Al Somers's Hair
...my boycott has finally attracted the support of my old friend, the former Olympian, Alan Somers, who recently set a world record for the 3000-meter swim for men sixty and over. Al was a teammate of mine on the Indiana University swimming team in the early 1960s where many of our teammates were Olympians and world record holders. When I slapped my boycott on the Olympics he dissented. Worse, he chided me, attributing my boycott to sour grapes over never making the team.
Well, it is true that I never made an Olympic team but I never won a Rhodes Scholarship either, and I have never been critical of Rhodes Scholarships. Yet I accepted Al's rebuke with my usual benignity, confident that as the Olympics lurched ever further from the Olympic ideal of amateurism and good sportsmanship Al would capitulate. It is immensely rewarding to have him on my side during this Olympiad. What is more, next week he will collaborate with me in this space when we shall deplore a particularly egregious excess in this year's swimming competition.
For now Al, whose Olympiad was in 1960 in Rome, is at work reviewing David Maraniss's confused book on those games Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed The World. Among other deficiencies, Maraniss fails to report that the 1960s swimming competition was the first in which male swimmers shaved their body hair to improve their times. One of the great news stories of the games issued from one reactionary American's refusal to follow the fad. Al was the reactionary. He gained instantaneous worldwide recognition after propelling his shaggy body to an Olympic record in the trials for the 400-meter freestyle. How he did in the finals I shall leave for Al to explain. He still denies shaving has anything to do with performance and in fact wore a mustache when he broke the world record in the 3000-meter swim.
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