December 2012 Archives

Let's start fresh for 2013

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As far as I am concerned, 2012 is a year that is good for only one thing. It taught us a lot of lessons.  Some were good, but unfortunately most were bad.

To me, Sports more often than not exhibited its ugly side. Imagine, head hunting to hurt other players by putting a bounty on their heads. It was the opposite of what sports were supposed to be about. Apparently, the word "Sportsmanship" was left out of many of our athlete's formal training.

More often of not, the mentality began in the home, where parents taught the philosophy of "win at all costs". This was exemplified to youngsters everywhere sadly to say by many of their heroes.

These lucky men and women, blessed with native ability, forgot where they came from and their origins.  They forgot how they too once  idolized their heroes when they were growing up.

Instead, they no longer had time to pause and sign autographs and smell the roses. Instead, in droves, they are motivated by money.

Now don't get me wrong! I have nothing against money without which it is hard to exist. However, in this coming year, I hope to see more successful athletes giving back to their communities.

After all, without the fan, the lucre they seek will no longer be available. Look at the NHL. Both sides have taken positions of greed.  They are so entrenched that there might not be a season at all.  That would be a shame!

Hockey has been fighting hard for its place in the Sports Calendar.  It ranks a distant fourth behind Football, Basketball and Baseball. It is the one major league that cannot really afford a work stoppage. They are losing fans and might never get them back.

I hope in 2013, the NFL, neurologists, and medical personnel will figure out how to cope with concussions.  Concussions today are rampant. It is a proven fact that all types of injuries have resulted from head-to-head hits. Penalties have been put in place, but it is obvious that is not enough.

Many learned medical men, neurosurgeons and neurologists alike , have pointed out that perhaps the high tech equipment of today such as the sturdy plastic helmets may be doing more harm than good. My father was a football player in the 30's and somewhere my grandson Sam has his old leather helmet. Sure there were bumps and bruises, but concussions, I am told, were rare.

Ali stayed on the ropes in Zaire and for 8 rounds challenged George Foreman to pound on his gloves placed at the side of his head for  24 straight uninterrupted minutes. His face was never marred, but 8000 constant pounds of torque took its toll.

Dr. Ferdie Pacheco walked away from Ali as his doctor with the admonition that Ali should not take that tack. After all, the brain is a sack that floats in the cranium and when it is bounced about it has nowhere to go but up against the bony skull. So many, modern athletes have suffered irreparable damage because of the philosophy make money at all costs. The macho philosophy of never admitting hurt.

Then there is the human drama and tragedy enacted out in Stadium parking lots and around arenas.  Helpless fans have been beaten senseless because they were wearing the wrong team colors.

I grew up in a calmer, saner time. No one reached for a gun; pushing and shoving were the norm.  We did not seek weapons to settle a fight, or an argument. Sure we were passionate, but arguments and debate helped to solve many a problem, not death and destruction.

Have you ever seen some of the Video games sold to today's youngsters? The most popular are embedded in violence.  Their portrayal often send the wrong message indicating life is cheap.  Sure, we played "Cowboys and Indians", but it was harmless aggression.

Today, starting with the playing field, moving on to the video games with the laissez-faire  attitude of many parents, the result has often been disastrous loss of life ... many times in areas that we felt were our, heretofore, safe havens.

My 2013 wish for us is simple.  Let's start again! Let's consider our fellow man and instead of teaching one-ups man ship , we should  go back to basics and once again teach teamwork.  Teamwork in sports will reflect in life and we shall all be the better for it.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim as 2013 approaches... "God Bless Us, Everyone!"

Confusion reins when it comes to team nicknames

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   This morning, I started to write my column thinking that because of my love of sports, I would look into political correctness in using a name. Primarily, I was thinking about those folks who felt words like "Redmen, or Redskins, Indians, or Braves" were derogatory to Native Americans. My entire thesis today was to be about just that.

However, as I looked into it, this column presented many more challenges with many of the nicknames and mascots being strange and in fact completely out of place with teams they represented.

I first rooted for the Braves when they were in Boston.  To me, the name always meant a courageous team of nine battling to win against all odds. But that aside, my college UMASS which is now the UMASS Amherst Minutemen (an apropos name), was then the Redmen  while I went there.

But I am getting off the track. I found some really strange names, which I hope you will allow me to share. Many of them, actually most of them, have nothing to do with the school, or team, or location of the team.

The names most often used to describe teams are ferocious fighting species like "Wildcats, Eagles, Tigers, Bulldogs and Bears". Then the fun begins. Not all names denote how the teams battle for victory.

One interesting thing before I leave the Indian name situation, is the case of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. A Native American Student designed their Indian Head Logo 80 years.  Currently the logo has now been retired and unretired by the State Legislature three times.  

Finally, under threat of lawsuits and penalties initiated by the NCAA, the legislature removed the logo and called for a special election in order to allow the University to move on. In the best interests of the University, the law that was passed allows for a cooling off period and prohibits UND from putting in place a new logo until 2015

Does the NCAA really have the right to go against a Universities wishes, because they feel the need to be Politically Correct?  

This battle is still going on!

Many schools have no problem keeping their unique nicknames, to mention a few are:  UC Santa Cruz known as the Banana Slugs, or UC Irvine, the Anteaters, or the team my late friend Mike Kasino once owned, "The Savannah Sand Gnats".

Still there are many more that border on the unusual and strange. How about the University of Maryland known as the "Terrapins." A  "Terrapin" is a slow-moving Turtle that just happens to be the official State Reptile of Maryland. Would you want your team to be perceived as slow and sluggish?

How about Southern Illinois known as the "Salukis"? Ask yourself, how did an Egyptian Royal Dog become the nickname of a Midwestern College?

Stanford that is known for its cerebral power has a mascot called "The Tree."  It stands on the sidelines for everyone to see looking like something created in a Kindergarten made of construction paper and Elmer's Glue.

What do you think of Oski, UC Berkley's Golden Bear?  It's ridiculous.  Standing on the sidelines it looks like a 60 year old man complete with Receding Hairline and a grandpa Cardigan.  Who does these things?

If you are from Chicago, no one calls the NFL team "The Bears". Instead they are lovingly referred to as "Da Bears".

Western Illinois is called "the Leathernecks". With special permission of the Department of Defense, they are the only non-service school to boast a Military nickname.

Before I conclude let's look at a few of the changes based on the perceived defamatory use of Native American perceptions.

... Colgate Red Raiders became the Raiders... the Dartmouth Indians are now the Big Green... The Marquette Warriors became the Golden Eagles in 1994... (they also retired their mascot "Willie Wampum").

Still some remain in tact.  Among them, the Florida Seminoles, the San Diego Aztecs, The Utah Utes to mention a few.

What does this all mean? The way I see it, is that if you take pride in a name in the proper context, there is no harm, nor foul. But if the name is used derisively, then a change should be made.

I am watching UND to see that happens in the next few years.

 

Where, oh where, has the NHL gone?

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You know, I love Hockey! Also, I miss not having the NHL season in full bloom. When I was kid, there were only six teams in the NHL. There were 4 American and 2 Canadian teams.

Boston, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto made up the league. It was easy to see who the best was.  In Boston, we had a saying if you read the papers upside down; our Bruins were in 1st Place.

The league was comprised of all Canadian Players.  This was easy to understand since at the time only Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the two Dakotas even fielded college teams.  For the most part, the states were playing for the pure enjoyment and fun of it.

Whereas in Canada, when the temperature hovered around freezing, wherever there was a frozen patch you would see both kids and adults skating and pushing the puck up and down makeshift fields of play.

Every frozen patch was utilized.  It made no difference whether it was a slippery street, a backyard, or an open field.  If there was ice, you were sure to find a game of Hockey. It seemed that every able-bodied boy, or man participated.

So much so that the impression was formed and is still held by many today that Hockey is the national sport of Canada.  THIS IS FALSE!

The true National Sport is Lacrosse.  This game was believed to be founded around 1100 AD and it played a significant role in community and religious life of Canadian Tribes across the American Continent for a great many years.  It was well documented by Jesuit Priests Aboriginal Indians made up the opposing teams.

I do not have enough space to tell you all about the game, but let it suffice to say that today it is played on a field that is 110 yds long and 60 yds wide.  There are 10 men on each team.

Enough about Lacrosse! This column is NHL games, or the lack of them thereof. Like so many things both in business and politics there seems to be a stalemate. Daily games are being cancelled puting the NHL at the edge of their own fiscal cliff.

The NHL was untouchable until a pixie-like Californian Dennis Mitchell and Volleyball great Mike O'Hara conceived the idea of the World Hockey Association. For 7 years, 1971- 1978, some 26 teams comprised the WHA.  The league made radical changes and introduced a wide-open brand of hockey.

Many NHL greats were lured from the NHL.  Among them was Gordie Howe of Detroit and Bobby Hull of Chicago. Hull, as a matter of fact, received he first ever Million Dollar Contract in Hockey to leave Chicago. The WHA was a combination of present-day (at that time) Hockey Greats and a spawning ground of future NHL stars like Wayne Gretsky and mark Messier. In fact, before he retired from the NHL, Wayne had broken all of his idol Gordie Howe's scoring records and many others

In 1979, 6 remaining WHA teams merged with the NHL.  Later, other expansion teams would be added. I loved the wide-open brand of WHA Hockey.  However, in 1971 I had a problem.  Although the Kings of the NHL employed me, I was also on KFI radio as part of a successful irreverent sports duo, the first of its kind in LA, called Art & Stan, the average Fans.

Stan was the late Stanley Ralph Ross who wrote the Batman series as well as the ABC Wide World of Sports Theme.  I was Art using my AFTRA name of Art Sheldon. Stan would praise the LA Sharks of the WHA.  

Although I remained quiet and said nothing derogatory On Air about the Kings, my boss, the owner of the Kings Jack Kent Cooke, called me into his office and informed me he had heard the show and that the fellow named Art sounded strongly like me. He hoped Art wouldn't be on the radio any longer.

Although top -rated in our time slot, that was the end of Art & Stan. Alas, I was not going to bite the hand that fed me.

I hope the League and the players by continuing this impasse are not biting the fans' hands that have been feeing them.  It would be a shame.  It took a long time for the NHL to get a National foothold.  It can take a short time for them to lose it.  Today's fan has multiple choices for their entertainment dollar.

 

 

The voices that tell the stories of sports

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       The best description I ever heard used by Sportscasters was that used by ABC's Wide World of Sports, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." My late friend and partner Stanley Ralph Ross penned the words while Jim McKay did the narration.

 This program was a wonderful example of putting words with pictures. From its inception in 1961 and for a great many years, the brilliant Jim McKay hosted the program. In 1998, he had the sad task of announcing its last broadcast. It ran for 37 years! Jim had many great moments. His words became immortalized by his non-stop coverage of the tragic Munich Olympics.

Let me relate to you some facts that have recently come to my attention. The American Sportscasters Hall of Fame came into being in 1984. Since then, there have been 23 inductees.

 I have been lucky, over the years to have worked with sixteen of these greats. Starting from childhood, I also idolized many of the others. They were my inspiration.  However, as a young announcer, I quickly learned they are one-of-a-kind and cannot be imitated.

Many are in the "Hall" because of their diversity in covering all Sports, a particular Sport, or as the voice of a singular team.

In 1959, prior to the "Hall of Fame" coming into being, a National Sportscaster of the Year Award was given to the person who was most perceived as outstanding by their peers. Lindsey Nelson of NBC received the first Award. In total, he received the honor 4 years in a row.

Other multiple winners have been Chris Schenkel (CBS), Vin Scully (LA Dodgers), Curt Gowdy (NBC), Ray Scott (CBS), Keith Jackson (ABC), Dick Enberg (NBC), Al Michaels (ABC), Bob Costas (NBC), Chris Berman (ESPN), Jim Nantz (CBS) and Joe Buck (FOX Sports).

These men have taken us on International trips through their dulcet tones in describing brilliant vistas and exciting moments.  Who can ever forget Al Michaels brilliant "Miracle on Ice" call as the Untied States Hockey Team, a huge underdog, emerged the Gold Medal Winner at the Lake Placid Olympics... or Vinny's call of Kirk Gibson's Home Run giving the Dodgers the World Series. I was a kid in college when Russ Hodges.

 called Bobby Thomson's Home Run allowing the then New York Giants to beat the Dodgers to win the pennant ... "the Giants have won the pennant".

Over many moments, for so many years, they have been giving us the gift of escape from the mundane. They always made it look easy and without effort. However, the great ones always prepared thoroughly to enhance their gift of gab.

 Chick Hearn considered by many the finest Basketball announcer of all time came always prepared, but his insecurity would drive me crazy. I can't how many times after each game he would ask anyone in ear shot, did he do well.

But here's the sad part, although the ASA memorializes the illustrious careers of those who gave us these thrilling rides, the Hall of fame is without a home. It was officially opened on February 26,1998 and located in the MCI National Sports Gallery in Washington, D. C. Unfortunately, it was closed in 2000 to make way for offices.

It is an orphan! Something should be done!

The interactive words of Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, Harry Caray, Ray Scott, Howard Cosell, Marty Glickman, Jack Whitaker, Vin Scully, Clem McCarthy, Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, Ernie Harwell, Lindsey Nelson, Chick Hearn, Jack Buck, Mel Allen, Jack Brickhouse and Curt Gowdy who have been the inductees since 1985, deserve to be preserved.  There are an ever-alive Sports Tapestry.

1984, the first year of inductions, saw Red Barber, who among other chores was  the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers, (he was also Vin Scully's mentor)... plus Don Dunphy who broadcast all of Joe Louis' championship fights and was my teacher at Gillette. One of the thrills I had was to hire Don to call Muhammad Ali's last fight.

Bill Stern, the Colgate Shave Cream man, whom I listened to religiously every Friday night was truly my inspiration.  If only I could tell and weave stories like him. Today, these words are in an Archive somewhere with nobody to listen. These classic narrations fall on deaf ears.

It is a shame, but I have an idea! As a member of the Board of Advisors of the United States Sports Academy, I am turning to the brilliant Dr Tom Rosandich , a Sports Visionary, to come up with an answer.  If anyone can, I know he's the man.

 

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.