A run for your money. (Here Below).
SEPTEMBER WAS a good month for the world's fastest 75-year old human. He recorded a flashy 4.6 in running down a referee and blasting him vocally for costing him a football game.
We saw Joe Paterno do it on TV, Penn State vs Iowa, Sept. 28. We had to feel sorry for the poor official. He was trying to escape to the locker room and here comes a wild-eyed septuagenarian bearing down on him with what could be construed as criminal intent.
All he could do was stop, close his eyes, cross himself, and pray for a painless death. Lucky for him Joe had forgotten to bring his pistol to work with him that Saturday.
Knowing Joe the way we do, we had total faith in the justice of his case. Anything that could get him that excited had to be a horrendous call. Sure enough, just days later, the NCAA suspended two of the officials.
The bum call will probably be forgotten by the end of the season. But Joe Paterno's sprint will go down in history alongside such classic bursts of speed as Charlie Paddock's 10.8 in the 100-meter dash in 1920 and Secretariat's 2:01.12 in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.
Joe's feat was clearly the superior. He was the only one who did it in shirtsleeves.
THE NCAA MADE A great No. 1 draft choice in tapping Myles Brand as its new Executive Director. He has just the kind of intelligence, experience, toughness, and credibility needed for the job.
He proved it in the handling of the Bob Knight revolution at Indiana. As the university president, Brand stood up to the rebellious but popular basketball coach and the headless student body that supported him. They bloodied Brand, but did not bring him down.
Question: What turns the student body of so many distinguished universities into blind and belligerent boobies whenever a delinquent but winning coach is fired? To paraphrase Cole Porter, "It's the wrong guy at the wrong place, but he wins games, so he's all right with us."
Mr. Brand's selection to the highest NCAA athletic office can be considered a triumph for reason, tolerance, and justice. He was clearly recognized for the way he stood up for the right things and playing by the rules. It had been a bad day at Black Rock, but Spencer Tracy showed up.
The NCAA is in good hands. Call them Brand A.
UNITAS WE STAND...
LIKE EVERY OTHER football fan in America, we felt sad when the greatest quarterback of our time passed away at the first faint breath of fall in late September.
A hard-bitten six-footer with an old-fashioned crew cut and black high-tops, Johnny Unitas did as much as anyone to usher in the golden age of pro football in the late 1950's. He was the consummate pro QB. He called his own plays, stood coolly and fearlessly in the pocket, and threw the football better than it had ever been thrown before.
Nobody ever had a greater store of instinctive intelligence, awesome skill, indominatability, and passion for the game.
In his 16 years with the Baltimore Colts, Johnny U was MVP three times, played in 10 Pro Bowls, won three NFL championships, threw a touchdown pass in 47 straight games, and retired with 40,239 passing yards and 290 TD passes.
Was Unitas the greatest QB in history? A lot of people think so. A lot of others would vote for Graham or Elway or Montana. It still bothers us that whereas practically all of the great QB's retired from football as millionaires, all the tough guy from Pittsburgh wound up with were a broken body, two artificial knees, three paralyzed fingers on his passing hand, and constant pain.
We like the way the NFL memorialized his passing. Every pro football stadium the following Sunday observed a moment of silence while flashing that unforgettable warrior head on the video scoreboard.
Ah, Johnny, we really knew ye. Thanks for the great memories and your unforgettable presence on Sunday afternoons.
LET'S GIVE A HOOP...
T WOULD BE NICE if our basketball fans would stop mourning the sixth-place finish of our national team in the 2002 FIFA World Championships. Sure it was dismaying, but it was not the disaster that our first international loss had been at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
That one had to be seen to be believed. We have never forgotten the two dumb things that led up to it: (1) our team playing a 1940-style offense and (2) the officials mugging us on the last play of the game, not once, not twice, but three times. To this day, our 1972 team -- bless them -- have refused to accept their second-place silver medals.
Our next (mild) disaster occurred at the 1988 Seoul Olympics when our team of super collegians, led by David Robinson and Danny Manning, lost a game and finished third. The official read of that loss -- probably true -- was that the USA could no longer win with college stars. We had to go with our best, meaning the pros, whenever we competed against the other guys' best.
Enter the Dream Team of 1992 and then the Near Dream teams of 1996 and 2000 -- three happy gold rushes for the red, white, and blue.
And then came that sixth-place in the recent world championships.
So where do we stand today? Up there on top. But we'll never stay up there if we keep trying to do it with second-string pros, as we did this year. Basketball has become the world's second most popular sport, and a lot of countries have become very good at it.
That means we have to involve NBA Commissioner David Stern. He understands what sells tickets and wins games. It is the premise of invincibility: "We are the greatest." And the only way to make sure of this is by having our "dream" players show up for the big shoot-outs.
Nobody is going to beat an American team consisting of Shaq, Kobe, McGrady, Garnett, Duncan, Kidd, Iverson, and Carter.
AMONG THE MORE intriguing innovations of real-life movies are the postscripts that update the major characters.
Some of them can be quite innocuous. Others can be fascinating. Remember the movie, "Rudy," which we reviewed last month? It had a terrific postscript, a perfect ending to a near-perfect movie.
Rudy, as you may recall, is the last man out on a Notre Dame team that is coached first by Ara Parseghian and then Dan Devine.
Rudy's dream is to get into a game, if just for one play. And his dream comes true. He enters the game on special teams following a Fighting Irish touchdown and then stays on the field for the final defensive series. All in the last game of his career. He sacks the quarterback and is carried off the field by his team-mates (who know the kind of beating he had taken in practice every year and love his guts).
The last words on the screen after "The End" provide the perfect closing thought:
"Not since 1975 has any other Notre Dame football player been carried off the field. Rudy has 12 brothers and sisters, five of whom have gone on to earn college degrees."
JOHNNIE COCHRANE'S return to the NFL scene (via the court room) has produced the kind of rapture that marked his first appearance in vaudeville.
Remember how he spread the plaintiff's offense and sneaked in between the cracks to produce a massive upset victory for the defense? Nobody laid a stripe on his client.
The Vegas bookies have made Johnnie a two-point favorite in his latest venture into national theatre. He is accusing the NFL of not trying hard enough to recruit black head coaches.
He has a point, of course. How do you explain a league that is 70% black yet has only two black head coaches?
He doesn't believe the NFL is working hard enough and he suggests that they offer special inducements to the owners, such as draft choices.
Fighting bigotry with door prizes and threats doesn't sound like a viable agenda. But neither does any of the league's existing programs.
We wonder how a man named Branch Rickey would have handled it. He integrated all of Major League Baseball by hiring a single black player and then facing down all the rebellious owners and players.
Courage and reason are catching. Three years later, the NBA signed its first black player, and integration followed almost immediately.
Football's acceptance of black head coaches is obviously very dilatory. But it is going to happen. The signs are there:
Progress in the form of a proliferation of black assistant coaches.
Progress in the form of prestigious colleges like Stanford and Notre Dame giving black head coaches a chance to succeed on a national stage.
Progress in the form of black quarterbacks. How long ago was it that colleges and the pros wouldn't play a black player at quarterback?
That has become ancient history.
RELATED ARTICLE: PATERNO, BEFORE (AND AFTER) TURNING SPRINTER
In the 36 years that this great coaching presence roamed the sidelines for Penn State, nobody dreamed that he was getting into shape to run a 4.6 at age 76! It probably never would have happeneded if his defensive coach since 1966 had still been standing at his right--Jerry Sandusky would have tackled him!
THE FIRST "FASTEST HUMAN"
The first man in history to be called the "World's Fastest Human," Charlie Paddock won the Olympic with a 10.08 hundred in 1920. Over the next 80 years, incredible as it may seem, the world's fleetest sprinters would shave less than a second over off Paddock's winning time. Now you know why so many of our experts believe that you cannot improve running speed.
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|Author:||Masin, Herman L.|
|Publication:||Coach and Athletic Director|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2002|
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