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African American news from Pasadena - Sports

Stanford is considered by many to be the favorite in their upcoming game against USC, at the Coliseum on Saturday. They have not been a favorite here, since man discovered fire. However, this is a tough team that is coming to town. Although they sprang a few upsets from time to time, the Cardinal was usually just cannon fodder for the Trojans. They would usually have a great quarterback, and a bunch of skinny guys who could solve differential equations. They would have lost to Muir.

In the past, it was the Trojans who were built around a powerful running back. One who could, and often did, carry the ball 30 or more times per game. You remember Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Ricky Bell, Marcus Allen, and Charles White. These players were irresistible forces, who were rarely if ever injured, and who never tired. Pepsodent Pete is so in love with his quarterbacks, that the Trojans almost disdain the run. McKnight, Bradford, and Johnson should be household names for Trojan fans, but they are not. It seems that the goal of the Trojans now is to win the Heisman Trophy, rather than to compete for a national championship.

Now it is Stanford, who is featuring the top running game. Their team is built around Toby Gearhart, an unstoppable running machine. Look for him to carry the ball about 30 times, and to gain about 200 yards. Also, look for Stanford to have time of possession in the game of around 40 minutes, leaving just 20 for USC. This is a tough, well disciplined Cardinal team that only had three penalties in their last game. The Trojans routinely get penalized from 8 to 10 times, with some of them coming at very critical times. For example, when the Trojans make an outstanding play, or score a touchdown, the player who has achieved this feat, will often draw a penalty for "babooning."

This is a word that I think I have just invented, and it is not necessarily a pleasant one. But it does correctly describe the players who beat their chest, flex their muscles, and prance around the field after they have made an outstanding play. Some of today's fans may not realize that athletes did not always behave in this manner. This kind of behavior, including the taunting, has been with us for about the past 15 years, and it is getting worse. This kind of behavior is also an indicator of a lack of team discipline, which is a requisite of teams who want to be champions. All things considered, I expect Stanford to win and a USC victory would be an upset.

I was saddened to learn that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is suffering from leukemia. He is now 62 years old, and his previous name was Lew Alcindor. He had great basketball success in high school, later at UCLA, then with the Milwaukee Bucks, and finally with the Los Angeles Lakers. Regrettably, for him, his on court success  did not transfer itself into his personal life. It was reported that one of his business managers stole his lifetime earnings, and that the theft was discovered,  just before he thought he would be able to retire. He played two more years, in an effort to restore his financial stability.

Abdul-Jabbar was considered aloof and approachable by sports fans, and while they admired his artistry as an athlete, he was never a fan favorite like Magic Johnson.With his fortune gone, and his basketball career over, he had to seek employment in the same way that ordinary people do. He even worked for the Clippers as an assistant coach. I suspect that was a very humiliating experience for him.

The people that he offended, when he was a big star, have not been very forgiving. So, it seems to me, that the latter part of his life has left him trying to fit in, and not knowing exactly how to do it. It was a skill that he did not learn while he was growing up, and one that he apparently thought he would never need. He did perfect the skyhook, an unstoppable basketball shot that no one else seems able to learn. Magic Johnson called him either "The Big Fella" or "Captain", or both. So far, I am happy to report that his prognosis for treatment is good, and his doctors are optimistic. Kareem, our best wishes to you.

The Oregon Ducks are now the odds-on favorite to play in this year's Rose Bowl. They lost their first game of the year to Boise State in Idaho. After the game was over, one of the opposing players was standing behind Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, and tapped him on the shoulder. When Blount turned to face him, the player said something to him, and was promptly knocked down by a punch in the face. I was watching the game. As a result of this punch, Blount was suspended for the entire year. The player, who provoked him, was not punished at all. I contacted the University of Oregon, and left messages for its President, and Chip Kelly, the football coach. Coach Kelly did return my call. My message to him was that the punishment was much too severe. Under the circumstances, I felt that the punishment should have been for just one game, certainly not for more than five. I know that I was among many others who contacted the school on his behalf. I was pleased to learn that he has been reinstated and that he will be with the team when they host Arizona State this Saturday. I hope that he makes the most of this second chance,  plays well against ASU, and then has a sensational game in the Rose Bowl.

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