Our country's president lay in the hospital, wounded by a bullet from a psychopath's gun. A sidewalk is blood stained outside a Washington D.C. hotel, where three others were shot down by the same weapon. And the game still goes on.
In The City of Brotherly Love, tragedy entered The Spectrum and seated itself among the 18,000 cheering fans. There, the Indiana Hoosiers and North Carolina Tar Heels squared off for the NCAA basketball championship. The discomfort could be felt through the television screen.
In the press box and in the Ovations Room, where guests gathered for dinner, televisions played over and over the tragedy of this young year.
There was a motionless picture of the surprised President Reagan being pushed into a limousine, then close up frames of Press Secretary James Brady on the sidewalk, blood gushing from the hole in his head, the fallen Secret Service agent and a wounded Washington D.C. policeman.
NCAA tournament directors debated on whether or not to cancel the contest. During the consolation game between Virginia and LSU, tournament directors, along with NBC decided to proceed with college basketball's most gala event.
When reports came from Washington that the president was out of surgery and danger, tournament director Wayne Duke directed that the game be played as scheduled.
The game ball was tossed, bands played and the arena became a scene of bedlam. It was a tough decision, one I wouldn't want the responsibility for. But still it is a very debatable one.
Here is the United States, a country going through another tragedy similar to those of recent years. This senseless act by John Hinkley is just as painful to the American people as was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, civil rights leader Martin Luther King and former Beatle John Lennon.
To some, like myself, it seemed like a good time for quiet reflection, not basketball games. Senator Ted Kennedy appeared on national television to ask for a national war against hate.
Where does violence come from? How can we correct it? Does it gain anything to dispense with our traditional fun and games? Coach Dale Brown, whose team fell to Virginia in the consolation game, acknowledged that he and his team entered The Spectrum with heavy hearts.
"I don't see any impact in not playing," he said in an AP interview. "Life goes on. The sun will come up. Our not doing something isn't going to solve the problems in America." If that were the case, he added, "we might as well not play out of deference to the black kids being killed in Atlanta."
Duke, then commissioner of the Big Eight Conference, recalled that he had been compelled to make a quite similar decision after the assassination of President Kennedy in November, 1963.
The traditional Nebraska-Oklahoma game came up three days after Kennedy's death and Duke wasn't sure what to do. After contemplation Duke consulted Bud Wilkinson, the director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, who then contacted Bobby Kennedy. The younger Kennedy told Wilkenson the president would have wanted the game to go on.
The game was played, even though most colleges, along with the old American Football League cancelled their games. Commissioner Pete Rozelle of the National Football League drew raps when he failed to declare a suspension in the NFL.
Martin Luther King was slain in April of 1968 at Memphis. Funeral services were held at his church in Atlanta while golfers were practicing for the Masters Tournament in Augusta, not many miles away. Many felt the Masters should have cancelled activities for just one day to express sympathy for a great American.
Television has brought wars, tragedies and death right into our homes and made them an instant part of our lives. The shooting of President Ronald Reagan in Washington is woven into our very consciousness by the lens that seems to have no limit to its scope.
That's why it's difficult to watch Isiah Thomas duel Al Wood on the court while the president lies in the hospital having come so close to death.
The difference between good and great on the high school level is sometimes only a fine line. Good preparation is seemingly the difference which moves an average athlete into a great one. For in preparation comes teamwork, league championships and state berths. Take the Wallace Miners, for instance.
During the last five football seasons, Coach Norm Walker's Miners have won the Inter Mountain League title four times. That spells preparation. To realize Walker's success in his seventeen years at Wallace, one almost has to have been a part of it. Football for the Miners is not a sport, but a religion or way of life.
A Miner has pride and if you are from Wallace you practice hard not because the coaches drill it into you, but because being part of a tradition requires it of you. Such is the instance of this year's 1981 Wallace Miners edition. They are 2-0 and headed for another great finish. This season's squad closely resembles its predecessors of 1977 who breezed through the Inter Mountain League schedule to win the North Idaho Championship by defeating Grangeville in Moscow's Kibbie Dome.
The Wallace Miners have a history of winning, coupled with a very rich tradition for the small mining town nestled in Idaho's Silver Valley. But about seventy miles to the west on Interstate 90 in the Spokane Valley is another team with just as an impressive track record as the Miners. That team is the East Valley Knights.
When the preseason in the Frontier League starts, sportswriters from all over Washington State alike get together to look over the facts on paper and come to the conclusion it's another year for East Valley to once again reign. So this Friday night at Sather Field, Wallace receives its biggest test of this young season as East Valley comes to town.
Knights Coach Bob Shill has enjoyed abundant success over like the Miners like no other coach. Last year for example, on a cool September night in the Spokane Valley, the Fighting Knights defeated Walker's team 42-0. In that game, the closest Wallace came to scoring was taking the ball to the East Valley 30-yard line. During that game, East Valley's cheerleaders did a push-up every time their Knights scored a touchdown. They got a harder workout than the Knights players they were cheering on. It was that bad of a rout.
East Valley used a tight defense in 1977 to survive 6-0 and beat Wallace at Sather Field. In that game, John Johnson's 24-yard gallop made the difference. Johnson is now at Montana State enjoying a successful career as a Bobcat gridder and Shill is once again favored to win the Frontier League crown. But this is the year Wallace could possibly score against and snap East Valley's hex over the Wallace Miners. The Miners are loaded.
Scott Haldi has ran for 342 yards so far this season. He has the speed and size to turn small gains into huge ones. A 1,000-yard rushing season would not be out of the question for Haldi. When Coach Walker feels Haldi is running too much, he will turn to Mark Diddens. Diddens can play any position in the backfield and poses a threat to make the big play every time he touches the football.
After Paul Stull batters defenses and the ground game is established, it's time for Scott Horning to go to the air. Horning looked sharp in his 88 yard passing performance in the Sandpoint Bulldogs game last Friday. The offensive line is just as stellar as the backfield it protects. Shane Perkins, Charley Majors and junior Bruce Ives gives the Miners a solid core in an already solid line.
A stingy pass defense headed by junior Mickey Zeller should keep opponent's scoring at a minimum and give the ball to the offense much more as well. Zeller, the teams backup quarterback, turned the Sandpoint game around with his timely interception deep in Bulldogs territory just as the second half started.
Last year, Wallace started the 1980 season 0-2 when traveling to East Valley. This year Coach Walker feels it will be an advantage going into the East Valley game 2-0, with a definite edge for league play. After last Friday's 15-3 win over A-1 Sandpoint, Wallace appears ready to play. And everybody knows Bob Shill doesn't rebuild at East Valley, he only reloads. So obviously the Knights are ready as well. Time will tell.
So the table is set, let's get to the main course for Fridays Main Event between the Wallace Miners and East Valley Knights. Let's get ready to rumble. This looks like another great year for two great teams with great traditions as they clash at Sather Field, regardless of Friday's outcome.
1980 was by far the year of the underdog in American sports. The year is etched in America's memory and surely will live there longer than most. It marked the end of the road for some great champions. Some suffered abrupt falls at the beginning of this new decade to darkhorses while others barely survived.
The first year of this new decade witnessed the first U.S. boycott to the Summer Olympic Games ever which were held last summer in Moscow, Russia. President Carter's move kept the Americans home and will surely pave the way for future Olympic tampering. The Summer Olympics are scheduled for Los Angeles and the Winter Olympics will be held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in 1984.
But politics didn't interfere with the 1980 Winter Olympics. On the ice rink at Lake Placid, a youngster from Madison, Wisconsin was skating his way into Olympic fame. Speed skater Eric Heiden caught the country's attention with five gold medals.
Then the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, competing way over its Red, White and Blue head, won the gold. The performance was so astonishing it stole every heart throughout the nation.
The Winter Olympics are a tribute to what hard work and dedication can actually accomplish. Team USA, a group of underdogs mainly from Minnesota and Massachusetts, defied all odds and beat a heavily favored Russian hockey team in the first game of the medal round. Two weeks earlier in an exhibition game, the Soviets toyed with the Americans at Madison Square Garden, winning 10-3. Months prior, the Russians defeated the NHL All Stars in commanding fashion. Team USA then came from behind to beat Finland and capture their first gold hockey medal since 1960 at Squaw Valley, which created bedlam in the small town of Lake Placid, New York.
Uncle Sam was taking it on the chin about then. Remember the circumstances? Fifty-three American citizens were being held hostage Tehran, Iran. The Russians were invading Afghanistan and President Carter was pondering an Olympic boycott of the Moscow Winter Olympics while massive American job layoffs and inflation was soaring into the heavens. The times were at their bleakest.
Then the Cinderella hockey team broke onto the ice at Lake Placid. Herb Brooks and his team surely was realistic about their chances. And rightfully so, since the USSR was the unquestioned gargantuan of Olympic and world hockey for over twenty years.
Mike Eruzione, the captain of the USA Hockey Team will relive those precious moments forever. Undoubtedly, he will remember scoring the winning goal for the United States against the Russians in the tournament. He will remember counting down the clock "4... 3... 2... 1" and the fan bedlam that exploded on the rink after the gold was a reality. Erozione will also remember goalie Jim Craig wrapped in an American flag, his eyes glazed over, looking for his father so they could share that once in a lifetime moment.
But most of all, Mike Erozione will remember the medal ceremony when 20 Americans, who were nicknamed Big Doolies, stood on the pedestal made for one and accepted their medal... together. In an AP interview Erozione said, "I remember it so well. Standing there on the podium, I felt at the time and I still feel now that one person doesn't win a hockey game or a tournament like that one. I hoped all 20 of us would get up there. I stood there and watched for awhile. And then I said to myself, Hey wait a minute they've got to come up here with me."
That's when Erozione motioned the rest of the team to join him. It wasn't Olympic decorum, but it was all the same beautiful. The Big Doolies belonged together. Sports Illustrated brought some of them together, honoring these remarkable men with the magazine's Sportsmen of the Year Award. It was an obvious, yet fitting award.
It's all over now. Unlike other clubs, Olympic hockey teams self destruct into 20 different directions and careers afterward, at least in our country. There is never a next year for them. They wrote their story once. They are the Sportsmen of the Year.
If possible, this moment in time has added meaning for me and possibly more so than the average Winter Olympics follower. The United States defeated the Russians 4-3 on February 22, which was my birthday. What a present it was for me to remember the rest of my life. I still get chills when I see pictures of goalie Jim Craig wrapped in the Stars and Stripes I admire so much in the middle of that Lake Placid rink.
Happy Birthday to me and thank you for the wonderful birthday gift. Our nation will never forget 1980, the year of those hockey players from "The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" who defeated the great red bear in ice hockey.
Like most people, I'm not fond of watching basketball games that will ruin my evening. On Saturday, December 13, I thought I'd go watch Kellogg's game with Sandpoint at Andrews Gymnasium. With both teams undefeated, the game would be a barnburner regardless of who won. Instead I spent a quiet evening watching Christmas specials at home on television.
Had I attended the game, it would have been a huge mistake for it would have ruined my whole month. The game itself would have been well worth my time and money. However the antics which followed the contest would have made me sick.
Kellogg has a well balanced team which promises to be a factor in both the Inter Mountain League race and State Championship consideration. This truly is the best basketball team the Wildcats have ever had. If Kellogg's state championship hopes are to be ruined and I hope they won't be, we should let the team itself do it, not the fans.
The Board of Control for the North Idaho Officials Association has placed the Kellogg Wildcats, along with two other schools, on a warning status for the 1980-81 basketball season. The action was taken after one adult threw a coat over an official and another fan threatened the same official with violence. Stunts like these are expected from junior high school students, not grown ups.
In Anaconda, Montana, the rivalry between Butte Central High School and Anaconda High has gotten so out of hand that high school officials are pondering the idea of holding both basketball games and wrestling matches between the two schools, but not letting anybody in the gymnasium except the players, coaches, cheerleaders and officials. Does that sound much fun? I certainly don't believe so. Now, the situation in the Silver Valley isn't that bad, yet.
When I attended high school in Wallace, my teammates and I enjoyed playing against Kellogg for the bragging rights of the Silver Valley. Whether we won or lost wasn't the point. We just enjoyed being up against the Wildcats and obviously wanted to win. Our teams were always razzed in fun when competing in either Kellogg or Wallace for that matter, but it was merely fun.
The athletes of today will be our leaders tomorrow. I submit to the parents of Kellogg athletes this question. Do you want your children to witness these types of shenanigans when they participate in or watch sports at Kellogg or anywhere else? I hope and pray it's a rhetorical question and your answer is "No Way." These are good kids that attend Kellogg High School and they are just as good in Mullan, Wallace and other schools throughout the nation.
Please don't ruin their moment of glory this year in basketball or any other sports by displaying bad manners at athletic functions. I love sports and consider it a major part of my life. There are millions of others who feel the same as me. Why is it that a select few ruin moments for all of us?
Something isn't proper along the beaten path. Those select few don't have to spoil it for the majority and they won't. Kellogg is too great of a community to let that happen. The people of Kellogg, Idaho are the kindest, most generous and greatest in the land. Now is their chance to prove just that.
The Kellogg Wildcats basketball team is a splendid team to watch. I love the city and school almost as much as my alma mater of Wallace. When competing in my younger days, I'd get a little carried away at times and make bad decisions, but I was a kid. However, my antics were mild in comparison to what happened on December 13 in Andrews Gymnasium. What excuse do adults profess?
Fans of the Silver Valley athletic teams, let's love and root for our favorite team, but not in a manner which demonstrates being a poor sport. Let's show out of towners what I'm a firm believer in and that's the graciousness of the people of this community as a whole. That's all of The Play By Play until after Christmas. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The omission of the Moscow Bears from the final A-2 Associated Press Top 5 boys basketball poll in the State of Idaho was unquestionably justified by many. Every single A-2 Top 5 team had a much better record than the Bears 10-13 mark. That takes one back to the old adage any team can be beaten on any given night. And if one doubts that concept, ask the Madison Bobcats, Bishop Kelly Knights or the Inter Mountain League champion St. Maries Lumberjacks.
It has been a remarkable basketball year for the City of Moscow. With the Idaho Vandals making a Cinderella finish in the Big Sky Conference along with the newly crowned Moscow Bears being State Champions, it should make a prestige entry in the 1981 pressbook for both. Pressbooks can at times be highly overrated.
The most important fact to A-2 basketball fans residing in Northern Idaho was a northern team won the State Championship. This accomplishment proves two important facts, which are people in Northern Idaho know what a basketball is and teams from the northern part of Idaho are just as good as their southern counterparts, regardless of what sportswriters in Boise say. This year's A-2 tournament was unique in another way being that it was the first time two northern schools vied for the state championship.
Let's ponder season records for different high schools playing basketball or sports in general. Why shouldn't A-2 teams play more A-1 schools in the regular season, since a teams objection should be to get experience to win a state championship. Sure, the team might take a mediocre record, such as Moscow's, to the State Tournament, but they will have better experience playing larger schools which will help them in post season play.
It can and surely has been argued that many teams with worse records had tougher non conference opponents. Supporters of such teams can say with great conviction, "Yes, we lost more games but look at who beat us." I didn't fail Basic Logic 101 in college, but if a teams objection is to run up their record against smaller and lower talented teams to overwhelm their state adversaries and land in the Top 5 AP poll weekly, maybe I should enroll in an immediate crash course on the subject.
Moscow's style of play against St. Maries was superb. Fellow columnist Bob "Bones" Davis described the Bears as playing smart, poised and cool. I couldn't agree more. The Moscow Bears beat the best and therefore are the best. But let's also tip our hats to the runner up team, St. Maries. The Lumberjacks could have easily quit when they were down by 20, but displayed pure guts by coming back to be 2 points shy after a short shot fell off the rim at the buzzer. Kent Sullivan, Marc Maher, Brian Sines and Tim Jeremias will see plenty of basketball action in the future.
The reaction of Moscow's state championship was one of joy, not only in the high school's community but all over most of Northern Idaho. A concert at the University of Idaho's Jazz Festival 1980 was even interrupted half way through the ceremony for the announced good news to be greeted by a roof raising cheer by high school music students from all over Northern Idaho.
As for the Bears cagers, there was ultimate ecstasy after the championship game and the lowering of the nets in Pocatello's Reed Gymnasium. On that night, Moscow's dream became a reality. The Moscow High School Bears can finally say they are Number One, the best in Idaho A-2 basketball.
The election of Alex Flores and Don Marek to the outstanding player list at the A-2 State Tournament was even better news. Both should see college action next season on the hardcourt as will several other seniors who played A-2 high school basketball. Northern Idaho sure did produce some great basketball players and memories for the 1980 season and it promises to get even better for the north next year.
So vote away and omit teams from Northern Idaho you Boise area sportswriters. Yes Southern Idaho, we do exist for something much more than our silver mining and timber revenues.
With the upcoming NCAA basketball season right around the corner, the end of the Weber State Wildcats reign as bully of the block seems quite apparent. This is the first season in many years the Wildcats aren't expected to win the Big Sky Conference title in basketball. Instead, Weber State is picked to take second despite losing four of its starters from last season. The new predicted Big Sky Conference kingpin is the Montana Grizzlies. This pick by sportswriters will surely turn into an interesting debate, which I happen to question.
Last week I dared to name the Heisman Trophy winner and NCAA national champion for the 1980-81 football season. Let me go further out on the limb by saying, look for the Idaho Vandals to take the Big Sky Conference crown.
Coach Don Monson came to the Moscow campus in 1979 to coach a team which had gone 4-22 the season before. The Vandals went 11-15 that year. Idaho was picked to finish eighth in the 1980 Big Sky race but behold, Idaho finished second to Weber State with a 9-5 conference mark and 17-10 overall. Some opponents to be defeated along the way were Penn State, Nebraska, Weber State and Pepperdine.
Don Monson has constructed teams with traits like togetherness, consistency, ability to change tempo, toughness, flexibility and overall tenacity. His best player and only superstar, Don Newman has graduated. Newman was the last player cut by the Boston Celtics in October.
When Jud Heathcote coached at Washington State with Marv Harshman, they were firm believers that only teams which played sound basketball with a multiple tempo could win consistently. Monson joined Heathcote at Michigan State. They built a team that won the 1979 NCAA Championship at Salt Lake City, Utah. Monson became convinced, when the breaks are there, take them. The Idaho Vandals should do just that. Kibbie Dome basketball promises to be very fun and exciting to watch this season.
That's understandable when you look at the Vandals star studded line up. Guards are crucial in the fast break and the Vandals have them in Brian Kellerman and new comer Ken Owens, a New Yorker who transfered from Treasure Valley Community College. Owens is a quick, complete player that makes the big breaks. Idaho will need that with the graduation of Newman.
Then there's Gordie Herbert, a 6'5" senior who is out at the present time with a sprained right wrist. Herbert will be absent for four weeks, but when he returns look out. He's a great shooter and rebounder who is terrific at the wing position. Herbert will be a welcome sight when he returns to the squad. Senior Phil Hobson is improving on the boards and is lightening fast on the break. 6'5" Ron Maben led UI last season with 155 rebounds and goes well on breaks. Idaho has a bench consisting mainly of senior guard and forward Dan Forge, 6'11" center Mike Dow and former Coeur d'Alene Vikings superstar Ben Ross, who has been slowed by an allergy problem as of late. Former North Idaho College guard Al Williams is part of the team along with freshmen forwards Zane Frazier, Peter Prigge and guard Freeman Watkins. The Vandals are loaded.
Idaho Vandal basketball, before last season, went 35 years without a team with a winning record. Babe Brown's team won the old Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division in the 1945-46 season, but was defeated by the Southern Division champion, the California Golden Bears two games to one. Back then there was a two out of three game series which decided the PCC champion. Idaho lost out on an NIT bid by the skin of their silver and gold noses last year in the Big Sky Championship game, thanks to the Montana Grizzlies. The Vandals shouldn't lose that opportunity this year if given the same chance.
It has been said in the past, good things are worth waiting for and come to those who patiently wait. The Idaho Vandals have waited 35 years for their season to come and it seemingly has arrived. Move over Babe, it's time for one more legendary coach to work himself into Idaho Vandals basketball history with a team of blue chippers who will keep all of us on the edge of our seats game after game right into the NCAA Tournament.
One tends to think of the Super Bowl as a ponderous institution, which is Roman numeraled as are British potentates or world wars. Many Super Bowl moments people reflect back on aren't the big plays or the glamorous efforts, but rather the colorful post game happenings.
Sometimes these moments were pivotal and at times they were entirely irrelevant, at least for the game's outcome. One of the most remembered moments in Super Bowl history was the New York Jets unbelievable upset over the Baltimore Colts as well as one evening in downstate Florida.
Arms, legs and sticky fingers are usually the crucial body parts used in the Super Bowl. In 1969 a mouth belonging to Joe Namath was the important organ. Broadway Joe kept confidently promising the media that his New York Jets would upset heavily favored Baltimore of the NFL. All that bragging might have set up New York for a terrible embarrassment had it lost, but Namath's words merely took away some of the Colts edge, as well as belittling them in the process.
Namath's verbal assault came on Tuesday evening, the week of Super Sunday, when he and his roommate, Jim Hudson, went to Fazio's, a Fort Lauderdale night spot for dinner and drinks. As the evening came to a close on Super Bowl Wednesday morning, Namath's raps grew louder. What Broadway Joe's intoxicated speech covered was how Baltimore would be overwhelmed by the Jets on Sunday. At the other end of the bar Namath's words were being caught by an interested party, Baltimore's Lou Micheals.
Micheals swallowed hard. A person weighing 259 pounds and sporting the NFL experience he had can swallow very hard. But pride was at stake, not only for Baltimore but also for the NFL, whose members chanted of the American Football League's inferiority to it's big brother. Lou Micheals rose to the bait and swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
Soon the Colts placekicker had not only acknowledged Namath's presence, but started throwing slurs back at Broadway Joe. "Namath, you have a big mouth," Micheals said. The exchange of words continued as tension mounted. A crowd gathered just as Micheals was ready to rush the passer. The crowd expected action.
But Namath had poise. AFL respectability hadn't been acquired by a lack of common sense. Namath eluded Micheals at the last possible moment by saying, "Let's have another drink. Everything's on me." Lou accepted Broadway's offer. Everything but the joke was on Namath. The Colts had allowed themselves to get hot and bothered over a young quarterback who was even better then he professed.
Two exotic dancers have appeared in Super Bowls. At New Orleans in 1975, Sandra Sexton from a Bourbon Street club ran on to the field wearing white heeled boots and a mink coat. She then took off the mink, revealing a 42-24-42 form. Then she started jogging around the field. Two security guards tried to catch her after a short chase, but what an second effort. She broke away again, was apprehended a second time and then was escorted out of the Sugar Bowl. In that little jaunt, Sandra gained more yardage on the ground naked than the Minnesota Vikings tallied all afternoon in full pads against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 1976 Super Bowl crowd witnessed Bambi Brown of Atlanta. It was early in the fourth quarter at Miami's Orange Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys leading Pittsburgh, 10-7. Tackle Rayfield Wright of Dallas was in the Cowboys huddle when a woman dashed in the middle of the circle. She was wearing an extremely loose outfit with stripped pants and a cowboy hat. Believe it or not she kept the outfit on.
She did remove a silver chain from her ankle however and gave it to Wright saying, "This will give you good luck." Wright threw the chain away. He didn't believe in superstition. Two plays after Bambi's disappearance, the Steelers blocked a punt for a safety. Then shortly after that, Pittsburgh went ahead for good. "Maybe I should have held on to that damn charm," Wright said. But Sandra Sexton proved in 1975 that a stripteasers charms aren't easy to hold.
Those moments are part of the Super Bowl past. One never knows whether we can expect moments as exciting when Philadelphia and Oakland clash in Super Bowl XV in the Louisiana Superdome for football's world championship. But this guy does.
It started with an Earth shattering yell from the mouth of Eric Heiden after he won his fourth gold medal. It was elevated to astonishment with the U.S. ice hockey team's amazing victory over the Soviets. Then it became a loud road which went, "USA, USA, USA."
The sound off was so intense it could be heard from the frigid coast of Alaska to the warm sandy beaches of Florida. The whole nation joined in the celebration. Pride returned to America. The United States hasn't had much to rejoice over as of late. Fifty of its citizens are still being held hostage in Iran. Detente is slipping. The Russians are threatening around the Persian Gulf. Energy is draining everybody's pocketbook and that ever present inflation is soaring into the heavens.
Then came Heiden and a group of gutsy college kids, mostly from the Boston area and Minnesota, who skated their way to an impossible dream, being a gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics. Uncle Sam has been down lately and needed a shot in the arm. The kids in the hockey rink gave it to him along with a feeling of honor and American pride.
The Winter Olympics are history now. They were 13 days that belonged to a 21 year old Madison, Wisconsin kid in a gold suit, setting Olympic records nobody dreamed possible and a group of dark horse underdogs playing hockey for "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" in two weeks of February that America will never forget.
The games ended in an ocean of stars and stripes with 20 young Americans standing with gold around their necks, happily singing "The Star Spangled Banner" as their flag rose approvingly over their well earned hockey gold medals. But there is one huge difference between Heiden, who wrote Olympic history with five gold medals and the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. That difference is Heiden was favored to win the gold while the hockey team, an unknown team of college players and minor leaguers weren't expected to even finish in the medal round.
In an AP interview, Heiden was quoted as saying, "People expected me to do well. But I don't think many thought the U.S. hockey team would beat the Russians." Well who did? Team USA's victory over USSR set the scene for the Americans to claim the gold, something that had not been done since 1960 at Squaw Valley, California. And that's exactly what they did last Sunday, coming from behind on third period goals by Phil Verchota, Rob McClanahan and Mark Johnson for a 4-2 victory over Finland that touched the heart and soul of the entire nation.
Fans danced their way through the streets of Lake Placid, singing patriotic songs and cherishing America's first hockey gold in 20 years. And after the game for the gold, the players basked in an emotional once in a lifetime joy of the moment. Mark Johnson, the team's leading scorer and son of America's 1976 Olympic hockey coach, described himself as simply in awe after the victory over the Finns.
When hockey players were idle, the ice rink was handed to the figure skaters. America's Charlie Tickner won a bronze and Linda Fratianne escaped with a silver in their respective events, with golds going to Robin Cousins of Great Britain in the men's event and Annett Potzsch of East Germany in the women's. But the medal most spoken of was earned by America's unknowns, who represented Team USA in the hockey tournament.
The team was seeded seven in a field of eight in their bracket. Saying they were overlooked would be in order. In the first game, the American's tied powerhouse Sweden 2-2 on a goal with just 27 seconds to play by Bill Baker. Then they destroyed the Czechs, considered the second best team in the world behind the Soviets, 7-3. All of a sudden people were thinking about a possible medal, but not a gold mind you. The Russians humiliated Team USA two weeks earlier at Madison Square Garden in an exhibition contest. Every hockey expert knew the Soviets would own the gold yet again. After all, they won the last four Olympic golds in a row.
The U.S. finished the preliminary round undefeated and moved into the medal round matched against the Russians, while Sweden and Finland played in the other medal round game. The Russians were considered by many to be the best hockey team in the world, either amateur or professional. When the game concluded it was as if David had conquered Goliath once again. The Soviets were dumbfounded and the Yanks prevailed 4-3.
Just before the Finland-USA matchup, many homelanders felt the Americans had their emotional game on Friday with USSR and would be flat and drained of spirit. But rather then being emotionally low, the defeat of the Russians served as a boost for USA and that boost propelled them to a 4-2 victory over the Finns and a long awaited gold medal. What makes this even more absorbing is Team USA came from behind in every single game at the Lake Placid Olympics.
The American victory set off a chain reaction of joy and happiness that ran from Main Street in the tiny town of Lake Placid, New York all the way to the White House, where President Carter hosted the Olympic athletes yesterday. They were all there. The Heidens and the hockey players alike, treasured their moment in American history with America's president. The Lake Placid Olympics belonged to them.
It's competitors like our American Olympians who not only make the United States the greatest nation on the planet Earth, but have also taught us to once again believe.
On June 9, 1979 Ben Camphouse was one of the most gifted and highly recruited wrestlers to ever come out of the State of Montana. One day later, Camphouse was in critical condition in a Great Falls, Montana hospital. Whether he would live, let alone wrestle again was unknown.
Now nearly 18 months later, Ben Camphouse is alive, healthy, optimistic and wrestling for the nationally ranked North Idaho College Cardinals. Is he still the wrestler Simms, Montana residents remember? Well that remains to be seen. But if Camphouse ever wrestles again or wins another match he will have won the biggest battle of his life.
After that speeding car left him hospitalized with a fractured left leg, broken left arm, coma, concussion and broken vein in his right arm, wrestling was just a distant dream to those who knew Camphouse.
"Ben Camphouse is one of, if not the most dedicated wrestler on the squad," said NIC wrestling coach John Owen. "He will stay in the wrestling room many hours after practice just to get a move down. He's an amazing kid."
"I'll tell you a story about Ben Camphouse," continued Owen. "He recently took an exam in chemistry given by Chemistry Professor Bill Pecca. Camphouse got an A on the bugger. Pecca told me Camphouse would practically have had to stayed up all night to get that good of a grade."
Many wouldn't be surprised if Camphouse did exactly that. And many would be even less surprised if Ben Camphouse makes nationals with the nationally ranked Cardinals. But when Camphouse was asked how he would fare in the national tournament he replied, "First I have to make the team. I want to take it step by step."
There have been speculations by coaches and fans that Camphouse would never wrestle again. Those speculations were obviously wrong. All those injuries, along with the painful rehabilitation that lingers on, couldn't stop Camphouse from competing.
Just before the accident, Camphouse was on his way home from work and was talking to some friends on the edge of a rural Montana highway when the fateful event happened. "When I was out of the hospital I was just taking little baby steps. I was so slow," Camphouse said of his rehabilitation. "My equilibrium was almost zero. It was really hard to walk," he added.
Most coaches disregarded Camphouse after the accident, but not Coach Owen. "John called me when I was in the hospital to find out how I was. He really cared about me. I just wasn't another person," said Camphouse.
When Camphouse was in his rehabilitation process his doctor asked him, "How important is wrestling in college to you?" Camphouse replied, "Everything." Then the doctor said, "It's going to have to be, because every step you take is going to hurt." Camphouse made that commitment. He knows every step he takes will hurt and every takedown will be painful. But he also wants to be better than average. That's a feat he should obtain.
It more than likely would be proper to rule out All American status for Ben Camphouse, but don't be surprised if he gets a piece of the cake at nationals. He is so positive towards life and so dedicated that it almost makes me feel rather inadequate in comparison when I talk to him.
I'm pulling for Ben Camphouse to be a national champion in his weight class. Not only because I'm an alumnus of North Idaho College, but for another reason. He has something going for him that even the most gifted athlete lacks and that's the drive and desire to be a winner. And whether or not he wins another match in his young life, Ben Camphouse is exactly that, a winner.
Let's suppose you're a carpenter who has been working for The Acme Construction Company for the last 25 years. You started as an apprentice at $2.05 an hour but now earn $14.05 along with time and a half for overtime. It's not a bad living. At times it almost seems worthwhile. You have your own house in a rural community and enough money tucked away for retirement and to send your children to college. The company has been good to you, but you feel stuck almost like you're not advancing or pursuing your idea of the American Dream.
Across town, The Park Avenue Builders Company offers you a job as foreman with twice as much money involved. You accept the position. Acme doesn't scream, it merely shrugs and promotes another apprentice. The same thing is now happening in Major League Baseball, only on a much bigger scale. And that's the contributing factor why the season will probably open with empty stadium seats across the professional baseball circuit.
Regardless of what happens from here on out, 1981 may go down as the landmark season for our national past time. It could be the year baseball is shocked into reality by the fact that spectator sports, such as professional baseball, are no longer just fun and games, but a part of everyday commercial life.
For instance, the relation between owner and player is no different than the carpenter and his boss, or of any other free enterprises, such as the auto industry or common labor. The key to the current strike threat is the free agent compensation issue. Free agency was given birth in 1976 after an arbitrator and the courts ruled against the reserve clause, which had made the ballplayer a club slave until the organization decides to trade or discard the property. Free agency means freedom to players. As contracts run out, players began putting themselves on the open market and reaping salaries that defied belief.
Owners complained they couldn't afford the bidding. They quipped without superstars they couldn't win world championships. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn compared the delema to a ticking time bomb. But the complaining owners kept dealing out million dollar contracts. Then four years ago players agreed to permit a team losing a player via free agency to receive compensation for that player. Owners thought it was inadequate.
In the newest negotiations, owners have demanded that any club signing a free agent who was drafted by more than seven teams must give up one of its roster players after protecting their top 15. Ballplayers, once they fulfill their contract obligation, should be able to sell their skills to the highest bidding club. Owners can fork out as much as their pocketbooks and shareholders will allow. It's time to forget about compensation.
When Lee Iacocca went from Ford Motor Company to The Chrysler Corporation, should Chrysler have to throw in two vice presidents and all unsold Dodge vehicles? Or how about when Barbara Walters switched from NBC to ABC? Should ABC have to pitch in Frank Gifford and two top news anchors? It's a fact of life that in industry and business, big companies steal young bright executives all the time. So let's forget the idea of ballplayers being spoiled and ruining the game of baseball with their demands.
Why blame Reggie Jackson for making $3.2 million in five years when actor Robert Redford receives $4 million for one motion picture. Let professional baseball players put their talent on the shelf and let the bidding begin. After all, isn't that how the big boys play the game?
Another Olympic year is upon us, while Soviet troops move south to invade yet another country. So what's new?
It happened in 1956 when Hungary was unwillingly involved as Olympic flags were raised at Melbourne, Australia. But let's not stop there. In 1968, Mexico City was the site of the Summer Olympics. That year Czechoslovakia had the misfortune while Olympians were speaking of international good will in the Mexican capital.
Now it's 1980 and the scene is Afghanistan where Russians are fighting rebel forces while Moscow is still planning on hosting the 1980 Summer Olympics. That leads one to ask if the Soviet capital will still host the summer games. The answer is as obvious as Russian imperialism throughout the world.... Yes, the Moscow games will take place. And that leads us upon yet another crucial question which is, should the United States boycott the summer games.
That is a question that has plagued Americans for the last couple months. Some say, "There is no place in the Olympics for politics. Let the games go on." Politics? Who mentioned politics? This is a war, an out right invasion of another country. Furthermore, we're still scared both physically and emotionally from the Vietnam conflict.
Maybe the West German delegate to the NATO Conference was correct last January when he suggested an international boycott of the summer games. He added, "If countries had boycotted in 1936 at Berlin we might have spared World War II." But we'll never know now, will we?
At that time, a Nazi madman named Adolf Hitler had brainwashed the German people into a radical frenzy. His goose necked disciples were on the march and he already begun his personal vendetta against German Jews, which offended and shocked the entire world.
Least of Hitler's offenses were his cries about German superiority and his actions against Jewish athletes. Thousands of Jewish sportsmen were banned from German sporting clubs, thus taking away their chance for Olympic glory under the German flag. At an Amateur Athletic Union meeting in November of 1933, the delegates decided to boycott the games unless Germany changed its attitude toward Jewish athletes. A letter was sent to German officials.
Later, the President of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage made a trip to Germany. He was so impressed by German hospitality and order, that he was convinced Germany was observing the spirit of the games. Brundage then urged the Olympic Committee to reverse their decision.
The 1936 games were held as scheduled. The United States competed and one of its black athletes, Jesse Owens, won four gold medals to become an immediate hero. Hitler snubbed him at all four medal ceremonies.
Then twenty years later international goodwill was devoured by a world in flames. In 1956, the Russians invaded Hungary, much similar to Afghanistan, at the invitation of a friendly neighbor. During the invasion athletes of the two countries mingled friendly on a ship crossing the Pacific Ocean.
The Hungarians had no idea of the invasion until they reached the Melbourne Olympics where they were greeted by immigrants waving Hungarian flags and emotionally singing their national anthem. Hungarians defected in flocks to Australia that year. The USSR and Hungary were matched in an early water polo match, which witnessed very bloody water.
In 1968 the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia just before the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games. Relations were so cold between the two countries they should have been the winter games instead.
So much for the past. Now it's 1980 and our nation is once again emotionally torn over the pros and cons of another political Catch 22 which is Team USA participating in the Moscow Games or staying home. It is a great tragedy to see our young U.S. athletes who have trained so hard over a four year span to be denied of their moment of Olympic glory. But Russia has to be stopped somehow. Maybe sports is a peaceful solution.
Like many others, I'm torn. However I favor a complete Olympic boycott, but I'm fearful this move may only set a precedent which could completely alter Olympic history. It's a crying shame this decision has to be at the expense of American athletes. Another four years is a long time away to decide to boycott and alter history or not to boycott.
Hey there. I'm Rick Coe and thanks for stumbling on to my blog which contains columns I wrote while working for the now defunct Kellogg Evening News which was located in Kellogg, Idaho.