March 2012 Archives

This weekend on CNN

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I am sitting down at my computer to alert you to what I feel is an important Television Sports Event.

It was with great pleasure that I was contacted by Jennifer Dargan, the Director of CNN Public Relations.  She not only suggested a program I might like to watch this weekend, (CNN PRESENTS... Sunday April 1st at 8 P.M. and again at 11 P.M. EDT, to be repeated Monday at 2 A.M.), but sent me an advance copy.

As we all know, April 1st is commonly called April Fools Day. I assure you this is no prank.

It has been over 30 years since I first worked with Ted Turner and his embryo CNN during the NFL strike. At that time, I remember it well as we were being followed around by an ENG Unit (large hand-held Television Camera), how I pointed out to Ted that he needed identification on the side of the camera.

He recognized the need, so I quickly rushed out and had a local sign painter do a cardboard sign to fit on the side of the camera identifying it as "CNN". To paraphrase the once popular ad, "you've come a long way... baby!"

So when I heard from Jennifer and found that she had enclosed the advance copy of the CNN PRESENTS Program, I immediately reviewed it.

It felt good to me as I watched the one-hour program in which Drew Griffin investigated the lengths which some colleges go in pursuing their dream of making the NCAA Tournament. Drew particularly singled out the UCONN story.

 This story has lots of meat on its skeletal frame. Drew pointed out that only 25% of UCONN's players graduate within six years. Anchor Randi Kaye added to this report by emphasizing  that the report did not include players who have left early to go to the NBA. Also, that UCONN is not alone in their misguided direction.  There are also very low graduation rates for players at other schools, which were covered.

As I pointed out in previous articles, " THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM", March 21st and "UCONN BANNED: KUDOS TO THE NCAA" which I wrote on February 13th, something has to be done to better the situation.

CNN PRESENTS in a clear, decisive and distinct fashion, calls attention to the seamy side that we, as both fans and alumni, tend to sweep under the carpet. They have pulled no punches in taking on the "Sacred Cow".

They highlight the strikingly low graduation rate of Basketball Players at major athletic schools everywhere.  They suggest an answer to the problem.  It is well thought out and thorough.  However, will it once again fall on deaf ears?  I hope not!

It is not brain surgery.  It is putting Athletics vis-a- Vis a college education in the proper perspective.

I found the hour well done. As well as informative.  I urge you to take the time to not only view the case presented by the CNN team, but to reflect and see how you can help move this mountain that is all pervasive.

TVO this important program if you cannot view at the time it is aired!


Sunday, April 1st ... 8:P.M and 11:P.M.

Monday, April 2nd ... 2: A.M. (Both EDT).

In fact, I say to CNN, the  deserves  to be repeated more than twice.


The bell tolls for Bert Sugar

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  One of the advantages of growing older is that you have been able to experience a great many things...  good, as well as not so good. Along the way you meet many people.  In my case, I have been blessed.  I have walked, not only with the great and near great, but I have also had the privilege to rub elbows with many of the wonderful and legendary characters of my lifetime.

Today, I learned that a dear friend and long-time associate has passed on. His demise simply said "Boxing writer Bert Sugar dies of cardiac arrest." That is a true statement, but hardly tells what he meant to sports.

Bert was my friend.  The last time I talked to him was approximately 3 months ago. There was no indication that he was sick, or that he was battling lung cancer. Instead, we talked about all the times we had worked together and what we might do in the future.  Obviously the future never game.

In his lifetime, Bert wrote and had published somewhere between 60 and 80 books.  As a man who has only had five published books, I can certainly attest to not only the difficulty of coming up with something not only worthwhile to write about, but also how meaningful it has to be to get a publisher to say "I want to print that".

More impressive was the fact that in this day of modern technology, Bert never owned a computer and shunned the proprietorship of a cell phone. He did all his work either longhand, or on his longtime friend, a typewriter.

My young readers should know that a typewriter is an ancient, now obsolete, non-electronic  term for the computers. During my early years, computers never existed.

The hailed Bert on radio and in TV as a Boxing writer and historian. That was only a small part of his persona.  He was a true sports historian versed on every facet you could name, especially when it came to Baseball, Horses and Boxing.

Bert was familiar to everyone in the Boxing World.  He was a pleasant caricature with his white fedora perched at a rakish angle on top of his, I think, bald dome.  I never knew! 

As a joke, I once asked him if he even wore his hat to bed.  His answer was only my wife and I know and neither us will ever tell.

In his career, Bert had a great many "ups" and "down". At one point he was the owner and publisher of the venerable Boxing Magazine... Ring. Unfortunately, this creative genius only wanted to write and unscrupulous associates wrested control of the publication from him.

During those dark days  many in the fight game considered him a Pariah.  He would hold court with his typewriter on the table, at a favorite Sports Watering hole in lower Manhattan ... Runyons.

In those days, I was traveling between Los Angeles and New York at least once a month.  I would have lunch with Bert each time while he continued to bang out column after column and orchestrated his return to Ring Magazine Stewardship.  He fought a costly court battle and finally won his right to own and publish Ring, ( the Bible of Boxing, the maker of the rankings,  once again.

During this hiatus period, I put Bert in quite a few of my productions where his wit and knowledge was astounding. Eventually it established him as a Boxing Spokesman...leading to many other opportunities.

Back at Ring, although the Publisher, all he wanted to do was write. He drove his Managing editor "bonkers".  Fortunately, this time he was in with people who respected him and although they fought his desire to write, they relented and at the same time protected his ownership interests.

My situation at FOX was similar. I had originally cut my broadcasting teeth as a blow-by-blow announcer Whenever we did fights from the Olympic and our regular announcer Tom Kelly was unavailable, I desired to be the fill-in. Here, even though I was the boss, my beloved Janice Cassazza, the Executive Producer, never wanted to hire me. Thanks to Clair Higgins who spoke for Eileen Eaton, the late wonderful female promoter, I prevailed.

In 1974, I had the opportunity to be the Toastmaster (The Emcee) of a roast for Bert at the Touchdown Club in Washington, D. C. The outpouring of affection was overwhelming. Here was a native Washingtonian who never forgot where he came from as he scaled the heights of Sports Journalism.

In 2005, Bert was inducted into the International Boxing hall of Fame.  He constantly astounded all of us with his vast knowledge and encyclopedic memory of events, places and times.

On a few occasions, I had lunch with Bert at another of his favorite Manhattan Watering Halls ... Gallagher's Steak House. It was here, on at least three luncheons when Bert was accosted by Howard Cosell, he being the self-proclaimed all knowledgeable sports maven.  He was forever questioning Bert's awareness of a particular sports subject.  It eventually would end up in a bet for something like dinner.  I am here to tell you, Bert ate free at Howard's expense many times.

Bert. when he was your friend, never turned away if you needed help.  One time, when I was still doing Publicity I mentioned in passing that I had an event that in need of placement and I was short on media names. I mentioned it only once and then forgot about it. 

A week later, I was living in Palm Desert California at the time, when a bulky overnight mail envelope arrived at my house. Bert had heard my plight and had taken upon himself to supply me more than 500 names with addresses and phone numbers (e-mail didn't exist at that time)  all in longhand. This proved invaluable and made me indispensable to my client. When I wished to repay him, he wouldn't hear of it. In fact.felt insulted!

Bert was a showman and he reveled in creating that impression. His public persona was that of  a gregarious, flamboyant Damon Runyon character. But in fact, he was pensive, studious as well as modest. He had a wit and a sense of humor without parallel. He never took himself seriously.

In boxing, when a champion dies, the Ring bell is stuck ten times indicating a knockout. Bert is down for the count, but  his legacy will never suffe

A shining light

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I apologize that it has taken me such a long time to finally getting around to writing this article.  I hoped to write a simple thesis about the one institute of higher education that never has fielded a sports team, yet has more influence on Amateur, Collegiate and Professional Sports than those that win championships and supply the high draft choices.

I still plan to get there in this column. However, while doing my research I came across a great deal of material that dovetails or parallels into what I wished to write about.  Thus, I have included what I have learned and thereby express my opinion as a result.

Growing up in New England and coming from a family of immigrants, my mom was from Bessarabia, it was instilled in me that there never was any doubt that I was going to go to college. To hear the people who came from "the old country", "America provided a great opportunity and to be educated was the foremost route to success.

However, somewhere along the line, Education at many Colleges and Universities seem to have become a second-class citizen.  Scholarships for the best kicker, the finest shot maker, or the elite passer apparently have taken center stage.

Alumni, encouraged by the schools would rather provide Scholarships to athletes than have a hand in molding the future of our country and the world by endowing future chemists, biologists, doctors and physicists. What a shame!

Then along comes John Calipari, University of Kentucky's successful Basketball Coach who openly expresses what other coaches think. His theory is to give a kid a Scholarship and even if he stays for only one year and then turns pro because of his talent, he will make Calipari a winning coach.  He becomes one to be fawned over by overzealous alumni because he has made old school tie something to be proud of.


Many of these one-year athlete's leave school to ply their wares in the professional world.  If they don't make it, they have nothing to fall back on. All too many Scholarship athletes cannot even read, or write when they leave school.  They are ill prepared for the outside world.

My pal Rene Henry who in his day was one of America's foremost Sports Public relations Experts, called my attention to a rule that the NCAA passed last October.  Simply stated it is a requirement that college teams must be on track to graduate 50% of their players.  If they don't, they will become ineligible for post-season competition.

If the rule had been followed, UCONN, Florida State, Indiana, New Mexico State, Colorado State, Norfolk State, Ohio University, St. Louis, Syracuse and Southern Mississippi would not have been in March Madness.

Jonas Salk never caught a pass. Albert Einstein never diagrammed a play (although I am sure he could) and yet, the way Scholarships are doled out to athletes one would think they were on track to make a major contribution to humanity. With Scholarships going to athletes whose eye is on a pro career and who after just one season might leave the school team after making a mark for pros to notice, the next Mark Zuckerberg who may need aid might be out of luck.

Therefore, I feel if these young athletes are looking for a career and selling their talents to a College, or University, they must, in a business fashion, sign a four-year contract. Should they void this contract and enter the pro ranks after one year, they would be penalized by having to pay the school back the total cost equivalent to what it would have taken for the University to have them graduate with a degree.

You might ask, "What if they are struggling to make ends meet and turning pro is an instant solution, why should you penalize them?"


 They should be punished since they used their presence on the school team as a display case for their talents. If they don't want this opportunity instead of taking a scholarship on what I consider false pretenses, then they should attempt to turn pro right out of High School.

As for the 50% graduation requirement, it brings me to the many letters I receive from readers.

 Recently, I received a note from an old friend Chuck Young, the former Chancellor of UCLA.  Chuck for years spent much time on NCAA committees trying to push for a National Football Championship similar to March Madness. 

Chuck pointed out to me, after reading my March Madness column that J.D. Morgan, UCLA Athletic Director at the time was instrumental along with Eddie Einhorn in putting together the Houston v. UCLA game I wrote about. It was a game that pitted two great four-year students and eventually great pros, Lew Alcindor and Elvin Hayes.

Chuck still advocates for a pure elimination-style National Football Championship.  Something, I also advocate.  However, if the NCAA implements their 50% rule, we would have a true championship based on the real principles of education.

This brings me to why I wanted to write this column in the first place.  As I said in my first paragraph, there is one Institute of Higher Learning that combines all the fundamentals of a

Academics and Sport.  It has more influence on American sports: amateur, collegiate, or pro than any other entity. It is the United States Sports Academy.

The vision of one man, Dr. Thomas Rosandich, the USSA now starts its 40th year housed on a majestic campus located in the sleepy town of Daphne, Alabama. It is today the only freestanding accredited sport university in the Untied States. This year, the USSA will confer its 4000th Master of Sport Degree.

In 1972, when The U.S. Olympic Team had a more than mediocre performance in the Munich Olympiad coupled with a devastating report commissioned to study what caused our failure, it prompted five men meeting in Milwaukee under the leadership of the visionary Dr. Rosandich to do something dramatic.

Working out of Advertising Executive Bob Block's donated Board Room, they recognized that the answer to improving skill levels of coaches and performance of athletes was better Sports Education. Thus, on April 22, 1972, the Academy was born.

It quickly became known around the world, as America's Graduate School of Science. It has grown into, "America's Sports University".  Offering Bachelor's, Masters and Doctoral degree programs.  Thousands have benefitted from its program and the Academy has had a profound impact of sports in this country. It is a fact that over 75% of its graduates works in the Sports Profession.  ... Quite an achievement for just 40 years of growth!

The curriculum covers the entire gamut of sports... everything - Coaching, Fitness and Health. Business and Management as well as the overall study of Sports. At the Academy, the emphasis is on fair play and success by personal achievement.  Unlike the Super Bowl New Orleans, Saints, USSA graduates carry the meaning of sportsmanship toward victory as their prime banner.

Over the 40 years, Universities and Colleges in 60 countries throughout the world have joined with USSA and implemented the Academy curriculum into their own programs. A shining example of American Achievement through Sport, the USSA is a welcome visitor wherever it plants its banner.

Isn't it wonderful, in a Sports World damaged by constant scandals, there is the USSA and its shining light?

Play ball: It's hot dog time

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I love listening and even singing the Baseball National Anthem, "Take me out to the Ball Game".  Teams everywhere have incorporated it into the fixture of the game in the middle of the seventh inning. To me, however, they forgot an important declaration in the lyrics where they only say, "Buy me some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks".

That represents a good thing to do at the Ball Park. But to me, any game I attend is incomplete unless I have at least one Hot Dog, maybe two.

The other day I was talking to my friend Stan Fridstein who has written a terrific book "Going Yard". It describes the adventures of he and his son Eric visiting every Ball Yard. As part of it, he talks about the pleasures of Hot Dog eating on a bright sunny day with the green manicured grass and the left and right field over 350 feet away from Home Plate. It's a glorious feeling to be alive and sharing with your son.

Here, he and I differ!  He claims the best Hot Dogs are in Cincinnati.  Along with my son Steven, I, too, have visited a great number of Parks on pleasure, not work excursions. We feel that the Dog served in Chicago's Commiskey Park is without parallel.

So I got to thinking, I asked others where their favorite Dog was.  The answers were varied. Many said they had no favorite, but liked them all. As you may have guessed, most of them were unanimous in saying although not a Ballpark comestible, Costco had the best dog.

As a result, I called on research as well as personal decisions I had made in the past to see if I could get to the bottom of this mystery.  Here's what I learned. The wieners (another name for Hot Dog) are prepared many different ways... boiled, grilled, fried, steamed, broiled, baked or microwaved.

I have tried them every way! In fact, when I was at the Forum (former home of the Lakers and Kings) in 1971, it was my task to change the Hot Dog Brand, which was not selling well.  I scoured Los Angeles to see what might be the best fit.  You could find me at Pink's, The Wiener Schnitzel, The Hot Dog Shack, Dodger Stadium, Flooky's, Cupid's and The Hot Dog Show, constantly tasting their wares.  Of course, I had a bottle of Alka Seltzer at the ready.

When I made my selection, I presented it to the Forum Board .We sampled them every known way of cooking.  In fact, in my own house, there is a constant battle.  I like it one way and Susan plus her friend Marlana like them both grilled and burned.  Guess who wins?

So what is all the fuss about? It is about a delicacy whose history is well disputed. Some people believe it functions as a sandwich invented by the 4th Earl of Sandwich in 1762. Others say it all began in Frankfurt, Germany where Pork Sausages served in a Bun similar to Hot Dog Buns originated, thus the name Frankfurter.

Around 1870, on Coney Island, German Immigrant Charles Feltman began selling sausages in a roll.  I don't really care where it was invented, all I know it is as much a fixture of Baseball Stadiums as the bleachers. Pennants, scoreboards and organ music.

My friend Nino Cristofoli entered the fray and asked what about the Bun. Well sir, the invention of the Bun is credited to a wife of a German immigrant named Antonine Feuchtwanger, who originally sold Hot Dogs on the streets of Saint Louis.

In 1890,because of the heat generated by the Dogs, he gave his customers white gloves to hold the Dogs so they could eat without burning their hands.  As the white gloves kept disappearing, Mrs. F decided to bake Buns to replace the white gloves.

Since then, the Bun has become equally important. Hot Dog Buns are essentially a light and fluffy bread baked in specially formed baking pans that allow for a specific shape.

Hot Dogs at ballparks began as early as 1893 when the then owner of the St. Louis Browns put them in his concessions. Harry M. Stevens Inc founded in 1889 had already served many major sports venues became the first purveyor and became known as "the King of Sports Concessions in the US... having a monopoly for years at all Ballparks.

IN 1916, an employee of Feltman, Nathan Handwerker was encouraged by celebrity clients Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante to go into competition with his boss out in Long Island.  He started by charging 5 cents a dog while his former boss was charging 10 cents.  He opened a place on Long Island and now, on July 4th of every year, his success is showcased to the world.  He expanded and today, Nathan's Hot Dogs are sold worldwide in Sports Venues.

In case you didn't know, there are two basic types of Buns.  In New England, they are top loaded and called either Frankfurter rolls or New England-style rolls In the rest of the country, side-loading rolls are common, and they are called American Style Buns.

Okay, enough of the history let's get down to the eating.

The dog that Stan and Eric enjoy the most is in Cincinnati. What makes it unique is its distinctive chili topping. This chili is spiced chili powder paprika, nutmeg, chocolate and cinnamon.  It is a Vienna Beef Frank, which in addition to the chili has mild cheddar, diced onions, and Ohio's own Bertman Mustard considered by many fans to be the US finest stadium mustard.

In Los Angeles, the pork Frankfurter by Farmer John is served steamed on a foot-long Bun with mustard and relish.  It doesn't rank in the top ten in  "Hot Dogs As America."

The Fenway Frank is both boiled and grilled Fenway-Style.  It is served on a New England-Style Bun and covered with Mustard and relish.  I grew up with this one, but it is not my favorite.

The Milwaukee Brat, is really not a Hot Dog, but a Bratwurst. The Brewers' sausage is considered one of the country's best. It has both Pork and Beef, is dipped in a Secret Stadium Sauce then served on a crusty roll topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard.

In Texas, the Corn Dog invented in 1942 is a fan favorite. Dipped in a corn batter and fried crisp, it is served with honey mustard and coleslaw.

The Orioles have a brand new pit beef and pepperoni topped Birdland Dog. Meat toppings have become the rage. Dogs are being topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce drowned brisket or cheesesteak meat, most of which are also wrapped in bacon and possibly Fritos. 

Many of these dogs are available on gluten-free Buns.

Regional confusion seems to be a trend. California Cheesesteak Dogs are in Arizona, Chicago Dogs in New York etc.  Many stadiums offer some variety of Mexican Hot Dogs from uber-authentic Sonoran Dogs to ridiculous hot dog nachos.

Steve and I personally like the dogs we got in Chicago's Commiskey Park.  Others prefer Pollock Johnny's in Camden Yards, Ben's Chili in Nationals Park, the Hot Dog Torta that the Mariner's feature is also a favorite.

Did I prove anything?  No! But I pointed out that there are as many different dog styles and toppings and opinions as there are stadiums.

What is your favorite?


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.