Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time to Make a Change

Why is Claremont still part of the Baseline League? There was a time when this league was a good fit for the Wolfpack, but that was several years ago. In fact, it was only recently that Claremont won a share of the league football championship for three years in a row.

But these things change in a hurry. I remember when Claremont was part of the old San Antonio League, with Upland, Montclair, Damien, Pomona, Ganesha, Garey and Chino. I think Chaffey may have been in there at one time, and later Don Lugo came along. The league eventually split and became the Baseline League. Alta Loma was added and others dropped. Schools like Glendora and Walnut have been part of the league. Reorganization over the years added Rancho Cucamonga, Etiwanda and Los Osos. Now it’s time for Claremont to move to a different league.

The population base for the four Rancho Cucamonga schools in the Baseline League continues to grow, and even Upland has expanded, with the recent addition of the Colonies development. There are other San Bernardino County schools that would be logical matches for the Baseline League schools.

Claremont simply isn’t big enough to play with the bigger schools any more. The high school has a smaller population base than the other schools, and growth in Claremont stopped years ago. The high school accepts many transfer students from other cities just to keep up enrollment numbers, but most are there for reasons other than sports.

It has gone the point where Claremont High can’t compete with its Baseline League rivals on the field and the court. Now, it is a case where the kids are getting hurt. It seems there have been kids carted to the sidelines every game this season. Sure, that’s one of the risks of football, but there seem to be more injuries than usual.

The Wolfpack simply can’t put the numbers of players on the field to compete at the same level – at least in football. This season, Claremont was 2-3 in non-league play. All but one of those games was relatively close. Since then, CHS is 0-3 in Baseline League competition and has been outscored 145-22. The average margin of defeat is 41 points in the three games.

It’s a battle in other sports, too. CHS competes in the Baseline League in track and field, but its athletes compete in a different division than the bigger schools when they go to CIF competition. It makes sense to compete schools that are the same basic size. So why not do it during the league season – and in all sports?

I know that sports aren’t the top priority, but they are still part of the extra-curricular menu. CHS teams should be in a position to compete.

It’s definitely time to reorganize the local leagues again. There are plenty of nearby schools that have similar enrollment numbers and are in cities that aren’t growing. I suspect it might take some work for CIF-Southern Section officials to re-draw the leagues, but that’s their job.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday Night Lights

Daily Bulletin photo
For a high school football game, last Friday’s Los Osos-Upland contest had all the bells and whistles. This one had two best teams in the Inland Empire, featuring two future NCAA Division I quarterbacks. The pre-game attention was magnified by stories in most Southern California newspapers and blogs (including this one). Fox Sports Net Prime televised it live.

Fans expecting an aerial shootout between Los Osos quarterback Richard Brehaut and Upland QB Josh Nunes might have felt this game fell short of the hype. But football fans who saw the game were reminded again that football shouldn’t be evaluated only by the numbers.

The story lines from this game were obvious: Los Osos dominated both sides of the ball in its 41-28 victory, which wasn’t as close as the score. Running back Arby Fields led a strong running attack and scored four touchdowns. The Grizzly defense shut down the high-powered Upland offense and limited it to two touchdowns (Upland’s two other TDs came directly from turnovers).

But there was so much more, beginning with Los Osos quarterback Richard Brehaut. Despite throwing for (only) 170 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for another 108 yards and a TD, the thing that is most impressive about Richard is his leadership ability and field presence. He has a definite command of the game. It shows in his body language, but is more evident with his actions. I remember noticing those traits when I watched him play as a sophomore and junior, but now his confidence and physical skills have clearly elevated him to a new level.

Watching him Friday, it’s no surprise he is considered the No. 4 high school quarterback in the United States, and that UCLA offered him a scholarship. They have to love what they see. Even though he threw an interception that was run back for a touchdown Friday, he never lost his head. He responded by moving his team, even though Upland took a 21-20 lead at the half. But he led three Grizzly TD drives in the second half. Brehaut can clearly think on his feet, and if his first option isn’t there, he does a good job of improvising.

Fantasy football fans would have been throwing their sandwiches at the TV when one of the Los Osos receivers was ruled down on the one-yard line. Replays showed the receiver rolled over the defender and didn’t hit the ground until he was in the end zone. Los Osos scored on the next play, but Richard didn’t get credit for the TD pass. Well, that’s not what Rich Neuheisel and Norm Chow care about anyway.

Josh Nunes had a tougher time for Upland. He hadn’t seen that strong of a defense all season, and the Grizzlies held him without a TD pass and he was intercepted twice. The Upland offense was shut out in the second half. I think the reason Los Osos defense was so good was because it was unpredictable. Josh is a very good quarterback within the scripted system. He has a different kind of presence behind the offensive line. He is great at getting rid of the ball quickly and usually doesn’t feel the pressure. He’s able to mix things up to sell the play-action and buy time to throw mid-range and deeper passes, too. Because of that, the Upland offense can be unstoppable at times. But that’s when it is able to follow the game plan. The Los Osos defense threw different looks at Upland, and the Highlanders didn’t know how to respond. Upland had trouble adjusting and improvising, not only in the booth and on the sidelines, but on the field as well. If the play didn’t unfold the way it did in practice or in the playbook, then it didn’t work.

Now that the showdown is out of the way, it will be interesting to see how both Los Osos and Upland respond the rest of the season. While not the high-profile game of last week, the Grizzlies might have their toughest game of the season this week when they play Rancho Cucamonga. The undefeated Cougars may not be as good as Upland, but they have their own talented quarterback and more speed than any team in the league. Their skill position guys are all sprinters on the track team, and Rancho Cucamonga typically sweeps most of the Baseline League sprints.

Like last year, when there was a three-way tie for first place, it will be hard for any team in the Baseline League to go undefeated.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pac-10 Preview

The prep football world turns its eyes to the Inland Empire this weekend for the long-awaited matchup between Los Osos and Upland high schools. The spotlight belongs to their respective quarterbacks, Richard Brehaut from Los Osos, who has verbally committed to a scholarship offer at UCLA, and Upland’s Josh Nunes, who has given a verbal commitment to Stanford.

This is a big deal locally and throughout all of Southern California. The game will be televised live at 7 p.m. on Fox Sport West Prime, which might be the only way most people get to see the game, since reports have been circulating for months that there won’t be an empty seat in the Los Osos campus stadium.

With both QBs headed to the Pac-10, there figures to be plenty of future battles between the two, who played on the same Pony League baseball team several years ago in Upland. This is the third meeting between Brehaut and Nunes, who both started as sophomores and juniors. Both are seniors this year, although Josh is almost a year older than Richard. Los Osos won both previous meetings pretty convincingly. Upland comes into this year’s contest with a perfect 6-0 record (1-0 in the Baseline League), while the Grizzlies are 5-1 (1-0).

I haven’t seen Los Osos in the regular season this year, but I saw Upland last week and watched both teams in passing league tournaments during the summer. Upland runs the spread offense with lots of crossing patterns and short routes. It’s an impressive offense, and especially so against a far inferior opponent last week. Just when it looks like Nunes will dump off another short pass, he sells the play-action and goes up top. From what I have seen in the past, Los Osos runs more of a pro style offense, and Richard will run for big gains just as easily as throwing for them. On both sides, the defenses will definitely be tested.

I just hope both teams keep things clean. Rumors were floating around during the summer that the Upland kids were going to go after Richard. Sure, those kinds of threats have been making the rounds as long as the game itself. They are part of the game of football, but only up to a point. Who wins when those “targets” find themselves in the hospital with a senseless injury? Even last week, the buzz in the Upland-side stands was that the Upland players had targeted one of the Claremont kids, who grew up and lives in Upland. In the second half, that player went down and is now reportedly out for the season with an injury that might keep him from attempting to participate in other sports through the rest of his senior year.

Cheap shots have no place in this or any game, just because a thug-bully high school kid wants to win points with his pals. There is just too much at stake. It goes beyond what happens on Friday nights. Injuries are part of the game, but they also could change a kid’s future. They could destroy his life. Every player on the field should be doing all he can to prevent injuries. Unfortunately, most of the goons doing the dirty work aren’t exactly college material anyway, so they don’t get it. Perhaps they should spend some time at Casa Colina or Project Walk to get some perspective.

Friday’s game at Los Osos could be a classic battle between two outstanding teams and a pair of future NCAA Division I quarterbacks. But it could get ugly in a hurry if the cheap shots start to fly, which is the buzz once again. I’m sure if that happens, the opposing team won’t hesitate to fire back quickly. Former Dodger pitching great Don Drysdale used to say, “If you hit one of our hitters, we’ll hit two of yours.” Seems like during the Cold War when the U.S. and Soviet Union threatened each other with force: “You drop the bomb on us, we’ll drop two on you,” or something along those lines. It’s the same philosophy here. Let’s just hope it never goes that way, and that this game gets the attention it deserves for all the right reasons.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ziggy Socky, Ziggy Socky, Hoy! Hoy! Hoy!

There once was this bar on Wilshire in Santa Monica called “The Fox Inn Rathskeller,” where visitors would stand in line for up to an hour, just to get into the crowded, smoke-filled room. Nothing fancy about the place – just picnic tables and benches, and a piano up front. No TVs along the walls. They only served beer.

Everybody came to drink beer and sing along with the guy playing the piano.

It was the closest thing we had to a German pub, with the beer flowing freely and everybody inside singing choruses of raunchy beer-drinking rugby songs. Beer wasn’t poured by the glass, but by the pitcher.

Of course, that was a different time, and society was a different place. There was no such thing as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. I can’t imagine a place like that could operate today, which is why it’s no wonder officials closed The Fox Inn in 1989, depriving future generations of the unique exploits of Bill “The Fox” Foster.

I think people have a hard time believing there really was such a guy, but The Fox was a legend. He could drink beer faster than anyone ever. Even the characters portrayed in the film “Beerfest” couldn’t hold a cold one to the Fox.

Standing behind an upright piano holding two mugs of beer, and with a cry of “Ziggy socky ziggy socky, hoy! Hoy! Hoy!” he would dump both mugs down his throat in less than two seconds. Not surprisingly, he held the title of “World’s Fastest Beer Drinker” for 25 consecutive years. Really.

Anytime he was met with an “automatic challenge,” he’d drink two beers faster than the challenger could drink even one. He’d turn a beer glass upside-down and fill the crown with beer and offer it to his opponent, then drink his full glass before the other person could drink the one-ounce shot of beer. He rarely lost a challenge, if ever.

The best part, of course, was watching him stand on his head and chug a glass. He’d still win. He’d probably drink close to 40 glasses of beer a night, and then come back the next night and do it again.

Between chugs, The Fox led the room in song. He’d play piano, calling out sing-along-style parodies of popular standards with raunchy lyrics and crass choruses. It was pub entertainment at its best – a room full of drunks belting out what he called "songs your mother wouldn't sing." I taught my sons The Fox version of “Take it out at the Ballgame,” which we routinely still sing every time during the seventh-inning stretch. I don’t think they know the real words to the song anymore. The Fox’s “censored” version is much more fun.

I found a bunch of short clips that were recorded at the Fox Inn. Go to this link to listen to them one at a time.

The Fox Inn was filled with picnic tables, and more wooden benches were lined end-to-end along the walls. It was standing room only on Saturday nights, and people stood on the benches just to get a better view. The line outside was 25 feet long. I first heard about the place in college, and my friend Nick Salata first took us there. Nick seemed to know everywhere to go in Los Angeles, and this was one of his favorites. It was one of mine, too.

Foster performed nightly at The Fox Inn from 1961 until it was closed in 1989. It was a mandatory stop after going to a Lakers or Kings game at the Forum, or on a visit to our friend Trip Oates’ place in Santa Monica.

My favorite memory is running into the Fox at a UCLA-Stanford football game at the Rose Bowl on a November afternoon in 1982 (UCLA won, 38-35 in a shootout between quarterbacks Tom Ramsey and John Elway). Back then they still sold beer at college games, so when Greg Setlich, Robert Villanueva, Grant Warhurst and I saw the Fox roaming the concourse area, we offered up an automatic challenge. He refused because he had to work that night. Naturally, the four of us figured we needed to go see him at work. We had a generous head start, having several large beers at the game. Add a few more at some other watering holes around town, and we eventually found our way to Santa Monica. The Fox recognized us from our meeting at the Rose Bowl earlier in the day, and called us out for an automatic challenge. We were already pretty saturated, but none of us stood a chance anyway By that time we truly looked foolish.

The songs made it especially fun. Anyone could chime in with their own limerick or rhyme, but they better be good, or else they’d be met with a chorus of “F--- You,” sung to the tune of the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” Christmas song. And if the Fox spotted you heading toward the restroom while he was at the piano, he’d likely stop in mid song and start repeating, “We know where you’re going, we know where you’re going…”

And if you dared spill your beer, he’d call you out with another “F—You” song in your honor.

After the sale of the Fox Inn, Foster continued to perform in and around Los Angeles and at college campuses and special events. He later gained notoriety as a cast member of “The Man Show” on cable TV, where he chugged beers and sang songs with the audience. We saw him perform at Irrelevant Week at the Balboa Bay Club and at a bar in Pasadena, but it never was the same as the Santa Monica pub. It was always fun, but the last time we saw him in Pasadena, one of the guys in our group got us kicked out of the restaurant early that night, so we never got to enjoy him again at his best.

Here is a video tribute to the Fox that aired on "The Man Show." Definitely worth watching, but it doesn't come close to capturing the atmosphere that filled "The Fox Inn Rathskeller" on Wilshire.

On May 10, 2000, Foster died at his home in Santa Monica after a long battle with prostate cancer. Gone, but long remembered.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back to the Blog

I'm sorry I haven't written on my blog for more than a month. There's always plenty to write about, but the hard part is getting the time to do it. When I started this thing in early summer, it was a lot easier to make time. But fall is the busiest time at a university (along with spring), and that spare time went away pretty quickly.

But today we had one of those “emergency situations” on campus, which ended up giving me some time to write. The Santa Ana winds caused Cal State San Bernardino to close today. The winds sparked a fire south of campus in San Bernardino, which closed Interstate 215, the primary access route to the university. The location of the fire led to evacuations, and CSUSB was designated as an evacuation site. Fortunately, the fire was controlled early and families were allowed to move home, which meant the evacuation site wasn’t necessary after all. But by that time, the decision had been made and the word was out that classes were cancelled. The CSUSB community seems to anticipate a closure every time the winds kick up. I’ve worked there since 2002, and every October we have had some kind of event in which our office had to respond. It hasn’t always been wind-related, but it’s always something in October. So when the phone rang at 5 a.m., I wasn’t surprised. We got the word out quickly, and I got a lot of work done in the quiet offices before my day at work ended early.


So, that’s a long-winded way to say that I had a little time to write today. For now, I’ll focus on more odds and ends. Soon I have a couple of longer pieces that I’ll post, but they still aren’t finished. One of those is already broken into three parts, and it could easily go twice as long as that. Good stuff, too. In the meantime, this one is mainly just to let you know my blog is still alive.


This is a great time for sports fans, with the NFL and college football seasons in full swing, and baseball nearing the World Series. I’m heartbroken over the Dodgers’ performance last night – mainly the inability of the pitching staff to hold the lead in the eighth inning. That was frustrating. I said at the outset of the series that I was just glad that the Dodgers made it this far, but once they get there, it’s impossible not to want or expect more. I’m not giving up on them yet, but the odds are against them. But, this is baseball, and I’ve certainly seen stranger things happen.


As for the Angels, I’m disappointed, too. They just didn’t play well in the AL Division Series. I can’t blame Mike Scioscia, and I agree with his call to try to squeeze in the go-ahead run in the final game of the Boston series. Think about it—that was probably a higher percentage move than letting Aybar swing away. He’s a good bunter, and all he had to do is get it down. If anyone is to blame, it’s the Angels’ middle infielders Aybar and Kendrick, who both melted down in the post season.


Fantasy football is well underway, too. I decided I’m never really happy with my team – no matter what year it is. I always have to add and drop guys, and I would love to make more trades, but nobody ever seems interested in dealing anymore. I get so I like or hate NFL guys, based on how they perform for my fantasy team (but I’ve never broken a bone because of one). I’m having a decent year, but I’d easily swap most of my starters. In the meantime, my sons Sid and Sam are taking the minimal management technique and have had the top score in the league in three of the season’s six weeks. Not bad, considering their top pick was Tom Brady, who’s out for the season with an injury.


Congratulations to nephew Brian Bosson, who was promoted to vice president of merchandising operations at Rip Curl. Pretty big deal. Here’s a link to the story. Also, happy anniversary to Brian and Felissa, who celebrate two years of marriage today. And while we’re in the family, belated public acknowledgement to Brian’s brother Jeff and fiancé Jackie, who are engaged to be married next Sept. 18. And good luck to another nephew, Kevin Bosson, who started college a couple of weeks ago at Cal Poly Pomona.


Best wishes to Tim Dickinson, who thinks he is Bo Jackson. I hope his hip surgery went well and he’s back running the ball for the Raiders soon… They need somebody. On second thought, I think Tim would be a lot better off without the Raiders. Los Angeles certainly is. Hope you’re doing well Tim.


Son Sid seems to be really enjoying his second year at Cal State San Marcos, but the load is a lot harder, too. He’s not running track this year, but he’s very involved in his fraternity and he’s working at Project Walk, the spinal cord injury and recovery center in Carlsbad. All the more reason for him to crack down at school, especially since he plans to earn that degree in kinesiology and put his education to work in that field…Sid recently returned from a trip to Tennessee to visit Lauren DesCombes at Vanderbilt. Poor guy. He said he was surrounded by 10 beautiful girls the whole time. And he got to go to a football game while he was there.


Son Sam is headed to his first semi-formal dance at Claremont High. The annual Homecoming Dance is a couple weeks ahead. I’m not sure how that will compare with what he and his pal Kyle Jackson have planned for their combined birthday party – a toga party at our house. Otis Day and the Nights have a previous engagement at the Dexter Lake Club that night and won’t be able to perform, so they’ll rely on the soundtrack instead. Any parents who decide to crash the gathering should dress appropriately. And please wear something under that toga.


Steve Jackson is already making a positive impact on the baseball program at Claremont High. I stopped by practice recently and watched a few minutes and it just confirmed to me that these kids are getting remarkable fundamental instruction. Because of their fall sports and other commitments, many players who were on the team last year aren’t yet working with the team. I think they’ll be surprised just how much they’ll learn about the game.


It appears Richard Brehaut may graduate early from Los Osos High and enroll at UCLA for the spring quarter. Clearly, the Bruins can use help, and it makes sense for Richard to start learning Norm Chow’s offensive system as soon as possible. It’s certainly not a given that he’ll get the chance to play as a freshman, but coach Rick Neuheisel and staff will get a long look at him before next fall. The downside, of course, is that Richard won’t be able to play his senior season of baseball, after ranking among the Baseline League leaders in hitting as a sophomore and a junior. In fact, there’s a good chance he’d be drafted by a Major League team in June, or at least receive a college baseball scholarship offer. Who knows—maybe he’ll get a chance to be a two-sport athlete at UCLA.


The Los Osos game against Upland on Friday, Oct. 24, will be telecast by Fox Sports Prime Ticket. The word is that tickets will be hard to find, so it looks as if there will be a tailgate party at the Robinson garage instead, which has yet to reach capacity. That’s the game in which Brehaut will face off against Upland’s Josh Nunes, who recently de-committed from Tennessee and switched his verbal commitment to Stanford. That seems like a much better fit for a number of reasons, and it simply makes more sense. I claimed all along that he wouldn’t go to Tennessee. That wasn’t a malicious comment – just a common sense observation. I can’t imagine anyone going across country to a school they’ve never seen (until after he committed) to a program with a head coach that will probably be fired. He’s a smart kid, and I understand Stanford was one of his top picks anyway. Still, it took some good fortune for the pieces to fit right, since Stanford didn’t offer him a scholarship earlier.  The Cardinal’s first choice is reportedly going on a Mormon mission instead, which opened the door for Josh.  I guess it doesn’t matter how he gets there. Who wouldn’t want to go to Stanford or UCLA, even without football?


The Los Angeles County Fair kind of came and went quietly this year. The attendance numbers seemed on par with most years (it doesn’t fluctuate much anyway). Nothing really got my attention this year, but I always enjoy being there and being a part of it. That will never change. For so many years, I lived and breathed that place, and it will always be part of me. But now, it seems, I rarely have reason or opportunity to go over there after the Fair ends. Too bad. Maybe one of these days I can get involved with something else over there.


And speaking of the Fair, the word is that it will open over Labor Day weekend next year (although I haven’t read anything in the newspapers). I assume that means it will extend to five weekends. That’s a long time, but there’s definitely an opportunity there. I’d be concerned that a Labor Day weekend opening would dilute the traditional opening day. I mean, people generally have their routine for Labor Day weekend, since is the final weekend of summer before school starts. Barbecues, the beach and the annual fantasy football drafts are etched in calendars. And there is huge competition from the California Speedway, which holds one of its major events that weekend. There is already a lot happening that weekend, and the opening of the Fair in Pomona might get lost. And then what becomes of the following weekend, which was the usual opening. That will likely lose its luster, too. Getting vendors moved from the State Fair in Sacramento to Pomona is also a challenge, and I hope the employees can last that long. But opening the Fair over Labor Day could just work, and it could be the start of a new tradition – but only if they give it enough years to take hold.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fade into Fall

The calendar still shows it’s summer, and Southern California’s typically hot September weather gives no reason to think otherwise. But when September hits, thoughts of summer seem to transition to fall. It always amazes me that the Labor Day holiday weekend can truly be such a distinct and clear-cut changing point in the year – perhaps even more so than New Year’s Day. It always signals the start of a new routine. Here’s why…

The start of September means the start of school – at least it always did until some school districts decided to get going in August. Personally, I don’t think any schools should be starting before Labor Day, except colleges on semester schedules. Anyway, Sam and all of his Claremont High pals started school today (while Sid started classes at Cal State San Marcos last week). Back for another year of high school, I think they actually look forward to the new school year, reunions with friends and plenty of activities ahead. The homework and tests are the evil and necessary trade-off for the fun and the bigger picture that comes after high school.

The college football season gets underway this time of year, and it has now officially started. The UCLA game Monday was one that will be remembered throughout the season. I waited all weekend for that game, and by halftime I was looking for something else to do after the disastrous first-half performance by Kevin Craft. But the game was still reasonably close, so I tuned in again after watching the Dodgers for a couple of innings, and witnessed a truly remarkable comeback. It must have been a particular thrill for the Moores, Brehauts and others who attended. The game was especially meaningful, because the game matched the schools where the two top local high school quarterbacks will be playing their college football next year. Score another victory for the Bruins.

We held our annual fantasy football league draft on Sunday, which is another Labor Day weekend tradition. Most of the owners made it, with the exception of Lenny Seligman, who had a soccer tournament commitment, and Dave Bosson, who was simply a no-show. Even young Sid returned from college for the festivities, and Craig Allen drove up from Arizona. Tim Dickinson, who doesn’t even have a team anymore, came for the camaraderie (and we put him to work). This is the 26th year of the Iggy Biggie Football League, and Dave, Danny Brehaut, Lenny and I are original owners, while Phil joined the second year and Mike shortly after that. It’s been a great run, and hopefully we can keep it going for another 26 years, despite the annual moans and groans from guys who are tired of having football rule their lives. I can’t imagine Sundays without watching the scoreboard.

The fantasy draft means the NFL season is upon us. Kickoff for the season-opener is Thursday night, when the Redskins and Giants square off.

Speaking of the NFL, did you see the story this week that the people proposing the new stadium in Southern California are promising there will be a team in Los Angeles by next season? Here’s a link to the story. The idea is that the team would play in the Rose Bowl for two years while the new stadium in the City of Industry is being built. That might not be so far-fetched, because the people behind the proposal are some of the wealthiest folks in the United States. Billionaire Ed Roski and his business partner John Semcken are heading the charge. I think this time it’s going to happen. Get ready for more football. Here’s more on the proposed Los Angeles Stadium.

Danny handed out UCLA caps to everyone at Sunday’s draft. What a cool thing to do, but even more exciting is the idea that his son Richard will be playing at UCLA next year. The idea that Richard may one day be eligible to be drafted in our fantasy football league is beyond comprehension, but not out of the realm of possibility. But make no mistake, if and when that time comes, he’ll be up for grabs in the Iggy Biggie draft just like every other player in the NFL, no matter how many caps Danny brings us…. By the way, Thank You!

High school football kicks off locally this weekend. Claremont High (and defensive coordinator Jack Harper) hosts Ontario, while Los Osos plays at home against Bishop Amat. Upland plays at Colony High. Greg Setlich’s Chino High team opens on Sept. 12. The Daily Bulletin has a great prep football section in today’s newspaper, and writer Clay Fowler has his pre-season predictions on his blog. I love high school football on Friday nights, and you’ll likely find me at a local game every Friday night from now until November (which will help me avoid much of the political advertising that will continue through then. However, I had to include this sign that sprung up Friday after the announcement of McCain's VP running-mate.).

Of course, I won’t be at those games until halftime during the first month of the season, since the Los Angeles County Fair opens this Friday and I’ll be back doing the house announcements at the grandstand shows (and yes, DA, I took the Fair photo from your site. Thanks.). It’s hard to believe the last year I was an employee of the Fair Association was 2000, and my last full-time Fair was 1999. It was a great event, but it took everything out of me. I loved it there, and I still have a tremendous affection for the Fair and Fairplex. But it’s awfully nice to be able to show up, go make my announcements, and then either watch a concert, walk the Fair or leave. When I worked there, it seemed as if I never left. I’m sure Beth and our boys would second that.

Friday night’s opening act of this year's End of Summer Concert Series is War. Okay, they’ve been the opening act a lot of times before, but they always put on a good show. Nothing mind-blowing or spectacular, but always enjoyable and one I am glad I saw. Maybe I won’t be going to a football game this weekend after all.

I always felt during the years I worked at the Fair that September was the strangest transition period in the seasons. When the event started, it was summer, and the days were still long. It was hot. By the time the Fair ended, it was October, and it was dark sooner. I had to break out a jacket at night, too. By that time, the baseball season was over and it was time for the playoffs and World Series.

Baseball’s final month is unlike the rest of the regular season. By this time, the pennant races have come down to just a few teams. Some teams are out of contention and are just playing out the schedule (like the Giants and the Padres), while a couple – like the Angels – have wrapped up a division title. But the others are still in the thick of things, and every game is meaningful. Despite their mediocre season and a recent terrible eight-game losing streak, the Dodgers are still in the pennant race.

I’ve watched great September battles happen many times, including one year when I worked for the Dodgers. They were deadlocked with the Braves heading into September in 1991, and the two teams fought all the way to the final weekend. It seemed as if neither team would lose, and every game was a nail-biter. In preparation for the possibility that the Dodgers would win the division, we prepared what would have been a beautiful playoff program. We had great stories and pictures, and it was probably 150 pages. All that was left to do was print it. As we left the office on the final Friday of the regular season – and of September – the Braves held a slim one-game lead. If the Dodgers could pull it out, the printer had instructions to push the button and start printing the programs. Unfortunately, Los Angeles lost that night and again on Saturday in Candlestick Park. Atlanta ended up winning the division by a game.

As a fan, those losses are always tough to take. As an employee, it was worse. When we went back to our Dodger Stadium offices on Monday, it was just another day at work, except everybody walked a bit slower and didn’t smile quite as much.

That is, until the next day, when Dodger owner Peter O’Malley hosted the staff for a luncheon in the Stadium Club. Everybody had a chance to visit and commiserate a bit, until after lunch, when Tommy Lasorda came in and addressed the employees. If anybody had a right to be down in the dumps, it would be the manager of the team. But he gave one of those classic Lasorda motivational speeches, and the troops were back and ready to fight. It was a remarkable performance, and one that won my respect for Lasorda forever.

But in looking back, it really didn’t matter, because the season was over. It was fall, and summer had faded away.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Olympic Hangover, Part Two

Second of a two-part series.

Throughout all of the preparations for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the organizers kept secret the identity of the final torchbearer who would light the flame in the Coliseum cauldron. Word leaked about some of the athletes who would carry the torch on its final legs, but nobody was certain.


As the anticipation and excitement escalated, I did the thing you’d naturally do on the opening day of the event I’d been thinking about for years – I went to a Saturday afternoon Dodger game.  Lenny Seligman, Mike Greer, Grant and I soaked in the sun as a fan near us claimed she knew the identity of the ultimate torchbearer, but that she was sworn to secrecy. After the game we rushed back to Claremont, with my cassette tape of the Olympic theme, “Bugler’s Dream,” playing over and over all the way to Mike’s house, where we watched the opening ceremonies on TV.  A couple hours into the telecast, Mike’s dad started going outside and looking toward the sky. When we finally asked why, he said he was checking to see if any of the giant balloons from the balloon release drifted our way. No luck.


The Coliseum never looked better (remember, I spent the previous two years working and attending USC, Los Angeles Express and Los Angeles Raiders games). And when 1960 Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson ran the anchor leg of the torch run and ignited the cauldron at the peristyle end, the Olympic Games had finally returned to Los Angeles.


When Beth and I put in our ticket order more than a year before the start of the Olympics, we tried to spread our choices so we could attend many events. Beth ended up giving her tickets away to many of the events, but she still attended track and field, basketball, swimming, diving and probably more. As it turned out, we had tickets for almost every day of the Games. When I added in the tickets I received as payment for working for Track and Field News, we ended up at one or more events every day of the Olympics, except one. I had a media credential, so I went to USC that day and walked around the Olympic Village. And when I wasn’t at a venue, we were watching on television or starting our own events, like the hose game (high jumping over a hose strung across the pool) and synchronized floating, which involved the strenuous task of floating on a raft while doing nothing else.


The first day of athletic competition was on Sunday. While my friends and I played over-the-line at Pomona College in the morning, the results quickly started coming in for the cycling road races from Mission Viejo. The Games had started and I hadn’t yet had a chance to watch.


But that didn’t take long, since we had tickets to our first event that night. Beth and I joined Susie and Gordon DesCombes at the Forum for a first-round basketball game between Australia and Korea. Or maybe it was Brazil… or Canada. I can’t remember who played, but we had great seats, and Pat Riley was just a few rows in front of us. Darleen May, who has since died but was the women’s basketball coach at Cal Poly Pomona at the time, was one of the referees.


The rest of the Olympics were non-stop action. Looking back, I can count going to at least nine of the venues and seeing 11 different sports. That doesn’t count watching multiple days of basketball and volleyball, and five days of track and field (I missed a couple days). I had a portable television plugged into the lighter in my car so I could see what was happening elsewhere (okay, traffic was easy, but I didn’t watch TV while I was driving). One day Lenny and I went to a U.S. men’s basketball game early one afternoon at the Forum (the team with Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Mullin, etc.), and then sped down the freeway (and no rush hour traffic) to Long Beach for volleyball that evening. The next day I did the same thing with Mike, starting with a U.S. men’s basketball game and then wrestling in Anaheim. Then we rushed back to the Kilsby’s house in Claremont to watch the end of an exciting women’s volleyball game on TV.


Greg Setlich and I went to a volleyball game one night, and paired up again later for track and field at the Coliseum. That night we ventured over to USC and found a beer garden area just outside the entrance to the Olympic Village. It was open to the public and had live music, along with plenty of cold refreshments. Athletes would also come over for a beer and to visit friends and family, and as the Games wound down and their events were complete, more and more athletes would join the fun. For the remainder of the Olympics, it became my nightly hangout, and I’d be joined by different friends. Grant I went a couple of times after being at the Coliseum, and Dave was with us one of the nights. Ross Bosson and I went there on the final Saturday night after watching the gold medal boxing bouts at the Sports Arena. Mingling with other fans and athletes, we tried to convince people I was a Swedish pole vaulter.


I went to water polo with Jim Moore, and Beth and I went to baseball at Dodger Stadium with Jim and Andi. That was the team with Claremont’s own Mark McGwire, whose dad, John, was my dentist at the time.


The track and field was the best. There would be separate morning and afternoon/evening sessions. The mornings were mainly heats and qualifying events, but they were still fun to watch. Dave, Grant and I watched a few decathlon events in the morning, and then walked back over to USC so I could work on the newsletter for T&F News (in which I wrote that Mary Decker was a lock to win the 3,000). We returned to the Coliseum to watch Daley Thompson from Great Britain earn the title of World’s Greatest Athlete as the winner of the decathlon.


Beth and I were there to see Carl Lewis win the 100, and to see Jackie Joyner fade in the 800 meters and lose the heptathlon to Glynis Nunn of Australia by just five points.


Grant and I watched Lewis win the long jump, and we witnessed countless other events. But of course, the clearest memory is the women’s 3,000 meters. With her win at the World Championships in Helsinki the year before, Decker was the favorite. But teenage South African barefoot runner Zola Budd, running for Great Britain, had recently set the world record in the 2,000 and was suddenly Decker’s biggest threat.

Sitting fairly low on the north side of the track near the peristyle end, I had the binoculars clearly focused on the pack as they ran on the south side in front of the press box. Then it happened. I saw the bodies bounce and the runners break stride. The one in red tumbled to the ground. With the field glasses still pressed against my eyes, I shouted to Grant, “It’s her. She’s down. She’s out. It’s over.” Mary Decker wasn’t getting back to her feet. She stayed down as the training crew, led by Upland’s Mark Hill, came to the rescue. But the event that people came to see had lost its suspense. Maricicia Puica of Romania (the only Eastern Bloc country that participated) ran away from the field and won easily. A flustered Budd faded to seventh.

To this day, Beth and Susie take the credit – or blame – for Decker’s misfortune. Neither liked the cocky American crybaby, and as they watched the race at home live on TV, they commented that they wished she would fall. She did. Beth and Susie had the decency to admit they felt badly afterwards, because it was their fault (so stop blaming Zola Budd).

The 16 days of the 1984 Games proved that Los Angeles was a different place when the world was visiting. As Beth and I drove on Manchester toward the 110 freeway after the women’s basketball gold medal game at the Forum, a seedy-looking guy pulled up next to us and waved to get our attention. Ignoring him would have been the smart thing to do in South-Central Los Angeles. But cautiously, we cracked the window enough to hear him ask, “Did we win da gold?”

That's the reason I love the Olympics. It's not just the sports and the athletic competition, but the world putting everything else aside (for the most part) to come together for something magnificent, where people's accomplishments are celebrated and their achievements live forever in the memories of guys like me.

On Sunday, Aug. 12, the Olympics came to a glorious conclusion, but not without a few final-day events. Beth and I met her mom, Jeanette, at the swim stadium for the platform diving finals, where Greg Louganis dazzled the world with his gold-medal performance.

That was all for us. We were home with hours to spare before the local grocery clerk took the Coliseum stage and led 93,000 people singing “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” and the final fireworks lit the sky.


Within days, life returned to normal in L.A. The freeways were again packed, and smog filled the air. But for that magnificent summer, Los Angeles was the capital of the world.


As expected, the United States was the big medal winner that year, as it was this summer in Beijing. Interestingly, Americans won this year’s much-ballyhooed Olympic medal count with an impressive 110 total medals. By comparison, and with the absence of 14 Eastern Bloc nations, the U.S. won an astounding 174 medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics, including 83 gold medals. Nineteen-eighty-four really was a year that shined with gold in Los Angeles.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Olympic Hangover

First of a two-part series.

Before they get too far behind us, I still wanted to get in at least one more blog about the Olympics. I think this is the first time since the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles that I was truly captivated for every day they were on, and saddened when they ended. Of course, I always miss them when they are over, and I was going through major withdrawals Monday night with no beach volleyball or track and field to watch. The alternative programming was the Democratic National Convention, which got no play in our house.

This Olympics was as good as any I can remember, if not better, and the images of Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Usain Bolt, LaShawn Merritt, Misty May-Treanor, Kerry Walsh, and even Kobe Bryant will be remembered forever. I loved turning on the TV at 5 a.m. to watch obscure sports, and trying to stay awake at night to see who won the medals.

This really was a great Olympics.

But it still pales in comparison to 1984. Not only because I was there, but because I was a part of it. I frequently look back on those as the greatest 16-day stretch in my life. Beth sometimes gives me a funny look when I say that, but I actually ran into a guy this week who said the same thing about his Olympic experience in 1984. It was magical.
The 1984 Olympics were more than just those 16 days. The build-up to the Games started for me when I enrolled in graduate school at USC in August of 1982. There was already an attitude around the campus that the Olympics were just around the corner, and my faculty adviser was a guy who had been to the previous five or six Olympics (or more), including Moscow in 1980. The McDonald’s Swim Stadium – otherwise known as the Olympic swimming and diving venue – was under construction on campus, and the Games were simply part of the daily conversation. They were definitely a priority. 

I attended the dedication ceremonies in 1983, and with the completion of the swimming pool, the campus hosted the U.S. Swimming Championships that summer. I ended up working for Associated Press, sending results from the venue. Later that summer, I did the same thing for the synchronized swimming championships. I’d never even heard of synchronized swimming, but there I was, sending the results over a telecopier machine from the press box at Dedeaux Field, which was the backstage press area for the swimming pool. Imagine the fun I had trying to explain to my friends that I worked the synchronized swimming championships.

The World Championships of Track and Field were renewed that summer in Helsinki, Finland. It wasn’t a problem for us that the event was telecast only on late-night TV and on weekends. After all, we were college-age students and staying out late was the norm. We’d go over to Beth and Susie’s apartment in LaVerne to watch, and our motto was “Helsinki – Hell With It.” The most memorable event for me was watching Mary Decker win both the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory over heavily favored Soviet runners in the 1,500.
That summer is when the tickets went on sale, and Beth and I decided we wanted to go to as many events as possible. We didn’t exactly have the budget to go to the big things, so we picked a few medal events, but mostly a mix and match of other things to fill out the schedule. We ruled out the opening and closing ceremonies, which were the most expensive tickets, and took our chances with the rest. We sent off our check and kept our fingers crossed, because it was another nine months or so before we’d know what we got.

Throughout my second year at USC, the Olympics were everywhere. They came up in class discussions, with fears of gridlock and pollution. Nike had huge ads featuring athletes plastered on the sides of buildings (even though Converse was the Olympic shoe sponsor). Former USC Olympian John Nabor spoke in one of my classes, and there were student-athletes that I knew who would try to qualify to participate. USC was one of the Olympic villages, and three of the primary venues were within walking distance (the Memorial Coliseum, Sports Arena and swim stadium). As the year went along, new things appeared, like the statues in front of the Coliseum next door, and flags and banners along the streets.

I think the biggest thrill for me to that point came in the spring of 1984. I was a graduate assistant for the sports information program (an academic program that was run in combination by the School of Journalism and the P.E. department). The adviser from the P.E. department invited her friend Bud Greenspan for dinner and to speak at her class one night. She also invited me. If you don’t know, Greenspan is the guy who makes all of the great Olympic documentary films, including the incredible “16 Days of Glory” series. You can’t miss the guy. He has a Telly Savalas haircut, and black horn-rimmed glasses that he always has mounted on his forehead. He wore them like that at dinner, too, as he talked about filming in Munich and Montreal and everywhere else. What a cool experience, eating dinner with the guy who immortalized the heroes.
My Aunt Jerry worked for Coca-Cola, which was an Olympic sponsor. She was able to purchase sets of Coke Olympic pins, and so I quickly became a pin collector. For my birthday that year, Beth gave me an incredible set of five framed posters by artist Ernie Barnes (his artwork is pictured in this blog). That was one of the presents I still treasure most, and the posters still hang in my home. Maybe that’s one of the many reasons I married her.

In the months leading up to the Games, Grant Warhurst and I tried to go to as many track meets as possible. We went to the Times Indoor Games at the Forum, where a team from the Soviet Union participated. That was especially significant, because the Soviets were rumored to be leading an Eastern Bloc boycott of the Olympics in retaliation of the U.S. ban of the 1980 Games in Moscow. We stayed until the end of the meet and watched Sergei Bubka from the USSR set a world indoor pole vault record at 19 feet, 1 1/2 inches, just minutes after American Billy Olson cleared 19-0 ¼. All the other events had long ended, and all eyes were glued to the drama in the pole vault pit.

The Sunkist Games at the Sports Arena were a month later, and there were numerous other meets, because it was an Olympic year. Everything was big, and most drew international competition. The Mt. SAC relays were amazing. Athletes from 23 countries competed, but the highlight was watching Carl Lewis win the 100 meters once again. Jackie Joyner won the heptathlon. Athletes who competed at Mt. SAC won 35 Olympic medals three months later. The UCLA invitational at Drake Stadium followed, leading up to the biggest U.S. meet of the year, the United States Track and Field Trials.
“Doc” Smith, my adviser at USC, helped me to do an unpaid internship with Track & Field News during the Trials and the Olympics. By this time I’d finished my master’s degree, but I wasn’t about to jump into the real world job force until after the Olympics were over. That much was certain after working the Trials. Talk about a kid in a candy store. I had jobs to do, but mostly I got to watch a great track and field competition. I even got to bring Grant.

The Olympic torch run came through Claremont that summer, and so Beth, Susie Rascon (soon to become DesCombes) and I stationed ourselves on Foothill Boulevard just east of Indian Hill to watch the early morning processional. Yeah, that was cool, too.

The organizers of the Los Angeles Olympics did a great job of building the anticipation and creating the buzz. People were ready. My friend Brent Shyer headed up the press operations at the baseball venue at Dodger Stadium, and Don DesCombes was a venue official at the Coliseum. I came to learn years later that George Bradvica was in charge of the equestrian venue at Santa Anita. Pam Bosson was part of the Jazzercise team that performed at the opening ceremonies. On the night she went to rehearsal, Dave Bosson, Grant and I went to Mt. SAC for a pre-Olympic tune-up track meet featuring the U.S. athletes and others. Everybody was seemingly a part of the Olympics.

The big day finally came on Saturday, July 28, 1984, but it seemed I’d already had an Olympic experience worth remembering. And things hadn’t even started.

First of a two-part series.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Kudos For Brehaut

Today's Los Angeles Times has a great story about Richard Brehaut on page 3 of the sports section. The newspaper ranks Richard as the No. 2 high school quarterback in Southern California behind Matt Barkley of Mater Dei. Click here to read the on-line version of the story.

Also, now has Richard ranked No. 4 nationally among senior high school quarterbacks, and he stands at No. 53 in the national rankings among all seniors at all positions. There is a great story on the Bruin Blitz Web site, but it is a subscription-based site, so all you can do is see the teaser information from this link.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The (Non) Rules of Blogging

It’s hard to believe there are any real rules to blogging. I started this because I like to write, and I felt this was a great place to spread good news, tell personal stories or make observations. Along the way, whether by accident or intent, a few items generated some conversation. They weren’t intended to be controversial, but a couple of topics inspired some people to offer their opinions. That’s all good.

But that isn’t necessarily the purpose of my site. I created this as my personal platform, and not as a public forum, especially when it comes to slamming other people. I love when people respond and enhance what I’ve written, like with my “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” blog and several others. That’s what makes this fun.

One of my other postings drew a lot of attention, and I was bothered by the blind hate that people expressed in their comments that followed. But those comments on my site were “vanilla” in comparison to those that were shared in broadcast e-mail to the CHS baseball community. Those all seemed to be from anonymous authors.

Through all of this, I watched as a man was ripped to shreds by people who didn’t have the decency or balls to put their names behind what they were writing. He may not have been the right fit for the job, and he made his share of mistakes, but I don’t think he deserved the public ridicule he received, especially from people who didn’t even take ownership of their criticism.

This isn’t about what I wrote in my own blogs. I raised the topics, and I’ll stand by that. But I also believe I was fair and balanced in my presentation of the issues. Readers took the ball and ran with it, and some of the comments got out of hand.

Apparently, there is an anonymous reader who isn’t happy that I won’t let him or her have a voice on my blog. That isn’t what my blog is about. That's why it's called "Sid's Side." There are other public forums to express yourself. And there are a lot of blogs out there that don’t even allow for public comments. If you don’t like reading what I have to say, then don’t.

This isn’t about censorship or freedom of speech. I am in full support of open exchange of ideas and opinions. But this is not a traditional medium, and there are no universal rules. I haven’t established standards for this site, and my approach will change and evolve as the site grows. And it will probably change from topic to topic, too. In fact, I even pulled one of my own writings because I wasn’t sure it sent the right message or tone.

I’m simply not going to host another debate that knocks and bashes someone who deserves a fair chance. As I said before, this is a guy who is incredibly talented, bright and fair. That may not be what some people want. I don’t think their complaints are even about him, but, unfortunately, he will be the target. That’s too bad, because those people don’t yet understand how lucky they are. He absolutely will make a positive difference. I know he still needs to prove himself. So let him.

Clearly, not everybody agrees with me. That’s fine. The disagreements won’t be played out in this blog. I’m not about to engage in the childish banter that plagued the community last season and fueled nasty e-mail battles. I don't see any benefit whatsoever. I’m happy to discuss this or any subject in an intelligent conversation, so feel free to send me a note or give me a call. I assume you know how to reach me.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the comment box open, and I hope you’ll respond. Now you have an idea of how I’ll run this thing.

And remember, anybody can start their own blog to express their views. You don’t even have to put your name behind it. Just keep in mind that what you put in print is subject to libel laws. Good luck.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making Olympic Memories

I love the Olympics. I’ve been intrigued by the magic of the Games ever since I was a kid. I think my earliest Olympic memory was when I was 8, watching parts of a hockey game at a friend’s house on a black-and-white TV during the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France. Oh, and I remember Peggy Fleming.

By the time the 1968 Summer Olympics from Mexico City rolled around, I was hooked. I remember they were in September, because school had started and we talked about the Olympics in class. I loved the pageantry and symbolism, and what it was all supposed to mean. I was captivated by the events. To me, Olympic sports like swimming, diving and track and field were as mainstream as football and baseball.

That’s because the Olympics are so memorable. And while I certainly can’t remember everything, there are athletic achievements that will live forever. They become part of our nation’s social fiber and our history. Remembering past Olympics is different from remembering batting averages or starting lineups. The Olympics are about incredible moments. The big ones come to life every four years, but there are so many others that live on, too.

I mean, when else would you ever watch events like badminton, ping pong (okay, they call it table tennis), trampoline, field hockey, team handball, rowing, fencing, archery, cycling, diving, equestrian and weightlifting on TV? I’ve watched bits and pieces of all of those, along with boxing and tennis. I’ve even watched some soccer, which means this must be special. NBC continues to feed us plenty of swimming, gymnastics, volleyball (indoor and beach) and basketball, and now track and field. Those are the things that TV viewers want. I want more. And more baseball and softball, too (it’s stupid that the IOC is getting rid of those and keeping the obscure sports).

I must have these feelings every four years, but the Beijing Olympics seem extraordinary to me. There already have been so many great moments to remember. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out these frame-by-frame photos in Sports Illustrated of Michael Phelps’ incredible 100-meter butterfly victory for his seventh of eight gold medals.

Forty years after falling in love with the Olympics, I don’t really recall if I actually watched the big events when I was younger, or if they are engrained in my head because of the coverage that followed. I do remember watching Tommie Smith and John Carlos run the 200 meters in 1968, and the medal ceremony that followed when they both raised the black power sign on the medal stand. But I didn’t witness Bob Beamon’s unbelievable long jump of 29-2 to become the first person to clear 28 feet, let alone 29. And I don’t remember watching when Jimmy Hines became the world’s fastest man or when Bill Toomey was crowned the world’s greatest athlete.
But the things that surprisingly still ring clear are both the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies. I was so impressed by the torchbearer climbing the steps to light the caldron. And when the games came to and end, there seemed to be such sadness. I remember an image of the word “Mexico 68” in fireworks, and watching as it slowly burned out. But then the word “Munich” appeared, and all was well. It was at that moment that I remember telling my dad that I wanted to go to the Olympics.

My dad died before the next Olympiad, so we were never able to have that experience together. And going to Germany was a bit unrealistic to begin with. But I knew that one day I’d go to the Olympics. Fortunately, in 1984, the Olympics came to

It’s just as well that I didn’t go to Munich in 1972, because that was the year the Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed the Israeli athletes. It was still at the heart of the Cold War, and the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union was at its peak. As a 13-year-old kid, I thought that the Eastern Block countries were cheating in everything. If not the teams, then the judges and the officials. Remember? They gave the Soviet basketball team three attempts to win until they finally did. The U.S. team didn’t go to the medal ceremonies, and they still haven’t accepted the silver medals…. A Russian won the 100-meters, but after two American sprinters were disqualified because they didn’t run in the early heats. Apparently they were told the wrong time of their races. And the East German women (if you wanted to call them that) won seemingly every event in the pool. Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut was the darling of the Games, but less-popular Lyudmila Turischeva was the true star USSR gymnastics team. The United States had its share of success, led by swimmer Mark Spitz with his seven gold medals. On the track, Dave Wottle, wearing a baseball cap, won the 800, and Frank Shorter won the marathon. Pomona’s Bob Seagren finished second in the pole vault.

I eventually did make it to Munich years later, and I saw the Olympic stadium and swimming pool. But there were no events then, and on that trip I was more interested in the Hofbräuhaus.

Still determined to go to the Olympics, my friend Lindsey Brewer and I decided we’d make a cross-country bike ride to Montreal.

Yeah, right.

But I watched the Games on TV and remember the highlights – Nadia’s perfect 10, Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon and unknown Edwin Moses winning the 400 hurdles. I also remember watching the platform diving, as Italian Klaus Dibiasi won his third straight gold, beating the 16-year-old American, Greg Louganis. Throughout the games, there was a McDonald’s commercial starring Claremont High’s Patti O’Toole. She was our own local Olympic celebrity.

The Games of 1980 really were only the Winter Olympics for the United States, because of Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow. Too bad. A couple of years later, when I was in graduate school at USC, the head of the public relations department, Kenneth “Doc” Smith, told me stories of just how great it was in Moscow. He called it the greatest Olympics that America never saw. There was no television coverage, since the U.S. didn’t participate. That summer came and went without the Olympics.

But the winter was different. The Lake Placid games probably provided more memories than most, and they produced one of the greatest moments ever –the American hockey team’s “miracle on ice” victory over Russia en route to the gold medal. I still remember living at the “Animal House” in Pomona, listening to KMET-FM, when Paraquat Kelly came on the air late one Friday afternoon and said, “We beat the Rooskies.” Our typically full house of college students was intently tuned in for the tape-delayed broadcast a few hours later.

My 1984 Olympic memories are too many for this blog, and they deserve a place by themselves. I still look back at that summer as the greatest 16 days ever. In the years that have followed, my love for the Olympics has been adopted by our kids, who look forward to our own special opening ceremonies with the Moores, Seligmans DesCombes and others who share our Olympic spirit. It really is an incredible time. Tune in before the magic is gone.