This one still stinks – The Olympics at its worst. The U.S. Olympic basketball streak ended, after being unbeaten since the sport was introduced at the 1936 games. Going into this game the U.S. team’s record was 62-0.
In fairness to the Soviet team that allegedly won, it wasn’t their fault that they had played superbly and were within a point of the Americans when the game should have ended. And it wasn’t their fault the Americans played poorly and allowed the Russians to stay in the game. And they didn’t create the chaos that ensued as the game ended, all three times.
Then again, they missed an opportunity to go down in history as among the greatest sportsmen of all time, if they would have exchanged their tainted gold medals for what would have been the most honored and celebrated silver medal accomplishment in the history of the Olympics.
But they didn’t.
Look at the video. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seem to be so happy. Do they not know – or not care that their accomplishments are tainted because they took performance enhancing drugs?
Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record that Roger Maris had previously set. Maris’s 61st home run came on October 1, 1961 during the 162nd and last day of the season. McGwire notched his 62nd blast on Septemeber 8, 1998, during the 145th game of the season. Both Maris’s and McGwire’s accomplishments were shrouded in controversy.
Ford Frick, who was Baseball Commissioner in 1961, decided that Maris’s record needed an asterisk because it took him 162 games to break Babe Ruth’s 1927 single season record of 60 home runs. Ruth got his 60th home run during the old 154 game schedule. Maris, unlike McGwire, was completely innocent of any wrong-doing.
On the day the McGwire broke Maris’s record, the Cardinals, despite McGwire’s home run, lost to the Sammy Sosa led Cubs, 6-3. At that point in the season, Sosa had 58 home runs. Sosa would get his 62nd home run of the 1998 season on September 14. By then McGwire had “gone quiet” for six days and the two were actually tied for the lead. When the season finally ended, McGwire had collected 70 home runs to Sosa’s 66.
While it was happening, and before we all knew what really happened (or maybe before we all emerged from denial), it was fun to watch.
Ohio High School Athletic Association has no problem with Lebron’s $50,000 Hummer
The nation’s top high school basketball player was cleared Monday after a two-week investigation by state officials determined he did not violate amateur bylaws by accepting a Hummer H2 vehicle as a gift. Read more Cincinnatti.com
But taking some jerseys worth $850 gets him ruled ineligible.
High school basketball star LeBron James was ruled ineligible to play for the rest of the season because he accepted free clothes.
The decision today by the Ohio High School Athletic Association comes four days after James, a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary, was cleared for accepting a $50,000 sport utility vehicle as a gift from his mother.
Last Saturday, James was given two retro sports jerseys from a clothing store. The jerseys, honoring former Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers and former Washington Bullets center Wes Unseld, cost a combined $845. Read more Seattle Times
And that ruling gets reversed.
LeBron James can put his high school jersey back on for at least a few more games.
The 18-year-old basketball superstar was cleared by a judge Wednesday to continue playing after losing his eligibility for accepting two free sports jerseys, valued at $845, from a clothing store.
“It confirms our belief that the he never should have been suspended,” said James’ attorney, Fred Nance.
James still must sit out at least one more game and his eligibility remains in question pending another court hearing Feb. 19. Read more Cleveland.com
So what did we learn from this? Who is to blame? His coach? His School? The Ohio High School Athletic Association? ESPN? The sponsors? Lebron himself?
Who’s to blame? Everyone on this list and a culture that inspires facile rationalizations for athletes. Read more HerbLondon.org
John McEnroe, First Player Ever Ejected from an Australian Open Match, January 21, 1990
John McEnroe was playing the Swedish born Mikael Pernfors in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Pernfors was winning the third set of the match, 4 games to 2, but McEnroe was still ahead in the match, having won the first two out three sets. Then McEnroe missed a few shots, got the short end of a some close calls, and worst of all, got set off by crying baby. McEnroe yelled into the stands “Give him a drink, the boy’s hungry.”
One baby is asked to leave, then another
Umpire Gerry Armstrong asked the parents to take the baby out of the stadium, and the mother complied. Down 3-2 in the fourth set, McEnroe bounced his racket. He managed to get back to deuce, but then he smashed his racket again after hitting a forehand wide. This time he broke the head of the racket. Armstrong then hit McEnroe with a code violation. McEnroe answered with several expletives and asked to speak with Kevin Farrar, the chief of supervisors. McEnroe began swearing at Farrar and then with Farrar’s approval, Armstrong called out “Code violation, continued abuse. Default Mr. McEnroe. Game, set, match. And with that, McEnroe was in the record books as the first player ever ejected from an Australian Open match.
Coca Cola Commercial Promotes the 1980 Olympics (The One We Boycotted)
Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, Spawns Olympic Boycott Talk.
Russians start invasion Christmas Day, 1979
The Soviet Union began its invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day, 1979. On New Years Day, 1980, with already more than 10,000 Russian troops engaged in heavy fighting near Kabul (eventually the Soviets would have more than 100,000 personnel deployed in Afghanistan), the New York Times reported that “West Germany’s representative at an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization raised the question of whether the Western Allies might want to withdraw their participation in the Moscow Olympic Games this summer as a result of the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan, a NATO official said.”
Or did he say that?
The next day, The Washington Post disclosed that “a West German government spokesman denied newspaper reports that its NATO ambassador was the one who had suggested the boycott. In the same article the Post reported that Lord Killanin, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), “vowed to resist any political interference with the Olympics”.
On January 3, the New York Times reported that France did not support the idea of an Olympic boycott.
President Jimmy Carter in a nationally televised speech on January 4, outlined his plans for forcing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, he hinted at the possibility of an Olympic boycott.
Saudi Arabia became the first nation to officially withdraw from the Moscow Olympics. On January 6 the LA Times reported that a spokesman for the Saudi Royal made the announcement, citing Soviet aggression against the “friendly and brotherly Moslem nation of Afghanistan.
Day by day, more and more editorials were written, interviews were given, and opinions taken on the not yet officially proposed Olympic boycott. For the most part, politicians favored the boycott while athletes and Olympic officials opposed it.
Carter Goes on Meet The Press and Makes Olympic Boycott Threat Official
Finally, on Sunday Morning, January 20, Carter appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press. Bill Monroe led off the interview by asking Carter, “Mr. President, assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?”
To which Carter replied, “No, neither I nor the American people would favor the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops, within a month, from Afghanistan, that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to an alternate site, or multiple sites, or postponed, or cancelled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, within a month, I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics.
January 18, 1983 – Jim Thorpe Gets His Medals Back from the 1912 Olympics
Just about seventy years after they were taken away, and almost thirty years after he died, Jim Thorpe got his medals back. At the Stockholm Olympics of 1912 he won gold medals in both the decathlon and the pentathlon. He also took fourth place in the the high jump and seventh place in the long jump. His margins of victory in the decathlon and pentathlon were staggering, prompting King Gustav V of Sweden to declare at the medals ceremony “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world”, to which Thorpe replied, “Thanks, King”. In 1913 he was stripped of his medals after it was revealed that he had played two seasons of semipro baseball (for $60 a month) in North Carolina.
IOC now lists Jim Thorpe as “Co-Winner” of the Decathlon and Pentathlon
On January 18, 1983, at a ceremony in Los Angeles, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), presented Thorpe’s children with gold medals to replace the ones that he was forced to return. The ceremony followed an October 1982 announcement by the IOC announcing that they would return Thorpe’s medals and re-instate his amateur status. The committee was responding to a plea on Thorpe’s behalf by William E. Simon, president of the United States Olympic Committee. Thorpe was then designated as a “co-winner” of the two events. To this day, the two men who Thorpe who thoroughly trounced, Ferdinand Reinhardt BIE in the the pentathlon, and Hugo K. WIESLANDERin the decathlon, still appear on official website of the IOC as gold medal winners of those events.
Thorpe Calls Avery Brundage “A Stuffed Shirt”
When Thorpe’s professionalism was first revealed he wrote in a letter of “confession” to the American Athletic Association (AAU), “I hope I will be partly excused by the fact that I was simply an Indian schoolboy and I did not know all about such things.”, but his ignorance-as-an-excuse appeal was rejected.
There was no serious effort to reinstate Thorpe’s medals until 1943 when a resolution was introduced into the Oklahoma House of Representatives, by two Indian legislators. They asked for the formal backing of the State of Oklahoma to petition the AAU for the return of his medals and the restoration of his name to the record books.
In 1949, Warner Brothers was making a movie about Thorpe’s life. Their request to the IOC for the return of Thorpe’s medals, to be used in the movie, was denied. Thorpe called U.S. Olympic Chief Avery Brundage, “A stuffed shirt”.
In 1950 a resolution was introduced at the National Congress of American Indians, asking for the return of Thorpe’s medals. That was followed by Thorpe’s own appeal in 1951. The New York Times reported,
Impoverished Jim Thorpe, with nothing left with memories at 63, finally swallowed his pride today and asked the Amateur Athletic Union to return the Olympic Trophies it took from him 39 years ago. “I would like to have them back before I die” muttered the erect, massive full-blooded (incorrect, both parents were half caucasion) Indian, referring to the laurels he was forced to relinquish because the A.A.U, charged he was a professional at the time he won them.
Brundage’s response to Thorpe and to an advertisement that appeared in a New York paper was, “It’s up to the second place men who were given the medals when it was ruled that Thorpe was not correctly classified as an amateur.” It should be noted that Brundage competed against Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics, placing 14th in the pentathlon and 5th in the decathlon.
In 1952 Brundage authored an article entitled “My Biggest Olympic Battles”, in it he wrote, “No man, no matter how gifted, is a special case in the Olympic Games. To re-instate Thorpe now would be to break faith with the more than 30,000 athletes who have kept the code since the modern revival of the Games in 1896.
Washington Goes to Bat for Thorpe
President Gerald spoke up for Thorpe in 1975, just a few months after Avery Brundage died. He wrote a letter to Lord Killanin, the president of the IOC. Ford asked if the panel “would consider this request and act with a sense of equity in light of the history and the contribution that Jim Thorpe has made to the world of sport. The IOC did not respond.
On October 8, 1982, the U.S.House of Representatives concurred with a prior Senate resolution that declared it is “the sense of Congress that the International Olympic Committee should officially recognize Thorpe’s Olympic feats and present medals to his family in the 1984 Olympics.”
Finally, on October 13, 1982, the IOC announced that it had reinstated Thorpe’s amateur status and that his gold medals would be posthumously awarded the following January in Los Angeles. His daughter Charlotte said at the time that she was “on cloud 12. The reason I say cloud 12 is that’s the year it happened,” she said.