Thursday, April 16, 2009

The end of an era.....

היום שבעה יומים שהם שבוע אחד לעמר
Today is the seventh day of the omer - one week

מלכות שבחסד
A day of majesty in a week of loving kindness

Former Oakland Raiders coach and premier football sportscaster John Madden announced his retirement today. As I started blogging the omer, I made the point that the 21st century is actually starting at this time. His retirement is more proof of that, since his stepping out of the broadcast booth certainly marks the end of an era.

The games will go on, but it won't be the same. The next generations of fans will only get to see and hear his brilliance on archived recordings. I can only hope that those generations of sports broadcasters study those recordings and learn.

Another loss for the sports world today is the death of Les Keiter. Read his obituary from today's New York Times. His major claim to fame? He recreated the San Francisco Giants games for the New York fans still following their former home team, ". . . through [his] booming voice and excitable embellishments, aided by his Western Union ticker reports, his taped crowd noise and a drumstick and wooden block alongside his microphone.

Like John Madden, he was someone who worked hard at his craft, working to give his listeners the full flavor of whatever sporting event he was covering.

Just a note on the photo accompanying this post. Not only does it give me a way to indicate 7, today's day of the omer, but I get to take a moment on this day of Yizkor as we remember those who are gone, to honor Lyle Alzado. Alzado was a NFL football player who is a 1967 alumni of Lawrence High School, graduating with my brother. He and my brother had no contact, but I can say I watched him play football as we saw the games he played in during high school. He died in 1992--from the Wikipedia page on him:
"Alzado is probably most remembered today for being one of the first major U.S. sports figures to admit using steroids. In the last years of his life, as he battled against the brain tumor that eventually caused his death at the age of 43, Alzado asserted that his steroid abuse directly led to his fatal illness, but every single one of his physicians stated it could not possibly be true, and that while steroid's do have harsh side effects, they were not the cause of his brain cancer.

According to some reports, Alzado was using natural growth hormone, harvested from human corpses, as opposed to synthetic growth hormones. However, shortly before his death, Alzado recounted his steroid abuse in an article in Sports Illustrated. He said:
“ I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 and never stopped. It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I'm sick, and I'm scared. Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff. We're not born to be 300 lbs or jump 30 ft. But all the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better. I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him. Now look at me. My hair's gone, I wobble when I walk and have to hold on to someone for support, and I have trouble remembering things. My last wish? That no one else ever dies this way."

Unfortunately, he didn't get his wish. I just wish those in a position in sports to do something about the use of steroids had paid heed to his words.

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