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.

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.

THE WORLD IS IN TEARS

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June 6, 2016

I heard the news that Muhammad Ali had finally succumbed to the ravages brought on by years of fighting Parkinson’s. He had devloped a respiratory illness. Finally, he could breathe no longer.

As I listened to the news, many fond memories and images came flowing back. I had the pleasure of working with and knowing Ali over a long period of time. For the most part, it was the Halcyon days.

All of us who were part of the inner circle basked in his reflected glory. Of that group there are only two of us left… Dr. Ferdie Pacheco and myself. Ferdie is the last of the men who made up Ali’s corner.

Ferdie who ran two clinics in the heart of Miami’s ghetto was a perfect fit for Ali. Ali, a gentle giant of a man, learned early what it was to give back to a community. He saw Ferdie treat indigent patients who could not afford his services, for nothing. Ali, a happy spirit, learned early the reward of caring for others.

Ali lived by the biblical principle that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. Wherever we were, be it Tokyo, Manila, New York, Kinshasha, Vancouver, London, the Bahamas, or Seoul, Ali always had time for people.

He understood the mantel of humanity that he was wearing and the responsibility that had been placed on his shoulders. He was loved and adored, both up close and from afar.

Over the years, my life has been filled with big personages. However, no one for me has ever approached the majesty, as a person, that Ali possessed.

The world was shocked when in 1967, he refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army. He pleaded that it was against his religion. Many of us labeled him a “draft dodger. He was vilified, even burned in effigy. However, he stood tall! He never deviated from his belief that the war was wrong.

Many of the days great Black Leaders begged him not to do this. In fact, at one point a meeting was held in Cleveland. At that meeting, many sports giants asked him to reconsider… go into the service and do exhibitions. Among those at the meeting were Lew Alcindor, who would later become Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns, (considered the NFL’s greatest running back). They feared a backlash against the Black Community. Their pleas fell on deaf ears.

I was among those who were unhappy with him. After all, I and most of my friends had served in the Military. However, as I got to know him and realize that he was so genuine in his belief, I could do nothing but respect him and envy him in his courage.

Behind the scenes Ali was a gentle caring man. I can never forget sitting in his room at Houston’s Astroworld watching Jerry Quarry fight Jack O’Halloran from the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva. It was a bloody and savage battle.

He turned to my late wife Mollie and said profoundly, “What a terrible way to make a living. My son will carry a briefcase”. Two days later, Ali fought Buster Mathis at the Astrodome across the street and won a unanimous decision as he pounded Buster without mercy.

Speaking of the Astrodome, in 1972 I flew from L.A. with Wilt Chamberlain and his lawyer Seymour Goldberg to meet with Ali and Bob Arum. The idea was that Ali would fight the 7’2” Wilt.

We posed for pictures in Judge Hofheinz’ office when Wilt received a call from Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Lakers. The press was assembled upstairs and waiting for the announcement about Ali’s next fight. They had no idea whom it might be.

Wilt had to take the call, but we could not hold up the press conference. So Angelo Dundee, Ali and myself went up to meet the press. For a half hour, Wilt did not appear. During all that time, Ali entertained the assemblage with the doggerel, (the poems), that became his trademark before each fight. It was that poetry which got him the award of a literary seat at prestigious Oxford University.

Wilt did not show up. He had taken a plane back to Los Angeles. We learned, he had been in a contract dispute with the Lakers and used the fight ploy to achieve his goal which was settled when Jack Kent Cooke called. Hastily, Jimmy Ellis, a former Ali sparring partner and boyhood friend who had briefly been champion during Ali’s suspension, took the fight.

A picture of Ali posing with Wilt was published in the Guiness Book of Records.

During Ali’s 1976 down period, he agreed to fight Antonio Inouki. Inouki was a Japanese wrestling champion, as well as a holder of a 10th degree Karate Black Belt. When Angelo saw Inouki train he was afraid for the injury that Ali might incur.

Angelo wanted out! But the promoters, (Yakuza) would have no part of it, so they made special rules.

According to Inouki, Ali believed he had signed on for it to be an exhibition of Wrestler versus Boxer. When Angelo saw Inouki training with a series of brutal drop-kicks and violent grapples on sparring partners, Angelo realized he was training for a real fight.

Ali’s management renegotiated the rules. A list of restrictions was imposed on Inouki. The fight went off and to the TV audience it seemed boring. However, in Tokyo’s Budokan, Japan’s Madison Square Garden, the atmosphere was tense. It was ruled a 15 round Draw.

After the fight, I sat in Ali’s hotel room with Dr. Ferdie as I helped him apply Ice Pack after Ice Pack on Ali’s swollen legs which were a mass of Black and Blue. He had Hematomas from ankle to thigh as a result of Inoki’s kicking.

Ferdie wanted Ali to stay in the hotel room and rest for a few days before traveling anywhere. Ali would have none of it. Despite Ferdie’s warnings, Ali flew to Korea to honor his commitment to U.S. Troops stationed there. He fought exhibitions in seven different camps.

He then flew home to Los Angeles. His leg conditioned had worsened. Upon arriving, we were met with an ambulance. Ali was taken to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. There he hovered between life and death for almost two weeks. A fact that most of the public did not know until this day.

I was also there for his last fight against Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas. Ali, as they say, had nothing left in his tank. Berbick who under normal conditions would never deserve to be in the ring with Ali, hurt him badly. Along with my associates, Bob Block, Phil Gillen, Burt Sugar and Clair Higgins, I cried.

Ali passed the other day. I had not seen him in over 20 years. He was a kind, gentle man. He loved people, especially children.

There will be many eulogies attesting to his greatness and everyone of them will be true. He touched all of our lives… even those who never met him.

He was a man of great courage, honesty and humility. His overt braggadocio was only for the purpose of building interest in his fights. He always had a sparkle in his eye and a spring in his step until he was felled by Parkinson’s.

Ali’s inspirational legacy will live on for generations to come.I shall never forget him!

Grantland Rice, the great sportswriter, once wrote; “It’s not who wins, or loses, but how you play the game that counts!”

In the ring, Ali mostly won, but on rare occasion also lost. He always played at his best. The real winner is us, mankind. We are better off for his having been part of our lives.

R.I.P.

THE YOUNG AT HEART AND SPORTS

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May 31, 2016

You remember me, I’m sure! Today, I am an Octogenarian. That means I am in my 80’s!

How can that be?

Yet, it was only yesterday that I threw that winning pass for the New York Giants in the NFL Championship…(note: this was before the Super Bowl). While last month, I sunk that overtime goal that guaranteed the Bruins victory against the Montreal Canadians to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe, you remember when under great pressure, I forced Willis Reed to foul me so that my Celtics would move on to the final playoff round for the BBAA, (Today, the NBA), championship.

Of course, all of the foregoing was not real. I was 20, 25, 30 or, at the most, 35. I had no continuing aches and pains. I had never heard of arthritis. My heart was strong and I didn’t suffer from Asthma. Constant leg cramps, which would wake me up many a nights from a sound sleep, just didn’t exist.

Today, those maladies are commonplace among a great deal of my brethren, but no one should despair, we older folks have a lot of fight left in us.

We could sit around, moping and contemplating about how many Sunsets we have left. Or like most of us, we refuse to leave Planet Earth sitting on our duffs and as I said looking at each Sunset. Instead, we realize that life has taught us how to live.

So what if Mother Nature, in the course of normal aging, has taken the zip of our fastball. She no longer will let us lead a fast break, jump as high as we used to, throw a punch with the same speed and alacrity, or play in March Madness.

What she has done, is to allow us to compensate by substituting new sports, exercises and physical challenges geared to helping us lead as healthy and normal a life as we can. All this is done without taxing our bodies too much. She has taught us to use the tools we have been left with.

In essence, by seeking new physical endeavors, we become the teenagers of the future.

As a former member of the “President’s Council of Physical Fitness” I was exposed to a great number of statistics that I hope you will find interesting. Tennis and Golf are some of the favorites among elderly men. My 70 year old friend Dan Millis, once a top tennis player, feels the comparatively new sport of Pickleball fills his needs.

Among the studies that I have always remembered was one from The Idraettens Institute of Denmark. Their statistical results paralleled those of most countries including the United States.

For example, I learned that women prefer recreational sport in groups. Among them are yoga, zumba, pilates, spinning, tap dance, and aerobics.  Many Parkinson’s sufferers use Boxing (sparring) to help control the ailment.

Men, on the other hand, to a larger extent want to be able to compete. They want to measure their performance against themselves or others. To this end as I may have mentioned earlier, golf, softball, cycling, jogging and tennis are some of the favorites.

In addition to friendly daily, or weekly games, organized age group competitions have developed. California Senator Alan Cranston competed as a Senior Sprinter in major track meets well into his eighties. He lived to be 86.

Dr Paul Dudley White, considered the founder of preventive Cardiology, advocated for Cycling for good cardio fitness. He is in the Cycling Hall of Fame. There are Cycling paths named for him throughout New England. Where for over 50 years, he would ride 30 miles daily from his home to his office. He was 87 when he passed.

For the most part, the elderly want to do sports, or exercise during the day and 63% exercise before noon. As a rule, 58% of the elderly prefer exercising in nature/ forests (27%)— hiking, walking; on roads and sidewalks (20%— cycling, jogging; fitness centers (11%).

Elderly people are the most satisfied age group when it comes to utilizing facilities and arenas for sport. Lest we forget, it is the elderly who point out that the facilities and arenas have the biggest influence of their sports participation.

If you have been active while growing up, it is necessary that you stay active in your senior years. Health is the biggest barrier among the 32% of the elderly who remain inactive. As a matter of fact, many inactive elderly think they have become to old to exercise.

To me, as an elderly man who finds the gym both a physical and social boon, this lazy kind of thinking is tantamount to shutting yourself out of the chance for a continuing healthy lifestyle.

Inactive women are hindered to a large extent by bad health and bad physical shape. While inactive men lack interest and spend the time wasting away each day. There has to be a way of using different techniques to stimulate inactive men to become physically active.

Activity has a great positive social affect when the elderly person becomes part of a group and joins others. Exercise is a positive which helps with continuing good health and maintaining physical skills.

Studies tell us that new generations of elderly bring new tendencies in sports participation. They learn that much of the skill set they once possessed has eroded. There is only one alternative… compromise; do the same things, but in moderation.

Still more elders want to do specific sports as well as trying to continue doing the type of sport they did previously. However, we must learn to do these sports in modification. Every activity needs to be tempered.

The competitive flames still burn, but for most, the body moves on. However, with exercise and moderate competition, enjoyment of a healthy being and lifestyle is possible.

Albert Einstein, the World-Renowned Physicist felt strongly that a healthy mind is a product of a physically fit body. He always felt that when it came to fitness and strength it was best to stick to the basics.

This scrawny academic had a set daily pattern of weights and cardio. He never deviated. From his laboratory on the Princeton Campus to his home, he never rode, or drove a car. A bicycle, or his feet were his chosen mode of transportation. He was 87 when he died.

Satchell Paige, the great African-American Pitcher spent most of his best years toiling in the Negro Leagues. Long after the color barrier had been broken by Jackie Robinson, Bill Veeck, brought him to pitch in the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Indians.

Many who faced him including the great Joe DiMaggio thought he was the best pitcher of all time. Yet, he did not throw a Major League pitch until he was almost 50 years old.

His age, until he died, remained a mystery. Often, when asked how old he was, his answer was; “ How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are”.

He would also answer that same question with two other significant quotes; “Don’t look back something might be gaining on you” and “ Work like you don’t need the money… dance like nobody’s watching”.

Satchell was always in shape. He pitched his last MLB game at age 59. However, until he died at age 76, he could be found on any sandlot in Kansas City pitching batting practice, giving advice to youngsters, or just socializing. He lived life to the fullest.

The morale of today’s column, if there is one, is simply that sports and exercise is a great outlet as a way to stay healthy. You do not have to be a sports star, or a celebrity. Participation and making yourself available is what will always bear fruit.

Once I could run and jump. I never enjoyed working out in a gym. Today, I am a devotee of Dr. Einstein.

Why can’t I do Physics???????

THE CODE OF SPORTS ETHICS

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May 22, 2016

For years, I have been bothered by the “win at all costs” philosophy that seems to be predominant among our national thought process. Somewhere, the values we are supposed to have learned while growing up and competing have gone awry.

Years ago, my late friend John Chaffetz, father of Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, along with Ernie Vandeweghe and myself used to meet for lunch on a frequent basis. Ernie and I decided to take John out for lunch to celebrate his six-month anniversary as Commissioner of the AYSO, (The American Youth Soccer Organization).

Instead of it being a happy occasion, we found John down in the dumps.  Upon investigation, we learned that he intended to resign. He turned to both Ernie and myself asking if we would like to take his place.

We were astonished! After all, this was a position he had sought and a most coveted one at that. The revelation he made to us was: he loved his job and had many ideas he wished to implement, but he just couldn’t take the parents.

Parents, with absolutely no knowledge, were trying to dictate to this Professional what he had to do, what he couldn’t do and what he shouldn’t do. Shortly, after that luncheon, John did resign. Overbearing parents had caused a wonderful organization to lose the talent of a brilliant and dedicated leader.

It was at that lunch I first heard the term, “Soccer Mom”. However, that personage was familiar to me from many of the other walks of life that I travelled… ergo, “stage mother, hockey dad” etc;

As many of my readers know, I was involved in the boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics, as well as the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the President’s Council of Physical Fitness and still, although inactive, am a member of the USSA (United States Sports Academy) Advisory Board.

What triggered this column was the recent flare-up of tempers exhibited when the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals engaged in the kind of brawl that besmirches the name of Baseball.

Moreover, I think of all the kids who saw this exhibition by some of the men they wish to emulate. One of the combatants was the Nationals’ Bryce Harper… without question among today’s Baseball luminaries.

Think of what the kids take away from that scene… “If Bryce acts that way, than it’s okay for me to do the same”.

This is wrong! 

Parents and celebrities should be held to a higher standard. As a result, I decided it’s time to review the creeds of various athletic organizations and to get a feel of what their Mission is.

The Olympic Creed: “ The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well”. Literally translated if you do your best, you have a chance of emerging victorious.

The Little League Mission Statement has the same principles but is stated differently. It says in part: “to promote, develop, supervise and voluntarily assist in all lawful ways, the interest of those who will participate in Little League Baseball and Softball”.

In such a way, the league through proper guidance and exemplary leadership assists children and attempts to develop the qualities of citizenship, discipline, teamwork and physical well-being.

The Pop Warner Mission is to enable young people to benefit from participation in team sports and activities in a safe structured environment.

The above lofty statements and those of all other junior athletic organizations in no way accentuates a “win at any cost” attitude. Unfortunately many parents who must live vicariously through their children’s achievements, have hijacked and prostituted these goals.

These bastardizations lead to a complete moral decay and displays by adult athletes, a temperament that demoralizes us all. It is an indication of the feeling that it is alright to cheat as long as you win.

Let me cite a few extreme examples of what has happened.

At a Stockton youth football game, coach Cory Petero rammed a player in the back who had just blocked his son. Petero was charged with felony child abuse.

A T-ball coach from a Pittsburgh suburb offered one of his 8 year old players $25 to throw the ball at a teammate, a mildly autistic 9 year-old, during warm-ups.  His idea, the 9 year-old would be too sore to play in the playoffs. Then, he would not have to be used in the Playoff Game defying the rule that everyone on the team must get into the game.

His first pitch hit his teammate in the groin whereupon the coach ordered the 8 year to throw again, but harder at his head. The 8 year-old did as he was told and hit his teammate in his ear.

Unlike the parent/coach who felt winning was so important, the judge didn’t see it that way and convicted the coach of corruption of minors and conspiracy to commit simple assault.  He was sent directly to prison for six months.

In Boston, a Hockey Father Thomas Junta was charged with manslaughter in the fatal beating of another father over rough play at a Youth Hockey game. He was sentenced to a 6 to 10 year prison sentence.

Then there is the case of Timothy Lee Forbes, his son’s team lost their sixth grade Catholic League basketball championship. So angry, he sucker punched the winning coach before biting off part of his ear. Forbes was sentenced to four years in prison.

The are many horror stories, but one of the worst is about that of a Dentist, Dr. Stephen Cito. Dr. Cito sharpened his son’s chin-strap in an effort to literally slash the competition.

After five kids left a single game due to lacerations, (one went to the hospital for more than a dozen stitches), officials stopped the action to investigate.

For failing to stop his crazy dad, young Cito was expelled from school and his father received a year’s probation plus 400 hours of community service. The irony is the father is back practicing as a children’s dentist. Would you go to him?

There are countless more tales of this nature.  Too many to list in this Blog. To me, it is a national crisis. I do not have any answers. I grew up in quieter times.

We didn’t have fancy civic parks to play in.  We played in sand lots and on the streets. We were our own officials.  We had our fights and our arguments, but without parents and coaches who want to prove they are winners.

You know what, the same kids came out to play the next day.  Oh, we remembered what went on the day before, but the only way to settle the dispute was to play harder and try to win cleanly.

Overzealous parents and coaches who place the emphasis on winning at all costs are a severe detriment to the good that the youth programs can achieve.  In recent years, unprecedented media attention has been focused on youth sports.

I have queried a few of my Psychologist and Psychiatrist friends why it appears the violence in youth sports has dramatically escalated over the past five years. A great deal of it has been because of parent and coaches engaging not only negatively, but often times in violent behavior.

Many times, my friends tell me, the reasons have more to do with personality traits, the rapid pace of modern society and underlying societal pressures rather than actual circumstances surrounding that particular game. Thus, attitude transcends sports and is evident even in today’s political scene whereby so many candidates who have media exposure express callous, thoughtless and unsubstantiated remarks… breeding disrespect

I certainly have no answers.  However, I do believe people smarter than me should, in a calm fashion, look to making positive changes.  This happens first in the home, then on the filed of play.

One thing that some leagues do, I do not believe in.  I believe Trophies, medals, or awards should only go to the victorious.  No child should be honored for just showing up. They have to work hard to achieve a goal.  Which achievement should not be trivialized.

Let me close today with a positive note.

It happened last week in Newton, Massachusetts. In the Newton Southeast Little League, 8 year-old Jordan Bornstein pitched a no-hitter, had three hits including a Home Run and his team won.

But, the nicest thing I learned was that afterwards both teams went out together for Pizza and Ice Cream which the winning team paid for.

That’s what youth sports should be!

WHAT IS A STUDENT ATHLETE

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May 16, 2016

The headline of today’s Blog is not by accident. Surprisingly, a great deal of thought went into composing the headline. My friend Don Esters called me last week and he was complaining about the plight of what appears to be a high incidence of illiteracy shown by many athletes, supposedly college graduates. To Don, this is most evident when they are called upon to answer interviewers’ questions.

For those who have followed my writings, first in my columns and now on my Blog, realize that I have felt for a long time that a schools’ desire for winning teams does not excuse its shirking its true responsibility of educating our youth.

A few years back, I talked to my cousin who had been a professor of linguistics at a couple of our most prestigious universities. My complaint was that I felt offended by the bastardization of the English Language exhibited by so many former athletes who have become on-air talent.

The utilization of their sports achievements and celebrity is wonderful for securing the job. Their notoriety helps garner viewers and builds ratings. I was taught Standard English both as a College English Major and as an embryo announcer.

After all, most announcers take numerous diction classes and even study speech therapy. I did! As a young announcer, I was required to follow the NBC pronunciation guide, which at the time was the gold standard) and spend hours mastering various challenges that consisted of tongue-twister tests.

I called many of the former athletes ,“deez, dem and dozers”. My cousin pointed out that my attitude was wrong. They were only products of their environment; no different than when my forefathers came over from Europe. My ancestors had accents and they had difficulty mastering the English language.

My cousin, the linguist pointed out how wrong I was to make the assessment of ignorance. It is a mistake made by many of us who are unenlightened. She pointed out that languages are made up of many Dialects. In the case of a great many of these athletes, linguists describe their speech as a Black Urban Dialect. This Dialect is completely consistent within its environment… easily understood.

However, it is not what we consider Standard English. Thus, it is often stigmatize as having no social value. The fact is that many people associate the Dialect with ignorance. Such an association is wrong and without merit.

However, I do believe the NCAA colleges and Universities are doing many of these athletes a great disservice. Not only should communication skills be taught, but also all student athletes should be taught skills that will earn them a living once their playing days are done.

As I have written before, I am a firm believer that “one and done” employed by schools such as Kentucky in the handling of its Basketball program goes against everything an accredited institute of education should be standing for. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
The NCAA Basketball tournament known as “March Madness” dominates sports headlines for an entire month and bleeds over into the next month. The athletic prowess of these young athletes is a marvel to behold. However, what is less noticed is the alarming rate that Black Athletes are dropping out of colleges across the country.
On major college campuses across the country, Black males comprise less than 3% of undergraduate enrollments. However, when we study the numbers on the revenue-generating sports—Football and Men’s Basketball, they make up somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of those teams. It appears that they are only really there to be part of the revenue-generating working class and not necessarily there to be part of the educating class as most everyone else is.
The insidious part of this is that these athletes are supposedly promised one thing for all their blood and sweat. This one item can be a transformative tool in our society. A tool that might help them get a job and a comfortable place in life after athletics.
Unfortunately, all of the incentive is really on winning and not losing on the field, or on the court. Coaches, who themselves make substantial salaries, are not necessarily incentivized to graduate players. With a $10 Billion contract for NCAA Basketball Broadcasts and the knowledge that the five top coaches of the five power conferences make an average of $2.8 million a year, it is easy to understand why this is true.
Then, there is Jay Wright. Jay, whose real name is Jerold is the coach of Villanova, a small Catholic School located in Philadelphia. His school is not a member of one of the five power conferences. Yet, little Villanova is the reigning NCAA men’s Basketball Champion… beating all those vaunted powerhouse teams from the bigger conferences.
Here’s where Jay is different. He looks on getting a degree as the most important thing; an athlete should get out of his/her college experience. All coaches give their team a pep talk about their team and the need to win. Jay goes a step further.
This year, my friend Jerry Berger saw his oldest granddaughter graduate from Villanova… and he learned something that I think is a tribute to the school and to Coach Wright. He not only gives his team the obligatory pep talk, but each year he addresses the entire incoming class. His topic is not basically about sports, or Basketball, but more importantly, it is about studying hard and getting a degree.
In my eyes, Jay Wright is not just a coach, but also an educator. He understands what an academic institution is supposed to achieve and the benefits of a good education.

THE RUN FOR THE ROSES

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April 9, 2016

On the first Saturday every year for 142 years, the Kentucky Derby has been run at Iconic Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky. This year the winner was the overwhelming favorite Nyquist. The odds on Nyquist were 2-1 to win. Nyquist’s record is now 8 for 8.

I have had the good fortune to attend two Kentucky Derbys while working for the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. In 1956, I saw Needles win the Derby. Two years later, I saw Tim Tam have the Horseshoe wreath of Roses put around his neck in the Winners’ Circle.

To my younger readers, I mention the Gillette cavalcade of Sports because prior to the explosion that was to come about for American Sports on Sports Media, Gillette owned the exclusive Broadcast rights to all the major events of the day. Basically, it was Radio.

This included the Triple Crown of Racing which consists of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. All Championship Boxing Matches were broadcast weekly by the Cavalcade as well as all the Bowl Games

At the time, there were only four College Football Bowl Games… The Rose, the Sugar, the Orange and the Cotton Bowl.  Baseball’s World Series, and its All-Star Game rounded out the Gillette package. In that era Baseball was truly America’s National Pastime.

With the advent of Cable, TV and Over-the-Air Pay TV, Radio was no longer the all important medium delivering all news and sports. The new methods of transmission cried for product and thus more events were created… such as the Super Bowl and March Madness.

As my readers know, I have been involved in most sports, professional and amateur. However, Horse Racing is one that I am not well versed in.

In order to report properly, I have turned to my friend Jerry Berger,(the Budweiser guy), for insight, tutoring and knowledge. Over the years, Jerry has not only been a fan, but he has also been a Horse Owner and continues to be a student of racing, constantly studying and following the bloodlines.

In a previous Blog I reported on the “DNA in the NBA”. In Horse Racing, breeding is probably the most important aspect for creating Champions. It is a big business when a Derby champion is mated with a mare that has also been a winner in many stakes races.

For example, Tim Tam, the 1958 winner was sired by 1953 Triple handicap crown winner Tom Fool. Tom Fool’s dam was a champion as well. The $2,000,000 purse is dwarfed by the monies that a winner can return to its owner in retirement.

The mating of Thoroughbreds, is big business and the more races a Horse wins during his racing days, increases his value when he is retired to stud.

The Kentucky Derby has often been called the greatest two minutes in sports. However, those two minutes spawn a week of festivities unseen by any other sporting event anywhere in the world… including the Super Bowl, All-Star Games, or World Series.

There were over 150,000 visitors to the Derby. The results are not in, but in years past, the Kentucky Derby Festival has generated almost $130 million annually for the community and over $300,000 for area charities. To think the whole thing is done with just a professional staff of 23, However, there are over 4,000 volunteers.

Headdresses (Hats) are part of the great Tradition. It is often said that of British Royal Weddings, “Hats must be worn”. There it is a requirement for all female attendees. At the Derby, however, Hats are a cultural and traditional staple. Not only are they steeped in tradition, but when worn, they are also supposed to bring good luck.

Many women travel with more than one hat. So, she wouldn’t be improperly dressed. One lady I met from Oklahoma confided in me that she brought 15.

Women generally wear wide-brimmed Southern-Belle inspired Derby Hats that can be decorated with silk flowers, bows and ribbons among other things. Each day of the week represents 24 hours of partying.

Everywhere you go, the bands, the orchestras, the speakers blast the tune, “My Old Kentucky Home”. When played on Derby Day, it signals the start of the race.

The song is not only an integral part of every party and event. Equally as prevalent as Bourbon, (America’s own liquor) is the Mint Julep. The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century.

Each year, almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the Kentucky Derby weekend. That amount of Beverage requires more than 10,000 bottles of Bourbon, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice.

When I realize the odds and the amount of money bet on this year’s winner, it seems to be Dwarfed when you see what happened this past month as Leicester City won the Premier League Soccer Championship in England. The odds against Leicester winning were 5000 to 1 against. The upset cost the bookies over $ 27,000,000. The largest payout in English sports history. The 1913 winner, Donerail a 91-1 long shot, to this day is the biggest upset winner in racing.

Although the Kentucky Derby Purse is only $2,000,000, the after-market for the winner, as a Stud, will pay out over the years, multiple times above the initial purse to its owner.

The Sire depending on its previous success while racing and while impregnating its mares, will get thousands of dollars for each coupling. If a foal is successfully delivered, more often than not, the owner of the Sire receives additional monies and continues to own a dramatic piece of the newborn.

As the progeny grows and competes, the owner of the Sire continues to share in the foal’s/horse’s future earnings. Unlike humans, when we are delivered a newborn, as it grows, we continue to pay forever… in a most pleasurable way.

Happy Mother’s Day!