City Desk

Cheap Seats Daily: If Nobody Else Does, John Thompson Gives Elgin Baylor His Due

Yesterday's John Thompson Show on WTEM was amazing. Thompson devoted much of the program to talk about Elgin Baylor, who turned 75 years old Wednesday.

Thompson told listeners he phoned Baylor in Southern California on his birthday just to say thanks for inspiring him and so many other DC kids in the 1950s when he went off to college to play ball. Baylor's style of play was a revelation to players from anywhere and everywhere. But around here, Baylor's influence transcended the court. Before Baylor, Thompson said, kids on the city's playgrounds never thought of going off to college. He made the world a bigger place for a whole generation.

Thompson, now 68, recalled being at the playground one day when Baylor, already a legend here after carrying the University of Seattle to the NCAA Final Four, showed up with a big friend: Wilt Chamberlain. Thompson, then a skinny and awestruck teenager sitting courtside, was the last guy picked for the game. "Elgin remembered it!" Thompson said, as if he never played in a game that mattered more.

The story led to all sorts of calls from other aging children to talk about Baylor's greatness and other boyhood heroes.

Because the mainstream media pretended black schoolboy athletes didn't matter, Baylor never got talked up enough when he lived here.

(AFTER THE JUMP: How come Baylor doesn't have a statue? Tamir Goodman retires? From what? If Linda McMahon comes back to DC, will Vince follow?)


And, he doesn't get talked up enough around his old hometown to this day. If any athlete from DC deserves a statue, it's Elgin Baylor.

***

From a kid who didn't get enough attention to a kid who got way too much: Here's the lede of the Tamir Goodman retirement story from the Baltimore Sun: "Once heralded as 'The Jewish Jordan,' Tamir Goodman never lived up to the hype."

Goodman never had a chance.  It seemed the state of Maryland's entire Orthodox Jewish community was coming out for his games around the time Gary Williams offered Goodman a scholarship in 1999. Goodman's high school coach did him no favors, going on every sports station and calling every newspaper to tout the skinny teen's greatness during his junior season at Talmudical Academy in Pikesville. Goodman signed autographs to kids wearing yarmulkes and said he was playing not for a school but for a people.

"Tamir feels like he's playing for the Jewish people," his father, Karl Goodman, told me after a game at Talmudical. "But he still takes out the garbage."

For outsiders, the whole scene was as bizarre as it was entertaining.The administration at Talmudical, known for its conservative ways and academic rigors, wasn't amused by the media circus. The school didn't even want Goodman or his coach around for his senior year of high school.

And, like a horse whose trainer had only run him against cheap claimers or a fighter whose padded his record with tomato cans, Goodman's real game got exposed as soon as he went against high schools who cared about basketball. Williams withdrew Maryland's scholarship offer to Goodman before he'd graduated high school, and Goodman basically went into heavy rotation in Where-Are-They-Now? stories (including several in this space).

The godly frenzy that surrounded him as a kid put a zap on his head that's still there. After making his retirement announcement in Brooklyn — he's been playing minor league ball in Israel, and now he'll work with kids — he gave the Sun such quotes as "Looking back, I see how divinely ordained everything was," and "If you look at the beginning of my career, it seemed like God just carried me and I only knew success."

It's not his fault, or His fault, that Goodman was a better story than he was a basketball player.

***

Linda McMahon is trying to get back to DC. She's running as a Republican for Chris Dodd's (D-CT) U.S. Senate seat. McMahon is the husband of WWE boss and absolute mothershutyourmouthin' genius Vince McMahon.

The McMahons became a couple as kids growing up in North Carolina, when she was 13 years old and Vince was a couple years older. They've been together ever since. Vince spent a lot of time here in DC with his dad, Vincent J. McMahon, who ran his wrestling empire out of this city, with weekly matches at Turner’s Arena on W Street NW. And after college Vince and Linda moved up here to help out with the family ring business, and stayed with the company as it moved to Connecticut and became the global force it is today.

She's not the first Connecticutter to try to use wrestling as a springboard to Congress. Bob Backlund, a World Champion for the McMahons' federation, then called WWF, in the 1970s, tried running for a House seat in 2000 as a Republican. Backlund's campaign — his second for public office, if you count the 1996 run for president as part of a WWF story line — ended with him getting piledriven by his Democratic opponent.

Linda McMahon pledges her campaign is legit.

But, there's no way Vince is going to let this pass without adding a wrestling angle to it. No way.

***

Update on the Road to 100 Losses: Nationals get whupped in Philadelphia, 6-1.

The Nats scored their first and only run in two days in the top of the 9th, on a play the official scorer ruled "fielder's indifference."

Indifference in the Nats has spread to the opposition!

Good thing it's football season...

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Story tips? Wanna Play the Feud? Tube amps for sale? Send to: cheapseats@washingtoncitypaper.com


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