Category Archives: Tommie Smith

Hot Sporting Air

Olympics Ennui & Hoosier Basketball Magazine

Two for the price of one today. Read on, babies.

Fool’s Gold

I just don’t get the Olympics®. Never have.

In fact, the only Olympics that ever meant anything to me was the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. That was when USA runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black-gloved fists in the Black Power salute on the medal stand. Naturally, Carlos and Smith were drummed out of the Olympic village and were stripped of their medals. Politics is verboten during the Olympic games.

Smith/Carlos 1968

Mexico City, 1968

So, that’s why Olympics history is rife with images of athletes and statesmen cozying up to reprobates like Adolph Hitler. Why, golly gee, we’re only here to see who can run fastest and jump highest. We don’t want rock anybody’s boat by mentioning sensitive topics like that little bit of genocide you’re planning, don’t you know?

Anyway, back a few years ago when my beloved old hometown Chicago was lobbying for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, I had my fingers crossed that it would lose. And it did. And I was pleased.

Yeah, yeah, some jobs can be created by an Olympics nod, mainly temporary construction gigs. But overall, any place that hosts the quadrennial hullabaloo takes a huge financial beating. Plus, there’s all the pain of setting up the obligatory police state that must protect one and all from the potential of another Munich ’72.

Not only that, I can’t see the competitive purpose of the games. By and large, all the sports have their own yearly world championship competitions, meaning there’s a whole bushel-full of Olympics every single goddamn year, without the expense and the police state.

One more thing: The Olympics features a lot of sports that are beautiful and artistic and supremely challenging but, man, they’re not really competitions. Here are some sports that have no goals, no points, no objective measurements or criteria by which the participants can know that they have either won or lost:

  • Figure skating
  • Equestrian dressage
  • Gymnastics/artistic
  • Gymnastics/rhythmic
  • Trampoline

See, if the athletes are not required to cross a finish line or put a ball into a net, they are judged by a bunch of huffy, blow-hard-y, all-too-easily swayed and/or corrupted arbiters. These sports are glorious in their pageantry and execution but, honestly, they’re not real competitions. In fact, some sports like figure skating have rules that disallow extreme or overly showy performances. It’s as if basketball had a rule that said if a player takes a shot from too far away from the basket, it won’t count. Weird, no?

Anyway, I got a kick out of reading a little snippet in the Winter 2013 hard copy issue of Mental Floss. It tells of the time Denver, Colorado was selected to host the Winter Olympics. What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Denver Winter Olympics? You memory is not failing you.

Denver was anointed by the International Olympic Committee in 1970. These days, when a city wins an Olympic Games, its populace and leaders indulge themsleves in a wild orgy of self-congratulations. Hell, I figure quite a few little Rio de Janierans were conceived the night that the Brazil city was chosen to host the 2016 Games.

Not so in Denver when it was announced in 1970. Denverites were told by the IOC that they, as well as the rest of Colorado’s pop. would have to foot the bill for the Games. Economists had alreay begun warning that an investment in an Olympic Games likely wouldn’t pay off in the long run no matter where the event would be held. Still, Denver officials put a $5 million bond issue to pay for preliminary costs of the Games on the 1972 ballot. The bond issue lost, according to MF, “in a landslide.”

Mental Floss goes on to say (correctly, I might add), “At least Denver won the gold for fiscal responsibility. The city pawned that hardware and astutely reinvested in infrastructure.”

Chicago dodged a bullet. Neither Sochi nor Rio, apparently, have.

Old School

Speaking of hard copy issues of magazines (I did mention it — honest — a few paragraphs up).

Indiana is, of course, the world’s capital of basketball (although I’ve never been able to figure out quite why) and people still burst into the Book Corner looking for Hoosier Basketball magazine.

Whitney Jennings

Logansport High’s Whitney Jennings Is Featured On This Year’s Cover

It’s an annual that spotlights all the basketball players in the state and it’s the damnedest thing: Folks can get all the hoops info they want from the Internet now but thousands still want that fresh, thick slab of mag in their paws. Hell, some websites probably even have real time charts displaying the current heart rates and respirations of each of the top fifteen centers in the state. No matter; some guys still crave their Hoosier Basketball.

Funny: Guys still come into the store to pick up Playboy, Penthouse, and other agglomerations of Photoshopped female flesh even though the Internet has has more porn than Larry Flynt or Al Goldstein could ever imagine. Some guys, I guess, are old school.

And in the realm of basketball intelligence nobody is more old school than Garry Donna

Donna’s been publishing Hoosier Basketball for more than four decades. The Indianapolis resident travels the state in his car, dropping off cartons of the mag at gas stations, convenience stores, booksellers, groceries, gyms, and any other outlet that’ll carry his publication. He dropped off the 2013/14 edition at the Book Corner yesterday.

HoosierBasketball/eBay

The 1986/87 Edition With Steve Alford On The Cover

“It’s been part of my life for 44 years,” he told me. “Basketball fans of all ages want it. I got a call last week from a guy in Hawaii who used to live in Indiana. He’s sending me $25 for postage because he wants it. I’ve always said, I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m healthy and the people still want it.”

Oh, they want it. People have been asking when HB would come in for a month now. I shrug and tell them, “I’ll know when I see it.” Donna’s usually late with the mag because he insists each and every edition carries the schedules of every single Indiana high school basketball team as well as detailed profiles of just about every Hoosier who has picked up a basketball in the last twelve months. Many of those skeds and profiles come in late. A lot of articles written up by his stable of freelancers miss their deadlines as well. No matter. Donna impatiently waits for every bit of dope to come in. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to boast that Hoosier Basketball is more comprehensive than any other pretender that has come out (and, mostly, failed) since 1969.

Donna’s basketball info operation includes three full-time paid employees as well as up to 40 freelancer writers. He also owns Kokomo Raceway as well as Applewood Raceway in Anderson; both are go-kart, putt-putt golf, and arcade complexes. Bloomingtonians might remember another such fun-plex operated by Donna on Pete Ellis Drive. The place closed down some five years ago.

This year’s edition runs a hefty 296 pages on ultra-thin newsprint with perfect, thick gloss card binding. It contains thousands of pix and thumbnails of cagers from high school to the pros. It is, let’s face it, hoops porn.

Oh, Donna’s old school.

“I was told about five years ago that the Internet would put me out of business,” he said, “but it hasn’t done that. You know the last time I looked on the Internet? Never. Not even once.”

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There is a distinct difference between having an open mind and having a hole in your head from which your brain leaks out.” — James Randi

CELESTIAL BEAUTY

Just a reminder, the transit of Venus will be visible in these parts in the hours just prior to sunset Tuesday evening.

The phenomenon has only been seen by human eyes seven times.

Wear #14 welder’s glasses or get a pair of those neat eclipse glasses that look a bit like movie theater 3-D glasses. The transit also is visible through one of those pinhole projection boxes the geeky kids in seventh grade always knew how to make when there was a partial solar eclipse.

Eclipse Cheaters

Which leads me to my fave beat-the-dead-horse question: Why believe in magic and monsters when real life itself is so spectacular?

WE HAVE A MOVIE

Man, you blew it if you were unable to catch the Italian movie “We Have a Pope.”

I just caught the Ryder Film Series offering last night at the SoFA small theater and it was a delight.

A cardinal named Melville is elected Pope and just as he’s about to greet the crowd in St. Peter’s he suffers what can only be described as a nervous breakdown, brought on primarily by his long simmering lack of self-confidence.

The Moment Before The Breakdown

The assembled Cardinals, who by canonical law cannot leave the Vatican until the new Pope greets the crowd, panic and eventually bring in a shrink in an effort to get the new boss to the balcony window.

By and by, the new Pope escapes the Vatican and a certain madness ensues.

The beauty of a lot of non-Hollywood movies is they don’t have Hollywood endings. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The movie will run on cable’s Independent Film Channel and if Peter LoPilato can ever get it back here in Bloomington, don’t blow your chance to see it again.

GO! — NOW!

UNINTENDED PR CONSEQUENCES

WHaP reminds me of all the foofaraw over Martin Scorsese‘s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” based on the eponymous book by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Released in 1988, TLToC dealt with the fever dreams of Christ as he hung on the cross, baking in the sun, driven mad by pain. He imagines an alternative existence wherein he settles into a simple life, marrying Mary Magdalene and not carrying the burden of all humankind’s sins.

The Man Wants Out; The Deity Has A Responsibility

It’s one of the most pious, spiritual, and reverent movies ever made.

I mean, the whole idea of Christ’s death, as I understand it, was that he was tempted to avoid his fate, but his faith and obedience to his “father in heaven” overcame his human need. And therein, I always thought, lay the foundation for Christianity.

But when TLToC played at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Catholics and other defenders of the one and only big daddy-o in the sky picketed and shouted and otherwise drew more attention to the film than it ever would have garnered otherwise.

Go figure.

CANDID

BuzzFeed the other day ran a list of the most powerful photos ever taken.

Which got me to thinking which pix I’d pick. Ergo, here they are (in no particular order):

The French guy crying as the Nazis march through Paris

Vietnam: The naked girl running, the self-immolating monk, the Saigon police chief executing the guy in the street

The JFK assassination: LBJ takes the oath, Ruby shoots Oswald, JFK Jr. salutes

Earthrise from Apollo 8

The Chinese student and the tanks

Martin Luther King lay dying

World War II: Marines reenact the flag raising at Iwo Jima, the sailor kisses the nurse on V-J Day

The National Geographic Afghani girl

Che

Protest: John Carlos and Tommie Smith give the Black Power salute, Kent State, the flowers in the gun barrels

(All photos copyrighted.)

There. How about you? Tell us what’s on your list via the comments.

Today: Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WHERE’S THEIR UNION?

I’ve been a union supporter all my life.

Heck, I became a union guy just a few months after graduating high school. See, I knew I was too much of a rebel/hood/knucklehead to succeed in college at the tender age of eighteen so I wisely deferred my higher education for a couple of years.

I went out to work instead. Took a job with the City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation. My clout was 36th Ward Democratic Committeeman Louie Garippo.

In Chicago back in the 70s, if you wanted work for the City, you first had to go see your clout (also known as your Chinaman) and promise you’d do everything in the world to help him get out the vote in exchange for his sponsorship. I vowed to stand on my head, if need be, to get Mayor Daley (the First) reelected — oh, and whoever else might be running on the Dem slate in future elections.

During our interview, Louie Garippo got a dreamy look in his eye and said, “We’re gonna take back the White House next year.”

I nodded. The presidential election of 1976 would be the first in which I could vote. I couldn’t wait. I had no idea who I wanted but I knew for an iron-clad fact it wasn’t Gerald R. Ford. Yeesh.

Garripo went on. “If all goes well, we’ll have another one of the Kennedy boys in there.” Louie looked me in the eye. “You know,” he said, “your mother loved Jack Kennedy.”

Ma Loved Him

I nodded again. “Okay,” Louie said, “here’s what you do. You go see Elmer Fillipini tomorrow at 9:00am. Ya got that? Do not be late. He’ll tell you what to do.” Fillipini was the supervisor of the 36th Ward Streets & San office.

Louie wasn’t finished with me, though. “And do me a favor,” he said. “Get a haircut, fer chrissakes. You look like one’a them goddamn hippies. You’ll make your mother happy.”

I got up to leave and we shook hands. As I was walking out the door, he tossed another caveat my way.

“Remember,” he said, “don’t embarrass me.”

I nodded a third time.

At 9:05 the next morning I was filling out my first union card. The Laborers Union. Very, very cozy with The Boss, Daley. Not that we would suffer for the coziness; not even out of my teens, I would be making more money than my old man. When I told him what I was going to earn an hour, daddy-o actually got a hurt look in his eye. I always felt bad about that.

Anyway, The mayoral primary of 1975 was coming up fast. Renegade alderman Bill Singer was running against The Boss. Singer and his pals like the Rev. Jesse Jackson had already beaten Mayor Daley in a battle three years before. Singer, Jackson, et al successfully ousted Daley and the his Machine cronies from the 1972 Democratic National Convention. The one that nominated George McGovern to run that November. You remember McGovern, don’t you? Lost the election in one of the greatest landslides in history. Couldn’t even carry his own state.

So, Singer had decided to take on Daley in the primary. He was young. He was a rebel. He had longish hair. He hung out with brothers. As far as I was concerned, he was perfect. I started wearing a Singer lapel button — to work.

Not smart. Elmer Filippini called me in to his office for a private meeting. He wasn’t happy.

“Dontchu care about yer job?” he snapped.

I shrugged. My only regret was that I was embarrassing Louie Garippo.

I lasted three months in that job — not because Elmer or Louie forced me out but because I was an irresponsible lunkhead.

Believe it or not, I grew up. I eventually got into the writing and journalism rackets. Joined more unions. The National Writers Union and the Newspaper Guild.

Reporters On Strike, 1964

To this day I’m always on the side of the unions. I don’t like bullies. Management always seems to be the bully.

The highest-profile labor dispute going on right now in this holy land is the National Basketball Association lockout. In an industry raking in a couple of billion dollars a year, labor and management can’t figure out how to slice up the pie.

Billionaire jerks fighting with millionaire jerks over a few bucks.

Still, I’m steadfast behind the National Basketball Players Association. Management, remember, is always the bully. Even if the players are jerks.

Gotta tell you, though, there are a lot of folks suffering over this. Some of our friends in Indy are trying to figure out how to buy Christmas presents this year. Heck, some of them might be trying to figure out how to pay the rent.

Hot dog vendors. Jersey hawkers. Ushers. Ticket sellers. Beer pushers. Loads of people who consider themselves extremely fortunate when they bring home a hundred dollars after a Pacers game.

No Games, No Hungry Fans, No Pay

The NBA last year paid out $800 million to its wage slaves on the gym floor. That constituted 57 percent of all basketball related revenues for the season, meaning the owners claim to have pocketed some $600 million. The NBPA claims the owners are fudging their books. I’d bet they are. You don’t get rich enough to own a major league sports franchise by possessing the morals of a Boy Scout.

There’s a lot of cash up for grabs in this fight. But there isn’t enough for a hot dog vendor to splurge on Christmas this year.

RUNNING IN PLACE

Speaking of elections, the honorable Regina Moore bounced into The Book Corner last week to stock up on reading material. The city’s parking ticket boss immediately got into a conversation with a young woman who still sported Hallowe’en-themed nail polish.

The two batted around the topic of nail painting for a few minutes then I asked Moore how she was feeling about today’s election. “I feel good about it,” Moore said. “I think we’re gonna be okay.”


Bloomington City Clerk Regina Moore

I told her I was happy she seemed so confident. Then it hit me. “Hey, wait a minute,” I said. “Is anyone running against you?”

“No,” Regina Moore said.

Nor is anyone running against incumbent Mayor Mark Kruzan.

Democracy, Bloomington style. Ya gotta love it.

Still, get out there and vote. It’s the least you can do.

KAYOED

Smokin’ Joe Frazier took a ten-count last night. The former heavyweight boxing champ died after a bout with cancer.

I’ve got to admit I never cared for Frazier. Not for anything he did or the kind of man he was. It was just that he was the guy who knocked one of the heroes of my youth to the canvas back in 1971. Frazier was the first man to hang an L on Muhammad Ali, besting him in 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden that year.

Frazier Labels Ali In One Of Their Three Fights

I loved Ali. I couldn’t have cared less about boxing but I embraced Ali because he had the cagliones to refuse to be inducted into the Army after being drafted in 1967. He risked everything for his beliefs. “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong,” Ali famously said. “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.”

Plus, Ali was a poet and a showman. Had he been a run-of-the-mill pug, I wouldn’t have given him a second thought. But, because he raged against The Man, I elevated him to my sports pantheon, which also included Curt Flood, Jim Bouton, Dick Allen, and John Carlos and Tommie Smith.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Arms Upraised

Ali came back from his exile from the sport and won back the title. Then Frazier outpointed him. I moaned, Who the hell is Joe Frazier, anyway?

Now, no Vietcong ever called Muhammad Ali nigger, but Ali called Joe Frazier a “gorilla” prior to one of the bouts, the three of which have become almost mythic battles. Frazier was deeply hurt by the epithet. Ali also called him an “Uncle Tom” and “ugly.” Frazier’s manager told him to pay Ali no mind, that “The Greatest” was only hyping their match.

Frazier said, Maybe, but how would you like your kid to come home from school and tell you the kids had been calling him “gorilla” and “Uncle Tom”?

I hope to learn that Ali apologized to Frazier before last night. He’d be a hero again for me.

%d bloggers like this: