This photo of the original JFK burial site is very similar to a photograph I took which was published in several newspapers in 1963. Efforts to retrieve the original were unsuccessful. I was a journalist based in NY from1958 to 1966, and covered the campaigns of Jack and Bobby Kennedy. I was in the newsroom when Kennedy was assassinated, and reported first hand on his funeral.
Crowded in with other reporters in the Capitol rotunda for the official ceremony of farewell on the following Sunday, we watched Jackie and Caroline approach the coffin, and collectively held our emotions in check when Jackie leaned forward to kiss her husband’s coffin. Jackie said goodbye, closing the door to what all of us considered Camelot but, those in attendance of a certain age realized she was saying farewell to our generation’s leader, the man who inspired so many of us to believe the promise he embodied, a belief that government could stop war, heal the sick, eradicate poverty and heal the racial wounds inherited from the previous century.
In 1953, I wrote a college paper on Jack Kennedy’s upset of Henry Cabot Lodge the previous November, a blue print of things to come. In 1958, I took my daughter with me to cover Jack Kennedy’s campaign speech at Marist College in Poughkeepsie; as he approached the steps to the platform, Kennedy took my daughter and, holding her up for all to see, declared what the 1960 campaign was really about was the future we would bequeath to our children. Very moving in a time when the world was entering the space age and worrying about thermonuclear holocaust. I wrote to him afterwards, enclosing some of my commentaries on the campaign, then in the primary stage. I had applied to Harvard graduate school; Kennedy who was on the board of visitors at Harvard commented favorably on my political assessments and said he would write a letter in my behalf. (Alas, I went to Georgetown instead).
Kennedy made campaign stops which junior reporters like me could only watch from the back ranks. (I did get closer at a Nixon rally; Tricky Dick was confused about which room was for a press conference, and which was to hob nob with Republican fat cats. Entering the wrong room, he began lambasting the press in rather ugly terms; TV was in its political infancy and the social media didn’t exist, so print reporters were integral to campaign success and Nixon’s people knew that the young generation of political reporters were pro Kennedy. Nixon did not apologize when he realized his error.
What most of us remember about the inaugural (other than the biting cold) were the inspirational themes, the focus on what people could do for their country, the willingness to fight any foe in the defense of freedom. If he had lived, the stare-down with the Soviets behind him and a nuclear test ban treaty in the works, I like to think that a second inaugural address would have focused more fully on civil rights; he did lay the capstone for the civil rights and voting rights acts which LBJ pushed through Congress in his memory. Kennedy was never more prescient than when he committed the USA to put a man on the moon, which in 1961 seemed technologically beyond our grasp.
For reporters like me, 1963 saw the burgeoning of the civil rights movement. Congress today reminds me of the Congress in 1963, when a recalcitrant unrepentant Southerner named Smith chaired the House rules committee and blocked all civil rights and voting rights bills. November 22 changed not just lives but the political landscape of America.
First, three bills sounded on the wire service tickers, then five bells which sounded the alarm that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot in a motorcade in Dallas, then that he was dead. For many Americans, the assassination was only confirmed when announced by Walter Cronkite.
By Saturday, I had reaffirmed my White House press credentials, and upon arrival Sunday at the West Wing, confirmed that I would have a pass admitting me to the rotunda.
Beyond the profound farewell by Jacqueline Kennedy, the signal moment for all the press corps in the rotunda, who did not have cell phones in that day, was the rapid fire news that Oswald had been killed. Some of the nation’s leading journalists did not have access to reporting outlets; every one had the same initial reaction: now, we will never know for an absolute certainty that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin, or, why this loner, so unaccomplished in life, would snuff a life of unparalleled promise.
Most journalists were camped together across the street from St Matthews; knowing the significance of the world’s leaders assembled to honor the young American president, their thoughts overshadowed by a little boy in blue saluting his father’s casket. The solemnity was overwhelming.
I resolved then to let time elapse, time to coalesce my observations of Kennedy over thirteen years. I went back to Arlington in the spring, before today’s memorial was created, and sat on the grass outside the white picket fence in the photograph above, took a similar photograph, and then poured my emotions into a portable typewriter, then sending film and copy by messenger to New York.
Kennedy did not live to see the fruits from the seeds he sowed, the civil and voting rights acts which Bobby heavily favored, or see an end to war in Viet Nam which Bobby so vociferously opposed. Given the harsh lessons taught by the Bay of Pigs, I do not believe JFK would have accelerated or expanded that war. JFK was not a perfect man or perfect husband but his faults were overwhelmingly outweighed by the steps he initiated to help American achieve those goals. In the words quoted so often by both Kennedys, Jack saw things others did not, and asked why not. That vision lay at the heart of his desire to send Americans into space. I stood on the Berlin Wall and staring at land where my great-grandfather had lived, wondered if the two halves of Germany could ever be one again. But, JFK had a vision of national unity when he declared “Ich bin ein Berliner,” alerting the Soviet Union of America’s support.
The article, which drew a complimentary note from Jackie, concluded, “We are a better people because he passed our way.”
I have twice visited the Texas School Book Depository, knelt at the same window from which Oswald fired three shots, drew a bead on a car headed down the Stemmons Freeway, and reaffirmed my belief Oswald acted alone. For a marksman, the shooting was a relatively simple task. Despite the passage of years, I never pass through Dallas, even the airport, without thinking about the death of Jack Kennedy, and all the improbables which contributed to the assassination. RFH
Sidebar: The iconic photo in the rotunda was taken by Scoot Lanwar of Life, using a fisheye lens; no one was allowed to climb up there, and we thought surely the Secret Service would make him come down. But he was well ensconced long before LBJ arrived, and it is just possible the agents did not know he was there.
Sidebar: the Boeing 707 which was Air Force One for Kennedy is at the Boeing museum in Seattle. Touring it a few years ago brought back many memories.
Bach Says Softball Still 2020 Possibility
Bach says baseball, softball possible for 2020
By JIM ARMSTRONG The Associated Press
By JIM ARMSTRONG
AP Sports Writer
TOKYO — Baseball and softball still have a chance of being included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.
“This will be under discussion,” Bach said at a news conference. “We will have the first broad discussion in December in a meeting of the executive board of the IOC, then the executive board will present its first discussion paper to the IOC session in Sochi.”
Baseball and softball were dropped from the 2012 program after a 2005 vote by the IOC. The two sports merged into a single federation in a bid for inclusion in Tokyo, but lost out to wrestling in an IOC vote in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Squash also had sought a spot in the 2020 program.
Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Olympics has prompted calls in Japan for baseball and softball to be included when the Japanese capital hosts the games.
While the Olympic Charter states that a sport’s inclusion in the program must be decided not later than the session electing the host city, Bach stressed the need to be flexible.
“I am open for more flexibility in the Olympic program,” said Bach, who was elected president in September to succeed Jacques Rogge. “But first we have to see what the rest of my colleagues in the IOC think.”
Baseball and softball are very popular in Japan and there are many existing facilities in the Tokyo area that could be used if the sports were included.
Bach was accompanied by IOC vice president John Coates, who heads the coordination commission for the Tokyo Games.
Japan is scaling down the cost of the planned 80,000-seat main stadium following an uproar from some prominent architects who think it’s too big and expensive.
Coates said the IOC is open to changes as long as the cutbacks don’t compromise the basic plan of the facility.
“It’s inevitable that costs will be reduced,” Coates said. “We are always open to that as long as the basic facility isn’t compromised.”
Japan has been in territorial disputes with both China and South Korea but Bach said he didn’t see that as a problem that would affect the 2020 Games.
“Sport is always about building bridges and never about building walls,” Bach said. “The language of sport is the language of dialogue and mutual respect, and this is why I think sport can play a positive role.”
Over the past year, China has increased patrols near the Japanese-administered islands that it calls Diaoyu, and which Japan calls Senkaku.
NCAA FOOTBALL SELECTION PANEL
IRVING, Texas — The 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee was officially introduced Wednesday.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is the chair of the committee, which will be responsible for selecting the four teams that advance to the College Football Playoff beginning after the 2014 regular season.
CFP Selection Committee
Get ready, selection committee. The torches, pitchforks and message boards will be coming your way very soon, writes Ted Miller. Story
The College Football Playoff selection committee wasted no time appointing a woman, despite the initial outcry at Condoleezza Rice’s inclusion, writes Andrea Adelson. Story
Committee blends members with broad ranges of experience across college football, writes Ivan Maisel. Story
The committee is a star-studded lineup, including former NFL quarterbacks Pat Haden, Archie Manning and Oliver Luck and former coaches Tom Osborne, Barry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham. However, the biggest name unquestionably is the lone female — former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“Condi definitely earned her spot on this committee,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. “She knows this game, she is a student of this game. … Obviously, part of this is going to be the ability to make judgments under scrutiny, and Condi has that.”
Rice says she’s ready for the challenge.
“I have experience in decision-making under pressure, decision-making when you have to evaluate information, look at it in a variety of ways, working in a team to try to come up with good decision,” Rice said in an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd that appeared on “Olbermann” on Wednesday night. “I think I can bring that to the committee.”
Rice was a surprising pick to be part of the postseason system that will replace the Bowl Championship Series next year because she has never worked directly in college athletics, though when she was provost at Stanford the athletic department was under her supervision and she hired Willingham as football coach.
Some, such as former Auburn coach Pat Dye, have said they would prefer only those who have played football to be on the committee.
“I’d say coach I respect you, I remember your great run at Auburn, but I respectfully disagree,” Rice told Cowherd. “There are others on the committee who have not played football. With all due respect to my dear friend Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue, the most influential NFL commissioner was Pete Rozelle. He never played football. You can be a student of something and not experience it. And I consider myself a student of college football. I am after all a student of Russia, but I’ve never been Russian, either. You can know something from following it and studying it. And I spend a lot of my time on Saturday with college football.”
College Football Playoff selection committee member Condoleezza Rice talks about the criticism of her inclusion on the panel, how the process will work, the current format and more.
Rice said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott first approached her about being part of the committee. She told Cowherd that she did her “homework” before saying yes to the job, also talking about it with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
SPY note: Rice did little to assuage her critics when she said on national television last week that she learned a lot about football during the Monday morning staff meetings with President Bush, an ardent football fan.
The remaining members of the committee: Mike Gould, Tom Jernstedt, Dan Radakovich, Mike Tranghese and Steve Wieberg.
“Our work will be difficult, but rewarding at the same time,” Long said. “We have important judgments to make during that process. We realize we represent all of college football.”
The committee will meet four times during the college football season and will release rankings every other week starting in mid-October, Hancock said.
Committee members will serve approximately three-year terms, although the initial members will have their terms staggered so they all don’t leave at the same time. Committee members will not be paid, Hancock said.
The reason the committee is 13 was because it was “the right number,” Hancock said. Everyone contacted to be on the committee enthusiastically wanted to be on the committee, but some individuals couldn’t make the necessary time commitments. Hancock would not indicate how many individuals turned down the opportunity.
Hancock said future committees could have more or fewer members.
Rice, meanwhile, said she already has some thoughts on the system.
“I’m going to tell you, strength of schedule is going to matter a lot, head to head is going to matter a lot, and I think this is going to encourage teams to play a tougher schedule,” Rice told Cowherd. “The committee is getting together soon and I’m looking forward to having the chance to discuss this without the pressure of picking teams.”
Besides picking the four teams for the College Football Playoff, the selection committee will be responsible for ranking and placing at-large teams in the noncontract New Year’s Day bowls (Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A).
The committee also must select the highest ranked champion from the non-Power Five leagues (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt), which will receive an automatic bid to one of the six bowls associated with the College Football Playoff.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
TOM CLANCY RIP
(copied from New York Times)
Tom Clancy, whose complex, adrenaline-fueled military novels spawned a new genre of thrillers and made him one of the world’s best-known and best-selling authors, died on Tuesday in Baltimore. He was 66.
Mr. Clancy, who grew up in Baltimore, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital after a brief illness, his lawyer, J. W. Thompson Webb, said on Wednesday. Neither Mr. Webb nor Mr. Clancy’s longtime publisher, Ivan Held, president of G. P. Putnam’s Sons, said he knew the precise cause of death.
Mr. Clancy’s debut book, “The Hunt for Red October,” was frequently cited as one of the greatest genre novels ever written. With the book’s publication in 1984, Mr. Clancy introduced a new kind of potboiler: an espionage thriller dense with technical details about weaponry, submarines and intelligence agencies.
It found an eager readership. More than 100 million copies of his novels are in print, and a remarkable 17 have reached No. 1 on the New York Times’s best-seller list, including “Threat Vector,” released last December. Prolific until his death, Mr. Clancy had been awaiting publication of his next book, “Command Authority,” set for Dec. 3.
The impact of his books has been felt far beyond the publishing world. Some were adapted by Hollywood and became blockbusters starring Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck as Mr. Clancy’s hero protagonist, Jack Ryan. Mr. Clancy arranged for his thrillers to be turned into video games that were so realistic, the military licensed them for training. And on television, fast-paced espionage using high-tech tools in the Clancy mold found a place in popular shows like “24” and “Homeland.”
The enterprises made Mr. Clancy a millionaire many times over and a familiar figure on the pop-culture landscape, frequently seen in photographs wearing a baseball cap and aviator sunglasses and holding a cigarette. With his riches he acquired an 80-acre farm on the Chesapeake Bay. He became a part owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He even bought a tank.
It was all a far cry from his days as a Maryland insurance salesman writing on the side in pursuit of literary aspirations and submitting his manuscript for “The Hunt for Red October” to the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, Md. An editor there, Deborah Grosvenor, became mesmerized by the book, a cold war tale set on a Soviet submarine.
But she had a hard time persuading her boss to read it; Mr. Clancy was an unknown, and the publisher had no experience with fiction. She was also concerned that the novel had too many technical descriptions, and asked Mr. Clancy to make cuts. He complied, trimming at least 100 pages while making revisions.
“I said, ‘I think we have a potential best seller here, and if we don’t grab this thing, somebody else would,’ ” Ms. Grosvenor, now a literary agent, said in an interview on Wednesday. “But he had this innate storytelling ability, and his characters had this very witty dialogue. The gift of the Irish, or whatever it was — the man could tell a story.”
The press paid $5,000 for the book, publishing it in 1984.
“The Hunt for Red October” became a runaway best seller when President Ronald Reagan, who had been handed a copy, called it “my kind of yarn” and said that he couldn’t put it down.
But its details about Soviet submarines, weaponry, satellites and fighter planes raised suspicions. Even high-ranking members of the military took notice of the book’s apparent inside knowledge. In a 1986 interview, Mr. Clancy said, “When I met Navy Secretary John Lehman last year, the first thing he asked me about the book was, ‘Who the hell cleared it?’ ”
No one did, Mr. Clancy insisted; all of his knowledge came from technical manuals, interviews with submarine experts and books on military matters, he said. While he spent time on military bases, visited the Pentagon and dined with military leaders, he said, he did not want to know any classified information.
“I hang my hat on getting as many things right as I can,” Mr. Clancy once said in an interview. “I’ve made up stuff that’s turned out to be real — that’s the spooky part.”
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Thomas Leo Clancy Jr. was born into a middle-class Baltimore family on April 12, 1947. As a boy he skipped over children’s literature to read naval history, poring over journals and books
He attended Loyola College in Baltimore, where he majored in English, and graduated in 1969. While he harbored ambitions to serve in the military — he joined the Army R.O.T.C. — he was told he was too nearsighted. He began working instead at a small insurance agency founded by his wife’s grandfather in rural Maryland, a line of work he was happy to abandon after he found success as an author.
He followed “The Hunt for Red October” with “Red Storm Rising” in 1986, “Patriot Games” in 1987, “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” in 1988 and “Clear and Present Danger” in 1989.
The critical reception was warm from the start. Reviewing “Red Storm Rising” in The Times in 1986, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote that the book “far surpassed” Mr. Clancy’s debut novel.
“Red Storm Rising” is a “superpower thriller,” Mr. Lehmann-Haupt wrote, “the verbal equivalent of a high-tech video game.”
Some critics questioned the unwavering virtuousness of many of Mr. Clancy’s heroes, particularly Jack Ryan.
“All the Americans are paragons of courage, endurance and devotion to service and country,” Robert Lekachman wrote in The Times in 1986. “Their officers are uniformly competent and occasionally inspired. Men of all ranks are faithful husbands and devoted fathers.”
Mr. Clancy is survived by his second wife, Alexandra Llewellyn Clancy, and their daughter, Alexis Jacqueline Page Clancy. He had four children from his first marriage: Michelle E. Bandy, Christine C. Blocksidge, Thomas L. Clancy III and Kathleen W. Clancy.
Besides the planned publication of his next book, “Command Authority,” a movie prequel about Jack Ryan’s pre-C.I.A. days, “Jack Ryan,” will be released on Christmas and stars Chris Pine as Ryan.
Mr. Clancy said none of his success came easily, and he would remind aspiring writers of that when he spoke to them.
“I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,” he once said. “You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.”
I have read all of Clancy’s books, always marveling at the technical detail, but also his portrayal od characters who were consistent from novel to novel, not just Ryan but agent provacateurs like John Clark. We often wondered where and how Clancy obtained so much inside information, but I know from experience that the keepers of the secrets readily share information with celebrity authors like Clancy, He described an incident in South America, but, if he was actually talking about the incident I have in mind, he disguised the action as involving a Huey. in actuality, the shooting incident involved a C47, known as Puff the Magic Dragon with .50 caliber machine guns in the door; I was onboard.
PETITION TO USOC (revised)
This petition was revised on September 12 to reflect decisions by the International Olympic Committee meeting this past week in Buenos Aires. The petition has been submitted to USOC.
The revised version contains several recommendations by Spy on the future of softball.
As a professional news organization accredited by the IOC, USOC, ISF and ASA, Spy Softball petitions USOC to consider several issues attendant upon a central question: should ASA continue as the USOC-designated national governing body?
The question is timely.
The nominal leaders of the world of fastpitch softball are changing, and the global nexus has changed.
The September 8 decision by the IOC on the program for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics will have wide-ranging implications at all levels of the sport. The IOC elected a new president, Dr Thomas Bach of Germany, who has stated reviewing the composition of the Olympic program has a high priority. Presumably, the executive director of ISF, Don Porter, could retire after the IOC Executive Board voted on the program for the 2020 Olympiad, selecting wrestling. However, if a drive to add baseball/softball materializes for consideration at Sochi, few would be surprised if Porter partakes of that process. (Wrestling was the odds-on favorite among the nominees; there were no USA officials on the Executive Board until Anita de Frantz was elected this week, and anti-American sentiment among Europeans was said to be ramping up in anticipation of a US-led military strike against Syria.). The executive director of ASA/USA Softball, Ron Radigonda, retires in October, and his successor Craig Cress has been chosen. Not least, on September 7, the IOC selected Tokyo as host city for 2020. The candidates were Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul.
In the wake of the decision on wrestling, Japan is said to be willing to explore opportunities to add baseball and softball to the 2020 program; both have wide followings in Japan. The IOC has authorized 28 sports and now has 26. Any changes sought by Bach and the Executive Board could be considered during IOC meetings in Sochi, on the margins of the Winter Olympics Feb 7-23.
The portent of these changes for fastpitch softball can only be speculated. But, surely, the relevant authorities have made contingency plans on how they envision going forward.
Thus, it is an opportune time for USOC to revisit the decades-old decision to name ASA the governing body of softball. Fastpitch softball in particular is a very different sport today than it was when USOC decided to award such sweeping authority to what was then and still remains an organization whose deepest roots are in men and women’s slow pitch softball.
Certainly, the IOC vote will have major implications for ISF and ASA/USA Softball – whatever the outcome of future deliberations with Japan – on both the scope of their international programs and the funding to support them. Indeed, they should have made contingency plans not predicated on Olympic status.
It is not too soon to inquire about what contingency plans have been made. The USOC has a vested interest in knowing the plans of these organizations post the IOC decision on 2020 venues – not just funding but structuring the forward program.
Moreover, parallel to this inquiry about the future, USOC, as the controlling body, should examine ASA’s discharge of its obligations as the USOC-designated national governing body of softball. USOC should consult a diverse array of organizations, not just ASA.
USOC should convene a hearing in which representatives of the major organizations in girls and women’s fastpitch can not only provide their recommended guidance for the future of the sport but provide an answer to the penultimate question: should ASA continue as the national governing body of softball. At minimum, USOC should hear presentations by ISF, ASA, NFCA, Premier Girls Fastpitch, USSSA.and NPF.
Should the Executive Board explore a possible addition of the joint baseball/softball program, baseball people should be heard from, and answer questions such as the role of Major League Baseball, the construct of a single facility to house both sports, and how many teams would be qualified and how they would be chosen. The combined baseball/softball consortium has had many months to prepare answers to these and other critical questions. The answers should not be deferred to the Congress that the combined organization anticipates in 2014.
A parallel question for USOC: should the domestic and international governing body authority be vested in two separate organizations. And, should the governing authority for softball be divided into adult and youth entities.
Examine ASA’s conjoined mission statements which are appended to every press release:
The Amateur Softball Association, founded in 1933, is the National Governing Body of softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The ASA has become one of the nation’s largest sports organizations and now sanctions competition in every state through a network of 76 local associations. The ASA has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 200,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than three million
About USA Softball
USA Softball is the brand created, operated and owned by the ASA that links the USA Men’s, Women’s, Junior Boys’ and Junior Girls’ National Team programs together. USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting these four National Teams to compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women’s National Team is one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won nine World Championship titles as well as claimed six World Cup of Softball titles.
Mission statements notwithstanding, ASA is not the monolithic organization it once was, certainly not with respect to girls/women’s fastpitch softball – at the domestic or international level. Granted, ASA manages a wide variety of softball programs, fastpitch and slow pitch, and awards more than a dozen national championships involving adults and youth.. The focus in this editorial is on girls/women’sfastpitch.
Domestic Fastpitch Softball
The public image of softball is a girl in pigtails playing fastpitch.
While ASA is the rulemaking body, and sponsors more than two dozen tournaments for men, women and youth, at its core, ASA is organizationally focused on slow pitch softball, which is the primary focus of its 90+ commissioners, the majority of whom in the past have been umpires, given those posts for life; there should be term limits. To the extent that ASA focuses on fastpitch, that supervision is only indirectly provided by its Junior Olympic commissioners and its Executive Council. Instead, it is vested in ASA headquarters staff, none of whom have any background in fastpitch, and the Women’s National Team Selection Committee, whose independence has long been forfeited to ASA staff.
The coaches/managers and players in youth fastpitch have little influence over ASA decisions.
Moreover, virtually all funding of youth fastpitch is underwritten by parents or travel ball organizations, with no real dollar input by ASA.
Over time, this ruling-from-above has resulted in an erosion of ASA influence over girls fastpitch, and most certainly over management of the sport, and particularly not at what is called the Gold or premium and senior levels.
Today, at least two other organizations also have national championships, and, sponsor competition at the 12-14-16-18 age levels. Indeed this past month the top youth teams in the country competed in the tournaments of Premier Girls Fastpitch, A number of these teams also competed in the multi-tiered competition sponsored by USSSA Pride. A few teams competed at both Premier and ASA. The divining mark is quality of competition. Perhaps ten of the 64 teams who competed ASA Gold would have been successful at Premier.
Other factors notwithstanding, the attraction PGF and Pride offer is the quality of the competition.
Another factor particularly with respect to PGF is that the organization is owned and controlled by travel ball coaches. USSSA is reported to involve more fastpitch players than ASA; its Pride team just won the NPF national championship.
While travel ball per se is not within the USOC purview, USOC must be sensitive to the fact that travel ball is the wellspring for all USA national teams. A case can be made that ASA stands in violation of the Olympic ideal of inclusion by its decision to limit participation in USA national teams to players who participate in ASA tournaments. At both the junior and senior levels, this decision has precluded many of the nation’s top players from trying out for USA teams. Moreover, players on NPF teams are considered by ASA to be ineligible for national teams, although the teams they meet in international competition include professional players.
Therefore, the USOC review should also embrace USA team selection procedures.
USOC should also evaluate the rule-making authority of ASA, which is vested in the Council. Although umpires have a defined organizational emphasis, no comparable grouping exists for travel ball. For several years, responsibility within ASA for travel ball has been vested in a junior ASA staffer, often with decisions made which do not reflect input from the travel ball community. When the Council votes each year on changes in code and playing rules, no travel ball people are on the floor, and few if any travel ball people see the proposed changes in advance. A few ASA Commissioners will share some information beforehand, but there is no systemic effort to consult with or listen to the people who play the game.
Given the diversity of travel ball and highschool organizations, it is difficult to project a single organization to manage code and playing rules. NFCA has more than 800 travel ball members, but pays them little heed. If ASA continues to have domestic softball jurisdiction, it should be vested with the clear understanding that ASA will create a stand-alone travel ball unit to oversee changes in code and playing rules, answerable to the ASA Director.
In keeping with Olympic ideals, ASA should be expressly forbidden to link ASA participation to national team selection procedures.
The Canadian Open Fastpitch organization tells Spy that more than 100,000 people attended its recent week-long event. Granted, this total includes many levels of play: international, women’s elite, and various junior levels. Still, the video images from the multi-team international division showed a full stadium. The empty seats at USA’s recent four-team World Cup were embarrassing. Similarly, the Canadian Open featured just six teams including a one-off team of USA college players.
Both events were hailed by ISF as demonstrations that softball is an international sport worthy of being included in the Olympics. ASA stripped its Hall of Fame Stadium of the bleachers, which were filled to capacity for the recent College World Series. Even the regular seats down the left and right field foul lines were mostly empty at the World Cup. By contrast, an estimated 1300 people filled the Manning Stadium at Bill Barber Park for the PGF Premiere-level championship. An estimated 1300 people attended the NPF championship, which was televised.
There is support for fastpitch softball across the breadth of the United States. ASA doesn’t seem to know how to maximize it. Rather than stare at empty World Cup seats, ASA should have required each of its 90+ commissioners to attend, and filled the wings with young travel ball teams, even without paid admission. Empty seats would not impress the IOC.
True, baseball has drawn substantial audiences, but Spy doubts that even Lincoln could save this union between baseball and softball.
ISF should be asked what plans it has made for choosing a successor to Porter, as well as the program it proposes in lieu of an Olympic platform, eg, its international cup..
QUESTIONS USOC SHOULD ASK ALL RESPONDENTS
If softball is truly an internationally-supported sport, why were only four teams in the World Cup? To what extent were team finances a limiting factor in team participation at the World Cup or Canadian Open?
In previous years, the USA national team played exhibitions at numerous locations around the USA to build up support – which might result in larger audience attendance at major events..
At one time, the USA national team played teams from National Pro Fastpitch. Was ASA embarrassed by losses? ASA’s director of national teams reportedly made a virtually unilateral decision that players under contract to NPF could not play on the USA national team – which became a collage of college players competing against professionals from other countries. Similarly, the director limited tryouts for junior national teams to players who had competed in ASA tournaments. Will the new ASA leadership continue his policies?
If finances were a limiting factor, how does the new ASA leadership propose to raise enough money for a full-fledged international program like those in the past? ASA commissioners have pointedly rejected calls to share their funds from registration, tournaments etc. Yet, a number of those commissioners have attended the Olympics and other events at ASA expense,
European club teams just concluded a well-attended championship. Why don’t more of those countries have national teams which play in the World Cup? A few, like Great Britain and Italy have played in previous Canada Cups.
Given that Europe has 53 members of the IOC, the USA has three (the USOC president has just become the fourth), knowledgable observers have long promoted sending a US team to play selected European club teams to build ties and expand the sport. USOC should ask what plans, if any, the participants have for forging stronger links with Europe. What plans do you (all) have for generating more participation by European teams in international competition?
What promotional plans do you (all) have to increase the number of teams in the World Cup? The Canadian open? The ISF International Championship in 2012 featured 16 teams from five ISF regions; why aren’t more of these teams competing in the World Cup and Canadian Open?
What promotional plans do you (all) have to increase attendance at the World Cup? The ISF International Championship? The Canadian Open?
Are there plans to revive the ASA Women’s Majors? The ISF University games?
What steps would you recommend for inter-connecting NPF and USA Softball (or its successor)? Would you abolish the current USA Softball prohibition against NPF players being chosen for USA national teams? Would you consider a schedule for USA teams to compete against NPF teams?
What format should be used to select players for US national teams? How would you restructure the Women’s National Team Selection Committee? (In recent years, the WNTSC has become the handmaiden of the ASA director of national teams)
Should the USA team conduct a domestic tour to broaden support, playing college and NPF?
What plans do you have for generating funding? For youth softball? For national teams?
How do you account for the fact that the WCWS fills the ASA Hall of Fame stadium, even when Oklahoma is not playing, but the World Cup played to virtually an empty stadium except when Team USA played.?
USSSA has the resources to manage the international program, if split off from USA Softball. They should be asked about player selection, training, tours, competition events to enter, etc.
Finally, the rumor is that Tokyo would consider having a stand-alone softball and baseball tournament, parallel to the Olympics. Tokyo has the experience and infrastructure. Would USOC contribute funds to enter a USA team in such a tournament? Would ISF contribute? There is a precedent; China hosted a separate wushu tournament at the time of the Beijing Olympics.
As a first order of business, the USA, seconded by other Olympic competitors like Canada and Australia, should determine with finality whether Japan, as the 2020 host, will formally propose to the IOC the addition of baseball/softball to the 2020 program, a decision which could be quickly affirmed by the IOC Executive Board and ratified by the IOC at Socchi in February.
A meeting with Japanese Olympic officials should be immediate.
In that process, thought should be given to the confederation of softball and baseball, well before the confederation’s meeting in 2014. Press coverage from Buenos Aires indicates a number of IOC members thought baseball was an albatross around softball’s neck; moreover, that baseball does not have the kind of MLB approvals to make them viable at the Olympic level. Spy suggests that the IOC go forward with just softball, but there is also great Japanese passion for baseball, and a continued combined effort may be inevitable.
The composition of the international delegation meeting with Japan for this purpose could be critical. Spy believes that ISF President Don Porter should announce his resignation as president at the ISF meeting in October, instead assuming the role of chairman emeritus, holding the latter post until Socchi. While ISF would elect a new president in October, operational control over ISF should be vested in a new position of executive director, preferably Ron Radigonda would be appointed to this post.
While Spy believes Porter has become ineffective in the international politics of softball, Porter has devoted many years to promoting the sport. If there is any possibility of softball being reinstated at Socchi, Porter deserves to be there and his efforts acknowledged.
Spy believes that the governing authority for international softball should be taken away from USA Softball, regardless of the outcome of future deliberations with IOC and Japan.
USOC should designate a national governing body for international competition, and a separate governing body for domestic softball. By default, ASA is best positioned to continue governance of men and women’s slow pitch softball, but a new entity should be created for international competition. Spy believes the US international program would benefit greatly by having Arizona coach Mike Candrea being named commissioner for international competition. USA Softball could be restructured, but there are other organizations like USSSA which are structurally and financially capable of managing the USA international effort. Spy hopes that retiring ASA Director Ron Radigonda will be offered the leadership of ISF.
If it is to retain authority over domestic fastpitch, ASA governance should be restructured so that all the organizations have a voice in decisions, not just the Council or ASA Executive Board. If this does not occur, organizations like USSSA, Premier, Triple Crown will continue their stand-alone programs, without deference to ASA. Frankly, they no longer need ASA.
There should be agreement among the affected organizations on a uniform bat standard.
SPY also believes that USA national teams should be permitted to scrimmage against college and professional teams. Spy also believes that umpires accredited by ASA should be allowed to serve games sponsored by other organizations.
In a few well-chosen words, where are we going?
Rayburn F Hesse