Ringing 'Em Up
Staff writer Alan Shipnuck reports from the NCAA men's volleyball championship.
Last Saturday evening, after coaching UCLA to the NCAA crown on the Bruins' home court at Pauley Pavilion, Al Scates took inventory of his championship rings. No small task, considering that Scates had just won his 16th national collegiate title. "I always wear the most recent one," said the Bruins' 56-year-old coach, fidgeting with the diamond-encrusted 1995 edition on his right ring finger. "Several have gone as bar mitzvah gifts. My dad, son and father-in-law each have one. Four are at home—maybe only three, I'm not sure. The rest? I have no idea.
"The rings themselves don't mean much," Scates continued, flashing a gap-toothed grin. "Once you've got enough of them, that is." UCLA's defeat of Hawaii (15-13, 12-15, 9-15, 17-15, 15—12) was one of the most satisfying wins of Scates's 34-year career. The Bruins were playing the unaccustomed role of underdog to a powerful Rainbows team that had beaten them twice and been ranked No. 1 for most of the season. But UCLA gutted out a victory that was testament more to its character than its talent. And that is testament to Scates, who began his tenure at UCLA in 1963, when, as a senior middle blocker, he was named player-coach. "There wasn't much coaching going on back then in volleyball," says Scates. "I learned more from [UCLA basketball coach] John Wooden than anyone else. I never talked to him. I just watched and learned."
Long after his eligibility had expired, Scates competed against his players in practice, just for the thrill of beating them. These days he stays on the sidelines, but his players still feed off his aggressive attitude. "Al likes us to walk into a gym and have the other team know they have no chance," says Kevin Wong, a swing hitter on UCLA's 1993 and '95 championship teams. "He likes to stomp on teams."
It wasn't easy against talented Hawaii, which had brought along 4,000 of its boisterous fans. "This one was special because we had to work so hard for it," said Scates after the title match. "Yes, it will feel nice to slip this ring on when it comes. Of course, who knows what's going to happen to the old one."
Before traveling to Massachusetts to run in last month's Boston Marathon, Don Holshuh knew he would need a way to get his prerace warmup outfit back from the starting line in Hopkinton to his house in Keene, N.H. That's why Holshuh, a 47-year-old dermatologist, brought along two large, postage-paid, self-addressed envelopes and a couple of carnations. About an hour before the race, he gave one envelope full of clothing to a girl standing near the starting point and asked her to mail it, giving her a carnation for her trouble. Just before the start, he gave the other envelope and flower to a woman standing on a nearby lawn.
Holshuh's first bundle arrived two days later, but he had to wait more than a week for the other, which arrived somewhat tattered and bearing the return address of the Hopkinton police department. It turned out that the woman who took Holshuh's second envelope had, in the words of the department's Marilyn Palmer, "watched too many made-for-TV movies." Fearing she had received a letter bomb, she dialed 911. The cops arrived and cordoned off the lawn until a bomb squad came to X-ray the package, revealing a pair of gloves and a mesh T-shirt inside. That undoubtedly produced a sigh of relief from the woman, who had reported to the police that the man had "handed her a package, then left the scene."
He and some 38,000 accomplices.
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