

Through careful indoctrination, constant effort and guide lines that our military leaders during a peace time transition, were able to infuse us with, we learned how to properly treat a nation that was once our enemy with dignity.  It worked.

I learned in great part from the Japanese how to be respectful and appreciate the differences. With my Japanese associates, Tee Kuboki in particular, I was able to meet with success.

According to research, the first Olympic games started back in 776 B.C… however, it was generally accepted that they had already been going on for over 500 years at that time.  They were dedicated to the Olympian Gods and were staged on the ancient plains of Olympia.

They continued uninterrupted for nearly 12 centuries until Roman Emperor Theodosius in 393 A.D. enacted a law banning all such “pagan cults”. Thus, this athletic endeavor settling differences on the playing field, rather than the battlefield was outlawed.

It wasn’t until 1500 years later, 1896 to be exact, that King Georgios I of Greece lifted the ban and along with 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from 13 nations to the first international competition. In Athens, there were 280 athletes from 13 nations competing in 43 events: track and field, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, shooting and tennis. Americans won 9 out of 12 of these events.

The 1896 Olympics featured the first marathon competition. The marathon followed the route run by the Greek Soldier Phidipidies who ran from the site of the battle in Marathon to Athens bringing news of the Greek victory over the Persians.

The next year, 1897, the Boston Marathon was founded and for decades was America’s only Marathon. In addition, it was always free and anyone could enter… the winner’s only prize was a Laurel Wreath following the Greek Olympic tradition. In the 1960’s corporate sponsors put up big prize money. The race requirements changed! Since the potential entrants times are checked for qualifying, plus a fee has to be paid.

Prior to that, everybody who entered was welcomed as a guest in Boston’s home. Our parents always taught us to be respectful when visiting. We also learned that “a man makes money, but money doesn’t make a man”.

The Summer Olympics which costs a fortune to stage, with the exception of L.A. 1984, has never produced a profit for the host city. Yet, the Olympiad  which is held every four years, is constantly sought after by cities with hopes it would add prestige to their municipality. It is hoped the end result would cast a favorable light on the city and help bring notoriety and good will.

Any athlete, who represents his, or her country, is expected to carry on with dignity.  They are not expected to be rowdy and “spit in the face” of their host. Ryan Lochte and three of his swim teammates did just that.  They compounded a minor misdemeanor by making up a falsehood, which brought worldwide attention to the American Team. This was done especially in a country that was facing so many problems and was already being called the worst run Olympics in history.

I started this column talking about President Carter’s misguided Boycott of the 1980 Moscow games. While I created an Olympic week in Washington to help assuage the hurt of our 219 athletes that were going nowhere, I saw how devastated they were.

Thus, when athletes who are privileged to go, have the audacity to undermine the excellent efforts of so many others, to me, it is time for the so-called executives who receive monies out of proportion for what they do, to take stock and somehow penalize the wrong doers.

At these games, the United States team has enjoyed so many outstanding moments.  Their Medal total and victories have been off the wall. It is a shame that one foolish act performed in a moment of weakness might overshadow these feats and not shine the light on those who have accomplished them.

“The good is often interred in their bones”.

WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO?

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Today was a beautiful August morning, which I had truly been enjoying. That is until now!

As I write this, I am one of the lucky ones.  You see I Live on a small lake in Southern California. In this little Hamlet, my computer is right by a large picture window that looks over the lake where today and every day, I look at Swans, a family of Ducks, a flock of Canadian Geese and once in a while, an Egret, or two… oh! Oh! There are two Kayaks passing under my window right now!

I imagine I probably feel like Henry David Thoreau as he wrote about his beloved Walden Pond…only one problem, a little rain has fallen today in the form of the front page of the local newspaper. Our village is so small, that paper is appropriately named the Acorn. Someday, when it gets bigger, it might actually grow to be the Oak Tree.

In the meantime, it brings us up to date on what’s happening in our Village.  Today’s headline was quite disturbing. It read, “Post-game puncher K.O.’d in court.”  The sub-headline went on to say “Judge orders him to pay victim $800,000”.

The reason for this heavy punishment was because a parent aggravated by the fact that his son had not, (at least in his eyes), enjoyed enough playing time in the game that just ended. As a result, the irate father attacked the coach as he was getting into his car in the parking lot.

He set upon the unsuspecting coach and sucker-punched him.  The coach fell to the pavement, hit his head and to this day he suffers from cognitive issues, lost his job, has difficulty putting complete sentences together, cannot read for any length of time and still is in his early thirty’s, his eyesight remains impaired.

Where this happened is at a small local Ball Field about a half- mile from my house. Which brings me to the reason for this story.  I think it fits easily into the series of Fan articles that I have been writing.

Many years ago, I was having lunch with two of my closest friends who have since passed on, Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe and John Chafetz. At the time, John had recently been appointed AYSO Commissioner. We were there to celebrate his good fortune. In the job only three months, John stunned us when he said, “ I plan to quit!”.

Realizing that I was looking for something to do, he asked if I would be interested in replacing him.

It was intriguing! Both Ernie and I asked why he was quitting.

John explained that there are thousands of volunteers. However, the parents were impossible to deal with.  Argumentative, overly proud of little Johnny as he was the best at everything etc.

The mothers were the worst.  They always refused to listen to any reasoning.

Enough said.

Unfortunately, this parental interference trickles down directly to the playing field.

Imagine a beautiful sunny afternoon at a local youth soccer match. The game starts simply enough in an atmosphere that is both enjoyable and exciting. The children are playing their hearts out running up and down the field.  Suddenly little Paul, or Suzie accidentally trips and quickly gets up unhurt. But the player’s parent erupts in a torrent of invectives claiming their child was fouled.

In fact, the parent gets louder and when the coach goes over to calm he, or she, down, the parent hauls off and whacks the coach, he is met with a punch…  a fight ensues, the game is halted and everyone goes home disappointed.

We have all seen it with our own eyes where a parent’s obnoxious behavior escalates to irrational violence. Like so many parents when my children were young, I coached many of their teams. My motto was simple!  Teach the youngsters the best you can, let everyone play and enjoy the learning experience.

To me, that’s what youth sports should be about.  However, there are too many adults who are there for other reasons. The wrong reasons. All too often they become overinvolved. As a rule, there are warning signs that make them easy to spot at a youth game.

There’s the danger of the overzealous parent. He/she is the one who becomes involved in the child’s efforts and may not be able to distinguish between his/her own needs and those of the child. Sports is often more important to the parent than to the child.

The clearest and scariest sign that the parent is merging with the child is when the parent enters the “We” zone… “We won today”, or “We have a tough opponent next week”.

Many  “We” parents, especially those who have never achieved in sports, live vicariously through their children.  It’s healthy to encourage the kids. It’s normal and healthy to be excited for their successes and be disappointed for their failures.

Yet, sharing the child’s participation should not be… living through them.

It’s tough being a kid these days. They have a lot on their shoulders: school, family, social participation. When the parent becomes over invested in the child’s sports, an extra responsibility is put on their young shoulders… one they do not need!

The worst thing that happens is when a parent loses perspective. The seductiveness of sports means to many that their child might bring fame and fortune. Who knows Johnny may be the player to break Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game streak, Ted William’s .406 average, or score that all important tie-breaking goal in the Olympics.

This kind of dream and the pressure it puts on the child cause many parents to lose perspective. Such loss of perception has caused many heinous moments connected to youth sports.

There are many cases of undoing the good that organized youth sports are trying to achieve.

In Stockton, California, youth football coach Cory Petero rammed and hurt a player who had just cleanly tackled his son.  He was charged with felony child abuse.

A father in Philadelphia pulled a .357 Magnum on his son’s football coach.  He was enraged that his son was not getting enough playing time in an Under-7 Pee Wee football game…WOW!

How about the T-ball coach in a Pittsburg suburb who received a six year sentence for offering one of his players, an 8-year-old boy, $25 to throw the ball at a teammate during warm-ups. The teammate was a mildly autistic 9-year-old.  The coach felt if the 9-year-old was injured so he would be too sore to play in a playoff game… WOW!

The 8-year-old testified that he first hit him in the groin.  The irate coach told him to throw another, only harder. This time, following instructions, he threw the ball at his head, hitting his ear. Yet, the sad thing is that this is T-ball where teams don’t even have pitchers, the young children hit off a tee. Still winning was so important to this coach who had two of his own children on the team, he had one of his own players beaned.

The coach was convicted of conspiracy to commit simple assault and corruption of minors. At the sentencing the judge was so incensed, he sent the errant coach directly to prison.

The epitome of the seriousness and the rise of this type of activity is the Massachusetts Hockey Father, angered at another parent during a practice feeling that the man had pushed his son he attacked the other father after practice with a Hockey Stick. The victim never regained consciousness.

Such bad parental behavior is a severe problem.  It brings about pressure-filled, unhappy situations for everybody involved. Instead of being supportive, many parents become verbally and physically abusive. I have an idea, but I don’t know if it will work… let’s try it!

The by-laws of every league should contain a stipulation that before a child is allowed to sign up to participate, all parents should be mandated to attend a seminar on good sportsmanship and good behavior taught by a coach who has already been screened and accepted…. Plus a child psychologist paid for by the league.

Once evaluated, the parent, if qualified, can be part of the coaching staff, or allowed to attend. I like the idea, but I know it can never pass.

In addition, I go back to the days I held an Executive position with the Los Angeles Lakers.  At the time Pat Riley, the great coach was the team’s 6th man.

Whenever a request came in from any organization for the Lakers to provide a speaker, Pat was the first to have his hand up. He was a one-man goodwill ambassador. This gives me an idea.

Every contract in every professional Major league should have a clause that each team member… players, coaches etc.; must do so many hours visiting youth teams in meetings before and during each season.  The message should be one of cooperation, team play and togetherness.

This alone won’t solve the myriad of problems that manifest themselves every season, but it could go a long way toward helping.  After all, these are professionals both the parents and children look up to and aspire to emulate.  In fact, the various commissioners’ offices could make this a negotiating mandate.

What do you think?

SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

SOME FANS GET CARRIED AWAY

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“Rage is an intense uncontrolled anger or a great force. An example of rage is someone screaming at the top of their lungs holding a bat and charging forward”

………. Miriam-Webster Dictionary.

In my last column, I wrote about the value of being a good fan. I talked about the enjoyment and pleasure that it brings and how, in many cases, such support actually plays a role in helping a favorite team win. I cited the Seattle Seahawks and how their noisy fans, in the eyes of Coach Pete Carroll, effectively make up the “12th man” giving visiting teams more to worry about. Also, the Green Bay Packers with its 100,000 shareholders were mentioned.

However, there is a dark-side! I call it “Fan Rage”. Most of us know and understand “Road Rage”. This is the same, but without the wheels.

So, I decided to take a look at a few selected incidents that took place over the past decade. New research has come about due to a great extent because of the increased violence in recent years among sports fans. There are some long-held ideas the link between highly competitive games and the fans they enthrall.

Both psychologists and sociologists now have come to the conclusion that much of the violence occurs when there are traditional rivalries, personal relationships involving participants, or many times possessing an overreaching ego, which tells the enraged fan that he knows more, then the coaches, or the officials.

“Fan Rage” is nothing new. This phenomenon has been around for centuries. In 532 A.D., the rivalry between supporters Blue and Green chariot-racing teams in Constantinople, (today: Istanbul), led to 30,000 deaths in the Nika Riots.

However, modern instances are numerous in all walks of sports and for multitude of reasons. Let’s look at a few examples.

In 1975, cyclist Eddy Mercx was viciously punched by a spectator as he climbed the Puy de Dome in the Tour de France. Earlier, he had won the Tour five times and at the time of the incident was leading. He finished the stage barely able to breathe and went to finish the Tour in second place overall.

In 1980 at London’s Wembley Arena, Boxer Marvin Hagler scored a three round knockout over Englishman Alan Minter. Many of Minter’s fans began to throw beer cans, bottles and other objects into the ring. The fighters had to be escorted out by Scotland Yard.

In 1984, a Braves/Padres game degenerated into a Beanball war. At least five Atlanta fans were dragged from the stadium in handcuffs after being part of a bench-clearing brawl.

In 2000 at Reading, Massachusetts, the beating death of a volunteer youth hockey coach, sent shockwaves throughout the country regarding the escalating violence being displayed among adults at youth athletic events.

Death is the epitome of “Fan Rage”. It is an unspeakable indication of how far rage can be carried. However, as heinous as the previous action was, what happened at Dodger Stadium on opening day 2011 was another indication how “Fan Rage”, in this case, fueled by alcohol, can get out of hand.

After the game, a San Francisco Giant fan named Bryan Stow was accosted in the Dodger parking lot. In front of a milling crowd and in the presence of his young children, two hooligans set him upon as he walked to his car. He was beaten to an inch of his life and was forever left Brain damaged, a paraplegic who will never walk again.

His only crime he was dressed in a San Francisco Giants jacket.

There have been countless studies as to what causes such outbursts of fury. Some researchers say it has a great deal to do with the easy access to violence on TV, or the massive number of video games which show little regard for life and limb giving impressionable minds with the belief that life and well-being are cheap commodities.

Others say it’s the ranting and raving of those who have the public’s ear emphasizing victory at whatever the cost may be. Sometimes it’s related to nationalism or as an outlet for social tensions.

Basically though, most studies agree. A person’s home atmosphere often spills out into how that person reacts in societal situations.

The days when we could go to a Ball Game, a Tournament, a Match, or a Race, just for the simple enjoyment seem to be gone. For a myriad of reasons: we are checked by security guards, we are not allowed to bring in certain items and we are constantly being scrutinized as we sit in the stands.

In many Ball Parks, because of unruly instances over the years, alcoholic beverages are not served after a definitive time. For example, that time in Baseball, is after the 6th inning. Also, because glass bottles and cans have been used as missiles of destruction. The beverages are served in plastic containers.

The times are tense. An afternoon at the Ballpark is supposed to relieve tension. It is supposed to be entertainment, not life, or death.

After all, they are just games.

A SINCERE SPORTS FAN REMAINS FAITHFUL

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There is something that even the most avid sports fan will agree on.  It is simply this!  The teams you are backing win or lose, is the one you remain faithful to.

I am an octogenarian.  This means I have been to a great number of events, seen a lot of action and, on occasion, if my favorite team was not involved, I would, in a lukewarm fashion; root for a team that normally was one of our rivals.

In my case, I draw the line at rooting for the Yankees. After all, throughout most of my formative years, my beloved Red Sox always finished second to the so-called “Bronx Bombers”.

You may ask yourself, “Why has Shelly decided to devote an entire column to the subject of fandom? Being a fan… it’s simple to understand.

The fan may not be actually part of the team, but  true fans eat, breathe, sleep and even have an imitated death over the success and failure of their favorite team.

I have many friends including Carol and Frank who belong in that category. I do not understand such fervor, but applaud their right to feel the way they do. Why shouldn’t I.  It is fans that helped me earn my livelihood during the years I worked.

Among my Fan friends are many who graduated from their respective schools over a half century ago, but come football season, there’s no talking to them on Saturdays. They even dress in school colors. One couple I know have pajamas in their school colors and the entire Saturday they remain in their P. J.’s Often, they bring food in.  This way they can eat , never moving from in front of their  TV Set until the final snap of the game… genuine hermits.  A true fan supports his team through not only the winning years, but never deserts them even in the lean years. Needless, to say, they too follow every bounce of the ball.

Some schools are coached by coaches destined for the Hall of Fame. As great as these coaches are or were to become, it never stops the fan from criticizing every call. One of the facets of being a true fan, is to adapt. Many fans actually feel they are a part of the game.  The fan, however, never takes blame for a bad call.

Then, of course, there is my son-in-law Danny. Danny is a certified Basketball referee. So in all the games he watches, or listens to… pro, collegiate, or high school… he focuses in on the Officials’ calls … commenting on what was missed and what should have been called. He’s more right than wrong! However, he has the benefit of TV and not having to make the call under duress of the actual game.

Actually, most fans feel they can coach, or call a game better than an Official.  Thus, those fans not only do this during the game… long after it is over, they will continue to sit and analyze each play.

The real  fans go all out. This phase, “Tail Gating,  has been covered extensively by all networks and even the Cooking Channel. It is a great phenomenon that I have often  salivated as I watched.  In fact, I dreamed of being part of such an obviously delicious event.

Eventually, as luck would have it, I met Bunny and Bob avid USC fans. During football season, they host a tailgate party at their home, supplying food, drink and multiple TV sets for their  friends to view all away games.

On home game days, they start at 6 A.M. Actually, they start the night before.  Their truck is loaded with all the Bar-B-Q accouterments you can imagine. They  leave around 7 A.M. for the  Los Angeles Coliseum in preparation for the game and  are set up for both breakfast and lunch long before the 12:30 kickoff.

I am a fan! Although I worked in many sports as a player, a coach, a referee, an owner and an executive, I always have remained true to my roots. My work itinerary in sports saw me based in New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio, New York and California. I enjoyed all the teams, or games I was involved in.  Yet, if they were playing against any of my Boston teams, my passion for the Red Sox et al rose to the fore. I have to be true.

Without fans, the games would never achieve their place on the American entertainment firmament, or for that matter, the world’s stage. Men make up the preponderance of fans.. but many women are right there with them.

Look at the fan base for NFL Football every Sunday.

Although, Baseball has been called the “National Past time”, fans of Professional Football even in a much shorter season is truly “America’s Game”. The Green Bay Packers ownership is a good example.  Over 100,000 fans each own a share of the team.

Then there are the fans that support the Seattle Seahawks.  The noise that they create and the cacophony that results, has caused coach Pete Carroll to label them the  “12th Man”. They are so loud that twice they have established the Guinness World record for the largest noise at a sporting event…September 15, 2013 against the San Francisco Forty Niners, (136.6 db)… December 2, 2013 versus the New Orleans Saints, (1376 dB)….THAT’S LOUD! 

By the way, they won both games.

Multiply my friends by millions across the country who each game day act exactly the same way.

It always amazed me that even when I was a lowly sports executive that when my wife and I would attend a party, for example, every man there would gravitate toward me for conversation.

The reason I was amazed and continue to be amazed is because in attendance at the parties often times there might be a multimillionaire builder, the largest car dealer in the area, an insurance agent that just made a million dollar policy sale and others like that.

Made no difference, I was connected to the local team and in their minds I might have some insight to share with them.

It is the fan that paid my salary for many years.  This fact is brings me, I guess that goes to the reason why I wrote this column. The owners and the players, to a great extent, have forgotten the nucleus of where their wages originally are derived.

Basically, the humongous TV deals, spending billions of dollars for the right to broadcast the games, have created an atmosphere where the fan is secondary to the quest for as much lucre as possible.

Now, don’t get me wrong!

I believe in capitalism and the ability to make the most money you can. However, when a utility such as Cable and Over-the-Air TV came into existence licensed by and with the support of government action as something that was conceived for the good of the public, it is wrong for rights holders to withhold the product from the most viewers in a community.

When in 1948 John Walson, Sr created the first Community Antenna Television, (CATV), signal to Mahanoy City, Pa, his intent was to deliver a signal to rural, urban and poorer areas where they couldn’t get Howdy Doody, Dave Garraway, the News, or Jack Paar. Neither did Bob Block have any idea of depriving the public, when he founded Select TV, the first over-the-air pay TV system.

The fans clamor for sports on TV!  Most average fans cannot afford the ticket prices so TV is the only way than can enjoy and support their team. Unfortunately, in many markets there is a competition between systems that preclude the maximum number of fans from viewing.  Many individual teams have made deals with one system and unless competing systems pay an exorbitant price, they will not share those rights. Such is the case in Los Angeles, where Time Warner owns the rights and does not with either the Dish System, or Direct TV.

The owners are hurting the fans that stuck with them for years. Unfortunately, all too many fans are lemmings and accept the situation.

We have all heard about “Road Rage”.  My next column shall be about “Fan Rage” which is ugly and ruinous.

TO WALK WITH GREATNESS

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It took me over 60 years of working in both the Sports/Entertainment Industries as well as a Kaleidoscope of others, all over the world, to truly realize how fortunate I have been. My work took me to more countries than I can care to remember.  However, along the way, the people I worked and associated with, made all my experiences pleasant.

As I reflect, I have come to realize even more my good fortune.  Where others learned of progressive developments, newsworthy occurrences,  as well as outstanding sports events through the media over the years, I have had a ringside seat. In many cases, they have been  to watching, as well as  learning and working  with the  movers and shakers. The people , who behind the scenes, have made our lives a little better.

This includes many partnerships where I have been lucky enough to work with outstanding creative people.  Actually, they are too many of them  for me to mention in one single column.

However for this writing, I have selected two whom I wish  to introduce you to. I am sure their names are not familiar to you. However, every single day, without realizing it, ( you and I)… benefit from what they created on a daily basis. We all meet a great many smart individuals without realizing. Many of us do not enjoy the privilege of working with such individuals. I have!

Bob Block and Clair Higgins are just two of those… WHO?

 Let me introduce you.

 Those who knew Bob Block when he was younger, (unfortunately, to my dismay, I didn’t know him then), could readily see he was something special. His thought process is different from you and me. After all, do you know anyone else who is in the Guinness Book of Records with his family?

As evidence of his “out-of-the-box” thinking , he rented an Underwater Science Lab.  There,  he and his  twelve-year-old daughter Debbie, his ten-year-old son David and his wife Carole lived under the water for 24 hours… and they did!

Today, that seems mundane, but 48 years ago, it was unheard of.

Bob holds over 150 U.S. and International  Patents in many fields with countless more pending.  If you wish to know what they are you can look them up. For the purposes of this column, I shall deal only with Sports and Broadcasting.

We worked together on many things. Among  a multitude of other accolades, he is considered the father of “Over-the-Air Pay Television”. His inventions paved the way for “Pay Cable and  TV On Demand” as we know them today.  This technology  made  systems like Netflix possible.

Bob brought about HDTV (High Definition TV). Working in conjunction with Select-TV, the company he founded which was the first Subscription TV System in America,   he organized the first telecast of “High Definition TV”.

It was done in conjunction with Sony Electronics. Clair Higgins put together the transmission mechanism. The first broadcast was a Welterweight Fight out of the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.  The test was an immediate success!

The late fight promoter Dan Goosen and myself handled the broadcasting chores. A clip of that fight was used as part of the Sony sales effort for the next few years at both International Trade shows and presentations.

As you sit back this weekend to watch Soccer from overseas, a Motor Race from Monaco, PGA Golf Tournaments, or for that matter any News happening from anywhere around the world, you now will know the name Clair Higgins. Our pleasure in viewing events immediately as they occur from anywhere is taken for granted is his doing. It was not always that way.

In 1959, Clair, along with his partner Jack Myers, developed a method of following young Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy as he toured the country, holding rallies in small hamlets and big cities in his quest to get the Democratic nomination for President.

Clair and Jack purchased a used school bus, which they converted into a mobile TV Studio on wheels. This had never been done before. It had tape machines, TV Cameras. There was a Dish on the roof for transmission from  wherever the event was happening, to networks, stations and systems everywhere. .

That is exactly how the modern mobile unit then came about. Clair was the first to make the mobile unit, a studio on wheels.  His company, VTE, expanded their fleet so that wherever there was an event to be covered, the viewer at home would miss nothing and have the full enjoyment. Today, mobile units and live transmission are taken for granted. Another first that Clair created  was a special housing which allowed him to become the first man to shoot videotape underwater.  This revolutionized and expanded areas that could never before be covered.

At Ali’s last fight in the Bahamas, where there was no possible capability of delivering a signal of the event, Claire led the way by putting a Satellite dish on a barge halfway between Tampa, Florida and Nassau, to deliver a signal to the roof of the highest hotel in Tampa where the signal was then beamed to a  Satellite and the picture delivered world wide. The project was almost sabotaged when the barge and equipment capsized in rough water. Claire then immediately set up a portable micro link for line-of –sight transmission  to deliver the signal to Tampa,.

Today, both men are older.  As pioneers, they exemplify the creative ingenuity and entrepreneurship that has and continues to make America great.

WHERE, OH WHERE HAS NADIA GONE

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At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, a 15-year-old woman’s gymnast from Romania set the Gymnastics World on its ear.  She not only won three Gold Medals, but along the way, she achieved the first perfect 10 ever awarded.

In case you have no point of reference, at the time it was like Babe Ruth being the first to hit 60 Home Runs, or Roger Bannister running the first sub-4 minute mile, or for that matter, LeBron James leading in all statistical categories during the 2016 NBA Playoffs. In brief, it was a monumental achievement.

Like so many other sports fans, I watched the TV in awe. We had just started the new Sports Division at FOX and my sidekick Marty Groothuis and I had gone to Tucson, Arizona to sign up the United States Gymnastics Federation for representation.

Up until then, Gymnastics had not played an important role on TV. The only time it was shown was during major events such as the Olympics. We determined that among our goals was to change all that.

Working with Frank Baer, the man who founded the USGF in his Tucson garage, we quickly accomplished that by making Gymnastics a regular feature on all three networks.  We created original competitions just for the Networks…. but we needed more!  We needed something spectacular!

Than it hit us!  Why not bring the Romanian team to the United States.  We were told this was impossibility.  After all, the United States was locked in a Cold War with the Eastern Bloc countries.

At that time, ‘NO’ was not a word we understood. So, we decided to make our dream competition a reality. First, the late Ron Beckman and I got invited by Frank Baer to attend the 1978 World Championships in Strasbourg, France. We went, not as official members of the delegation, but as auditors.

Frank would try to set up a meeting with Nadia’s coach, Bela Karoli. Now, you have to picture what Strasbourg looked like at the time. This beautiful sleepy mountain town in the Alsace, which had been the scene of many Nazi atrocities during World War II, was once again an armed camp.

At the 1972 Olympics, Arab terrorists had murdered 11 Israeli athletes. As a result, the French government, hoping to prevent any further chaos, had armored half-tracks and military personal stationed throughout the normally sleepy Hamlet.

The Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc teams were training in two separate buildings. The Eastern Bloc was an armed fortress.  There was only one egress and ingress.  Each was manned by an imported trooper dressed in riot gear … armed with an Uzi and at his side a guard dog.  Who looked mean!… REAL MEAN!

As a non-delegate, I had to figure a way to get behind that Iron Curtain and meet Mr. Karoli. I noticed that all the Delegates wore plastic badges identifying themselves as officials.

I came up with a solution!

Finding out where there was a “five and ten cents store” in town, I went there and bought plastic cases.  Into one, I slid my California license with my picture and pinned it to my jacket.

With outward bravado, but fear inside, I walked up to the guard, patted the dog on the head, waved to the guard and walked behind the Iron Curtain to sign the Romanian team for their first-ever U.S. appearance.

Armed with the agreement, I headed back to the U.S. and set about planning the tour. The two teams were to meet over a ten-day period in five of America’s top Arenas ending in Vancouver, B.C.

The tickets and venues were all set.  Within two days of going on sale, Madison Square Garden; The Los Angeles Forum; plus San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Seattle and the PNE in B.C. were all sold out. The event created excitement everywhere.

In fact, Mayor Lindsey of New York was so on board that he planned to personally greet the Romanian Delegation upon their arrival at JFK at the start of the tour. He had gone so far as to order a Red Carpet and the NYPD Kilt Band to play when they set foot on United States soil.

The fabulous Sid Silver had handled all the logistics and we flew to New York the night before the anticipated arrival. This was it!  FOX Sports was making a statement.

Two O’clock the night before, I was awakened from a deep sleep in my Hotel Room.  It was my late wife.  She informed me that the Romanian Consulate had been trying to reach me.  It seems Nadia, so the story went, had injured her “pinky finger” and could not grasp the high Bar, or the pummel horse. In addition, she definitely could not do either the Floor Ex, or the Balance Beam.

Everything was immediately cancelled!

FOX had to repay all the local promoters for their expenses and damage. It looked as if my FOX career was over before it had a chance to really take off.

Fortunately, we had purchased a policy with Lloyd’s of London valued at more than enough money to make everyone whole.

Needless to say, it took quite awhile for Mayor john Lindsey, whose assistant I had called at 2:30 that morning to alert him of the problems, to forgive me.  For three weeks leading up to the Madison Square Garden event, the Mayor had been on every Radio and TV Station, even had a special Press Conference touting the Romanian team arrival.

Lloyd’s was willing to pay up if we could prove Nadia was truly injured. Bill Saunders, President of the FOX International Division, based out of London, flew to Bucharest and after four days came back with medical proof –X-Rays and certification, that Nadia was truly injured.

WHEW! Llloyd’s paid off in full.

But the story doesn’t end there!

In 2006, eight years later, my daughter and her husband gave a small graduation party at their house for my oldest granddaughter Sarah. Among the invited quests were her classmate Kirsten and her parents.  They had emigrated from Romania.

Sarah introduced me by name to Kirsten’s mother and father.

To which Kirsten’s father said my name was a familiar one in Romania. Puzzled, I asked why?

It seems the father was the Romanian Secret Police Captain scheduled to escort the team to the United States.  His superiors found out that he had made plans to defect and immediately aborted the tour.  Eventually, when the “Wall came down”, he and his family were allowed to leave legally.

Quite a quandary!! To this day, I do not know how Bill Saunders got the medical papers and the certification.

You know what?… I never asked!… leave well enough alone.

THE LEGACY OF AL CAMPANIS

“I’m sad not only for his passing but the way people will remember him. That’s not the way I will remember him. There are a lot of racists in the world, on both sides , and he wasn’t one of them. He helped Roy so much when he was coming through the major leagues. He molded a lot of young men into men.”…   Roxie Campanella, Dodger Hall of Fame Catcher Roy Campanella’s widow

 

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This is a love story, a story of compassion, both understanding and misunderstanding.

About a month ago, my friend Bob Perlberg asked me to join him for lunch with Jimmy Campanis.  This excited me because I had heard so much about Jimmy from my friend Al Campanis.

Al had been the Vice President and General Manager of the Dodgers and on many an occasion would host my son Steven and myself to a steak and eggs brunch in his box at Dodger Stadium  Sunday during doubleheaders… Remember them?

I thought Bob was talking about Al’s son Jimmy when he was really speaking of Jimmy, Al’s grandson. Subsequently, I got to talk to young Jimmy who was kind enough to send me his book, ”BORN INTO BASEBALL”.

The book itself is easy reading and gave me an insight even deeper into my late friend Al. In this day and age of so much disrespect and animas, it was great to read about parental and family love that started with a grandfather, (Al), a Greek Immigrant who rose to one of the most coveted positions in what has often been called, “America’s Pastime…Baseball”.

He was born in the Dodecanese Islands, graduated from New York University and was a Navy Chief Petty Officer during World War II. He loved this country and everything about it. He appreciated what the U.S.A.

had given him. Al was a man without prejudice.

So much so, that when Branch Rickey brought Jackie Robinson into the Dodger organization he asked Al to be Jackie’s roommate and in essence, help in anyway possible to make Jackie feel wanted and to be Jackie’s mentor. While playing for the Dodger’s Montreal farm team, they became the first interracial roommates in all of Baseball.

At the time, Al, himself, was to endure a lot of personal taunts and insults. You can use your imagination the names he was called.

Al stood alongside Jackie, together fighting many a battle against those who would slander him or intend to harm him.  It was Al’s chore to make number 42’s integration into the Dodger organization as smooth as possible. The task was well done and a strong bond between the two men was formed until Jackie passed.

To show you the closeness that developed between Jackie and Al, is best exemplified in what young Jimmy wrote in “BORN INTO BASEBALL”

It seems that Al’s son, 12-year-old Jimmy, asked his dad to help him with a school “show and tell” project. His subject was Jackie Robinson and the project was due the next day.  He figured his dad could perhaps get one of Robinson’s bat, or his glove for Jimmy to bring.

Jimmy told his dad he prepared a speech and he had to recite it to the class the next morning at 10. The next morning, as Jimmy was wrapping up ‘tell’, he saw his dad standing in the hall outside the classroom.

The teacher said to Jimmy,” your ‘tell’ was great, now what do you have to show me?”

Young Jimmy said ‘”let me go get it”. He went out into the hall. To his surprise, there was Jackie Robinson.

Jimmy brought him into the room and for well over thirty minutes he answered questions and signed autographs.  All the time, telling the class how happy he was to do this for his friend Al, Jimmy’s dad.

On most of those Summer Sundays at Dodger Stadium, Al would introduce me to many of his friends. This included Don Newcombe, Murray Wills, Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam… all African- Americans ballplayers.

Unfortunately, Al’s illustrious and successful career with the Dodgers came to a crashing and ignominious end on April 6, 1987. On the wall of his office, this non-biased man man who beside family pictures had only three other pictures… Don Newcombe, an African- American; Sandy Koufax, a Jew; and Roberto Clemente, Hispanic.

This man who had embraced Jackie Robinson when it wasn’t popular to do it, on ABC’S Nightline after praising the superior athletic ability that Black Ballplayers possessed, went on to make some statements that were construed as prejudicial.

A hue and cry immediately labeled him as a racist.  Both Mr. Campanis and the Dodgers quickly apologized, but their pleas fell on deaf ears and the Dodgers, in fear of offending their fans, unceremoniously fired Al.

I have written this column today, because I feel my voice has to be added to many others, viewing today’s tensions in our society, are asking for calm, understanding and clarity of thought.

I am the son of an immigrant mother.  Over the years, I have felt the slings and arrows of prejudice. However, unlike the Black Man, I am not an obvious target.

For years, the locker and the arena have been my milieu. This area is occupied by teams.  In order for a team to succeed, they must react as one.  Color, has no place in the Locker Room. I am no different!  I am like every man!

I use the phrase, “Some of my best friends are people!’ America built its reputation over the years as a ‘melting pot’. Unfortunately, with the good, comes the bad. In every barrel of apples, there are always a few bad ones. There are those who hate and those who care.  Too often, those that hate outshout those who care.

To me, Al Campanis, a devoted man, a good citizen and a great friend got a bad rap. He is a good example of how knee jerk reactions without thought can ruin someone’s life.  Before we do something regrettable, we need to take a deep breath and reflect.  Or as my Mom used to say, “we must think before we act”.

AL Campanis knew his way around a Baseball Field like few others.  He was not trained in being a TV Personality. When asked any question realizing that millions of people are watching, it is easy to get sidetracked and flustered.  It is said in the Broadcast Industry, “Your tongue gets in the way of your eye teeth”. That night on ABC, not schooled, or versed in TV, Al was like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights once the cameras were turned on.

This I am convinced is what happened to Al Campanis

Misunderstanding that brings about violence is never the answer.

THE THUNDERING HERD

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Through the movies and sports, my life has always been full. About ten years ago, I saw a motion picture entitled “We Are Marshall”. It was also there that the movies introduced me to Mathew McConaughey. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back and eventually you will see where I am heading.

When I was a kid growing up in Boston anything that had to do with athletics, I wanted to be a part of.  My mom always knew where I was.

If I wasn’t at school, or hadn’t walked the six, or seven miles to either Fenway Park, or Braves field, I could be found on a nearby sandlot playing in a pickup game of Baseball.  There were always enough guys to make some sort of teams.

Usually, it was behind the local Super Market. In order to get to our field of combat, we would pry a wooden slat off of a fence behind the projects where we lived. After playing. We would make sure to replace the board in the exact place, so the Super Market people would never know how we got there.

There was always one Baseball! It was kept in tact by black electric tape, and was always on its last legs. Unfortunately, Morrill, the worst player, owned the ball.  However, if we didn’t let him play in the game there would be no game.  We made sure we were nice to Morrill except when his mom called him for supper and he would not leave the ball.

In football season, we rag-a-muffins would walk all the way to Harvard Square and look for a pickup game on the hard dirt infield of Cambridge Commons.  We often played under the Elm Tree where George Washington once took command of the Continental Army.

Sometimes the authorities bothered us, but never when the Kennedy kids were there… Teddy et al, (that’s right the future Senator).

In Basketball season we would sneak into the MIT Gym where little Bobby O’Neal was our lookout.

When the weather wasn’t good and we had at least eleven cents (that’s right, 11pennies… that was all it cost), we would go en mass to the movies.  It was great! There were always two pictures: –  (a double feature), a cartoon and a News Reel.  Many days the auditorium was hot until some special theaters had refrigeration, or swamp coolers.

It was at the Cinema, (the Movies), where I was first introduced to Sports Movies, That was to become the genre I loved most of all. Thus, in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, I discovered Knute Rockne, the Gipper, Lou Gehrig and all the sports heroes past and present.

It was in such a way that Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan, Pat O’Brien, Kirk Douglas, Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster all entered my life. They played bigger than life characters, (my heroes), who had graced our Sports pages.

Of course, there was always Jack Oakie.  No matter what the sport was, the studios always put this amiable, jovial rotund fellow into them.  Although he seemed to always to be stumbling over himself, yet he would emerge victorious.  Whether playing a fictitious Quarterback, a Pitcher, First Basemen, or a Track Star, we always rooted for him.

His movies, however, were always comedies and good inevitably triumphed over evil.  Real sports pictures, as they developed over the years, started to look at not only the seamy side of life, but also the hardships that had to be overcome.  Many had messages filled with pathos where in real life, good did not always defeat the bad.

One such movie was “We are Marshall” and the real life hero was Coach Jack Lengyel.  Mathew McConaughey portrayed Coach Lengyel.

Now, dear reader please understand I have never met the Coach.  However, he sits on many illustrious Boards, including the United States Sports Academy Advisory Board of which I am proud to serve also.  My mentor Bob Block who is a founding member of the Academy brought Coach Lengyel’s heartfelt story to my attention.

It was Bob who suggested I write a story about the Coach… and what a story it is!

Let me share it with you…The story is about a man who not only has been a winning coach, but also a man who has been an inspiration to all those he taught… teaching them about life and how to be good citizens.

Although he had been a football coach since he was graduated from Akron University and became the Freshman FOOTBALL coach and then became the Assistant Varsity Football Coach , his story really began in 1971 at the age of 36.  Until then he had been coaching at various colleges and universities when fate intervened and he was ready for the challenge.

On November 14, 1970, Lengyel, who was in his 5th year as coach of the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, was watching TV with his family.  The news came across that the Southern Airways Flight 932 had crashed.  On board the plane were 75 Marshall University football players, coaches, administrative officers and fans… everybody perished.

It was a few hours after Marshall had lost to East Carolina and they were heading home to Huntington, West Virginia. With a heavy heart, Jack determined perhaps he could help the devastated University.

His first thought was “that there for the grace of God, could have been him and his team”. He applied to be the new head coach. Fortunately, for Marshall they had the foresight to hire him.

In that hiring, they got not only a qualified leader on the football field, but part of his package was understanding and compassion.

That move would change lives forever, including Lengyel’s. Prior to hiring him as coach, the downhearted and sad University was thinking seriously of permanently eliminating Football from their schedule.

Fortunately, they did not surgically remove Football as part of their school activities. Lengyel went about rebuilding a non-existent program with a Freshman team that was not eligible to compete intercollegiatly .

Upon his arrival, since no one was left, he was forced to recruit athletes from other sports (Baseball and Basketball etc.;) as well as a large number of walk-ons in order to field a team.

Although the team struggled in Lengyel’s  first season. A miracle happened in his second game. The rag-tag Marshall Team upset a heavily favored Xavier team on the final play of the game with no time left on the clock.  It was so exciting that when the team went into the locker room they threw everyone into the showers, uniforms and all, including the priest who was travelling with them.

Two hours later when the team returned to the field, the fans were still there. People were crying and hugging each other because everybody knew a teammate, classmate, a friend, or neighbor on the ill-fated flight.

It was a very emotional game, but it gave everyone hope. This unexpected victory brought about a euphoric feeling of unity and was an uplifting spirit for not only the University, but also for the entire Huntington, West Virginia Community whose residents felt deeply the lose of the Marshall athletes.

The true story was so uplifting, that in 2006, Warner Brothers released the Biopic  “We are Marshall”. The brilliant and eventual Academy Award winning Mathew McConaughey played Coach Lengyel.

Lengyel, his rebuilding job completed, after four years, went on expand his illustrious career.  He continued as   as a coach and teacher, but also became Athletic Director at some of America’s foremost bastions of education including his fourteen years as AD of the United States Naval Academy where his two sons David and Peter graduated. The strength training facility is named in Coach Lengyel’s honor.

Today, he is a member of the United States Sports Academy Board of Advisors and was inducted into the Collegiate Hall of Fame.

Jack Lengyel, a name Sports Fans everywhere should know. His emphasis on strategic planning and core values which he used in rebuilding Marshall, is something all of us can use in our daily lives.

He is the true embodiment of what sports an acadamua should be all about.

KEEPING THE LEGEND ALIVE

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June 16, 2016

1970 was the third year of the Andy Williams San Diego Open. This was a golf tournament that I had started along with Dennis Waitley in 1968. My purpose was to give Andy who was not on TV at the time, International exposure. For Dennis, he was attempting to help the Salk Institute in San Diego raise funds for much needed Medical Research.

For the first 5 years, we were Co-Executive Directors. Both of us achieved our desired goals. We brought in a great deal of money for Salk Institute and Andy was, deservedly so, hailed as it’s benefactor.

Dennis who was studying for his Doctorate in Psychology at the time, has gone on to become one of the world’s foremost Psychologists in the field of learning how to succeed and win. His client list has included the International Olympic committee, The United States Olympic Team, countless athletes, major corporations and even governments.

One of the things he shared with me is his Psychology of winning which he was to develop as the years went by. Simply stated “ happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, won, or consumed. It is the spiritual expression of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude”. This attitude permeated how we ran the golf tournament.

In our third year, 1970, Pete Brown became the first African- American to win an Official PGA Tournament. Pete won by one stroke with a score of 13 under par. This was a momentous occasion. Over the four days, Pete bested many of the foremost players of the day.

The Andy Williams Open had hosted the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Gary Player, Tom Weiskopf and Lee Trevino. His victory was in a sudden death playoff over Tony Jacklin, the British Golfer who that year was the reigning U.S. Open Champion.

To the Black community, this was an exciting accomplishment. At the time, The Los Angeles Sentinal, an African –American owned newspaper, had a terrific golf column called “Tee Time” and written by a lady named Maggie Hathaway. Ms Hathaway contacted me about doing a column on Pete Brown’s victory and what I thought it meant to the world of golf.

I was delighted! She showed up at my office with a young photographer named Howard Bingham. They were both terrific and easy to deal with. Maggie went on to expand her vision for Blacks in golf and Civil Rights. She accomplished much in the years to come . She was a co-founder and President of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Chapter on the NAACP. Along with Sammy Davis Jr she created the Image Awards.

Finally, I am getting to why I wrote today’s Blog. I want to tell you about the photographer I met that day. He was 31 at the time. Howard Bingham was his name.

In 1962, Maggie had assigned Howard to cover photographically a young, up and coming Black boxer named Cassius Clay. Clay was in town to fight George Logan.

Satisfied that he had some good Sparring Session pictures, Howard was in his car hustling to take his pictures back to the Sentinel to develop them. As he was driving, he spotted the young Boxer and his Brother Rudy just hanging out.

He offered the two Boxers a ride to their hotel and then decided that he would show them Los Angeles. This chance meeting has become a fortuitous one for all of us. Howard’s pictures will help generations to come understand and share in the glory and mystique of Ali.

For Howard and Clay, it was an instant rapport. Their friendship developed like Damian and Pythius. For 54 years they were inseparable. Along the way, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali… and a legend began.

Howard, developed into a photojournalist par excellence. He established new norms for photographic coverage. In 1969, he became the first Black male photographer allowed on a TV Set working as a member of the Hollywood International Cinematographers Guild . Until the Bill Cosby Show, it was whites only.

Born with a speech impediment, his pictures talk for him. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. In that case, through the photos, he has told the story of Ali in over six hundred million words. At one point, he even ran for congress. Many of us worked on his campaign to no avail.

His is largely known as Muhammad Ali’s photographer/biographer. For over half a century, wherever Ali went, Howard was at his side. All the while, Howard’s camera was at his side. In such a way, Bingham believes he has shot almost 600,000 photographs of Ali. Therein lies the story.

The legend of Ali will live on perpetuated by the lens of Howard Bingham. As Ali’s fame grew, in lock step, but separate from Ali, Howard’s reputation also expanded.

He has taken some of the most iconic photographs of the last 40 years, from the Civil Rights era to today. His work spanned the globe from the Black Panthers, to little Richard, to Nelson Mandella. His photographs have graced the pages of all the great magazines.: Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Ebony and others.

When a person dies, without fail, someone will say, “He’s gone, but not forgotten”. In the case of Muhammad Ali, the photos of Bingham make this a fact. “Ali will never be forgotten”.

You can see his photographs in many different venues. However, the most complete collection is at the Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville.

THEY GIVE ACADEMIC SHOLARSHIPS ALSO

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Friday, June 10th, 2016

Most of my readers understand that this column is not just about Sports. Hopefully, it is an insight into life and one Octogenarian’s thinking.

I have always written about Colleges and Universities and the massive amounts of money given for athletic scholarships. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I realize all too well the importance of winning athletic teams.

These teams fill stadiums and arenas. They bring about a great, almost parental, pride to alumni and alumnae. This pride helps to induce the graduates and people sometimes called “subway alums” to reach into their wallets and contribute to various scholarship funds.

However, I do not think that Princeton enjoyed too many donations because of Albert Einstein’s achievements. Nor does NYU amass donations because of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s achievements. I do not believe Union College had many alumni reach into their pockets because the eminent Theologian, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr taught ethics there.

Yet, not only do successful sports teams raise money for athletic scholarships, but also there is a trickle down system of funding important areas such as Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering and Political Science.

Not enough goes toward helping to develop the future leaders of our nation. It’s tough to raise money that might help develop the next man, or woman who possibly could discover the cure for Cancer, negotiate World Peace, or develop methods of growing crops for starving nations in dusty and arid conditions.

Instead, we place a great emphasis on trying to develop the next Julius Irving, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Dave Winfield .

The sad fact is that of the approximately 480,000 athletes that compete annually in collegiate sports, just a select few move on to compete at the professional or Olympic level.

According to NCAA statistics, the 2016 probability of competing beyond the collegiate level is as follows: in Football, there were approximately 72, 788 competing in college. Among this number 16,175 were eligible for the draft. 256 were drafted and 256, or 1.6% became pros.

In Men’s NCAA basketball, 18, 697 competed. 4,155 were eligible for the draft, 60 were selected. 1.4% made it to the pros. Whereas, those receiving academic scholarships, over 90% were able to work in their selected fields achieving exceptional societal contributions.

Normally, I look on statistics as being a non-exciting way of making a point. However, as the story develops, I believe you, the reader, will see my agitation that in this world of sports adulation, Academia sometimes gets in the way.

All too many believe that the purpose of a College, or university, in this day and age, is to turn out a winning team. Many have lost sight of the real purpose of a college education. They bend and stretch the rules.

Probably, the greatest example of bastardizing the true purpose is what the Kentucky Basketball team has done in its effort to win a Championship. It’s called the “one and done”.

The school awards scholarships to many academically unqualified students whose only purpose is to play Basketball. They play for one year and if their talent is sufficient, they turn pro the next year.

The sad fact is that when their playing days are done, they have limited skills to help them compete in the real world. This is not true about the students who go to college for an education. They leave schools with the tools to compete in life.

I decided to write about today’s subject based on what I learned from watching the National Spelling Bee on Television last week.

Ironically, I believe there is a connection between how one trains for the physical adjure of sports. Preparation for an academic decathlon, in its way, is as demanding as preparing to make the football team.

As a matter of fact, the erudite Decathlon, (the National Spelling Bee), was first brought to Television by George Wallach. George Wallach understood what it takes to be a great competitor, either Academic or Athletic.

After all, George Wallach was Bruce Jenner’s manager right after Bruce set the Decathlon record at the 1976 0lympics. Bruce trained 12 years to achieve his goal. He broke the World Record at the time garnering 8618 points.

In appreciation for all George did for him: — Wheaties, endorsement, TV and movie roles etc.; Bruce had two identical 18 carat gold necklaces made with the number 8618 on each… one for himself and one for George.

George felt training for scholastic competition is not unlike training for an Olympic Decathlon. The discipline is the same with victory as the goal.

In order to get a picture and understand what competing academicians (in this case, High School Students) must do to win a place on the team, I sought out an expert who has gone through many local, regional and national competitions.

Len Soloff is a retired teacher who for years was the coach of perennial champions, North Hollywood, California High School. In his retirement, he still contributes his time as Assistant Coach.

In 18 of 20 years, the North Hollywood team won the Regional eliminations and the right to go to Washington, D.C. to compete. In the District, they were first once, second 7 times, third 6 times. Today, they are considered one of the six top teams of all times.

Like the Athletic teams, at the beginning of each school year, there is a call for students to compete for places on the team. The Spelling Team looks for those who have a vast knowledge for a potpourri of words.

The Science Bowl Olympiad seeks to create a team that comprises of players who possess wide knowledge of building things. The Science Bowl teams coached by Mr. Soloff over 20 years enjoyed an equally successful program. So successful that 100% of the team members have gone on to college and 75% were awarded scholarships.

Today, those college graduates are doctors, astrophysicists and lawyers as well as Biochemists and Academicians. Their lives are full and they are contributing to the good of society.

Looking toward the future, the government considers the Science Olympiad so important that it is funded by the combined efforts of the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Food and Energy.

As soon as a team gets back from the Nationals, the schools start training for the next year. They begin to recruit. They initiate practices and based on what the coaches see, the groups are divided into Varsity and Junior Varsity squads.

Each week, the squads square off… each competitor trying his/her best hoping to be noticed and move up to, or stay on the Varsity.

Usually, the JV of the year before will form the next year’s Varsity. However, if a bright freshman comes along, he/she can challenge for a place on the team. Finally, when the team is formed, 5 will be selected for competition… 4 starters and one alternate.

There is no chance of a concussion, a torn knee, or a separated shoulder. Instead, it is a challenge of the best minds leading to a bright future that doesn’t end with the final bell.

This year, the winning word at the National Spelling Bee to be spelled was the definition of a mountain completely surrounds by glacial ice.

Of course, you knew the answer “NUNATAK”.

Unfortunately, the Science Bowl and the Spelling Bee plays before a small audience… give, or take, 3000 people.

The Alabama football team plays before 80,000 people. I guess that’s why Coach Nick Saban makes over $4million annually and Coach Solof gets a free trip to Washington, D.C.

But then again, the Soloffs of the world only help make citizens who contribute to the betterment of life… ‘Nuf said.