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Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Olympics begin Friday and call to mind The Patron Saint of the Incredible, Bob Beamon.

It was  the fall of a year  in which the words "pretty incredible " often came to mind.The  Detroit Tigers overcame a 3-1 game deficit to win the 1968 World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to 3. Elimination  games five and seven were played  in St. Louis. Pretty Incredible. 

The Governer of the State of Michigan that fall was George Romney. He was a seeking the Republican nomination for President. In a televised  interview  on the Detroit based  Lou Gordon Show  Romney  used the word "brainwashing" in a lucid, and perceptive explanation of our nation's  involvement in the war in Vietnam. The rest as they say is history. Pretty Incredible.

The Republican Candidate for President, that fall and eventual election winner, was Richard Nixon. He had somehow managed to resurrect himself  from a disastrous 1962 "farewell" press conference after his defeat in that year's California Gubernatorial Race. Pretty incredible.
And on October 18th 1968, in Mexico City, the prohibitive favorite to win gold in the Long Jump, 
Bob Beamon wound up  shattering the the world record by almost two feet. How incredible is that ? Consider that from 1935 to 1968 the world's record in the long jump advanced a mere eight  inches. Beamon's leap is still,  44 years later an Olympic record. As a World record  Beamon's jump survived 23 years until bested by American Michael Powell in the 1991 Tokyo World Championships. Athletes are competitive people and Beamon's Jump captured on film has been reviewed by the brightest and best of them ad infinitum
Mike Morrison author of  an  Info Please piece titled "A Beaming Beacon. Unknown Athlete Sets Track Record ". tells us that  "After exactly 19 loping strides, he hit the board perfectly, stretched out with his legs and flew through the air like no one ever had. And finally, he hit the sand in the pit below—29 feet, 2½ inches later! "

Other accounts say Beamon was at least somewhat well known and a medal (possibly Gold) was expected. What happened however was so unexpected as to be mind boggling. Some analysts in an effort to expain  even venture into what Beamon did the night before. The accounts range from a self admission to having a Tequila to steamier  encounters alleged by some British sports writers.The best analysis this writer ever happened upon (source sadly forgotten) said that no matter how or how long you looked at the film, on October18th 1968, Bob Beamon did everything right.

In life there are parallels.  Beamon almost failed to qualify for the Olympic Finals. He fouled on his first two qualifying attempts. Teammate, and  World Record holder Ralph Boston told to him to relax, take a foot off his jump and  just qualify for the finals.

In the 1936 Berlin Olympics Jesse Owens  after fouling twice received the same advise from a German competitor and eventual Silver medalist Luz Long.

And now to the  the moral of our story. Never would Beamon jump as far again. Never would Mike Powell who now holds the world's record jump as far or win an Olympic Gold Medal. Both  record breaking performances were a once in a life time experience. Which prompts the questions, with  all the talents the Almighty has given us, does each of us have the capability to put it all together at least once in a lifetime ?

This writer thinks so. My Bob Beamon moment came, oddly enough twenty years to the day after his. For days previous I had been in a quandary or a snit about a  "get together for coffee with a girl" thing  my friends had pushed me into. Prior experience had told me that such things usually didn't work out but I agreed to go through the motions. The problem was forgetting the Chicago Blackhawks would be in town when  I had agreed to a Tuesday evening. I could call and reschedule or I could just go and get it over with. Maybe it would get over in time for me to make the game.

At the time, except for the significance of the date, I knew all about Bob Beamon's amazing jump. In fact I had even been alive when it actually occurred  but details escaped me until I heard a Russian hockey player  talking about it in a post game show. Impressed I looked it up and was even more impressed. So much so I embellished the story slightly and worked into my nine to five patter which involved getting businesses to buy my service.

So when my friends asked what I was looking for in say a potential spouse, I would start with the Track and Field competition in the 1968 Olympics and not get very far before everyone decided that I was totally hopeless.

On October 18th 1988, the Blackhawks not withstanding, I did meet  a gal who with a laugh could shatter  world's records. We were married the following Summer. How exactly I managed the feat I really don't know.For once in my life  maybe I did everything right. I guess my wife did too. That's what makes it fun.

Naturally with any absolutely incredible, borderline unbelievable triumphs, there are detractors. My better half I and I could just be birds of the feather who by divine providence or dumb luck happened to cross paths.

To which I would say  au contraire mein herr. The mechanics of the situation were far different than most would imagine. If I had called to reschedule our cup of coffee, she, not knowing the importance of the Blackhawks, woulds have started backing off.  Stating  an  awareness that we were both being pushed into  "this" she'd decide If I had other things to do so did she. At which point I might have asked "like what ?'' and been told "Wallpaper."  

Of course I would have never known what she meant by that word or the importance people in the City of Bloomfield Hills attach to it.

Blackhawks looming and  wallpaper were just one of a series of hurdles we sailed over in a time faster than we ever dreamed. Rather than bore you the details I will simply say, Thank you Bob Beamon for showing us the way !

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