Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Day Babe Decided Lute Olson Was 'An Arrogant SOB'

Among the columns I've written recently concern Babe Bisignano's death and Notre Dame football--which, come to think of it, might also be classified as death.

Babe and the Fighting Irish are among the subjects my e-mail friends are covering today:

Everyone has a story about Babe, and a high-profile Iowan I know is no exception. Here's his:

"The story I remember best regards Lute Olson, which Babe must have told me five or six times over the years.

"After Lute attained rock-star celebrity status in Iowa, Babe and some of his pals were over here [in Iowa City] for the Amana VIP golf tournament. Babe spotted Lute [who was playing in the tourney] approaching in his cart.

"'Let me introduce you to Lute,' Babe told his pals. Babe waved to Lute as he drove by with his nose in the air, never looking at Babe. 'You've got an arrogant son-of-a-bitch coaching your basketball team,' he told me. He never forgave Lute for stiffing him in front of his friends.

"[Former Iowa football coach] Forest Evashevski once told me, 'Babe's a great fan of the Hawkeyes until the day we play Notre Dame.' And Evy's teams played the Irish every year."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Unfortunately, Iowa and Notre Dame haven't played a football game since Oct. 5, 1968. As far as I'm concerned, there have been far too many years separating games in the rivalry. The teams first played in 1921--the year Howard Jones' Hawkeyes were in the process of winning 20 consecutive games. The Fighting Irish were victim No. 5 in that streak, 10-7, at Iowa City on Oct. 8, 1921. The teams didn't play again until Nov. 11, 1939 when Nile Kinnick and the Iowa juggernaut called the Ironmen slipped past Notre Dame, 7-6, in Iowa City. That game was a huge factor in Kinnick becoming Iowa's only Heisman Trophy winner. As for Babe and Lute Olson, The Greatest Basketball Coach Who Ever Lived? Well, many people shared Bisignano's feelings].

Barry Crist had this to say about Iowa and Notre Dame:

"A great Saturday in the fall is when Iowa wins and Notre Dame loses."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Lots of people feel that way. As I wrote in the column, when it comes to football, people either love Notre Dame or they hate Notre Dame].

Gordy Scoles had these thoughts on Notre Dame:

"Ron, I enjoyed your Notre Dame column very much. My dad, who died in 1962, saw Knute Rockne when "The Rock" coached Notre Dame track at the 1922 or 1923 Drake
Relays. It was the only reason my dad said he even went to the Relays. Then,
after the Fainting Irish incident, we never mentioned the words Notre Dame or
Fighting Irish after what they did to Evy and the Hawkeyes. Thanks for reminding
my why I don't like Notre Dame."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Scoles' reference to Notre Dame's "Fainting Irish" concerned the Nov. 21, 1953 game at South Bend, Ind., when some of coach Frank Leahy's Notre Dame players collapsed while faking injuries so they could stop the clock in the final seconds of each half. The "fainting" enabled the Irish to tie the game, and I feel that Evashevski's criticism of Leahy and his team afterward is one reason the Iowa-Notre Dame rivalry has never been renewed].

After an e-mail exchange with Scoles, who lives in South Carolina, he sent this message:

"I never realized the Notre Dame fixation or "mystique" [I hate to use that word with Notre Dame] until we moved to the south almost 20 years ago. Although there are thousands more Catholics down here now than when we moved here, Notre Dame has a following among all the rest of the religious denominations that still amazes me. I found it out first-hand when I tried to explain the 'Fainting Irish' incident to a non-Catholic friend, and he didn't see the problem at all. I guess he didn't understand how much of a devout Hawkeye fan I was....."

A reader from eastern Iowa isn't surprised that there was a large amount of commercial advertising in the Notre Dame spring football guide, and that the university still sold the guide to fans for $3:

"Don't forget, it's a Catholic school!" the reader wrote.

Al Schallau covers a lot of BS while having baseball box scores on his mind:

"Some of us hard-core baseball fans have been studiously reading the major
league box scores for many years. It is amazing to read the 1950 box scores and
see all of the statistics that they did NOT have back then.

"But in 2005, for the first time, major league box scores now officially
recognize BS.

"[A recent box score] told us that Trevor Hoffman recorded his second BS of
the season; and Troy Percival recorded his first BS of 2005.

"[Later] box scores were loaded with BS, as Rick White of Pittsburgh, Randy Flores
of St. Louis, and Octavio Dotel of Oakland all recorded their first BS of the season, and Tom Gordon of the Yankees recorded his second BS of 2005.

"In Monday's box scores, only Paul Quantrill of the Yankees recorded any BS
[his first of 2005].

"This brand new box score statistic is the Blown Save. Clearly, for relief
pitchers, less BS is better. Eric Gagne holds the all time record. He
went to the mound 84 consecutive times in 2003 and 2004 with no BS

"Reading about all the BS in major league baseball reminds me of a line
uttered by Barbara Mandrell. She said, 'I love my name, but I hate my

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: It's another first for you, Al. I knew someone would get around to writing about all that BS].

From Richard Hayman:

"Hi, Mr. Maly,

"I must admit that I pulled a few ardent football fans aside [mostly Virginia
Tech fans in this neck of the woods], at the end of last season, and told
them that in two, maybe three, years we [Iowa] would challenge for the national
championship. I think this year is a little too early and I actually am a
bit concerned about the expectations because we don't want to burn our
future trying to reach too far today.

"It's nice to be considered in high regard...and we've earned it. It's just critically important that we as fans hold onto the same values of fun, effort, and sportsmanship that kept us interested during decades of losing seasons...that the players remember there's always someone else, trying to out-work you, and that while very important, football is just a game...and that coaches continue to value
development of young men, on and off the field. I think we're poised to be
a legitimate and perennial national championship-caliber program in a few
years. There's a lot of work and a lot of luck between now and then. Until
then, let's just enjoy the ride along the path we do get to experience.

"For no other reason than my confidence in the decision-makers at Iowa, I
will hold my peace on the Alford situation. It doesn't change my apathy
and, unless Iowa men's basketball can come up with a season that ignites the
imagination of the state, I think I will be joined by many more. I hope
Steve Alford will remember this part -- where the university supports him
during a really difficult and developmental time - when his success
ultimately comes.

"I would like to see him succeed at Iowa but I haven't seen much evidence that he'sgoing to do so. And so, I'll dispassionately observe box scores next season,refusing to get emotionally involved with a program that has so consistently underachieved. To get emotionally involved is to demand that Steve Alford voluntarily leave because he places the experience of the young men under his chargehigher than he places himself. But, for all, there is redemption, and I wish the best in the coming season to our coach.

"And, since we're talking about major sports, let me say my preliminary two
cents about our wrestling program. I feel like I've been extraordinarily
patient. We all know that Dan Gable doesn't come along every day. Unfortunately, we're witnessing our free-fall from national prominence. I don't know what's going on in the wrestling program, but I do know there are coaches on the national landscape who can get it done and who would be hungry for an opportunity to restore Iowa wrestling to national prominence. We need a strong season.

"Finally, in all of this criticism and praise, it's not so much about winning
and losing as it is about how we play the game. We Iowans are over-achievers, almost by birth, and it's difficult to abide under-achievement, regardless of win-loss record.

"Always a pleasure to hear from you, Mr. Maly. Have a terrific day. Sorry
to have "talked" your ear off in this note."

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: You've covered the waterfront, Richard. Thanks for your opinions].

And finally.....From an eastern Iowan:

"A Cyclone family of football supporters head out one Saturday to do their Christmas shopping. While in the sports shop the son picks up an Iowa jersey and says to his older sister, 'I've decided to become a Hawkeye fan and I would like this for Christmas.' His big sister is outraged by this and promptly whacks him round the head and says, 'Go talk to your mother.'

"Off goes the little lad with the Hawkeye jersey in hand and finds his mother. 'Mom?' 'Yes son?' 'I've decided I'm going to be a Hawkeye fan and I would like this jersey for Christmas.' The mother is outraged at this, promptly whacks him around the head and says, 'Go talk to your father!' Off he goes with the Hawkeye jersey in hand and finds his father.

"'Dad?' 'Yes son?' 'I've decided I'm going to be a Hawkeye fan and I would like this jersey for Christmas.' The father is outraged and promptly whacks his son around the head and says, 'No son of mine is ever going to be seen in THAT!' About half an hour later they're all back in the car and heading towards home. The father turns to his son and says 'Son, I hope you've learned something today?' The son says, 'Yes, Dad, I have.' 'Good son, what is it?' The son replies, 'I've only been a Hawkeye fan for an hour and I already hate you Cyclone bastards.'"

Vol. 4, No. 342
May 10, 2005