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THE INELIGIBLE MARRIED MAN
William F. Reed
April 12, 1971
Bill Toomey says it's kind of tragic, being the best decathlete in the world and (sob!) not being allowed to compete
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April 12, 1971

The Ineligible Married Man

Bill Toomey says it's kind of tragic, being the best decathlete in the world and (sob!) not being allowed to compete

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" 'Hi, Bill, hi. This is Fred Schwartz in Minneapolis. Get my telegram?'

" 'Yes, Mr. Schwartz, I'm delighted to learn I'm your athlete of the year.'

" 'Well, Bill, heh-heh, actually you're our track athlete of the year....'

"When you get to the banquet you find you're one of 25 guys sitting on an unsteady dais. And then it comes down to Award No. 400, the track athlete of the year, and by this time the applause sounds like the end of Laugh-In. You know, clap...clap...clap. When it's over, the cats hand out white envelopes to the pros and when they get to me they say, 'Have a nice dinner, buddy?'

" 'What's in the envelope?'

" 'Oh, that's for the pros. You don't want that, Bill. Naughty, naughty. You're an amateur athlete.'

"Another thing I don't like about banquets is that athletes are commercialized to the point where you're expected to be Instant Morality. Add four glasses of water to a prime rib dinner and—shazam!—you're supposed to begin talking about God. But in my speeches I would rather tell stories or answer questions. Preaching is a dangerous game. Athletes have no credentials to preach, no right to tell people how to live. You can't present a simple formula: eight hours sleep, good food, don't drink, smoke or be naughty and you'll win the Olympics. That's simply not true. I know some athletes who are real criminals. They do all the things that you're not supposed to do and they still win because they have a God-given ability. I think we should inform kids that not all athletes are the greatest examples of human dignity."

Toomey's friends think he has the looks, intelligence and personality to go into show business or politics. "He's losing his hair, though," says Mary. "He has to comb it just so, to cover his bald spots." Toomey is intrigued by show business, and he has already appeared on several TV talk shows ("I did the decathlon with Johnny Carson," he says. "I guess that was my first professional meet"). When ABC's Wide World of Sports covered the NCAA indoor track and field championships recently Toomey was the color man, and this summer he will do several meets for CBS. His dramatic debut came opposite Efrem Zimbalist Jr. As Toomey tells it:

"One night I came home beat to death after a workout. My body was moving like a Paramecium into the dining room, where I was going to absorb vast amounts of food and wine. The telephone rang. It was Warner Bros. They wanted me the next day to do a guest shot on The FBI.

"I froze. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and me. Just like I always dreamed. They read me my lines. Both of them. I wrote 'em down and hung up. Thoreson happened to be handy and he began to coach me. The rest of the evening I worked on my two lines. I had 'em cold, so smooth I could hardly believe it myself.

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