Starr Gazing
   


Dr. Dan Starr
Retired Director of Athletics and Professor Emeritus of American History at Canisius College.
starr@canisius.edu

   

A Variety Pack

Occasionally, a columnist prefers to do an odds and ends column, one in which a number of unrelated subjects can be covered, including items that may have been previously neglected or glossed over. Enjoy!

Salaries for Athletes

Jim Burke, baseball expert, stated that Joe DiMaggio was arguably the most famous baseball player of his era. He signed a contract in 1949 for $100,000, which was the biggest ever! In 1952, to his credit, he declined a contract for the same amount, saying he “no longer had it.” Amazing. What a different era.

Today, we read about athletes in many sports making tens of millions of dollars. It makes no sense to try to follow the salary escalation anymore. No sense at all. A pitcher signs for $30 million, a female tennis star makes even more, an NBA star signs for $50 million, another one gets a contract for half of Fort Knox, and on and on it goes. Soon the billion dollar milestone will be reached, then the trillion. So what! The figures no longer make sense!

The NCAA and Major College Sports

I used to be a great supporter of the NCAA but not for the past few decades. The NCAA campaigned for shorter seasons hoping to allow athletes to become kind of like regular students. It has not worked. Seasons are longer and more time consuming than ever. Last year, the Michigan State basketball team was on the road for most of November. Such great preparation for final exams!

The NCAA also tried to enforce sensible transfer rules but they failed again. We hear of one and one at Kentucky where a kid plays for a year, and then leaves school for the pros. Some would-be stars play at three colleges, accumulating a grand total of 12 credit hours, and then leave for the pros or whatever.

The label “student-athlete” is still in use though now it is somewhat meaningless. In fact, it is fraudulent. To think that most Division I football and basketball players are S/As is a figment of the imagination. They are employees, hired help if you will.

Security In Our Lives

It’s omnipresent. Cross the Peace Bridge and Homeland Security agents are swarming all over the place, like ants on an anthill. Attend a Bills game; before you get to your seat, you will have seen local police, security guards, undercover agents, deputized Barney Fifes, you name it! Sometimes it seems there are more law officers than fans? How the world has changed.

I asked Zuke if he recalls crossing the Peace Bridge 50 years ago. He said, “Yeah, the customs guy might have been a local high school teacher on a summer job. He simply asked, “Anything to declare?...No? Okay, go on.”

The security units in college and universities grow bigger and bigger. UB has a force the size of a medium city. When I started at Canisius College, there was a night watchman (often asleep in the faculty lounge). There were no police vehicles (though a decade later, the watchman had a motor scooter). Now there is a force the size of that of a small town and a fleet of police vehicles. Yes, in a world with terrorists and other misfits, we do need security.

Celebrations/Milestones

On a happier note, there are some things to celebrate. A couple of Zuke’s pals, Terks Studzel and Stosh Kozek, praised Canalside and Harbor Place. They were also enthused with the many festivals held through WNY all summer long. It seems as though every ethnic group is celebrating something ranging from the Italian and Irish to the much smaller contingents of Lebanese and Macedonians.

When talking about the changes taking place in Buffalo, one persistent question was, “Who lives in all those new lofts and condos?” Is it only singles, or is it newlyweds, or those with significant or even insignificant others? Are dogs and cats allowed, and birds and turtles? Are all the new residents professionals? Are they middle income, wealthy, or elderly? Are children allowed? It was agreed that this would be a good subject for Buffalo News reporters to investigate and write about.

2017 marks the bicentennial of the beginning of the construction of the Erie Canal. “Clinton’s Ditch,” as it was once labeled, was completed in 1825. The project was a tremendous undertaking; it had enormous significance for the future of Buffalo. Professor Paul Young, an expert on the Canal, will have more to say on that in the future. Young once lived on the canal in a house that dates from that era.

Zuke also inquired about Canada’s sesquicentennial. He asked if the French were still trying to break loose. I noted that Deonna Marsh, a bilingual Canadian native, formerly of Fort Erie and now of Port Colborne, stated that the key word for the 150th year of Canada was “solidarite.” Indeed, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, not only French and English but people from the many nationalities that make up this vast multicultural country embraced the maple leaf flag and the national anthem, “O Canada,” as never before. Zuke said that he thought “O Canada” was only for hockey games. I noted that the citizenry are way beyond that.

There was a timely story on a Buffalo legend In the Buffalo News recently! 60 years ago, Buffalo Bison Luke Easter became an immortal by belting a home run over the centerfield scoreboard in Offermann Stadium. Professor Dave Greenman saw it; he penned a famous poem about it. A relative of Frank Eberl’s recovered the ball in someone’s backyard; somehow the ball was given to the famous Tim Russert who had named his son, Luke, after the homerun hitter. Luke Russert ended up with the ball. How about that, sports fans!

Here’s another sports story. Nick “Buski,” an avid golfer, was watching a women’s golf championship tournament. He commented on the great number of Asian women golfers. I checked and found that 8 of the top 10 women golfers hail from South Korea. Upon reflection, I recalled that when I was stationed in Korea 65 years ago there were not any golf courses; in fact, there were very few paved roads. A puzzled Zuke asked, “What is the connection?” I said that modern South Korea is an outstanding tribute to America’s foreign aid program. South Korea went from a 3rd world economy to first world. Perhaps some proof of that is the caliber of its female athletes. Thought you would like to know!

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