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I remember Sochi

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 The International Olympic Committee has selected Sochi, Russia as the site of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics. In my humble opinion, having been involved personally in quite a few Olympiads, Sochi is the most unlikely place to hold such a gigantic event.

 We all know that to this date, the only Olympics to make money has been the 1984 L.A. Games. This was not only because of terrific marketing and outstanding management due to a great extent the business acumen of Mike Mitchell and since many of the necessary venues were already in Los Angeles. Consequently, L.A. did not have to spend billions of dollars improving and building new venues.

 The Sochi I remember when I was there was a sleepy resort town on the Black Sea. Its major claim to fame was that this was the place where the commissars came to relax. It was here that many had their Dachas (country houses). Sochi was famous for one thing and one thing only...its natural hot springs... not unlike our Warm Springs, Georgia, or Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 As a matter of fact, I went there within months of the Soviet Union (USSR) being overthrown. The loose knit Commonwealth of Independent States and its Tricolor Flag replaced the Union and its Red Flag with the hammer and sickle.

 But I am getting ahead of myself.  Almost forty years ago in the embryo stages of the now huge cellular industry, I met a man who was not only to change my life, but also as the years have passed, he has become the older brother I never had, a dear friend and my mentor in so many areas.  Among these areas was technology... in particular, mobile phones.

 Robert "Bob" Block had a vision back in the 1980's that one day Cellular phones would replace hard wired and telephone poles as the prime method of communication.   But let me tell you a small part of his background.

 I first met him when I was at 20th Century Fox.  At the time, I was part of the new Telecommunications Department. Bob had pitched our Chairman to have FOX get involved with him in starting what would become over-the-air Pay Television.  For whatever reason, FOX opted to pass. Today, you and I enjoy so much because of him.  Among other things, he is the true father of Pay TV. Which he succeeded in starting without FOX.

 However, I am sure, to most of my readers, his name is unknown.  Yet, because of this quiet intelligent man, our lives enjoy many improvements. To date, he holds almost 200 Patents both U.S. and Internationally.

 We formed a partnership and set about getting Cellular licenses for countries and cities all over the world. He had taught me well. At one point, I decided to strike out on my own.

 I started acquiring licenses wherever I could.  One of the places, I carved out was Russia. I was successful from the Golden Ring of Moscow to the Ukraine. Then I looked to the Baltic and the Black Sea... first, Bulgaria then Sochi.

 Through the auspices of President Boris Yeltzin, my associate Michael Wex and myself were sent to Sochi. The airport in the early 90's was one small hut.  We were met on the Tarmac by a limousine driven by a member of the military. The telephone system was antiquated and practically useless.

 We stayed in Leonid Brezhnev's Dacha.  That in itself was a thrill! The bed I slept in was a gift from Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Two chairs in a little sitting room came from Chang Kai Shek and a small writing desk was from Winston Churchill... rounding out presents received from all the men who had attended the Yalta Conference.

 I kept thinking how impossible it was that this son of Russian immigrant parents, who escaped the progroms, would be sitting here in such splendor!

 With all of this, 23 years ago there was only one high-rise hotel.  They were just starting their stock market and I constantly played tennis with an inebriated Boris Yeltzin as my partner on the only tennis court in the entire city.  It was clay with weeds growing through the clay.  By the way, no matter how badly we played, we never lost.  I wonder why?

 So that brings us to the present.  I know that President Putin, who at the time I was there was still Vice Mayor of St. Petersburg, wants this as a showcase to indicate Russia is once again becoming a power on the world stage. Remember Adolf Hitler in 1936??

 But why spend upwards of 20 billion dollars and hold Winter Games in a city, which is one of the very few places in Russia with a subtropical climate, plus warm to hot summers and mild winters.

 There is something wrong with this picture. It doesn't make sense!

 In addition, its closeness to the violent Chechnya Republic, constantly at war with Mother Russia, poses a major security threat to the games.

 In 1980, I was involved when President Carter boycotted the last Russian Olympics.  I don't advocate boycott, but I urge Scott Blackmum, the current CEO of the U.S.O. C. and a bright man with whom I have negotiated in the past, to do everything possible to keep our athletes safe.  I'm sure he is!

 Getting back to Bob Block, I must also tell you, the readers, that along with Dr. Tom Rosandich and others, he was instrumental in founding the United States Sports Academy. Today, it stands as our only true University of Sport. The fingerprints of this visionary  definitely can be found on the Olympics in Russia.

 As the Games approach, I pray for not only success, but also safety of our U.S. Team.

 

 

 

 

 

2013 gone but not forgotten

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When you are an octogenarian one of things you should not do is read the obituaries.  If you did, it would be easy to get depressed. Every day there is certain to be someone you know, someone you have liked, someone you may have worked with, or someone you have heard about and respect.

 

In fact, the list of departed friends is longer than those that are left. Now, don't get me wrong, I have always looked at the glass half-full... I still do!  I revel in the enjoyment and pleasure I get from seeing new young talents grow to take their rightful place in the firmament of life.

 

Yes. I envy them their youth and hope they can enjoy the experiences I have had the pleasure to be a part of. I adhere to Will Rogers's philosophy, "I only know what I read in the papers". So, if my name ever appears among those leaving, the only thing I know is I won't go to work that day.

 

To that end, I am using today's column to pay tribute to part of my own passing parade... those people who in sports I have interfaced with and whom have touched my life in one way, or another.  Please bear with me.

 

Where do I start? I cannot do it chronologically, so I ask your indulgence and please allow me to ramble. In sports this year, 2013, has seen a passing parade. Many names will be familiar, others you won't know, but they all influenced me in one way, or another.

 

It is an impressive list and my intention as I sat down to write today's column was to do a vignette on each and everyone.  This changed last night when a friend of mine came up to me and asked did I hear about Fred?

 

Fred Rheinstein was my friend and a genius. Before NASCAR and Grand Prix Racing became TV staples, Fred was at the forefront in developing new techniques that set the standard for Telecasting of the future.

 

He built the first major independent Post-Production House in America and with great innovation taught the world how to edit on tape. Fred was a man who accepted every technical challenge. Without him and my pal Clair Higgins, the world might never have seen Ali's last fight.

 

In those days there was no Satellite transmission from the Bahamas, Fred arranged to have a portable Dish brought by Ferry from Tampa, Florida. Unfortunately, the barge sank in a typhoon. Ever resourceful, Fred had a backup plan allowing the world to see the event. What it was, I never knew.

 

When we created the one and L.A. Women's Marathon, it was Fred's revolutionary TV Direction that allowed us to develop the video that provided the ammunition for women to have their own marathon included in the Olympics beginning with 1984. Up until then, they were only allowed to run 5000 meters. Thank you Fred for giving us so much.

 

He was one of a kind!

 

In brevity, I shall mention a few of the others who brought me pleasure in the knowledge we were together for a brief moment in time.

 

Back in the 70's when Lloyd Thaxton and I created the award-winning syndicated trivia game show Pro-Fan, Todd Christensen of the then Los Angeles Raiders was a frequent guest contestant.  Unlike any other athlete I ever met, when you met this fearsome battering ram fullback/ tight end, you imagined you were in conversation with an erudite college professor.

 

Johnny Kucks threw a 3-hitter for the Yankees in game 7 of the 1956 World Series. In fact, he had a 1.98 ERA in 5 World Series. He was my chum when we both played basketball for the 60th Infantry Regiment in the service. I believe if he had gone to college, he probably would have been an All-American

 

Bob Kurland was the first great 7 footer in Basketball.  A 3-time All-American, he never turned pro.  Instead, he played for the AAU Phillips Oilers leading them to many championships. When I coached the Camp Carson team, we had many scrimmages with Oilers.  Not only his talent amazed me, but also his warmth as a friend.

 

I knew the great Welterweight and Middleweight Champion Emille Griffith quite well. A former haberdasher, he was one of the nicest humans I ever met.

 

His manager Gil Clancy once told me that after the Benny "Kid" Paret fight Emille was never the same. Prior to their fight, Paret called him a homophobic name.  So angered wa Emille that he  battered Paret into unconsciousness.  10 days later without waking up, Paret passed away.

 

Bill Sharman was one of Basketball's all-time greats.  I appreciated him first, as a player with the Boston Celtics where I cheered for him as a fan. Later as the coach who brought the Lakers their first Championship when I worked closely with him. I often was the recipient of his kindness and wisdom.

 

In 1956, as a young man working for Gillette, I was sent to St. Louis to be part of the All-Star Game promotion. There I met future Hal-of-Famer Stan "The Man" Musial. I was a life-long Ted Williams fan, but Stan also won my vote.

 

He hosted all of us at his restaurant, taking time to inquire about our families and our backgrounds.  He spent an entire night getting to know us. Years later when I met Stan on a few occasions, I felt he forgot my name because he would always look me in the eye and say, "What da ya say, what da ya say?"

 

My pal Jerry Berger who was with Budweiser for many years and got to know Stan well, explained to me that was how he greeted everyone.

 

A few of the others who passed this year with whom I interfaced with were Boxer Ken Norton Sr ...NFL football player Pat Summeral who along with John Madden made up first CBS's then Fox's most formidable NFL Broadcast team...U.S. Open Golf Champion Ken Venturi, also ventured into Broadcasting as an analyst rising to the top of the profession...Deacon Jones who as a Los Angeles Ram coined the phrase "sack" and because of his success was named "The Secretary of defense.

 

Last, but not least is Jerry Buss.  Before he even owned the Lakers,  I along with Joe DeCarlo spent many a fun day and evening in his presence. Once this successful Chemist and real Estate Developer bought  the L.A. Lakers from my boss Jack Kent Cooke where everyone thought has had overpaid, he took the team to new heights. He created show time and devotion from his players who rewarded him with many championships. Like the others I mentioned he was truly unique.

 

That's my personal brief list of Sports figures that said "goodbye" in 2013.

 

I'll simply close by asking, "What da ya say, what da ya say?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the beat goes on

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 I don't know about you guys, but I am getting a little tired. I think this on going battle for changing sports nicknames is an unnecessary diversion where in today's world there are so many bigger battles to fight. Where positive energy can be placed elsewhere

 

I admit I am a traditionalist.  However, to me the top sports nicknames signify bravery, power, speed, and even a little whimsy. Many take the names of the area in which they play. For example, the Boston Celtics with its Shamrock logo capitalizes on being part of the Boston Scene.  Boston has a proud and long Irish heritage.

 

Yet, the Oneida Indian Nation headquartered in Upstate New York with an approximate population base of 1000, has been filing suit throughout the nation to have what they consider offensive and racist team names changed. Consequently, among others, the Washington Redskins are under attack.

 

Now, don't get me wrong, I am sensitive to slurs thrown at anyone. As a Jew with many friends who are Irish, Black, Polish and Italian, I bristle when I hear names like Kike, Wop, "N" and Mick. However, these are usually said one to one. No matter the delivery, offensive is offensive... no matter how you cut it.

 

Yet, I do not applaud these so-called "do-gooders" who have nothing better to do, but to create controversy where there is none. Sam Kay, an Ohio State Graduate Student got thousands of baseball fans to sign a petition urging the Cleveland Indians to change the name and get rid of Chief Wahoo their long-time mascot.

 

He claimed, as an Indians fan, he could no longer endure the injustice of a name to him that is offensive. Oh, by the way, he is not a Native American.

 

The 'Indians' name came about after an extensive media survey following the 1914 season.  Fans were asked to vote. Keeping in mind the proud tradition of the Erie Indian Nation which inhabited the southern shores of Lake Erie, where the team has its habitat, they selected "Indians".

 

In 2002, Sports Illustrated conducted a poll in which 83% of American Indian respondents said that professional teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, or symbols. I agree! How far can we go under the guise of politically correct?  One of the four freedoms that make up the basis of our constitution is "Freedom of Speech, or Expression".

 

What has happened to our beautiful society where we need to walk on eggshells, afraid we might say the wrong thing? My old boss Jack Kent Cooke when he owned the Washington Redskins echoed my sentiments when he said, "I admire the Redskins name.  I think it stands for bravery, courage, and a stalwart spirit and I see no reason why we shouldn't continue to use it".

 

Today, there is something intrinsically wrong when small groups can go against the will of the majority and hold the majority hostage. Hey, just look at so many schools that have knuckled under.  Getting off the sports motif, this dissatisfaction seems to be happening everywhere. Just look at the Air Force Academy that removed "In God we trust" from their logo.  I say why?

 

Even though the NCAA determined that many nicknames were hostile and offensive, many schools went to court and successfully won the right to keep their long standing sobriquets... among them; Utah (Utes), Florida State (Seminoles), Mississippi College (Choctaws), Illinois (the Fighting Illini) and Central Michigan (Chippewas). These victorious schools all cited support from neighboring tribes in their appeals.

 

Actually, the actions and protests aimed at getting teams to change their names, rarely come from the actual team supporters, or Tribes and the like who reside in the neighborhood. Instead, I submit, like the strikebreakers of the depression era, they came from outside. To me, they are rabble-rousers with no interest in what the actual people in the area might feel, or desire.

 

So, The Beat goes on!

 

 

 

 

Union settlement not enough

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 It was recently announced that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has set up an organization to help former players giving those who have suffered another option for aid. It is a $22 million trust fund established from the collective bargaining agreement with the league.

 

I had to sit back and ask myself, is this enough?

The answer simply, it is in no way near enough.

 

In 1981, I was very much involved with the Players' Union.  There was a strike and along with Ted Turner, I created All-Star games made up of striking players including many who were Pro-Bowlers at the time. Ted had just launched his CNN (Cable News Network) and was looking for programming to fill it. The Players Union needed money to sustain the strike.

 

I'll never forget flying to Chicago to meet Ted for the first time. In the meeting with Ted and me, was Bob Wussler, President of the Network. At the time, Ted had no sports programming. 

 

I presented my idea and put a price tag on the TV Rights. It took Ted all of ten minutes to say yes. Not only did he say yes, but also he actually jumped up on a desk. all the time shouting, "I own the NFL". He punctuated his statement by doing a backflip off the desk, landing on his feet in a perfect 10 landing.

 

Ted's TV money allowed the Union to sustain the strike. In fact, we had enough money to field an entirely new league with ten teams all owned by the players. Although the players voted our proposal down, the knowledge of this and the money rose from the two All-Star Games, which were played, brought Commissioner Pete Roselle to the table and the strike was ended.

 

This was back in 1981-82.  Unfortunately, at that time the active players were only interested in what it meant to them.  In spite of men named Cal Weinstein and Frank Woshitz, the veteran player and his various problems went unanswered.

 

Today, strides have been made.  If we were playing "Simon Says", it seems like we have taken two small steps forward and one giant step backward.

 

Why do I say this?  Just look at the games of this past weekend. Every game had at least one player suffering a concussion. It has now been proven that current damage will without question manifest itself in later years resulting in severe problems.

 

My dear friend, the late great Baltimore Colt, John Mackey, the first President of the Players Union, was an example of the brain damage that can occur. Fortunately, he had his wife Sylvia fighting for him and she was able to bring about many changes for the good. These advances only benefitted John for a short while, but the 88 Fund continues to help others.

 

Great players, like tony Dorsett and others, have called attention to their plight today. Years after playing the game they love. When asked if he would let his young son play football, the eminent sports broadcaster Bob Costas answered, "absolutely not".

 

The trust, (fund), mentioned in the first paragraph is geared to assist players in areas such as body and brain evaluations; health and nutrition; physical fitness; career transition; and financial education.  All of these services, supposedly, will be provided free of charge.

 

You may say that these players know the risk of injury that they face when they play the game for which they are paid. This is true! However, when you realize that each team in this day and age is making unbelievable sums of money.

 

Most players, except for the very few all-stars, are making nominal dollars. In return, many are maimed for life with no means to care for themselves. Thus, based on the economics involved as well as the circumstances, $22 Million is a pittance.

 

However, I have a solution to propose.  Each team, as part of a player's contract, should supply a long term insurance policy. This policy is not just for injuries while actively playing, but more importantly, in the form of a health policy that kicks in when the player has a need. Thus, hedging the player's bet.

 

I urge all agents in negotiating their client's next contract, look to insert this clause. As the slogan of the 1981 strike said,  "The Players are the game!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sports forgotten hero the Scout

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 Where do I begin? I am just like the millions of sports fans who constantly take their team and its stars to heart. It's amazing how we root and cheer for an individual player whether it is Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey or any other professional, or collegiate sport!

Did you ever stop and think how he, or she got to be where they are. Most of them got there, because a scout took interest in each of them... and there in lies the rub. Most scouts toil in anonymity with little, or in many cases, no compensation. So, I started by asking myself a great number of questions. I found the answers close at hand.

Through my research, I found that a former associate of mine in the early days of sports management, by his actions, provided me the answer. His name is Dennis Gilbert.

Dennis is basically an insurance and investment guy today, but earlier in his career he set the standard as a Sports Agent by breaking the salary barriers and negotiating over a 1,000 contracts mostly for Baseball Players. Do you remember Jose Conseco, Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds Bret Saberhagen, George Brett, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling to mention a few?  In their halcyon days, he brought their compensation to astronomical heights setting the bar for others to follow.

He did this much of this by working closely with scouts. As a result and in appreciation for the hard work the scout's do, he co-founded and is Chairman of the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. This organization has helped raise almost $5 million to aid scouts in need.

This brings me to the premise of this article.  Many of us have seen the movie "Trouble with the Curve". In it, Clint Eastwood plays an aging Atlanta Braves Scout who is given one last assignment to prove his worth to the organization that feels he has lost his touch and is unable to adjust to changes within the game.

 More of you probably saw Edward James Olmos portraying Virgil Sweet on the verge of losing his scouting job with the California Angels in a similar situation to Clint Eastwood's Character.

 What today's sports leagues forget are that a computer cannot replace innate knowledge based on years of experience.  The book "Money Ball" flies in the face of the statement I just made.

 Mickey Mantle was discovered and signed to the Yankees by Tom Greenwade. Tom Grenwade was the great Yankee who helped win nine world championships.  From 1949-64, the Yankees won 14 pennants and 9 world championships. Tom was a great scout when the role involved discovering young talent, not just to recommend which player to pick in the draft. 

A good scout is always at ball fields... from the sandlot to the pickup games on a street. He lived in a car, a train, or a plane stopping in places we might have not heard of.

He was the prototypical baseball scout sending countless players to the major Leagues. To sum up his worth, a note from Mickey Mantle to Tom tells the entire story... Mantle said, "You made everything possible".

 Before joining the Yankees, he was hired by Branch Rickey to scout the Negro Leagues. Upon watching him play, it was Tom who first recommended Jackie Robinson.  Without the use of a computer, he decided that Jackie had more heart and more physical ability than any others at that time. 

 Modern day scouts are becoming more and more reliant on computer programs to aid and assist in the evaluation of talent being scouted. Every professional sports franchise is now using computers to organize their collected information and data. Yet, they still must depend on human management to decide which players their organization will draft or sign.

In the 1970's I was Executive Vice president of Invest West Sports.  The President was Bill Bertka who at the time ran the Bertka Basketball Scouting service out of his home in Santa Barbara. This service was under contract to countless colleges and universities. From his living room turned office filled with hundreds of 3x 5 cards, Bill and his wife upon input from there scouting network made recommendations.

They scouted not only possible talent to recruit, but also opposing teams to help their team win. In such a way, my friend Bill Bertka during the season of 1971-72 as Los Angeles Lakers Director of Scouting/Consultant, we instrumental in the Lakers not only winning their first championship in Los Angeles, but also helped the team set the 33 consecutive game wins.  A record that still stands 41 years later.

Then there's Mike Brito who first brought the great Fernando Valenzuela to the Dodgers, has done it again with the phenomenal Yaziel Puig. Over the years and still today, there are many outstanding scouts plying the globe searching for talent.  Their road is often lonely and mostly forgiving.

A  film documentary that I recommend is "Baseball Dreams and Schemes"... 'Ballplayer: Pelotero,' Baseball Scouting in the Dominican Republic'. It has won many film festival awards and pulls no punches.

 So, I conclude by asking the question: "If managers are in the Halls of Fame, why not scouts"?  After all, they provide the managers the tools to victory.

 

 

Our collegiate values are upside down

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 Growing up in Massachusetts, I always knew I would go to college. I did not realize that my ticket might be as an athlete.  However, I did know the purpose of going to college was not just to earn a better-than-average livelihood, but also to get an education where maybe I could make a difference.

 The purpose of college was to create and develop minds of the students so they can go on to make a difference in the lives of others.  Their road would be the pathway to helping develop a better life through acquiring knowledge in various fields... such as science, technology and law.

 Somewhere, our values have changed.  Our institutions discovered that sports bring in monies from alumni and others, which will help keep the doors of academia alive. As a sports devotee and to some extend an aficionado, I appreciate this fact.

Yet, to me, salaries are out of proportion as to whom should be receiving the most money.

 Now, I have a friend by the name of Mark David Blum and I know along with countless  of my readers, he will take a completely contrary position to the one I now propound.

 To me, the teaching and nurturing of minds is the prime function of our colleges and universities. Salaries given to Collegiate College Coaches is way out of proportion.

 Okay, a winning team means more dollars for the university. However, the average salary of professors, men of knowledge who are passing what they know on to others, is menial for what they are required to contribute and achieve.

 Most  professors are paid by a college or university on nine- or ten-month contracts. According to the U.S. Department of Labor. It is typically reported that  a "9 month"  median salary, not including compensation received (often from research grants) during the summer, overall 9 month median salary for a full professor is around $73,000.

 In comparison, let's look at top 5 salaries received by college football coaches. Nick Saban of Alabama is paid almost $6,000,000. Mack Brown of Texas makes $5.4 million. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma's head coach, earns $4.6 million.  Ohio State's Urban Meyer's annual salary is $4.3 MM with Les Miles of LSU earning the same annually.

 Okay, the argument is "simply without these winning coaches at the helm, there would not be winning teams".  Without winning teams, a great deal of the alumni would not support the university.

 Let's take that as a given.

 But then let's look at the inequity  and the contribution of the professor and the coach . It is truly a "chicken or egg" situation.

The professor contributes to making the world better. The coach is strictly a monetary benefactor. Without the money brought in by sports, the research area might be sadly lacking.

 I do not know the answer. Perhaps, it is two -fold.

 Instead of building that new stadium which is brick and mortar, universities might concentrate on raising the median salary of professors.  So that in this economic age, the professor's spouse, male or female, does not have to take a second job to make ends meet.

 Better still, coaches become successful to a great extent by the number of scholarship recruits they can garner. Part of the "win at all cost" philosophy is victory now.

 As a result, many exceptional athletes take a scholarship and only stay for one year.  They hone their athletic prowess and then jump to professional leagues. Many still immature and troubled.

 Maybe the answer is: the athlete who leaves  must pay back in full the value of the scholarship? This money once returned to the school could go into a pool to help the school recruit both topnotch educators and research scientists.

 Honestly, I do not know!  Perhaps the NCAA (the National Careless Athletic Association), might have an answer.

  I doubt it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cousy to Russell to Sharman and score

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 In the twilight of my years, just as so many before me, I do a great deal of reflecting.  Much of it has to do with the people and places that have been part of my passing parade. This past week, a man I knew well, admired and liked, Bill Sharman became part of that passing parade.

 

There have been and will be many accolades and speeches highlighting his achievements as a Hall-of-Fame NBA player and coach. All rightly deserved! However, he was much more than that to we who had the privilege of getting to know and work with him on a personal level.

 As a kid growing up in Cambridge and later Newton, Massachusetts, I was there when the BBAA first embraced the Boston Celtics.  In those days, they weren't very good.  In 1949, they became an NBA team.

 But we kids who loved Basketball were thrilled that our trainer at Cambridge Latin School, Red Linsky, was also the Celtics Trainer. This meant that whenever we wanted, Red would sneak us into the games at Mechanics Building, Boston Arena, or the original Boston Garden.  The Mechanics Building and the Garden are long gone. The Arena, America's oldest existing ice skating venue, has been renamed the Mathews Arena and is part of Northeastern University.

 In 1951, the Celtics saw the beginning of two- thirds of a dynasty. It came in the form of two men: Bob Cousy who came from the Tri-City Blackhawks and Bill Sharman who originally was drafted by the Washington Capitols.

 In 1956, when Bill Russell was drafted out of the University of San Francisco, the legendary Celtics domination began. They were formidable and almost unbeatable.

 Cousy's behind- the- back passes awed everyone. To the casual observer, Cousy was the most exciting player. But to the basketball Professional, it was Sharman who was the meat and potatoes of the team.

 Having scrimmaged against Cousy in college, I too thought he was the most magnificent and audacious player of all time. I once told my pal Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe that when Cousy faked left, I was in the right balcony; when he faked right, I was in the left balcony.

 Ernie who played on New York Knicks championship teams while going to medical school, would only laugh with the explanation that when the Celtics came to town, he and Carl Braun, his teammate, would flip a coin stating that the loser had to take Sharman.To them, Cousy was easy to handle, but Sharman with his grit and drive could make them look silly.

 I really got to know Bill during that magical season of 1971.  He had been hired by Jack Kent Cooke to coach his Los Angeles Lakers. At the same time,  I was hired in an Executive capacity to work right alongside Mr. Cooke.

 Bill had a daunting task.  The Lakers were an amalgamation of superstars that featured three future Hall-of Famers, but they had never won a championship as a team.  Bill did an outstanding job to the point where the Lakers not only won their first championship since moving to L.A., but also set an NBA record of 33 straight wins, which still stands.

 Moreover, in that year, Gail Goodrich, even with a pulled stomach muscle, led the team in scoring, Jerry West led in assists and Wilt Chamberlain led the team in rebounds. Bill had molded all three into a team. In Bill's eyes either Jerry, or Wilt could have led the team in scoring.  But under Bill that was not their role.

 That was in the pros, I asked my long time friend Ira Laufer, a New Jersey native, who scrimmaged against Bill for two years as a member of the same USC team what kind of person was he in college. Ira was kind enough to give me a little insight to Bill as a fellow student and teammate.

 Coming from the East Coast, Ira still shot all his long shots with two hands. Bill thought it was unique and wondered how Ira did it, thinking maybe he should change. Ira told him emphatically to forget about it, as his one hand shot was incredible.

 Despite the fact that USC didn't have a great team, Bill became an All-American and Pacific Coast Conference Player of the year. His work ethic knew no boundaries. As a player in college, he would enjoy a morning shoot-around on game days. At the time, this was unheard of. He felt it relaxed him.

 He initiated this morning shoot -around with the Celtics. Today, it is a standard exercise for most NBA Teams.  Even on off days, you could find him along with other Celtics working out at the old Huntington YMCA.

 Here, he would invite anyone who was there to join in. My pal Eddie Fraktman who played for Colby College at the time and myself sometimes were among those lucky enough to participate.

 As Ira told me, in college he was as humble and unassuming as he was great. Years later, when I worked with him, I found nothing could be truer.

 The one drawback to the magical 1971-72 season was his fervent, animated coaching style and his constant shouting. He strained his vocal chords to the point he could only whisper.  His voice never really returned.

 However, upstairs among the Angels when they have a pickup game, his whispering will give him stature. By the way, Bill also played for the old Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team.  He was that good.

 

Bill thanks for all the memories.

 

 

 

 

Bob Costas and NBC are wrong

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         I have spent my entire adult life in the Sports, Broadcast or Entertainment Industries. I have held just about every position a man can hold.

I have been not only a producer and promoter, but also an Executive and an announcer as well. It is to this point I am writing today.

When I started in this business, the FCC had hard and fast rules.  They covered moral interpretation, as well as the delivery of news, public affairs and sports. Understand I have been a member of the Television Academy since 1955 when it existed only in New York. At the same time, I was a charter member of the Broadcast Promotion Association.

My involvement preceded the advent of coaxial cable bringing about transcontinental broadcasting.  It was the era of Black and White Television, which used 16-millimeter film and 2-inch tape. In other words, I believe I have an insight into the growth of television, the many changes inherent and the easing of the rules determining on-air conduct.

As a matter of fact, when I first started in TV, the FCC license granted to a TV station was sacrosanct. This franchise had to be protected by adhering to the rules. Stations were required by law to allocate a set number of minutes each month to Public Affairs programming as part of this license.

News programs were without sponsors, so that the reporting would be just that, reporting... and not parroting the opinion of a sponsor. Each station was required to deliver editorials on community subjects daily. That's where it belonged.

Usually, the Station Manager, or a person specifically designated as the Public Affairs Director, would deliver this Editorial. It was always an opinion arrived at by a board. WGBH Boston, which was the first PBS Station in the United States, had just turned on its signal.

F. Newton Minnow, the head of the FCC at the time called TV" The vast wasteland". What do you think he might say about today's LAX standards and inane programming? Thus, I finally come to the subject of today's column.

A sports announcer, sportscaster, or analyst is hired to perform a specific function. That is to paint word pictures of an event for the listening or viewing pleasure of the audience. That ,in brief, is the definitive description of why he, or she is hired.

Sports is Entertainment! It is a Public Service Broadcast! It is not a platform for either political, or social commentary! It is meant to be simply the avenue for bringing a game, a contest, or a special event accurately to the viewer... unimpeded in telling its story.

Bob Costas is one of today's premier announcers. That is without debate. In his capacity as a Network Announcer, he must remain neutral in his descriptions. A sporting event is no place to air personal opinions on social matters. It is the forum for uninterrupted coverage of the event. It is not the place to take a stand in behalf of either side of a cause.

It doesn't matter if the viewer agrees, or disagrees with him.  It is not the announcer's job! The place for that, even within the sports firmament, is when the program is especially designed  for such comments after investigative reporting.

Such a program is "Real Sports with Brian Gumble". Working within that platform, Mr. Costas, or any announcer is expected to comment. Such a show is made for commentary and the personnel therein are commentators, not just announcers.

Mr. Costas  has imposed his opinion twice while acting in the capacity of Sports Announcer... once on "Gun Control" (a debate that rages unabated in our country) and now on the Redskins name.  He was wrong and should have kept his opinions to himself.

My column today is one of commentary. So let me close by saying:" Mr. Costas if you would like Dan Snyder to change the name of his NFL team, outside of a sports broadcast, perhaps you could suggest he drop the "Washington" name from his logo. After all, today, unfortunately, that is a name that brings universal shame.

 

 

 

 

 

                                             

 

 

 

 

It's great to be an American

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               I have not written in two weeks, so it is not only great to be back at my computer, but it is wonderful to be back in the United States.

 

As most of my readers know, I have spent a great deal of my life working elsewhere throughout the world. Everywhere I worked in the past, I was always welcome.  Make no bones about it, we, Americans, have never been truly liked... but we were always respected.  Today, it is different.

 

I still am involved with Front Line in Japan.   My partner Tee Kuboki and I talk frequently on Skype. Tee told me many years ago that in Japan, when America sneezed, Japan would catch a cold. Their entire economy would have been trouble.  Today, they are scuffling to find another form of Cough Syrup to survive.

 

Sports and Entertainment, which we have given to the world, have always been respected and appreciated. These disciplines continue to be respected.

 

To this end, there is no greater American Heritage than Jazz, Basketball, Baseball and our brand of Football it is unique to our American creativity. Our Logos are among the items demanding respect.

 

We were out of the country the past two weeks. Along with our friends, Dr. and Mrs.  Al Rumack, we took a Jazz Cruise.  Here were great musicians from all over the world.  I have an inquisitive habit of talking to almost everyone I meet.

 

The Jazz was terrific. The musicians were some of the best, working in perfect harmony.   Many of them were playing together as a unit, a team, for the first time, having never met before.

 

The musicians from elsewhere constantly asked what has happened to America? After all, they figured if they could play together and make beautiful music why can't America's Leaders work together as a team to get results?

 

This column is not intended to be political! Yet, every day in every way, politics impacts our lives.

 

The grass roots movement to change the name of the Washington Redskins, because Redskins is deemed to be a derogatory term and offensive to some, caught my attention. Perhaps it was because my father and my uncle Louie played with the Boston team in the early 30''s until the team moved to Washington.

 

I worked for Jack Kent Cooke as a Los Angles Kings and Lakers Executive at the time he owned the Redskins. I worked with his hall of fame coach, George Allen, when George headed up the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

 

These men were proud of the franchise and the name. Today's fan base in poll after poll has overwhelmingly supported keeping the name.

 

Quite honestly, I felt the same way! Then I did a little research into how the name came about. What I learned both shocked and appalled me.

 

In Colonial times, King George advocated the killing of Indians and offered money for their scalp. His government paid 50 pounds for each male over 12 years, ($18,000 today). In essence the Bounty Hunters were paid for Red Skins.

 

It's a fact that in 1932, the Boston team became the Redskins in honor of their then coach-coach Lone Star Dietz, an American Sioux.

 

Today, many Native American Schools wear the name Redskin with pride. At Kingston Oklahoma High School, which is 58 percent Native American, the name Redskins has been worn by its students for 104 years.

In fact, Redskins was the first name used by Native Americans themselves in their description to settlers. Today, with 2 million enrolled in 566 federally recognized tribes, plus another 3.2 million who tell the census they are Indian - it's extremely hard to tell how many are opposed to the name.

 

Still it seems, to a vocal few, the name Redskin is offensive. Even to the point where the President who has many more important things to do than discussing the name of a Pro football team weighed in.

 

That's what brought me to this conclusion:

 

I do not know Dan Snyder, but he paid mucho dinero for the right to own the Redskins football team. That being the case and understanding that an NFL team is a monetary franchise, I suggest those who are who are vocal enough to try and force change, raise enough money to reimburse Mr. Snyder the total cost to him if he changes the name.

 

This includes lost revenues from all areas.

In brief, just as in a government when faced with a monetary crisis, compromise is not a dirty word, but a must!  To quote the old coach's cliché, "There is no 'I' in team".

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Jean did beat Bobby Riggs

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Forty years have passed since Billy Jean King beat Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome. Now in my 80's the years have passed to swiftly.  Or as my pal Jerry Berger says, "Today is Saturday, and yesterday was Monday". These days that is prophetic.However, for me, it is a bittersweet time. I spent a great deal of my professional life working on events at the Astrodome, or "The Dome" as it was called.

 At the time, it was considered the 8th Wonder of the World. Judge Roy Hofheinz had brought about a miracle of technology.  He had put a playing surface as well as many other things under one roof eliminating the debilitating humid heat of Houston and thus allowing 50,000 fans to sit in comfort attending an event. Regular inhabitants were the Houston Oilers of the AFL/NFL, the Colt 45's of MLB, countless championship fights, many featuring Muhammad Ali, Truck Pulls, Motorcycle Races, Daredevils galore and even the first ABA v. NBA All-Star Game. It was a happening place where the mean temperature was always 65 degrees.

To me, as to many others, it was one of the foremost venues where we plied our wares. Now, it is about to be razed. Personally, I think it should remain in the least as a National American Historic Site. When it goes, countless memories will go with it and will be lost to the ages. Among the great memories that I share with millions worldwide , is Billy Jean King's momentous victory over Bobby Riggs.The millions in the worldwide viewing audience saw Billy win 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. It was decisive! It changed the role of women competitors in sports forever.

The victory brought about major changes regarding a woman's place in the sports firmament. Laws were enacted in school sports as well as purses being increased  when there were women's events in the same tournament. In fact, it brought about a Domino effect toward equality in all sports.

 However, there are always naysayers who now 40 years later insist that they are sure Bobby Riggs threw the match. Shame on CNN, among those casting a finger at Bobby and tainting the event that CNN  for quoting Doug Adler ,an erstwhile tennis pro, who states on camera, "after the match all tennis pros  felt Bobby had thrown the match".

First of all, this is hearsay. The man quoted, I know well. He once worked for me as a tennis announcer. Actually, his mother Phyllis once was one of California's finest tennis players. Hearsay is not a factual report. CNN also quotes a Locker Room Attendant who while working a country club forty years ago, supposedly over heard supposed members of the Mafia planning to get Bobby to throw the match.

 It's a shame that 40 years later when most memories are fuzzy, a top news organization stoops to hearsay tainting a great American event of worldwide importance.

It's true, Wimbledon Champion Bobby Riggs was a tennis hustler.  I interfaced with him on a few occasions. One time that  I remember well is when I came out on business from the East to California and wanted a game. The pro at the Beverly Hills Hotel suggested that my pal, the late Hal Golden, the man who invented the Tennis Carryon Bag, and myself play Bobby.

We did not know that the player lounging at the side of the court with a torn tennis shirt, in need of new sneakers, was Bobby Riggs. Reluctantly, I went first.  I won three sets with ease.  Then he wanted to play for money. I begged off, but not Hal. Hal won a couple of sets.  Then Bobby said, " let's play double or nothing". It was an expensive day for Hal.

 My pal and partner for years, Tommy Cook had come to me after the now defunct L.A. Tennis Open in 1972 wanting to match Bobby against Billy. I disagreed.  Jack Kramer was the bigger name and as an official at the Tournament, he created bad blood between Billy and himself.  I wanted to set up a grudge match.

Jack had bad hips and begged off. Tommy immediately signed Bobby and Billy for the match. Promoter Jerry Perenchio stepped in and the event became reality.

Billy Jean was magnificent that night.  It was a brilliant circus atmosphere with tension everywhere. Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends were all on opposite sides.

When Billy won, the world was shocked.  However, not my friend Tommy Cook, he knew differently.  While Billy Jean was taking the contest seriously, training hard, Bobby with absolute cockiness sure he was going to win,  was busy partying.  On the day, of the event, he was hung-over. 

However, as Tommy has said it made no difference. It would have been Billy's victory even if Bobby had been in the best of shape. Larry Riggs, Bobby's son, with whom I played some doubles echoed Tommy's statement.

After the event, Tommy and I had a most successful series on CBS-TV, Challenge of the Sexes. It ran for five years!

 

Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.