Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Discus Legend Mac Wilkins: 3 Throws, 3 World Records on May 1, 1976 1

Posted on April 13, 2013 by Rojo Grande
(photo: sporting-heroes.net)

(photo: sporting-heroes.net)

 

I once rubbed elbows with Hercules.

It was at the 1976 Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. My wife and I were crossing a grass practice field during a break in the action. From a distance, our attention was drawn to a tall, dominant figure striding in our direction.

With each approaching step, the figure took on the glowing countenance of someone special—almost beyond human. Tanned, handsome and muscular, he was clothed only in the thin garments of competition—obviously an elite athlete in peak condition.

As an athlete myself, I had been around a few hard bodies, but I had never seen such a physical specimen as this. He whisked right by us, his long hair and mustache accentuating the aura of a Greek god. We were speechless, mouths agape.

When we caught our breath, the dawning of reality hit us both at once: That was Mac Wilkins!

That simple brush with greatness gave us a focal point for the summer. Wilkins became our hero (and my wife’s not-so-secret crush). Via television and newspapers, we followed his exploits right through his Olympic record and gold medal in the discus at the ’76 Montreal Games.

And though that Olympic masterpiece will no doubt be considered the high point of Wilkins’ incredible 23-year career, it may have been eclipsed (in terms of sheer accomplishment) at a relatively insignificant track meet in the Bay Area of California in early May of that year. Read the rest of this entry →

The Greatest Track Meet of All-Time: 1962, USA vs. USSR 8

Posted on February 10, 2010 by Rojo Grande

Annihilation.

Such fatalism and finality we associate with that word.

Yet in the early 1960s, that is exactly what the planet faced as the two world powers of that time postured behind their immense nuclear arsenals. Never before or since had the world been so close to self-destruction.

In the midst of those tense times, perhaps as a subliminal human survival instinct, the two powers somehow continued to participate in a popular athletic rivalry: the USA vs USSR Track and Field dual meet series.

Obviously, Earth survived.

Historians would eventually credit diplomacy, through glasnost and perestroika, with the ending of that Cold War. But at the moment when fingers in high places crept closest to that mythical red button, the 1962 USA/USSR dual track meet may have just provided the distraction which caused both sides to blink.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had already spewed his famous “We will bury you!” tirade. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba had President John F. Kennedy reeling on the defensive.

Only days before the meet, Soviet experts were secretly whisked to Cuba to oversee the installation of nuclear missile sites—targeting American cities. Fallout shelters and routine survival drills by school children were the order of the day. US pilot Gary Powers had recently been shot down and captured by the Soviets in the famous spy plane incident.

As if confrontation on terrestrial levels were not enough, the so-called “space race” added to the contentious spirit of the times. Read the rest of this entry →

The Millrose Games: Producing Track & Field Legends For Over a Century 10

Posted on January 26, 2010 by Rojo Grande
The Millrose Games have been a New York Tradition for 103 years.

The Millrose Games have been a New York Tradition for 103 years.

Only astute track and field fans or sports historians (or really old geezers) would recognize these names: Paavo Nurmi, Cornelius Warmerdam, Glenn Cunningham…

A few more casual track fans might perk up at these names: Mary Decker, Marty Liquori, Jackie Joyner-Kersee…

And is there a self-respecting sports enthusiast who has not heard of Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis or Yelena Isinbayeva…?

All these legends of track and field—and more…many, many more—have left their blood, sweat and tears upon the fabled boards at the Millrose Games.

Yet the greatest legend of them all may be The Games themselves.

This Friday, January 29, New York’s Madison Square Garden will host the 103rd edition of the prestigious Millrose Games—arguably the most famous, and certainly the oldest indoor track and field meet in the world. The Millrose will welcome top athletes from high school, collegiate and professional levels in a kickoff of the USA Track and Field Visa Championship Series.

Consider these milestones:

Friday will be the 96th time the Millrose Games has been hosted by Madison Square Garden, making it the oldest continuous sporting event held there. Read the rest of this entry →

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