Letters to the Editor

July/August 2005

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Letters to the Editor

Remembering the Coach

Gary Cavalli’s hagiography of Payton Jordan in your May/June issue (“Cold War, Warm Welcome”) could have benefited from more context regarding the politics of the architect of the remarkable U.S.-Soviet dual meet convened at Stanford in 1962. Far from being interested in promoting international understanding, Jordan was a Paleolithic conservative who in 1967 accused one of his own student-athletes, the world-class Anglo-Irish sprinter Patrick Morrison, of being part of a Communist conspiracy—a ludicrous canard that Morrison claims Jordan mailed to the parents of teammates, along with a warning not to let their sons fraternize with his ilk. (Pat’s ostensible crime: having a Beatle haircut.) Jordan’s ultra-right-wing views, extreme enough to warrant a John Birch Society membership and mention as Governor Ronald Reagan’s possible Secretary of State, contributed to making him the most notorious campus reactionary this side of William Shockley, the Nobel-prize winning inventor of the transistor who had recently offered up his racist theories of eugenics. Jordan’s denunciation of “liberal loudmouths” and insistence on short hair—something not required by any other sports team on campus—made participation in Stanford track and field a matter of “Payt’s way or the highway,” as he made clear to me and similar “black sheep” on numerous occasions. (“It’s just not the image we want to project,” he pleaded, letting me know I would not be allowed to suit up with my hair halfway over my ears.)

The era in which I was a school-record-setting runner, 1968-1972, was one of constant tension between Jordan and his “boys,” including many of our leading athletes, only a handful of whom could be described as die-hard Jordan supporters. Charlie Francis, ’71, a future Canadian Olympian and arguably the top sprint coach in the world in the ’80s, was unrivaled in his disrespect for “Paytriot” in the early ’70s. To the public, Jordan was the triumphant Olympic coach and College Coach of the Year in 1966; to us, he was the leader of a team routinely pummeled in dual meets, not just by track powerhouses USC and UCLA, but by Cal and the northern Pac-8 schools as well. Jordan typically blamed these constant defeats on the difficulty of getting top athletes past Stanford’s admissions department, but in my era a number of sensational schoolboy recruits never managed to improve on their high school marks. Many knowledgeable track-watchers close to the program attributed its underachievement in part to Jordan’s wrongheaded approach to training: against most evidence, Coach preferred to focus on sharp, quality workouts rather than on quantity and extensive strength- and endurance-building. His own assistant coach for sprinters took me aside more than once to rail against Jordan’s intolerance of difference and outdated views on training. I trained as a distance runner with the late Marshall Clark—a great coach who was also the anti-Jordan, without a paternalistic bone in his body.

All three of Stanford’s future American Olympians from my era were coached by him, not Jordan.

Cavalli’s article further implies that Jordan trained 22 All-Americans in track, field and cross-country. Even if true, I would not call this an impressive figure for an illustrious coach over 23 seasons. Not a single conference championship, and one NCAA runner-up team in ’63—I’m sorry, that’s not much of a team showing. As for Jordan’s much-touted success in Mexico City, it should be pointed out that Olympic head coaches are primarily organizers and cheerleaders, with minimal impact on the performance of athletes who are world-class already. Witness the disastrous showing of the ’72 U.S. team in Munich under the late legendary Bill Bowerman.

I can’t say it feels good to impugn the achievements of an 88-year-old retiree whom the national governing body of track and field deems an “immortal,” and who did demonstrate considerable gifts as a motivator (if your hairstyle suited him). I was often told I was a favorite of Jordan’s; along with nearly all my fellow “Indian” athletes, I long ago buried the hatchet with a man whose sunny, hail-fellow style is tough to resist. But in light of Cavalli’s inflated article, and a recent rose-colored book self-published by a right-leaning faction of Jordan’s former athletes, I feel that someone should step forward to balance the record.

Far from being a uniter, Jordan was an antimodern, authoritarian divider—an Us v. Them figure at a receding crossroads in Stanford sports.

Robert Coe, ’72
New York, New York

Author Gary Cavalli responds:

Payton Jordan’s accomplishments need no defense, but a few erroneous statements in Robert Coe’s letter should be corrected for the record. Rather than being “routinely pummeled in dual meets” by archrival Cal during his era, as Coe claims, Stanford defeated Cal in 1969 and 1971 (Coe’s freshman and junior years). Coe says that my article implies that Jordan coached 22 All-Americans in track and cross-country at Stanford, “not an impressive figure.” In fact, Jordan coached 29 All-Americans, who were responsible for 43 separate All-America performances (a top-six finish nationally) in track alone.

Coe is right that Olympic coaches often have little impact on their teams, but this wasn’t the case in Mexico City in 1968. Several of Jordan’s Olympic champions and record-setters, including Lee Evans, John Carlos and Al Oerter, have credited his innovative high-altitude training techniques and his ability to keep the United States team united, focused and motivated during a very turbulent period.

The late ’60s and early ’70s were a difficult time on the Stanford campus, particularly for coaches who imposed standards of behavior and grooming. Jordan was by no means the only coach who required short hair; nor was he the only high-profile coach to have detractors on his teams.

As co-authors of Champions for Life, the recently released biography of Payton Jordan, we thoroughly enjoyed Gary Cavalli’s portrayal of the atmosphere surrounding the 1962 U.S./U.S.S.R. track meet at Stanford. Gary’s companion piece, “Legacy of a Champion,” made the point that Jordan is a world-class competitor and coach and highly respected teacher.

As we researched Champions for Life, we interacted with well over 200 former student-athletes, coaches, faculty members and Olympians. Just about every one of them paid tribute to Jordan as a great coach and particularly a teacher of character development through some very turbulent times on campus, at the 1968 Olympics and in America. Whether Jordan’s teams were winning or losing or whether the atmosphere at the time supported competitive athletics or not, Jordan remained a steadfast example of class, integrity, honor and discipline.

Literally hundreds of former student-athletes, Olympians, coaches and faculty members have come to book signings to reconnect with Jordan. While not a bit surprised, we were gratified to see the depth of support for Jordan, ranging from “journeyman” teammates he coached at Redlands High School, Occidental College and Stanford to the greatest Olympic champions.

Jack Scott, ’67
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Jim Ward, ’68
Powell, Ohio

Gary Cavalli wonderfully recreated an event I saw firsthand, and perfectly captured Tamara Press’s persona. I had just finished my first year of graduate study in Russian history after nearly four years in U.S. military intelligence and so was eager to meet the Soviets. Two moments stand out in memory. First and foremost, Press controlled (a careful word choice here) the TV in the lounge, and announced that no one should change channels when her favorite program, The Flintstones, was showing. Once Valery Brumel playfully tried to change the channel just to see her reaction, and she, less playfully, ran him off. Second, there was a telephone in the lounge and I answered it whenever the Soviets ignored it. Once it was a TASS correspondent who wanted to talk with Press.

I summoned her and, after some hesitation, she came to the phone—and hung up!

Her comment need not be recorded here.

E. Willis Brooks, MA ’62, PhD ’70
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

This article brought so many happy feelings. My brothers and I attended both days of the track meet. We stayed in San Francisco overnight and enjoyed the town. My brothers were so proud that their younger brother went to college and graduated. They graduated from high school in ’42 and ’43 and never had the chance to go to college, although both were quite bright and deserved the experience. They helped financially, and every chance they had they would come down for games.

As far as I can remember, this was the last time the three brothers got together for a fun weekend. Sadly, both have passed away and these memories are very precious to me. Thanks to Payton Jordan and his staff for presenting such a fine competition.

Allan E. Walker, ’60
Sacramento, California

In reading the glowing account of the 1962 international track meet, it struck me that it is important to remember that Stanford’s wonderful programs for female athletes are relatively recent creations.

All my early life, I had been known as a “really fast” runner. Bob Behr, the Tower Hill School (Wilmington, Del.) high school boys’ track coach, called on my parents at home to make a formal request to include me, the only girl, in his 1963-64 winter/spring training program. As thrilled as I was, both my parents and school administration first had to agree to this unusual activity. I trained extremely hard with my male counterparts, all of us loving every minute of it. I earned my way to local, state and national rankings in sprints and hurdles (400-meter and under) in meets ranging from the Junior Olympics to the Philadelphia Penn Relays, the AAU Nationals (bronze, 80-meter hurdles) to the 1964 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Randall’s Island, N.Y. (semifinalist).

I was accepted into Stanford in 1966. Knowing no women’s team existed, my coach and I wrote Payton Jordan, informing him of my high school record and asking him to coach me as part of the men’s training program. The answer was that due to Stanford policies this simply was not possible. I can still feel the disappointment.

In order to compete, I had to buy a car to commute 25 miles to train with the Millbrae Lions Women’s Track Club and compete with them throughout the state and region, often in the same meets with the Stanford men’s track team. During my first few days at Stanford, I eagerly set up what proved to be a very brief routine of jogging at 6 a.m. from Branner Hall down a long narrow alley behind the Men’s Eating Clubs as the best shortcut to Angell Field. Within days, the spectacle of an 18-year-old Stanford female with clanking starting blocks in hand jogging through in men’s running shoes and clothes caught the attention of the male student cooks. And they all poured to the doors and windows, hanging halfway out in their white uniforms amid hoots of laughter, catcalls and whistles. I quickly changed to a different, longer route along the main roads.

The good news is that times for Stanford women athletes have changed. Even so, some vestiges of this attitude inadvertently linger as, surprisingly, little is said about the women’s events in the U.S.-Russian meet. Wilma Rudolph and Tamara Press, outstanding athletes of that era, are mentioned by name without race times or throwing distances. The Soviet women beat the U.S. women 66 to 41, but who these women are and what they accomplished is still invisible.

I am truly grateful that all track and field athletes coming to Stanford after Title IX had the tremendous opportunity and experience of being coached by someone as superb as Payton Jordan and his assistant coach, Jerry Barland, who in spite of the times was particularly kind to me.

Ginger Smith, ’70
Falls Church, Virginia

Exceptional Students

I can’t thank you enough for the excellent piece on students at Stanford with disabilities (“This Is Who I Am,” May/June). As a learning specialist, I spend my days working with bright, talented students who face physical and learning differences. Like most students, they’re really interested in my personal life and history, and they know my husband and I both attended Stanford. Whenever one of our state universities plays Stanford in football, I make a big show of cheering on my team. This year, a brilliant dyslexic student said, “I’m rooting for Stanford too, because that’s the school I’m going to!” I’m going to cut out this article, hang it in my office and show him he really can. Thanks for highlighting these exceptional students and dispelling some pervasive myths about those among us who learn differently.

Colleen Krueger O’Mahony, ’96
Portland, Oregon

Coyote Legacy

That was a very interesting article by Paul VanDevelder on Raymond Cross (“In the Name of the Fathers,” May/June). He mentioned Public Law 280 but not much detail about its devastating effects. For example, the Southern Oregon Klamath Indians were forced to distribute their government payment to tribal members, resulting in the loss of not only tribal benefits but the money itself.

Nearby, west of the Cascade Mountains, in Roseburg, Ore., the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians avoided that fate due to the single-handed efforts of Sue Shaffer, now tribal chairman. Sue spent years lobbying Congress to get the tribe restored in 1980. The restoration act allowed the tribe to sue over the value of their lands taken in the 1853 treaty.

Sue also managed to get legislation passed in Congress that allowed the tribe to retain its settlement money rather than distribute it to tribal members. As a result, under Sue’s leadership the Cow Creeks have been able to slowly expand their tribal businesses to include a new, modern hotel casino resort, a truck and travel center, several motels, as well as other businesses including Creative Images, a state-of-the-art graphic design and printing firm. In addition, the Cow Creek Indians spearheaded an Indian Country movement to force non-Indian companies to stop using Indian logos and themes in promoting non-Indian products.

The Indian trademark effort was led by Wayne Shammel, Cow Creek tribal attorney and a Flathead Indian, born and raised on the Flathead reservation in Montana, who attended Dartmouth and Harvard on scholarships. If Raymond Cross is a Coyote Warrior, then Wayne is a member of the Coyote II generation. The Coyote III generation is on the way, if not already on the scene. Given that Indians own a large percentage of America’s energy resources, the next few years ought to be very interesting.

John Stelzer, PhD ’67
Roseburg, Oregon

The author states that “The Republicans who took control of Congress during the Eisenhower years . . . sought to [dismantle John Marshall’s Indian doctrine] . . . by passing [PL 280] in 1952.”

If PL 280 was passed in 1952, it was not passed during the Eisenhower years, since Dwight Eisenhower did not become President until January 20, 1953. Nor was it passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. Democrats held a 49-47 majority in the Senate and a 235-199 majority in the House in 1952.

James Skrydlak, MBA ’75
Mountain View, California

Untold Stories

How refreshing it was to read editor Kevin Cool’s comments on determining content, where he notes that “Stanford is not about one thing,” further stating that “Our job is to assemble a mix of stories that authentically and effectively conveys the breadth and depth of the Farm and its many constituencies” (“Deciding What Gets In,” First Impressions, May/June).

While STANFORD has well documented the incredible successes of many alumni—most certainly deserving of recognition and praise—I feel that an excess of such accounts can be at the expense of the many other stories within the Stanford family that need to be told. Most alumni never did make that extraordinary find in science, never did write that renowned novel, never were elected to that state or national office, never did become that sage of the business world—but that may be because life handed them unexpected circumstances that called for other pursuits, perhaps more mundane, but no less noble.

Such unexpected circumstances could include the tragic death of a child, the early death of a father, an unforeseen divorce, a disabled sibling, the untimely death of a spouse or a child’s addiction to alcohol and drugs. All of these circumstances demand attention and action—sometimes for the rest of your life, negating many possibilities and dreams.

Nevertheless, these Stanford alumni must find other possibilities and dreams, usually working incredibly hard just to approach living “ordinary lives.” Yet within such ordinary lives can be found the extraordinary.

Donald A. Bentley, MS ’82
La Puente, California

Call for Civility

I’ll never get used to the abusive language that many left-wing writers use in denouncing people with whom they disagree on political and social issues in our country. The letters of Jonna Ramey and David Hahn (“Protesting the Protest”) in your May/June issue illustrate what I’m talking about. Both began with scornful condemnations of Stanford Students for Life for their antiabortion display on campus then expanded their targets to include President Bush, Christians, people who oppose abortion and/or gay marriage, and the United States in general.

In using such language, leftists like Ramey and Hahn show their disdain for the moral and political views of a great many Americans. They’d win more converts, and maybe some respect, if they’d argue their viewpoints with less rancor and more civility.

Robert D. Funk, ’50
Genoa, Nevada

There was no shortage of irony that the May/June issue should contain articles on research at the nano-level and letters from two alums attacking Stanford Students for Life for placing the crosses in White Plaza: we’ve gone way beyond missing the forest for the trees to looking at atoms and being unable to see the humanity of a developing person in the womb. To Jonna Ramey, the latter are apparently not “living human beings”—to grant them that status would perhaps interfere with “having no regrets” for the tragedy of the abortion which created the second victim of her sister’s already horrific experience. As evidenced by the groups Silent No More and Rachel’s Vineyard, there are large numbers of women who wouldn’t agree that their “lives were saved” by the ready availability of abortion. Rarely are women given the opportunity for truly “informed consent” including information of the development of the child—common scientific knowledge in an era of 3D ultrasound, wherein the pre-born’s tiny “real human faces” are all too visible. Atomic force microscopy isn’t needed to answer this question.

Ramey and David Hahn, instead, launch the usual diversionary tirade against “the far right,” the current administration, the war in Iraq, ad hominem attacks on Stanford Students for Life as “Wal-Mart Christians” (where were their members even identified as Christians?)—anything and everything but confront the taking of innocent life on a mass scale in a society which chooses, so far, to “look the other way.” If they want a root cause for politicians having no concern for babies in Iraq or Darfur, look no further. Incidentally, the Centers for Disease Control (perhaps
a far-right-wing, Bush administration-manipulated source) reported 1,221,585 legal U.S. abortions in 1996 alone—about as far from Hahn’s “100,000 . . . since the passing of Roe v. Wade” as the orders of magnitude involved in nano-imaging.

James McMillan, ’86
Bellevue, Washington

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