Around the Bend: Life Thrills


Back by popular demand are more greatest thrills…not surprisingly, sports dominate these recollections.

Billy Mills: During my dreary freshman year of college, some of my few bonding experiences came while watching sports in a group. Billy Mills’ out- of- nowhere kick to win the 10,000 meters in the 1964 Olympics had us on our feet shouting. Announcer Bud Palmer lost it.

Bill, Hillary, Al and Tipper at the airport: A merry group of Demos waiting two hours for the triumphant foursome. Finally the plane landed, the door opened, and Fleetwood Mac came blasting out! Oh, happy day. A friend circled around to shake their hands twice. He noted Bill’s soft hand. The next day they were at Monticello. During a talk, Hillary, Al, and Tipper stood studiously listening while Bill looked about and wandered a bit. All in character. The heady honeymoon was short lived as the ill-timed gays-in-the- military controversy derailed the momentum.

Secretariat wins the Belmont: Perhaps the most astonishing athletic feat of all time. I called him "the Babe Ruth of horses." The debate had been, "Is he the greatest of all time?" After this race, no doubt. He won by 31 lengths and was gaining speed at the end. I remember the camera panning ahead to find where he was. Of added interest was the fact that many years before I had met the classy and determined owner, Penny Tweedy who was the friend of a neighbor. When the gregarious horse was in stud,  I had a notion to visit him. Wish that I had. Big Red got a leg infection and had to be put down. As his modest jockey said, "I was just along for the ride."

What a way to go out: This was the last swimming meet for Williams College’s storied coach, Bob Muir. He had been the 1956 Olympic coach, his teams has beaten rival Amherst 23 years in a row and today’s opponent, Wesleyan, 28 years. The pool had been renamed. The expansive Muir came out and, in a fun gesture, pointed to his name on the wall. Then, the team came out. Today this would be a cliche, but seeing them all grim-faced with shaved heads was dramatic theatre. They meant business.  Wesleyan thought they finally had Williams this time. Leading off was Sandy Van Kenan, NCAA record holder in the 50 yard. He did not win. He finished third and beating him by inches for second was Doug "Tuna" Stevens, normally a 1500-yard man, filling in that day. He had "doug" very deep. Williams was on its way and blew Wesleyan away.

To be continued.  This is fun.