- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
THE HANGING JUDGE
The superior job ABC-TV is doing with the Olympic Games—the camera work is particularly impressive—was badly marred by Howard Cosell's treatment of Stan Wright, the track coach whose grievous error forced two U.S. athletes out of the 100-meter dash. The sprinters, Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson, though stunned with disappointment, acted with poise and dignity in their interview with Cosell. They displayed little bitterness or rancor, although in response to a direct question Robinson said, yes, he felt the blame was Coach Wright's. When Cosell then interviewed Wright, he said Robinson had declared the coach "the culprit," a semantic switch that hardly reflected the words or tone the runner had used.
Cosell relentlessly badgered the obviously suffering Wright, even though the coach had already accepted responsibility for the incident. The gratuitous "commentary" that followed the interview was cruel and unnecessary. Cosell seems to think himself a crusading district attorney, and his behavior in the Wright interview brought keenly to mind the gibe of sportswriter Larry Merchant, who once mockingly saluted the pretentious broadcaster for "making the world of fun and games sound like the Nuremberg Trials."
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
Occasionally there comes out of college football a small tale which refutes the belief that sport is the tail wagging the dog of education.
This one is about 21-year-old Billy Walker of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a black football player recruited from Morristown, N.J. UNO is a commuter school, and the free ride there consists solely of tuition and books.
A fullback. Walker was elected co-captain for the 1971 season, but he didn't play. He was ineligible. He had flunked too many courses.
"There is no one to blame but Billy Walker," said Billy Walker. "I did real well my first two years. No honor list, but I was holding my own in a place totally strange to me. Then I started goofing off, skipping classes and the like. I had 24 hours of flunk, no scholarship help and no prospects."
His inclination was to return to New Jersey, feel sorry for himself and take to the streets. But friends, among the most influential of whom was Phil Wise, a former UNO teammate who is now a kick return specialist with the New York Jets, advised him to return to school. So Walker got a part-time job and re-enrolled to repeat those failed 24 hours. Aside from two regular semesters, he took two more terms in summer school.
On a Friday he got his grades: C in both courses. The next Monday he checked out equipment for his final season with the UNO team. He won't be co-captain, but he did learn something.