At my invitation four top kayakers joined me, and we carefully approached the river through the heavily guarded Blue Lake Country Club. We paddled three miles up river to Pinnacle Falls, which we had to portage. From there we proceeded to the jump site, but only at the last minute in order to prevent anyone from kicking us out. Once there, I had a tough decision to make: either to film the jump from the far shore upstream in good light or to paddle pick-up in the choppy river where a camera was useless. I chose to forget my camera and pick up Evel. As it was, I was the closest person to him. He came in fast despite the drag chute—much faster than slow-motion TV leads you to believe.
I feared Evel would jump free because he was too low for his chest chute to open. He said later that he had tried to get out but couldn't. Thank goodness he was strapped tight and so survived the worst crash one could ever imagine, striking point first on a pinnacle of rock and then dropping free for 100 feet only to be partially snubbed by the chute at the instant of the second crash. The rocket then caromed down the steep vine-covered slope and came to rest on the bank.
I was directly under the ramp at blastoff and approximately 100 feet away as the Sky-Cycle landed. However, before I reached the site I was overtaken by an outboard, which arrived a few seconds before I did. We got Evel out and I checked him over. He was bleeding but O.K.—unhurt except for scratches but in shock. He had no knowledge of what had happened or where he was, although he was glad to be alive. We transferred him to the outboard for the trip to the helicopter. During this ride I found out what he was made of. In spite of his shock and mental trauma he grabbed a Sky-Cycle aileron away from a youngster in the boat and said, "What's your name?" Then he graciously pulled out a pen and wrote, "To Mike from Evel Knievel" and handed the precious souvenir back to the overwhelmed boy. When we reached the copter I climbed in with Knievel, intending to take him to the hospital, but I checked his pulse—it was 78—and decided to let him go back to his crowd and his family.
It was two or three minutes before the people would clear a way for our landing. Immediately we were crushed and crunched by an insane mob which tried to tear him apart, some grabbing for souvenirs, though most were trying to wish him well. One burly hand reached across my face to his helmet and received a well-earned bite—to the bone. I became concerned for Evel's and my own safety and began screaming that Evel was badly injured, that I was a doctor and would they clear a path for the injured man. The crowd parted and we slipped safely through.
The rest of the story has been seen on TV, except that Evel drew tears from my eyes as he threw his $22,000 diamond-studded cane to the crowd below. He is a showman. He is a braggart. But he is as courageous as they make them and a hell of a good guy. No one was really ready to save him in the water and he came within an inch of dying. He is a brave man and this was no programmed stunt. This was a gutty trick by a guy who committed himself too quickly. He probably made more money this way but I can tell you he earned every cent of it. I salute Evel Knievel and will forever be a staunch admirer of his.
WALT BLACKADAR, M.D.
?Dr. Blackadar, a man not unfamiliar with taking risks, was the author of Caught Up in a Hell of White Water (SI, Aug. 14, 1972).—ED.
EYE ON SPORTS
Robert Wussler has a long way to go to make CBS the No. 1 sports network (TV-RADIO, Sept. 2). One big thing in his favor is that he has the TV rights to the NBA. If he can get some good commentators—not plastic but entertaining (and informative, as Bill Russell was for ABC)—viewers may turn on the sound instead of just watching the picture. I hope CBS will also revive the one-on-one competition.
I enjoyed William Leggett's story regarding the appointment of Robert Wussler ( Seton Hall, '57) as director of CBS sports. However, I must take issue with the characterization of Seton Hall University as "a campus surrounded by a gymnasium."
There is no question that Seton Hall has a long tradition of sports excellence, especially as a basketball powerhouse in the late '50s and early '60s. Those were the days of Nick (The Quick) Werkman, one of the leading scorers in the nation for three years, and Walter Dukes, who later played in the NBA. This year the Hall's baseball nine played in the College World Series.
Despite all this, Seton Hall, though not nationally known, offers comprehensive educational programs in the arts and sciences, law, education and business. To those of us who trained at Seton Hall University "a campus with a gymnasium" seems a more fitting description.
JAMES A. SBARBARO, M.D.
Seton Hall '69