Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Billy Mills, Legendary Dream Chaser

IT WAS A NAME from my past -- Billy Mills.
Now the legendary Olympic champion might have faded from most people's memory banks, but not to mine. In fact, his name was in the news just a week or so ago when he spoke about chasing a dream to some 175 people, mostly cross-country runners and their parents, in a Chicago area school cafeteria.
"Identify and follow your dream. Every dream has a passion; every passion has a destiny. Find the eagles' wings in you," he told the group. As usual, Mills was inspiring in this age when most so-called heroes have been soiled, from the likes of Michael Vick to an assembly of Hollywood types.
But not Billy Mills.
If you don't recognize the name; he's been an inspiration to an entire nation, but this Oglala Lakota was once just a poor Indian boy, growing up in poverty on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
However, as he is oft to explain, a legendary figure, Crazy Horse, changed his life. So much so that Mills soared like an eagle during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and then embarked on instilling pride in his "nation." Later he would become an author of 'Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding,' which he collaborated with prolific writer Nicholas Sparks of 'Message in a Bottle' fame.
Besides those credentials, he was the subject of a 1983 movie, 'Running Brave,' in which this columnist had a role, and I'll explain about that later on.
But back to Mills and his connection with his hero, the oft-maligned Crazy Horse.
"When I was a nine-year-old youngster on the reservation on Pine Ridge my dad told me of a rumor that Crazy Horse would be carved in our sacred lands. That's the first time I had heard of this great war chief, the spiritual leader among the Lakota, " Mills wrote, adding, "Crazy Horse challenged me to follow my dreams. We've all heard Martin Luther King say, "I have a dream." Crazy Horse is challenging many, many Lakota people to simply follow their dream. He set a pattern for us to follow the dream."
While Crazy Horse has been described as a great warrior, Mills explained, in detail, what his concept of a "warrior" is in four areas from assuming responsibility; never forgetting humility; the power of giving and also centres it around "his or her core of spirituality."
Mills was also clear in describing a warrior's four desires including his or her wanting to be unique; wanting to belong; making a creatuive difference to society; and also wanting to understand and to promote understanding.
As New West Network's Bill Schneider, in a recent article, wrote that Mills' most inspiring moment came in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when facing unbelievable odds, he passed favorites Ron Clarke and Mohamed Gammoudi like a bolt of lightning to collect the gold medal in the 10,000 meters. ( still carries that incredible footage and its reenactment certainly can be seen in the movie, 'Running Brave').
This was a man, who overcame incredible adversity, as Schneider's article recalled, (Mills) was "living in the back seat of a car during high school ... and dragging home a bed-bug-ridden mattress from a dump to sleep on ... and of being beaten up by his best friends because he refused to get drunk with them ... and more challenges than any of us have ever faced."
Mills, in this age of self-centred glorification, has been an inspiration to generations of youth and in Schneider's article it was never more obvious, for at age of eight after his mother died, his father told him, "son, now you have broken wings, but if you follow your dream, you can have the wings of an eagle."
He is a man of inspiration even in his 60s and is a noble warrior in every sense with a solid background in business plus raising money for charity and also having in the neighbourhood of 75 speaking engagements a year.
In the early 1980s, Mills was the hero of a film called 'Running Brave,' which was shot in Edmonton and near Drumheller, Alta., and starred Robbie Benson in the title role with August Schellenberg as Billy's father and this columnist as a carnival fighter, The Viking.
Although, I didn't get to meet Mills at the time, the film unfolds with a fight scene, in which the father wins, but dies the following day of a heart attack.
One of the most striking parts of Schneider's all-encompassing article, was the fact that since those "glory days" of the 1964 Olympics, Mills certainly hasn't been standing still; inspiring youth throughout the world to "empower yourself," and "don't be a quitter."
SPEAKING OF FLICKS (From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader): Movie -- Ben Hur (1959). Scene -- The chariot scene. Blooper -- A red sports car is driving by the Colosseum in the distance ... Movie -- Gandi (1982). Scene -- Crowd scene. Blooper -- One of the peasants is wearing Adidas tennis shoes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

'The Gipper' back in the headlines

GEORGE GIPP was a legend in his day -- and he's even one today, some 86 years after his death.
He is part of the sporting lexicon and the line: "Win one for the Gipper," always brings a smile to my face. However, last Thursday, there was a desecration of sorts in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. That's when historian Michael Bynum, with the acquiescence of Gipp's great-nephew, Rick Frueh of Chicago, had the body exhumed.
The reason was apparently done for DNA testing so the results could be included in Bynum's upcoming book on Gipp.
However, there was fury that such a thing was done and as one relative told the Houghton, Mich. Mining Gazette, "it's a sacrilege against our community up here, the Gipp name, and the people."
In addition, the ESPN crew claimed they only were documenting it and didn't play a role in the exhumation.
While the Gipp's Notre Dame accomplishments have faded with time, his supposedly death-bed lines still resonate through most people's minds:
"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."
Although Gipp died from pneumonia on Dec. 14, 1920, it wasn't until a November 1928 game against Army that those inspiring words of "Win one for the Gipper" were apparently used. And they did win.
That famous line has been used throughout North America when teams faced tough odds. It became a political slogan for Ronald Reagan (he played Gipp in the 1940 movie classic, Knute Rockne, All American) as he ascended to the U.S. presidency and it was later even used by the Bushes.
Besides Gipp's prowess as a sensational runner, passer, defensive back, punter, kicker and kick returner on the football field, he had gone to Notre Dame on a baseball scholarship and had wanted to join the Chicago Cubs following graduation. However, death overtook him much too soon, at age 25.
While Gipp's name has been thrust into the news in the past few days, his legacy lives on, on the Internet because of CMC Worldwide chairman and CEO Mark Roesler. His 26-year-old marketing and management company has become the dominant force in "the evolving intellectual property arena" and one of his clients happens to be the estate of the late George Gipp.
Roesler launched his organization with this mission: "I believed it was possible to protect the rights of famous deceased people and to provide their families with control and money they deserved." And he's been a tiger in protecting those rights and has spread his "gospel" throughout the world with its headquarters in Indianapolis with additional offices in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro.
If you look up in the dictionary, you probably could find Roesler's name listed under Entrepreneur, for he first put himself through college -- DePauw and Indiana U -- by owning a roofing company and delving into real estate.
With this background, he joined Curtis Publishing, which supplied Saturday Evening Post and became licensing manager of the great Norman Rockwell's artwork.
Later he became an advocate for heirs of deceased celebrities, who had been denied any rights concerning names or likeness being used, according to his bio.
Today, Roesler and his team look after more than 200 clients and, indeed, the list is impressive to say the least:
In the entertainment field, there's Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Ingrid Bergman, Errol Flynn, Rock Hudson, Ginger Rogers, Alan Ladd, Telly Savalas, Dudley Moore, Natalie Wood, Marlon Brando. Some of his clientele are among the living and he makes he/she available for personal appearances such as Sophia Loren and Mickey Rooney.
The music list includes Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Billie Holiday, Cass Elliott, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, Tammy Wynette, and the late Tiny Tim.
The sports list includes Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, Rocky Marciano, Thurman Munson, Vince Lombardi, Arthur Ashe, and, of course, George (The Gipper) Gipp.
There's a historical section and ecompasses such names as General George S. Patton, Jr., Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Frank Lloyd Wright and Amelia Earhart.
In summation, Roesler and the CMP team of lawyers "police" the Net against cyber squatters and assuring his lengthy roster of legends are fully protected. For further information, check out and and also his claim that "we've built our business on being very litigious." That means he's a fighter for the rights of mainly deceased stars and their surviving families in the celebrity-marketing business.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Grumps' Grumblings: 'Tis the season for us, jocks

ACTUALLY, I'd sworn on a stack of Baseball Digests I wouldn't bring up the subject. However, it's just too vital to every male, and even a segment of females, on this planet to bypass.
No, I'm not talking about the political ramifications surrounding The Hill (Ottawa) or The Capitol (Washington, D.C.) or even Britney Spears' questionable mothering skills, but the latest happenings in the Valley of the Jocks.
While The Missus was determined to fill her daily menu with Dr. Phil, Judge Judy, O'Reilly and even the late, late reruns of Audacious Bill. I was equally passionate in ruling the roost with the baseball playoff openers, the opening faceoffs to the NHL season along with the latest clips from the NFL and CFL. After all, it is October and the annual convergence of all things sporting.
So there I was on Wednesday sinking low in an easy chair with a pop by my side and tuning in to the Colorado Rockies and Phillies' contest from Philadelphia. And guess who was on the mound for the Rockies? None other than Boomer Francis, the 6-5, 205-pound sensation from North Delta, B.C.
Now, as everyone should know, Jeff Francis has other credentials than owning a winning 17-9 record during the National League season, for he's a one-time physics and astronomy major at UBC.
When looking up his scientific data in something called Symmetry, I found that Francis could actually discuss the Magnus Force, but in that same article Francis downplayed his being an intellectual and was quoted as saying, "I can't get any more crossword clues that anyone else."
Just as I was watching Francis' masterful performance, The Missus tapped me on the shoulder and said: "Listen, this game had better be over before Dr. Phil comes on."
That's when I whispered under my breath, "C'mon, Jeff, hold those Phillies in check and do it pronto." He did for a 4-2 opening playoff win.
Without thinking (is that your problem, too?) I thought I could alleviate any tension by mentioning the Red Sox and LA Angels would be playing next. It was met with a frown.
During the "intermission" between games, I retired to my office and uncovered a boxful of aging Baseball Digests that Mr. Bill had hoarded away in his stash of great literature.
So here's one from August 1971 with a picture of Vida Blue, followed by the words: Baseball's Most Exciting Young Pitcher and also turn lines to Mickey Mantle: "The Game I'll Never Forget" and on Page 86, writer Bob Du Vall asked the dramatic question of Whatever Became Of ... Del Crandall, Joe DeMaestri, Forrest (Smoky) Burgess, Vic Lombardi and Erv Dusak?
The minutes ticked away as I found an article on the 1969 World Series when the Amazin' New York Mets toppled the Baltimore Orioles and it brought back memories which I still savour to this day.
There I was, a young sportswriter for the late, great Toronto Telegram, rubbing shoulders with the Ol' Professor, Casey Stengel, and watching the likes of Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, Ron Swoboda, Ron Taylor, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Al Weis, Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones and managed, so magnificently, by Gil Hodges.
Those thoughts were jarred when I heard Bill O'Reilly's voice in the distance.
"Hey, turn on the Red Sox game, please!"
At least, I did catch the last few pitches of Josh Beckett's magnificent performance in shutting out the Angels 4-0 and anxiously awaited the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs opener from Phoenix. After all, Carlos Zambrano was on the mound for my Cubbies.
Well, in the sixth, Chicago manager Lou Piniella, for whatever strange reason, yanked the Z Man and replaced him with reliever Carlos Marmol. It was then that Arizona soared ahead 3-1.
No wonder I still have a case of indigestion from that opening loss, but there will be better days.
BASEBALL NAMES (From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader): Chicago Cubs -- There was no official nickname in the early 1900s (although they were informally called both the Colts and the Orphans). However, as I've mentioned before, in 1902, a "thrifty" sportswriter dubbed them "the Cubs" because it fit into a headline. The name stuck and the team officially adopted it a few years later.
REMEMBERING GIL HODGES (From Roger Kahn's Book, The Boys of Summer, devoted to the old Brooklyn Dodgers): "Hodges had the largest hands in baseball. He wore a glove at first base only because it was fashionable."
"Hodges has to be the strongest human in baseball."
"What about Ted Kluszewski?"
"If he's stronger than Hodges, then he ain't human."
Hodges, the one-time Dodger and Mets' manager, died at age 47 in April, 1972.