It’s Daytona Weekend, and I will get to that, for sure, but I wanted to start my blog post this week by mentioning the Shenandoah University Women’s basketball team. The gals have had a rough 20-loss season, and it would have been very easy to go away quietly this past Tuesday in the opener of the ODAC tournament at Virginia Wesleyan. Instead, the SU women kept their season alive with an upset win over the 6th seeded Marlins. And they did it by scoring 82 points, and playing perhaps their finest game of the year (when it counted). I couldn’t be happier for Coach Melissa Smeltzer-Kraft, who somehow kept her team together on the road, and against all odds this week. As of this writing, the Hornets are preparing for a Friday matchup against Emory & Henry, and on paper, it doesn’t look good. SU fell to the Wasps this year by scores of 103-43 and 64-40. But, as they say, the games aren’t played on paper. Good Luck Shenandoah!
NASCAR is the only sport to play it’s “Super Bowl” at the beginning of the season, as the Daytona 500 kicks off the season Sunday afternoon. There are changes to the Cup Series this year: there is a new title sponsor in Monster Energy Drink as Sprint steps aside…and there’s another format change in the races themselves. This year, the Cup races will be broken up into 3 “stages”, with points being awarded after each stage. Drivers will be allowed to pit under caution between stages, hopefully creating a more competitive racing environment. We’ll just have to see how it shakes out…
And, being a fan of professional wrestling “back in the day”, I wanted to pay tribute to 2 ‘rasslers who went on to The Squared Circle in the Sky recently: Ivan Koloff and George “The Animal” Steele. Born Oreal Perras, Koloff’s wrestling persona was “The Russian Bear”, and was, in wrestling parlance, a “heel” (bad guy). Story lines in professional wrestling are often based on the political climate of the day, and in the Cold War 80’s, Koloff would enter the ring with the Soviet CCCP singlet and work the crowd into a frenzy. Outside the ring, I got to meet him at the Warren County Fair at a 90s wrestling card, at which I was asked to do some ring announcing. He was very nice and accomodating when I asked him for a picture, and I was sad to hear of his passing.
George the Animal Steele (real name Jim Myers), was “discovered” by the great Bruno Sammartino of WWWF (now WWE) fame, and his ring persona was totally opposite of the person he was: a school teacher, author, and by all rights a very intelligent man. In fact, his early ring interviews were eloquent, something Vince McMahon didn’t want. So George Steele became “The Animal” and the rest is wrestling history, as Steele was known for his green tongue and his penchant for eating the turnbuckle after his matches.
The life of a pro wrestler is a hard life. Fame and money only come to a select few at the top. For the rest, it’s 300-plus days on the road, living out of cars, eating fast-food, and wrestling in half-filled high school gyms and county fairs long after the glory days are over. To those that lived that life, a small tribute is the least we can do. RIP, Russian Bear, and George the Animal Steele!
That’s it from the Booth…enjoy the Daytona 500, and until next time…GO HORNETS!!!