Valparaiso University drops the Crusader mascot. My daughter approves.

When I was a Lilly Fellow in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso University we attended almost every Valparaiso Crusader home basketball game during the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 seasons. As a faculty member, we got free admission and the ARC (Athletics Recreation Center)–the Valpo arena–was a five minute walk from the house we were renting. The games became a community event for the postdocs in the program. We all sat together with our young kids and enjoyed some Division I college basketball. This was a couple years after “The Shot.”

One night as we entered the ARC and navigated the crowded arena to our seats, we lost our daughter. Ally was three years old. I thought Joy was holding her hand and Joy thought I was holding her hand. Needless to say, we panicked. The ARC only holds about 5000-6000 fans, but when you lose your kid in a crowd, 5000-6000 feels like a million.

We couldn’t find Ally anywhere. My fellow postdocs and their spouses joined us in our search.

Finally, I asked the security guard if I could walk on the floor at court level to look around. Sensing my concern, he smiled and asked me if I was the father of a little girl with blond curly hair. He pointed to the floor. The Valpo team was warming up. The music was blaring. And there was Ally, running around the court with the Valpo crusader mascot as the fans cheered them on from their seats.

Whew!

At some point during my two years at Valparaiso I watched an honors student debate on the subject of whether the university should retire its nickname and mascot. It was either 2000 or 2001. If I remember correctly, the debate was triggered by the fact that evangelical Wheaton College had just changed its name from “Crusaders” to “Thunder.” I can’t remember who won that debate, but the university did not change its nickname or its mascot as a result of the student arguments.

That was almost twenty years ago. Times have changed. Here is the Chicago Tribune:

Valparaiso University’s controversial Crusader mascot is on the way out, with the decision on a new mascot expected to come from the university’s incoming president with input from the campus community.

“This is the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reason,” said Interim President Colette Irwin-Knott, who announced the decision Thursday in a video message to the campus community and alumni along with Kaitlyn Steinhiser, president of the student body.

While the Crusader has been the university’s mascot since a switch from the Germanic calvary soldier the uhlan in 1942 because of the rise of Nazi Germany, those involved with the effort to remove the Crusader said that discussion began decades ago but didn’t gain cohesion until this summer, after protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and growing awareness of racial injustice that followed, as well as the use of Crusader imagery during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Irwin-Knott put together a task force to examine the matter, which sent out a survey to students, alumni, faculty and staff for feedback on the Crusader. In all, 7,700 respondents took part in that survey and more than 80% of them identified “Valpo” as the university’s dominant brand, compared to 2.5%, who selected the Crusader.

Read the rest here.

I think Ally would support Valparaiso’s decision. 🙂

What is going on at Bluefield College?

Bluefield College is a Christian college located in Bluefield, Virginia. (Bluefield College is not to be confused with Bluefield State College, a Historical Black College and University). It is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities.

Recently, the Bluefield College men’s basketball team was suspended for kneeling during the national anthem. ESPN is on the story:

An NAIA school in Virginia forfeited its men’s basketball game Thursday after suspending players for kneeling during the national anthem before several games in January and February.

In a statement Thursday, Bluefield College president David Olive said that after players knelt before multiple games in January and February, even after he’d told them to stop, he decided to suspend all athletes involved, which resulted in a forfeit of the NAIA Appalachian Athletic Conference game against Reinhardt.

“The basis for my decision stemmed from my own awareness of how kneeling is perceived by some in our country, and I did not think a number of our alumni, friends, and donors of the College would view the act of kneeling during the anthem in a positive way,” Olive said.

In the statement, Olive, who is white, recounted an ongoing discussion with coaches, players and the school’s athletic director, Tonia Walker, who is Black, over kneeling during the anthem, but suspensions were handed down only after media reports surfaced last week.

Olive said he became aware on Feb. 1 that players had knelt during the anthem for the previous home game and later learned that the same had occurred in two prior road games. At that point, he informed coach Richard Morgan that kneeling during the anthem would not be tolerated.

This stands in direct contrast with what the basketball team was told before the season, according to Bluefield football player Jewels Gray, who is close with many members of the basketball team and has discussed the suspensions with players. Gray said the basketball players were told they were not allowed to release a statement of their own or speak to the media.

Read the rest here. David Olive issued a statement here.

40% of the Bluefield College student body is African American.

ADDENDUM (5:35pm): I am learning that the Bluefield College community is pushing back on Olive’s statement.

Asia Todd, a Liberty University Basketball Player and Member of the Atlantic-Sun All Freshman Team, Transfers After Falwell Jr.’s Racist Tweet

Asia Todd announced that she is leaving Liberty University’s women’s basketball team because of the university administration’s “racial insensitivities.” She is most likely referring to this tweet from Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.:

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Falwell Jr. has since apologized for the tweet, but it appears to have been too little too late for Todd.

Here is her tweet:

Here is a transcript of her video tweet:

Hello everyone, my name is Asia Todd and I am here to inform you guys that I have decided to enter my into the transfer portal and that I will no longer be attending Liberty University. Please know that this decision was not taken lightly. This decision had nothing to do with basketball or the program. This decision was simply bigger than basketball. Now the basketball program, the coaching staff, and my teammates at Liberty was amazing. I developed lifelong relationships that I will cherish forever. However, due to the racial insensitivities shown within the leadership and culture, it simply does not align with my moral compass or personal convictions. Therefore, I had to do what I felt was best within my heart and stand up for what is right. I pray that you guys respect my decision and that you guys also pray for me as I am seeking for a new home and a great fit. Thank you.

In her freshman year at Liberty, Todd averaged 8.6 points and shot over 41% from the three point line. She scored 24 points in a March 2, 2020 victory over Kennesaw State. She was a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team (the first Liberty player to receive this honor), the MVP of the Roo Holiday Classic, Atlantic Sun Newcomer and Freshman of the Week for March 3, 2020, and the first Liberty freshman with back-to-back 20-point games since the 2009-2010 season.

 

Should We “Be Like Mike?”

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Many of you watched the ten-part ESPN documentary, “The Last Dance.” It covered the career of Michael Jordan and his six championship runs with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

I was riveted to the television set for the last eight episodes. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. I was dating Joy during the first three Bulls championships, so we watched a lot of those games together. (We got married in 1994). We lived in Deerfield, Illinois, a few miles away from the Berto Center, the Bulls practice facility. We saw the Bulls everywhere in those days. They were part of the community. Between 1989 and 1993:

  • I said hello to Phil Jackson one day while he was pumping gas at a local station. I remember being surprised at just how lanky he was.
  • I noticed B.J. Armstrong curled-up with a book in the back of an aisle at the Deerfield Border’s Books on Waukegan Road. I didn’t want to bother him. There was a reason he was hiding back there.
  • On more than one occasion I pulled-up alongside Scottie Pippen’s red Porsche at a traffic light.
  • I knew where Michael Jordan lived before he moved to his Highland Park mansion. (He owned a house in a development across the street from the Northbrook Court Mall). We drove by the house once and Jordan opened his garage door just as we slowly passed by. He gave us a look of disgust. This is a true story.  Joy and my father-in-law, a retired Evangelical Free Church minister, can confirm it. 🙂
  • I went to the same gym as Bill Cartwright and would often shoot at another basket while he taught his son how to play. (Again, I didn’t want to bother him with a challenge to play one-on-one). I can attest to the fact that he taught his son how to shoot free-throws like a normal person.
  • If I remember correctly, I was present at one of the last games in old Chicago Stadium. I have a concrete piece of the stadium from the standing-room-only area to prove it.

I grew-up a long-suffering New Jersey Nets fan. I never liked the Bulls. I rooted against them during every playoff run. My good friend Vince Bacote, now a theology professor at Wheaton College, can attest to this. I was the guy who would go to a Bulls watch party and cheer for the Pistons in 1991 (I rooted for the Bulls in the NBA finals that year because I didn’t like the Lakers either), the Trail Blazers in 1992, and the Knicks and Suns in 1993. (I moved to New York for the last three titles, so it was easier to pull for the Pacers, Knicks, Sonics, and Jazz).

Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University and the author of the “Purple Catholicism” column at Religion News Service, shared my dislike of Jordan and the Bulls. Like me, Camosy loved to watch Jordan play, but had his heart broken by “His Airness” too many times.

In his most recent column, Camosy wonders if people of faith should strive to “be like Mike.”  Here is a taste:

Jordan’s nastiness first came out in the book “The Jordan Rules” by Bulls beat writer Sam Smith, but the ESPN documentary makes it clear as well: Many of Jordan’s teammates lived in abject fear of what he would do to them if he became displeased.

Steve Kerr said he was “scared to death” of Jordan — which is not surprising given that Jordan once punched Kerr in the face (and was kicked out of practice for it by Bulls head coach Phil Jackson).

Will Perdue said, “He was an a–hole, he was a jerk, he crossed the line numerous times.” In “The Last Dance,” we see footage of Jordan hounding and bullying younger players like Scott Burrell.

Perhaps the person he got on the most, however, was Horace Grant. Grant has been aggressively critical of “The Last Dance,” arguing that it is more like a piece of Jordan propaganda than a truly objective, journalistic documentary.

And who can blame him? Smith revealed in “The Jordan Rules” that, among other things, MJ would refuse to let the stewards on their private flights even give Grant his meals if he felt like the Bulls forward had had a poor game.

This not only reveals the power Jordan had within the organization, but the cruelty with which he could wield such power. When confronted with these kinds of negative responses from former teammates, Jordan’s response was, “Winning has a price.”

Indeed. And as the tears welled up during that part of the interview, Jordan was evidently confronting that price. The price of becoming the greatest of all time, the GOAT, in the game of basketball. 

Here one may be reminded of the wisdom of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, when Paul claims that you can have everything that the world values — but if you don’t have love, you actually have nothing at all. If Michael Jordan had to give up on treating his teammates with love in order to win, then, at least from a Christian standpoint, his winning meant nothing.

Sports journalists often point to the careers of great athletes who didn’t win a championship and call their greatness into question by asking, “Where are the rings?” Christians, by contrast, must look at the careers of great athletes and ask, “Where is the love?”

Read the entire piece here.

UVA Men’s Basketball Team Declines White House Invitation

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UVA basketball coach Tony Bennett.

The defending national champs will not be going to the White House.  Here is a taste of Mike Barber’s reporting at the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

CHARLOTTESVILLE — After winning the national championship, the Virginia basketball team won’t be following the tradition of visiting the White House.

“We have received inquiries about a visit to the White House,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said in a statement the school released Friday. “With several players either pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from UVA, it would be difficult, if not impossible to get everyone back together. We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”

Virginia went 35-3 this season and beat Texas Tech to win the school’s first basketball national championship earlier this month. Since then, junior guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, junior forward Mamadi Diakite and sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter all have declared for the NBA draft. In addition, sophomore reserve guard Marco Anthony has said that he has entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal and will be leaving the Cavaliers.

Hunter retweeted the school’s announcement, adding the words “No Thanks Trump,” followed by two laughing emojis.

Read the rest here.

I guess the UVA basketball team doesn’t like fast food.  Or maybe something else is going on.  🙂

By the way, the women’s Division 1 champs, the Baylor Lady Bears, have accepted Trump’s invitation.

Tony Bennett, Evangelicalism, and University of Virginia Basketball

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Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, was no evangelical.  But he was a champion of religious liberty and had a lot of support among Virginia evangelicals when he ran for president in 1800. So it is unclear what he would have thought about an evangelical running his school’s national championship basketball program.

UVA coach Tony Bennett has been outspoken about his evangelical faith.  His faith has been covered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic AssociationThe Daily Progress,  the Baptist Press, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Heavy.  (The Washington Post discussed how he handled racism during 2017 white nationalist invasion of Charlottesville, but says nothing about his Christian faith).

Following his team’s national championship victory on Monday night, Bennett told Jim Nantz that he had played a Christian song titled “Hills and Valleys” to get his team ready for the game.  This song must have had special meaning for Bennett.  Last March, Bennett’s UVA program was definitely in the “valley” after it became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed (UMBC). (It should be no surprise that Bennett received a text from former NFL coach and motivational speaker Tony Dungy after the loss to UMBC).

The lyrics of “Hills and Valleys” focus on God’s faithfulness during the joy and pain of life:

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowestplace
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

I’ve watched my dreams get broken

In you I hope again!
No matter what I know
Know I’m safe inside Your hand

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

Father, you give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all you will remain
Over it all!

Father, you give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all you will remain
Over it all!

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there (to the one who set me there)
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!
Hills and Valleys!
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!

Frankly, it’s refreshing to see Bennett invoke a song that celebrates God’s faithfulness in the wins AND the losses.

The role that Bennett’s faith plays in his coaching is covered well in Jonathan Adams’s piece at Heavy. Here is a taste:

Virginia coach Tony Bennett is outspoken about his Christian faith and how it shapes his work with players. During the 2019 NCAA tournament, Bennett noted his faith helps him through stressful situations in games.

“You certainly feel things – things bother you, but where does peace and perspective come from? And I always tell our guys: It’s got to be something that is unconditional,” Bennett said, per Christian Headlines. “And I know I have that in the love of my family – unconditional acceptance and love. That’s huge. And I know I have that in my faith in Christ. That’s, for me, where I draw my strength from – my peace, my steadiness in the midst of things.”

Bennett committed to being a Christian while he was attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp when he was 14, per Decision magazine. The Virginia coach emphasizes five pillars to his players, and the tenets have become a staple of the Virginia program. Bennett drew upon Biblical principals to create the five pillars: humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness. Former Virginia player Joe Harris spoke with Decision magazine about the impact these pillars have had on his life beyond basketball.

“You can apply those pillars to the rest of your life, not just basketball,” Harris noted to Decision. “I always tell people that being at Virginia with coach Bennett helped me in a huge developmental standpoint as a basketball player, but that I developed even more as a person.”

Something tells me Jefferson would still be happy with the UVA win.

Out of the Zoo: “March Madness”

March Madness

I challenged my boyfriend Nolan to a March Madness bracket competition last month, with little success.

Annie Thorn is a first-year history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she will be writing a weekly column for us titled “Out of the Zoo.”  It will focus on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. This week she writes about her the “March Madness” and her history of sports class.  Enjoy! –JF

To be completely honest, I don’t know a whole lot about sports. While I consider myself an athlete–I ran track and cross country in high school–I’m usually pretty clueless when it comes to following organized athletics. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy sports, and I’m usually more than willing to sit down and watch a game, but ask me which college team is ranked highest in the country, or which player is a shoe-in for rookie-of-the-year, there’s no way I would be able to provide you with an accurate answer.

My boyfriend Nolan, on the other hand, knows a lot more about sports than I do. For one, he’s played more than I have–track, football and power lifting now, but basketball, baseball and soccer in the past as well. He follows sports too, and on the couple occasions I’ve watched games with him I’m reminded of how little I truly know about athletics. Nolan knows all about which teams are good and which ones aren’t; he knows which players to keep an eye on and which ones to disregard.

All this being said, I should have known that challenging Nolan to a March Madness bracket competition was a fool’s errand from the start. Nonetheless, I downloaded the ESPN app, joined the group he made for the two of us, and with little informed strategy made my picks. For the fun of it we added a friendly wager into the equation–whoever’s bracket lost, we decided, would plan (and pay for) a fancy date for the other as soon as I came home for the summer. As the NCAA tournament comes to a close and my bracket continues to suffer more hits, my chances of winning the bet are looking slim to none, little to my surprise. Even so, the contest has provided an extra way for Nolan and I to have a little fun, and to keep connected while I’m away at school.

Our March Madness bet reminds me of an overarching theme I’ve been learning in my Sports, Race, and Politics class this semester; namely, that sports bring people together–and they have for a long time. Before people hosted extravagant Superbowl parties, sports brought people together. Before loyal fans could stream their favorite college team’s games on their phones, sports still brought people together. Even before ESPN invented a March Madness app that allowed ambitious girlfriends to challenge their long-distance boyfriends to ill-fated bracket wagers, sports brought people together.

Sports, throughout history, have bridged cultural, racial, and geographic barriers. Back in the 19th century, sports allowed immigrants to participate in American society right after stepping onto United States soil. After all, you don’t have to speak the same language as someone else to play a pickup game with them in the street. Sports brought unity among races in other ways as well–as African American athletes like Jessie Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali emerged in the public eye, blacks and whites alike ventured out to the track, baseball diamond, or boxing ring to witness sporting prowess at its finest. While segregation continued to apply within sports arenas even after teams themselves were integrated, games allowed members of both races to come together in the same space to watch the same game and cheer for the same team.

Ever since their arrival in American life, sports have provided a way for athletes and fans alike from all races, income levels, and geographic regions to share a common interest and pursue a common goal.

Sportswriter Compares the Denver Nuggets to Bruce Springsteen

I’m not sure what to make of this.  Writer Mike Olson seems happy that his team has such a “hungry heart.”  Here is a taste:

Love him or hate him, Bruce Springsteen is notorious for his dedication to his audiences, performing his guts out for hours on end through thousands of shows over the course of a 50-plus year career. The average Springsteen concert is longer than the average professional football game, and regularly goes far longer. His longest show ever was four hours and six minutes long, an overseas affair. His longest U.S. concert was in Philadelphia and clocked in at four hours and four minutes. Easy to do when you start out in your teens, right? Not so fast. Bruce knocked out those 244 minutes last October, less than a year shy of his 70th birthday.

The Boss? He’s pretty much a boss.

Consistency breeds a lot of goodness in any discipline, whether you’re a rocker, a croonera sushi chef, or a basketball player. Consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action. Coming out of the All-Star break, your Denver Nuggets had been one of the more surprisingly consistent teams in the league, with winning streaks of seven, six, five (x2), and four (x4) games throughout the season. Stacking that up, 39 of their 43 wins this season have come as a part of a streak that was four games or longer. They also have a few losing streaks sprinkled throughout the season, with four and three (x2) game slips marring one of their best campaigns to date.

Their newfound consistency has also been a massive part of why they’ve won as many games as they have, frequently wearing opponents down in workman-like fashion, enabling them to run away from teams at their best, and stay close enough to reel opponents back in at their worst. Even when their shots weren’t falling, the Nuggets typically stayed in the contest, having been blown out only three times over these first sixty four games.

Read the entire piece here.

Doris Burke: A New Jersey Girl Makes Good

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Doris Burke interviewing Kyrie Irving during his days at Duke (Flickr via Creative Commons)

If you are a basketball fan–especially an NBA fan–you know about Doris Burke.  You may recognize her as the sideline reporter during ABC’s coverage of the NBA finals.  But did you know she grew up on the New Jersey shore, was a dominant high school basketball player at Manasquan High School, and is one of the best point guards to ever play in the old Big East?

 

Check out Joseph Atmonavage’s long-form piece on Burke at NJ.Com.  Here is a taste: 

The story of Doris Burke becoming the best basketball broadcaster working today starts in the 1970s, when her family of 10 moved from Long Island to the Jersey Shore because her father wanted a shorter commute.

Basketball was the first thing that greeted the 7-year-old Burke when she walked into her family’s new Manasquan home at 23 Fisk St. A left-behind basketball was just sitting there, waiting for her to pick it up. A basketball court — just a few strides away — was her newest neighbor and would become the place to find young Doris.

“A little divine providence,” Burke said.

All she ever needed was that ball and that court. Burke would step in between the lines and lose herself for hours, finding a confidence and self-worth that would propel her career.

“The love of the game is something I found in Manasquan,” Burke, 52, said in a phone interview a few days before announcing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals for ESPN. “I literally picked that ball up as a 7-year-old and I have not put it down to this day.”

Then, she was Doris Sable: the youngest of eight in a tough-as-nails Irish-Catholic family crammed into a minuscule home in the tiny, happy-go-lucky town. Just a basketball-possessed Shore kid people described as having a killer instinct on the court. Off of it, “there wasn’t a mean bone in Doris’ body,” childhood friend and teammate Tara Gunning said.

Now, she is Doris Burke: a trailblazer in the game of basketball as an ESPN color analyst — a role that is almost always filled by men and usually reserved for aging coaches and ex-players.

She was the first woman to announce a Big East men’s basketball game on TV, the first woman to do a New York Knicks game on TV or radio, the first woman to be a full-time NBA analyst on national television. And she’ll again work the sidelines at the highest levels during the NBA Finals, which start Thursday on ABC.

On air, Burke gracefully weaves her “I’m from Jersey” attitude with a humility and knowledge that the basketball world practically drools over. Within the hysteria of a basketball game, Burke is often the calmest person in the arena. She breaks down the game in a to-the-point fashion that both the sophisticated basketball viewer and someone watching for the first time can appreciate and understand. And when she transitions to the sidelines, Burke can put on a Ph.D.-level discourse of how to ask questions in a hectic, emotional environment, like she did at last year’s Finals. (According to Sports Illustrated, over 11 minutes and 25 seconds, she asked 13 questions of seven people.)

Read the entire piece here.

The St. Louis Spirit and the “Greatest Sports Deal Ever”

Moses Malone

The late Moses Malone played for the St. Louis Spirit in the 1975-76 ABA season

I am a sucker for anything written about the old American Basketball Association.  I lived through the entire duration of the league, although I did not become a fan until the last few years.  As a kid growing up in the New York metropolitan area, I was a diehard New York Nets fan.  My favorite player, of course, was Julius Erving, but I also loved watching Super John Williamson, Billy Paultz (“The Whopper”), and Larry Kenon.  I will thrilled when the Nets moved to the NBA after the ABA folded, but was heartbroken that Dr. J left for Philadelphia.

I have heard the story about the ABA-NBA merger and the television deal that went with it, but I always enjoy reading about it again.  Here is a nice piece at Sports History Weekly about the Spirits of St. Louis, one of the teams that did not join the NBA but made, and continue to make, some serious cash as a result of the merger.

A taste:

The ABA was popular with fans but struggled financially due to lack of TV contracts. Investors were able to pick up a squad at half the cost of an NBA franchise with hopes that a merger would raise the value of their assets.

In 1974, brothers Ozzie and Dan Silna, flush with cash from the sale of their textile business, bought the ABA’s failing Carolina Cougars for $1 million and moved them to Saint Louis.

Earlier, the two had tried but failed to purchase the Detroit Pistons. When the merger was later announced, the Spirits were also shut out from the expanded league. But as fortune had it, the Silnas would avenge their frustration and anger with the sports deal of a lifetime.

Exhausted from waging bidding wars for players and fans, the NBA finally relented to a merger in 1976. Of the seven ABA clubs still competing, only four were allowed in: New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs.

One team, the Virginia Squires, had recently folded and the other two, the Kentucky Colonels and Saint Louis Spirits, were offered buyouts to disband. The owner of the Colonels accepted a $3 million takeout, but the Silnas held out for more.

The Spirits had accumulated a talent pool that leveraged their bargaining power. On the court, they employed All-Stars like Moses Malone, Marvin Barnes and Maurice Lucas. Their local play-by-play announcer was the young Bob Costas.

Since only 4 of 7 ABA franchises were accepted, the Silnas negotiated $2 million up front, plus a portion of TV broadcast revenues equal to 1/7 of the amount received by those 4 selected teams.

The kicker? The tenor of the contract would be “for as long as the NBA or its successors continues in its existence”- basically, in perpetuity.

Since TV earnings were insignificant at the time and all the relevant parties were anxious to launch the new league, the agreement was signed off in heat and haste.

But nobody, including Ozzie and Dan Silna, expected the NBA to explode as it did in the 1980’s and 1990’s, ushering in the modern era of lucrative TV contracts.

Read the entire piece here.

Is Lipscomb the First CCCU School to Make the NCAA Basketball Tournament?

Lipscomb

I am currently watching Lipscomb University, a Churches of Christ college out of Nashville, trying to hang with the North Carolina Tarheels in a first-round NCAA tournament game.  Lipscomb is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & University, a network of Christian colleges that includes Messiah College, Wheaton College, Calvin College, Westmont College, Gordon College, Bethel University and many, many others.

As far as I know (I could be wrong), Lipscomb is the first CCCU school to make it to the “Big Dance.”  Am I correct?

NOTE:  Liberty University has played in the tournament, but they are not a member of the CCCU.  The same is true of Baylor and Belmont, both Christian universities.

I also just learned that Pat Boone is a Lipscomb graduate.

The Vada Palmer and Pete Maravich Papers

Pistol

Vada Palmer was a junior at Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She had a classmate named  Pete Maravich.  Of course he would go on to a stellar basketball career at Louisiana State University and then the NBA.  He also had a mad crush on her.

And the State Archives of North Carolina have eleven of their letters.   Here is a taste of a blog post at “History for All the People.”

I received the Vada Palma and Pete Maravich Papers as Vada’s gift to the State Archives in July of 2013. On the phone she was charming and generous, and referred me to an informative interview piece written by Tim Stevens (now retired), high school sports editor for the News and Observer. See Steven’s “Pistol on the court; shy boy a-courtin’,” dated March 10, 2010, via http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/high-school/article10364456.html. One of the most telling aspects of the piece was Vada’s comment, reiterated in my conversation with her: “If you were writing a book about my life, Pete Maravich would be one paragraph. I was really happy when I heard he had met someone and gotten married. He was such a sweet boy.”

In Vada’s estimation the letters were simple, and not the stuff of a grand love story. Yet such letters touch on the aspirations and hopes of youth, and symbolize for many the sentiments of one in the throes of a first crush, and represent the tension and complexity of navigating adolescence, school, first love, and the uncertain demands and possibilities of the adult world.  Fortunately, students and researchers now and in the future have as a resource this collection (PC.2071), which preserves for the long term some eleven letters, a period Valentine’s Day card, six photographs, and two newspaper clippings. Related additions are always welcomed.

Read the rest here.