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Appearance in ESPN 30 for 30


Stephen C. Mitchell's

fine film: Nixon's National Champs




Monday, December 29, 2014: In August, I was flown to Fayetteville

to be interviewed in Razorback Stadium for Stephen C. Mitchell's

ESPN 30 for 30 documentary film, Nixon's National Champs. After

months of communications, I enjoyed meeting Stephen and Lee

Waldrep and working with them, and without going into details, I

can attest to their painstaking perfectionism -- and patience. I also

had time to catch up with old friend Bob Holt of the Arkansas

Democrat-Gazette, and he introduced me to the Catfish Hole, the

dining highlight of my year.


I watched the film's premiere showing Sunday night on ESPN. Chris

Fowler and Pat Buchanan also appeared in it, following Stephen's

own setup comments at the start.


It's terrific, wryly funny and enlightening.


Stephen contacted me because of my book Horns, Hogs, and Nixon

Coming, a very panoramic work. 


Because I also have written the screenplay adaptation and it's on the

market -- and, yes, I have stories about that -- I was gratified to

realize that Stephen had his own ideas and vision. He was not going

to be like others who came before him. Those folks either:


a) brazenly asked me to help them to not just use HHNC as their

roadmap, but also poach from it.  




b) simply lifted, going far beyond fair beyond fair use, almost always

minus acceptable citation. 


More recently, my legal position relative to one tainted book and a

connected feature film project has been made clear to producers.

I'm not backing down. That saga is only just beginning. You'll hear

more about it. Realizing the book and its author are 

tainted and simply ceasing to mention them doesn't change the

facts tied to the issue of derivative rights.  


In contrast, in a short documentary, Stephen wanted to highlight a

very specific aspect of the story -- Nixon's presumptuouness in

stepping into the 1969 national championship campaign -- set against

the backdrop of the first-ever four-team national playoff. He

found amazing footage of Joe Paterno and Penn State, the

aggrieved and snubbed undefeated team that beat Missouri in the

Orange Bowl, and did more with the Nittany Lions than I had in

my book.


Impressed with his ingeniousness and energy, I agreed to be part

of his film, and I'm glad I did. We had agreed that the film could

help bring renewed attention to the book, published in hardback

in 2002 and still available in the Taylor Trade paperback edition and

a Simon and Schuster e-book; and also to the film project,

represented by Jeanne Field of Windfall Management.


Because Stephen had limited airtime and was so tightly focused,

there was much material about the '69 Texas-Arkansas game that

had to be left out, or was extraneous to his tale. That's

where it was win-win for both of us. Yes, I'm hoping his fine film

whetted the appetite of viewers to explore the book, which focuses

on the game, those two teams and -- in the most revelatory material I

came across -- the startling things going on around the game in that

cauldron year.


Those included, but were not limited to:


-- Black students and their supporters preparing to storm the field

in front of the president and on national TV if the Arkansas

band played a single note of "Dixie" after weeks of heated

protests of the song's use as the unofficial anthem for Razorback



-- An anti-Vietnam War protest, including Vietnam and World War II

veterans I tracked down, on the hill above the stadium. ABC

ignored the protest, but it was in plain sight of the Nixon

entourage, seated facing it.


meandbill.jpg-- Bill Clinton listening to the game on short-

wave radio in England, where he was a

Rhodes Scholar. At the time, his ultimately

notorious Dec. 3, 1969 letter to Col. Eugene

Holmes, a Bataan Death March survivor, the

head of the Arkansas ROTC program and the

future father-in- law of Razorback tailback Bill 

Burnett, was on its way to Fayetteville. I spoke

with Holmes for the book, and it was his only public statement on

the issue after Clinton's angst-filled letter to him was released during

the 1992 presidential campaign.


We couldn't have known when that picture was taken in the White

House in 1997, he would appear in one of my books five years later.


-- The pending integration of both teams' varsities. Both 

had African-American scholarship players as freshmen -- Texas'

Julius Whittier and Arkansas' Jon Richardson -- and there

was much more to this than met the eye, too. On the Arkansas side

alone, the black law student who suffered a superficial gunshot

wound the night before the game as the "Dixie" debate continued

had played freshman football for the Razorbacks in 1965 but

ultimately decided not to attempt to go out for the varsity team the

next year.


Later, he was the defense attorney for Jim Guy Tucker in the

Whitewater trial and questioned President Clinton on videotape

in the White House. 


Beyond that, of course, the game itself was an imperfectly played

classic, and I went into extensive detail about it, including the fact

that Texas safety Freddie Steinmark -- like me, an alumnus of and a

former athlete at Denver's Wheat Ridge High -- played that day on a

leg being eaten up by cancer. 


So yes, there were many subplots Stephen couldn't get into in 22

minutes. He brilliantly kept his focus tight and produced a terrific

film -- one I was proud to be in.


Relax, it will turn out to be better than Caddyshack II

While the sequel starts out

horribly, Save By Roy is out



November 5, 2014: Today is the publication date for 

Save By Roy. Although those who pre-ordered from various sites

started to receive their copies last week, this is the first day of official



This time, the agonizing wait wasn't as long as for

my other books. Collaborator Adrian Dater and I turned in the

manuscript mid-May.


The book officially is hitting the market as the Avalanche are struggling

in the early weeks of the 2014-15 season. They've been awful, a stark

contrast to that 12-1 start of a year ago. Actually, I have to admit that

when Adrian and I first started working on Save By Roy, that was only

a working title and all we were certain of at that point was that it would be

an interesting season with Patrick Roy stepping behind the bench and Joe

Sakic at the top of the hockey hierarchy for the first time. There were

no guarantees, or even assumptions, that the 2103-14 season would turn

out to be as successful as it was (at least before the playoffs). Truth be

told, we thought the kind of struggles we're witnessing now were likely

to be the basis of the Save By Roy narrative. But we believed that no

matter what happened, with Patrick Roy as a rookie coach, we would be

chronicling an interesting season. 


So, no, the Avalanche's current struggles don't invalidate the premise of the

book. We set out to tell the story of that season -- and Roy's first season

as an NHL head coach, plus the Avalanche franchise's return to the upper

levels of the league (at least for that season) -- in an opinionated, 

interpretive and entertaining fashion. The reaction we're getting from

readers in the early stages of availability has strengthened my belief that

we achieved that goal. 


Thornton, Colorado, Barnes and Noble. Because of the way the shelves break,

'77 (left) and Save By Roy (right) are in close proximity. '77, published in 2007,

just keeps plugging along in paperback edition. 



Marine college stars play football on Guadalcanal, fight (and die) on Okinawa

4th vs. 29th Regiments, 

Christmas Eve, 1944 


Dave Schreiner (Wisconsin) and Tony Butkovich (Purdue) 

May 26, 2014: I've written many Veterans Day or Memorial Day

columns and stories over the years, at both the Oregonian and

Denver Post. The most personal was inNovember 2000, recounting

my discussion with my fatherabout his wartime service as a P-38

fighter pilot. That eventually motivated me to do additional

research about his entire 1942 Wisconsin team and write Third
Down and a 
War to Go.

Here's that book's 
prologue, which outlines how the story came
about and where I went from there.


Since a handful of Badgers served in the Marines, I came across

and researched a Christmas Eve 1944 touch football game

matching teams from the 4th and 29th Regiments on
Three ex-Badgers played in it.


Going over the program and the rosters for the game, I was

astounded to see a familiar name -- that of Walter "Bus" Bergman,

a former Colorado State/A&M star from Denver who

later became a beloved coach on the Western Slope. 

Using the Sixth Marine Division Association directory, I contacted

many of the survivors who had played in or seen the game,

and/or served with the Badgers. I ended upinterviewing 22

veterans of the Sixth Division, including Bus.

I visited Bus in Grand Junction and a year before Third Down and

a War to Go's release, wrote a story about him, his involvement in

the game and in the Battle of Okinawa. 

He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the battle.

Eventually, Third Down and a War to Go went into a lot more detail
about the men who played in the game, including the
Badgers, and I also did newspaper offshoot stories.


I resposted the 2003 story on Bergman in a Denver Post blog

today, and it's available here. It also has links to the offshoot

stories, plus a couple not connected to the book research. 


Here's Third Down and a War to Go's full page on this site.


Honoring Jerry Frei at Oregon spring game

A great weekend with

the Ducks in Eugene




DadOfficeView.jpg DadOfficeGreatwood1.jpg

Jerry Frei Offensive Line Coach's Office

May 4, 2014: I'm back from an emotional and gratifying family

visit to Eugene, where the University of Oregon athletic department

honored our father, Jerry Frei, by offically unveiling the Jerry Frei

Offensive Line Coach's Office in the new Hatfield-Dowlin Complex

and  showing a tribute video on the scoreboard screen during the

first half of the Oregon Spring game at Autzen Stadium. Appropriately,

the tribute was read by Don Essig, the long-time public address

announcer at Oregon games.

In keeping with the military appreciation theme of the day, the video

prominently mentioned the aspect of Jerry Frei's background that was

never listed as part of his coaching biography during his 17-season

tenure with the Ducks as an assistant and ultimately their head coach.

That was his 67 combat missions as a P-38 fighter pilot in World

War II, flying generally alone over Japanese targets to take

reconnaissance photos in advance of the bombing runs. The one-man

plane was unarmed; cameras replaced the guns. (The prologue of

Third Down and a War to Go explains more.)

I noticed Oregon players on the field watching the video and clapping.

On Friday, Kim Murray of the Duck Athletic Fund treated us to lunch

at The Wild Duck, across the street from Matthew Knight Arena. It 

significant for us, also, because the first home I remember living in in

Eugene was about a block from there, on Columbia Street. (It's no

longer there, thanks to university expansion.)

Then we took tours of the Casanova Center and the new football

complex, which is truly as breathtaking as you've heard, and had a

met and ate dinner with many of the former players and coaches

who had played golf that afternoon. It never gets old to hear stories

from  Jerry Frei's former players and coaches, and they made me 

even more proud to be his son. And it was nice to again see and

talk with former Oregon coach Rich Brooks, retired and now living

back in the area.  Thanks to Jeff Eberhart of the Oregon athletic

department; athletic director Rob Mullins; and offensive line coach

Steve Greatwood, who all were terrific.

On Saturday, I also enjoyed running into and speaking with Rob

Moseley, editor of GoDucks.com, and Ryan Thorburn of the Eugene

Register-Guard, formerly of the Boulder Daily Camera. And thanks

for Oregon's David Williford for helping setting up a halftime radio

appearance for my brother, David, and me with Jerry Allen, the

veteran radio voice of the Ducks.   

Four of the five Frei siblings, plus family members, were there. Dave

and I were joined by our sisters, Judy Kaplan and Nancy McCormick.

The fifth sibling, former ballerina and now ballet company executive, 

Susan Frei Earley, had performances over the weekend in Tulsa

and wasn't able to attend.


Secondarily, and this was merely a coincidence because this honor

was in the works long before the release of March 1939: Before the

Madness, I also did a signing for the book about the first NCAA

basketball tournament -- a tournament won by Oregon's legendary

"Tall Firs" -- and its times.  

That also made the scoreboard, at left.

I also was appreciative that the sons of

two members of that legendary 1939

team came to the signing. The first is

Scott Wintermute, son of Tall Firs

center Slim Wintermute; the second is

Scott McNeeley, son of backup guard 

Red McNeeley. Scott had provided me

with a CD interview his mother and aunt conducted with Red late in

his life about his war-time experiences. Red was a torpedo bomber

pilot in the Navy and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his

heroics during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

ScottWintermute.jpg ScottMcNeeley.jpg


Setting up for The Duck Store signing. That's Jordan of the

Duck Store staff ... not Marcus Mariota.  



Oregon's weight room  



Oregon's cafeteria, left, and media interview room, right 


Catching breath after March 1939: Before the Madness promotion

"And we welcome to the show ..."


April 22, 2014: March 1939: Before the
has been out for about
weeks now, and the response has
been heartening in many ways ...

including at the box office, so to
 The national radio "tour"
several weeks, and I enjoyed
it. I've
generally found that hosts (or
producers who are intrigued
to book me to talk about the
book do
their homework, whether
that means
reading the book or at
sufficiently familiarizing
with the material to
converse with me
about it.
 So my public thanks to
them all.
The most intriguing appearance was on Public Radio
The World, and I actually heard the segment in my
car on the
afternoon of April 7, a few hours before the start of the
Kentucky championship game. I had gone
the Colorado Public Radio studios on the previous Friday to
be interviewed on a
broadcast-quality line, and the produced
segment broadcast included
only a relative snippet of my
comments. But I understand that and am
accustomed to that sort
of process from the writer's side of the

So there I was, immediately after a somber segment on the

situation in Afghanistan.

The World understandably was most interested in and intrigued
by my approach of framing the basketball season and
against the backdrop of the Sino-Japanese war and
Nazi Germany's
bellicosity in Europe, including its mid-March
invasion of
Czechoslovakia. In all my books, I've taken great care
to tell the
sports stories as part of the times, and in this case,
debates were
raging over whether the U.S. should become
involved in
another European war, if it came to that. It did, of
course, but
forums on college campuses -- including Oregon --
were addressing
the issue without the foresight of knowing that
the events of
December 7, 1941 essentually would end all those
debates. So these men in the first tournament were hearing the

drumbeats of war and wondering if they would have to serve.
Many did. In that sense, I
consider this book a prequel to Third
Down and a War to Go
, about
slightly younger Wisconsin football
players winning a version of the
national championship in 1942
and understanding they soon would
be in military -- and not
 football -- uniforms.
Here's that segment.  


Enjoyable appearances in Glenn Morris' backyards

Playing the Lincoln Theatre
and the Fort Collins Library


February 21, 2014: Before turning more promotional attention 

to the new March 1939: Before the Madness, I made two very

enjoyable appearances to discuss and sign Olympic Affair in the last

10 days.


The first was February 10 in Limon. It was the first time I'd ever

done an appearance in a theatre, and it was in the historic 

Lincoln Theatre in Limon. My thanks to Ryan Kaufman of High

Plains Media and Broadcasting for setting it up and putting it on.

Glenn Morris, the protagonist in Olympic Affair, was raised 24

miles down the road from Limon, in Simla, so I mainly discussed

that book, including the research and the decisions I made in

presenting it as historical fiction rather than a conventional non-
fiction work. But I also ran through my other projects and enjoyed 

fielding questions -- all standing in front of the movie screen.

Then last night, I had a great time talking about 
Olympic Affair at

the Old Town Main Library in Fort Collins, on behalf of the city's Old

Firehouse Books. Morris, of course, also was a star athlete and

student body president at the school that now is CSU, and he trained

in what now is called the Glenn Morris Field House on the east side

of the campus. The turnout was good, the questions following my

presentation were terrific and thought-provoking, and because of the

proximity to where he spent his collegiate years and a post-graduate

year preparing for the Olympics, I almost felt as if Morris was

listening in on us.   


Publishers Weekly praises MARCH 1939: BEFORE THE MADNESS

"Carefully crafted, fast-moving
and refreshing"

December 22, 2013:
 I should have been waiting at Sardi's.


The new online and print editions of

Publishers Weekly include a very nice advance review of my

upcoming book, March 1939: Before the Madness.

It closes with: "Carefully crafted, fast-moving, and refreshing, Frei's
study of the scrappy Oregon Webfoots' campaign ... is quite

Here's the online version.


Derrick Webb: The Project Explained

And here's how to find

the previously unseen

"Director's Cut" 





December 10, 2013: I'm very proud of the way the Derrick Webb
project I did for the Denver Post turned out.

However, I do wish the newspaper's readers could have seen more
Derrick's story.

Here's the "Director's Cut" version, which includes considerable

material that ran neither in the newspaper nor on the Post's web

Here's the story behind the project: As the football season was about
to begin, I was asked to come up with a "project" idea I could work

on intermittently through the season. I tossed out suggestions,

including "embedding" for the season with a local high school team or

a Division II program. I also mentioned the possibility of doing a

season-long version of a story I did at The Sporting News in 1995.

then, we sent out feelers to sports information directors at a
of major programs, asking if they had a player who fit the
profile -- senior, starter, decent or better student, unlikely to
the NFL. In other words, a guy to use as a model of the many
good, not great, players who get something positive out of the
college football experience. Sure, I even could have done it on a

bench-warmer, but that wouldn't have "sold." Frankly, part of my

thinking was a virtual life-long understanding that despite all the

"negative" you hear about college football, the fact is that it generally

is a positive and enriching experience for a vast majority of the young

men involved -- yes, even at the powerhouse programs.
  We settled
on Texas linebacker senior Jason Reeves and
photographer Elsa Hasch
and I spent a week with him on the Austin
campus, through a
November 4, 1995 home game against Texas Tech.

We agreed that we couldn't expect access to team meetings and

functions not granted to other members of the media. (It's not Texas

was opposed to that, it's just that they couldn't do that to local media,
and we understood and accepted that's the way it had to be.) Then-
coach John Mackovic welcomed the story and the exposure and, well,

even stretched the boundaries of that agreement. It ran over four

tabloid pages in the December 11, 1995 issue -- actually, after I had

rejoined the Post.

I proposed doing something similar here -- and for a season, not a
week -- if I could find a similar player and get similar cooperation.

I did and we did.
So I shadowed and met with Webb, the CU senior linebacker and co-
captain, over the course of the 2013 season, and photographer

Kathryn Scott Osler -- like me, a CU grad -- joined us at times and

shot pictures of him at home games.
  I wrote and and turned in the
(very) long original version, hoping we
would run it in the paper in two
or three parts as part of the "project"
approach. (That's what we did

with the "project" narrative Mike Chambers and I produced on former

University of Denver hockey player Jesse Martin's near-fatal

hockey injury and his subsequent recovery, and this all along was

billed as a narrative project, too.) After much discussion and

rearranging, this is the way the Webb project turned out in the paper

and on our site:

1, The story in the Sunday, December 8 paper covers Derrick's final
two games as as Buff -- the Senior Day game against Southern

California and the final game at Utah. I also was able to work in his

background as introductory material, and introduce you to his

As it turned out, a significant portion of the material from my
story about those final two weeks didn't make that version,
but as a
snippet of much larger research, or as a "part" of a bigger
story, it's fine. 

2, An online only supplement takes Derrick from the final week of
August through the 10th game of the season, the victory over

California. It also includes much more information about his college

life, including his classes. I consider that story a "prequel." Print-only

readers did not see it. Also, because of the way the two online pieces

were originally posted minus labeling and explanation, many readers

were confused. That was straightened out Sunday afternoon.
also is a nice photo gallery posted on the colleges page.

The "Director's Cut" is the full version I originally turned in as the
product of the mandated "project" approach, hoping it would be

broken into parts and perhaps run over two or even three days in the

paper. It sets the stage as I did in the print version of the story, with

Senior Day coming up and introducing Derrick and his family, but it

then flashes back to late August and takes him through the season in

chronological order, from beginning to end.
  There has been some
confusion about this, but to re-emphasize: This
did NOT appear either
in the Denver Post or Denver Post Online. I
guess I also could call this
"The Godfather Saga," paying homage to
the approach Francis Ford
Coppola used in putting together the
Godfather films into one
chronologically told saga.
  My vote was to post only this on Sunday
morning on DPO as the
online version of record for this story and
project, getting the most
mileage out of our months of effort and
taking advantage of limitless
online space. I lost the vote. Not
complaining there ... we've all lost
votes, right? But especially now that
the dust has settled, this 
enables Denver Post readers interested in
to see the full, alternative version. 


Julius Whitter, first black Longhorn letterman, is inducted into U of Texas Hall of Honor

Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming
dealt with Dixie's Last Stand


November 6, 2013:
Julius Whitter last weekend was among the ex-players
inducted into the University of Texas' Hall of Honor.

He was the Longhorns' first black football letterman, and I visited him in
2001 at his law office in Dallas during the research for Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming (2002).
No black players participated in the 1969 Arkansas-Texas game that is the
book's focal point, but both schools had black scholarship players on the
freshman teams that season and were on the verge of varsity squad
integration. It's a major plotline in the book -- and part of the reason for the
subtitle Texas vs. Arkansas in Dixie's Last Stand -- and I enjoyed speaking
with Whittier. Arkansas' freshman scholarship player was running back Jon
Richardson, and I also spoke with Hiram McBeth, who was on the "B" squad
in 1969 after essentially being appointed by the Black Student organization to
go out for football and integrate the program; and with Darrell Brown, who
ended up the attorney for Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker in the Whitewater
trial and as such questioned Bill Clinton on video in the White House.
Brown had gone out for freshman football in 1965 and in that sense was the
first black Razorback.

Here's my introductory passage on Whittier:

When Julius Whittier committed to attending Texas, he didn’t know he

would become the Longhorns’ first black letterman.

“I didn’t go there with that as a goal,” he says. “I went there because I

wanted to play big-time football, take a shot and see how I stacked up against

guys like me. If I was an icebreaker, I didn’t feel the breaking ice.”

Whittier says he never felt as if Darrell Royal had to be dragged screaming

into the era of integrated college football. “There may have been those

coaches who made it their goal to make sure college football stayed white,”

Whittier says. “I didn’t see that in Coach Royal, didn’t see it as a burning issue

with any of the white football players, and even in looking back I don’t see it.

“I think the guys I played with felt comfortable they had the skills to compete

with anyone, whether that guy was white or black. So, no, I don’t see

Coach Royal as a fiber in the fabric of the part of football that may have

wanted to keep it white. Coach Royal basically came to a school that got its

personality from the state it served. Not that he was some big social revolutionary

or anything, but I think he recognized that to stay who we were, we

were going to have to use black athletes.

“There’s a strength that was added to the team by adding different ethnic

backgrounds. I think Royal appreciated that and was unafraid. [But] he had a

board of regents that thought maintaining racial purity was more important

for a long time.”

UT’s first black letterman came from San Antonio. Julius’s father, Oncy,

was a doctor, and his mother, Loraine, was a teacher. As he was being raised,

Julius was somewhat naïve, because the San Antonio schools were a Texas oasis,

integrated for years. White kids and black kids and brown kids went to

school together, and from junior high up, students got “bus cards” and could

attend any school in the district. But it was as if the city couldn’t quite figure

out how far to extend this progress.

One example of San Antonio’s reticence was that blacks still had to enter

the historic Majestic Theater through the back door and sit in the back.

Julius’s sisters, Cheryl and Mildred, worked at the Handy Andy market, and

discovered that they wouldn’t be allowed to advance to cashier’s jobs; those

were reserved for the white girls. Loraine, active in the NAACP, helped organize

a protest march on the store; eventually, Cheryl and Mildred and

other black girls were allowed to handle the money, too. Julius’s older

brother, also Oncy, set the example for Julius—one he didn’t always pretend

to match. Oncy was meticulous in his dress, polite in manner, and studious to

an extreme. “He was the gentleman,” Julius says. “I was the renegade.” But

Oncy also was involved in the Black Guerrilla Theatre group, which was in

the same building as the militant Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

and was raided at one point by San Antonio police. “My brother got

clubbed in the head, along with several other people, and we had to get him

out of jail,” Julius says.

At Highlands High School, predominantly white, Julius took part in a

protest of the dress code, wearing a dashiki he borrowed from Oncy. Oncy

could argue with teachers and win them over, at least earning their respect;

Julius could say what was on his mind and be tossed from class. Oncy was an

all-city offensive lineman in football, and he ended up at Howard University

in Washington, D.C. Julius was surprised when he discovered his options included

attending the University of Texas and playing football—with all

those white boys! At the end of his senior season, he discovered that his parents

and his high school coach had cut a deal to lessen the recruiting pressures.

“When the season was over, we were tearing down our lockers and my

coach called me into the office,” Julius says. “There were three bags of letters

on his desk.”

“This is for you, as a reward for the year you had.”

“What is it, Coach?”

“They’re letters from different colleges and universities, Julius. And I want you to

read this one first.”

Coach Darrell Royal was telling Julius Whittier the University of Texas

Longhorns wanted him.

“I didn’t know who he was,” Whittier says. “I don’t say that to minimize

who he was, I say that to show how sheltered I was.”

Royal’s head defensive coach, Mike Campbell, came to San Antonio, met

with Whittier, and helped schedule a visit to the UT campus. “I bought into

Campbell’s honesty,” Whittier says. “He was straightforward. He was just an

old white man who knew how to play football. He turned out to be just what

he showed me—a straight shooter.”

As Julius also set up visits to North Texas State and SMU, and he sifted

through the letters from Big Ten schools, his mother’s NAACP friends were

aghast that he was considering UT. “They had this fear that I wouldn’t get a

fair shot, that I would be just suiting up and holding a dummy,” Whittier

says. “My mom was fascinated by the challenge, though.”

Royal didn’t make the kid from San Antonio any promises about how

much he would play. “That part’s up to you,” Royal said. Like James Street

and others before him, Whittier took that as a challenge. “You know the

bumper sticker that says ‘Hire a teenager while they still know everything?’

That was me,” he says. And he wouldn’t be the only black player in the program,

he was reminded. On his recruiting visit, Whittier was shown around

by the freshman halfback, Leon O’Neal. “He told me the white folks were

OK,” Whittier says, smiling. “Then he left. It didn’t bother me at first, until

I thought about it later and he kind of left me there. I was expecting to go

there and be real good friends with him for the next two, three years. We got

along real well on my recruiting trip.”

As he settled in at UT during that 1969 season, Whittier became increasingly

bothered because his teammates seemed blinkered and insulated from

the events swirling around them. And, no, at times he didn’t feel welcome.

“It’s almost a southern gentleman kind of racism to the extent that I never

got invited out on the drinking sprees,” Whittier says. “Everybody knew I

didn’t drink. But there were also white boys invited out on these sprees who

didn’t drink.”

He was quoted in the February 15, 1970,
San Antonio Express-News as saying:

“The problems I’ve had have been with some of the players. Texas seems

to recruit a lot of boys from small towns, and most of them have small minds

just like their fathers. I’ve gotten the message from them. It’s subtle, but to

them I’m definitely an outsider.”

Years later, Whittier can repeat his “small-town boys” newspaper statement

almost verbatim. You bet he heard about it, and he hasn’t forgotten. He

doesn’t seem to give the Longhorns, even when all except Whittier were

white, enough credit for their wide spectrum of attitudes, viewpoints, and

level of seriousness, but it’s understandable why.

“By that I meant they weren’t out to change the world in any way,” he says.

“They were out to play first-class football at a first-class football school. Race

didn’t get in our way. The social change that I was into and used to in my

home life, through my mom’s stewardship, was not part of what they were

about. They were about playing football and stepping into the life that a

solid football career at a solid football school gets you.”

But in 1969, Whittier was just a freshman linebacker, anyway, not a part of

the varsity. The tricky part was freshmen were considered lower life forms in

the football area of Jester Center, subject to the usual hazing rituals of being

ordered to shine shoes, do laundry, go out for hamburgers or beer at two in

the morning, or make beds. The freshman season was a plebe experience, and

the tradition was that the first-year players couldn’t even enter through the

main door of the dining hall until they had beaten the Texas A&M freshmen.

Whittier regarded a few upperclassmen as his protectors—including

sophomore Randy Stout, who shared time at left guard with Bobby Mitchell,

plus backup running backs Billy Dale and Bobby Callison. He felt they were

watching out for him, making sure the freshman indoctrination pranks didn’t

go beyond the norm, to racial harassment. (When Dale was a senior and

Whittier was a sophomore, they roomed together in Jester.)  
Whittier also came to like defensive tackle Greg Ploetz.

“It didn’t appear that I was being treated any different than any other

freshman,” Whittier says. “I think I was respected, too, because I was aggressive

and got after it. I didn’t slink to the back of the line when it was time for

shit drills. In fact, I had made a promise to myself that when they said to line

up I always would be first in line, even if I had to push and shove to get there.

I wanted the coaches to know they didn’t have to worry about me being willing

to stick my face in there.”

During that fall, the other Longhorn freshmen and a few of the upperclassmen

noticed a few other things about the black kid: He could be late for lunch

because he was at a protest! He would hang out with the hippies! He went to the

Moratorium march, and he was sympathetic when students protested a

Memorial Stadium and street expansion project that forced the bulldozing of

Waller Creek between the stadium and the main part of campus. The administration

and many students couldn’t understand why moving the channel

thirty feet was such a problem. So what if it killed a few trees and a few turtles?

“I had to walk by this fight to go into the stadium to get dressed to play

football,” Whittier says. “I was having to face the fact that what I was doing

and the system I was playing in was the dynamite behind the movement to

move Waller Creek. I’d have to walk past Frank Erwin”—the chairman of

the board of regents—“and the other regents observing the protesters to

make sure they didn’t interfere with construction. Kids tied themselves to

trees to stop the bulldozers.”

Whittier says that while coaches made snide remarks every once in a

while—Heard you were up there with all the hippies!—they never attempted to

tell him he couldn’t take part in protests or be politically active, either that

freshman year or later. In fact, he says, trainer Frank Medina surprised him

by saying, “If you take care of business here, you’re fine with us.”

The 1969 freshman team went 5–0, finishing off with a victory over Texas

A&M in Austin on November 21. Then the first-year players settled in to

watch their “heroes” close out the varsity season against Texas A&M and


“Those guys were like gods to us!” Whittier says. “You could tell that

there was never a thought in their mind that anyone was going to beat


Certainly not Arkan


Marty Glickman in Olympic Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero

Before he was a sportscaster...

(Marty Glickman, Sam Stoller on SS Manhattan on way to Germany)

September 2013:
I finally was able to watch the HBO

documentary on Marty Glickman, a major figure in my novel

Olympic Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero, last night. HBO

On Demand for subscribers is a wonderful thing. The notation is

that "Glickman" will be available that way through September 23.

Glickman, destined for a career as one of the best play-by-play

sportscasters of all time, and fellow Jewish sprinter Sam Stoller

were frozen off the U.S. 400-meter relay team at the 1936 Berlin

Olympics, coincidentally leading to Jesse Owens adding to his

gold-medal collection with his fourth. As I write in my book, there is

considerable evidence and no doubt in my mind that U.S. Olympic

Committee czar Avery Brundage and others conspired to keep

Glickman and Stoller off the relay team to avoid "embarrassing" the

Games' German hosts including Adolf Hitler. The documentary addresses

that and reaches the same conclusion.


As I had been promised, it is a superb and revealing portrait of one

of a trailblazing in more ways than one  sportscaster who was

especially influential within his craft. Writer, director, and producer

James L. Freedman did terrific work here. Probably most

underplayed in what I had read and heard about the documentary

was the amazing rounding up and use of archival film and pictures

of Glickman through the years, especially during his athletic career

as a sprinter and football player. Time after time, I'd catch myself

marveling and congratulating Freedman for his doggedness and

ingenuity because I'm assuming nobody dropped a box of old films

and material on his front porch one morning. I also appreciated

and identified with how well he was able to cope with the fact

that Glickman died in 2001. He was able to use footage of earlier

Glickman interviews, and while I suspect he was wishing that he

had been able to do this much sooner, while Glickman was alive,

and do "new" interviews himself, it's not jarring or ruinous. I can

identify with Freedman in the sense that I suspect angst in having

to bring America this story a decade after Glickman's death and

not while he still was alive was part of the motivation every day.


"Glickman" is superb, and for many, it was or is

going to be revelation about a figure they has seen or listened to

growing up. But this doesn't need to be only for those old enough

to have that reason. It's a history lesson a very relevant one



Here are passages from the first half of my book, which
revolves around U.S. decathlon champion Glenn Morris' 
passionate, yet ultimately toxic and contaminating, affair
with German actress, propagandist and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.
Morris was from tiny Simla, Colorado, and was a
former football star and student body president at the school
now known as Colorado State. Later narrative material documents

Glickman and Stoller's shameful exclusion from the relay team.
They had not "qualified" for the 100 or 200 -- even that
involved a bit of controversy, as noted below -- but went to 

Berlin as alternates and were expected to be on the relay team,

if the usual protocol was followed. It wasn't.  


A few background notes: At a farewell dinner the night before
departure, a Broadway producer had told Morris to win the gold
medal and then use it to make a very derisive gesture to Hitler.
The Hotel Lincoln now is the Milford Plaza. And "Badgers" was the
derisive term the athletes had for Olympic Committee functionaries.   

In the middle of the Hotel Lincoln lobby, the pot-bellied small-time lawyer

in an ill-fitting American Olympic Committee blazer bellowed through a

megaphone. Sweat dripped down the Badger’s face despite the early-morning


“Gentlemen . . . and ladies! Have your Olympic identification card out.

Show it when you get on a bus, so we can check you off. From here on out,

you have to assume nobody’s going to recognize you or take your word for

who you are! That’s everywhere, but also, if Mr. Hitler is around, the more

likely they’ll be to react and ask questions later. So when men in strange

uniforms tell you where to go or where not to go, do what they say.”

Glenn thought of the Broadway producer’s suggestion the night before

and smiled. Then, looking at the Badger in his funny suit, he laughed. An

elbow dug sharply into his ribs. Next to Glenn, his eyes narrowed by fury,

was the spunky Jewish sprinter from New York City.
Barely out of high school.

Looks more like one of these corner newsboys hawking New York papers than an

athlete. Glickman. Marty Glickman.

“What’s the idea, Marty?”

“You think that’s funny?”

what’s funny?”

“The Nazis’ bullshit.”

“Hold on,” Glenn said, pointing at the Badger. “I was just thinking about

him warning us to put up with a bunch of guys in funny uniforms over there.

That’s all we’ve been doing for the past two days here!”

Not wanting to sound too cocky, Glenn didn’t bring up the producer’s

suggestion for what to do after winning the gold medal.

“Do you even
know what the Nuremberg Laws are?” Glickman asked


“Absolutely,” Glenn said.

“You’re comparing the Nazis and some guys telling us to get in line to pick

up a handbook?”

“You’re reading too much into this,” Glenn said. “Way too much.”

Jack Torrance, the huge shot-putter beloved as “Baby Jack” and “Baby

Elephant,” stepped between them. Glickman needed to stand on his toes

and lean to the side to even see the six-foot-two Morris; and that made, first,

the decathlete, and then the sprinter, laugh. If anything was going to foil

Torrance in Berlin, it was that the world record-holder and former football

player at Louisiana State University had gotten fat and flabby after leaving

college while serving as a Baton Rouge policeman. The rumor was the scales

at the physicals couldn’t even handle him, and that he was up to at least 325


“Now boys,” Torrance drawled. “Need I remind you we’re all on the same

team from here on?”

“Honest, Marty,” Glenn said, “I didn’t mean anything by it . . . except

against the Badgers.”

Shaking his head, Glickman said, “Sorry. I guess all this has me a little

on edge. I’m going to the
Olympics, but it doesn’t feel right. I’m starting to

wonder if Brundage insisted we go over there just so he could hug Hitler and

tell him what fine ideas he has.”

“I understand, Marty,” Glenn said. “Or at least I’m trying to.”

“Good,” Torrance said. “Now shake hands . . . or no more throwing lessons

for you, Morris, and I’ll accidentally drop a shot put on your toes, Glickman,

about the time we’re passing Greenland.”

Torrance stepped aside, letting them shake hands, and then said,  “So

we’re square? From here on out, it’s all red, white, and blue, one for all, and

all for one.”

Glenn felt old, telling himself:
When I was Marty’s age, “the world” was the

globe in the corner of Old Man DeWitt’s history room at the high school . . . and

I didn’t know much about it.


They all ran a few sprints, and at one point, Marty Glickman waited for

Glenn and asked if he could talk to him privately. Over here, he gestured.

“First off,” Glickman said, “I’m going to play football at Syracuse, so I

identify with you.”

“Thanks,” Glenn said.

“The other thing you should know . . . well, you were at the Trials, weren’t


Glenn nodded.

Glickman continued, “So you know, I’m looking over my shoulder a bit

here, too. We ran that 100-meter final and they told me I was third—behind

Owens and Metcalfe. So I’m being interviewed on the radio, and they’re saying

I’m the boy who’s going to be running with them in the 100 meters in

Berlin, and while I’m talking, the judges come and tell me I’ve been bumped

down to fourth behind Frank Wykoff . . . and
then they say I was fifth, behind

Foy Draper, too. So I’ve gone from running in the 100 at the Olympics with

Jesse and Ralph to just being on the team and hoping we stick to the way it’s

been done in the past so I have a spot in the sprint relay. The two guys they

suddenly placed ahead of me in the 100 run for Cromwell at USC. So . . .”

Dean Cromwell of USC was the American team’s assistant coach, nominally

in charge of the sprinters.

“How do they pick the relay?” Glenn asked.

“It’s always been that the top three from the trials run the 100, and then

the next four run the relay. So if they stick to that, it should be Foy Draper,

me, Stoller, and Mack Robinson. But there are no real rules, so I’m at their

mercy now. Mack doesn’t care all that much because he’s running in the 200,

but for me and Stoller, the relay’s our only chance. Writers already are saying

the coaches are telling ’em nothing will be decided until we’re in Berlin.

Maybe not until the last minute.”

Glenn was incredulous. “How could they take you and not let you run?”

“They might. They said we’d at least run in the exhibitions over there

after the Olympics. And . . .”

Glickman suddenly was a bit self-conscious.

“What else were you going to say?” Glenn asked.

“Well . . . look, we’ve talked about this, but the Germans would prefer

there aren’t any Jews competing at all. The Badgers know that, too. I’m not

saying they’ll screw us because of that, but I’m wondering. We’ll just see what

happens.” He paused, and then added, “Come on, let’s run.”


As the athletes waited on the May Field, Glenn noticed but didn’t at first

feel a light rain again falling. He thought: These hats are good for something.

“Get a load of that!” Walter Wood called out, pointing beyond the Bell

Tower to the Glockenturm Plaza.

Armed Germans in various uniforms had gathered. Cars pulled up in the plaza,
and one large limousine arrived at the foot of the Bell Tower. Adolf

Hitler emerged from the back seat. Scattered shouts of greetings came from

the few German civilians allowed in the area. Glenn was surprised at how

quiet it was otherwise. Hitler, wearing a brown uniform and high black boots,

returned the Nazi salute to an honor guard. Then he moved on to greet three

men, and Glenn recognized two of them from the Americans’ welcoming

ceremonies—the chubby mayor of Berlin and Dr. Theodor Lewald of the

German Olympic Organizing Committee. Lewald and the third man—

Glenn assumed he was an Olympic official, too—wore long coats, high collars,

and medallions draped around their necks on chains.

Soldiers filed down the corridor on the May Field, showily looking side

to side as Hitler and his entourage followed. Hitler’s group was perhaps

seventy-five men—military officers, Olympic officials, and other functionaries.

Glenn inched up, so close to Hitler’s pathway that the soldiers brushed

him. Then he saw Leni, squeezed onto the flatbed cart behind her cameraman,

who was angled to catch the reaction of the athletes to Hitler. As she

approached Glenn’s vantage point, she spotted him. Their eyes met. As the

cart went by, with her poised behind cameraman Walter Frentz, she gave

him the start, the barest hint, of a smile. For a moment, Hitler was no more

than ten feet away.

Marty Glickman ended up at Glenn’s shoulder. He shook his head in

wonderment. “Can you believe how close we were? Somebody could
have. . .”
He left it there.

The looks they exchanged confirmed they both knew Marty wasn’t talking

about getting an autograph.

As Hitler moved on, he didn’t look to either side, despite scattered cries

from among the athletes. Mostly, it remained eerily quiet.

Soon, though, the roar announced: The Führer had entered the stadium.



"Which book is your best?"

Done Dodging the Question.

And the answer is...


July 15, 2013: The upcoming March 1939: Before the Madness will be my

seventh book. I’m often asked, “What’s your best book?” Or, “What’s your

favorite book?” And those are two very different questions, of course. At

least in the case of the latter, it’s akin to asking which of your children is your



I’ll take a swing at it, anyway.


I’m proud of them all. If I’m asked which one a new reader should pick up to

sample my work, I tailor the suggestion to what I know of the individual’s

background, interests, tastes, and even geographic location. So, yes, if a life-

long Denver Broncos fanatic asks that question, I tend to recommend ’77:

Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age … although, no, I don’t consider

it my “best” work. If I know little or nothing about a reader’s background, or

it seems conventionally “generic,” I admit Third Down and a War to Go is

the one I would want them to read. Because of the high-profile figures and

famous game involved, plus the astounding additional material I uncovered in

the research process, I’m quite willing to recommend Horns, Hogs, and

Nixon Coming, my most “successful” book.    


But my “best”?


It’s Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler’s Siren and America’s Hero, about

the toxic and eventually contaminating relationship between Coloradan Glenn

Morris, the 1936 Olympic decathlon champion, and notorious German

actress/filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Taylor Trade was nice enough and

showed enough faith in me to allow me to step outside the box and reshape

what originally was envisioned to be a conventional non-fiction book into a

fact-based novel. Taylor Trade simultaneously issued Olympic Affair and

University of Colorado emeritus professor Paul Levitt’s Stalin’s Barber in

December 2012, and it required a tweaking of the Taylor Trade’s Twitter

profile, which previously had specified it didn’t publish fiction.


It’s my best because I was able to use what I learned while researching and

writing narrative non-fiction books in another genre. It’s not even my first

novel – The Witch’s Season, based on what I witnessed of the football

program and the crazy campus conditions in Eugene in the late 1960s and

early ‘70s, came out in 2009. Because I started it long ago, and it was the

stereotypical novel in my desk for many years as I kept coming back to it, I

always will have great affection for it and pride in it. (Plus, the subject matter

is near and dear to my heart.)


But I think I was able to constructively use the experiences of the previous

novel and the non-fiction books in crafting Olympic Affair. In the Author’s

Afterword, I explained at length the thought process in making it a novel, and

my motivation and methodology in writing it. In a nutshell, I wrote it fast

because I could see the story unfolding cinematically in my head, and I

wanted to see how it turned out. It’s a “sports book” in a sense, and I do

wonder what would have happened if we had simply classified it as such,

with all the accompanying admissions that it also is a novel. I was able to use

narrative techniques in my non-fiction books because so much of the material

was based on my direct interviews, but I do wish now that I had unleashed

myself a little more and escaped traditional techniques in Third Down and a

War to Go.


In the Dallas Morning News, Si Dunn called Horns, Hogs, and Nixon

Coming “a superb blending of sports, history and politics.” To varying

degrees, that has been my approach in all the books. But I believe it all came

together in Olympic Affair … yes, in a novel.



Missy Franklin succeeds Glenn Morris as Coloradan Sullivan winner

Yes, the Golden Boy from Colorado was
named top U.S. amateur athlete of 1936 
April 16, 2013: Missy Frankin, as expected, was named the winner of the Sullivan Award
as the top amateur athlete in the United States at ceremonies in Orlando tonight,
duplicating the feat of another Olympic hero from Colorado.
Glenn Morris, from tiny Simla, and the former football star and student body president at
Colorado State, won the decathlon (breaking his own world record) at the 1936 Olympics in
Berlin  and then was named the Sullivan Award winner for that year.
That was a bit of
a surprise, considering Jesse Owens had won four gold medals at Berlin, but I touch on one
of the reasons why he didn't in the following passage from 
Olympic Affair: Hitler's Siren
and America's Hero.
 For the record, I did change his wife's name in the book, for reasons I
touch on in the afterword. And this passage follows tumultous behind-the-scenes events that
took place when he returned from Europe, where he had been embroiled in the toxic and
contaminating affair with Leni Riefenstahl.  

In December, Glenn was living in New York and working for NBC
Radio as a liaison for sports broadcasts, and preparing to compete
for the New York Athletic Club, when he and Karen were married at
her parents’ home in Sterling. She gave up her teaching job and
moved with Glenn to Manhattan.

That month, he also was named the winner of the Sullivan Award
as the nation’s top amateur athlete for 1936, and he angered AAU
officials when he reacted honestly, saying to the reporter who
informed him of the news: “If I won, what happened to Owens? I
thought he’d get it.” He knew many of the voters were holding it
against Jesse that he quickly had declared himself a professional
after the Games, and Glenn was especially sheepish because he

didn’t intend to remain an amateur much longer, either.


On Jackie Robinson's older brother, Mack

Silver at Berlin, then on to run at Oregon 


April 15, 2013: On this day, the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's

major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, my reaction to seeing the

movie "42" on Sunday is in The Denver Post and here


In it, I mentioned the lack of backstory -- probably inevitable, necessary and

understandable -- and brought up that Jackie's older brother, Mack, was an
accomplished athlete as well. I'd been aware of that virtually since childhood

because he was among the athletes honored in the hallway displays in the

University of Oregon's McArthur Court.


I learned more about him in research for Olympic Affair, and he in fact
makes several appearances (and several speeches) in the book. As I

mentioned in the column, Robinson finished second to Jesse Owens in the

200-meter dash. Hitler was watching from his private loge, Leni Riefenstahl

and her crew were filming for the documentary Olympia, and the entire

experience of being in Berlin against the backdrop of Nazi rule left most of

the athletes at least affected. Yes, the Nazis were on their best behavior and

the worst horrors still were in the future, but the drumbeats were sounding at

an Olympics that America came close to boycotting.


After the Games, Mack ended up heading to Eugene and ran track for the

Webfoots. As Jackie would do later, Mack first attended Pasadena City

College before moving on to a four-year school. In researching my upcoming

March 1939: Before the Madness, I acquired a copy of the 1939

Oregana, the U of O yearbook. I quickly realized the deadline for the
book was early, apparently designed to enable the book to be published
and available by the end of the school year. So the details of the
Webfoots' run to the first-ever NCAA basketball title, in 1939, aren't in
the volume and the sections on the spring sports are about the 1938 seasons. 
Here's Mack's picture in the Oregana, with the eyebrow-raising caption
included (
sorry for the amateur cell phone picture's lack of focus).


Here's Frank Litsky's New York Times obituary of Mack Robinson. Note

the challenges he faced after leaving Oregon -- challenges and maltreatment

that Jackie Robinson noticed.


1942 Badger and WWII Hero Passes Away in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

R.I.P., Dave Donnellan


March 31, 2013:
In the picture above, I'm sitting with three members of
the 1942 Wisconsin Badgers in the Borders Bookstore in Eau Claire,
     From the left, they are: Don Litchfield, a long-time local automobile
dealer; Dave Donnellan, who owned a major real-estate firm; and John
Gallagher, a fixture before retirement as, first, the football coach and
then as principal at Memorial High. 
     The appearance was tied to the release of Third Down and a War
to Go:
The All-American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers. Donnellan's
military head shot is the second from the right in the row of 
individual pictures on the cover of the hardback.
     Dave Donnellan passed away on March 19. He was 90.
This is from Christena T. O'Brien of the Eau Claire
During the question-and-answer session at Borders that day,

Donnellan's youngest granddaughter raised her hand.

     "Were you ever scared?" 8-year-old Monica Hart asked her

     The question, from one so young and so wide-eyed, got to me.
Even before the answer.
"All the time," Donnellan said softly. "Every single day."

     In World War II, Donald Litchfield was a B-25 pilot and John
Gallagher was a Marine.
After the presentation and signing, Dave Donnellan's wife, Jane,
gently told me her husband had been too modest.
When I interviewed him, Donnellan hadn't told me he won the
Bronze Star.
Over his objections, I got that in the book's second printing and
then in the new paperback version,
Third Down and a War to Go.
I've touched on this before, and I'll say it again: Donnellan's reaction
was so typical, because I had heard something similar
from my own
father, a P-38 fighter pilot in the Pacific, and also a '42 Badger
, and
from so many others in his generation.
Additional coverage of Dave's death in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Beloved Eau Claire businessman remembered

Editorial: Donnellan's resume only part of what made him special


My choices for the top sports movies of all time

Gone With the Wind or
Slap Shot? It's a tossup


February 22, 2013: The Oscars are Sunday night, and no
 sports movies are among the best-picture nominees. That’s
 not much of a surprise, considering only three sports-themed
 movies — Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and Million-Dollar Baby
 ever have been named best picture. But there have been
 many great sports films. Here’s a list of my own diverse
 favorites, plus some other thoughts on the genre.

1, Slap Shot (1977). Nancy Dowd’s script about the fictional
 Charlestown Chiefs, plus the improvisation by the great cast,
 including Paul Newman and Strother Martin, made this the
 best of all time. (Her brother, Ned, played Ogie Oglethorpe,
 and his experiences in hockey's minor leagues were the
 inspiration for her script.) The lame sequels, long delayed,
 went straight to DVD. 

2, Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Mark Harris, who wrote
 the novel, also wrote the screenplay, and that’s always a
 good sign. Not even he could quite replicate the sardonic
 humor of the novel (or, actually, the series of Henry Wiggen
 novels), but it was a terrific movie, starting Robert De Niro,
 Michael Moriarty and Vincent Gardenia. The first novel in the
 series, The Southpaw, was a better book than Bang The
 Drum Slowly
, but this almost certainly was a better choice
 for a movie.

3, Breaking Away (1979). For a long time, Steve Tesich,
 also a novelist, was my favorite writer. And this script was
 why. The dry humor and the human touch made this so
 much more than a “bike-racing” movie. Plus, those of us
who grew up in college towns recognized the “townie”
 elements of the story.

4, Without Limits (1998). I’m a little prejudiced here,
 because I was raised in Eugene and revered the film’s hero,
 distance runner Steve Prefontaine, after watching him
 compete as early as when he was attending Marshfield High
 School. (He had the attitude of a strong safety and probably
 would have scoffed if anyone tried to get him to talk about
 the Zen of running.) But his fellow former University of
 Oregon runner Kenny Moore wrote the far better of the two
 bio-pics about the great and charismatic runner who died
 way too young.

5, Raging Bull (1980). De Niro plays Jake LaMotta, Martin
 Scorsese directs. A dynamite one-two combination.

6, Bull Durham (1988). I actually found the most-quoted
 Kevin Costner speech a bit much, but the rest was terrific. As
 a teenager, I worked for and took a few trips with a
minor-league baseball team, and this movie rang true to to
 me more because of those experiences than because of what
 I encountered later in my occasional stints covering
major-league baseball.

7, Field of Dreams (1989). The rare case in which the
 movie, again starring Costner, while a bit sappy, was about
 800 times better than the overwrought book (Shoeless Joe).
 Not long after the movie came out, while on a trip to cover a
 football game at the University of Iowa, I was a complete
 tourist, making the side trip to Dyersville and playing catch
 with fellow scribe Paul Buker on the actual Field of Dreams

8, The Longest Yard (original, 1974). I don’t know why it
 made me so mad that Hollywood remade this. Well, maybe
 it’s because so many who saw the remake actually thought it
 was good. But it hit on the great marketing strategy of giving
 media types bit parts so they’d hype it – and it worked. It
 couldn’t hold the original’s you-know-what.

9, 61* (2001). Hank Steinberg wrote and Billy Crystal
 directed the dramatization of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris'
 chase of Babe Ruth's home-run record. 

10, Caddyshack (1980). Yeah, I can rattle off the lines, too.
 It’s also the greatest cable movie ever – you can tune in “x”
 minutes in and know exactly where you are.

11, Bad News Bears (original, 1976). Walter Matthau was
 brilliant, and so was the script. Unfortunately, the bad
 sequels, a mediocre television series and yet another absurd
 remake have diminished the franchise.

12, Hoosiers (1986). OK, I liked it, too; I just don't have it
 as high on the list as many do.

13, Chariots of Fire (1981). One reason I was prone to like
 it was because among the kids sports books I checked out of
 the library in grade school were those written by Jackson
 Scholz, the ex-Olympic sprinter who was one of the major
 figures in this movie.

14, Rocky (1976). The sequels perhaps cause me to
 downgrade this, but when it came out, it was a refreshing,
 low-budget underdog story of its own. And I always say "wid"
 at Pat's. 

15, A League of Their Own (1992). It understandably was
 billed and sold as a lighthearted comedy; in fact, Penny
 Marshall directed an excellent “dramedy.” 

16, And I'll add the linemates of Miracle (2004) and Miracle
 on Ice
(1981). The latter, with Karl Malden but not Michael
 Douglas, was pretty good for its rushed, television movie
 circumstances; and in the former, Kurt Russell was eerily
on-target playing the Herb Brooks role.

The most over-rated sports movie ever: Million-Dollar Baby
 (2004), which became an utterly absurd melodrama in its
 final half. With all due respect to Clint Eastwood, Morgan
 Freeman, and Hilary Swank, this has got to be one of the
 worst best-picture winners ever … although some of the
 recent winners give it a run for the money.

The frivolous sports movies I could watch (and have watched)
 again and again: It Happens Every Spring (1949), with
 Ray Milland; Major League (1989); and Damn Yankees (1958).

Best TV sports movie: Brian’s Song (original, 1971).


A nice essay/review in prestigious Philadelphia Review of Books

Author Jim Blanchet: Olympic
is a "success as both a
stand-alone novel and historical fiction"

February 18, 2013:
The Philadelphia Review of Books today
author Jim Blanchet's essay on, and review of,
Olympic Affair.

Here's the snippet I have posted:

"Using his initial information ... and a combination of
 deduction and artistic license, Frei fills in the blanks left by
 history and tells his own version of the story. The
 combination of the diligent research techniques he used to
 write his widely acclaimed non-fiction books ... and creativity
 makes Olympic Affair a success as both a stand-alone novel
 and historical fiction. While simultaneously recalling the
 athletic triumphs of participating nations, Frei builds a
 tension-filled love affair that steals the show from the most
 controversial Olympic Games in history. Combining inference
 and invented dialogue, he forces the reader to invest deeply
 in even the most outlying of characters, some of which he
 pulls from history and personalizes through fiction
 (swimmer/actress Eleanor Holm Jarrett, heavyweight
 champion/restaurateur Jack Dempsey and even
 chancellor/psycho Adolf Hitler). Through the developing plot,
 the details of the Olympics and the skewed historical
 perspective of men and women living in a pre-WWII
 environment, Frei has (maybe unintentionally) created a new
 sort of story regarding the US-Nazi saga ... 
Olympic Affair
 offers a chronicle that proves why athletic drama often goes
 well beyond the field (or track) of competition. An athletic
 controversy, a triumph against adversity or a love affair can
 bring together the fanatics, the casual followers and those
 who just happen to appreciate a good yarn, no matter the
 origin. And who better to tell a story of that kind than an
 acclaimed sportswriter and non-fiction author turned

Tattered Cover signing and Denver Press Club Book Beat
Making the promotional rounds
in Denver for Olympic Affair

January 25, 2013:
In the past couple of weeks, I made appearances at the
 Tattered Cover (East Colfax branch) and at the Denver Press Club to
 discuss, answer questions about, and sign Olympic Affair.

The January 17 appearance was my sixth at the TC, and it remains a pleasure
 and a thrill to speak at one of the nation's top independent bookstores. (One
 regret: I haven't ever appeared at Powell's, which I used to haunt when we
 lived in the Portland area.) This time, it was a joint "Evening of Historical
 Fiction" appearance with Paul Levitt, the University of Colorado professor
 emeritus whose terrific and panoramic novel, Stalin's Barber, also is
 from Taylor Trade. Rick Rinehart of Taylor Trade moderated the discussion.

Paul and I, in fact, both publicly thanked Rick for taking a chance on our
 novels -- the first ones Taylor Trade has ever published. Until recently, in
 fact, the TT Twitter profile noted that it published books "in all genres except
 fiction." Now, it says: "We are the trade divisions of the Rowman &
 Littlefield Publishing Group. We've got books in nearly every genre! Sorry,
 no zombies, no vampires." Taylor Trade also published the paperback
 version of Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming; plus '77: Denver, the Broncos
and a Coming of Age
and Playing Piano in a Brothel.   

After the signing portion of the program, as is the custom, we both signed
 extra books for the TC, so autographed copies of both Olympic Affair and
 Stalin's Barber are at the East Colfax branch.

Then on January 24, Bruce Goldberg of the Denver Business Journal, also
the Denver Press Club's president, interviewed me for a "Book Beat"
 program at the DPC. Among those in the audience were fellow authors
 Michael Madigan and Dennis Dressman, both former editors and
 executives at the Rocky Mountain News, and they asked me questions
 about my methodology and the book itself. (Mike briefly was my boss
when I worked part-time at the News when I was in college.) 


Screenplay versus book: Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming example

Same Opening, Different Style

I've found that writing screenplay adaptations of existing works – in
these instances, of my own books isn't agonizingly difficult. I've
done it three times and without going into details, all have been in or
are in "the loop." I've had meetings, lunches, cocktails at the Beverly
 Wilshire and (appropriately, as you'll see) breakfast at the Hotel
Bel-Air, and a discussion in a Hollywood star's Brentwood living

room ... all of it. But, no, you haven't seen any of those films on

the screen. Yet.

I'm not saying writing an adaptation is "easy," and it's based in part
on the recognition that any script is a starting point for the director
and it will undergo considerable change in the process. And in
some cases, that's putting it nicely.

From the start, the story is already in my head and the computer,
dialogue or suggested dialogue is in front of me, and the biggest
challenge is avoid trying to simply put the book in screenplay
form. That requires stepping back, taking liberties and most
important deciding what to focus on and what to leave out for a
feature-length film. 

Third Down and a War to Go, the book, was about Wisconsin's 1942
college football team winning the national championship and then
going off to war, with some not coming back. For the screenplay,
I tightened the focus, making it more the story of three of the
Badgers' stars. The opening is different than that of the book, starting
with team captain and two-time All-American end Dave Schreiner
serving as a Marine in the Pacific and receiving a letter and a clipping
informing him that his Badgers co-captain and lifelong buddy, bomber
co-pilot Mark Hoskins, has been shot down on a combat mission and
is feared lost.

The Witch's Season, the book, was about a team modeled on my
father's Oregon Ducks of the late 1960s, the famous men on his staff
and team, and the tumultuous campus. The screenplay version
compresses the time frame, ending the film right after Nixon's
election, rather than on his Inauguration Day. It leaves part of the
story unresolved, but with enough foreshadowing for viewers to fill in
the blanks themselves.

Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming (2002) was the most challenging,
perhaps because it's the one that I could envision being done as
a mini-series rather than a film. For several reasons, I won't give away
the gist of the decisions I made, but I will say that I cut out alot of
the story and back story and made it very specific.

Two of those three are non-fiction books, and I found that the
experience of doing the screenplays taking a true story and
imagining dialogue and scenes  helped greatly when writing Olympic
Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero
, which even more than the
other books is almost what I consider the novelization of a
screenplay. (A screenplay that doesn't exist.) Reviewers have noted

the "cinematic" approach. 


Now, for an example: Although there are major differences between
the HHNC book and screenplay, I started both with the same 1985
"scene" former Razorbacks defensive back Bobby Field, then an
assistant athletic director at UCLA, encountering former President
Nixon outside the Hotel Bel-Air. After this, of course, the story flashes
back to 1969. As it turns out, of course, while Nixon remembered
quite a bit about the events of December 6, 1969 game in
Fayetteville, there was a lot more going on that he didn't know

Here's the opening segment of the screenplay. I can't supply
the popcorn and keep in mind that when I originally wrote it, it was
roughly eight times as long before I was reminded it needed to be
snappy and set the stage for the flashback.



Sprinklers spray as Bobby FIELD, late-30s, fit, and wearing a gray “UCLA FOOTBALL”
 T-shirt, takes off at a one-time serious athlete’s stay-in-shape pace.



Field approaches the campus entrance and sprints across the street, entering Stone Canyon



MARCH 30, 1985



Among the stories we’re following on KNX 1070: Reclusive ex-President Richard Nixon is
 visiting his native Southern California, and he was spotted having dinner at Chasen’s last night
 with Paul Keyes, the producer of the old “Laugh-In” TV series. No word on whether
 President Nixon reprised his attempt at the show’s “Sock It To Me” catchphrase on the
 show during the 1968 campaign.



John, you have to say that right. It was a question.



(Bad Nixon imitation)

“Sock it to me?”  



Field runs up the winding road. Hotel Bel Air is ahead. Three Men in suits walk toward Field.
 AGENT 1 and AGENT 2 are big and fit. The man in the middle is Richard NIXON at age
 72, getting morning exercise. Ten feet short of Nixon, Field puffs out a greeting.



Good morning.




Field has reversed his direction and is coming down the hill. He spots Nixon again, next to the
 hotel’s canopied entrance. Field detours into the parking lot and slows to a walk. As the
 Agents step forward, he approaches the former president and lifts his right hand in a
self-conscious greeting.



Hello, Mr. Nixon … Mr. President. Sorry to bother you, sir, but I decided I should introduce
 myself. I’m Bobby Field. I’m the football defensive coordinator on Terry Donahue’s staff at



Sure. You had a fine season.


Nixon offers his hand. Field shakes it.



Thank you, sir.


As a matter of fact, in 1969, I was a defensive back for the University of Arkansas and you,
 sir, came to our game in Fayetteville against…






Yes, sir.


A limousine pulls up. The DOORMAN opens the back door. Nixon doesn’t move.



Terrific game! Numbers one and two in the nation. Texas with James Street running the
 wishbone offense and throwing that long pass … Arkansas with Bill Montgomery firing away
 to Chuck Dicus … That fine Texas boy, Freddie Steinmark, visited me later at the White
 House … I was in the stands, freezing, with Governor Rockefeller and George Bush and
 Senator Fulbright … and it comes down to the final minutes and it’s anyone’s game … and



Sir, we should go.



What a thrilling finish! And when it was over, I went to both dressing rooms.



Yes, sir, this is the second time I’ve shook your hand. This time, I'm not crying. 


Agents nudge Nixon into the car. Limousine pulls away. Field watches with the doorman.



That must have been some football game, him rattling all that off. He had a hard time coming
 up with his wife’s name yesterday.





Adding to my newspaper column on approach of Oregon vs. Colorado
The first game ever in Autzen
 Stadium and beyond

October 22, 2012:
 With another matchup between my alma
 mater (Colorado) and the team my father once coached
 (Oregon) coming up on Saturday, my Monday Denver Post
is about my reflections on the first game ever
 played in Autzen Stadium, plus those quite different times.

The reaction via direct communication has been very
 gratifying, and I thank those who have taken the time to
 express it. I was even nicely reminded that because of an
 ABC strike, Keith Jackson didn't work the game as scheduled
 on ABC, and the commentators were former coaches from
 each of the two schools -- Len Casanova, in his first season
 as the Oregon AD; and Dal Ward, the former coach at
 Colorado. The irony is that at each school, the athletic
 department offices are named after them -- the Casanova
 Center and the Dal Ward Center.     

We added the program cover from that game to the online
 version of the column, so that's there now. The cover for
 the first game ever in Autzen Stadium is an aerial photo of
 the Oregon campus, which doesn't include the new
off-campus stadium. In that shot, Hayward Field, the
former football stadium that to this day remains famous
for hosting track and field competition and being in the
 background of an "Animal House" scene, is at the top left.

OreOhioState67.jpgAs you can see at the left,
 Autzen was on the cover of
 the program two weeks
 later, when the Ducks
 played Ohio State in
 the Dedication Game. I
 vaguely remember Woody
 Hayes marveling that
 Autzen was built for only
 $2.3 million, and I think he
 meant it as a compliment.
 To put that in perspective, plugging the figure in on online
 calculator yields the fact that it's equal to about $16 million in
 2012 dollars. And now Colorado State is talking about
 building a very basic on-campus stadium for $246 million,
 considered a modest figure today for any stadium. I'm not
 an economist, and I didn't take Econ at CU, so I'm sure the
 direct comparison that way is misleading, but it's at least
 interesting. As alluded to in the column, Autzen was built in
 14 months, and it basically was shoving a bunch of earth
 together to form a berm and pouring concrete into it to form
 a bowl.

Additional points to accompany the column:

-- Below is a page from the '67 Oregon-Colorado program,
 and serves to make my point about my father's original
 coaching staff and how his World War II service was not
 mentioned in his coaching biography. Two of the men below
 (John Robinson and George Seifert) were NFL head coaches;
 a third (Bruce Snyder) came within one play of winning a
 national championship as the head coach at Arizona State.
 Two other future NFL head coaches also were involved in my
 father's program. Gunther Cunningham was a linebacker on
 this '67 team and subsequently joined my father's coaching
 staff, first as a graduate assistant. Norv Turner was a Ducks
 quarterback, recruited from Martinez, Calif. 

Also unexplained is the "late" reference to Dave
 Schreiner. Perhaps readers in the late 1960s still
 remembered that he was a two-time All-American end and
 Big Ten Conference MVP who was killed in action during the
 Battle of Okinawa in World War II. Also, Elroy Hirsch was
 better known as "Crazylegs," and the story of that team is
 told in Third Down and a War to Go.

-- Several mentioned to me in email and Twitter responses
 that this column sounded as if it could be a hint of another

In fact, I've already done it. The Witch's Season is a roman a
 clef novel about those Oregon teams, the men involved,
 those crazy times on one of the nation's cauldron campuses,
 and college football. The actual college football part is quite
 timeless, in my view. 


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