As near as I can figure, tomorrow night’s Nevada athletics dinner in the back yard of the Governor’s mansion will be the 50th in the long history of the event. The main speaker will be Shaq O’Neal, basketball great, who will be the latest in the long line of celebrity sports figures at the mic.
A few of those speakers would be George Allen in 1969 at the inaugural dinner, Jerry West, Don Meredith, Johnny Unitas, Tom Harmon, Al Davis, Willie McCovey, Bobby Knight, Bill Walsh, Lou Holtz, Dick Vitale, Mike Ditka, Joe Theisman, Rick Patino, Terry Bradshaw and John Gruden.
The original dinner was the brain child of AD Emeritus Dick Trachok and a small committee. It was a stag affair and as I remember it, there might have been a little less than a hundred attendees. Today the back yard is jammed to capacity with both men and women in attendance. Also, it has become one of the major fund raising events for University athletic programs. As usual, the El Dorado Hotel Casino will furnish libations and food.
Of the many speakers that I have had the pleasure of witnessing, two of the standouts were football players Bradshaw and Theisman. Bradshaw was like a Southern Bible thumper as he stirred up the crowd to numerous applause and Theisman was more of an inspirational speaker as he commented on how he had to readjust his life after a season-ending injury.
Tomorrow night’s event is sure to be a sell-out as the occasion will mark speaker Governor Brian Sandoval’s swan song.
TWO OF THE MAJOR SPORTS currently occupying headlines in the local papers are golf and tennis. For golf, it is the ACC Celebrity tournament at South Shore’s Edgewood Golf Course which begins tomorrow. This NBC Presentation is a wonderful hours-long exposure for the “Lake in the Sky”. It features pro athletes and entertainers such as Steph Curry and Justin Timberlake. In addition to the massive TV audience, it attracts multitudes of fans both on land and in boats. Noticeably absent are professional golfers, but several of the amateurs exhibit a great deal of skill.
One of the most entertaining stars is Charles Barkley, who after many years at the event has failed to develop a reasonable golf swing.
As for tennis, the most memorable tournament is now underway at Wimbledon. The most pleasing aspect of this lawn encounter is that all of the contestants, men and women, are clad in pristine white togs. Like many other sports, the attire worn at other tennis tournaments is a kaleidoscope of color.
On the local scene, the insipient golf tournament that started a number of highly successful tourneys was that of Newt Crumley’s Holiday Hotel which was entitled, “The Mug Hunt”. It featured many baseball Hall-of-Famers and the chairman of the tourney was sporting goods store owner Link Piazzo. The Holiday tournament was quickly followed by Harrah’s, which was played at the South Shore of Tahoe. Next in line was the Mapes Hotel which featured NFL players and entertainment celebrities along with a sprinkling of baseball greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Jensen and Lefty O’Doul. Having been involved with the Mapes golf extravaganzas along with our chairman, insurance man Ben Dasher, I got to meet a number of the celebs. Of the athletes my favorite was Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Don Meredith. We became good friends, mostly at various bars in the hotel. One night he remarked that he’d had such a good time in Reno that he would like to reciprocate if I ever happened to be in Dallas. During the ensuing conversation, I asked him what sort of team the Cowboys would field that year. He replied that he didn’t really care and when I asked him why not, he said that upon returning to Texas he would announce his retirement. He noted that he had a lucrative deal coming up to work on Monday Night Football with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell. I then inquired if he meant what he said when he stated that he would like to do me a favor. He replied in the affirmative so I asked him if he would announce his retirement from the Mapes rather than Dallas. He said, “Sure.” So I immediately contacted Journal Sports Editor Ty Cobb, who broke the story on both major wire services. A week or so later, I got a call from Meredith, who said Coach Tom Landry had given him a royal chewing out when he landed in Dallas.