Thursday, March 24, 2022

Beer, girlfriends, guppies, and baby clothes -- in space?

The International Space Station has been good for humankind, as has space exploration overall. They've returned benefits far greater than the costs. But NASA and the other nations supporting the ISS might not be getting their money's worth on the closed captioning of online live space walk coverage. So, while watching this EVA on March 23, 2022, Houston, we've had a chuckle.

OOOPS, trouble with the law...

Well, that was one wild ride! 

Longtime space exploration supporter Brian Arbenz, who lives in Louisville USA, invites you to link to the NASA Live coverage of this March 23 space walk:

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Melissa Forsythe, 1950-2022. Innovator, journalist, and battler for equal opportunities, and excellent reporting

Louisville's trailblazing innovator Melissa Forsythe

Melissa Forsythe’s high school journalism teacher told her he did not want a girl to edit the school newspaper. Five years later, as an Indiana University student, she and campus colleagues founded a broadcast news service, doing reports from the Democratic and Republican national conventions for radio stations over the telephone from her hotel rooms. She shortly was hired as a reporter at WAVE-TV in Louisville, Ky., then became the Louisville market’s first woman anchorperson.

Resisting sexism and corporate arrogance, Melissa Forsythe excelled at spot news, anchoring and feature reporting. Her stories varied from examinations of the issue of sexual assault, to thorough on-the-spot coverage of elections in Kentucky and Indiana, to an hour-long special on the rise of singer John Mellencamp.

In a drawn out and highly public legal case, Orion Broadcasting v. Forsythe, she won the right to move to crosstown WHAS-TV, despite an onerous non-competition clause WAVE tried to impose after its station management decided not to renew her contract. 

Melissa Forsythe, who died Feb. 11 at 71, inspired thousands and thousands of young women to show initiative, self-reliance and to fight for their rights.

                                One of the 2 Louisville stations she worked for recalls
                  the superb, and professionally demanding reporter and anchorwoman.
In the 1970s, as I read in a newspaper profile of Forsythe about her self-made news service for the political conventions, I was inspired as well. Her example was in my mind as I came up with my own less formal print news service, traveling to cities in the upper south and lower Midwest during my career as an independent contractor journalist in the late 1980s and early '90s doing stories for United Press International, the Indiana Weekly section of the Courier-Journal, and smaller community newspapers.
The crescendo was a working trip in 1987 to Washington, D.C., where I wrote three feature stories for two newspapers about Southern Indiana people who had risen to various heights in Congress or other institutions.
In the years before that independent contractor stint, I was a staff reporter and columnist for the acclaimed Hoosier weekly newspaper The Corydon Democrat.
Its community of Corydon, Ind. happens to be Melissa Forsythe's hometown, and the Democrat's managing editor, Randy West, was that high school teacher who back in the mid-1960s placed gender discrimination in her way, notwithstanding West's writing fervent liberal editorials 20 years later during my time there. 
I found that bygones were bygones one afternoon when Forsythe unexpectedly stopped in the Democrat newsroom to say Hi. All was positive between herself and West, but there was little time for pleasantries -- it so happened one of the biggest stories in decades in Corydon and surrounding Harrison County had just broken. The sheriff of Harrison County had been arrested, over alleged financial  irregular irregularities in his office. 

Instantly, Melissa was on one of our happily donated desk phones, calling the story in to her employer WHAS, who put the story on the upcoming noon TV newscast. Even on a social call, Melissa's work went on.
A few days ago, as I was reading a Louisville newspaper story of Forsythe's death from natural causes, I happened to hear lead singer Molly Rankin of the Canadian band Alvvays performing on the music service in the coffeehouse where I was seated. I thought of how inspiring it is that in interviews, Rankin's music and her life prompt the questions, and her confident answers are what carry the interview. This contrasts with what invariably would happen for decades in pop-culture when someone like the attractive blonde Rankin was profiled: patronizing, sexist questions and ogling. Today, though we still have a lot of work to do to eradicate harassment, it is second nature for male reporters to treat Molly Rankin a whole person. She just happens to be attractive, but the story is her persona, savvy and talent.
That progress toward respect for women is the gift to our world of women who succeeded, and succeeded on their own terms - the most prominent example during my youth being Melissa Forsythe. She was steady, smart and unflappable on the air. Sometimes she was seen as tough by those in her profession, but that may be the double standard from our socialization to declare women icy on the same basis as a man is called professional. Moreover, when you must battle from day one for the opportunities and respect males get from birth, a perennially cheery style is not obligatory.
Glancing back toward the newspaper in the coffeehouse, I saw the story of  deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank of Louisville being tapped to perform the national anthem in sign language for Super Bowl LVI Feb. 13. In my pious, nostalgic state recalling the days of Melissa Forsythe's greatness in the heyday of TV news, I saw and heard all around me these barriers having fallen, and I realized that her work indeed goes on.


Brian Arbenz is from New Albany, Ind., where he grew up watching Melissa Forsythe's coverage of his community and the wider Louisville area.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

From Final 4 Glory to Final Days Grief: the early deaths of so many 1970s Indiana high school basketball stars

When you're a Hoosier, you forget all your cares by walking into a gym for a basketball game.

In high schools of all sizes, from Indiana's inner cities to its rural hamlets, the talents of players and the passion of fans of the game called "Hoosier Hysteria" erase from the mind such matters as the inclement weather, Monday's math test, past due bills, crime, and politics. And, certainly, life's tragedies - that's the last thing you think of at a basketball game.

South fans hoist Mike Joyner after
a 1977 tourney win. By year's end,
he was dead in an aviation disaster. 
The finesse, fundamental soundness and enthusiasm of those young players seemed to spell long lives ahead, particularly when you're watching the Indiana state championship Final 4, the command performance of high school play nationwide.

And yet -- when I have done online searches to find what became of some of those revered athletes I recall watching on television or in person at the Final 4 and elsewhere during the '70s and hence, I have often been stunned and saddened to find that their fates were that last thing you think of when watching the game that means life, youth and fun.

In events mostly involving vehicles, or sometimes illnesses, so many of my favorite Hoosier hardcourt luminaries had their lives cut short, often dying while still in their 20s. Their deaths were generally from unforeseeable accidents -- being in the wrong car or airplane at the wrong time. Check a YouTube on an Indiana basketball player from my high school and college years in the '70s and you just may see RIP in the comments, along with tear emoticons.

Here is the list of known deaths of standout players from the 1970s and early '80s who starred at Indiana's Final 4 or otherwise attained Hoosier high school basketball prominence:

Stacey Toran, a likeable, quiet Los Angeles Raiders defensive back who in 1980 had hit the 57-foot shot shown above in leading Indianapolis Broad Ripple High School to the state title game, died at 27 on August 5, 1989 when his car flipped over near his home in Marina Del Rey, Calif. He he was returning from a team open house at a high school in Oxnard which followed a pre-season practice with the NFL team.

Toran was engaged to be married when he died and described by Raiders teammates as pleasant and positive during the practice and open house. Still, he was well over the legal alcohol limit when his car crashed, but police said there were no skid marks or other indications of speeding.

        A court level view of the great shot, which Stacey then describes.

His former high school formed a Stacey Toran Foundation to raise money for college scholarships for financially challenged Indianapolis public school students. The foundation also runs youth mentoring and leadership training programs.

Jack Moore, a 5-foot-8 guard whose outsized skills surprised opponents at the 1978 Final 4 as he led Muncie Central to a state championship, died in a private plane crash on March 3, 1984, two years after graduating from the University of Nebraska.

He and a business partner, stockbroker Gary Johnson of North Platte, Neb. were flying back from Indiana, where they had watched Moore's former high school team play. Johnson was piloting the plane, which ran into unexpected storms and fog over central Nebraska, then crashed on a ranch.
Twenty-five years after their deaths, the Lincoln, Neb. campus saluted the popular player and straight-A student with Jack Moore Day coinciding with a Cornhusker basketball home game. Halftime featured appearances by Jack Moore's mother and his sisters, one of whom, Jane Ann Giles, still kept a small piece of the plane in which her brother had died as a memento; she said it gave her consolation.
During his playing days, Moore's athletic frame was ideal for sports in general, but appeared simply too short for Division 1 college basketball; still, using the same finesse and daring that wowed Final 4 fans in Indiana, he stood out nationally at Nebraska, winning the Pomeroy-Naismith Award 1982 for the nation's best senior player under six feet tall.

The crowd loves "absolutely unbelievable" Jack Moore in the 1978 state title game.

Moore had been revered at Nebraska and in Muncie as a smooth, agile court tactician and easygoing public role model. He quickly fell in love with his adopted home state, encouraging high school teammate Jerry Shoecraft, his best friend since childhood, to enroll at Nebraska and also play for the Cornhuskers.
Shoecraft, who went on to serve on the City Council of Lincoln, said on a University of Nebraska site: "I probably would have gone to Purdue if Jack hadn't convinced me to visit Nebraska.... Everything I've ever accomplished in my life was because of him and the way he inspired me. Even now, whenever I'm down, tired, angry or staring adversity in the face, I ask myself the same question: 'What would Jack do?' "

Kevin Thompson 
at Terre Haute South
Kevin Thompson was considered the hope for an upswing at Indiana State University when the star forward signed with hometown ISU in 1980, a year after the incomparable Larry Bird graduated. Sportswriter Seth Davis described Thompson as, "a big, strapping six-foot-eight forward whose square chin, finely combed black hair and glasses made him look like Clark Kent. He was also a local celebrity, having earned all-state honors at Terre Haute South Vigo High School."
Man of Steel though he made have evoked, Thompson took an injury to a rib during the summer of '80, and when it had not healed by the start of Thompson's freshman fall semester, a deeper problem was indicated.

A doctor diagnosed him with cancer, turning Thompson's planned battle for a starting spot with the Sycamores into a battle for his life. He died in January 1982, never having played a game at Indiana State, and leaving a wife, Tammy.

"He was a courageous young man who fought a good fight," Indiana State coach Bill Hodges said.

The day after Kevin Thompson died, Hodges resigned the coach position. He had gone through a difficult post-Larry Bird losing season in 1979-80, a divorce, then the death of a promising forward, but more so a young person Hodges had befriended during recruitment efforts from just across town.

"I grew to know him so well, and it tore me apart," Hodges said.

Tony Winburn of Jeffersonville High  School was -- like Jack Moore -- 5-8 and won fans with an energetic, overachieving style of play. Also like the Muncie star, Winburn died in a plane crash in his 20s. Marion Anthony "Tony" Winburn was one of 29 people, including the entire University of Evansville basketball team, killed Dec. 13, 1977 when their propeller charter plane crashed just after takeoff on a planned trip to Tennessee for a game. The crash also killed head coach Bobby Watson and acclaimed Evansville sportscaster Marv Bates.


Winburn was a star on the 1972 Jeffersonville Final 4 team, which lost in double overtime to that night's state title winner. In 1973 his Jeff squad had been ranked No. 1 during the season, but was stunned in the state tourney's first round by arch rival New Albany, a team which had struggled mid-season but went on to win one of the most surprising state championships ever. They stole the title glory Jeffersonville fans believed would be theirs.

A New Albany substitute who helped turn that team's fortunes around was Steve Miller, a 6-8 sophomore forward who helped point his squad to the 1973 Final Four, but did not play there. Expense restrictions limited state tourney rosters. Miller was a starter his last two seasons at New Albany, and joined former rival Tony Winburn as a 6-9 forward on the ill-fated Evansville Purple Aces team. Miller was married four months before he died.

Terre Haute South Vigo High School's Mike Joyner, who was a senior on South's 1977 Final Four team, died in the crash that December after playing four games in his freshman season at Evansville. The Purple Aces' last game, three days before their deaths, was at Indiana State University in Mike's hometown, giving him some family time, including seeing his newborn sister Peggy for the second and final time. Mike also gave his mother Martha Joyner his Christmas gift wish list, which included sweaters and an electric blanket, she told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star in 2014.

As though Evansville fans hadn't had enough pain from the Dec. 13, 1977 crash wiping out their beloved Purple Aces team, a coincidental accident two weeks later killed the sole team member who had avoided doom by what seemed like the divine fortune to have a serious pre-season practice ankle injury that bumped him from the roster, keeping him off the plane.

Freshman David Furr, 18, who during his ankle's healing was working as a statistician at home games, then after the plane crash planned to join a new Evansville squad to be rebuilt the next year from catastrophe, was driving on Dec. 27 with his 16-year-old brother near their hometown in Illinois when their vehicle was hit by another driver, killing the brothers.

As is detailed on the website bird in flight dot com, which includes stories of aviation deaths it says contain a hint of predestination, the car carrying David Furr and his brother Byron Furr was hit by a pick up truck near Newton, Ill. while David was home from the bereaved campus on holiday break. The brothers were returning from a high school basketball game in Olney, Ill.

The Furrs' deaths added one more community to the list of stricken hometowns of Purple Aces players. Thirty years after the plane crash, a story in the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville included remembrances by Tony Winburn's mother Edna Winburn of half-mast flags throughout the city of Jeffersonville and constant expressions of condolences to her.

"A lot of people around here were very hurt and concerned about Tony," Edna Winburn told the newspaper. "And people still bring it up to me now, but not as much as in the past.

"He enjoyed going to school and playing his sports," she said of her son, who would have earned a business degree from the University of Evansville in the spring of 1978. "He was just a very congenial guy, never gave me any trouble. I'll never get over wishing he was still here."

Steve Miller's widow Vicky Peay, who has since remarried, said in that 2007 story: "The people around here could not have been better," adding that their kindness after the tragedy enabled her to become skilled at helping people after painful losses. "You can take something like this and become a bitter person. Or your can use it for good and help others."

Tommy Baker
, in the video excerpt below from the 1974 Final 4 at Bloomington, is described as "in trouble" until a Jeffersonville teammate maneuvers in his direction to receive a pass from the then 6-foot-tall freshman. That brief interlude from early in Baker's great career for the Jeff Red Devils ominously foretells the path his life would take.

Unfortunately, when Tommy Baker got "in trouble" later at various life stages, the system wasn't there for him, and the Indiana high school All-Star from 1977 slid down a slope through controversies, incarceration and destitution, dying of pneumonia at 51. In 1978, early in his sophomore college season at storied Indiana University, Baker was one of three players dismissed from the team by the iron-willed coach Bobby Knight reportedly over marijuana possession.

That un-glorious exit ended great hopes for IU stardom that began when -- as a Louisville newspaper sports columnist recalled it -- the high school senior Baker opened the curtains at his family's home in Claysburg, a historically black section of Jeffersonville, and gushed over seeing the legendary coach Knight getting out of his car on a recruiting visit.

Tommy Baker

There was much else that indicated Tommy Baker was a good match for Knight's program. The three-year starting guard at Jeffersonville was skilled at the motion offense, passing and pressure defense, the three legs of Knight's system which brought about an undefeated NCAA title in 1976. That was the same season that high school junior Tommy Baker led a talented Red Devil team that lost in the afternoon semis of the Final 4 by three points to that night's state champion Marion. In Baker's freshman and senior seasons, Jeffersonville also had state titles within their grasp, but suffered close tournament loses. 

After his exile from IU in late 1978, Baker had a successful two years playing at Eastern Kentucky University, but was cut in rookie camp after the NBA's San Antonio Spurs drafted him. A young man who had befriended Magic Johnson in 1977 as the two visited Germany while playing on a team of U.S. high schoolers now would never take the court in the NBA his one-time peer Magic was dominating.

Back in Jeffersonville, Baker was arrested and imprisoned multiple times for selling cocaine, but critics of our nation's imprisonment-centered justice methods contend that Baker and the millions of other nonviolent offenders who have been sent to violent prisons are the real victims.

Much of Tommy Baker's problem, in one graph.
And Clark County, Ind.'s prosecutors were wed to the national paradigm of incarceration as the only way to respond to drug possession -- oh well, providing the offenders are not rich. Admitted past cocaine users Robin Williams, Lawrence Taylor, Steven King and presumed hard drug user George W. Bush would simply never have gotten prison, but a kid from Claysburg would. By the 2000s, Tommy Baker was an ex-con, broke and ill; he died in 2010 and was buried in a pauper cemetery in Louisville. Jeff High graduates formed a Facebook group to raise money to locate his unmarked grave and inscribe it with fitting markings noting their fondness for their schoolmate.

One poster on an IU fan site, who as a Jeffersonville High student followed Tommy Baker by a few years, sadly announced Baker's death on the site in 2010, saying, "I didn't know him well, but he was a good kid and a hard worker. Well liked. Very humble young man."

John Hollinden in the
high school class of 1976
John Hollinden
left his hometown of Evansville a 7-foot-4 Central High School graduate in 1976, but was really tall when he returned two years later. After struggles with growth spurts made it difficult to hit his stride in two seasons at Oral Roberts University, Hollinden came back to join the Indiana State University at Evansville team as a 7-7 center -- the nation's tallest basketball player.

Two productive seasons later, the popular and easygoing Hollinden signed to play professionally in a European league, but the night before his scheduled departure in 1981, another episode of dread familiar to Evansvillians struck. John was driving for pleasure outside the city when his car crashed, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The giant niceness for which this giant was known endured; John began working with two charities helping the poor, became a motivational speaker, and joined a choral music group.



Even after leg infections, then amputations of both legs in 1991, Hollinden remained a model of good spirits, his former high school coach John Wessel said.

"I went to see him in the hospital after that operation, and he had more grit and determination than the law allows," Wessel told the Evansville Courier. Nonetheless, John Hollinden died in 1992 of cardiac arrest brought on by infections. He was 34.


                               So many gone, so suddenly

Basketball will always be exciting to me, and the Indiana high school kids' way of playing the game -- smart, graceful and polished beyond their years -- creates an aesthetic unattainable anywhere else. Hoosier fans packing gyms to boil over with their unique brand of hysteria can convince us that it really matters who wins the game.
It shouldn't take tragic deaths to remind us of the siblings, parents, hobbies, neighborhoods, faiths and fun that matter most in the lives of youths who wear their school's uniforms only a few hours a week.
In researching these stories of lives which ended too soon, I've realized that we had great folks in ballplayers like Jack, Tony, Tommy, Steve and John. Moreover, I've learned the importance of appreciating talented, energetic and devoted people while they're still here.

Brian Arbenz grew up a classically hysterical Hoosier, and he gained even more appreciation of basketball and its players while working as an independent contractor sportswriter from 1986 to 1999, primarily covering Indiana high school games.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Unusual things you won't see anywhere else

 Welcome to the only blog post with all these sights!

The watch cat...


Please -- don't neglect your bowels, nor drink alcoholic liquors (they're the worst kind!)

The church that trusts you to make up your own mind!

Safe on the streets!

From my dream last night (yeah, there's an app for that)...

Don't fear, there is a large pond just out of view where ducks and geese live happily...

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Coincidences between the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and -- wait for it -- James Garfield

To help retire that well worn list of JFK-Abraham Lincoln “history repeats itself” mystical eerie unexplainable similarities (like a school book warehouse being the same thing as a tobacco barn), I present:

            John F. Kennedy-James Garfield assassination similarities!

This list of unexplainable coincidences is dedicated to the reality that by turning over enough rocks and framing selected details just right, we can “prove” anything we wish to.

Here they are:

Kennedy and Garfield’s successors, Lyndon Johnson and Chester Arthur, both had 13 letters in their names.


Johnson got Kennedy’s proposed Civil Rights bill passed by Congress, a first step in long needed progress.

Arthur got Garfield’s proposed Civil Service bill passed by Congress, a first step in long needed progress.


Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald pleaded for a favor (upgrading his dishonorable discharge from the Marines) by writing the Secretary of the Navy, and was angered that he got no response. He then wrote to the FBI threatening violence against high U.S. officials.

Garfield’s assassin Charles Guiteau pleaded for a favor (appointment as consul to France) by writing the White House and was angered that he got no response. He then wrote to the Secretary of the Army threatening to kill the president.


The assassination of Kennedy prompted a technology invented by Alexander Graham Bell to fail when Washington, D.C. phones widely went out from overuse when news of the shooting broke.

The assassination of Garfield prompted a technology invented by Alexander Graham Bell to fail when a metal detector Bell brought to the president’s doctors to locate the bullet could not find it.


Oswald and Guiteau both had mothers of French descent.


Both assassins had battered their wives. Both had trouble holding jobs down.


Oswald and Guiteau had moved to New York City in their youths.

Both also moved to what they thought would be utopian socialist places (Oswald the USSR; Guiteau the Oneida Biblical community in New York State). Both left disillusioned. 

Oswald and Guiteau both bought European-made guns valued at less than $20 from U.S. vendors to carry out their assassinations. Both presidents were hit by two bullets. Both were just a few feet from railroad tracks when shot.



Kennedy and Garfield both won, for their respective times, the closest popular vote victories by anyone elected president. Garfield beat Winfield Scott Hancock by 10,000 votes; Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by 100,000 votes.


Presidents Kennedy and Garfield opposed racial discrimination, both appointing record numbers of Blacks to federal positions.


Kennedy and Garfield both had two children die young. Both had two children go on to become lawyers.


Kennedy and Garfield fought in wars 20 years before their deaths, both being hailed as heroes in those wars.


The Camelot president’s grandchildren can read a comic strip about a cat called Garfield.

President Garfield’s grandchildren could read a comic strip called Prince Valiant, about a place called Camelot.


Kennedy’s widow went on to marry a Greek who had accumulated wealth.

Garfield’s widow went on to marry a geek who had accumulated welts -- no, actually James Garfield’s wife died before he even became president. But then Abraham Lincoln never had a secretary named Kennedy, which underscores how a little fibbing is part of this art! But all else on this list is true.


                  Brian Arbenz lives in Louisville, Ky. USA.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Conservatives started Cancel Culture -- it's their sin, not the left's

In 2003, as the invasion of Iraq commenced, administrators at three Albuquerque, N.M. high schools suspended or placed on paid administrative leave five teachers who had displayed antiwar posters in their classrooms, some created by students.

Officials claimed they were violating an Albuquerque Public Schools policy that requires educators to maintain a classroom atmosphere free from bias or prejudice.

One teacher resigned after the incident. Two others, employed on yearly contracts, were not hired back by their school.

Okay, all you valiant opponents of Cancel Culture, this is your cue! But where were Fox News, Patrick Buchanan or Dennis Prager when it was time to defend these teachers and condemn the stifling of debate -- and by one of those bias-free policies they are always denouncing!

That same year CBS caved in to a conservative firestorm and decided not to air its own made-for-TV movie “The Reagans,” featuring James Brolin playing the 40th president in what preview watchers described as a non-flattering light.

The network disgraced the legacy of Edward R. Murrow by punting the movie off to the cable channel Showtime.

And today’s fierce critics of Cancel Culture, or their forerunners in 2003? Surely, conservatives condemned CBS’s dropping its movie as mob rule censoring the airwaves. Nope, conservatives were that mob.

Same comfortable silence from the right in 1995 when ABC radio dropped -- let’s say it -- canceled the show “Hightower Radio,” whose feisty Texas host Jim Hightower attacked factory farming and other chemical-based industries as destroying the land and community economics.

ABC's big advertisers decided 
you won't hear this type
of information.

The multi-billion dollar Archer-Daniels-Midland, one of the key creators of those farming methods, bought myriad advertisements on ABC-TV’s “This Week With David Brinkley.”

The network openly said that unnamed advertisers felt Hightower’s criticisms were against their interests.

What, those big city eastern network people are censoring a good ole Texas man of the soil?, screamed absolutely no conservative whatsoever.

And this year, Harvard surprised everyone by passing over acclaimed intellectual Cornell West for tenure.

The college offered West, a longtime attacker of colonialism and supporter of the Palestinian cause, a pay raise absent of tenure. That’s a move so contradictory that outside pressure from pro-Israel absolutists and power elites dependent on colonialist exploitation likely prompted it.

West said that’s what happened, though Harvard denies it.

Well, that concludes our Conservatives’ Hypocrisy by Silence Tour, though there are many more examples, such as, JUST IN:


LINK to: Angela Davis says Butler cancelled her appearance


Yeah, there are also left-driven episodes, but overwhelmingly they aren’t equivalents, because they’re not about intimidating critics of war or factory farming.

Consider the case of Don Imus, whom CBS radio let go for referring to black members of Rutgers’ woman’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”

And longtime CBS sports broadcaster and odds maker Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was dropped in 1988 after he made rambling, asinine comments about black athletes owing their talents largely to slavery’s breeding practices. Snyder also said blacks breaking into the coaching profession should be seen by white coaches as a threat to their opportunities.

Was there a better way
to respond than firing Snyder?
Ed Hotaling, an African-American reporter/producer for a Washington, D.C. TV station who recorded and broadcast the remarks, said CBS should not have fired Snyder. Instead, Hotaling said the incident should have cued the network to explore racism straightforwardly.

“I think you have to think a little more broadly than firing a sports commentator for expressing stupid comments about civil rights,” he said. “You should start covering the story and let him learn something.”

Hotaling suggested letting Snyder discuss his remarks and the wider issue of civil rights with black and white athletes on CBS’ football coverage.

“His views would be expressed a little more adequately, I think,” Hotaling said. “They’d have the thing resolved in a positive way instead of a negative way.”

Today's retributive discourse, the wider problem than just Cancel Culture.
Hotaling has the right idea overall. Though as someone who remembers Snyder’s insipid pseudo-history lessons in that 1988 broadcast, I have my doubts that a person so evidently entitled and isolated as Snyder would be open to learning.

And there is also the matter of Jimmy The Greek’s words revealing an incompetence to be a national sports commentator and forecaster (would we want a TV weather forecaster using crickets and supplicating the god Thor?)

Still, what Hotaling suggested in ‘88 is very relevant to today’s controversies. A speaker or tweeter who makes a short comment should be given more time to explain it, but more importantly should be compelled to, in Snyder’s case, talk repeatedly with great black athletes. He could hear them describe the ways in which their success came not from some ghoulish echo from slave breeding, but from their own hard work and sacrifice.

Responding to bigotry should involve face-to-face discussions and persistent attempts to show the offender what they are missing, not instantaneous sanitizing of discourse that may make us feel better, but leaves the hate unaddressed.


Brian Arbenz lives in Louisville, Ky. USA

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

That championship season reframed -- today I see the people, not the uniforms

Glove inventor Andre McCarter (45), teacher 
Dave Meyers (34) and house rehab person Richard
Washington (31) do in my Wildcats for the 1975
national title, but I like these guys today.

Picture a man in Oregon who, in tandem with his wife, rehabs houses for a living, with the couple doing the work themselves of tearing the floorboards and hammering the nails.

Then there’s a person near San Diego who teaches elementary school.

Now think of another person, this one in Indiana, who worked for a steel company and coached youth sports in his city, sometimes driving kids home from practice and driving the team bus to and from games.

And yet another, a man from Philadelphia, works part time as an inventor and comes up with a certain type of glove to improve athletes' dexterity.

These folks sometimes pause from their daily lives of civic and business devotions to recall their college years, when they used to get together and play some basketball.

And the former Indiana farm kid who grew up to coach them was paid a modest salary for job tasks that for a while included waxing a gymnasium floor.

Sounds like a group who only dreamed of the big time, but missed out on lives of fame and glory.

Well, in fact you’ve just read a description of the people who in 1975 won their school, UCLA, the NCAA basketball title -- the last of coaching legend John Wooden’s 10 basketball championships at UCLA.

Their lives of rehabing homes, teaching sixth graders and so forth were what they were doing 20 and 30 years after that night in March 1975, when Richard Washington, Dave Meyers, Pete Trgovich, and Andre McCarter led the UCLA Bruins to John Wooden’s 10th title.

They allowed Wooden to cap off his dynasty in storybook fashion, beating favored Kentucky 92-85 in the title game in San Diego, ending Wooden’s 27-year tenure at UCLA.

During that stint, the Martinsville, Ind. native and former Purdue hoops star won those 10 national titles while maintaining a player graduation rate of 65 percent (comparable to the student body rate of around 75 percent). For all this, he earned a top salary of $40,000, and that includes all money from endorsements.

Late in his career Wooden also brought in about that much yearly in outside income from speaking engagements and basketball camps, but with that added in, his $80,000 figure was about one percent of what today’s highest paid coach makes.

Kentucky’s John Calipari, who is paid -- wait for it -- $8.1 million, has a player graduation rate of 28 percent (the UK student body rate is 66 percent).

Wooden emphasized to his players passing, footwork and body position, not the glamorous high scoring or fancy one-on-one moves many other coaches favored in the ‘70s to enhance their recruiting in an era of expanding TV coverage of college basketball games.

In fairness to Calipari, he also emphasizes those game fundamentals, but compared to Wooden’s strong emphasis on getting a genuine education, the Kentucky multi-millionaire coach’s program has that 28 percent graduation rate. Among Calipari’s top talent, it’s close to 0, because almost all of his Kentucky stars stay in school just one season, then go pro.

Almost all of Wooden’s greats played four seasons.

The best players leaving after their freshman year, a method called "one-and-done," is widespread in this era; UCLA itself has just a 20 percent player graduation rate today.

Whereas Washington and Meyers were the biggest contributors to the title win in ‘75, another player, Marques Johnson, did go on to great National Basketball Association stardom. But in 1975 Johnson was coming off a bout with hepatitis the previous summer and didn’t go on to become a star at UCLA until about a year after Wooden’s 1975 retirement.

He had a superb NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks, the team for which Dave Meyers also played a few years before deciding to change careers and earn a teaching certificate.

Meyers didn’t teach gym or do photo-ops in classrooms as a sports celebrity, mind you -- he genuinely taught elementary school for 30 years in Southern California. And Marques Johnson was a devoted family person; wealth and national acclaim did not distract either of these two Bruin products from the obligations and rewards of doing the essential duties of the lives all of us live.

Same for Richard Washington, whose career change came when he realized his pleasant temperament (Coach Wooden had described him as a “passive, easygoing, lovely person.”) just wasn’t ideal for the Type-A pro basketball world after Kansas City Kings teammates politely but firmly told him he needed to push himself harder.

Dave Meyers, after three decades teaching elementary school children, died from cancer in 2015 at age 62. After his death, former teammate Marques Johnson recalled Meyers as “a gentle, compassionate guy."

Sibling Ann Meyers Drysdale recalled that Dave’s decision to leave pro basketball in 1980 after six seasons, though partly because of a back injury, also was because her brother “wanted to be with his family and watch his children grow up.”

Even many of the more basketball-centered John Wooden products have lived notably full lives; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, also is a fine writer and commentator. He worked as a newspaper contributing reporter while a teenager in New York City.

Bill Walton attended law school after his basketball days and has long promoted environmentalism and his vegetarian diet. Both former UCLA centers were outspoken opponents of the Vietnam War.

Still, the UCLA Bruin world wasn’t flawless; an L.A. Times investigation in the 1980s revealed that a wealthy UCLA booster named Sam Gilbert was co-signing for loans for some of Wooden’s players, in violation of NCAA rules.

Though the gifting was not used to recruit players, and a shocked Wooden ordered his team to have no contact with Gilbert when he found out, the co-signing continued and Wooden largely looked the other way, the coach acknowledged in interviews late in his life.

From raising title banners to raising his family,
the gentle Dave Meyers, 1953-2015.

Nonetheless, we can long for some lost priorities when contrasting the community minded lives of people like Meyers, Washington and other 1975 Bruins with most of the great NBA stars who won college championships in the years following Wooden’s retirement.

For instance Irving “Magic” Johnson of Michigan State and Michael Jordan of North Carolina have sports-centered identities wrapped in layers of massive PR machines. Neither graduated from college. The egotistical and sometimes brusque Jordan had more say over his Chicago Bulls team’s offense than his coach, and Magic Johnson actually ordered his Los Angeles Lakers team to replace its head coach over the young star’s differences with him.

And the 60-second TV ads Magic did for a fast food chain and Jordan did for Chevy cars earned them more money than Richard Washington or Dave Meyers made in a year of rehabing houses and teaching elementary students.

But for the vast majority of NBA players, having a real world job skill like those of Washington or Meyers would be more valuable than perfecting every great basketball move. Consider that Sports Illustrated reported in 2009 that 60 percent of former NBA players were broke within five years of leaving that supposedly paved-with-gold league. The magazine said the number for former National Football League players was 78 percent.

Those percentages mean John Wooden's $40,000 salary and his stressing of education and life skills more than basketball have never looked better. And "one-and-done" has never looked more dangerously exploitive.

In 1975 I scowled as I watched UCLA win Wooden’s 10th title by beating Louisville and Kentucky, two of my three favorite teams. This was just after my other favorite, unbeaten Indiana, lost its top scorer to an injury, knocking the Hoosiers out of what looked like a sure title.

My adolescent anguish didn’t last too long; Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville won three of the next five college championships.

Although those titles were redemption, I have since placed more importance on the good character of our champion teams’ stars, such as Louisville’s Darrell Griffith and Scooter McCray, who following their playing years started restaurants and alcohol-free youth recreation centers in our city.

Whereas their Louisville college uniforms and UCLA’s bore opposing school names, I now see that the people who were wearing both are teammates in the contest between good citizenship and “I’ve got mine, you get yours” selfishness. And that is a game in which this nation badly needs a come-from-behind win.

So Richard, Dave, Pete, Andre, Marques -- as much as I could not have imagined 45 years ago that I’d ever feel this way about any Bruin -- I’m now a fan of each of you.


Brian Arbenz has been a news and sports reporter in Indiana and Kentucky, states whose college basketball success can cloud people's judgment.