April 15, 2010

New York. If one was making 160,000 pounds per week—that’s more than a quarter of a million dollars every seven days—it would be safe to assume that one’s father would not choose to deal in cocaine for a living. Not necessarily, it seems, at least not in the John Terry family. The man who had to stand down as captain of the England football squad for having screwed a teammate’s girl is a hell of a fellow. His mother and mother-in-law were cautioned last year for shoplifting. Now his old man is charged with dealing the wrong kind of coke. What in hell’s name is going on here? Modern England, that’s what. 

Compare this with one Dave Sime, a fellow I sat next to last week here in the Big Bagel. Pronounced Sim, his name was better known among us when we were kids than John Terry’s is among the filth of Chelsea today. Real Chariots of Fire stuff. Dave Sime held six world records in the dash and short distances while at Duke University, and added three more immediately after graduation. His father was a depression baby who never made more than one hundred dollars a week as a house painter. After work he’d play baseball with Dave and make him run dashes. “Speed is all,” he’d tell him. Dave Sime went to medical school and turned down the myriad of offers by baseball teams as well as basketball franchises. “Why play for money when you can do it for fun,” he said, or something like that. At one meet against North Carolina he was asked by his Duke coach if he would try the low hurdles as the team needed the points. Sime ran them for the one and only time in his life and broke the world record. He was among the first to establish a new way of laser surgery on the eye, one that is now routine. He told me that when his father had a heart attack and took to his bed, young Dave went to work after school, gave the moolah to his mother, and trained at night under the street lights if there were any. (He was from New Jersey). Just like I imagine John Terry would have done if his old man were not dealing cocaine or his mother shop-lifting.


“I never heard Dave Sime say a word about the outrageous sums unearned today by prima donna professional athletes, he is much too busy living a useful life.”

Now I know that Terry did not choose his parents, but nor did Dave Sime. I suppose it all has to do with genes, and Dave’s parents sure had them. His old man played professional baseball as well as basketball, but made more money house painting. The occasion in which I met Dave involved yet another great friend, Anthony Maltese. Tony was the reason I remained small during my growing years. He was an undefeated wrestler and state champion at Blair, which forced me to wrestle in a lower weight, dieting and stunning my growth and preventing me from being a contender. Tony was honoured last week by Boys’ Town of Italy, a wonderful charity for young children. Tony is a major philanthropist, probably because he gave away so little on the wrestling mat all those years ago. I wrestled him every day while in school and never once got close to beating him. I dieted down to 133 pounds in order to make the team. 141 was Tony’s domain. Then last year the school headmaster had the bright idea to have us do it all over again after 54 years, and sure enough we went at it again. Blair Academy is the most powerful wrestling school in America, and although a prep school, we only wrestle against universities, such is the strength and depth of the place. In front of around one hundred wrestlers in the brand new gym, Tony once again threw me, and at the time I was reigning judo world champion seventy and over. Then we dined at the headmaster’s house and I got very drunk. Tony and Dave, although from different backgrounds, were the closest of friends when young. That’s what’s great about America, or used to be.

Dave Sime is 74, tall and good looking with bright blue eyes and thinning white hair. He looks like an aristo and acts like one, telling jokes and being friendly and at ease with everyone. Yet his father grew up under terrible poverty during the depression, and Dave had to work while at school to support his parents. He never took a dime from anyone and his father worked until he dropped dead. I never heard Dave Sime say a word about the outrageous sums unearned today by prima donna professional athletes, he is much too busy living a useful life. Ditto Anthony Maltese. The latter gives his money away and has worked all his life in order to be able to give it away. Tony inherited little and made it large. One of my life’s ambitions is to pin Tony one of these days, a wrestling term most English people will confuse with pinning a girl to a bed. Not to worry. I am now deep into judo and karate training and plan to participate at the U.S. National championships of Judo in South Carolina the first and second of May. Then I plan to challenge Tony for the last time. After 55 years, I’m due for a win.  


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