An opportunity!

ON THE TUNNEYSIDE OF SPORTS August 29, 2016 #608 Up next… An opportunity!

After further review…With the XXXIst Olympiad completed, many countries are busy counting the medals won by their athletes and comparing their numbers to other countries. We have become obsessed with numbers, rankings, and the hierarchies of success they seem to define. The thought here is any medal count, in a comparison mode, is misplaced. Oh, sure every country ought to be proud of the accomplishments of its athletes, but the opinion here is that the Olympics were designed for individual athletes to compete with the purpose of bringing people and countries together. Somehow, over time, that idea has been lost or discarded.

Fast approaching are the Paralympics, which will be held from September 7-18, in the same Rio venues as these summer games. While I have never attended the Paralympics, and will be unable to be in Rio for these games, I have watched with admiration (awe is more like it) what these athletes can do despite their limitations. The Paralympians use the term “Sport doesn’t care who you are.” So these athletes’ motto is: “Yes I can!” Let’s applaud them as individuals!

Some 40 years ago – about midway in my NFL tenure – I received a call from Teresa Brown, who invited me to attend the California Special Olympic Summer Games at U.C.L.A. with the idea of providing encouragement and inspiration to some 3,200 special athletes as they competed. Man, was that idea misplaced! After three days of watching these special athletes compete, awarding their medals, and taking pictures, I left as the recipient of more love and inspiration than I ever could impart to them.

Take Evelyn, an 11-year-old girl who won the 3-meter diving championship – and she was blind! Can you picture yourself climbing a ladder 10 feet high, walking out to the edge of a diving board, and diving into the water – that somebody told you was there?

Or watching an athlete, in a wheelchair with no use of either hand and the use of only one leg, due to cerebral palsy, push his wheelchair backwards 25 meters. It took him eight minutes, and he finished third! At the finish line I gave him a high-five and took a picture with him, then noticed his name tag, which read “Roger Tucker, age 59!” When is it too late to not keep trying?

“Be a Fan!” says the Special Olympic slogan, and I am certainly one. It is a privilege to be part of the Special Olympics and to speak to volunteer organizations in California, Arizona, Montana and others to encourage their involvement. “Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt!”—is the Special Olympic motto.

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A Bit of History…

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS August 22, 2016 #607 Up next…A Bit of History…

After further review…As Olympiad XXXI becomes history, let’s recall another bit of history! Forty years ago this was an historic time for both the National Football League and this writer. On August 16, 1976 at 6 p.m., we kicked off in Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, Japan at the start of the Maninichi Star Bowl game. The St. Louis Cardinals vs. the San Diego Chargers. This was the first NFL game played outside of North America and the first game ever played in the far east. I was honored to be selected as the Referee with a six-man crew of Gordon Wells (umpire), George Murphy (head linesman), Royal Cathcart (line judge), Grover Klemmer (back judge), and Armen Terzian (field judge), all Californians (was the league trying to save a few bucks?) We met in San Diego at Lindberg Field on August 12th, to board a Northwest flight with the Chargers. We were allowed one checked luggage weighing no more than 66 lbs., and one carry-on bag.

We flew from Lindberg Field to Seattle to refuel. Then the 12- hour flight to Tokyo, arriving on August 13th at 4:45 p.m. and losing a day due to the International Date Line. We were graciously escorted to waiting automobiles for the long trip to the Grand Palace Hotel, which was to be our residence for the next five days. It was a grind, not so much from the distance, but because the traffic into downtown Tokyo was horrendous even 40 years ago!

The weather in Tokyo was hot and muggy. We had Saturday and Sunday to visit that great city, but took part of Saturday to inspect Korakuen field. The Japanese stadium crew was very efficient and most accommodating to us. The game was scheduled for Monday night and the kickoff occurred as planned. Tommy Prothro was the Chargers head coach with Dan Fouts at quarterback; the Cardinals head coach was Don Coryell with Jim Hart as their quarterback. Even though it was the first pre-season game, the coaches started and played their regular players most of the game.

The stadium was full with some 38,000 fans, since the NFL decided to allow US service personnel to attend at a “reduced admission cost,” or put more prosaically “free.” The Army and Navy bands played at half time and the Cardinals cheer leaders performed beautifully. A light drizzle fell most of the game. Cardinals 20, Chargers 10 was the final score. The Japanese crowd yelled “Blitzen” “Blitzen” though out the game encouraging the defenses to “blitz” the quarterbacks. They loved that play!

Will you take time to enjoy a bit history in today’s busy world?

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Jim’s latest book “101 Best of TunneySide of Sports” is available for $20. which includes tax, shipping and an autograph, if requested. Please use the above email. Thank You!

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“In Search of Perfection”

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS August 15, 2016 #606 Up next… “In Search of Perfection”

After further review…In an opening Women’s Beach Volleyball Match during the XXXI Olympiad, China was playing Switzerland. China won the first set 24-22; the Swiss took the second set 21-18, forcing a third set. In that third set, which recognizes the match winner as the first team to reach 15 points, China was leading 14-11 when a double-net violation occurred, meaning that a player from each T*E*A*M touched the net. As I understand it, in a double net violation, the player who touches the net first is the only culpable party. China won that point on the on the original judgment that a Swiss player had touched the net. China wins 15-11! However, the Swiss players complained to the umpire that China had also touched the net.

The chair umpire, it appeared to this viewer, made no decision, but immediately pointed to her right (with both arms) toward the location of the video replay booth, indicating that video replay would supply the evidence to make the decision. We, the viewing audience, waited for what seemed like an eternity. The video replay crew then reported to the chair umpire that the Swiss player touched the net first, and thus China had won the point, the set, and the match.

While the Chinese celebrated, the Swiss continued to protest—apparently to no avail. Back to you, Bob Costas in the studio, who then introduced NBC’s Tom Brokaw. The veteran newsman set out on a previously recorded boat tour of the Amazon, with beautiful pictures and a thoughtful narrative. But wait! About five minutes into the tour, back came Costas with “We have an update from that match.” And back to the Copacabana beach we went.

“We have a reversal of the video decision!” The “reversal” apparently affirmed that a Chinese player had touched the net first, thus negating the victory and awarding the point to the Swiss. This made the score China 14, Switzerland 12, with the Swiss now serving. China won that point, 15-12, and with it the set and the match! What went on in that replay booth that caused the reversal? Do we allow some leeway here, since these officials are not full-time? Why didn’t the chair umpire make a determination before going to replay? Did the all-seeing eye simplify or complicate the situation?

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The TunneySide takes issues each week from the sports world and transforms them into positive messages for better living. His books and audio tapes are available at the above email. Thank You!

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