Athletes find each other on tracks and boardwalks

June 5, 2020

Athletic attraction - A public school track that is open to the public attracts people, especially in a resort area. I’ve run my share of workouts over the years, but now I’m a walker, and, weirdly, I prefer a track over the Boardwalk or bike path. The reason is athletes gravitate toward tracks and I love getting their biographies. Some years back on a Sunday, two young girls, like middle school age, were working on their starts using blocks. It was obvious they had received technical training. I introduced myself and asked, “OK, who coached you guys?” and one girl said, “My dad; he ran for Villanova and in the Olympics. His name is Glen Bogue. Ever hear of him?” “Yes,” I said, “a 400-meter runner and Canadian citizen who ran in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. So cool.” Another time in 2010, an older black man was running 400-meter workouts. I’d describe his running style as elegant. The runner was cardiothoracic surgeon Ray Blackwell, who has operated at Christina and Beebe. Blackwell, a Dartmouth guy, owned a PR of 46 seconds in the 400 meters and was on a team of 45-year-olds that ran 3:20 in the 1,600 relay, winning a world championship in masters track and field. 

Boardwalk Bench - Late summer 1978, Cape was coming off state championships in cross country (‘77) and spring track (‘78). I’m on the Boardwalk and I see my runner Glen Smith sitting on a bench near the lifeguard shack talking to some older white guy. Glen appeared to be “wearing him out.” I figured he was going full biography, telling him all his track stories. The guy was built like a whippet, so I figured he had his own stories. The man got up and disappeared into the crowd. I went up to Glen, a young Afro American, and asked, ”Hey, when did your uncle get into town?” “Man, you should've come over,” Glen said. “That was Peter Snell, the triple Olympic gold medalist from New Zealand. You know, dude once held the world record in 800 meters at 1:44. He said he was the only person to win the 800 and 1,500 in the same Olympics in 1964.” Snell moved to the United States in 1971. He had a PhD in exercise physiology. Snell died in December 2019 at the age of 81 while living in Texas. Glen died in a van accident 10 years after high school. 

Weary of words - I have sometimes stepped to the microphone at some speaking engagement and thanked everyone for the opportunity to make a career-ending comment. A safe approach focused on cliches keeps you out of trouble, but also gets no laughs and elicits no emotional reactions. Like everyone else in America, I watched the days of street freaking and listened to all the analyses. I was sidetracked by many people’s comments during these protestations which turned to demonstrations and demands for change. I read where LeBron James went after Drew Brees after Drew said, “I could never kneel during the anthem. It is disrespectful.” LeBron wrote he couldn’t believe Brees didn’t understand that Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem was never about disrespect but about shining a light on the issue of cops killing black people. A good thing about being in tribal elder status is you don’t have to make speeches. You can wait and respond to questions, except no one seems to be in a listening and learning mood. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Kareem is my age and just as famous – I knew him as a fifth-grader – so last Wednesday night, Anderson Cooper had him on as a guest. Kareem went down the road talking about the Rodney King incident, which happened almost 30 years ago, and he added, “Not much has changed.” Here’s where I’m at: Rodney King was a person who became a symbol and he seemed like a nice guy. He suffered from addiction his entire life and drowned in 2012 in his backyard swimming pool. I hope in his life between 1991 and 2012, Rodney King got the love and support he needed. I’m always most interested in the person, not the movement.

Lazy breeds lazy - In college, I called it the sleeping bag, although sleeping jag may have been a better description. I remember guys who slept 22 hours a day. Surely it was a defense mechanism to avoid responsibilities and dumb classes. I remember my uncle Harry saying, “I’m not sure if I suffer from depression or if I’m just that lazy.” This pandemic has stopped me from running the hamster wheel on the habitrail to nowhere. Can I jump-start when sports activities resume? I think not totally. I’m gonna go where I wanna go and do what I wanna do, but then again, what else is new? 

Snippets - I read where former Cape runner Aron Price of Millsboro passed away May 29 at the age of 67. Aron was on Cape state championship track teams in the early ’70s. Kenny “Kenboy” Watson, who ran indoor and outdoor track for me in 1977-78, passed away at the age of 59. And Joan White Oliver, former Cape stalwart person, always with a big smile for everyone, passed away May 27 at the age of 61. I know more of Joan White’s relatives than I do my own. She is one of three Poochies I’ve known who came through Cape. Go on now, git!


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