Let me ask you something.
Are you like me when you hear a tune that you can’t get it out of your head, and so you start whistling the tune for about two days afterward.
The tune getting to me these days is John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare and Theme.”
(OK, start whistling…) Yeah, that one. I love that tune! It can’t be the real Olympics without that music!
Williams’ historic musical score made its debut during the summer games of Los Angeles 1984.
The same summer two Maine athletes were scoring their own history in two brand new Olympic events — the women’s marathon and baseball. The two Mainers — Joan Benoit Samuelson and Billy Swift.
In fact, it could be argued that the Olympic Games 28 summers ago were the most memorable ever for Maine competitors, considering the historic value of events.
I can still picture Benoit, wearing that white painter’s hat, coming through that tunnel at the LA Coliseum and on to the track. The crowd going crazy as she ran one time around the track to finish the first-ever women’s Olympic Marathon in a time of 2:24:52. Imagine a woman running the marathon in a time that would have been fast enough to win 13 of the 20 previous men’s Olympic marathons!
Not bad considering the 27-year-old from Cape Elizabeth had knee surgery 17 days before the Olympic Trials earlier in the summer of ’84. Some said it was a miracle she even made the USA team. Benoit quickly became the idol of millions women runners in the U.S.
And then there’s Billy Swift. The South Portland pitcher for Team USA baseball in ’84. Finally, Olympic organizers allowed the sport of baseball in as a so-called “demonstration sport” that year. Swifty had just finished a brilliant UMaine career and was a top starter for a young team that included now hall-of-famer Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and Will Clark. Swift finished that summer of international play with a 1.18 ERA and the team finished with a silver medal. Yet another Maine athlete helping to showcase a new Olympic sport.
So, while you enjoy the London Games of 2012 and when you start to whistle that John Williams tune, take a moment to remember the historic Maine contributions to the Summer Olympics nearly three decades ago.
ITEMS FROM THE DUFFEL BAG:
— Breakfast at London: Fun to watch Maine basketball coaching legend Bob Brown’s son Brett coaching the Australian men’s Olympic basketball team. The Aussie team lost to Brazil Sunday morning. Brett Brown is no kid, now 51-years-old. He is an assistant coach with the Spurs and has 4 NBA titles on his resume. Good luck, mate!!
— 2 billion dollars. That’s the price NBC paid to broadcast the 2010 Olympics and these London games of ’12. The peacock network won the rights by outbidding Fox and ABC/ESPN. $2,000,000,000.00 A lot of zeros, huh?
— Interesting to see C’s coach Doc Rivers working for NBC during Olympic coverage. Some guys just have it in front of the camera… Doc has it! Just thinking — he would be an excellent choice to coach the olympic team someday.
— One more Billy Swift trivia nugget… The date is August 30,1986 and Swifty’s Seattle Mariners beats the NY Yankees 1-0. Swift pitches 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball for the win. Taking the loss for the Yankees… Tommy John…Yeah, that Tommy John!
— At 51-years-old, does former UMaine-Farmington player and Woodland High School coach Steve Clifford finally gets his chance to be a head coach in the NBA this week? Clifford is one of four finalists for the head coach job of the Portland Trailblazers. He is very highly regarded in the league, 10 years of assisting, first Jeff Van Gundy then Stan Van Gundy. I know this, if he doesn’t get this job in the northwest, he’ll be coaching somewhere in the NBA this winter. Maybe as an assistant to Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls.
— Emily Bouchard of Saco won the state amateur golf title last week, but the real winner was women’s golf in Maine. It was time for the WMSGA and SMWGA to unite and have one champion.
— Here’s hoping former Mount Ararat pitcher Mark Rogers sticks in the big leagues this time with the Milwaukee Brewers.