WeissCrax: Speaking of Sportz

Big Men of the Night: Jamaal Wilkes, Bill Bertka, and Rick Wilson

It’s funny – recalling early perceptions of the very distant, yet very real sports world while growing up as a knucklehead kid in BIG New York during the 1960s.

Of course, it was a world shaped from afar by those who lived in it.

Actually, those who reported on it.

I’m tawkin’ guys like Jim McKay on Wide World of Sports (How ‘bout “the agony of defeat” ski wipe-out, huh?) …. Marv ‘YES!’ Albert (NY Knicks) and my all-time fave…

That slow, drawn-out voice that had a certain cadence, arrogance and distinctive resonance.

This is Howard Cosell speaking of sports…

It was a style all his own.

Cosell, an attorney turned broadcaster is, perhaps, best known for – maybe not so much for his Monday Night Football gig – but, rather, his forever coverage of a young Cassius Clay, nee Mohammed Ali — one of the most recognized athletes in the world.

If not the most …

Cosell, with his sharp wit would always bait The Champ – who then turned the tables in grand style. His ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ retort wit was no match for The Voice.

Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table co-founders Jerry Harwin and Bill Bertka make a special connection.

The bravado broadcaster — a great straight man to one of the world’s best showman.

If not the best …

And it all left very formidable memories on a young, impressionable kid who often dreamed what it would be like to live in that very real sports world.

And sooooo ….

Fast forward 40+ years and 3000+ miles.

Different coast.

Santa Barbara. 2011.

A much, much different world than my youth.

Like No. 1 – we’re at the beach in March! Hello?

Cabrillo Arts Pavilion.

It was a sold-out event at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion

The local sports community — a cozy mix of the best people on the planet: business and civic leaders, coaches, athletes young and not-so-young, journalists, even normal people — have come together.

In sport.

Not to play … or watch … but to listen.

To get the inside scoop on NCAA ‘Bracketology” and all for benefit of the Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable — an organization founded, by the way, when The Voice was coloring my 1960’s world — by Three Amazing Guys:

NBA Champ Bill Bertka, 99-years-young Jerry “Elings Park” Harwin and the late Ceasar Uyesaka.

In sharp contrast to my early impressions of those who really live in the real sports world– there’s a quiet humility here in this special SB sports scene.

Many decorated in their chosen field – sport or profession. Tho you’d never know it…

Everyone moves around pretty easily, sharing greetings and stories during the happy hour reception.

Lots of laffs and good-natured banter. As one might expect.

It’s actually a homecoming of sorts – not only for the featured speaker, but for Bertka, Harwin, along with many locals.

Johnny Manzo and his mom, Susan, and dad, Louis

Once the official program starts — a couple of amazing high school student-athletes & America’s future present first: SBHS ‘Don’ Tess Emerson and SMHS Royal Johnny Manzo, as in a 2340 SAT score outta a perfecto 2400, for those scoring at home ….

Then there’s a ‘love fest’ of words amongst next speakers: Westmont’s Head Basketball Coach John Moore and UCSB counterpart Bob Williams, each giving hoop and life accolades, kudos and credit to the other.

Told ya it was a cozy group ..

And then Moore attempting to convince the 150+ crowd that St. John’s University (NY) — incidentally coached by his brother in law, Steve Lavin — will go deep into NCAA March Madness territory.

‘Tuff sell’ with this crowd…

Next – an introduction to the evening’s Main Ticket from a very distinguished hombre himself, Gary Cunningham, Wizard of Westwood assistant wiz, then accomplished college basketball coach & later longtime UCSB Athletic Director, now retired.

He speaks of character … of athletic ability … of UCLA glory days … leading to the evening’s crescendo – the speaker who may be one of the best all-around student-athletes whom Legendary Coach John Wooden ever coached.

If not the best.

And sooooo …

When this honored, yet very local honoree finally moves towards the podium to a warm round of applause, it’s a face and a frame easily recognized all so well from my early NY basketball junkie years.

And funny what they say about “first impressions being lasting impressions” …

Because despite the many moons and mucho miles, mine appear on target for this SB Don, UCLA All-American (both hoops and academics) and Golden State and Laker NBA champion, when he provides his candid insight on that very real sports world – a place I have never lived, but certainly touch here up-close tonite …

He delivers his words with a style and grace all their own – as if hitting another baseline jumper with that most-incredible shot.

And for Jamaal (nee Keith) Wilkes that could mean only one thing:

“As smooooth as ‘Silk.”

This is WeissCrax speaking of sportz …