Monday, October 27, 2008

A tale of two icons

Dan Gable turned 60 Saturday. The event went relatively unnoticed. Wrestling historian and writer, Mark Palmer, made note of it on the internet Friday and I’ve seen or read little else about it.

As I’ve said before, my love for the sport started when a friend asked me to ride to Ames with him to watch Gable wrestle – just about 40 years ago. I’m not going to try to write any type of biography here. I’ll leave that to the better writers and those that know Dan well. However, when you have some time, I suspect that you’ll enjoy following Dan’s life through the articles written about him in Sports Illustrated (this may not be a good idea if you’re at work). Here are some of them, from the SI Vault.

The Pancake Man Flattens 'em March 24, 1969

A Kid Who Doesn't Kid Around June 19,1972

Look Homeward, Hawkeye March 22, 1982 (includes the famous Barry Davis
Doughnut story)

The Ultimate Winner July 18, 1984

Cedar Rapids, IA, 1997 March 31, 1997

The Pride of Iowa March 12, 2007

If Sports Illustrated has been featuring you in articles for 38 years, I think you can legitimately be called a sports icon.

Today (October 27, 2008) is the 150th birthday of another icon – and another member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – Theodore Roosevelt.

Winner of both the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize, Teddy Roosevelt is one of the most complex men in American history. He was a very sickly child, suffering frequently debilitating asthma attacks. He often spent days at a time sitting up – struggling to breathe.

In an effort to improve his health, his father started “Teedy” (the family nickname) on an exercise regimen that included learning how to box. He was a club boxer at Harvard and developed a lifelong interest in the martial arts – including wrestling. Frankly, he wasn’t a very good wrestler, but he loved the sport and the men who practiced it – once entertaining Frank Gotch at the White House.

Here’s a section of a letter from Roosevelt to his son Kermit that mixed martial arts fans may find interesting, “Since Sunday we have not been able to ride. I still box with Grant, who has now become the champion middleweight wrestler of the United States. Yesterday afternoon we had Professor Yamashita up here to wrestle with Grant. It was very interesting, but of course jiu jitsu and our wrestling are so far apart that it is difficult to make any comparison between them. Wrestling is simply a sport with rules almost as conventional as those of tennis, while jiu jitsu is really meant for practice in killing or disabling our adversary. In consequence, Grant did not know what to do except to put Yamashita on his back, and Yamashita was perfectly content to be on his back. Inside of a minute Yamashita had choked Grant, and inside of two minutes more he got an elbow hold on him that would have enabled him to break his arm; so that there is no question but that he could have put Grant out. So far this made it evident that the jiu jitsu man could handle the ordinary wrestler. But Grant, in the actual wrestling and throwing was about as good as the Japanese, and he was so much stronger that he evidently hurt and wore out the Japanese.”

Roosevelt is also credited with starting the organization that eventually grew into the NCAA.

Oh yeah – then there was that Panama Canal thing… and National Parks… and trust busting…

Anyway – I hope Dan Gable had a happy birthday and I hope that at least a few of us take a second to remember Theodore Roosevelt.


Rollie Peterkin said...

Good stuff, thanks for posting. I spent the morning reading the SI stuff. I've always heard the Davis story in wrestling lore, but didn't know how factual it was. Imagine being there and seeing him with all those donuts? And Gable's face must have been priceless...

Jim Brown said...


Thanks for reading. How is your preparation for this season coming?


Rollie Peterkin said...

Great, I'm excited for the season.