May 2012 Archives

Oak Park volleyball today's "Hoosiers"

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Last week I attended the California Southern Section State Boys Volleyball Championships. In over 60 years being a professional in the sports field, I have never been privy to watching a more exciting Championship final, then the match I witnessed between little Oak Park and perennial champion Mira Costa. Mira Costa is located in Manhattan Beach, California home of the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame.

 As I sat in the stands rooting for the giant killers (Oak Park), I thought to myself why did this team with its small student body have the right to challenge the perennial powerhouse Mira Costa? Thus I drew a parallel and called Oak Park, the "Hoosiers" of 2012.

In 1986, Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper starred in a movie entitled "The Hoosiers". It was based on the true story of  little Milan High School, who in 1954, against all odds, met and defeated South Bend High School for the Indiana State Basketball Championship. South Bend like Mira Costa, had a student population far greater than that of little Milan.

 Milan upset South Bend in the finals. 

Alas, Oak Park, Ventura County's most underrated team, was to lose in the 5th game of the most exciting match I had ever seen. It ended in overtime of the 5th game. It took three hours with a minimum of mistakes on each side. Oak Park had four championship points, which they could not convert, only to finally lose by two points in the 5th game.

It was touch-and-go all the way. The lead changed hands too many times to count. As for the officiating, there were a great many low points.

I was sitting with my son-in-law Danny Medford, himself a CIF Basketball official, who very seldom comments on the officiating, but the last two points which were obvious miscalls, ( a throw overlooked and a net that didn't happen), went against Oak Park. Other CIF Volleyball Officials in attendance also pointed this out.

Please understand, I write this not to take anything away from Mira Costa.  They deserved to win, but so did Oak Park. In my eyes, they are co-champions.

At one point in my career, I was President of the IVA following the great Wilt Chamberlain in this capacity. My friend, Mike O'Hara, a Volleyball Hall of Famer and founder of the league, tutored me in the nuances of the game.

In fact, the State Playoffs proved that Oak Park who beat 3 Nationally -ranked teams in the Playoffs , proved they could play with anyone in the nation.

However, all of this being said, its ironic that locally all the press is on other teams who have lost to Oak Park. Neither Westlake, nor Oaks Christian has ever beaten them.  Yet, they remain under the radar. It's time for their light to be brought out from under the bushel.

I have often written articles, which talk about the need for student-athletes to be just that... students. To that end, Coach Pat Quinn points with

pride  to the fact that of his ten players, 8 carry 4.0 averages, or better. This is a tribute to a man and a school that places academic achievement, before sports accomplishment.

 It also means that the parents supporting these young athletes understand the inherent value therein. Seniors Jake Rice, Justin Parks, Matt Woo, Sam Saltman and Josh Swedelson are among this group.

Pat has been with the Oak Park Volleyball team since its inception becoming Head Coach in 2007. The current team has never been defeated in the Tri- Valley League and has a string of over 60 straight wins.

The existence of a Boys Volleyball Team at Oak Park actually came about due to parents Dennis Fliegelman and Robert Cochran who started working on this endeavor back in 2001 meeting with success in 2005.  They were met with constant opposition. So, in essence the program is under 10 years old.

The team has many outstanding players in all the different categories.  Justin Parks delivered the most kills.  In the area of Kill and Hitting percentage, Nick Fahn led this category. Mike Campbell made the most Blocks. Bradley Sakada had the most Aces.  P The least talked about statistics, but perhaps the most important... Digs and Assists were consistently delivered by Brendon Parks (Digs) and Sam Saltman (Assists).

The fact that a different team member led in each category is truly a tribute to Quinn's Coaching and his emphasis on teamwork.

Next week when the various All-Star teams are  announced, I am betting that the names listed above will be evident at all levels.

In July, London will be an armed fortress

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This year the Olympics is to be held in London beginning July 27th. The idea for this column came from my old associate and partner Michael McLees.

Like myself, Michael has been involved in numerous Olympiads.  The countries and the cities have been varied and many... Mexico City, Seoul, Sarajevo, Nogano, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Salt Lake City and Lake Placid to mention a few. Here, I would like to remind all readers that the Olympic logo, five interlocking rings, symbolizing the Five Continents that are all supposed to be competing in peace and harmony

Michael was hired for his technical acumen and me as a volunteer on the administrative  and creative side. The behind scenes juggling for position, preparations and the operations which the public never sees, is almost  as exciting as the games themselves... equally nerve-wracking.

Although born out of war, the Olympics was created as a peaceful way of settling national differences by athletic competitions. The first documented Summer Games were held every four years in Greece beginning  in 776 B.C. The word Olympiad, in case you did not know, in Greek, refers to a four-year interval and was a way of telling time.

The Olympic games were originally limited to free-born Greeks. However, Alexander the Great through his conquests spread Greek Civilization.  Part of  this culture was the Olympics. In 393 A D, when the Romans conquered Greece, Emperor Theodosius, ordered that the games be abolished.

In  April 1896 by order of the King of Greece, the modern era began.  The venue was logical, it was Athens. The first 3 Olympiads, 1896, 1900 and 1904 were loosely organized and did not feature multi-national teams.

In 1908, in London's brand new stadium, responsible committees organized the games in every Athletic discipline. Now, once again for the first time since 1948, London is hosting the Olympics in brand new stadiums.

The 1912 games in Stockholm drew 2500 Athletes from 22 nations. Thus it began, multi-national competition and an ever growing desire to participate. From then on until the 1936 games in Berlin, every four years saw another Olympiad. There was no Olympics  until 1948, London again was host. The two previous Olympiads (1940, 1944) were cancelled due to World War II.

Ironically, the dictator Adolph Hitler wanted to use the Berlin Games, (1936) as a propaganda vehicle to show off his supposedly Aryan super race.  However, the United States team, led by four gold medal winner Jesse Owens, a Black College Student, laid havoc to his plans.

My friend, the late Marty Glickman who at one time was the fabled voice of the NBA's New York Knicks, in 1936 was considered one of the United States three top sprint men was bounced by the then President of the United States Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, an avowed Anti-Semite and Hitler sympathizer.

Both Marty and Sam Stoller, another Jew, were not allowed to compete on  the 400-yard relay team. Unceremoniously the he day before the race they received the news without any explanation .

With these two sprinters out,  Ohio State's great Jesse Owens , a son of a sharecropper and grandson of a  slave, led the way, for the USA to put the Olympic Torch to Adolph Hitler's plans.

Unfortunately, all too often, the Olympics has had its share of Terrorists and insane acts.

Although no stranger to Political Intrusion, the games in 1972, they were impacted in a most devastating way .  With the games being held in Munich, Palestinian Terrorists  known as Black September, attacked Israeli Athletes in the Olympic Village.

11 Israeli wrestlers were massacred ... 2 immediately, then 4 later were when a Terrorist blew himself up with a hand grenade. The five remaining hostages were machine-gunned as Television around the world witnessed this horrific event.

Out of the chaos, Broadcast History was made! Announcer Jim Mckay, Host of ABC's Wide World of Sports was on the air for over 18 hours bringing the world accurate and stunning word descriptions.

It also caused the German Federal Government to re-examine its terrorist policies , which at the time were dominated by a pacifist approach adopted at the end of World War II. As a result, the German Government created the elite counterterrorism unit GSG9, similar to the British SAS.

It also led Israel to launch an aggressive counterterrorism campaign known as "Operation Wrath of God", in which those suspected of involvement were tracked down and assassinated.

In 1980, led by the United States, 60 nations boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. In turn, the Soviets and some of their Allies retaliated by boycotting our 1984 Games.

Footnote: A few years later while I was spending a great deal of time doing work, I countless wounded Afghanistan Veterans begging for food, clothing and money on the snowy streets. . 

Afghanistan had taken the once powerful Soviet nation from being a 1st world nation to a 3rd world nation. They were no longer meaningful. History is supposed to teach us lessons. I guess we were absent from class the day they taught that lesson.

In 1980, because of the Boycott as President of FOX Sports, I was called upon to create and produce an entire week in our Nation's Capitol honoring our athletes. They had trained all their lives only to be deprived of their 15 minutes of fame.

The Olympic organization did a week of mock games among 4 teams, East, West, North and South. It all culminated in a big extravaganza at the Kennedy Center where the winners were presented medals and a bunch of my friends, Peter Marshal, Leonard Nimoy, Jamie Farr, Patti LaBell, the late Andy Gibb, Irene Cara of Fame all performed gratis.

In  1984, I was stationed at the Boxing Venue and saw first hand the wonderful work of the LAPD.  On more than one occasion, they had to bring in dogs to sniff out potentially dangerous explosives.  They did their job expeditiously and without incident.

Now, in this day of Terroristic activities, it's London's time to be on the alert. Based on everything I have read that they are ready.

Beginning from the moment David Beckham takes the first step with the Torch from the time it arrives in Land's End at the southwestern tip  of England until it is passed through many hands until it reaches London's Olympic Park on July 27th and then throughout the games, they shall be on alert with high expectations and security worries.

They will be on the lookout for the likely attackers, such as dissident Irish terrorist groups who could target the Torch's visit to Northern Ireland. 70 police officers will shadow the Torch.

In 2008, protesters in Chinatown San Francisco and other cities across America marred the Beijing Games.

We all remember what happened in Atlanta during the 1996 Games. A Pipe Bomb believed to be the largest in history planted by Eric Robert Rudolph exploded killing 2 people and injuring 111 others.

London itself will be a lockdown city.  The Police will be using every available modern technique as well as many of those that have been tried and true.

Among the modern instruments that will be used are Sonic Guns, which were first employed successfully against the Somali Pirates. They will be used primarily as giant loudspeakers.  However, if the Police find themselves in trouble and need to disperse crowds, they can project sound up to 150 decibels, causing pain within a few hundred meters. Both the Police and the Military are preparing for a range of security threats at the Olympics. It's going to cost in the millions of dollars ---

RAF Typhoon Jets will scream back and forth over the Thames, Starstreak service-to-air missile batteries are being set up  in East End Parks and on houses, with 10 soldiers manning each one. Army and Navy Helicopters will patrol back and forth armed with snipers hanging from their doors " to shoot down pilots of terrorist planes".

Guards on the London Transit will carry Machine Guns for the first time. Police Special Forces, "trained to kill' will be wearing balaclavas to avoid identification. Naval landing crafts will roam the coast and submarines will be at the ready.

The London Olympics, one might say, is a festival for the Security industry with a running and jumping show as the sideline. It is Lockdown London.

Still with all this preparation, I was able to learn that a worker smuggled a fake bomb into Olympic Park. Going right past many Security Posts undetected.  Apparently, there are still a great many flaws to iron out.

Two weeks after the games are over, Susan, a few friends and myself plan to visit London.

God Save The Queen!

 

 

They are the real athletes

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This past weekend I had the distinction of acting the part of the proud grandparent as I watched my oldest grandchild accept her degree from one of America's great universities. She is both healthy and bright and was able to walk on two legs up the steps to the stage to receive her diploma.

Later that night, I was having dinner with my friend the eminent Dr. Michael Gurvey.  Michael is a quiet man who never brags about his accomplishments. Out of the blue, that day, he had received a call from a Veteran whom he treated during the Viet Nam War.  In order to save the soldier's life, it was necessary to amputate both arms at the elbow, as well as one leg at the knee.

Today, the man is writing a book about his life experiences and he found it important to reconnect with the Doctor who forced him to get well. After a lengthy search, he found Michael earlier that day.

He recalled how Major Gurvey when he was at lowest point in his life with no will to live, ordered him, as his superior officer, to go to Rehab. Afraid to disobey those direct orders, he went to Rehab.  Today, 47 years later with a wife and children, gainfully employed, he felt any book he might write would be incomplete without talking to the doctor who not only saved his life, but inspired him not to give up..

This led me to think of some of the wonderful athletes, either physically disabled or mentally challenged who overcame their difficulties and looked on them as an opportunity. Meeting overwhelming odds, they succeeded in competition. There are many stories about those athletes who  aspired to meet life's challenges head-on. A few immediately come to mind.

My long-time friend and mentor, Robert S. (Bob) Block, once told me what Leroy Walker, the first Black President of the United States Olympics related to him. Coach Walker who supervised both the Para Olympics, as well as the Olympics pointed that there is one big difference between the two athletic endeavors.  The  Olympic Movement is filed with Prima donnas while the Handicapped Olympics is a love fest filled with joy. It is about "us", instead of, "me".

Looking for inspiration for this story, I did not look too far.  I talked to my grand niece Lia Heifetz to learn about her latest endeavor. Thank goodness, she has both arms and legs because what she and 11 of her high school classmates at Juneau Douglas High School are doing, ( they are now all college graduates) will require the use of all her extremities for the journey ahead.

Starting from Juneau, Alaska, these young adventurers will be both Kayaking and Biking to Argentina.  Starting this June, they expect to finish the trek by the end of 2013.

Some them will leave the expedition after 4 months when they expect to reach Vancouver, B.C.  It will be time for this group to go back to school. To learn about this perilous journey, Google : www.atripsouth.com.

Again, I did not have to go far afield in my research to learn of another challenge that appeared to be impossible. Sean Block (Bob's) grand son gave me the details.  As cinematographer, he documented the mountain climbing expedition this past year of a group of 12 wounded veterans as they scaled Mt Lobuche, 0ver 20,000 feet high located in the shadow of Mt Everest.

The team consisted of 2 blind soldiers, 4 with missing limbs and the rest suffering from severe head trauma - Post Traumatic Stress.

Steve Baskas, had his eyes blown out by shrapnel serving in Iraq.  While in Rehab, he met and married his nurse who has been his driving force ever since. He has never seen her.

Eric Weinmayer, although blind, Para-glides.  He hangs bells on his feet to let him know when he is close to any object. The mountain climbing expedition is a true team sport. Everyone must rely on the other guy. To learn more about this climb, look up highgroundmovie.org.

In professional, as well as amateur sports, there have always been those who defy the odds... and there have always been detractors.

Let's look at the PGA and the case of Casey Martin.  Casey, a Professional Golfer good enough to earn his PGA card desired to play in Tournaments. In order to do so, he needed a waiver to ride a cart.

You see, Martin was born with a disability that slowly takes away the use of muscles in a leg, an arm, or a foot... eventually the limb will be rendered useless.  He had to sue in order to be able to ride a cart so that he could play on the tour. In a Bush League move, the PGA fought this move all the way to the Supreme Court. Casey prevailed 7-2  with Justices Scalia and Thomas voting against it.  They are true examples of Justice being blind.

How would they feel if they were disabled, say for just a week?  Maybe then they would see the life of challenges faced  by Disabled Americans!

In Major League Baseball, the players have come with many varied disabilities.  In one instance, it was a Deaf player who revolutionized the game.

Early in the 20th Century, a small Ballplayer  (5'4", 150 LBS) by the name of William Hoy nicknamed "Dummy". He was terrific and the first deaf player with a sustained career in the Major Leagues.  However, he became known for something completely different.  He was responsible for initiating the hand signals  used to this day by umpires, managers and outfielders. In such a way, he could compete at the highest level of the game

Kenny Walker is one of only two deaf players in the history of the NFL. Walker became deaf after contracting meningitis at the age of two. Drafted by the Denver Broncos after starring at Nebraska, he started all 16 games his rookie year.  In his final game at Nebraska, the entire stadium ( 70,000 people), applauded him in sign language.

Jean Driscoll, born with spina bifida, was the quintessential wheelchair athlete.  She won 7 straight Boston Marathons from 1990 to 1996.

Tom Dempsey of the new Orleans Saints, the man who kicked a 63 yard   Field Goal, the longest  in NFL history as well as one of its most prolific scorers had no foot.

Going way back, but I did see him run in the twilight of his career, the great Miler Glenn Cunningham new what hardship was.  His Track career was what legends were made of. His toes were burned off in a school fire when he was 8, still he set all kinds of records.

Natalie Du Toit is a swimmer with only one leg. Despite this, she won 4 gold medals at the 2004 Paralympics and later qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She placed 16th in the 10,000 meter swim.

Pete Gray was a Major League Baseball player in the mid-40's.  I saw him play for the St. Louis Browns (now, the Orioles). It was amazing!  He had one arm. With that arm, he taught himself to pitch, catch the ball, quickly drop the glove and throw the ball all in one motion. He won the Southern League's MVP  Award in 1944.

Jim Abbott was a Major League Pitcher with one arm.  Even with this disability,  as an amateur, he pitched the final game of the 1988 Summer Olympics and won the USA, a Gold Medal. In 1993, he pitched a No-Hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

Last, but certainly not least in my Athletes with disabilities list short as it is due to newspaper space, Rocky Bleier. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, was called to serve and suffered a 40% disability to his arms and legs in Viet Nam  due to an exploding Grenade.  Undeterred when he returned from service, using a self-imposed exercise regimen, he worked himself back into the starting lineup and helped the Steelers win 4 Super Bowls.

My friend and internist for years, Dr Jeff Galpin, was himself an undefeated NCAA  Table Tennis Champion for the 4 years he was at the University of Illinois. Since 16, he has been in a Wheel Chair.  Truly, an inspirational man.

So, where have I gone in today's column.  It is simple, those who are blessed with good health, great physical prowess and earn a huge salary, should look in the mirror daily and thank the Lord for their Blessings.  They have no right to be malcontents. Jealousy and anger are wasted emotions and energy.

When I was actively working, I had a sign on my desk.  It simply read ,"I cried because I had no shoes, until I met man with no feet!"

'Nuf  said!

 

America's greatest race

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Today's column gives me great pleasure and has caused me to reflect for years before I wrote it,  as I recognized how rapidly the event I am writing about has grown. It is a story about the development of an outstanding and truly American Sporting Event.

In particular, it is the story of a talented young lady who has been with the Amgen Tour of California since its original race six years ago. Just as the race has become an importance place in the calendar of International Competitive Racing, so has her role grown within the firmament of the organization and is now actually running the event..

 13 years ago when my son-in-law Danny Medford was teaching geography to my grand daughter Sarah... during that time while studying about the California Missions, an idea was hatched.

Danny pointed out that the founding Missionaries had placed their Missions up and down the California Coast following  the Camino Real,  the Royal Road.  They were each situated approximately 100 miles apart. At that time, to go from one Mission to the next, took one day's ride by horseback.

The idea was hatched, we  would do an event capturing the beauty of the Golden State going from San Diego in the South to San Francisco in the North.. It was here that my long-time friend and partner David Salzman joined us and together we settled on a Bike Race.

For years we worked hard to bring it about and made wonderful progress.  We enjoyed all the proper endorsements from all the governing bodies and were ready to go. When fate in a nice way intervened!

While we were plotting our course, another  group named California Cyclists , headed up by two young entrepreneurs named Jim Passantino and Tim Walsh, also was trying to do a race up and down the California Coast.  At this time, the powerful AEG seeing the potential, decided they had a need to expand their already large entertainment empire in California. At the time, they enjoyed a large footprint with Professional Teams  in Basketball, Hockey and Soccer, two Major Arenas and a World-Class Tennis Tournament.

Thus expansion into World Cycling was a natural turn of events. Tim Leiwicke proposed a partnership and all three entities were joined udder the AEG Banner. This immediately brought the power and resources of AEG into play towards making this the Premier Race in America.

As partners, David and myself were tapped for our TV and Entertainment Background while California Cyclists brought their Cycling acumen and contacts as part of the package.

None of this could have happened without the aid and support of a 90 plus year old  gentleman named Alex Baum. Alex who had come to me some 40 years earlier when I was at the Los Angeles Forum. He wished to have us do an 8-day-race indoors which at the time were so successful on the European Continent.

Alex, a Holocaust survivor, had been a World Class Cyclist himself in France.  Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Forum and my boss at the time shot it down without explanation. Something I never understood.

In the intervening years, Alex became known in World Cycling Circles, as Mr. United States Cycling. Nothing, no organizational endorsements, or political acceptance, could be achieved without Alex' nod of approval.  He walked into both the Mayor's and Governor's offices with equal ease He always enjoyed  a warm reception and would have  anxious ears, receptive to whatever he wished, or proposed.

Thus it began!  A commitment of countless millions of dollars and manpower. By the 2nd year, it became known worldwide as the closest thing to the Tour-De-France. As such, the ATOC has enticed to "America's Greatest Race", all the world's best teams and riders to come and compete... Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landers, Levi Lepheimer have all worn the mantle of Champion.

More importantly, the average 2,500,000 spectators that have watched the race along the route, have been treated annually to a sports spectacular unlike any other American Event.

The lady, I want to sing the praises of in today's column, is the new Race Director, Kristen Bachochin. New as the Director but she has toiled behind the scenes since its inception for 4 other Directors she has always been the lynch pin, the trouble shooter, the organizer who made everything come out right even under the most trying of times.

Of the four previous Directors only Shawn Hunter, now moved on to other things in the world of Cycling understood the meaning of the word "team. Kristen learned this lesson well.

With the resignation of the last Director and morale at its lowest, facing the daunting task of mounting another annual race, AEG reached out to all our partners, us included, for recommendations as to any ideas for a replacement. They were thinking of going outside the organization once again.

David and I immediately put Kristen's hat in the ring for the job. She had been with AEG for over  8 years. In that time, she was also running AEG's Masters tennis Tournament and other endeavors while coordinating the entire ATOC.  

One of the smartest things Shawn  did, was delegating most of the organizational work to Kristen. She benefitted from his mentorship and  in turn worked with another bright young lady, (I do not think they are 30 years old yet), Kelly Staly.  Kelly holds the title of VP, Partnership Activation.

During this time, Kristen got married, had a beautiful daughter named Olivia and commuted every week from her home in Chicago to Los Angeles. Kelly held down the fort in L. A. They are a dynamic tandem.

Last week, Kristen called a Board Meeting of all the partners. She  and Kelly showed us all the plans for this coming year. They brought in all the key members of the team... the head of merchandising, the marketing people, the TV people, the design people, the digital tracking people as well as the P.R. staff. 

We viewed everything from the start lines to the finish lines.  We learned of all the ancillary happenings planned at the start and finish of each leg.  There are 8 legs, or stages. The race starts approximately at 11 A.M  on May 13th from Santa Rosa with the final leg ending at L.A. Live (Downtown L.A.) around 12 noon on May 20th.

Every step of the way is being and will be choreographed by Kristen and her team.

To quote Kristen when asked how the tough Economic conditions have affected the race, in her own words she has said, " It has been a tough couple of years, no doubt, but the race provides very attractive benefits to the host cities. For this year's race, we had a record number of cities apply to be involved, which is a huge testament to the success of the race itself.

No other event shines an international spotlight on these cities like the Amgen Tour of California. For eight days, people are treated to a postcard of the state. Each year, the ATOC and related activities have had an estimated economic impact of more tan $100 million on the participating host cities throughout the course of the race."

This year, TV Distribution will reach 164 countries and 216 Territories. In addition, for the first time, the ATOC will be live on Canada's Rogers Sportsnet. Ireland's Setanta network will have dedicated coverage and there will be complete news coverage in Belgium on two competing networks.

In the United States, the 2012 ATOC will be aired live on NBC and NBC Sports Network May 13-20... check local newspapers for times.

It can also be watched online with the Radioshack Tour Tracker on amgentourofcalifornia.com. Or there is a free app that you can download for IOS and Android devices!

So that's it! Right after the finish in May, most of the racers will be heading over to London to compete in the Olympics.  The United States team should be strong.

In conclusion, while you are enjoying this spectacular multi-million dollar event, it is easy to be awed when you think how capable this youthful team headed by Kristen, supported by Kelly does such a seamless job.

Hell, I have shirts in my closet older than them!

 


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.