July 2012 Archives

Security takes many forms

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Much has been written about security at 2012 games.  In fact, I have even written a few pieces.  In the wake of the many high profile terrorist attacks, both domestic and international, I remembered a security event that I personally was a part of.

In October 1978,I found myself in Strasbourg France. My friend and associate Frank Baer had invited me there.  If you don't know who Frank Baer was, let me tell you.

Frank, a former Gymnast was the Executive Director of the USGF (The United States Gymnastic Federation) and its founder. He started it all in his garage in Tucson. Arizona.  It was there, along with my FOX Sports Associate, Marty Groothuis, That I signed to represent the Gymnastic Organization in all areas of its growth. This included getting commercial endorsements, bringing about TV exposure, creating new uniforms and also establishing new competitions.

It worked out tremendously well.  However, the 2012 Olympics brought to mind an incident that involved me personally. It took place in 1978 at the Gymnastics World Championships in Strasbourg, France.

I had gone there as the guest of Frank Baer.  I had conceived this wild idea of bringing over the Romanian team to compete against the United States. To achieve this  would be quite a coup.  Of course, the crown jewel of the Rumanian team was little Nadia Comenici.

If you know your Olympic history, you will remember that Nadia at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal became the first Gymnast in history to score a perfect 10.00.  As a matter of fact, she wasn't done.  By the time that Olympiad ended she scored 6 more.  Her record of 7 still stands to this day.

So, there I was in Strasbourg, a sleepy little French Hamlet located in the Alsace... close to where my sister-in-law Rose grew up. But that is another story for another time.

My goal was to present my grandiose scheme and sign up the Romanians to make their first appearance in the United States. Strasbourg was a pastoral scene with blemishes. The blemishes to this ancient village were the police armed to the hilt with riot gear and armored half-tracks with mounted machine guns that patrolled every street of this ancient and delightful European Vista.

This was the first World Championship that the Israeli team had attended since the 1972 Munich Massacre.  Everything was tense and on edge. In fact, the Israeli team members were spread for safety reasons throughout 7 different hotels.

You need to understand this was taking place amidst the Cold War that existed.  There were two distinctive Political Blocs... Eastern and Western.  They trained separately and armed guards stood vigil at the entrances. Now, I had a problem! Traveling with me was my friend the late great columnist Jim Murray who later wrote about this escapade in my life. I was there as Frank Baer's guest.  I had no official standing, but I had to get behind the Iron Curtain, (The Eastern Bloc).  I needed an official badge.

I noticed that the most prominent badge was a Photo ID in a plastic 2 x 3 case pinned to one's lapel. What was I to do?  I hadn't come this far to be stymied.  Too many people were counting on me.  I suddenly hit on an idea. Upon reflection years later, I realized I could have been thrown in jail, or worse yet, killed.

I went to a local 5 & 10, where I bought an identical plastic badge holder into which I slid my California Driver's License (it had my photo), walked up to the eastern Bloc Sentry, who was armed with an UZI and controlled the meanest looking German Sheppard I think I had ever seen. I smiled at the guard, patted the dog on the head and won my victory.

However, that's not the end.  Sid Silver helped me arrange for a U.S v. Romania tour across the United States.  We sold out in no time.  Everything was going smoothly, or so we thought.

They were to start in NYC where Mayor Lindsey, The Firemen's band and a Red Carpet would great them.  Everything was set.  Competitions involved cumulative scoring going from one city to the next. They would be in 5 Arenas in five different cities from NYC to Los Angeles in 10 days.

The night before their arrival I received a call at my home.  "Nadia had broken her pinkie finger and could not compete". I was devastated.  Every Arena had been completely sold out.  We refunded all the money and Lloyds of London reimbursed us.

You might think that was the end.  Hardly! While attending an Oak Park High School graduation party for my grand daughter Sarah and her friends, I learned the true reason.  As I related the story, one of the graduate's fathers, a Romanian gentleman, told me the real reason they cancelled was because the head of the Secret Police who was to accompany the Romanian Team had defected ...He was that man!

I subsequently verified the facts... after all it was the Cold War!


Captain McHale has left us

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   You know, as I get older, I look around and more and more of the people I have known, worked with and cared about are no longer here. Many people have told me that when you get old you are in the "Golden Years".

Nothing can be further from the truth.  They are really the "Rusty Years". Sure, they are filled with wonderful memories and if you are lucky to have a great family for support, they are, in their way, the "Golden Years".

Part of the enjoyment of growing older is the experiences you have had...whether good, or bad which you have learned from. There is no joy in experiencing the  loss of friends and loved ones at a rapid rate.

I have told you that I came from an exceptionally large Boston Family.  It is still larger than most. With my cousin Herbie's passing a few weeks ago, I became the patriarch of the family. That fact is mind-boggling.

However, as the expression "life goes on". Unfortunately, the circle of your life becomes increasingly smaller.

Today, we lost Ernie Borgnine. Ernie was a good friend and a confidant. I could turn to him along with his buddies Henry Helfman, (once John Wayne's Stunt Double) and Harvey Smuckler to bounce ideas off. For a while, when we were all involved in bringing the cellular industry to many countries around the globe, we would meet for lunch once month, usually on a Monday, at Monty's restaurant in Woodland Hills CA.

All three are no longer with us. They were truly the 'three musketeers'. He would always ask to bring the 'young fella' along. That was I! I was th 'young fella' they brought along. And Ernie would have his favorite dish, the onion and tomato salad. He never wavered.

Beyond our cellular business, we would discuss many things. At one such get- together, Ernie talked about the part he had just taken in the movie that was soon to go into production. It was called "The Greatest". It was about Muhammad Ali.  Ernie had taken on the role of Angelo Dundee... Ali, s "Hall of Fame" trainer.

I thought that was a stretch. The only thing he and Angelo had in common, they were both Italian.  There any similarity ended.  Ernie was a big man who never smoked. Angelo was a slight man who wore thick glasses and chain-smoked cigars.

However, when I visited the set with my pal Ferdie Pacheco, Ali's doctor who helped to coach Ernie on the nuances. We often stood next to Angelo as we watched Ernie create the role. I could not believe my eyes. There in front of me was an overweight Angie. The transformation was uncanny.

Ernie was not big into sports, but he and John Madden shared the same fear of flying.  Like John, he owned his own Bus, which he took wherever he went.  He enjoyed America's open roads. It was beautiful!  It literally was a hotel suite on wheels.

So long 'old fella'!  Drive safely

The 2012 Olympics, the world's most costly sport event

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It was in 1960 that my pal Clair Higgins of Westlake California and his partner Jack Meyer first put Video Tape Machines in a second hand School Bus, during John F. Kennedy's Campaign for President.  This old bus followed JFK everywhere and fed, via tape delivery, all the Kennedy News every day, to TV Outlets.  On many occasions, the Bus broke down.

Boy, has Sports Telecasting and Technology come a long way. I was at Clair's house for a party. He showed me his hand-size digital camera. Proudly he took me into his den and pointed to a framed picture of the Bus, (someday, it might be in the Smithsonian). Excited, he then showed  me  a small digital camera which he held in the palm of his hand. It did 100 things more than the Bus did in its day.

From this modest Rube Goldberg -rigged Bus, we come to the Mobile Units of today.  They are multi-million dollar custom built vans. These vans are complete TV Studio Control Rooms on wheels. They deliver a live signal, in real time, to satellites as the action happens.

For technical information, I relied on my old partner Michael McLees. Michael has been technical advisor on countless Olympiads and outstanding world events. Always, factual, Michael delivered.

 Unlike the 1960 Bus, Broadcasts will emanate directly from these Mobile studios stationed at all venues airing minute-by-minute everyday beginning July 27 for nineteen straight days. There will be 55 fixed camera locations.  That's only part of it!

By the way, this Olympiad will use 66 miles of cable.  The Mobile Vans will employ 111 cameras and 86 tape machines. I won't give you the technical names that Michael gave me, but suffice it to say they have everything but the Kitchen sink... and who knows they might even have that to feed the crew. For those cameras and tape machines, the production crew will focus on 500 monitors... Whew!

To understand this vast undertaking, the vans arrive at the major venues 9 days before the games, the balance show 4 days later. All that time is needed for the setup. It will consume all of 23 days to build the venues. After the games are over, the deconstruction will take a minimum of 5 days... and they work around the clock.

 The advance Broadcast crew has already been in the U.K. for  at least two months leading up to the first event. It all costs money... million$ in fact.

NBC paid millions for the rights gambling on advertiser support. The games can be seen on most NBC Networks, (NBC Sports, BRAVO, CNBC, MSNBC AND UNIVERSAL HD).

A little food for thought before I sign off.  My friend Rene Henry points out that Security for London will be over a Billion $. The U.S. is bidding for the 2024 games. With the acknowledged expected rate of inflation, what city wil have this kind of money?

of money?

Olympic Women's Marathon symbol of equality

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Even in the Olympics like everywhere else women's events were treated as second class. The farthest they were allowed to race was 1500 meters Supposedly they had inferior physical abilities and could injure their health.  We proved this to be false.

 In 1979, while at FOX Sports, our team created the one and only LA Women's Marathon.

In order to achieve our goal, we invited 30 of the best female marathoners at the time to participate. FOX, spearheaded by Sid Silver and Matt Helrich saw to all the logistics.

The prime consideration was to layout the course exactly as it was in 1932 when Juan Carlos Zabata of Argentina won the marathon in 2hrs, 31 minutes and 36 seconds... an Olympic record.

We had to go further. We needed to prove that running 26miles, 385 yards, the Olympic Marathon distance would have no adverse affects on the physical being of the female marathoners. To prove our point, Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe along with the late Dr. Tony Daly chief medical officer of the U.S. Olympic Team, set up a complete medical facility at trackside.

The testing included, among other things: complete race cardio, checkup, weight check done in a water tank sitting on a scale, various measurements done with assorted instruments, including calipers, checking the orthopedic and respiratory condition of each marathoner and a foot examination. Our team did a completely thorough examination.

But let's go back to the kickoff of the fight to include women in U.S. Marathons and the Olympics.

Before 1972, women had been barred from the most famous Marathon... Boston. In 1966, a lady named Roberta Gibb hid behind a bush at the start. She snuck into the field and finished in an unofficial time of 3:21:25. She was inspired by a quotation in the Boston Papers saying that women were not physically capable.

The most famous advocate of Women's Marathon is Kathrine Switzer. Who as a Syracuse University Student entered Boston in 1967 under the neutral gender name of name of K.V.Spitzer... number 261. Realizing what had happened race officials Jock ran on the course to stop her...to no avail! Switzer's boyfriend running with her, a Syracuse Footballer, sent him flying.  Newspapers around the world caught it on film. She finished.

Afterwards, she was relentless in her quest and convinced Avon Cosmetics to sponsor the 1977 Avon International Women's Marathon in Atlanta. She knocked at the Olympic doors.

In 1979, starting and finishing at the L.A. Coliseum, (The Olympic Stadium in 1932), the first five finishers bettered Zabata's 1932 time.

Using the talents of  Janice Cazzaza , Clair Higgins and Fred Rheinstein, we produced an award winning TV hour.  We then hand carried the reel to Europe and pleaded our case for inclusion in Los Angeles '84.

We were the final straw!  Shortly thereafter, the IOC announced that this would be an event.

Bottom line, women are not only physically capable, but on that day, our tests proved they are superior in many ways.



The Olympics where it all began

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 Every four years the world is treated to competitions among the brightest and best athletes the world has to offer.  It is called the Olympics. Today, countless dollars are bid for the TV rights. Billions are spent on campaigns to bring the quadrennial event to a community and a country wishing to be the host.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the Olympics, I plan on doing a series of articles which I hope will give an accurate accounting of how the development of the modern day Olympics came about and its meaning as well on impact to participating countries.

My articles will be based on personal experiences as well as a foundation in research.

According to legend, Heracles, a son of Zeus, founded the ancient Olympic games.  However, the first Olympic Games that there is written proof of, took place in 776 B.C. At that time, a naked runner, Coroebus, who was a cook from Elis, won the only event. It was a run of 210 yards...thus he was the first Olympic Champion in history.

But that's a fact that really doesn't impact on today's games.  It is however interesting to realize these Ancient Games took place every four years for nearly 1200 years between Greeks strengthening their sense of national union.

The first Olympiad had one event, which by 408 BC, the 93rd Olympiad grew to 10 additional events. Among them, 4 foot races of varying distances, (one, a race wearing armor), horse and chariot races, wrestling and boxing. The pentathlon was added. It is when one individual is called upon to challenge in five designated disciplines was also added.

In 648 BC, Pankration was the first Martial Art introduced in the Greek Olympic Games. It was basically a blend of boxing and wrestling but with almost no rules with the exception of disallowing biting and gouging of the eye opponent's eyes out.  Hmm, that sound sounds pretty close to MMA of today.

Pankration is a composite of two Greek words (I'm sorry I can't spell them), which individually meant "all powers" and "strength, power".

During this period it became International in scope when Greeks living in other lands such as Syria, Asia and Egypt, strove to hold on to their culture. They built athletic facilities, organized traditional competitions and sent competitors from their towns. It became in essence, the Panhellenic Games.

In 393 CE, the Roman Emperor, then Governor of Greece, abolished them because he considered them Pagan. 1500 years later, a young Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin began their revival. The games were reinstated in 1896.

Next month, the XXX Olympiad takes place in London for two exciting weeks, it has grown and almost every nation in the world will have teams. 196 countries will send at least 1 athlete.

There are now 28 individual sports...all peaceful in nature. In the future, I shall explore the Torch Relay, Corruption, Highlights, TV Costs and City Bids.

The behind the scenes should amaze you.






Where there's a will there's a way

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              To all my readers, this column is not about sports.  It is about life and one particular man whom I am proud to call a friend. Over the years I have worked with, represented or played with Kings, Presidents, Celebrities, Dictators and Prime Ministers. None of who truly impressed me.  However, this story is about a man who does... a story of inspiration.

I am fortunate to live in the Ventura County Community of Thousand Oaks, California. Every morning when I rise, I marvel at how lucky I am to be able to reside here.  

This column about a young man who despite all odds followed his dreams. It is in direct opposition to many of today's kids, who think the right to own a car, get a new IPod and have no ambition, is a way of life.

His story is in direct contrast to many an American Student's attitude, "I'll do it tomorrow." It is a good case study of why India's economy is flourishing and why America's education/economy is slipping.

Many of us can say we came from humble beginnings... and by our definition it is true, but when you realize the road that Dr. Vishva Dev, head of Cardiology at Los Robles Hospital, traveled, you realize that our obstacles were miniscule.

Although I am happy and healthy now, I suffered a set back with my heart. Like the man in the TV Ad who had a heart attack, said, "This couldn't happen to me!".

 I fit that bill.

While exercising on a treadmill one morning, I did not feel good.  I thought it was just indigestion. The fellow on the next apparatus looked at me and saw the discomfort on my face. He asked what was wrong, I told him.

Someone was looking over me that day. The man asking the questions turned out to be Dr. Vishva Dev. Within minutes, I was at Los Robles Hospital where it was determined that I had severe blockage in three arteries. Before I could even ask what had to be done, it was over.  I was the recipient of 4 stents.

Today, I am back in the gym and he's still on the next apparatus. Some of my fellow gym rats... Nino, Stan, Bill, Ed, Matt and Don ...  have all benefitted by his gymnasium diagnoses and swift action.

How about the road he took to get here?

He grew up in a small village in Northern India, part of a large loving family of 11 children ... his parents had no formal education.  The entire family worked on other people's farms and ran a small grocery store. To make extra money to feed his family, his father also labored at many part-time jobs.

One day after coming home from school, he and his brother were thirsty. His mother went to the village to get Well Water. Understand in the caste ridden and backward Indian Society at that time, the Dev family were untouchables and not allowed to use the Village Well.

As a result, the fact that it was a woman doing this rebellious act, the family became social outcasts. Their little store was boycotted.  They no longer had an income. This one act changed everything in little Vishva's life. The family moved to another village to start over. Vishva went to live with his grandparents.

Students talk about Abraham Lincoln and his Log Cabin.  Vishva is the story of a modern day Lincoln

Three days a week he would walk 4 miles each way to see his parents and bring back groceries for his grandparents' store. He had no shoes!  

Everyday after school, he ran his grandparents little store. And rolled cigarettes at night to sell in the village. Amidst all this poverty, a role model emerged.

Once a month, a doctor came to the school. He helped everyone regardless of caste, creed or ability to pay.  Seeing how his Grandmother had benefitted, he determined to become a doctor and help others. Everyone thought him delusional.

His school had limited supplies. Walking for miles in his bare feet, he collected Physics, Biology and Chemistry textbooks from any source. He studied diligently. Before he even entered high school, he had mastered the high school's science curriculum.

The only High School within reach was 4 miles away.  Science was not taught. In order to authorize any subject be taught, the State Board needed a teacher and least 15 students. Vishva persuaded the Agriculture Teacher that she was the finest scientist in the area and should teach such a class. He enlisted 15 of his friends and the Science Class was born.

From this small rural community, he topped the State boards and was recruited by an important large college to join their pre-med program. When he moved to the city, he almost gave up his dream. The courses were taught in English. He didn't know English. He had lost his confidence and was about to quit until he talked to the Math Professor who had recruited him. ... As they talked, they walked through a hall with walls filled with pictures of past academic scholars.

That night, he imagined himself one day on the wall. He ended up number one in his class and school for every quarter thereafter.  

Today, his picture is on that wall.

At 17, ten years after his childhood dream, he was selected to join the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. He ranked first among 50,000 competing applicants ...  only 45 were selected.

After graduation he stayed in India even though he was highly recruited from around the world. As his wife Irma tells it, he felt he must pay back for the education he received. For 12 years he labored for little, or no money.  Like the doctor of the school in his childhood, he turned no one away.

His wife Irma tells one story of a man who sat for hours outside the young couple's apartment in India waiting for the Doctor to come home. When Vishva arrived the man gave him a Mango from his farm in gratitude.  It was all he could pay. This was not an uncommon occurrence.

Finally, coming to the United States 20 years ago, an honored doctor and learned academician, he joined the staff of Cedars Sinai Hospital. No longer the rural farm boy who as a youngster, many times wore clothes with patches sewn by his mother.

 Today, he is still plying his trade, only at Los Robles Hospital... turning no one away. A case in point is just the other day; a fellow doctor turned away a pregnant girl with a heart problem because she had no insurance.  Without hesitation, she became Vishva's case.

By the way, there's the doorbell... another daily shoe delivery for Dr Dev from Amazon.




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.