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WATKINS GLEN NY… I am traveling this week out East and driving from Geneva, NY on down to Watkins Glen, home of the famed auto race track, I have to say that going along the shores of Seneca Lake that the scenery is impeccable. I only have one thing to dispute and that is that Geneva has proclaimed itself to be the “Lake Trout Capital of the World”. I am sure many North Shore citizens would be happy to dispute that. The lake meanders for about 34 miles and is surrounded by rolling hills and rural scenery. There are mile after mile of vineyards and enough wineries to keep many well heeled winos happy for years. Being the former owner of a small vineyard this was of interest to me.
It was as I was doing this that I heard of the passing of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Many folks have heard of him, and most informed people know his story. He was born into and grew up in a country that engaged in a system of apartheid. That was the systemic separation of white and black Afrikaners‘ supported by it’s government, political systems and by laws. It was probably every bit as ugly as the racial discrimination we bore witness to in this country. We were on the tail end of it as I was a young kid, and returning to my birthplace of Springfield, IL a few times a year, I was a personal witness to it many times in my youth.
My grandmother lived 2 blocks from the Lincoln home site and about 6 blocks from the State Capital which were the epicenter for several civil rights marches in the mid sixties. Mandela dealt with the apartheid issue as a young man after studying law and coming to the realization that he had an inner calling to take a stand against the institutionalized poverty, racism and inequality that was the country that he called home. Without outlining his entire bio, he basically banded with several political groups who shared his beliefs, originally devoting himself to non-violent protest to try to gain equality for all peoples of South Africa. The government saw this as an affront and threat to their monopoly of power even though they were the distinct minority in the country.
Mandela and many of his colleagues were arrested and tried a few times, but unsuccessfully. It wasn’t until perhaps out of a sense of desperation that he and his supporters turned to militancy, was once again arrested, tried, and this time the government won at trial. Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. He served 27 years of the sentence, mostly under harsh, abhorrent conditions. A global campaign was eventually launched and his freedom and recognition was secured. In the States here, I recall many major corporations being pressured to cease business dealings with the South African government until they granted all citizens equality and released political prisoners.
That this occurred, or was even allowed to exist in this world when I was young still boggles the mind. It is for this reason that I can’t even begin to comprehend the courage it took to be this man. Just think about that. 27 years in prison for wanting to be treated with dignity and respect. 27 years on a rock pile for wanting his majority of black African citizens to have some kind of voice, any voice, in their government. In a world where we jump up and down and celebrate the homerun, the touchdown or goal by referring to the athlete that performed those feats “heroes”, every single one of them pale in comparison to Mandela, who in my book is a real life hero. There are not too many of them in this world, they really are an endangered species in today’s pumped up, trumped up world, and now, we have one less….
SATURDAY EVE I HAD ON THE Pittsburgh Pengwah and Boston Bruin tilt taking place in Beantown. It is no secret that I can’t stand the Bruins and their brand of hockey and beyond the Bobby Orr-Phil Esposito era, I have not liked this club for one second. This game did nothing to change that. After an early big hit on Bruin and former Dallas NorthStar Loui Eriksson (one of my favorite players) by the Pens Brooks Orpik, Eriksson was hurt badly and had to leave the game, this coming on the heels of his infamous incident with the Sabres Big John Scott.
I haven’t had the chance to get a good look at the hit on Eriksson, but I can say that Orpik generally isn’t known as a dirty player. What happened later in the game though has no place in it. In a scrum, and looking for some retaliation, the B’s Shawn Thornton was near Orpik when he suddenly slew-footed him down to the ice and struck him twice in the head while Orpik was down and on his back, knocking him unconscious. Orpik left the ice on a stretcher. The violations of the “code” are so numerous here I wouldn’t know where to start. Gary Bettman, where are you? More on this next week….
THE MFAN TOP FIVE NHL POWER RANK FOR DEC. 9TH…
1. ANAHEIM DUCK… knock off Hawks and Blues in a back 2 backer…
2. SAN JOSE… 7-3 in L10 before falling to the Wild tonight with Mfan Jr in house…
3. STL BLUES… still tough, but maybe vulnerable between the pipes??
4. CHI BLACKHAWK… dropped last 3, but do you want them in 7 game series?
5. MONTREAL CANADIEN… 9-0-1 in L10 and on a 5 game win streak!!
If I had to make Stanley Cup picks right now I would say Duck versus Habs, but I don’t have to do that, and it isn’t even Christmas yet!! PEACE
Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.