By Kwame McDonald
During my 79-plus years of earthly existence (I’ll be 80 years old on April 20, 2011), sports has occupied an inordinate part of my life. I have watched, played, coached, written and commented about a sport most of my life.
I remember the many times I drove the rural roads of the South on Sunday afternoons. There were many, many baseball and softball games being played by men and women who had just come from church. There was plenty of food and soft beverages, although it was rumored that some of the beverages may have been “spiked” with “joy juice.”
It would not surprise me if some of our professional heroes came from those very humble environs. This was long before Black athletes were able to participate in White-run professional, collegiate and amateur sports. It was my pleasure to travel those dirt roads and witness these games.
As I recollect, I always preferred the outdoor spring, summer and fall sports to the winter ones. Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, it was possible to learn about and participate in winter sports.
While my brothers, cousins and close friends learned winter sports, I remained sequestered indoors. I used two round oatmeal boxes nailed to two door frames as hoops. Rolled-up socks and tennis balls were my indoor basketballs. A unique design for indoor football and baseball games was also created for more indoor activity.
Virtually everyone else took advantage of the ice and snow outside. They evidently had fun on their sleds, skis, and oftentimes creative uses of school food trays as slide apparatuses. Not me. I was strictly an indoor guy.
One of the great thrills of my college career was competing in the 120-yard high hurdles against Billy Anderson, son of Rochester Anderson, who old-timers will remember as the disagreeable, cantankerous manservant of comedian Jack Benny. Well, Anderson was representing an army base in this track meet.
He was a powerfully built athlete who later played in National Football League. He was also an alternate on the 1952 Olympic team as a high hurdler.
It was my good fortune to have had an asthma attack when I got to Kentucky State for the meet. Upon going to the campus infirmary for a shot of adrenalin, I was asked what my dosage was. I told the nurse that it was two cc’s of adrenalin. She gave me the shot and told me not to go on a track for a week.
My heart was pounding heavily. When I warmed up, I looked like a world-beater. My warm-ups were so powerful that Mr. Anderson was forced to jump the gun. Back then, you could jump once and still race.
I started talking trash. He was really worried. When the starter pulled the trigger, Billy and I were in front. Then, as if finally waking up, Anderson made like Roadrunner. I was a very distant second.
Incidentally, I was told later by my home physician that my dosage was .5 cc and that I was lucky to have survived that experience.
In the near future, there will be a third installation of this reminiscence. It will concentrate on the experience shared with fellow coach Steve Winfield and the Summit University Stars.
Wouldn’t it be nice…
…if the Chicago Bears (LOVEY SMITH) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (MIKE TOMLIN) became opponents in the Super Bowl?
Kwame McDonald welcomes reader responses to email@example.com or by phone at 651-398-5278.