A MAN AND HIS VISION

Dr Tom

FEBRUARY 18,2016

Forty three years ago, my partner and mentor Bob Block who holds over 150 patents that have made all our lives a great deal better, introduced me to a man who had a vision. It was a natural meeting since I was on the President Nixon’s Council of Physical Fitness at the time. George Allen, the late great NFL Coach, was our Chairman.

Bob, wanted me to listen and to see if I could be of help. Dr. Tom Rosandich had a dream. He pointed out that we, the United States, were the only civilized country that did not have an overall educational facility geared to sports and all its aspects. It was his aim to bring one about.

I marveled as I listened to him outline his dream. From the beginning I thought it was a magnificent idea. However, since I was a member of the President’s Council of Physical Fitness and our Board, like many  of the preceding Boards, although trying to accomplish what Tom Rosandich  had in mind, had met with little, or no success.

I thought if we, the President’s Council, couldn’t get it done, backed by the government, how could he, one man, succeed?

I was wrong!

Today, the USSA is located in Daphne, Alabama on the Eastern Shoreline of Mobile Bay, eleven miles east of Mobile. It is a monument to a vision… his vision.  He leaves an educational institute on solid footing that is recognized throughout the world,

Let’s examine what the USSA is all about. The campus architecturally is magnificently designed and the beauty of the Academy buildings is greatly enhanced by the Art that hangs on the walls and the Sculptures that are seen throughout the campus on its grounds. All have been created by the artists who, throughout the years, have been named “Sports Artist of the year” by the Academy.

It all started with an idea.  The premise being that there was a niche in the sports firmament that needed to be filled. Many of the people who were filling positions in training, coaching, team management, marketing, player personnel unfortunately, had not been adequately prepared for their tasks.

Sports was beginning to play an important role in our daily lives. Where once, it was practically a man’s bailiwick there was a need to give both genders an opportunity to play an educated and important role. To aid him in achieving what he preached, he put a “TEAM”, a Board comprising of some of the finest available minds in the world of Sports and Education.

At the time, most Colleges and Universities did not have curricula dedicated to sports and the role it was playing in our lives. The USSA became the educational leader.  Many Universities subsequently, followed its lead . The USSA direction has always been cutting edge and constantly one step ahead… breaking new ground as it grew… paving the way for others to follow.

Founded as a special- mission institution of sport offering Master’s Degrees in Sports Medicine, Sports Coaching and Sports Management. As the Academy grew, it constantly added and still is adding more disciplines of study.  Among the additions are Recreation, Management. Sports Exercise Science and overall Sports Studies… and Doctorate Programs.

Dr. Rosandich has a long and storied career in the profession of sport dating all the way back to the early 1950’s. Along the way, as the President of the Academy for 43 years , and for his individual efforts,  he received awards for his contributions from many storied and wide ranging institutions, organizations and nations.

He is in the Helms Track and Field Hall of Fame. The Emir of Bahrain, for example, conferred upon him the “Order of Bahrain – First Class” for his efforts in building that nation’s first international caliber sports programs.

The International Olympic Committee, (IOC ), honored him with their “ Olympic Order” for his work as a member of the IOC’s Commission for Olympic Education and Culture. The USOC recognized him by bestowing its coveted “USOC President’s Award.”

As a Track and Field coach, he coached so many World and Olympic Champions, this Blog would have to be at least three times in length just to come close to naming them and doing justice to what he achieved.

Recognizing his talents as a coach, the U.S. State Department appointed him as a Sports Ambassador and tasked him with using sport as a vehicle for elevating America’s relationship with nations throughout the world. His efforts in this capacity met with untold success. He consulted with 43 nations and brought them into the world of sports competition.

Why I decided to write this column this week is definitively because of today’s world situation and our political climate. To me, Tom Rasandich had been a man on a White Horse wearing a White Hat. He has always been a winner.

In the past when the country has endured multiple problems like today, such a man on his trusty white steed has arrived to help right our ship of state. Dr. Tom, like so many other Americans has shown what can be achieved  by using dignity, ethics and education as tools.

Hopefully, his example can be a beacon for all who want to lead … Dr. Tom is one to learn from and to be imitated!

That Germanotta Kid Can Really Sing

Lady Gaga

February 3, 2016

Super Bowl 50, the 2016 version, is history. For me, the game itself was uneventful. It was a defensive battle that disappointed those of us who wished to truly see the passing of the torch.

The torch, of course, was the expected performances of one great quarterback in perhaps his last game and a young gun who possibly will inherit his mantle of greatness.

It was Peyton Manning at the helm of the victorious Denver Broncos and the reigning MVP, Cam Newton, of the Carolina Panthers who suffered the loss. It was a game marred by too many penalties, fumbles, interceptions and assorted miscues.

The commercials which all of us, glued to the TV set, thought would be terrific, for the most part turned out to be filled with duds. If I thought I was disappointed, imagine how the sponsors felt who had shelled out millions of dollars for seconds worth of exposure.

As for the Halftime Show which everyone raved about, I thought it was overkill. The performances by Beyonce and Bruno Mars with their music and the choreography were magnificent. Coldplay, at least to me, did not live up to expectations.
Maybe, I am a purist … and I guess I am. I like the days when the Halftime Shows featured Marching Bands, Card Sections and formations all directly related to the game itself. The game was the show!

Furthermore, the Halftime Show should never be used as a political platform for any cause…no matter how worthy it might be. Unless, of course, the entire event is for the purpose of calling attention to the cause.

It is wrong to take advantage of those who paid a lot of money to see the game and to impose a social cause message on an unsuspecting viewing audience… as I wrote above, no matter what the cause might be.

But there was one highlight that I found thrilling. It was when Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known as “Lady Gaga”, sang the Star Spangled Banner… the National Anthem. It was stirring and it made a song that most musicians fear singing into something special. It is difficult because of the key changes, but she made it sound like one for the ages.

Her rendition was brilliant. Only once before has there been such an inspirational rendering. The late Whitney Houston did it. However, you can ask any singer, if when asked to perform the Star Spangle Banner, how they tried everything to sing any other song… Either “God Bless America”, or Kathryn Lee Bates’ “America the Beautiful”.

The key constantly changes, the words can only be sung without error when you are singing in conjunction with others and watching their lip movements. The late great singer Robert Goulet would readily attest to that. He forgot the words in front of an audience of millions.

The song has been the graveyard for many a noted singer. Especially, when trying to reach the awkwardly, almost unreachable high notes. However, Lady Gaga handled it with ease.

Back in 1977, along with the late Andy Williams we tried to get the National Anthem changed to “America the Beautiful” Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of both songs.

The Star Spangled Banner, a song of war,— “Bombs Bursting Air” etc;, or “America the Beautiful” that is a song of peace and tranquility… “it’s Purple Mountains Majesty”, and “ for Patriots’ Dream” and “Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam”.

It is a song of pride about a nation built by Pilgrims from everywhere. It is melodically pleasing to the ear and easy to sing.

The Star Spangled Banner became our National Anthem by a congressional resolution in 1931, the year I was born. However, until I was in the 8th grade, we were still singing “Hail Columbia”, or “My Country ‘tis of Thee” the latter melody was identical to “God Save the Queen which is the British National Anthem, as we pledged our allegiance to the flag every morning.

Prior to becoming officially our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner was a popular drinking song sung in many Pubs, especially throughout Maryland after the Battle of Fort McHenry. With a range of one octave and one fifth (a semitone more than an octave and a half), it is difficult to sing.

Andy and myself in 1977, presented to House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill, a petition signed by 30,000 citizens, to a great extent, musicians, to change the National Anthem. He brought the petition to committee , where it was soundly defeated.

However, to hear Lady GaGa sing it, gave new meaning to beauty in a voice. When praised about her performance, she simply said: “I just sang from my heart”.

Thank you, Lady Gaga… you have earned not only my respect and admiration, but also, I am now your fan for life.

Major League Baseball in World War II

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

As they used to say in Brooklyn(ese), once home of the beloved Dodgers with a nod to Walt Whitman, here’s an ode to remember:

“Spring is sprung, da grass is riz,
I wonder where da Boidies iz?
The Boid is on da wing,
Don’t be absoid, da wing is on da Boid!”

You can ask any of your friends who originally came from either Bensonhurst, Flatbush, Borough Park, Sheepshead Bay, Bayridge, Midwood, Crown Heights, Coney Island, Williamsburg, Bedford Stuyvesant, Gramercy, Bushwick and so many other areas, (I’m sorry if I didn’t name them), that make up the great Borough known as Brooklyn for a translation.

However, to me, that simply means it’s time for Spring Training and Baseball. This week the pitchers and catchers go into camp. They will go all over the country seeking for the most part warmer climes. Primarily, they will workout in Arizona (The Cactus League) and Florida (The Grapefruit League).

I can feel the excitement … the anticipation that “This might be our year”. The smell of Neat’s Foot Oil on new leather gloves… The sound of the wooden Bat made out of Ash as it hits the approximately 9”round leather sphere that… the smell of freshly mown grass and an Umpire with his, or her hand upraised shouting “Play Ball” and the game is on.

To me there is no better sound in Sports than “Play Ball”… not, “Gentlemen start your engines”, or “At the Bell, come out fighting”, or even “You’ve won the toss and you decide whether to receive, or kick”. During my formative years, Baseball was the National Pastime.

World War II put a strain on every facet of life. World War II was a trying time for America and equally so for Baseball. 4500 players swapped their flannel (that’s what Baseball uniforms were made of then), for Military uniforms to serve their nation.

Future Hall of Famers like Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller and Ted Williams lost vital playing time in the prime of their careers. In his wisdom, knowing that Baseball was firmly entrenched as our National Pastime and would be a morale builder, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded to a letter written by the then Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis by giving his personal approval to let baseball continue.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (sadly, many of today’s students do not know what Pearl Harbor was and what it means), it was unclear whether Major League Baseball could, or should continue, during the balance of World War II. The question was whether, or not at a time of deprivation, was a frivolous game necessary to be allowed to continue

After all, it was at a time when everyone in order to help the war effort, was scaling back. Each month, we were allotted so many ration stamps depending on our family needs. These stamps were for essentials such as milk, gas and meat.

My Uncle Eddie, like thousands of others, even had a Victory Garden. In this Garden he would grow carrots, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and much more so our family could enjoy fresh vegetables.

In the eyes of many, Baseball, was arguably a luxury that a wartime society enduring great hardships could not afford. However, Baseball was so important that rather than complain, Americans took it to their bosom and craved it.

Radio Broadcasts (there was no TV yet) Baseball, along with dramas, game shows and soap operas, for brief moments each day helped to push the ever dire news from the War Fronts to the back of our minds. It allowed people to escape from reality and dream of a better day.

In order to continue playing, Baseball had to make many compromises. For example, The Department of Transportation issued an edict that the teams could no longer go to out-of-state and distant warmer climates for Spring Training. They had to train as close as possible to their home base. Basically, to preserve Gas which was in short supply and needed for the War Effort.

For example, the New York Yankees could not go to their normal site of St. Petersburg, Florida. Instead, they trained at Asbury Park, N.J…The Brooklyn Dodgers trained at Bear Mountain, New York instead of going to Jacksonville, Florida. I had the best of all worlds.

My beloved Red Sox, did not go to Sarasota, Florida, but trained instead at Tufts College in Medford, Massachusetts… two trolley rides and one transfer from my home. What a treat for a Baseball starved kid!

Today, however, in this fast-paced, electronic age, the NFL has come to satisfy to a great extent, America’s current need for instant gratification. That sums up today’s society, “Instant Gratification”. The pace of a Baseball Game with its nuances and its strategy today, is considered by many too slow.

Like my friend David Friedland who to me is a true Baseball Historian of a kinder, gentler time as well as others of our generation, Baseball gave us an outlet for our emotions. We grew up in a Great Depression and suffered through a World War with so many days of sadness, but there was always Baseball, our refuge of pleasure… Always and forever, our own National Pastime.