This day in basketball history — high school basketball goes national

Fifty years ago today, a sold-out Cole Field House at the University of Maryland hosted what is probably the most famous high school basketball game ever played. It featured Lew Alcindor’s Power Memorial of New York City against DeMatha of Hyattsville, Maryland. DeMatha won, 46-43.

The Washington Post has a good article about the game that draws on the recollections of key DeMatha participants. Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), accommodating as ever, declined to be interviewed for the article. Instead, his manager reminded the Post that Power Memorial went on to win its third straight New York City championship in 1965.

Thanks, Kareem. We were starting to think you were overrated in high school.

Here, with a few additions, is what I wrote about the game on its 45th anniversary:

Power Memorial, led by the phenomenal Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), had won 71 consecutive games. Hardly anyone followed high school basketball at a national level in those days, years before ESPN. Yet, Alcindor had managed to become a national legend. His size (almost 7-3 at the time of the DeMatha game), fluidity, and shooting touch had scouts swearing that he would become the game’s greatest center ever. (Some say he accomplished this; in any event, he’s the NBA’s all-time scoring leader).

DeMatha had no superstar and its starting center, Bob Whitmore, was 6-7. Yet there was little doubt (at least at my Maryland high school) that their fab five — Whitmore, Bernie Williams, Sid Catlett, Ernie Austin, and Mickey Wiles — had the potential to beat Power Memorial. In fact, DeMatha had nearly done so the previous year at Cole, falling by a 65-62 margin after Whitmore fouled out (if I remember correctly). Alcindor scored 38 points in that one.

DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten spent the next 12 months gearing up for the rematch. For example, Catlett, who was 6-8, is said to have used a tennis racket during practice to allow the offense to practice against Alcindor-caliber shot blocking.

In case jazz fans are wondering, Catlett is the son of legendary drummer “Big Sid” Catlett. Here’s a nice article about the father (who died in 1951) and son, which casts Jabbar, a jazz devotee, in a favorable light.

This time around, Wootten had Whitmore and Catlett double-team Alcindor. The strategy helped limit the great one to 16 points and DeMatha triumphed 46-43. Catlett (only a sophomore) had 13 points, including seven out of his team’s final nine. Williams contributed 12 points.

The game was covered by Sports Illustrated and the two major weekly news magazines. The coverage brought high school basketball a level of exposure it had never enjoyed before.

The two games also put DeMatha and its young coach on the map. The program would become perhaps the most storied in the country. When Wootten retired in 2002, his teams had amassed 1274 wins (and 192 losses), and he had already been inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.

Each member of DeMatha’s fab-five would play major college basketbal — Whitmore and Catlett at Notre Dame; Williams at La Salle, Austin at Syracuse, and Wiles at Maryland. Whitmore would have the dubious honor of guarding Alcindor in the annual UCLA-Notre Dame contest. UCLA won each game, but Catlett played for the Notre Dame team that defeated UCLA’s national championship team in 1971, after Alcindor graduated.

Only Bernie Williams had a substantial pro career (two years in the NBA and three in the ABA). But the fab-five is still remembered after all of these years for their landmark victory, a triumph of teamwork over individual prowess.

Venezuelan Security Head Defects, Blows Whistle On Regime

Leamsy Salazar was the head of security for Hugo Chavez and, after Chavez’s death, for Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly and second-in-command of the Socialist Party. Salazar has defected to the United States and unleashed some explosive allegations against his former bosses.

Salazar says that Hugo Chavez died in December 2012, not March 2013 as was claimed by his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Salazar says that Maduro and his cronies covered up Chavez’s death for three months so they could sign decrees under his name. Latin American politics has the reputation of being surreal, but maybe this represents, rather, the around-the-bend craziness of a socialist state. Think North Korea.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kisses Chavez's casket at his funeral in March 2013

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kisses Chavez’s casket at his funeral in March 2013

Salazar also says that Cabello is the head of an international drug cartel that includes other leading members of Venezuela’s Socialist Party, and that receives assistance from Cuba’s Communist government. Is this claim true? I don’t know, but Salazar reportedly is assisting law enforcement in New York with drafting a criminal complaint against Cabello.

It is hard to imagine that Venezuela’s socialist regime can last much longer. The Chavez/Maduro government has wrecked the economy by controlling prices, so everything is either in short supply or non-existent. The IMF says Venezuela’s economy will shrink by seven percent this year; that is undoubtedly an optimistic figure. And, of course, the price of the country’s only export, oil, has plummeted.

It is noteworthy that “eight other members of President Maduro’s personal security force have deserted Venezuela and defected to the United States, according to reports in Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.” These particular rats are well-positioned to know when the ship is about to sink. It can’t happen too soon.

Islamophobia In Germany

The Rose Monday parade is the highlight of the Carnival season in Cologne. A million or more people line the streets to see floats–generally political, mostly satirical, often scatological–go by. This year’s parade is scheduled for day after tomorrow, but there has been a change in plans:

A German carnival has dropped plans to build a “Charlie Hebdo” float with a cartoonist forcing a pencil into the barrel of a terrorist’s gun, after receiving messages from locals worried about safety if the float went on show.

Jitters about public displays of words or images that might anger some Muslims have risen in Europe since Islamist gunmen attacked the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris on Jan. 7-9, killing 17 people. …

“We want all visitors, locals and participants in Rose Monday’s carnival parade to freely experience a joyful carnival without any worries. We don’t want a satirical float, which weighs on the freedom and lighthearted mood of carnival,” the organizers said in a statement on Thursday.

Note how tasteful, even chaste, the proposed float would have been: a Charlie Hebdo guy putting a pencil into a terrorist’s gun barrel. Heck, it would have been the most tasteful float in the parade. And the idea that “[w] don’t want a satirical float” is absurd. Check these out, from past Cologne Rose Monday parades:

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That’s German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerging from Uncle Sam’s rear end, so the authorities evidently don’t pose much of a threat. Merkel again, this time with Sarkozy:

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This one, about “right terror,” apparently was deemed “lighthearted” enough. It lampoons the failure of Germany’s police and courts to apprehend a neo-Nazi terrorist group:

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So the exclusion of the Charlie Hebdo float is really quite extraordinary. Here’s something else I don’t get: the float was expressly directed at terrorists–the guy with the gun–not Muslims in general. Since terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, why would the parade’s organizers fear that Muslims would be provoked to violence?

The word “Islamophobia” is apt, unlike, say “homophobia.” A great many people are, indeed, afraid of Muslims. Unfortunately, as the Charlie Hebdo incident shows, along with many others, that fear is not entirely irrational.

Israel: more alone than ever

President Obama’s decision, now essentially official*, to appease Iran by doing nothing to help thwart the Assad regime has dire consequences for Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians will continue to be slaughtered, many of them by barrel bombs dropped by planes the U.S. could have stopped from flying.

Samatha ( “A Problem From Hell”) Power, call your office. On second thought, don’t waste your time.

Israel also faces serious consequences from Obama’s Iran-driven Syria policy. Caroline Glick explains why.

Hezbollah is taking control of parts of Syria that border on Israel. The Syrian military reportedly has ceased to function south of Damascus. Some of these areas are held by the al-Qaida-aligned Nusra Front and other regime opponents. But elsewhere, Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have taken control, using the Syrian militia they have trained since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

This is is the context of the Israeli strike that killed the head of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria, the head of its liaison with Iran, and Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Hezbollah’s longtime operational commander.

The presence of these key players near the Israeli border demonstrates not only Hezbollah/Iran’s penetration, but also the significance of the area to the ambitions of Hezbollah/Iran. As Glick says, “the fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran.” In her view, “it also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.”

The effectiveness of Hezbollah’s control of its expanded front became clear this week. Hezbollah forces shot at least five advanced Kornet antitank missiles at an IDF convoy, killing two soldiers and wounding seven. Almost simultaneously, Hezbollah forces on the Golan shot mortars into Israel’s Hermon area.

However, Hezbollah and the IRGC take a risk by clustering so close to the Israeli border. According to a report cited by Glick, most of the forces are in known, unfortified, above ground positions, and thus are vulnerable to Israeli air strikes.

Will Israel strike? Iran must believe it won’t. Why would it believe this? Because, says, Glick, it must believe that there is an entity deterring an attack by Israel.

You won’t need three guesses to identify the entity Glick has in mind. She writes:

The Obama administration has worked to deter Israel from striking Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. Whereas Israel has a policy of never acknowledging responsibility for its military operations in Syria, in order to give President Bashar Assad an excuse to not retaliate, the US administration has repeatedly informed the media of Israeli attacks and so increased the risk that such Israeli operations will lead to counterattacks against Israel.

Iran and Hezbollah have a protector in the White House, it seems. No wonder they have the confidence to lay the groundwork for a new, potentially deadly front against Israel.

A U.S. administration that strives to deter Israel even from limited strikes against murderous Iranian controlled forces assembling near its border clearly cannot be counted on to protect Israel from Iran’s nuclear threat. If Israel wants a cessation of Iran’s progress on either front, it will have to act alone or risk waiting until 2017.

* This month, John Kerry, abandoning the administration’s past lip-service to regime change, declined to call for Assad to be removed to power in talks with the UN envoy in Syria Staffan de Mistura. Instead, Kerry told Mistura, “It is time for President Assad, the Assad regime, to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions. . . .” The Assad regime, no doubt, now will promptly “put their people first.”

Romney Won’t Run [Update]

Mitt Romney announced to his supporters this morning that he will not seek the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination. His reasons are a bit murky; he said that he wanted to “go out on top,” and, currently leading in the polls, feels that he has done that. Whatever. It is a good decision and I applaud him for it. The only times in recent history when one of our major parties has re-nominated a candidate who lost the prior election were in 1956, when the Democrats served up Adlai Stevenson as a sacrificial lamb, and 1948, when Thomas Dewey snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Not inspiring precedents.

Now someone just needs to have a serious conversation with Jeb Bush, and then the campaign can begin in earnest.

UPDATE: A reader points out that Richard Nixon was re-nominated in 1968 after losing in 1960. He doesn’t quite fit the category, not having lost “the prior election,” but is at least an honorary member of the list. Of course, by 1968 he was the “new Nixon,” so there’s that. If Romney decides to run in 2020 we can consider the Nixon precedent.

A Modest Proposal to Reduce “Inequality”

So Obama has had to abandon his plan to tax 529 college savings plans to pay for his “free” community college proposal, because lo and behold lots of middle class people are 529 savers.  But Republicans could still enable Obama to pay for this proposal with a tax that actually hits the genuine rich: a surtax on large private college endowments—say on all endowments that are more than something like $1 million per student.  This would hit the ivy league schools that these days are raking in nearly $1 billion a year in contributions according to the latest reports.  (I recall an old line from Conan O’Brien—a Harvard grad—about Harvard’s donor pitch: “We’re Harvard.  We don’t need your money.  We just want it.”)  Or instead of a surtax directly on endowments, reduce the tax deductibility of donations to college endowments above a certain level.

And if Republicans really want to start riots in faculty clubs, they should pass Obama’s community college plan with one proviso: that all community college credits be fully transferrable to any four-year college that accepts any federal funding (which is every institution of higher learning except Hillsdale and one or two others).  Watch the four-year colleges sputter with indignation.  Watch Obama veto the bill.

I can think of some other riders that Congress ought to attach to budget bills: cuts in federal funding and grants to any college that has a “speech code.”  Cut funding to the Department of Education for Title IX enforcement of the sexual harassment kangaroo courts on campuses.Oh heck, why not just cut federal funding for higher ed across the board, and tell colleges that the funds are needed to shore up the entitlement programs that their faculties overwhelmingly think should be expanded.

Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll returns to share A COUPLE OF THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT SEX. She writes:

One: If you get caught on a plane called “The Lolita Express” or on a boat called “Monkey Business” (is there a train called “The Appalling Old Degenerate”?), you should have to wear a hat emblazoned with “Somehow My Weenie Ate My Brain!”

Two: In the endless, tedious discussions about “rape culture,” over and over I read testimony from coeds – adult women! – who willingly get into bed with guys and then are amazed when sex occurs. Is there some parallel universe where that is considered unusual?

The reason I ask is that I can say with dead certainty that I have never in my entire life gotten nekkid into bed with a male person without the expectation, nay the fervent hope, that sex could occur. But that’s just me.

Help me out here, young ladies, because I’m pretty Old School. How humiliating can it be if you get naked with a guy and yet you expect no response? (“Hey, nuthin’ to see here. Just your average naked woman from the dorm next door hoping to catch a few Zs while you watch ESPN. Carry on.”) Here we have a generation of women who have been putting condoms on cucumbers since kindergarten who apparently do not have even a passing acquaintance with actual male sexuality.

True, after many many decades of marriage, sometimes you both say, “Good Night, Dear” and go to sleep. But with an unclothed man and an unclothed woman in a nice warm bed, well, you can’t ever make book on nothing happening. (Insert childish “over/under” betting joke here.) Men might miss subtle hints. But your average healthy man, finding a naked woman in his bed of her own free will, takes that as a big fat clue that he might get lucky.

If you don’t want that, what in blue blazes are you doing there?

So, let’s say you accuse a man of “rape” and this is your tale of woe: “Well, we were pretty drunk. I got into bed with this naked guy that I had had sex with before. We did a bunch of drugs. We did some stuff that Bill Clinton said wasn’t sex anyway, but I was so wasted I think I passed out and I may or may not have missed the finale. This happened two years ago, and I was fine until Spike, my Feminist Studies professor, informed me I had been raped. Now I’m a hero fighting against sexual assault. I’ve met Joe Biden! Oh, also, I had sex with him (my ‘rapist,’ not Joe Biden) a few times after that. But he’s kinda mad at me now.”

You do not want me on that jury. You really don’t. Ladies, I find such narratives an embarrassment to my gender and an affront to actual rape victims, several of whom I have known. Oh, trust me, their stories are nothing at all like yours and involve ugly weapons, grave threats to their lives, and grievous bodily harm. Your whiney tales are not embarrassing just because you had crappy sex – we can discuss the soul-deadening misery of the loveless hookup culture at another time — but because you won’t take ownership of your part in it. And are now planning to utterly ruin a man’s life over, basically, nothing. Which makes you a liar and a coward. At least one of these causes célèbre originated after Mommy found the adult daughter’s diary and blew a gasket.

Of course in academia there are no actual trials or juries of peers. The right to representation, to face your accuser, even to know the charges against you, is so yesterday. Every day is Kafka Day on campus. These things used to be called “he said; she said” situations. Now, it’s just “she said; and said and said.” With a great big megaphone from the Grievance Industry and a Title Nine bludgeon from the Federal government. Two young adults go out for an evening of drinking and hookup sex. One goes on to fame and fortune as a brave battler against sexual “assault”. One has his life utterly destroyed. Who, then, was the predator we hear so much about, and who the prey?

If an adult woman consensually participates in sex and the worst thing that happens is that she manages to fall asleep at some point, the consequences pale in comparison with the life-altering disaster of being falsely accused of rape. You don’t have to register for life as a person who slept through sex. Granted, you might not want that on your Facebook profile. You also don’t have to wonder how you will ever get a job after being kicked out of college. Assuming you are lucky enough to avoid or survive prison.

I try to examine my soul about whether I would feel different about the disgusting “rape culture” falsehoods if I were the mother of daughters instead of sons. I don’t think so. Not only am I a woman myself, of course, but I’m pretty sure I would advise an adult daughter (among many things) not to go into biker bars in Daisy Dukes and tube tops; not to get too drunk to drive or to keep an eye on her drink at all times; and definitely not to get into bed with a naked man unless she expects to have sex. And quite soon.

Just wait until the first woman is accused by another woman of sexual assault. It’s only a matter of time if it hasn’t happened already. Then how will the unhinged “Women never lie” crowd know whom to exalt as a heroic victim and whom to crucify as a rapist?