Know Your Sport, part 2

11

January 8, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Running, Tennis, and Golf

Coolest Runner of All Time?  Hell, yeah.  If you’ve run some distance, you know the story.  How cool is it to run your guts out?  How cool is it to run a marathon and hurting all the way behind two women so in shape that they never stop talking?  That’s not cool.  But Steve Prefontaine made it cool. 

Imagine if Prefontaine were alive.  Would Nike be Nike?  Or more than Nike. 

Prefontaine ran through North Bend on his way to Horsefall Beach.  I grew up in North Bend.  My junior high pals and I saw him.  He looked like he was running from something.  Seeing him didn’t make me want to run.  Not yet. 

Did Prefontaine start the running craze?  Well, it wasn’t Usaine Bolt.

Tennis didn’t begin with Billie Jean King, though it could have.  And it didn’t end with a mullet wig on a bald man.  Tennis began with a man named Pauncho and a woman named Althea.  A Mexican-American man and African-American woman introduced a sport America thought it knew.  They showed how to play a different game. 

Arthur Ashe did his part to move tennis from the country club setting to the inner-city courts.  He encouraged any kid to give it a whack.  Who’s to tell if giving it a whack means something, or not.  Take a swing.  Feel the vibrations through the tennis racket.  What does it mean?  It means more to some than others, just ask the Williams’ sisters.

Some of those same vibrations come through a golf club.  Who knows more about that than Tiger Woods?  He had the world by the tail from swinging a stick.  Turns out he over-swung on some of the courses he played.  Tiger didn’t invent golf, and neither did Casanova or Rudolph Valentino, other men famous for their stick work.  So, who did?

Picture a gold course in your mind.  Do you see a flat meadow with low cut grass?  No.  Instead, you see rolling hills and long stretches of grass bounded by taller grass.  Whether the origins of golf point to Roman times, a Persian Dynasty, or China, one thing is certain: golf is played on land carved by glaciers.

Scotland didn’t need Robert Trent Jones Jr. to come over and add hills and ponds to their country.  The ice age did it for them.  They didn’t need Arnold Palmer to show them how to knock rocks into rabbit holes, though he did show how to mix ice tea and lemonade.  If Scotland is the ancestral home of golf, then the world is dotted with little spots of Scotland.

Anyone can hit a golf ball off a driving range tee.  Do it enough and you’ll get the ball out there.  But nothing prepares you to hit a ball on a little spot of Scotland from a side hill lie.  When you get a ball in such a situation, you find a way to hit out.  In that sense, you invent golf with each swing, with each chunk of turf you send down the course, with each club you blame for a poor shot.  And you keep playing.

Know your sport, or at least know more about it than those you play with.  Strap on a pair of Nikes and take a victory lap with your arms raised.  Imagine the crowd roaring at Hayward Field on Pre’s kick. 

Whack a ball against a wall and dream what it must feel like for two little girls who grew up to dominate the tennis world.

Walk a golf course.  Let the ups and downs, the dips and lifts of the land take you to another part of the world.  Whether you’re in Georgia, or Oklahoma, or Oregon, you’re really in Scotland.  Wear knickers and a beret to set the mood.  Kick a rock into a hole along the way; just leave the golf clubs alone.  They are too dangerous.

Part 3: Boxing and Wrestling.

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11 thoughts on “Know Your Sport, part 2

  1. David Gillaspie says:

    You are unique with a base is so wide and your accomplishments second to none. I think of Pete Carroll leaving USC just ahead of NCAA sanctions and don’t feel so good about him. Then here you are breaking in a new group of wrestlers and all I can think is how lucky those guys are to have you there.

  2. David Gillaspie says:

    It’s amazing how some coaches, like Joe Paterno at Penn State, stay in one place. Wasn’t Coach Dillinger like that?

    • sgillaspie says:

      Yes, ran there and coached there as well. There are so many coaches that I have met that have stayed in one place and established themselves. I scratch my head with amazement that they can do that. For me, I need fresh faces, new goals, bigger challenges! 35 our for middle school wrestling here. They have never had numbers like that here…may I say, here we go again? 🙂

  3. David Gillaspie says:

    Those are beautiful pictures. By the way, what were some of the common links with Coach Dillinger?

    • sgillaspie says:

      Athletes, places in alaska. Sam ran for coach Dillinger as did Marcus Dunbar who’s son now runs for U of Portland…he’s the real deal. A number of other coaches from the track world that are floating around in AK.
      Fishing trips planned…he had had a series of strokes when we sat along the back stretch of Hayward so communication was slow while he was getting some of his guys through their paces doing 400 intervals.

  4. David Gillaspie says:

    My smile is as big as a Nike shoe. Thanks for coming in. Now all you have to do is subscribe to DG’s B&B and you’ll have a room named after you.

    Did you ever see Pre? How did you like the subliminal Stevepre.com on Runner’s World?

    • Sgillaspie says:

      Saw “Pre” a few times as he making his way to making a name for himself as he ran along what is now called “prefontaine way” in Coos Bay. Watched him run in H.S. and only once while he was in college. We I take kids to Eugene, our first stop is Hayward Field while the second is to the “rock” where his life ended.
      Story for you. It was the summer before the Olympic Trials in Sacramento and I was in Eugene sitting in the infield at Hayward watching athletes putting their final touches to their workouts prior to heading to the trials when along came Coach Dillinger. It would go down as one of my all-time impressive 90 mintue conversations ever! He sat down with me on the bench and we talked like we had knew each other for years. The common links were incredible…another piece of the puzzle for ya.

    • Sgillaspie says:

      Saw “Pre” a few times as he making his way to making a name for himself as he ran along what is now called “prefontaine way” in Coos Bay. Watched him run in H.S. and only once while he was in college. We I take kids to Eugene, our first stop is Hayward Field while the second is to the “rock” where his life ended.
      Story for you. It was the summer before the Olympic Trials in Sacramento and I was in Eugene sitting in the infield at Hayward watching athletes putting their final touches to their workouts prior to heading to the trials when along came Coach Dillinger. It would go down as one of my all-time impressive 90 mintue conversations ever! He sat down with me on the bench and we talked like we had knew each other for years. The common links were incredible…another piece of the puzzle for ya.
      http://www.gillaspies.blogspot.com for your entertainment.

  5. SGillaspie says:

    It began with Arthur Lydiard who then shared it all with a fella named Bill Bowerman who then made jogging “cool” in America. Then along came “Pre”! The rest is history.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      It tickles me shittless that you read my post. Better one of you than a hundred strangers. If you have any ideas for me to write on, let me know. I do take requests. One pal asked me to blog on his father in law who’d just passed away. The man was a flame thrower guy in WWII. Another asked me to write about his knee surgery. If I can, I will. In fact I’ll do it whether I can or not.

      your other bubba

      • David Gillaspie says:

        I say one comment from you is good because of your comprehensive background. I don’t know anyone who has coached as many athletes in as many sports. I can’t think of any three coaches who have your scope of experience.

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