This is a selection of pre-2017 Journal entries from this site.     
 
 
Honoring Jerry Frei at Oregon spring game

A great weekend with

the Ducks in Eugene

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Jerry Frei Offensive Line Coach's Office


May 4, 2014: I'm back from an emotional and gratifying family

visit to Eugene, where the University of Oregon athletic department

honored our father, Jerry Frei, by offically unveiling the Jerry Frei

Offensive Line Coach's Office in the new Hatfield-Dowlin Complex

and  showing a tribute video on the scoreboard screen during the

first half of the Oregon Spring game at Autzen Stadium. Appropriately,

the tribute was read by Don Essig, the long-time public address

announcer at Oregon games.


In keeping with the military appreciation theme of the day, the video

prominently mentioned the aspect of Jerry Frei's background that was

never listed as part of his coaching biography during his 17-season

tenure with the Ducks as an assistant and ultimately their head coach.


That was his 67 combat missions as a P-38 fighter pilot in World

War II, flying generally alone over Japanese targets to take

reconnaissance photos in advance of the bombing runs. The one-man

plane was unarmed; cameras replaced the guns. (The prologue of

Third Down and a War to Go explains more.)


I noticed Oregon players on the field watching the video and clapping.

On Friday, Kim Murray of the Duck Athletic Fund treated us to lunch

at The Wild Duck, across the street from Matthew Knight Arena. It 

significant for us, also, because the first home I remember living in in

Eugene was about a block from there, on Columbia Street. (It's no

longer there, thanks to university expansion.)


Then we took tours of the Casanova Center and the new football

complex, which is truly as breathtaking as you've heard, and had a

met and ate dinner with many of the former players and coaches

who had played golf that afternoon. It never gets old to hear stories

from  Jerry Frei's former players and coaches, and they made me 

even more proud to be his son. And it was nice to again see and

talk with former Oregon coach Rich Brooks, retired and now living

back in the area.  Thanks to Jeff Eberhart of the Oregon athletic

department; athletic director Rob Mullins; and offensive line coach

Steve Greatwood, who all were terrific.


On Saturday, I also enjoyed running into and speaking with Rob

Moseley, editor of GoDucks.com, and Ryan Thorburn of the Eugene

Register-Guard, formerly of the Boulder Daily Camera. And thanks

for Oregon's David Williford for helping setting up a halftime radio

appearance for my brother, David, and me with Jerry Allen, the

veteran radio voice of the Ducks.   


Four of the five Frei siblings, plus family members, were there. Dave

and I were joined by our sisters, Judy Kaplan and Nancy McCormick.

The fifth sibling, former ballerina and now ballet company executive, 

Susan Frei Earley, had performances over the weekend in Tulsa

and wasn't able to attend.

   

Secondarily, and this was merely a coincidence because this honor

was in the works long before the release of March 1939: Before the

Madness, I also did a signing for the book about the first NCAA

basketball tournament -- a tournament won by Oregon's legendary

"Tall Firs" -- and its times.  

TerryScoreboard.jpg
That also made the scoreboard, at left.

I also was appreciative that the sons of

two members of that legendary 1939

team came to the signing. The first is

Scott Wintermute, son of Tall Firs

center Slim Wintermute; the second is

Scott McNeeley, son of backup guard 

Red McNeeley. Scott had provided me

with a CD interview his mother and aunt conducted with Red late in

his life about his war-time experiences. Red was a torpedo bomber

pilot in the Navy and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his

heroics during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

ScottWintermute.jpg ScottMcNeeley.jpg

DuckStoresigning.jpg 

Setting up for The Duck Store signing. That's Jordan of the

Duck Store staff ... not Marcus Mariota.  

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 Weightroom.jpg

Oregon's weight room  

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Oregon's cafeteria, left, and media interview room, right 

 
 
 
Out of the blue, a touching email about a WWII pilot and the sweetheart who never forgot him
"Madison Gillaspey 
never came back"
 
Irene2.jpg

September 26, 2012
: Today, I was emailed that picture.

The woman is Irene Smith. 

I'll get to her story, but first, the background.

After the 2004 publication of Third Down and a War to Go: The All-
American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers
, I heard from Arlene Chandler, who had
 been the fiancee of Bob Baumann, one of my father's two teammates on that
 team who had been killed in the Battle of Okinawa.

Arlene passed along letters and pictures from her time with Bob, when she
 was Arlene Bahr, and I included the material in the paperback Third Down
 and a War to Go
. Some of those pictures are on the book's page on this web
 site here.

Today, I was reminded that Arlene and so many others lost sweethearts
 during the war, men with whom they had talked about spending lives
 together.
 
I received the email from Cindy Smith in Montrose, Iowa.

She told me she had come across my November 2000 Denver Post story that
 served as the starting point for Third Down and a War to Go. She had been
 searching for information on a World War II pilot named Madison Gillaspey.
 She started checking after attending an air show in Burlington last week with
 her mother, Irene Eck Smith. When it was announced that the third Friday in
 September was an annual day of remembrance for American POW and
 MIA, Irene was moved to tell her daughter more about losing her fiancee
 during World War II.

His name was Madison Gillaspey.

Irene called him "Bud."

Madison and Irene Eck had attended high school together in Argyle, Iowa,
 were long-time sweethearts and were engaged to be married. While he was
 serving in the Pacific, she took flight lessons and was on the verge of taking a
 solo flight as a pilot herself when she got word that Madison was missing in
 action and presumed dead. Irene told her daughter that she was heartbroken
 and never flew again. Irene eventually met and married Cindy's father,
 Wendell Smith, taught grade school for many years, and now is a widow.

My dad was in the 26th Photo Squadron, whose pilots were entrusted with
 the one-man P-38 fighters reconfigured into reconaissance planes. They flew
 them unarmed, with the cameras replacing guns. They flew alone or in 
two-plane missions over Japanese targets, taking pictures in advance of the
 bombing runs.

My Dad had told me of how a small group of flyers in the 26th Photo
 Squadron, grouped together by the accident of the alphabet, had become
 close. Ed Crawford, Jerry Frei, Don Garbarino, Madison Gillaspey and
 Ruffin Gray. They made a pact that they all would come through the war
 alive. Because of an alphabet cutoff after training Gray ended up with
 another unit, but he remained in touch.

In February 1945, my father caught up to his unit, by then at Lingayen in the
 Philippines, after a brief leave. He saw one of the P-38s taking off.

Here's what he told me, years later, and this was both in the Post article and
 in Third Down and a War to Go

“I asked one of our people, ‘Who’s that?’ He said it was Madison 
Gillaspey,
 and he was going on a low-level mission to Ipo Dam. I went 
over to the
 squadron area, to the others’ tent. It always was Ed Crawford, 
Don
 Garbarino, Madison Gillaspey, and me. But while I was gone, they’d 
moved
 another pilot in with them when they got to Lingayen, so I was going 
to go
 get a cot and be the fifth.”

He didn’t have to get the cot.

“Madison Gillaspey never came back,” Jerry Frei said. “No one ever knew
 what happened, but we lost two planes over Ipo Dam."

My dad remained in touch with the other men in that tent over the years.

They missed Madison Gillaspey.

That at the top is of Irene at the Keokuk (Iowa) National Cemetery,
 where Gillaspey has a memorial stone, though his remains never were found.

And here's Argyle, Iowa, High's Class of '41, with both Irene and Madison.
 They're in the top row. Irene is the second from left, Madison is at the right.

Argyle.jpg

I've mailed Irene a copy of Third Down and a War to Go. I hope she likes it.

The tentmates:

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Madison Gillaspey

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Don Garbarino

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Ed Crawford

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Jerry Frei


link 

Happy 80th birthday to the Orange Crush architect

Friends, family, former players, and
 coaching comrades salute Joe Collier
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June 17, 2012:
 
Last night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, former
 Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier -- the muse behind the famed
 "Orange Crush" defense -- was feted in honor of his recent 80th birthday.

It was a private event, organized by his daughters and son Joel, the assistant
 general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, so I'm not going to go into much
 detail here. But it was fun to touch bases with several members of the
 "Orange Crush" and that coaching staff. I will disclose that among the stories
 told were several about how Joel served as a ballboy and air-horn
 reveille sounder at the Broncos' training camps.

I made it clear in '77 that I consider Collier -- who served under three head
 coaches -- the top defensive coordinator of all time in the NFL, both because
 of his cerebral innovation and his savviness in adapting to his personnel.

My amateur cell-phone picture is of the former Broncos players and coaches
 at the gathering, and the coaches are Collier (brown coat, light shirt, middle
 of the back row), plus Paul Roach, Red Miller and Myrel Moore.   

On a personal level, Collier and his wife, Shirley, were good friends with my
 late parents, and I know how much they loved Joe as much more than a
 coach.

Excerpt from '77: Brain Trust: Joe Collier and Company

link 

They say the neon lights are bright
Back from New York: Broadway and Baseball
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June 9, 2012: Helen and I are back from a quick trip to New York. I
 touched bases in the book world and we also went to two Broadway
 musicals -- Nice Work If You Can Get It, starring Kelli O'Hara and Matthew
 Broderick; and Evita, with Ricky Martin and Elena Roger -- and the
 Yankees-Tampa Bay Rays game. And I also visited with my New York
 resident brother, David, of Westminster Kennel Club renown
.

My interests in theater and music -- mostly rock 'n roll -- are among the many
 I have outside of sports. This previous journal entry about Chess gives
 additional background about that.
 Earlier this year, in fact, I sought to switch
 departments at the Denver Post to become John Moore's successor as
 theater critic. He accepted a buyout the Post offered to veteran staffers late
 last year. I hoped to step over to the features department and take John's
 place. 

I'm from a family with a mix of sports and music genes -- my father was an
 athlete and coach, my mother was a musician and teacher -- and my interests
 reflect that mix. While several of us Frei children were good athletes in the
 conventional sense, the best athlete arguably was the one who didn't go into
 sports -- Susan, the ballet star. In contrast, I can't carry a tune, can't dance a
 step, and can't even play "Chopsticks" on the piano or anything at all on the
 guitar.  

Becoming a newspaper theater critic/writer seemed a natural change-of-pace
 switch. It didn't work out. Film critic Lisa Kennedy took on the added
 responsibility of covering theater, too. She's doing terrific work.

The positive is that I'm being allowed to remain a theater fan in my private
 life, rather than taking on the responsibility of serving as a "critic." Frankly,
 though, what I was especially looking forward to was writing about the
 theater scene and the people in it. I wonder things like: How do understudy
 rehearsals work? How did understudy Cassie Okenka learn the role of Glinda
 in "Wicked" after joining the first national company in Portland, while being
 part of the ensemble, and then be able to go on as Glinda for a few nights
 here in Denver? How does a "swing" learn all those roles -- and keep them
 straight?

When I reviewed the Bill Cain play 9 Circles at the Curious Theatre in
 Denver, I realized I much rather would have caught up with the show's
 impressive young lead, recent Southern Mississippi master's program grad
 Sean Scrutchins, and told his story. Who was he? How'd he come to play
 this role for Curious? Where was he hoping to go from there? In my sports
 career, that's what I've done best, whether the pieces were for The Sporting
 News 
or a newspaper about future Hall of Fame players, or about obscure
 "hard-boot" horse trainers. Exploring, asking, watching, listening.  

Of course, in my sportswriting career, I've often been an acerbic critic, but I
 know I would have found it hard to reconcile saying exactly what I thought
 of especially smaller local productions, if I found them to be flawed. These
 would be people doing what they loved, certainly without financial reward in
 mind. The answer, of course, is that expectations, resources and even
 audiences have to be taken into consideraton during the evaluations.

While I was pondering the switch, I did a lot of reading. I went through Frank
 Rich's collection of his New York Times reviews during his 1980-93 tenure as
 the paper's theater critic. Mostly, I flipped through the book until I came to a
 show I had seen -- in New York or elsewhere. Often, we had seen the same
 New York production, and I paid especially close attention to those reviews.
 They were longer and more detailed than than most you'll see in a paper,
 even the Times, nowadays, so that was the first asterisk.   

I often agreed with most of what he said about those shows, but disagreed
 with his conclusions. Case in point: I knew that Chess had all those problems,
 I nodded when he pointed them out, but I shook my head when he said they
 essentially ruined the show. One example of an underappreciated, smart
 show we both liked was the wickedly funny Larry Gelbart-Cy Coleman
 musical, City of Angels. 

Near the end of the book, he mused that he wondered if he should lower his
 standards, pander to the "tourist" mentality, and approach reviewing with a
 different mindset. I understood what he was getting at. Yet I believe there's
 room for applying high standards while at least loosening the tie, maybe even
 having a beer before the show, and conceding that theater doesn't have to be
 a work of art to be successful.
 
Rich championed Sunday in the Park with George and even conceded he
 took grief for doing so. We saw it, too, and while I'm a huge fan of both
 stars, Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, I am not at all embarrassed to
 say I found it sleep-inducing.
 
When I saw the acclaimed drama Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, with
 Robin Williams, last year in New York, I left the theater thinking it was
 the kind of show many critics raved about because smart and influential
 critics are supposed to like this kind of play. I thought of that later when I
 reviewed 9 Circles last year; I asked myself if I was following that lead in
 proclaiming it a strong play and production. I convinced myself my
 admiration and praise were earned and genuine.             
    
Yes, I've been accused of arrogance and elitism when discussing my own
 writing and offering my views on sports. Here, I'm admitting as a theater
 "critic," I would have been what some in that world might have considered
 "lowbrow."

It's a matter of expectations, resources and standards. In the 2012 Broadway
 of $145 (give or take) ticket prices, you have every right to high
 expectations, but what makes me laugh about that is that a lower bowl ticket
 at the Pepsi Center for the Colorado Avalanche-Columbus Blue Jackets
 hockey game (in November) is about the same price. But there's nothing
 wrong with conceding that theater is both entertainment and art, and if a
 show works as the former, while falling short of deserving to be considered
 the latter, who the hell are we to say it's a failure? I've seen many, many
 shows I neither "liked" nor admired, but couldn't resist enjoying. (Rock of
 Ages
 is one of the many examples.)    

On to the two shows we saw on this trip. 

Nice Work if You Can Get It, with Joe DiPietro's book built around Gershwin
 songs, received 10 Tony nominations, but has gotten so-so mainstream
 media reviews.  

We had seen Kelli O'Hara four times previously -- in Denver in Jekyll and
 Hyde
, and in New York in Sweet Smell of Success, Pajama Game, and 
South Pacific. And we'd caught Matthew Broderick in Brighton Beach
 Memoirs, The Producers
 and The Odd Couple.
   
O'Hara again was great, and we were more than willing to overlook the
 complete implausibility of her character and the story. Broderick was fine,
 even holding his own in an extended ballroom-type dance sequence across
 furniture with O'Hara, and I respect his continuing loyalty to the theater,
 which despite his family background and deep roots in the craft, he really 
no longer "needs."     

mammamia.jpgVeterans Michael McGrath and
 Judy Kaye were hilarious, and
 they're both up for Tonys this
 weekend as featured performers
 in musicals. (UpdateThey both
 won. That's Kaye at the right in
 the picture of me with the
 Original Broadway Production
 leads of Mamma Mia. I'm
 between Karen Mason and
 Louise Pitre.)
 If McGrath and
 Kaye didn't steal the show, they
 at least kidnapped it for significant
 stretches. Estelle Parsons doesn't make an appearance until late in the 
show -- so late, she probably could be having dinner at Bricco at the opening
 curtain and still comfortably make her entrance as scheduled to serve to tie
 up the loose ends in the formulaic, by-the-numbers but fun, plot.          

I'm convinced 99 percent of those at the Imperial had a blast; I'm guessing
 the other 1 percent were miserable because they'd had tainted oysters at
 dinner...or maybe they were mad that Chess didn't even rate a mention in the
 "At This Theatre" page in the Playbill. (I've told you, that show's devotees
 can be a little wacky.)  
 
With Nice Work, I again was reminded that reviews can be helpful in making
 choices and provocative afterwards in framing your own
 reaction, but shouldn't be swallowed whole. Again, my experience has been
 that I agree with quibbles or even outright criticisms from reviewers, but than
 catch myself adding, "Yeah ... so?" In this instance, quoth the Times:
 "...artificial froth." To which I'm convinced most at the Imperial would have
 responded: "Yeah ... so?" Or, "And Anything Goes isn't?" You don't need to
 check your intellect at the door to react that way.  

That's where today's abundance of alternative evaluations -- in blogs and
 elsewhere -- can be significant voices, and the dilution of major critics' 
make-or-break influence has been a positive. I'd say that even if I made the
 move to the critic's role. Nobody should have that much power. 
 
Evita was a slightly different story, primarily because of the casting of Elena
 Roger as the lead in the first New York revival since the original production
 ran from 1979-83. I'd seen the show before, but not in New York and not in
 many years, and I had forgotten what a strong double-threat ensemble cast it
 requires to support the handful of major characters.

Ricky Martin more than held his own as Che. (Update: Here, he's featured
 in "And the Money Kept Rolling In" on the Tony Awards telecast
.)

Roger is a tiny Argentinian who drew raves playing the role in London in
 recent years, and casting a woman from Eva and Juan Peron's homeland for
 the role is a brave novelty. Her accent is an intriguing touch, but not
 indispensable, especially in a work in which we know the English dialogue is,
 in essence, a translation. She's an excellent dancer, too.
 
The problem here was that, at least on the night we attended the show, her
 voice wasn't strong enough for the part and became almost raspy at times as
 she snapped off final notes. I can't help but think that most in the audience
 were wondering the same thing: Is she sick? Is her voice worn out? 

In a production that has an "alternate" Eva, Christina DeCicco, who plays the
 role on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons, and two ensemble
 members also listed as understudies, there doesn't seem to be much excuse
 for a lead going on with a significant voice issue.

Admire her for going on and note that baseball players go on the DL with
 muscle tightness, but she either needed to step aside -- or, if that's just the
 way she is much of the time, the role in New York deserves better. 

Martin and Michael Cerveris (as Peron) and a stunning ensemble -- including
 such veterans as Timothy Shew, one of Les Miserables' Jean Valjeans; and
 Brad Little, who played the Phantom of the Opera in one of the
 touring productions that passed through Denver -- can't carry this without an
 electric Evita in all eight performances each week.

With that huge stipulation, we enjoyed it, though, and would recommend it. 

And, yes, we went to the new Yankee Stadium. It was my first visit there,
 and what I heard was exactly right -- at times, you still think you're in the old
 place, and that can be both good and bad. It's obvious this was built for the
 private boxes and luxury levels. Why not just build a new stadium -- a real
 new stadium? (Sacrilege, I know.) We were there on the 67th anniversary of
 D-Day and the Yankees indeed honored veterans of the landing. The
 problem was, it was about 15 minutes before the first pitch, there couldn't
 have been more than 5,000 people in their seats, and it seemed almost
 insulting and reduced to the trivial. The Yankees won 4-1, behind pitcher
 Ivan Nova, in front of a crowd announced as over 38,000. I have no doubt
 that many tickets were sold, but in-house attendance was about 25,000 -- no
 more. 

I also was reminded that for all the Yankees' nods to tradition -- including
 having Bob Sheppard's tape-recorded voice still introduce Derek Jeter, not
 having ridiculous "walk-up" music for each hitter, and having the monuments
 behind the centerfield wall -- even the game's showcase franchise has caved
 in and added much of the usual silly marketing gimmicks so pervasive in
 MLB now. Screeching announcers give trivia quizzes to fans between 
half-innings, for example. Yes, even the Yankees ...

And the beers are $9.
 
 
 
 

Marty Glickman in Olympic Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero

Before he was a sportscaster...


6a.jpg
(Marty Glickman, Sam Stoller on SS Manhattan on way to Germany)

September 2013:
 I finally was able to watch the HBO

documentary on Marty Glickman, a major figure in my novel

Olympic Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero, last night. HBO

On Demand for subscribers is a wonderful thing. The notation is

that "Glickman" will be available that way through September 23.

Glickman, destined for a career as one of the best play-by-play

sportscasters of all time, and fellow Jewish sprinter Sam Stoller

were frozen off the U.S. 400-meter relay team at the 1936 Berlin

Olympics, coincidentally leading to Jesse Owens adding to his

gold-medal collection with his fourth. As I write in my book, there is

considerable evidence and no doubt in my mind that U.S. Olympic

Committee czar Avery Brundage and others conspired to keep

Glickman and Stoller off the relay team to avoid "embarrassing" the

Games' German hosts  including Adolf Hitler. The documentary addresses

that and reaches the same conclusion.

 

As I had been promised, it is a superb and revealing portrait of one

of a trailblazing — in more ways than one  sportscaster who was

especially influential within his craft. Writer, director, and producer

James L. Freedman did terrific work here. Probably most

underplayed in what I had read and heard about the documentary

was the amazing rounding up and use of archival film and pictures

of Glickman through the years, especially during his athletic career

as a sprinter and football player. Time after time, I'd catch myself

marveling and congratulating Freedman for his doggedness and

ingenuity because I'm assuming nobody dropped a box of old films

and material on his front porch one morning. I also appreciated

and identified with how well he was able to cope with the fact

that Glickman died in 2001. He was able to use footage of earlier

Glickman interviews, and while I suspect he was wishing that he

had been able to do this much sooner, while Glickman was alive,

and do "new" interviews himself, it's not jarring or ruinous. I can

identify with Freedman in the sense that I suspect angst in having

to bring America this story a decade after Glickman's death  and

not while he still was alive  was part of the motivation every day.

 

"Glickman" is superb, and for many, it was or is

going to be revelation about a figure they has seen or listened to

growing up. But this doesn't need to be only for those old enough

to have that reason. It's a history lesson  a very relevant one 

also.          

 

Here are passages from the first half of my book, which
revolves around U.S. decathlon champion Glenn Morris' 
passionate, yet ultimately toxic and contaminating, affair 
with German actress, propagandist and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.
Morris was from tiny Simla, Colorado, and was a
former football star and student body president at the school
now known as Colorado State. Later narrative material documents

Glickman and Stoller's shameful exclusion from the relay team.
They had not "qualified" for the 100 or 200 -- even that
involved a bit of controversy, as noted below -- but went to 

Berlin as alternates and were expected to be on the relay team,

if the usual protocol was followed. It wasn't.  

 

A few background notes: At a farewell dinner the night before 
departure, a Broadway producer had told Morris to win the gold 
medal and then use it to make a very derisive gesture to Hitler. 
The Hotel Lincoln now is the Milford Plaza. And "Badgers" was the 
derisive term the athletes had for Olympic Committee functionaries.   
   
FROM CHAPTER FIVE: BON VOYAGE

In the middle of the Hotel Lincoln lobby, the pot-bellied small-time lawyer

in an ill-fitting American Olympic Committee blazer bellowed through a

megaphone. Sweat dripped down the Badger’s face despite the early-morning

hour.


“Gentlemen . . . and ladies! Have your Olympic identification card out.

Show it when you get on a bus, so we can check you off. From here on out,

you have to assume nobody’s going to recognize you or take your word for

who you are! That’s everywhere, but also, if Mr. Hitler is around, the more

likely they’ll be to react and ask questions later. So when men in strange

uniforms tell you where to go or where not to go, do what they say.”


Glenn thought of the Broadway producer’s suggestion the night before

and smiled. Then, looking at the Badger in his funny suit, he laughed. An

elbow dug sharply into his ribs. Next to Glenn, his eyes narrowed by fury,

was the spunky Jewish sprinter from New York City. 
Barely out of high school.

Looks more like one of these corner newsboys hawking New York papers than an

athlete. Glickman. Marty Glickman.


“What’s the idea, Marty?”


“You think that’s funny?”

  
“Think 
what’s funny?”


“The Nazis’ bullshit.”


“Hold on,” Glenn said, pointing at the Badger. “I was just thinking about

him warning us to put up with a bunch of guys in funny uniforms over there.

That’s all we’ve been doing for the past two days here!”


Not wanting to sound too cocky, Glenn didn’t bring up the producer’s

suggestion for what to do after winning the gold medal.

  
“Do you even 
know what the Nuremberg Laws are?” Glickman asked

sharply.


“Absolutely,” Glenn said.


“You’re comparing the Nazis and some guys telling us to get in line to pick

up a handbook?”


“You’re reading too much into this,” Glenn said. “Way too much.”


Jack Torrance, the huge shot-putter beloved as “Baby Jack” and “Baby

Elephant,” stepped between them. Glickman needed to stand on his toes

and lean to the side to even see the six-foot-two Morris; and that made, first,

the decathlete, and then the sprinter, laugh. If anything was going to foil

Torrance in Berlin, it was that the world record-holder and former football

player at Louisiana State University had gotten fat and flabby after leaving

college while serving as a Baton Rouge policeman. The rumor was the scales

at the physicals couldn’t even handle him, and that he was up to at least 325

pounds.


“Now boys,” Torrance drawled. “Need I remind you we’re all on the same

team from here on?”


“Honest, Marty,” Glenn said, “I didn’t mean anything by it . . . except

against the Badgers.”


Shaking his head, Glickman said, “Sorry. I guess all this has me a little

on edge. I’m going to the 
Olympics, but it doesn’t feel right. I’m starting to

wonder if Brundage insisted we go over there just so he could hug Hitler and

tell him what fine ideas he has.”


“I understand, Marty,” Glenn said. “Or at least I’m trying to.”


“Good,” Torrance said. “Now shake hands . . . or no more throwing lessons

for you, Morris, and I’ll accidentally drop a shot put on your toes, Glickman,

about the time we’re passing Greenland.”


Torrance stepped aside, letting them shake hands, and then said,  “So

we’re square? From here on out, it’s all red, white, and blue, one for all, and

all for one.”

  
Glenn felt old, telling himself: 
When I was Marty’s age, “the world” was the

globe in the corner of Old Man DeWitt’s history room at the high school . . . and

I didn’t know much about it.


FROM CHAPTER SIX: ONBOARD BONDING

They all ran a few sprints, and at one point, Marty Glickman waited for

Glenn and asked if he could talk to him privately. Over here, he gestured.


“First off,” Glickman said, “I’m going to play football at Syracuse, so I

identify with you.”


“Thanks,” Glenn said.


“The other thing you should know . . . well, you were at the Trials, weren’t

you?”


Glenn nodded.


Glickman continued, “So you know, I’m looking over my shoulder a bit

here, too. We ran that 100-meter final and they told me I was third—behind

Owens and Metcalfe. So I’m being interviewed on the radio, and they’re saying

I’m the boy who’s going to be running with them in the 100 meters in

Berlin, and while I’m talking, the judges come and tell me I’ve been bumped

down to fourth behind Frank Wykoff . . . and 
then they say I was fifth, behind

Foy Draper, too. So I’ve gone from running in the 100 at the Olympics with

Jesse and Ralph to just being on the team and hoping we stick to the way it’s

been done in the past so I have a spot in the sprint relay. The two guys they

suddenly placed ahead of me in the 100 run for Cromwell at USC. So . . .”


Dean Cromwell of USC was the American team’s assistant coach, nominally

in charge of the sprinters.


“How do they pick the relay?” Glenn asked.


“It’s always been that the top three from the trials run the 100, and then

the next four run the relay. So if they stick to that, it should be Foy Draper,

me, Stoller, and Mack Robinson. But there are no real rules, so I’m at their

mercy now. Mack doesn’t care all that much because he’s running in the 200,

but for me and Stoller, the relay’s our only chance. Writers already are saying

the coaches are telling ’em nothing will be decided until we’re in Berlin.

Maybe not until the last minute.”


Glenn was incredulous. “How could they take you and not let you run?”


“They might. They said we’d at least run in the exhibitions over there

after the Olympics. And . . .”


Glickman suddenly was a bit self-conscious.


“What else were you going to say?” Glenn asked.


“Well . . . look, we’ve talked about this, but the Germans would prefer

there aren’t any Jews competing at all. The Badgers know that, too. I’m not

saying they’ll screw us because of that, but I’m wondering. We’ll just see what

happens.” He paused, and then added, “Come on, let’s run.”

FROM CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: OPENING GAMBITS

As the athletes waited on the May Field, Glenn noticed but didn’t at first

feel a light rain again falling. He thought: These hats are good for something.


“Get a load of that!” Walter Wood called out, pointing beyond the Bell

Tower to the Glockenturm Plaza.


Armed Germans in various uniforms had gathered. Cars pulled up in the plaza, 
and one large limousine arrived at the foot of the Bell Tower. Adolf

Hitler emerged from the back seat. Scattered shouts of greetings came from

the few German civilians allowed in the area. Glenn was surprised at how

quiet it was otherwise. Hitler, wearing a brown uniform and high black boots,

returned the Nazi salute to an honor guard. Then he moved on to greet three

men, and Glenn recognized two of them from the Americans’ welcoming

ceremonies—the chubby mayor of Berlin and Dr. Theodor Lewald of the

German Olympic Organizing Committee. Lewald and the third man—

Glenn assumed he was an Olympic official, too—wore long coats, high collars,

and medallions draped around their necks on chains.


Soldiers filed down the corridor on the May Field, showily looking side

to side as Hitler and his entourage followed. Hitler’s group was perhaps

seventy-five men—military officers, Olympic officials, and other functionaries.


Glenn inched up, so close to Hitler’s pathway that the soldiers brushed

him. Then he saw Leni, squeezed onto the flatbed cart behind her cameraman,

who was angled to catch the reaction of the athletes to Hitler. As she

approached Glenn’s vantage point, she spotted him. Their eyes met. As the

cart went by, with her poised behind cameraman Walter Frentz, she gave

him the start, the barest hint, of a smile. For a moment, Hitler was no more

than ten feet away.


Marty Glickman ended up at Glenn’s shoulder. He shook his head in

wonderment. “Can you believe how close we were? Somebody could 
have. . .”
   
He left it there.


The looks they exchanged confirmed they both knew Marty wasn’t talking

about getting an autograph.


As Hitler moved on, he didn’t look to either side, despite scattered cries

from among the athletes. Mostly, it remained eerily quiet.


Soon, though, the roar announced: The Führer had entered the stadium.

  

link 

"Which book is your best?"

Done Dodging the Question.

And the answer is...

TCDisplay.jpg

July 15, 2013: The upcoming March 1939: Before the Madness will be my

seventh book. I’m often asked, “What’s your best book?” Or, “What’s your

favorite book?” And those are two very different questions, of course. At

least in the case of the latter, it’s akin to asking which of your children is your

favorite.

  

I’ll take a swing at it, anyway.

 

I’m proud of them all. If I’m asked which one a new reader should pick up to

sample my work, I tailor the suggestion to what I know of the individual’s

background, interests, tastes, and even geographic location. So, yes, if a life-

long Denver Broncos fanatic asks that question, I tend to recommend ’77:

Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age … although, no, I don’t consider

it my “best” work. If I know little or nothing about a reader’s background, or

it seems conventionally “generic,” I admit Third Down and a War to Go is

the one I would want them to read. Because of the high-profile figures and

famous game involved, plus the astounding additional material I uncovered in

the research process, I’m quite willing to recommend Horns, Hogs, and

Nixon Coming, my most “successful” book.    

  

But my “best”?

  

It’s Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler’s Siren and America’s Hero, about

the toxic and eventually contaminating relationship between Coloradan Glenn

Morris, the 1936 Olympic decathlon champion, and notorious German

actress/filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Taylor Trade was nice enough and

showed enough faith in me to allow me to step outside the box and reshape

what originally was envisioned to be a conventional non-fiction book into a

fact-based novel. Taylor Trade simultaneously issued Olympic Affair and

University of Colorado emeritus professor Paul Levitt’s Stalin’s Barber in

December 2012, and it required a tweaking of the Taylor Trade’s Twitter

profile, which previously had specified it didn’t publish fiction.

 

It’s my best because I was able to use what I learned while researching and

writing narrative non-fiction books in another genre. It’s not even my first

novel – The Witch’s Season, based on what I witnessed of the football

program and the crazy campus conditions in Eugene in the late 1960s and

early ‘70s, came out in 2009. Because I started it long ago, and it was the

stereotypical novel in my desk for many years as I kept coming back to it, I

always will have great affection for it and pride in it. (Plus, the subject matter

is near and dear to my heart.)

 

But I think I was able to constructively use the experiences of the previous

novel and the non-fiction books in crafting Olympic Affair. In the Author’s

Afterword, I explained at length the thought process in making it a novel, and

my motivation and methodology in writing it. In a nutshell, I wrote it fast

because I could see the story unfolding cinematically in my head, and I

wanted to see how it turned out. It’s a “sports book” in a sense, and I do

wonder what would have happened if we had simply classified it as such,

with all the accompanying admissions that it also is a novel. I was able to use

narrative techniques in my non-fiction books because so much of the material

was based on my direct interviews, but I do wish now that I had unleashed

myself a little more and escaped traditional techniques in Third Down and a

War to Go.

 

In the Dallas Morning News, Si Dunn called Horns, Hogs, and Nixon

Coming “a superb blending of sports, history and politics.” To varying

degrees, that has been my approach in all the books. But I believe it all came

together in Olympic Affair … yes, in a novel.

  

More on activist former NFL player Dave Pear and links

Internet becomes a weapon 
in former NFL players' fights
May 14, 2012:
 My story on activist former NFL player Dave Pear is in the
 Sunday Denver Post and 
here.
  
Over the years, I’ve written many pieces about former players’ physical
 struggles.
  
One was 
this 2007 major story on former Broncos. I had tons of material left
 over from '77 research. Although the book wasn't published until 2008, I had
 made the decision by then that going too deeply into epilogue-type stories on
 the book's major figures would make it anticlimactic. So much of my
 material wasn't going to make the book, and I also used it as the framework
 for new interviews for the story specifically. 


Other pieces along those lines:

Tom Glassic’s fight for disability

Haven Moses’ heartening recovery from a stroke

Pat Matson’s struggle


As noted in the Sunday story, Pear’s blog — 
here — has become a very
 influential voice among former NFL players. The recent emphasis on
 concussions has added elements to the arguments in the ongoing debate over
 how much responsibility the league should assume, and the extent of
 financial support it should provide, for former players suffering from physical
 problems. Pear’s major point long has been that the league is in denial about
 the toll taken on former players and that disability benefits through the
 league’s Bell-Rozelle retirement plan are too difficult to obtain and/or
 inadequate.


The activists and influential also include former Baltimore Colts and San
 Diego Chargers center Bruce Laird and the Fourth and Goal Foundation.

Web site: 
www.FourthAndGoalUnites.com
Blog: http://nflretirees.blogspot.com


Here’s more from Dave Pear (pictured is his 1976 bio from the Tampa Bay
 Buccaneers' inaugural media guide):
  
PearBucs76.jpgIn his fifth NFL season, with the
 Raiders in 1979, Pear suffered a
 neck injury when tackling Seattle
 running back Sherman Smith.


“It was just another tackle,” Pear
 said. “It popped a disc out of my
 neck. I thought I could shake it
 off, but it progressively got
 worse.”


Without undergoing surgery, he
 played through the 1980 season,
 and the Raiders’ victory over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV was his final
 game.


“It looks like I went out on top, with the Super Bowl, but that last season, I
 didn’t play alot,” Pear said. “I spent time going to the hospital, getting shots
 in my neck. The Raiders were doing just enough to say, ‘Well, we tried.’”
 
He said that included being given pain pills and other medications.


“During the Super Bowl, the person who replaced me got knocked out and I
 got to go in for about 20 plays or so and I was able to make a couple of big
 plays,” Pear said. “After the game, (Al) Davis said about how this was the
 Raiders’ finest moment and all this because we were the first wild card team
 to win the Super Bowl. Well, when the training camp started the next season,
 and by then it was two years of this, I was in pain 24 hours a day. So they
 released me and I went and saw Al Davis in his office.


“I said, ‘Al, look, I broke my neck two years ago, I played hurt for you for
 two years.’ I said, ‘I even helped put some diamonds in the ring you’re
 wearing.’ I said, ‘You can’t turn you back on me, Al.’ He looked at me and
 told me he wasn’t going to take responsibility for my neck injury and so on
 my own I had to go to the Stanford Medical Center and had a doctor drill
 this bulging disc out of my neck with a finger drill. And then I had the disc
 fused a couple of years later.”


Pear added: “I talked about Al every time I could, explaining who the real Al
 Davis was. “Al wanted to portray himself as an advocate for the players. The
 reality was, he was an advocate for some players. He was selective.”


Pear has been at war with both the league and the NFLPA, both under Gene
 Upshaw and current leader DeMaurice Smith.


“You’re out there thinking, ‘It’s only me,’” he said. “You call up your union
 back then and they were rude to you. They screamed at you or they
 wouldn’t answer the phone and they acted like you were lookign for charity.
 All you were looking for was information. What really changed this whole
 thing was the internet. We started talking to each other, comparing stories.
 And that’s brought us to where we are right now. The last thing the NFL
 ever wanted was for these concussions to become something they had to
 admit was an issue. This is a league that wouldn’t even acknowledge that
 people with broken necks and backs were disabled.”


It should be noted that Davis, who passed away last October, isn’t around to
 respond, but this isn’t the first time Pear has criticized Davis, and the 
long-time Raiders’ owner declined comment for other stories about Pear in
 recent years. And to be fair, the disability issue is complicated, and so are the
 going-forward debates over the toll of the game. But I believe this is
 indisputable: The outspoken advocates for former players, including Pear and
 Laird, deserve to be heard.

 

 

 

On Jim Bouton and Ball Four
A baseball book that remains a classic
 
BallFour.jpgApril 10, 2012:
 Yesterday, in
 my rant (below) about how I’ve
 fallen out of love with Major
 League Baseball, I mentioned
 that I have entire passages of
 Jim Bouton’s Ball Four
 memorized. 
  
And then in one of those
 Twilight Zone moments last
 night, I heard former MLB
 pitcher Rob Dibble interview
 Bouton on his Fox Sports
 Radio show last night.
 
Denver’s Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan – where I co-host a show,
 usually on Saturday mornings with Sandy Clough – carried Dibble’s
 show after the Nuggets’ win.
 


Bouton mentioned that audible audio and Kindle versions of the
 classic book now are out,  and here’s the link to that version on
 
Amazon.com. There have been other updated print editions over the
 years, too.
  

My first exposure to Ball Four was reading the Look magazine
 excerpts in 1970, and I still can vividly picture doing so in junior-high
 social studies at Eugene's Spencer Butte Junior High. At the time, we
 still were upset in the Pacific Northwest that the Seattle Pilots had
 bailed after that single 1969 season and moved to Milwaukee, and
 we’d have to wait for a second regional crack at the major leagues
 with the Mariners.
 
  
Then I read the book, a diary of Bouton’s '69 season with the Pilots,
 Vancouver Mounties and Houston Astros, for the first of many times. I
 did part-time work for the Eugene Emeralds Class AAA baseball team
 in the 1970 and ’71 seasons at the time, too, and many of the players
 had copies, or passed them around. What I saw on the one road trip I
 took with the team in each of those two seasons made it all ring even
 more true.
  
As time went on, of course, my perspective changed as I went
 from a kid baseball player, to young journalist covering a lot of
 baseball, to veteran journalist and fellow author – even of a book
 set in 1969 that I realize now should have included a reference to
 the Pilots as one of the time markers. That was Horns, Hogs, and
 Nixon Coming
, and I made up for it by naming the star
 quarterback Rick Bouton in The Witch’s Season
  
I re-read Ball Four again last summer. 


Each time, I read it, it seems more a bittersweet, but largely
 affectionate ode to the game than a rip job. (The money figures
 involved seem more laughable each time, though.) Of course,
 Bouton’s revelations about Mickey Mantle’s off-the-field habits got the
 headlines and criticism at the time, but they seem mild now in the
 wake of the additional revelations – including by Mantle – since.
 Bouton told Dibble of his ultimate reconciliation with Mantle via phone
 messages and letters, tied to the tragic loss of a child for each of
 them.

  
I’m now more certain than ever that Bouton did a lot of both cutting
 to get it to manageable length self-censoring along the way. Yes,
 it’s arguable that he violated aspects of the sanctity of the
 clubhouse and its extensions, but any perceptive reader –
 especially in 2012 – “gets” how much “worse” it likely could have
 been had he been completely opportunistic and merciless, and if
 he had concluded that he might as well go all out because he
 would be out of the game soon, anyway.
 
Most of all, it was human,
 poignant and funny.  

I heard Bouton even point out that pitcher Jim Brosnan had done
 something similar a decade earlier, and Brosnan’s two books –
 The Long Season and Pennant Race – were more reflective and
 actually more frank than was acknowledged at the time and since.
 But he stayed on one side of the line. Bouton “crossed” it. His best
 talent was listening.
  
I talked to Bouton for an Oregonian column in June 1986, shortly
 after I joined the paper in Portland – where Bouton briefly had
 played for the Class A Portland Mavericks in one his comebacks.
 
 

Here are excerpts from that 1986 column:

  
I read the book for about the ninth time this week. I knew that Seattle
 pitcher Gary Bell was going to say of every Washington hitter:
“Smoke him inside” … and be taken seriously by the coaching staff.
   
I knew the peeping-tom players didn’t go onto the roof of the
 Shoreham Hotel in Baltimore for fresh air.  

I knew that Bouton was going to have too many mai tais in Honolulu
 and tell his tape recorder: “This is a Hawaiian drink brewed by the evil
 gods of the volcanoes and no fit potion for a clean-cut American boy
 like me.”
   
I  knew that Seattle manager Joe Schultz was going to say … well,
 let’s just say I knew it was coming.
 
  
There still are Ball Four junkies nationwide. This week, one of them
 called the chief officer of Jim Bouton, Inc., in Teaneck, N.J.
  
“This may sound conceited, but I don’t think anybody has written
 another Ball Four,” Bouton said. “What agents have done, what
 authors have done, what players have done, is written what they
 thought Ball Four was. They’re trying for bitter, angry and tell-alls . . .
 But we still haven’t had anybody sitting on the bench and the bus,
 taking notes, talking into the tape recorder every night, and that would
 be interesting today.”
  
None of the other books have had the impact of Ball Four.

"I would say that once a week someone makes a reference to Ball
 Four," Bouton said. "A guy will carry my bags up to my hotel room and
 he'll say, 'Smoke him inside, Mr. Bouton.'"  

Bouton said he was proud that Ball Four helped expose 
management's economic exploitation of the players. He points out that
 he was called to the stand to read portions of the book into the record
 during the landmark Andy Messersmith case. This was the same
 Bouton who was laughed down at a Pilots' team meeting when he
 suggested the minimum salary be raised from $7,000 to $10,000.
  
The first line in Ball Four was: “I’m 30 years old and I have these
 dreams.”   
  
Does a 47-year-old still have them? 
  
“I don’t know if I have those baseball fantasies anymore,” Bouton said.
 “I still pitch for the Emerson-Westwood Merchants in semi-pro, and I
 might dream of striking out 20 of 27 with the knuckleball. But mostly, I
 dream about making it big in business, Congress and running for
 president of the United States.”
 


He was just kidding … or smoking us inside.
               

 

Ball Four remains a classic … in any form. It holds up as far more
 than a time capsule
.
         

 

 

 

 

Why I Have Fallen Out of Love with Major League Baseball

On Home Opener Day in Denver

April 9, 2012: I still follow baseball and love the sport.    

 

But here are some of the reasons I’ve fallen out of love with modern Major-League Baseball. And, yes, many of them are accompanied with a harrumph.

 

-- Managing is like passing the driver’s test. Memorize the “book,” go by it, and if it doesn’t work, just throw up your hands and say: Not my fault. Oh, and know that if you’re in the National League, take every advantage of the opportunities to pull off the double switch, because it will be portrayed as the intellectual equivalent of inventing Google. 

 

-- Take the first pitch. Step out, unstrap and restrap one batting glove. Unstrap and restrap the other. Look around, perhaps even at the third-base coach. Step back in. Hold up a hand, get time from the umpire, and step back out. . . Enforce the existing rules and tighten them. I agree, one of baseball’s strengths is the absence of a clock; but this has gotten absurd.        

 

-- The Seamheads have turned baseball into a computer printout, not a sport. I swear, the next stat flashed on the screen is going to be how a second baseman is doing on Tuesday games in the Central Time Zone against left-handed pitchers under the age of 32.

 

-- Anything more than an inch inside is manslaughter.

 

-- I’ve been to Opening Day in Cincinnati when it really was Opening Day and waxed melodic about it, too. But I must have missed it when Opening Day or the Home Opening Day became a second St. Patrick’s Day. Do I have this right? Buy a new Rockies jersey and throw up on it by the end of the day?

 

-- Every mention of pitching, written or spoken, or even among a baseball writer’s 3,283 Tweets a game (I know “following” is elective, but…), must include the word “command.” It often is like citing the auteur theory when discussing movies. It sounds good. 

 

-- Soon, a superstar is going to break his ankle after he trips over his pants leg. I’m not saying we have to go back to the old days of heavy cotton socks with tiny stirrups, or when we used to cut our socks and insert elastic at the bottom, but when did baseball pants become slacks?

 

-- Pitch counts have gone from reasonable tracking of expensive assets to self-fulfilling prophecies. As Goose Gossage is wont to say, it’s like training a thoroughbred to run five and a half furlongs. That’s all it can run. He was talking about the narrowing of relief pitchers’ roles – he often threw much more than the ninth inning – but it applies to all on the staff, too. And the parroting of baseball’s pitching roles – shooting to get the starter through a quality start, to the setup man, to the closer – buys into all of that. And I’d be in favor of a rule mandating that pitchers must face three hitters. No more bringing in the lefty to face one hitter, then head to the clubhouse.  

  

-- Regardless of where I sit, in the press box or the stands, within five minutes, somebody is going to regale me, my row, or an entire section about how his fantasy league team is doing, both in that game and in general. Fantasy leagues are great fun … but I really don’t need to know about your team. I don’t. One of the weirdest things about Fantasy League fanatics is that they interpret any comment about keeping it to themselves as advocating making Fantasy Leagues against the law and attacking them personally. I'm not. Neither was Brian Griese, who should be in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame for that comment alone.

 

-- This isn’t baseball’s fault, either, or even “bad,” but it has lost its mystery. The Game of the Week has become every game available on television, if you really want to find it or pay for it. (By the way, can you remember the last time you sat down and watched or listened to an entire game from first pitch to last pitch … perhaps while keeping score? Me, neither.) Imagining a game while listening to the radio broadcast, maybe with an earphone in after bedtime or during reading time in the third grade? History.

 

-- Yes, the previous point “romanticized” the game. Again, I’m capable of that, too. I’ve read baseball books since I finished my first Alice and Jerry reader, and will continue to do so. Why Mark Harris never won the National Book Award for the Henry Wiggen novels is beyond me, I have entire passages of Ball Four memorized, and I’ve read many of the great biographies out there. I’ve played catch on the Field of Dreams. Play the violins! But for heaven’s sake, spare me the bow-tied geeks who tell us the pitchout is a metaphor for our military strategy in Vietnam and that Life Begins on Opening Day. I’ll even concede it’s a time marker. It is not a metaphor.

 

-- On the broadcasts, we’re told that Strike One is brought to us by a sports emporium with bowling lanes, Strike Two is brought to us by a law firm specializing in second offenses, and Strike Three is brought to you by the company that could have gotten you lower insurance rates in the 15 minutes this at-bat lasted. The television analysts apparently believe they are being paid by the word. And if the sixth-inning text crawl – yes, it’s sponsored, and I assume in this copycat world it’s done other places, too – was invented to insult and aggravate viewers, it is succeeding. And, oh, by the way, when watching a game, do I really need to be told 11 times an inning in the crawl that Jeremy Lin doesn’t think he’s going to be ready for the start of the playoffs?  


-- Apparently with straight faces, we are told such things as Carlos Gonzales, a truly great all-around player with a Craftsman tool box (or however that goes), shouldn’t play centerfield because it would be too draining on his legs. Or that a player’s “muscle tightness” is just this side of a broken bone. I could go on and on that softening of the game, but any baseball fan knows what I mean. 

-- The World Series still is going when the tundra freezes in Green Bay and many postseason games go past last call.

 

Now … buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack. It’d only be $24.50.

link 

Maybe we could call it Title X

With the Denver Final Four about to tip off: Women should be coaching women   

April 1, 2012:
 I despise Political Correctness when it goes beyond common sense and decency and is transformed into cynical, opportunistic and highly selective sensitivity. In fact, I even went on at length in Playing Piano in a Brothel about the double standards and phoniness often on display in modern journalism.

 

But this is a subject I’ve felt strongly about for many years.

 

Women should be coaching women.

 

After several decades of upgrading athletic opportunities for women, largely because of Title IX influence, there is a significant – perhaps even huge – pool of women coaches. It might be even larger if more women capable of becoming coaches were encouraged to go into the profession.

 

In no way, shape or form should that be considered a criticism of long-time Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, whose Huskies play Notre Dame today in the semifinals of the Final Four here in Denver and has been a pioneer for the women's game. Certainly, he and other long-time male coaches in the women's game deserve to be both "grandfathered" and saluted. Former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore, for example, also was one of the women’s game’s major influences. It’s not a criticism of the other male coaches who have made major contributions to women’s sports – even if that means the male high school softball or basketball coach who stepped in to fill a breach.
   
But since at least the onset of the 21st century, the goal should have been to have women coaching women, especially at the major college level. I realize that to a point, that has been the case, but the standard should have been even more ruthlessly applied.


Hypocrisy? Shoe-on-the-other-foot disgraceful in a world in which we decry discrimination against women in hiring standards and the workplace, if and when it exists?
  
College sports are not a real-world workplace. In the real-world workplace, it's offensive when a major reason for someone either being hired or not hired involves gender, race, religion or anything else beyond ability and qualification that shouldn't matter. It was offensive in 1953, and it's offensive today.


But this is where common sense comes into play. This is no different than saying it’s discriminatory to have men’s and women’s teams. Only women are on women’s teams. Only women should coach them, if at all possible. Yes, it would take considerable wind out of the sails of that argument if and when women make inroads in coaching men’s teams. But for now, I’ll stick to that standard.
   
A university president and athletic director in this era shouldn’t be able to get away with hiring a male head coach for a women’s sport. Any sport.


It's more complicated below the college level, where options can be more limited. But whenever practical, and whenever a qualified woman is available, women should be coaching all female teams, even on the high school level. 
  
I can’t even specify exactly when we reached that point. I just know we did. We have. 
  
On Title IX in general, I'm a moderate. Although there have been many stories noting that this is the 40th anniversary of Title IX becoming law, its first “compliance” year wasn’t until 1978. What’s often overlooked or underplayed is that Title IX involved far more than sports and was supposed to be more of a general measure to combat discrimination. It's actually rather vague, saying: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...” 
  
Its impact on sports has been undeniable. There was considerable wrangling between the time of its passage and the “compliance” year, including (failed) proposed legislation to exempt “revenue sports” from compliance, and then a compromise stipulation that “reasonable provisions considering the nature of particular sports” should be involved in enforcement.
  
One of the downsides has been the tendency of some of the most militant proponents of the Title IX revolution to ignore financial realities and act as if empty seats and red ink aren't their problems -- but ours. That you-owe-us attitude has done more to discourage public acceptance than accelerate it. Another downside has been the tendency to distort Title IX beyond recognition to use it as the basis of grievances, or lawsuits, that have little or nothing to do with its intended scope.

  
On the other hand, the elimination of some men’s sports – most notably, baseball at Colorado – has led to critics “blaming” women’s sports and Title IX, but the fallacy in that argument always has been the implication that baseball was a revenue sport.

  
It wasn’t. In fact, if everyone who claimed to frequently have attended varsity baseball games at CU and Colorado State, actually had attended varsity games, baseball still would be official – and not club – sports at both schools.

  
There’s a reasonable middle ground here. Non-revenue sports are non-revenue sports, whether men’s or women’s. Football, because of sheer numbers, skews all formulas, and what’s galling is when the most inflexible of women’s sports advocates won’t recognize that scholarship-for-scholarship, or athlete-for-athlete, parity is unrealistic and even impossible at schools with football programs. If you made women’s soccer football’s “offset” sport and had the programs match up the number of scholarships or opportunities in all other sports, I’d go along with that. That’s fairness.
  
Regardless, it’s time to turn women’s college basketball over to the women.
 
 
 

On Book titles

"How'd you come with that?"

Titles.jpgFebruary 20, 2012:
 The folks at Taylor Trade and I are
 in discussions now about the title for my next book, a speculative novel set in Europe and the United States in the 1930s.

Here are the stories behind my previous titles.

Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming: The contract from Simon and Schuster came with the working title Hogs 'n Horns. Because of my admiration for Neil Young and Richard Nixon's involvement in the narrative, my working title was Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming, which would have been homage to the lyrics in Young's song Ohio. Among other things, it was pointed out to me that the song was written in 1970, following the Kent State shootings and a year after the 1969 setting of the book. 

So we compromised. 

Next, it was Hogs, Horns, and Nixon Coming, but then-Denver Post editor Glenn Guzzo suggested that I should have the winning team first.

After pondering, I agreed. So it became Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming

Simon and Schuster added the subtitle Texas vs. Arkansas in Dixie's Last Stand, which I endorsed both as necessary to give more hint of the subject matter and as accurate. In addition to examining the dying gasps of segregated Southern college football -- both programs had black scholarship players on their freshman teams that season -- a major plotline was the protest movement that led to the end of Dixie as the unofficial athletic anthem for Arkansas sports. In fact, emotions boiled over during the game week, and thanks primarily to the courageous stand of UA band director Richard Worthington, who insisted on abiding by a non-binding Student Senate vote on the issue, the Texas-Arkansas game was the first time the song wasn't played at a Razorbacks home game.  

So that's how that title came to be, and the Boulder Camera's Neill Woelk teased me that because the book was on his desk, he often couldn't get Ohio out of his head.

Third Down and a War to Go: I have to confess that I can't specify when I came up with this one. I do know it was early in the process, and it just popped into my head. It just seemed a natural for a book about a Wisconsin national championship college football team going off to war -- and not all coming back. I liked it so much, I used Fourth Down and a War to Go for a chapter about Colorado and Colorado A&M/State players in a later book.     

'77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age: This was one where the subtitle was indispensable, and we debated and played around with that. But '77 was the working title virtually from the second that Taylor Trade's Rick Rinehart suggested I tackle a book on that Broncos team.

The Witch's Season: This was the novel that I started playing with when I was a high school senior. It changed completely as I kept coming back to it, evolving from a first-person tale of a college quarterback to an ensemble work based on my father's teams at Oregon in the late 1960s and early '70s on the cauldron that was the Eugene campus. Early on, I settled on 1968, during the Nixon-Humphrey presidential campaign, as the setting, which necessitated taking events suggested by what really happened from 1967-72 into a six-month period. 

I researched which songs were popular during the weeks covered in the novel, and used a title of a top single of album of the time for each chapter. (I list the chapter titles on the Witch's Season page of this site. That can be a trip down memory lane by itself.) 

I used Donovan's The Season of the Witch as the original title. Some have second-guessed me for this since, but I slightly tweaked it to avoid confusion with James Leo Herlihy's 1970 novel.

The Season, of course, again carried a double meaning, referring to a football season as well as the chaotic times and a Welshman's song.

Playing Piano in a Brothel: As I explain early in the book about my experiences in sports journalism, some were surprised that a football coach's son went over to the dark side, becoming a sports writer. So I said: Don't tell my mother I'm a sports writer. She still thinks I play piano in a brothel. (Sorry, lawyers.)

We did ponder calling it something along the lines of The Elway Effect and Other Adventures. In fact, The Elway Effect is the title of one chapter, but I decided that would have been exploitative and misleading. In retrospect, that might have been a commercial mistake, but I'm still glad we did what we did.  

 

 

 

A shout out to Wisconsin and Barry Alvarez for recognizing a nearly 70-year-old injustice
Bob Hanzlik finally gets his deserved letter

HanzlikLetter2.JPGMay 14, 2011: Portland-area resident Bob Hanzlik, at left, is the sole surviving starter from the 1942 Wisconsin Badgers team I profiled in Third Down and a War to Go. The letter jacket he’s wearing in the photo is new, signifying the awarding of a letter he was denied after the ’42 season by a sometimes-petty Badgers coach Harry Stuhldreher. 
 
More on that in a second…
 

Sadly, most of his teammates have left us.

Since 2001, I often have visited the grave of one of them, my father, at Fort Logan National Cemetery, where my mother — to whom the book was dedicated — joined him two months ago. 

Two starters from the team that won a version of the national championship — end Dave Schreiner, a two-time All-American and the ’42 Big Ten Conference MVP; and tackle Bob Baumann — were killed in the war.

When the hardback edition of the book came out in 2004, Hanzlik had more company. Roughly one-third of the ’42 players still were alive, including Crazylegs Hirsch. Today, that number has dwindled to a handful, and most of them were younger reserves. Hanzlik is the end at the far right-hand side of the book’s cover.

In the book, I told the story of how the admittedly headstrong Hanzlik late in the season got on the wrong side of Stuhldreher, the one-time Four Horseman quarterback at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne. They had a falling-out during the team’s only loss, a controversial defeat at Iowa, and Hanzlik then was benched for the final two games, against Northwestern and Minnesota. 

The backdrop was that star fullbfrontcover.jpgack Pat Harder, later a pro star and NFL umpire, essentially led a rebellion in practice the week after the Iowa loss, making it clear to the coach that even players used to blindly obeying orders had lines — and Stuhldreher was crossing them with his petulant actions and a ridiculously punitive practice. The coach backed down. But he held a grudge against Hanzlik, then listed as a junior, saying Hanzlik wouldn’t play again that season, but that if he wanted to be on the squad as a senior in 1943 (that became a moot point), he would continue to practice and accept his banishment.

This from the book:

Hanzlik, still in the doghouse, didn’t play a second against Northwestern. He got in deeper trouble when he didn’t go back with the team on the train.

Stuhldreher chalked up another black mark against the big end from Chippewa Falls. “I said, ‘The heck with you, I’m leaving,’ ” recalled Hanzlik. “I left. I didn’t accompany the team back, and that was wrong on my account. I’m not making excuses, but I’m eighteen, nineteen years old, and I couldn’t stand not playing. I was very selfish, because other guys deserved a chance to play, too, and I’ve regretted that for a long time.”

Hanzlik again practiced all week, but didn’t play against Minnesota.

Stuhldreher was the athletic director too, and so dictatorial, he was able to unilaterally rule that Hanzlik wouldn’t be awarded a letter for ’42 — a season in which he started seven of the 10 games (he was injured for one) and played an ironman’s role for Wisconsin’s greatest team. That was ridiculous and unfair.
Mich43.jpg
Hanzlik ended up in the Marines as one of the V-12 program Badgers playing tackle for Michigan while in training in Ann Arbor in 1943. In this picture at left of one of Michigan's '43 starting lineups, made up mostly of military men studying and training on the campus, Hanzlik is the left tackle, or second from the right in the line. Crazylegs Hirsch is right behind him and the other two former Badgers are center Fred Negus and left guard John Gallagher.

Ripley.jpgAfter the war, Hanzlik enrolled at Minnesota and was ruled to have eligibility remaining because of loosened war-time and immediate post-war standards, and he played for the Gophers in 1946.
 
The feat of playing for three schools — Wisconsin in ’41 and ’42, Michigan in ’43, and Minnesota in ’46 — caused Ripley’s Believe it Or Not to feature him in 1951. But he always was short one deserved letter, and when Hanzlik’s family wrote to Badgers AD Barry Alvarez recently, asking if something could be done, Alvarez and Terry Murawski, the head of the National W Club, responded.

They sent Hanzlik a letter — on that new letter jacket. The picture above is of the Mother’s Day party at which his family, including daughter Heidi Hanzlik, presented the jacket to him, with “On Wisconsin” playing in the background. I’m assuming the official record will be changed, too, adding a ’42 letter to the one he long has been listed for in 1941, and I’m impressed and thrilled by the Badgers’ response to the request from the family. I also have to note that when I was researching the book, Bob Hanzlik’s memory was amazing, and he was quite helpful. 

(Postscript, because I’ve been asked about this a lot: Although Bill Hanzlik also has lived in both Oregon and Wisconsin — he was a high school star in both states — the former Nuggets player and coach, and current team broadcaster, is not related to Bob.)

 

 

 

 

link 

The Greatest Mom Ever

Marian E. Frei, 1924-2011
Mom2.jpg
The official obituary.  

Marian E. Frei, 87, passed away on March 19 in Lakewood, Colorado.

 

Known to multiple generations of her pre-school and elementary school students as “Teacher Marian,” she also was a musician and, in later life, a librarian, in keeping with her life-long love of books.

 

Born Marian Benson in Stoughton, Wisconsin, on January 24, 1924, she was a graduate of Stoughton High School and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She married her high school sweetheart, Gerald L. “Jerry” Frei, on Dec. 25, 1945. (Below, they are pictured as teenagers in 1943.) 

Following her graduation, she began her teaching career in Madison, Wisconsin, while Jerry, a decorated pilot in World War II, finished up his education and football career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She continued to teach wherever her husband’s career as a football coach took the family, primarily Oregon and Colorado, and eventually put down deep roots in Denver and continued to live in the area following the 2001 death of her husband, a long-time Broncos assistant coach, scout and administrator. She collected antiques and books, was proud of and studied her Norwegian heritage, and treasured her wide circle of friends.

 

MonandDadJackson1943.jpgShe is survived by her five children – David Frei, New York; Judy Kaplan, Beaverton, Ore.; Terry Frei, Denver; Susan Frei Earley, Tulsa; and Nancy McCormick, Wadsworth, Ill. – plus five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

 

March 24, 2011: As her family and friends knew, Mom was loving, caring, sharing supportive and, to an extent, a very private person. So there is only so much I feel comfortable disclosing and discussing in this forum, as personal as it is. So I'll say this much: She always was our friend.
   
Her father, Bertel, came to the U.S. from Norway at age 21, in 1912, settling in Stoughton, Wisconsin, which then had -- and to an extent, still has -- a decided Norwegian-American bent. He married Ella Aslakson and the couple had two children, Helen and Marian. The two sisters were extremely close. 

MeridianLibraryPlaque.jpgIn Stoughton, my father was a year ahead of what would have been his high school class -- that wasn't unusual for young men who began school in rural Wisconsin -- and so he was a year of Mom in school after his family moved to Stoughton and they met. When Dad went to the nearby University of Wisconsin in the fall of 1941, he had just turned 17. The next year, Mom enrolled at what then was Whitewater State College -- now UW-Whitewater. Typically, there she made friendships that lasted a lifetime; she still was receiving "round-robin" letters from her college friends. 

After Dad left the UW late in his sophomore year to serve as a P-38 fighter pilot in the Pacific, Mom remained at Whitewater, worked one summer in war industries in Milwaukee, and graduated with her teaching degree. When Dad returned following the end and they were married following the end of the war, Dad went back to school on the GI Bill and played two more seasons of football for the Badgers. Yes, Uncle Sam was picking up the bill for school (there were no official athletic scholarships in those days), but that didn't take care of everything, so Mom supported the young couple. She taught fourth grade in Madison.

Rather than "Mrs. Frei," she always preferred "Teacher Marian." And that was the case after the couple loaded up the car and moved to Portland, Oregon, where my father began his coaching career at Grant High School. (It's where Mr. Holland's Opus was filmed.) Dad moved to Lincoln High, then to Willamette University in Salem, then to the University of Oregon in Eugene. In 1955, after the move to Eugene, Mom basically established and ran the pre-school/kindergarten program at our church, Central Lutheran, adjacent to the campus. The church even ended up building an education wing, in part because of the program's success and popularity.

Momandmekindergarten.jpgHere's what she said in a 1967 Eugene Register-Guard story: "I'm Teacher Marian to a lot of children in Eugene. Teaching has been a tremendous experience for me. There's a challenge to finding a niche for each child."

One of her challenges was teaching her own children. Her four youngest all were her students at Central Lutheran. That's Teacher Marian/Mom with me during my year. Of course, she was always my Teacher.  

We all were lucky, although we didn't know how rare it was at the time: Dad stayed at Oregon for 17 years. But then the moves started, and Mom -- and my younger sisters, who were the most affected -- handled them with dignity and aplomb. It helped that Denver became the second home, with Dad returning to the Broncos for a second stint in 1981, and that stay with the franchise lasted until his death in 2001. So Mom came to think of Denver as home. She taught pre-school in Jefferson County, and it was fun to see her putting together projects for young children long after her own children were grown. She and Dad lived in both Lakewood and Englewood, but after Dad passed away, she made the move back to Lakewood, where many of her friends lived. She was in study groups, an antique club, ran the Westland Meridian library and remained active in many ways, even when it became physically difficult.

I miss her.  

 

 

               

Communing with Vince Lombardi, Harry Houdini and Edna Ferber in stormy (in more ways than one) Appleton

An enjoyable trip to speak at the Outagamie County Historical Society

Appletoncastle2011.jpgFebruary 23, 2011Since the publication of Third Down and a War to Go, I've been brought back to Wisconsin many times for appearances and functions, the majority of them under the aegis of the Wisconsin Historical Society. This time, I'm back from an enjoyable trip to Appleton -- 100 miles north of Milwaukee and 30 miles from Green Bay -- to speak at the annual meeting of the Outagamie County Historical Society on Monday afternoon. That's my amateur shot of the organization's Castle base in downtown Appleton, before heading in for the function.

Appletonspeech2011a.jpgYes, the Midwest snow storm made it a challenge on several levels -- including getting to the Fox Cities area and then getting home -- but even on a day when schools were closed and the local television stations covered the weather developments as one of those monumental storms that challenges Mr. Doppler and everyone else, the meeting went on as scheduled and I was stunned at how many hearty Wisconsinites showed up.

While there, I also got to eat dinner at the renowned Vince Lombardi's Steak House -- Vince wasn't there, but there were plenty of pictures of him and other Packer greats on the walls -- and at Fratello's on the Fox River, and those are world-class restaurants. I also learned, in wandering around the Historical Society, that Appleton is the hometown of illusionist Harry Houdini and the city where novelist Edna Ferber (Giant, Cimarron...) was raised and also worked for the Appleton newspaper before moving on.

Appletonprotest2011.jpgAt least nobody picketed my appearance. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who finds himself in the eye of the storm because of his atempt to end the collective bargaining rights of many public employees, was invited to attend the Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel on Monday night. He didn't attend, but that didn't stop the protests. At left, that's another of my amateur cell phone shots of the hotel, which was across the street from mine. That's a small portion of the crowd, because protesters were stationed at all entrances to the hotel and spilled into other nearby areas. Some of them were even wearing cheeseheads. There had been previous demonstrations in the city's Houdini Square over the weekend and also earlier in the month, when Walker came to Appleton and met with editors of the Post-Crescent to state his case and answer questions.

My thanks to all connected with the Outagamie County Historical Society, especially Matt Carpenter, deputy director and curator of collections, who arranged my visit. Also, thanks to Executive Director Terry Bergen; Communications Specialist Melissa LeDuc; attorney Ed Bush, the organization's president; and Vice President Ron Altenburg of Schenck, a CPA and business consulting firm.
 
 
 
 

Jack Elway and Jerry Frei

The Broncos missed them, too 

January 5, 2011: An announcement and news conference today confirmed John Elway's return to the Broncos' organization as vice president of football operations -- the unquestioned head of the football part of the business. 

JackandJerry.jpg
That Elway is, and will continue to be, a savvy football man is a given.

It's not just what he learned playing the game himself, and playing it so well.
 
It's in his blood.

For nearly ten years now, I've heard others pay our fathers -- Jack Elway and Jerry Frei -- compliments, saying not only what great guys and friends they were, but also that the Broncos' organization missed their veteran voices of knowledge and reason both as they wound down their careers in the sport and then after they died within two months of each other in early 2001. They both loved the game and were astute evaluators of talent, calling on decades of experience and knowledge and using more than stop watches and tape measures. They found football players

That's Jack & Jerry above, in the dressing room following the Broncos' second consecutive Super Bowl win in January 1999, in Miami. 

Here's what I wrote about them in The Elway Effect chapter in Playing Piano in a Brothel:

At the memorial gathering following my father’s February 16, 2001, death, Jack Elway was one of many who stood up and asked for the microphone. Jack told about how he and Jerry Frei always shared a golf cart and a dormitory suite at the Broncos’ training camp in Greeley and hosted the informal staff happy hour each night. (Like at TGI Friday’s, this happy hour could begin late and last until closing time.) Jack loved his Sky vodka; Jerry, who wasseventy-six when he passed away, was partial to Black Velvet.
  
Jack said, “Every morning I’d ask Jerry, ‘How many people do I have to 
apologize to?’ And he always had a list ready for me.”
  
At the Broncos, nobody had to use their last names, and they tended to 
be mentioned in tandem, so much so, that they deserved an ampersand.
  
Jack & Jerry.
  
They became close friends fairly late in life, although they had known 
each other for many years and their shared background as former Pacific 8/10 head coaches -- Jack at Stanford, Jerry at Oregon -- and their many common friends gave them a natural starting point for discussion. Jack came into the Broncos organization as a pro scout, evaluating and judging talent on other teams around the NFL, and eventually added the title of pro scouting director before retiring in 1999. Jerry was semiretired and working part time when Mike Shanahan asked him to become director of college scouting and to groom his successor, Ted Sundquist, which he did for a couple of years before stepping back again and becoming a consultant. He couldn’t walk away from the game completely, 
and he enjoyed the consultant’s role, too.
  
When Jack and Jerry both were working during those years, they shared 
an office on the second floor of the team’s Dove Valley headquarters, and other staffers became accustomed to hearing big band music—they were big fans of Rick Crandall’s popular “Breakfast Club” on Denver’s KEZW-AM—and 
laughter coming from the office. When they could, they took road trips with
 the Broncos and sat together in the press box. If they were in town for home games, they sat together in the second row of the Mile High Stadium press box or sometimes in one of the tiny coaches boxes on the front of the top deck. I sat with them one game, and while I prided myself in understanding football better than the average scribe, that afternoon reminded me that what I knew was minimal compared to what these two longtime football men knew. They’d both be reacting, positively or negatively, to what they saw as the Broncos came out of the huddle, and I’d be trying to figure out what the hell they saw.
  
Around 1997, Jerry—yes, this was my father, but it always sounds right 
to call him “Jerry” in any shared context with Jack—asked me to call Jack. I did. Jack asked if we could meet for lunch. At the restaurant, Jack asked if I would be interesting in collaborating with him on a book. He noted that he’d had an interesting life in the game and had stories to tell. Jack was a funny and very intelligent man with a dry sense of humor, and I knew that his memoir—dating back to his high school coaching days and his climb up the college coaching ranks—would be fun to help write and certainly entertaining for readers. He did say that he understood any publisher would want him to write about his perspective on John’s life and career, and he was fine with that. We quickly got an off er and even a proposed contract with Sports Publishing of Champaign, Illinois, and we were dealing with former University of Illinois sports information director Mike Pearson, the company’s vice president of acquisitions. The advance money was minimal, and I considered my involvement as a favor to Jack and Jerry, as well as a potentially enjoyable experience because I knew I would spend a lot of time 
laughing during my discussions with Jack.

Jack had second thoughts, though, and we never signed the contract. It 
wasn’t money, because if that had been the case, he would have told me—or an agent—to keep shopping the project to see if we could get a higher advance. I didn’t press him, but I’m pretty sure he realized that his best stories had foils, and he might make some enemies. Plus, it might have made it awkward for John if he frankly discussed some issues, including John’s relationship with Dan Reeves, who by then had departed the Broncos. At the time, I was putting the finishing touches on about the seventeenth draft of 
The Witch’s Season, which had drawn some movie interest, and I hadn’t yet completely accepted the fact that I would be better off turning to nonfiction to establish myself in the book business. So I wasn’t at all heartbroken that the collaboration project fell through, just a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to hear all of Jack’s stories.
  
Jack Elway died on April 15, 2001. He was only sixty-nine years old. He 
had an apparent heart attack at his and Jan Elway’s second home in Palm Springs, California. At Jack’s service, Pat Bowlen noted that the organization 
had lost the two close friends only two months apart, and proposed a toast.

Leni Riefenstahl and her 1974 appearance in Colorado

As 39th Telluride Film Festival
continues, a look back at the first

1a.jpg
September 3, 2012:
 Showing his latest action thriller, Argo, Ben Affleck is
 the most prominent figure at the 39th Telluride Film Festival, which
 concludes today.

Above, that's Leni Riefenstahl in Telluride for the inaugural Festival in 1974.
 When the pictures were taken, she was speaking in her hotel room with
 Denver Post film critic Rena Andrews.

Yes, the appearance of the German actress and filmmaker at the event was
 controversial and drew protests. She joined director Francis Ford Coppola
 and actress Gloria Swanson.

NAHolyGrailPrint.jpgTwo of her films were shown at
 the showcase evening sessions of
 the Festival -- Blue Light, a 1932
 drama Riefenstahl directed and
 starred in; and Part 2 of Olympia,
 a documentary about the 1936
 Oympics in Berlin. Nobody
 seemed to note in the coverage
 that one of the featured athletes in
 the Olympics documentary was
 Glenn Morris, the American gold
 medalist in the decathlon who was
 raised in Simla, Colorado; starred in football and served as student body
 president at what now is Colorado State University; and represented the
 Denver Athletic Club in his post-graduate track and field competition.

It wasn't until 1987 that Riefenstahl admitted in her memoirs that she'd had
 an affair with Morris during the filming of Olympia, and that at one point,
 she even had dreamed of marrying him. Instead, he married his college
 girlfriend late in 1936, and Riefenstahl admitted she was crushed and bitter. 

Morris had told a few of the affair and near death mused that he should have
 stayed in Germany with Riefenstahl after the Olympics.

That's all part of my upcoming fact-based Olympic Affair: A Novel of
 Hitler's Siren and America's Hero.
 In fact, the book begins in 1974 with
 Riefenstahl's visit to Colorado -- and then flashes back to 1936.

(UPDATED: Read Chapter 1 here.) 

The above is of Riefenstahl with Morris and the other decathlon competitors
 during the second day of the 10-event test. Let's just say there does seem to
 be a mutual attraction apparent there.

More on Olympic Affair 

Adding to my newspaper column on approach of Oregon vs. Colorado

The first game ever in Autzen
 Stadium and beyond

October 22, 2012:
 With another matchup between my alma
 mater (Colorado) and the team my father once coached
 (Oregon) coming up on Saturday, my Monday Denver Post
 commentary
 is about my reflections on the first game ever
 played in Autzen Stadium, plus those quite different times.

The reaction via direct communication has been very
 gratifying, and I thank those who have taken the time to
 express it. I was even nicely reminded that because of an
 ABC strike, Keith Jackson didn't work the game as scheduled
 on ABC, and the commentators were former coaches from
 each of the two schools -- Len Casanova, in his first season
 as the Oregon AD; and Dal Ward, the former coach at
 Colorado. The irony is that at each school, the athletic
 department offices are named after them -- the Casanova
 Center and the Dal Ward Center.     

We added the program cover from that game to the online
 version of the column, so that's there now. The cover for
 the first game ever in Autzen Stadium is an aerial photo of
 the Oregon campus, which doesn't include the new 
off-campus stadium. In that shot, Hayward Field, the 
former football stadium that to this day remains famous 
for hosting track and field competition and being in the
 background of an "Animal House" scene, is at the top left.

OreOhioState67.jpgAs you can see at the left,
 Autzen was on the cover of
 the program two weeks
 later, when the Ducks
 played Ohio State in
 the Dedication Game. I
 vaguely remember Woody
 Hayes marveling that
 Autzen was built for only
 $2.3 million, and I think he
 meant it as a compliment.
 To put that in perspective, plugging the figure in on online
 calculator yields the fact that it's equal to about $16 million in
 2012 dollars. And now Colorado State is talking about
 building a very basic on-campus stadium for $246 million,
 considered a modest figure today for any stadium. I'm not
 an economist, and I didn't take Econ at CU, so I'm sure the
 direct comparison that way is misleading, but it's at least
 interesting. As alluded to in the column, Autzen was built in
 14 months, and it basically was shoving a bunch of earth
 together to form a berm and pouring concrete into it to form
 a bowl.

Additional points to accompany the column:

-- Below is a page from the '67 Oregon-Colorado program,
 and serves to make my point about my father's original
 coaching staff and how his World War II service was not
 mentioned in his coaching biography. Two of the men below
 (John Robinson and George Seifert) were NFL head coaches;
 a third (Bruce Snyder) came within one play of winning a
 national championship as the head coach at Arizona State.
 Two other future NFL head coaches also were involved in my
 father's program. Gunther Cunningham was a linebacker on
 this '67 team and subsequently joined my father's coaching
 staff, first as a graduate assistant. Norv Turner was a Ducks
 quarterback, recruited from Martinez, Calif. 

67staff.jpg  
Also unexplained is the "late" reference to Dave
 Schreiner. Perhaps readers in the late 1960s still
 remembered that he was a two-time All-American end and
 Big Ten Conference MVP who was killed in action during the
 Battle of Okinawa in World War II. Also, Elroy Hirsch was
 better known as "Crazylegs," and the story of that team is
 told in Third Down and a War to Go.

-- Several mentioned to me in email and Twitter responses
 that this column sounded as if it could be a hint of another
 book.

In fact, I've already done it. The Witch's Season is a roman a
 clef novel about those Oregon teams, the men involved,
 those crazy times on one of the nation's cauldron campuses,
 and college football. The actual college football part is quite
 timeless, in my view. 

Screenplay versus book: Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming example

Same Opening, Different Style

royal_nixon_103006_300.jpg
I've found that writing screenplay adaptations of existing works – in
these instances, of my own books  isn't agonizingly difficult. I've
done it three times and without going into details, all have been in or
are in "the loop." I've had meetings, lunches, cocktails at the Beverly
 Wilshire and (appropriately, as you'll see) breakfast at the Hotel 
Bel-Air, and a discussion in a Hollywood star's Brentwood living

room ... all of it. But, no, you haven't seen any of those films on

the screen. Yet.

I'm not saying writing an adaptation is "easy," and it's based in part
on the recognition that any script is a starting point for the director
and it will undergo considerable change in the process. And in
some cases, that's putting it nicely.

From the start, the story is already in my head and the computer,
dialogue or suggested dialogue is in front of me, and the biggest
challenge is avoid trying to simply put the book in screenplay
form. That requires stepping back, taking liberties and  most
important  deciding what to focus on and what to leave out for a
feature-length film. 

Third Down and a War to Go, the book, was about Wisconsin's 1942
college football team winning the national championship and then
going off to war, with some not coming back. For the screenplay,
I tightened the focus, making it more the story of three of the
Badgers' stars. The opening is different than that of the book, starting
with team captain and two-time All-American end Dave Schreiner
serving as a Marine in the Pacific and receiving a letter and a clipping
informing him that his Badgers co-captain and lifelong buddy, bomber
co-pilot Mark Hoskins, has been shot down on a combat mission and
is feared lost.

The Witch's Season, the book, was about a team modeled on my
father's Oregon Ducks of the late 1960s, the famous men on his staff
and team, and the tumultuous campus. The screenplay version
compresses the time frame, ending the film right after Nixon's
election, rather than on his Inauguration Day. It leaves part of the
story unresolved, but with enough foreshadowing for viewers to fill in
the blanks themselves.

Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming was the most challenging,
perhaps because it's the one that I could envision being done as
a mini-series rather than a film. For several reasons, I won't give away
the gist of the decisions I made, but I will say that I cut out alot of
the story and back story and made it very specific.

Two of those three are non-fiction books, and I found that the
experience of doing the screenplays  taking a true story and
imagining dialogue and scenes – helped greatly when writing Olympic
Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero
, which even more than the
other books is almost what I consider the novelization of a
screenplay. (A screenplay that doesn't exist.) Reviewers have noted

the "cinematic" approach. 

 

Now, for an example: Although there are major differences between
the HHNC book and screenplay, I started both with the same 1985
"scene" – former Razorbacks defensive back Bobby Field, then an
assistant athletic director at UCLA, encountering former President
Nixon outside the Hotel Bel-Air. After this, of course, the story flashes
back to 1969. As it turns out, of course, while Nixon remembered
quite a bit about the events of December 6, 1969 game in
Fayetteville, there was a lot more going on that he didn't know
about.  

Here's the opening segment of the screenplay. I can't supply
the popcorn and keep in mind that when I originally wrote it, it was
roughly eight times as long before I was reminded it needed to be
snappy and set the stage for the flashback.


EXT. UCLA FOOTBALL PRACTICE FIELD, LOS ANGELES – DAY

 

Sprinklers spray as Bobby FIELD, late-30s, fit, and wearing a gray “UCLA FOOTBALL”
 T-shirt, takes off at a one-time serious athlete’s stay-in-shape pace.

  

EXT. NORTH EDGE UCLA CAMPUS, LOS ANGELES – DAY


Field approaches the campus entrance and sprints across the street, entering Stone Canyon
 Boulevard. 


TITLE:

LOS ANGELES

MARCH 30, 1985

 

MALE RADIO NEWSCASTER (v.o.)

Among the stories we’re following on KNX 1070: Reclusive ex-President Richard Nixon is
 visiting his native Southern California, and he was spotted having dinner at Chasen’s last night
 with Paul Keyes, the producer of the old “Laugh-In” TV series. No word on whether
 President Nixon reprised his attempt at the show’s “Sock It To Me” catchphrase on the
 show during the 1968 campaign.

 

FEMALE RADIO NEWSCASTER (v.o.)

John, you have to say that right. It was a question.

 

MALE RADIO NEWSCASTER (v.o.)

(Bad Nixon imitation)

“Sock it to me?”  


EXT. STONE CANYON BOULEVARD, BEL AIR – DAY

 

Field runs up the winding road. Hotel Bel Air is ahead. Three Men in suits walk toward Field.
 AGENT 1 and AGENT 2 are big and fit. The man in the middle is Richard NIXON at age
 72, getting morning exercise. Ten feet short of Nixon, Field puffs out a greeting.

 

FIELD

Good morning.

  

EXT. HOTEL BEL AIR PARKING LOT, BEL AIR – DAY

 

Field has reversed his direction and is coming down the hill. He spots Nixon again, next to the
 hotel’s canopied entrance. Field detours into the parking lot and slows to a walk. As the
 Agents step forward, he approaches the former president and lifts his right hand in a 
self-conscious greeting.

 

FIELD

Hello, Mr. Nixon … Mr. President. Sorry to bother you, sir, but I decided I should introduce
 myself. I’m Bobby Field. I’m the football defensive coordinator on Terry Donahue’s staff at
 UCLA.

 

NIXON

Sure. You had a fine season.

 

Nixon offers his hand. Field shakes it.

 

FIELD

Thank you, sir.

(beat)

As a matter of fact, in 1969, I was a defensive back for the University of Arkansas and you,
 sir, came to our game in Fayetteville against…

 

NIXON

…Texas!

 

FIELD

Yes, sir.

 

A limousine pulls up. The DOORMAN opens the back door. Nixon doesn’t move.

 

NIXON

Terrific game! Numbers one and two in the nation. Texas with James Street running the
 wishbone offense and throwing that long pass … Arkansas with Bill Montgomery firing away
 to Chuck Dicus … That fine Texas boy, Freddie Steinmark, visited me later at the White
 House … I was in the stands, freezing, with Governor Rockefeller and George Bush and
 Senator Fulbright … and it comes down to the final minutes and it’s anyone’s game … and
 …

 

AGENT 1

Sir, we should go.

 

NIXON

What a thrilling finish! And when it was over, I went to both dressing rooms.

 

FIELD

Yes, sir, this is the second time I’ve shook your hand. This time, I'm not crying. 

 

Agents nudge Nixon into the car. Limousine pulls away. Field watches with the doorman.

 

DOORMAN

That must have been some football game, him rattling all that off. He had a hard time coming
 up with his wife’s name yesterday.

 

TITLE COMES UP: HORNS, HOGS, AND NIXON COMING

 

 

Tattered Cover signing and Denver Press Club Book Beat
Making the promotional rounds 
in Denver for Olympic Affair
  

DPC.JPG
January 25, 2013:
 In the past couple of weeks, I made appearances at the
 Tattered Cover (East Colfax branch) and at the Denver Press Club to
 discuss, answer questions about, and sign Olympic Affair.

The January 17 appearance was my sixth at the TC, and it remains a pleasure
 and a thrill to speak at one of the nation's top independent bookstores. (One
 regret: I haven't ever appeared at Powell's, which I used to haunt when we
 lived in the Portland area.) This time, it was a joint "Evening of Historical
 Fiction" appearance with Paul Levitt, the University of Colorado professor
 emeritus whose terrific and panoramic novel, Stalin's Barber, also is
 from Taylor Trade. Rick Rinehart of Taylor Trade moderated the discussion.

Paul and I, in fact, both publicly thanked Rick for taking a chance on our
 novels -- the first ones Taylor Trade has ever published. Until recently, in
 fact, the TT Twitter profile noted that it published books "in all genres except
 fiction." Now, it says: "We are the trade divisions of the Rowman &
 Littlefield Publishing Group. We've got books in nearly every genre! Sorry,
 no zombies, no vampires." Taylor Trade also published the paperback
 version of Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming; plus '77: Denver, the Broncos
and a Coming of Age
 and Playing Piano in a Brothel.   

After the signing portion of the program, as is the custom, we both signed
 extra books for the TC, so autographed copies of both Olympic Affair and
 Stalin's Barber are at the East Colfax branch.

Then on January 24, Bruce Goldberg of the Denver Business Journal, also
the Denver Press Club's president, interviewed me for a "Book Beat"
 program at the DPC. Among those in the audience were fellow authors
 Michael Madigan and Dennis Dressman, both former editors and
 executives at the Rocky Mountain News, and they asked me questions
 about my methodology and the book itself. (Mike briefly was my boss 
when I worked part-time at the News when I was in college.) 

TCLogo.jpg 

 

 

 

A nice essay/review in prestigious Philadelphia Review of Books

Author Jim Blanchet: Olympic
Affair
 is a "success as both a
stand-alone novel and historical fiction"

February 18, 2013:
 The Philadelphia Review of Books today
 posted 
author Jim Blanchet's essay on, and review of,
 
Olympic Affair.

Here's the snippet I have posted:

 
"Using his initial information ... and a combination of
 deduction and artistic license, Frei fills in the blanks left by
 history and tells his own version of the story. The
 combination of the diligent research techniques he used to
 write his widely acclaimed non-fiction books ... and creativity
 makes Olympic Affair a success as both a stand-alone novel
 and historical fiction. While simultaneously recalling the
 athletic triumphs of participating nations, Frei builds a
 tension-filled love affair that steals the show from the most
 controversial Olympic Games in history. Combining inference
 and invented dialogue, he forces the reader to invest deeply
 in even the most outlying of characters, some of which he
 pulls from history and personalizes through fiction
 (swimmer/actress Eleanor Holm Jarrett, heavyweight
 champion/restaurateur Jack Dempsey and even
 chancellor/psycho Adolf Hitler). Through the developing plot,
 the details of the Olympics and the skewed historical
 perspective of men and women living in a pre-WWII
 environment, Frei has (maybe unintentionally) created a new
 sort of story regarding the US-Nazi saga ... 
Olympic Affair
 offers a chronicle that proves why athletic drama often goes
 well beyond the field (or track) of competition. An athletic
 controversy, a triumph against adversity or a love affair can
 bring together the fanatics, the casual followers and those
 who just happen to appreciate a good yarn, no matter the
 origin. And who better to tell a story of that kind than an
 acclaimed sportswriter and non-fiction author turned
 novelist?"
 
 
 

1942 Badger and WWII Hero Passes Away in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

R.I.P., Dave Donnellan

EauClaire1.jpg

March 31, 2013:
 
In the picture above, I'm sitting with three members of
the 1942 Wisconsin Badgers in the Borders Bookstore in Eau Claire,
Wisconsin. 
     From the left, they are: Don Litchfield, a long-time local automobile
dealer; Dave Donnellan, who owned a major real-estate firm; and John
Gallagher, a fixture before retirement as, first, the football coach and
then as principal at Memorial High. 
     The appearance was tied to the release of Third Down and a War
to Go: 
The All-American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers. Donnellan's
military head shot is the second from the right in the row of 
individual pictures on the cover of the hardback.
     Dave Donnellan passed away on March 19. He was 90.
     Damn.
     
This is from Christena T. O'Brien of the Eau Claire
Leader-Telegram.
     
During the question-and-answer session at Borders that day,

Donnellan's youngest granddaughter raised her hand.

     "Were you ever scared?" 8-year-old Monica Hart asked her
grandfather.

     The question, from one so young and so wide-eyed, got to me.
Even before the answer.
     
"All the time," Donnellan said softly. "Every single day."

     In World War II, Donald Litchfield was a B-25 pilot and John
Gallagher was a Marine.
     
After the presentation and signing, Dave Donnellan's wife, Jane,
gently told me her husband had been too modest.
     
When I interviewed him, Donnellan hadn't told me he won the
Bronze Star.
     
Over his objections, I got that in the book's second printing and
then in the new paperback version, 
Third Down and a War to Go.
     
I've touched on this before, and I'll say it again: Donnellan's reaction
was so typical, because I had heard something similar 
from my own
father, a P-38 fighter pilot in the Pacific, and also a '42 Badger
, and
from so many others in his generation.
     
Additional coverage of Dave's death in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Beloved Eau Claire businessman remembered

Editorial: Donnellan's resume only part of what made him special

Obituary
Edit Post
link 

My choices for the top sports movies of all time

Gone With the Wind or 
Slap Shot? It's a tossup

SlapPoster.jpg 

February 22, 2013: The Oscars are Sunday night, and no
 sports movies are among the best-picture nominees. That’s
 not much of a surprise, considering only three sports-themed
 movies — Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and Million-Dollar Baby —
 ever have been named best picture. But there have been
 many great sports films. Here’s a list of my own diverse
 favorites, plus some other thoughts on the genre. 

  
1, Slap Shot (1977). Nancy Dowd’s script about the fictional
 Charlestown Chiefs, plus the improvisation by the great cast,
 including Paul Newman and Strother Martin, made this the
 best of all time. (Her brother, Ned, played Ogie Oglethorpe,
 and his experiences in hockey's minor leagues were the
 inspiration for her script.) The lame sequels, long delayed,
 went straight to DVD. 

2, Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Mark Harris, who wrote
 the novel, also wrote the screenplay, and that’s always a
 good sign. Not even he could quite replicate the sardonic
 humor of the novel (or, actually, the series of Henry Wiggen
 novels), but it was a terrific movie, starting Robert De Niro,
 Michael Moriarty and Vincent Gardenia. The first novel in the
 series, The Southpaw, was a better book than Bang The
 Drum Slowly
, but this almost certainly was a better choice
 for a movie. 

3, Breaking Away (1979). For a long time, Steve Tesich,
 also a novelist, was my favorite writer. And this script was
 why. The dry humor and the human touch made this so
 much more than a “bike-racing” movie. Plus, those of us 
who grew up in college towns recognized the “townie”
 elements of the story.


4, Without Limits (1998). I’m a little prejudiced here,
 because I was raised in Eugene and revered the film’s hero,
 distance runner Steve Prefontaine, after watching him
 compete as early as when he was attending Marshfield High
 School. (He had the attitude of a strong safety and probably
 would have scoffed if anyone tried to get him to talk about
 the Zen of running.) But his fellow former University of
 Oregon runner Kenny Moore wrote the far better of the two
 bio-pics about the great and charismatic runner who died
 way too young. 

5, Raging Bull (1980). De Niro plays Jake LaMotta, Martin
 Scorsese directs. A dynamite one-two combination. 


6, Bull Durham (1988). I actually found the most-quoted
 Kevin Costner speech a bit much, but the rest was terrific. As
 a teenager, I worked for and took a few trips with a 
minor-league baseball team, and this movie rang true to to
 me more because of those experiences than because of what
 I encountered later in my occasional stints covering 
major-league baseball. 

  
7, Field of Dreams (1989). The rare case in which the
 movie, again starring Costner, while a bit sappy, was about
 800 times better than the overwrought book (Shoeless Joe).
 Not long after the movie came out, while on a trip to cover a
 football game at the University of Iowa, I was a complete
 tourist, making the side trip to Dyersville and playing catch
 with fellow scribe Paul Buker on the actual Field of Dreams
 diamond. 

  
8, The Longest Yard (original, 1974). I don’t know why it
 made me so mad that Hollywood remade this. Well, maybe
 it’s because so many who saw the remake actually thought it
 was good. But it hit on the great marketing strategy of giving
 media types bit parts so they’d hype it – and it worked. It
 couldn’t hold the original’s you-know-what. 

9, 61* (2001). Hank Steinberg wrote and Billy Crystal
 directed the dramatization of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris'
 chase of Babe Ruth's home-run record. 
 
  
10, Caddyshack (1980). Yeah, I can rattle off the lines, too.
 It’s also the greatest cable movie ever – you can tune in “x”
 minutes in and know exactly where you are. 

  
11, Bad News Bears (original, 1976). Walter Matthau was
 brilliant, and so was the script. Unfortunately, the bad
 sequels, a mediocre television series and yet another absurd
 remake have diminished the franchise. 


12, Hoosiers (1986). OK, I liked it, too; I just don't have it
 as high on the list as many do.

13, Chariots of Fire (1981). One reason I was prone to like
 it was because among the kids sports books I checked out of
 the library in grade school were those written by Jackson
 Scholz, the ex-Olympic sprinter who was one of the major
 figures in this movie. 

  
14, Rocky (1976). The sequels perhaps cause me to
 downgrade this, but when it came out, it was a refreshing,
 low-budget underdog story of its own. And I always say "wid"
 at Pat's. 

15, A League of Their Own (1992). It understandably was
 billed and sold as a lighthearted comedy; in fact, Penny
 Marshall directed an excellent “dramedy.” 

  
16, And I'll add the linemates of Miracle (2004) and Miracle
 on Ice
 (1981). The latter, with Karl Malden but not Michael
 Douglas, was pretty good for its rushed, television movie
 circumstances; and in the former, Kurt Russell was eerily 
on-target playing the Herb Brooks role.

The most over-rated sports movie ever: Million-Dollar Baby
 (2004), which became an utterly absurd melodrama in its
 final half. With all due respect to Clint Eastwood, Morgan
 Freeman, and Hilary Swank, this has got to be one of the
 worst best-picture winners ever … although some of the
 recent winners give it a run for the money. 

    
The frivolous sports movies I could watch (and have watched)
 again and again: It Happens Every Spring (1949), with
 Ray Milland; Major League (1989); and Damn Yankees (1958). 

  
Best TV sports movie: Brian’s Song (original, 1971).

A potpourri trip to New York: Book biz, Broadway, Belmont

Got a horse right here, his name

is Paul Revere  

MadnessCoverJune03.jpgJune 10, 2013: Helen and I are back from

a trip to New York for:

 

* Book business, including final research
for the upcoming March 1939: Before the

Madness. There's much material in the 
book about college basketball in 
Madison
 Square Garden that season, 

including the eventual national
champion Oregon 
Webfoots' December
1938 meeting with 
CCNY.

 

* An excursion to Belmont Park, two days

before the Belmont Stakes.

 

* A pair of (as it turned out) Tony-winning

musicals, Kinky Boots (best musical) and

Pippin (best revival of  musical).

NYHTFirs.jpg

First, the book. I spent one day at the New York Public Library, going

through microfilm and looking at the pertinent editions of the New York

Herald Tribune, whose writers were the ringleaders of the Metropolitan

Basketball Writers Association at the time, and the New York Daily News. I'd

been able to see microfilm and digital archives of the New York Times

earlier. That picture is from the Herald Tribune, showing the Webfoots at the

West Side YMCA after their arrival in Manhattan for the Garden

appearance. I didn't print out the whole picture, but was able to piece together

the full cutline (including a couple of misspelled names) to confirm, among
 other things, the makeup of the full roster 
on the trip.

Other than the inevitable -- when hitting the microfilm for all my books, I

always am distracted in reading about everything else that was going on -- it

was a very productive day. I also visited the site of the old Garden and waved

at the Milford Plaza, which, as the Lincoln Hotel, figures prominently both in

this book and in Olympic Affair.

BelmontProgram.jpgOn Thursday, we took the LIRR train 
from Penn Station to Belmont for the first 
six races of the day. Yes, we changed at 
Jamaica and, yes, in accordance with the 
wishes of the jovial trainman punching our 
tickets, we had a special ticket for Belmont 
only and didn't try to get by with a 
monthly pass or something else nefarious.   

It was a fun day hanging at the paddock, 
on the main line, and at the rail, even if we 
often felt alone. On a "normal" race day it 
really sinks in how much of the betting 
handle and attention is coming from

satellite wagering sites, including other 
tracks and casinos. 

The program cover for that day, and I assume for the upcoming days, was a
 tribute to Secretariat's historic Belmont Stakes victory in 1973.

Pippin2013.jpgAnd the shows...

We had great seats for Pippin (front  
row, almost too good) because I took the 
chance and bought them long before the 
show opened, drawn by the stars we had 
seen before -- Patina Miller and Terrence 
Mann.
 
It was all that we had heard, and expected 
-- and more. Tony winner Andrea Martin's 
show-
stealing song ("No Time at All") 
and acrobatics were terrific, and I still can 
hear her saying/singing, "Accordion lessons," 
in My Favorite Year, the show adapted 
from my favorite movie that I never have 
been able to see. (Yes, I have heard the 
soundtrack.) I decided that Matthew James
Thomas, as Pippen, has deserves more 
acclaim than he's gotten amid entrenched 
stars, and the circus effects -- yes, 
this revival has become Cirque in a musical -- were stunning. There were 

about eight places where mouths dropped, and the gymnasts-circus folks 

(Orion Griffiths, Philip Rosenberg, Lolita Coset and Olga Karmansky) 
made 
me wonder: They do this eight times a week?


My only quibble with this show is the ending. It just stops, in a way trying
to make a point. Yes, I'm an unabashed fan of the ending that has your hair
 standing on end and anxious to be able to stand. Pippin doesn't have
 that. That's a very "touristy" reaction on my part, I know, but I'm not 
ashamed of it at all. Sorry, Mr. Rich.  

KinkyBoots2013.jpg    
On to Kinky Boots. (Tip: Not sure if we'd 
have time for another show, we waited and 
got the tickets for 20 percent off at the 
TKTS booth. Yes, in the mezzanine, but 
as is typical for the older Broadway houses,

there's not a "bad" seat in the theater.) 

The local connection for me was that 
Annaleigh Ashford, who graduated from 
the Denver area's Wheat Ridge High 
School a few years after I did, and whose 
many credits include Glinda in Wicked and 
Maureen in Rent, was one of the leads in 
Kinky Boots
, as Lauren. Also, Northern
 Colorado grad Andy Kelso was in the cast as Harry. 

Ashford was terrific, making the most of the chance 
to have the stage to herself for "The History of Wrong Guys."

kinkycast.jpg

Cyndi Lauper's debut as a show composer 
and lyricist certainly was worth 
saluting, and her speech in accepting the 
Tony was one of the telecast's 
highlights. A genuine music superstar 
was both gracious and wide-eyed about
breaking through in the theater world,
and I compare it to David Bryan, a 
founding member of Bon Jovi, doing such 
a terrific job with Memphis.   

Okay, Billy Porter, as Lola, turned in a 
performance that earned him a Tony, 
and it's heartening stuff for a guy who paid
his dues. Frankly, I would have voted for
the other male lead, Stark Sands, as Charlie 
Price, the inheritor of the British shoe factory; 
or Thomas, as Pippin. And that brings me to my quibble with this show.  

It's derivative. I felt that I was seeing La Cage Aux Folles and a bit of Billy 
Elliot,
 plus a dash of Rent, (all of which I've seen), and Priscilla, Queen of 
the Desert
 (which I haven't), all thrown into a blender. Harvey Fierstein is the 
playwright, so the credentials there can't be questioned, but there comes a 
point where you say ... OK, the guy is (and the guys are) are drag 
performers in a show within the show, but haven't I seen this before?
 It 
doesn't diminish the performances or show when evaluated on a stand-alone 
basis, but if you're a typical hobbyist theatergoer or more, and you've seen 
other shows that are so remindful of this one, it is a bit bothersome. In 
interviews, Porter has tried to point out what he believes to be the 
differences from the other shows and the crucial elements in the eventual 
acceptance of his character, but it seems a stretch to me.

It's fun, the music's great, you laugh, you're impressed that the actors and 
actresses who look like British factory workers can sing and dance, and you 
stand at the end. And there's nothing wrong with that.   

The 2012 Trip

Missy Franklin succeeds Glenn Morris as Coloradan Sullivan winner

Yes, the Golden Boy from Colorado was 
named top U.S. amateur athlete of 1936 
GlennGirlLeftBehind.jpg
April 16, 2013: Missy Frankin, as expected, was named the winner of the Sullivan Award 
as the top amateur athlete in the United States at ceremonies in Orlando tonight, 
duplicating the feat of another Olympic hero from Colorado.
 
Glenn Morris, from tiny Simla, and the former football star and student body president at 
Colorado State, won the decathlon (breaking his own world record) at the 1936 Olympics in 
Berlin  and then was named the Sullivan Award winner for that year.
 
That was a bit of 
a surprise, considering Jesse Owens had won four gold medals at Berlin, but I touch on one 
of the reasons why he didn't in the following passage from 
Olympic Affair: Hitler's Siren 
and America's Hero.
 For the record, I did change his wife's name in the book, for reasons I 
touch on in the afterword. And this passage follows tumultous behind-the-scenes events that 
took place when he returned from Europe, where he had been embroiled in the toxic and 
contaminating affair with Leni Riefenstahl.   



In December, Glenn was living in New York and working for NBC 
Radio as a liaison for sports broadcasts, and preparing to compete 
for the New York Athletic Club, when he and Karen were married at 
her parents’ home in Sterling. She gave up her teaching job and 
moved with Glenn to Manhattan.


That month, he also was named the winner of the Sullivan Award 
as the nation’s top amateur athlete for 1936, and he angered AAU 
officials when he reacted honestly, saying to the reporter who 
informed him of the news: “If I won, what happened to Owens? I 
thought he’d get it.” He knew many of the voters were holding it 
against Jesse that he quickly had declared himself a professional 
after the Games, and Glenn was especially sheepish because he

didn’t intend to remain an amateur much longer, either.

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On Jackie Robinson's older brother, Mack

Silver at Berlin, then on to run at Oregon 

 

April 15, 2013: On this day, the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's

major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, my reaction to seeing the

movie "42" on Sunday is in The Denver Post and here

 

In it, I mentioned the lack of backstory -- probably inevitable, necessary and 

understandable -- and brought up that Jackie's older brother, Mack, was an 
accomplished athlete as well. I'd been aware of that virtually since childhood

because he was among the athletes honored in the hallway displays in the

University of Oregon's McArthur Court.

 

I learned more about him in research for Olympic Affair, and he in fact 
makes several appearances (and several speeches) in the book. As I

mentioned in the column, Robinson finished second to Jesse Owens in the

200-meter dash. Hitler was watching from his private loge, Leni Riefenstahl

and her crew were filming for the documentary Olympia, and the entire

experience of being in Berlin against the backdrop of Nazi rule left most of

the athletes at least affected. Yes, the Nazis were on their best behavior and

the worst horrors still were in the future, but the drumbeats were sounding at

an Olympics that America came close to boycotting.

 

After the Games, Mack ended up heading to Eugene and ran track for the

Webfoots. As Jackie would do later, Mack first attended Pasadena City

College before moving on to a four-year school. In researching my upcoming

March 1939: Before the Madness, I acquired a copy of the 1939 

Oregana, the U of O yearbook. I quickly realized the deadline for the 
book was early, apparently designed to enable the book to be published 
and available by the end of the school year. So the details of the 
Webfoots' run to the first-ever NCAA basketball title, in 1939, aren't in 
the volume and the sections on the spring sports are about the 1938 seasons. 
  
Here's Mack's picture in the Oregana, with the eyebrow-raising caption 
included (
sorry for the amateur cell phone picture's lack of focus).


Oregana.JPG 


Here's Frank Litsky's New York Times obituary of Mack Robinson. Note

the challenges he faced after leaving Oregon -- challenges and maltreatment

that Jackie Robinson noticed.

Julius Whitter, first black Longhorn letterman, is inducted into U of Texas Hall of Honor

Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming 
dealt with Dixie's Last Stand
 


Whittier2001.jpg

November 6, 2013:
 
Julius Whitter last weekend was among the ex-players 
inducted into the University of Texas' Hall of Honor.

He was the Longhorns' first black football letterman, and I visited him in 
2001 at his law office in Dallas during the research for Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming.
 
No black players participated in the 1969 Arkansas-Texas game that is the 
book's focal point, but both schools had black scholarship players on the 
freshman teams that season and were on the verge of varsity squad 
integration. It's a major plotline in the book -- and part of the reason for the 
subtitle Texas vs. Arkansas in Dixie's Last Stand -- and I enjoyed speaking
with Whittier. Arkansas' freshman scholarship player was running back Jon 
Richardson, and I also spoke with Hiram McBeth, who was on the "B" squad 
in 1969 after essentially being appointed by the Black Student organization to 
go out for football and integrate the program; and with Darrell Brown, who 
ended up the attorney for Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker in the Whitewater 
trial and as such questioned Bill Clinton on video in the White House. 
Brown had gone out for freshman football in 1965 and in that sense was the 
first black Razorback.

Here's my introductory passage on Whittier:

When Julius Whittier committed to attending Texas, he didn’t know he

would become the Longhorns’ first black letterman.


“I didn’t go there with that as a goal,” he says. “I went there because I

wanted to play big-time football, take a shot and see how I stacked up against

guys like me. If I was an icebreaker, I didn’t feel the breaking ice.”


Whittier says he never felt as if Darrell Royal had to be dragged screaming

into the era of integrated college football. “There may have been those

coaches who made it their goal to make sure college football stayed white,”

Whittier says. “I didn’t see that in Coach Royal, didn’t see it as a burning issue

with any of the white football players, and even in looking back I don’t see it.


“I think the guys I played with felt comfortable they had the skills to compete

with anyone, whether that guy was white or black. So, no, I don’t see

Coach Royal as a fiber in the fabric of the part of football that may have

wanted to keep it white. Coach Royal basically came to a school that got its

personality from the state it served. Not that he was some big social revolutionary

or anything, but I think he recognized that to stay who we were, we

were going to have to use black athletes.


“There’s a strength that was added to the team by adding different ethnic

backgrounds. I think Royal appreciated that and was unafraid. [But] he had a

board of regents that thought maintaining racial purity was more important

for a long time.”


UT’s first black letterman came from San Antonio. Julius’s father, Oncy,

was a doctor, and his mother, Loraine, was a teacher. As he was being raised,

Julius was somewhat naïve, because the San Antonio schools were a Texas oasis,

integrated for years. White kids and black kids and brown kids went to

school together, and from junior high up, students got “bus cards” and could

attend any school in the district. But it was as if the city couldn’t quite figure

out how far to extend this progress.


One example of San Antonio’s reticence was that blacks still had to enter

the historic Majestic Theater through the back door and sit in the back.


Julius’s sisters, Cheryl and Mildred, worked at the Handy Andy market, and

discovered that they wouldn’t be allowed to advance to cashier’s jobs; those

were reserved for the white girls. Loraine, active in the NAACP, helped organize

a protest march on the store; eventually, Cheryl and Mildred and

other black girls were allowed to handle the money, too. Julius’s older

brother, also Oncy, set the example for Julius—one he didn’t always pretend

to match. Oncy was meticulous in his dress, polite in manner, and studious to

an extreme. “He was the gentleman,” Julius says. “I was the renegade.” But

Oncy also was involved in the Black Guerrilla Theatre group, which was in

the same building as the militant Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

and was raided at one point by San Antonio police. “My brother got

clubbed in the head, along with several other people, and we had to get him

out of jail,” Julius says.


At Highlands High School, predominantly white, Julius took part in a

protest of the dress code, wearing a dashiki he borrowed from Oncy. Oncy

could argue with teachers and win them over, at least earning their respect;

Julius could say what was on his mind and be tossed from class. Oncy was an

all-city offensive lineman in football, and he ended up at Howard University

in Washington, D.C. Julius was surprised when he discovered his options included

attending the University of Texas and playing football—with all

those white boys! At the end of his senior season, he discovered that his parents

and his high school coach had cut a deal to lessen the recruiting pressures.


“When the season was over, we were tearing down our lockers and my

coach called me into the office,” Julius says. “There were three bags of letters

on his desk.”


“This is for you, as a reward for the year you had.”


“What is it, Coach?”


“They’re letters from different colleges and universities, Julius. And I want you to

read this one first.”


Coach Darrell Royal was telling Julius Whittier the University of Texas

Longhorns wanted him.


“I didn’t know who he was,” Whittier says. “I don’t say that to minimize

who he was, I say that to show how sheltered I was.”


Royal’s head defensive coach, Mike Campbell, came to San Antonio, met

with Whittier, and helped schedule a visit to the UT campus. “I bought into

Campbell’s honesty,” Whittier says. “He was straightforward. He was just an

old white man who knew how to play football. He turned out to be just what

he showed me—a straight shooter.”

  
As Julius also set up visits to North Texas State and SMU, and he sifted

through the letters from Big Ten schools, his mother’s NAACP friends were

aghast that he was considering UT. “They had this fear that I wouldn’t get a

fair shot, that I would be just suiting up and holding a dummy,” Whittier

says. “My mom was fascinated by the challenge, though.”


Royal didn’t make the kid from San Antonio any promises about how

much he would play. “That part’s up to you,” Royal said. Like James Street

and others before him, Whittier took that as a challenge. “You know the

bumper sticker that says ‘Hire a teenager while they still know everything?’

That was me,” he says. And he wouldn’t be the only black player in the program,

he was reminded. On his recruiting visit, Whittier was shown around

by the freshman halfback, Leon O’Neal. “He told me the white folks were

OK,” Whittier says, smiling. “Then he left. It didn’t bother me at first, until

I thought about it later and he kind of left me there. I was expecting to go

there and be real good friends with him for the next two, three years. We got

along real well on my recruiting trip.”


As he settled in at UT during that 1969 season, Whittier became increasingly

bothered because his teammates seemed blinkered and insulated from

the events swirling around them. And, no, at times he didn’t feel welcome.


“It’s almost a southern gentleman kind of racism to the extent that I never

got invited out on the drinking sprees,” Whittier says. “Everybody knew I

didn’t drink. But there were also white boys invited out on these sprees who

didn’t drink.”

  
He was quoted in the February 15, 1970, 
San Antonio Express-News as saying:


“The problems I’ve had have been with some of the players. Texas seems

to recruit a lot of boys from small towns, and most of them have small minds

just like their fathers. I’ve gotten the message from them. It’s subtle, but to

them I’m definitely an outsider.”


Years later, Whittier can repeat his “small-town boys” newspaper statement

almost verbatim. You bet he heard about it, and he hasn’t forgotten. He

doesn’t seem to give the Longhorns, even when all except Whittier were

white, enough credit for their wide spectrum of attitudes, viewpoints, and

level of seriousness, but it’s understandable why.


“By that I meant they weren’t out to change the world in any way,” he says.

“They were out to play first-class football at a first-class football school. Race

didn’t get in our way. The social change that I was into and used to in my

home life, through my mom’s stewardship, was not part of what they were

about. They were about playing football and stepping into the life that a

solid football career at a solid football school gets you.”


But in 1969, Whittier was just a freshman linebacker, anyway, not a part of

the varsity. The tricky part was freshmen were considered lower life forms in

the football area of Jester Center, subject to the usual hazing rituals of being

ordered to shine shoes, do laundry, go out for hamburgers or beer at two in

the morning, or make beds. The freshman season was a plebe experience, and

the tradition was that the first-year players couldn’t even enter through the

main door of the dining hall until they had beaten the Texas A&M freshmen.


Whittier regarded a few upperclassmen as his protectors—including

sophomore Randy Stout, who shared time at left guard with Bobby Mitchell,

plus backup running backs Billy Dale and Bobby Callison. He felt they were

watching out for him, making sure the freshman indoctrination pranks didn’t

go beyond the norm, to racial harassment. (When Dale was a senior and

Whittier was a sophomore, they roomed together in Jester.)   
Whittier also came to like defensive tackle Greg Ploetz.


“It didn’t appear that I was being treated any different than any other

freshman,” Whittier says. “I think I was respected, too, because I was aggressive

and got after it. I didn’t slink to the back of the line when it was time for

shit drills. In fact, I had made a promise to myself that when they said to line

up I always would be first in line, even if I had to push and shove to get there.

I wanted the coaches to know they didn’t have to worry about me being willing

to stick my face in there.”


During that fall, the other Longhorn freshmen and a few of the upperclassmen

noticed a few other things about the black kid: He could be late for lunch

because he was at a protest! He would hang out with the hippies! He went to the

Moratorium march, and he was sympathetic when students protested a

Memorial Stadium and street expansion project that forced the bulldozing of

Waller Creek between the stadium and the main part of campus. The administration

and many students couldn’t understand why moving the channel

thirty feet was such a problem. So what if it killed a few trees and a few turtles?


“I had to walk by this fight to go into the stadium to get dressed to play

football,” Whittier says. “I was having to face the fact that what I was doing

and the system I was playing in was the dynamite behind the movement to

move Waller Creek. I’d have to walk past Frank Erwin”—the chairman of

the board of regents—“and the other regents observing the protesters to

make sure they didn’t interfere with construction. Kids tied themselves to

trees to stop the bulldozers.”


Whittier says that while coaches made snide remarks every once in a

while—Heard you were up there with all the hippies!—they never attempted to

tell him he couldn’t take part in protests or be politically active, either that

freshman year or later. In fact, he says, trainer Frank Medina surprised him

by saying, “If you take care of business here, you’re fine with us.”


The 1969 freshman team went 5–0, finishing off with a victory over Texas

A&M in Austin on November 21. Then the first-year players settled in to

watch their “heroes” close out the varsity season against Texas A&M and

Arkansas.


“Those guys were like gods to us!” Whittier says. “You could tell that

there was never a thought in their mind that anyone was going to beat

them.”


Certainly not Arkan
sas.

 

 

Enjoyable appearances in Glenn Morris' backyards

Playing the Lincoln Theatre

and the Fort Collins Library 


Limon1.jpg

February 21, 2014: Before turning more promotional attention

to the new March 1939: Before the Madness, I made two very

enjoyable appearances to discuss and sign Olympic Affair in the last

10 days.

 

The first was February 10 in Limon. It was the first time I'd ever

done an appearance in a theatre, and it was in the historic

Lincoln Theatre in Limon. My thanks to Ryan Kaufman of High

Plains Media and Broadcasting for setting it up and putting it on.

Glenn Morris, the protagonist in Olympic Affair, was raised 24

miles down the road from Limon, in Simla, so I mainly discussed

that book, including the research and the decisions I made in

presenting it as historical fiction rather than a conventional non-

fiction work. But I also ran through my other projects and enjoyed

fielding questions -- all standing in front of the movie screen.


Then last night, I had a great time talking about 
Olympic Affair at

the Old Town Main Library in Fort Collins, on behalf of the city's Old

Firehouse Books. Morris, of course, also was a star athlete and

student body president at the school that now is CSU, and he trained

in what now is called the Glenn Morris Field House on the east side

of the campus. The turnout was good, the questions following my

presentation were terrific and thought-provoking, and because of the

proximity to where he spent his collegiate years and a post-graduate

year preparing for the Olympics, I almost felt as if Morris was

listening in on us.   

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On the release of March 1939: Before the Madness

Lying low, so to speak,

until ... yes ... March

LloydCenter.jpgUPDATED

February 9, 2014: Thursday was the

official release date for March 1939:

Before the Madness, my seventh book.

The long wait between submission of

the manuscript and the publication

date never has gotten easier for

me. There's a lot to be done in that

period, of course, including reviewing

the copy-edited manuscript and responding

to editors' queries, and going over two

rounds of page proofs. I continued in my

newspaper work while promoting Olympic Affair, still available

in hardback 15 months after its release. I also worked on Save By Roy,

a collaboration with fellow previous Taylor Trade author Adrian

Dater, and periodically played with my in-progress Young

Adult novel, The New Kid -- which I've put aside about six times to

work on and finish other projects. (The poor kid has been a high

school sophomore for four years.)

 

So I stayed busy. But the wait, as always, seemed interminable. 

Finally, though, we're here. The timetable for this one was a bit

compressed. I didn't see a real copy until two weeks ago, and it

began showing up as available on the online sites about that time,

too. Then it first showed up in stores last week, and the above shot

is from the Barnes and Noble in Portland's Lloyd Center. The

distribution is national, and it's now in major bookstores coast-to-

coast. And, yes, it's always exciting to see the book in a store for the

first time. 

 

The entire first printing already is spoken for, and that meant the

shipment of media review copies has been delayed until the second

printing, coming in a couple of weeks. But because of the subject

matter and the title, it's understandable that much of the promotion

and featured store display won't begin until next month.

 

One of my goals in the discussion of the book is to make sure it's

understood that while the first NCAA champions, the Oregon

Webfoots, are featured, this is not an "Oregon book." (Not that

there's anything wrong with that.) Rather, it's about the national

college basketball scene in the late 1930s, detailing the New York and

Madison Square Garden influence on the sport as the nation's college

coaches and others sought to found a truly national tournament as

a rival for the new invitation tournament started the year before. The

six-team New York tournament was blatantly promoted, sometimes

to the point of absurdity, by the very scribes covering it -- members '

of the Metropolitan Basketball Writers, and that contributed to the

popularization of myths about the event in its early days that persist

to this day.

 

In that sense, it's a two-pronged work, looking at both the NCAA

tournament and the early NIT, in 1939 featuring the Clair Bee-

coached Long Island University Blackbirds. And as I've done in my

other books, I've placed it all in the context of the times -- the very

eventful and ominous times of 1939.

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Publishers Weekly praises MARCH 1939: BEFORE THE MADNESS

"Carefully crafted, fast-moving
and refreshing"
 


PUBLISHER_WEEKLY_HEADER.jpg
  
December 22, 2013:
 I should have been waiting at Sardi's.

 

The new online and print editions of

Publishers Weekly include a very nice advance review of my

upcoming book, March 1939: Before the Madness.

It closes with: "Carefully crafted, fast-moving, and refreshing, Frei’s

study of the scrappy Oregon Webfoots’ campaign ... is quite memorable."
 

Here's the online version.