Tuesday, February 04, 2014

This was the first all-legal-marijuana Super Bowl, with Denver and Seattle. You could actually hear the stoners giggling while calling Pizza Hut and ordering their "hand tossed" pizzas asking:

"Heh, heh, does the hand toss come with it?"

Rod Milburn might be one of the most unfair stories in sports. 

Arguably the greatest hurdler who ever lived. He won the gold medal in Munich in 1972, but, of course, the tragedy of the murdered Israeli athletes over-shadowed everything. Plus the intense controversy of the sloppy protests of Wayne Collette and Vince Mathews on the podium for the 400.
Milburn invented the double-arm pump over the hurdle and used dimes on top of the hurdle to hone his accuracy. (Knock off the dime, but don't hit the hurdle) 
From 1971 to 1973, Milburn was as unbeatable in the 110 hurdles as Edwin Moses would become in the 400 hurdles. He won 27 races in a row. He set many world records. If he was in the starting blocks, the race was over. He ran during the fashion-challenged era of the short-shorts and jock, in one race he ripped his shorts almost off, finished the race holding his shorts on with one hand  . . . and still won.

Because Milburn ran in the short-lived pro track circuit, he was ruled ineligible for the 1976 Olympics. This reportedly devastated the gentle-natured Milburn. Meanwhile, the "winner" in Montreal 1976, Guy Drut* of France, was living like a king in a mansion in Paris, constantly smoking and drinking champagne with super models. (Milburn would have crushed the incredibly pompous Drut, just like he did in Munich, and thus eased into the financially less puritanical 1980's era in track) 
Milburn, however, was forced to retire in his prime because this was still the hypocrisy of the amateur athlete and he literally could make no money in track. He tried a comeback in 1980, but the boycott of the Moscow games killed that. (Arguably one of the most empty and damaging political gestures ever misconceived 

This practice of keeping great athletes paupers was also thanks to the incredibly oily and hypocritical thief Ollan Cassell, head of the AAU and portrayed by the fictitious "Colin Ponder" in "Without Limits")
In 1984 Milburn was named the head track coach at his alma mater Southern University, but the incoming athletic director did not renew his contract in 1987. Emotionally crushed once again, the sweet-natured Milburn fell on hard times after that.
In 1988 Milburn bounced back and took a job as a utility crewman at the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Louisiana. He was very well-liked by his co-workers, many had no idea they were working next to a gold medal winner. In 1997, on the morning he died, he moved from the Baton Rouge homeless center and sold his blood to get cab money to get to work. He fell into a vat of scalding hot bleaching chemicals in a rail car and died at 47. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Before the acid finished him, the people who really killed the great Rod Milburn's track career were slimey bureaucrats like the AAU's Ollan Cassell and the world class racist, IOC head, Avery Brundage. And double-talking meet promoters and shifty-eyed track shoe representatives. All conspired to suck the track life, the one thing he truly loved, out of this good, good man, Rod Milburn. 

Born nine years later and no more talented then Milburn, Renaldo Nehemiah, had both fame and fortune. And, unlike Milburn, Renaldo never won a gold medal.

Those of us who were lucky enough to see him in his prime will never forget how smooth and classy Rod Milburn was both on and off the track. Never taunted an opponent nor over-celebrated a win. In interviews he was quiet, modest and kind. 

Thus proving once again, greatness is not defined by money and fame.  

* Guy Drut (Pronounced Gee Drew) was the mirror opposite of Milburn in every way. He was comically arrogant and snotty and whiter than chalk. An Olympic official needed to send Drut a document and asked for his address. Drut rudely informed him just to put "Guy Drut, France" on the envelope and he would get it. Drut coasted in Montreal only because the best hurdler, Milburn, was ineligible. Weak, weak field. 

Drut eventually wore out his welcome in France, getting sentenced to prison time (suspended) for accepting a phony political post. When the French accuse someone of being a corrupt and sleazy politician, that is saying something. 

The closest Guy Drut ever got to the great Rod Milburn was a distant second in Munich. 

The state of track is at an all-time low and I blame those lying greedy, cheating frauds like Dwight Stones, Marion Jones and especially Carl Lewis. Lewis essentially bled all of the money out of track permanently destroying a more fair payment structure with that of the all-or-nothing-for-the super star.

Toby Stevenson won the Silver medal in the pole vault in 2004 Athens. He is a buffed, long-haired articulate guy who fully expected to make a  good living in track. Not get rich, just make a living. By the next Olympics he lost his shoe sponsor, Nike, his pole sponsor and had to live in the dorms at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. 

Track in the US is in rough shape.