'Button' enlightens Winners' Circle


As I was walking on campus last Thursday a strange thing happened to me. Passing by the old chemistry building, I was overcome by a blinding light and summoned by a voice to enter. I walked into the building and down the old stone stairs and found myself in a room standing face to face with John "Button" Salmon, the legendary University of Arizona sports hero whose likeness adorns the statue in front of McKale Center.

[Columnist's note: Salmon was a three-sport athlete for the UA in the mid-1920s. He died in 1926 and his plea on his deathbed, "Just tell the team, tell them to bear down," still holds as a battle cry for the school today."]

"Hi Mr. Salmon," I said, awestruck.

"Cut the small talk son, I hear you're that Wildcat sports columnist that is always printing your own opinions," "Button" barked back.

"Well, yes sir, but I only write what I see," I replied.

"In that case, I think it's time you printed someone else's opinion for once. I want an interview to tell you what I think."

What was I to say to him? No? John "Button" Salmon has been dead since 1926. The multi-sport star coined the phrase "Bear Down" on his death bed. So I proceeded.

"Does Phoenix actually have a pro football team now?" John asked.

"Sure, kind of, they have for a while. They're not very good, though. They have a coach that doesn't know how to run an offense."

Salmon replied, "Sounds like the U of A's team. Yeah, I have been reading the papers. I know what's going on. I just wanted to test your knowledge a bit. I think Phoenix needs to take their coach out and have him shot. I mean, how can you let Alvin Harper waltz into town and then go sign with Tampa Bay? Tampa Bay was covered in everglades when I was around."

I was stunned by Salmon's obvious knowledge of modern football, so I decided to press him a bit.

"OK John, what do you think about this whole baseball strike thing?"

"Button" pondered a minute and replied, "They need a strong commissioner to run that damn league. Back in my day they had a guy named Judge Landis, who didn't take crap from no one. He had all the power. Back during the 1919 Black Sox scandal, he took the bull by the horns and kicked half the team out of the league. These weren't just Punch and Judy hitters either, they were all-stars. Just think what would happen if baseball, now, got a commissioner like that. He would put this owner and player dispute to rest in a heartbeat."

"Wow, good idea," I responded.

John butted in, "But don't think that my L.A. Dodgers are going to lie down and wait for a commissioner. They got those young guys like Mike Piazza and Raul Mondesi, not to mention Ramon Martinez on the hill. I pick them to battle those good-old Cleveland Indians for the title. It will be just like 1920 all over again, only the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. Cleveland beat the Dodgers five games to two back then, but don't count the Dodgers out this season."

I didn't know what to say. I made a note to myself to check this Cleveland thing out. The Indians in the World

Series? John must have been smoking something.

"Now John, all kidding aside, what's going on in the NHL? Strike and all, the season is coming to a close. Who's taking the Cup?"

John hesitated, before saying, "I'm not quite sure. The Blackhawks looked good, but they have lost six straight since they lost Jeremy Roenick. I like Detroit, with Steve Yzerman and Sergei Federov and a strong defense, but don't forget about St. Louis with Brett Hull. How about that game Sunday? Hull had a hat trick in the first period!"

I was late, but I asked him one more question.

"So John, I know you have heard about the new pro team in Phoenix, the Arizona Diamondbacks. What do you think about them naming the new stadium the Bank One Ballpark, being as Bank One is an Ohio bank, not an Arizona bank?"

Salmon replied, "It's horsehockey. This is supposed to be an Arizona team and they sell out and name the stadium after a bank. Pretty original. They might as well call the team 'Greenbacks' or something else."

"Thanks John, I've got philosophy in two minutes. You take care, and keep reading my column."

"You bet, Patrick, and hey, you just bear down."

And he was gone.

Patrick Moran is a business and public administration senior, and despite what some people may think, he is always right. His column appears every Wednesday.

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