Motivation, just as it is in other real life experiences, is of paramount importance in sports endeavors. Whether that motivation comes from an emotional coach or a placid disciple of God makes little difference.
This was amply apparent in Nevada’s last basketball game in the Sweet 16. The Pack’s one point loss to Loyola seemed more influenced by a Higher Power than what happened on the hardwood.
Since there were a number of mystifying moments during the contest, especially the three-point shooting by Kendell Stephens, Nevada’s scoring drought in the nearly eight minutes of the first half and the crucial missed call when the Loyola player travelled before being fouled and subsequently was given the ball instead of Nevada rightfully receiving it, there were times when what was happening seemed beyond belief.
Uncharacteristically, Nevada opened the contest with a red hot shooting display. Then in the first half a drought occurred and continued into the opening of the second half. The Wolf Pack found itself in a familiar deep hole. Once again through sheer pluck, Nevada embarked on a run which saw the game tie in the closing minutes.
Major points in the poor refereeing happened during the opening stanza when the Loyola center shuffled his feet on most of his lay-ins and when Campbell or Cody Martin made successful crib shots with at least three players hanging on them with no whistle being blown. As usual, Jordan Caroline did yeoman work at the center spot and was routinely hacked but rarely received his well-earned free throws. Again, some mystical force caused him to miss one of his free throw attempts, which if made, would have forced the contest into overtime.
The most intriguing person in the stadium was 98-year old Sister Jean, who prays for the Loyola Five before all of their contests. She was well-covered on TV as was her counterpart, Musselman’s eight year old daughter Mariah.
As of this writing, Loyola is scheduled to meet Kansas State who upset Kentucky to reach the Elite Eight. Despite their travail in Atlanta, this year’s Nevada Basketball Team can hold their heads high for some of the amazing wins they have had and the promise of an even greater season next year.
Of all the many TV channels available today, my favorite continues to be the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) offering. On that channel I frequently see movie luminaries with whom I had personal contact. Case in point occurred last month when two flicks of a very different nature featured many Reno locations. The films were “Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble” and “Charley Varrick”.The Andy Hardy series was one of the most profitable for MGM in the early forties and helped enthrone Mickey Rooney as the box office king when older, more established actors like Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart went off to World War II.
In the “Blonde” show, the puckish Rooney is, as usual, up to his ears in trouble—this time with a University official, played by the usually serious actor Herbert Marshall. Naturally, Andy’s father has to somehow get him out of his predicament and actor Lewis Stone does his usually yeoman job. In the movie, one of the stars besides Rooney—who was a regular on stage in the Mapes Sky Room here—is the University of Nevada Campus. All of the outdoor sequences were shot on “The Hill” as were many subsequent films, such as “Mother Was a Freshman” (Loretta Young and Van Johnson), “Apartment for Peggy” (William Holden and Jeanne Crain) and “Belvedere Goes to College” (Shirley Temple and Clifton Webb). Of the three above films, I was fortunate enough to have bit parts in “Apartment” and “Belvedere”. Also, I worked with Rooney on several other occasions, most notably when he appeared here during the Winter Olympics.
In “Belvedere”, I had the singular pleasure of being called upon by the director to serve as Shirley Temple’s escort during evening parties in the Sky Room. My most embarrassing moment came when Shirley, a well-known dancer, asked me to escort her to the dance floor. Star of “Varrick” was Walter Matthau, whom I first met when he appeared here in a segment of the TV series “Route 66”. Since cast and crew were ensconced at the Mapes, one of the key scenes in the film was shot in the casino portion of the hotel. The “66” show was a weekly staple on TV and was about two young guys in a vintage Corvette who travelled the historic route and had exciting adventures along the way. Although the City of Reno was never on Route 66, the area was selected as a good one in order to film two segments of the series. One segment was on Reno/Virginia City and the other was filmed at Squaw Valley. Matthau served as a guest star, along with the two principals in the show who were played by George Maharis and Martin Milner. I had met Milner several years before when he was a cast member of “60 Saddles for Gobi” which starred Richard Widmark and was shot primarily at Pyramid Lake.
In “Charley Varrick”, Walter Matthau played against type when he was cast as a pilot/bank robber who unfortunately robbed a small bank that was hiding Mafia funds. Because of that, he was not only fleeing from the police but also from a Mob hit man, played by Joe Don Baker. In the “Varrick” flick, the City of Reno had extensive exposure with many scenes shot in the downtown area, mainly around the Arlington Towers. Since Matthau’s love interest in the film was Felicia Farr, the wife of Jack Lemmon, Jack himself was a frequent visitor to The Biggest Little City. I struck up the old acquaintance with Matthau and my friend, Jack Knorpp and I had several social drinking sessions with Matthau and Lemmon at the bar in The Towers. Although it was well prior to their “Grumpy Old Men” flicks, you could tell the two were fast friends and had a great rapport.
Getting back to “Route 66”, the name has a very special memory for me since I had the opportunity to travel the initial route from Chicago to LA. The occasion occurred when two of my classmates and I were returning to the University after a stint in the Service. Our cross-country adventure began in New York City around midnight when we left Mama Leone’s Restaurant in Greenwich Village.
One of my roommates had just purchased a new two-door Ford sedan and our plan was to travel non-stop across the nation. Our formula was that one of us would take a four-hour stint at the wheel while another sat next to him in the front seat and the third party slept in the back seat. The rotation would begin with the sleeper taking the wheel next, the driver moving to the passenger side and the former passenger going to the back seat for a snooze.
One of the highlights of the trip was the car radio, which almost continuously played Nat “King” Cole’s version of the hit song, “Route 66” that had been written for him the year before by Bobby Troup. Oft times, we would be traveling through the very town that Nat was singing about in the song. I still recall the burgs that made “Route 66” the “Mother Road” as novelist John Steinbeck dubbed it. We pounded the little Ford mercilessly as each of us tried to outdo the others in miles covered. We encountered numerous detours along the way, but were still making sensational time until we blew the water pump in Kingman, Arizona. The four-hour layover caused us to arrive in Pasadena, California some forty eight hours after we left New York. Essentially, we covered the entire mileage in forty four hours of driving.
I still look forward most evenings to catching some old memories on TCM.