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June 29, 2006

The Weekly Wrap

Sports literati flock to HSU
Talking athletics, society and good books with the Sports Literature Association

5 Questions for Ray Raphael

Heading: The weekly wrap, photo of runner ducks

RUNNER DUCKS: It can make a person feel unclean, sometimes, trolling Humboldt's Craigslist to see what other people are looking for -- a bike, a lover, an argument. The site has so many foul-mouthed weirdos.

But sometimes it makes you glad you risked it. Like on June 7, when you might have stumbled across the ad that said, "Wanted: Runner Ducks. I am looking to [acquire] several more runner ducks to add to my current flock. ... I will be using them for stock dog training on my rural 3-acre property. Other than getting herded around by two enthusiastic sheepdog puppies, they'll lead normal, peaceful, fun duck lives!" The ad has a picture of a pack of tall, skinny white ducks.

OK, maybe you think that's a little weird. But, really, said Allison Reed of Arcata -- who placed the ad -- it's for real. Reed, 21, is an artist who's also into poultry (she was one of the artists featured in the Journal's Jan. 19 cover story, "Young at Art"). She's been raising exhibition chickens since she was 10 years old, which she enters in competitions around the nation. "I also have six ducks, four geese and a flock of around 20 pigeons," she wrote to us in an e-mail last week. Lately, she's acquired an Australian Kelpie-mix pound dog, "Hobie," whom she wants to train to herd livestock. "The plan is, once I have him responsive enough with herding ducks and geese, I'm going to move him up to herding sheep with some local people I know who have Australian Kelpies," she wrote.

Reed wrote again, a few days later, to say she'd been trying to get fresh photos of Hobie herding runner ducks. "My mission to get photos of Hobie herding the runner ducks this morning was ultimately a failure! They decided to go swimming in the pond."

Such is the risk. In other poultry news, there's a poultry show this Saturday, July 1, at Redwood Acres. "It is so small that the Humboldt Poultry Fanciers Association has considered discontinuing the show unless it starts receiving more entries and attendance," Reed noted. Which would be sad. "It's really fun and there are always some very exotic looking chickens in attendance."

-- Heidi Walters


BLUERIBBON POLL: Yes, it's the BlueRibbon Coalition behind that funny little wilderness "poll" interrupting meals and bedtime stories in Humboldt County households these days, apparently trying to whip up some hate for Rep. Mike Thompson's Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. A version of the bill passed the Senate unanimously last July. The House version could be voted on this year. The act proposes to protect more than 300,000 acres of public land as wilderness, including the nation's longest stretch of undeveloped coastline -- the Lost Coast -- and other areas in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties.

Southern Humboldt resident Erik Kirk wrote about the wilderness phone call on June 22 in his blog, SoHum Parlance ( "By the third or fourth question I realized it was a sleazy push poll," he wrote.

The poll-bot asked Kirk if he realized "that some members of Congress want to declare portions of Humboldt and Del Norte counties as wilderness land?" and whether he would "be more or less likely to support" the wilderness designation knowing that development "in areas surrounding wilderness ... is prohibited," and that some members of Congress also "want to use wilderness area to stop development in towns in your area." It then told Kirk about an "alternative designation" being proposed for the land. And so on.

But back to the group behind the poll. There are some key opponents to the wilderness bill as it stands now: Del Norte County (which may be coming around), the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and the BlueRibbon Coalition, which is financially supported by major timber, petroleum and mining companies, and which represents off-highway-vehicle (OHV) interests and has vigorously fought roadless-area designations. The BRC is pushing for an alternative to the wilderness legislation that would allow OHV access.

Contacted on Monday, IMBA's Tom Ward said his organization has not paid for any such poll. But when we called up the BRC's Western Representative, Don Amador, to ask if the BRC was behind the poll, he said heartily, "Yes, we are!"

"We wanted to get people's perspective on the proposed wilderness plan, and also on our ... alternative," Amador said. He says the BRC isn't completely against the North Coast wilderness bill. "We supported 6,000 to 7,000 acres for wilderness in the King Range," he said. But along the actual Lost Coast beach, the BRC wants a travel corridor -- something not compatible with wilderness designation.

What does he think about people calling his survey a push poll? "I take it with a grain of salt," he said. And, he notes, "I'm also a proud Humboldt native. I was born in Eureka in 1954." He's also been roaming around here lately, working with the forest service on access issues.

The BRC, by the way, loves Rep. Richard Pombo, who is chairman of the House Resources Committee, which is where the bill languished last year.

-- Heidi Walters


GO LONG: We've all become inured to news of Eureka businessman Rob Arkley's lavish donations to Republican candidates for office in strange, far-flung corners of the country. But what about those of Jeanette Nusbaum, an executive at Arkley's Security National company? The Philadelphia Daily News recently reported that Nusbaum has donated $50,000 to ABC Sports personality and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann, who is currently running for governor of Pennsylvania. How much is $50,000? By way of comparison, Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens tossed only $25,000 Swann's way.

But not so fast, says Nusbaum. Reached at Security National's world headquarters in Eureka Tuesday, the executive said that the Philly newspaper is out of bounds -- that she, personally, has given not a dime to the fleet-footed, girly-named Hall of Famer. "I'm a signer on accounts here, but it's not in my name," Nusbaum said. "That's an error." The paper made an assumption, she said, and you know what happens when you assume...

Nusbaum referred the Journal to Ann Corkery -- Security National's Washington-based director of "philanthropy" -- for further explanation. Corkery could not be reached by press time. However, when asked for comment, "Mean" Joe Greene wished to remind Humboldt County readers that Rob and Cherie Arkley own Security National, which owns the Eureka Reporter.

-- Hank Sims


MISSING EKA GIRL ARRESTED IN PHOENIX: A 16-year-old girl from Eureka was arrested last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., after detectives there were notified of a teenage prostitution ring conducting business in a hotel there. The girl was reported missing in March. The Eureka Police Department would not provide details of the girl's disappearance, and said their missing person case is closed now that her parents have been notified.

Phoenix Police Department spokesperson Officer Stacie Derge said she did not think the Eureka girl was kidnapped by the suspected pimp with whom she was traveling, 23-year-old Kaster Tezino of North Highlands, Calif. "It appears she went willingly with him," Derge said. Tezino was arrested after police raided three hotel rooms at the Fairfield Inn in Scottsdale. He faces federal charges of interstate transportation of a minor for prostitution and drug possession, and could spend a maximum of 30 years in jail. The Eureka girl was sent to a juvenile facility in Phoenix, where she will await a July 13 hearing.

Two other alleged prostitutes -- Jenay Clayton, 19, and Nicole Scablehorn, 20 -- were arrested on drug charges at the scene. Police also confiscated money and computers as evidence. The PPD became involved in the case after they were notified by the Las Vegas FBI of a teenage prostitution ring that had recently traveled through the Las Vegas area. Derge said detectives suspect clients were solicited on Internet sites, and the group traveled through Arizona, Nevada and California.

-- Helen Sanderson


Sports literati flock to HSU
Talking athletics, society and good books with the Sports Literature Association

story & photo by LUKE T. JOHNSON

"Sport" and "literature" are two words rarely mentioned in the same breath. Traditionalists have good reason to consider the concepts anathema to each other: It seems counterintuitive to see a bookworm swinging a baseball bat, and how many jocks do you know who read James Joyce? That a society would form to celebrate the best in "sports literature" is almost laughable.

But in spite of the stereotypes, the Sports Literature Association (SLA) is a thriving, albeit nichey, corner of academia. This past weekend HSU hosted the 23rd Annual Sports Literature Conference, an international gathering of academics, scholars, writers and sports nuts. Attendees flew from Japan, Iceland, Hungary, Australia, Canada and all over the United States into San Francisco to make the five-hour trek up to Arcata. All this to spend four tightly packed days chewing on heady literary concepts viewed through a sports lens.

The range of presentations given over the weekend indicates a far more intellectual analysis of sport than one could possibly find on, say, The Best Damn Sports Show Period. The sophomoric banter spewed out on that program and its ilk is what makes people skeptical about sports and sports fans. Compare that to "Out of Bounds: Defining Cultural Identity through Japanese American Basketball Leagues," and you'll get an idea where the intellectual divide begins. Other presentations included "Janet and T.O. through 19th Century Eyes," which described the role pervading racial sexual stereotypes played in the demonizing of Janet Jackson and Terrell Owens after the infamous Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" and the racy Monday Night Football/Desperate Housewives promo, respectively, and "The Graven Language of Prediction in Ulysses," which examined the horse racing scene and how it reflects the notion of fatalism and time in Joyce's seminal novel (see, jocks do read Joyce).

That's pretty thick stuff, to be sure. But this conference was more than just a bunch of academics sucking the fun out of sport. "This is a richly eclectic and essentially comedic organization," said Eric Solomon, the self-proclaimed oldest living SLA member. Solomon is a professor emeritus in the English department at San Francisco State with three degrees from Harvard.

"Sports literature isn't something that any of us really do. It's an indulgence," he said in a crunchy Boston accent. "I had never given it any thought. I was skeptical at first and didn't want to do it. But then I was hooked, we've all gotten hooked."

photo of dick Stull, strumming his guitar during ahis multimedia presentation in creekside loungeSLA turned "an indulgence" into a high brow academic journal. Since the mid-eighties, SLA has published a quarterly journal called Aethlon: the Journal of Sport Literature. The journal offers a variety of academic papers, book reviews, essays, fiction and poetry, all related to sport in some way. HSU professor (and former SLA president) Dick Stull, a Renaissance man who has contributed sports fiction and poetry to Aethlon from time to time, says the quality of the journal is "first-rate."

"Aethlon is extremely discriminating, it's tough to get in," he said. "It's amazing: People wouldn't think it would be so scholarly, but it is."

Sports literature may be a relatively new form of literary criticism, but the concept of sports in literature dates back centuries. From the obscure 18th century mock-epic poem "The Goff" (about a golf match) to football metaphors in Sometimes a Great Notion, sport has played an undeniable role in literature of all genres. The role of sport as a cultural institution has made it an enduring and ubiquitous aspect of our society, ripe for literary analysis. One need only look at the well-known cinematic showcase of classic football matches, NFL Films, to see how sport itself has become an art form ("The Storytelling Art of NFL Films" was the title of a presentation at the conference, which examined the influence artists such as Cezanne, Picasso and Hemingway had on the development of the program).

But the relevance of sport in American culture extends well beyond its appearances in literature. Dick Crepeau, a professor of history at University of Central Florida who writes a column for Aethlon called "Sport and Society," said "Sport is totally enmeshed in the culture -- it expresses the culture." Crepeau wrote his dissertation on the history of baseball and how it expresses American culture. Now he believes that (gridiron) football is a more accurate expression of the American character. Football, he said, reflects the "post-industrial" drive for conformity as seen in the team notion of the game. While baseball was an expression of individualism in a simpler world, football is "highly coordinated team action" which expresses the "interconnectedness of life." (I'm sure those are exactly the thoughts going through the mind of Joe America as he stuffs his face with pork rinds on a Sunday morning).

Crepeau is not alone in his belief that sports and politics overlap "everywhere." Dave Meggyesy, who gave a banquet address on Saturday night to some 40 or 50 conference attendees, has skated the line between sports and politics for decades. A former linebacker for the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals, Meggyesy was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and a supporter of civil rights during his career. To his surprise (and disgust), expressing his political views got him benched.

"There was a real dehumanization of athletes," he said. "I was told many times (by coaches): you're the cattle, we're the ranchers."

Rather than endure the overt inequity pervasive in pro football, Meggyesy retired at the peak of his career. He wrote a book in the early '70s called Out of Their League, which chronicled the racism and exploitation players experienced at the hands of owners and coaches (it has been recently re-published by University of Nebraska Press). He also taught a class at Stanford for football players called "Sports, Consciousness and Social Change." Just this month he retired as the head of the NFL Players' Union, where he worked for decades to help it become a shining example for labor unions, or as he calls it, "the Cadillac of sports unions."

This year's conference drew an international and demographically diverse group. Don Johnson, Poetry editor for Aethlon, said that he worries about SLA becoming "just a bunch of old (white) guys," and was pleased with the group's growing diversity. The tight-knit group of eccentric academics clearly looks forward to getting together every year. Outgoing SLA president Michele Schiavone, described it as a "family reunion-type thing."

Humboldt State may seem an unlikely venue for a group like SLA, but Dick Stull thinks the campus is a perfect fit.

"Humboldt draws a different breed of academics," he said. "There's a certain openness to new ideas, a non-conformist spiritual hunger. It's a perfect match for this group."

Most of the conference took place in the Creekside Lounge at HSU. A poetry reading was held at dusk at majestic Big Lagoon, a scene that left many out-of-towners speechless. Friday afternoon was a chance for people to get out and play (as Solomon said, "You can't have a sports literature conference without the sport"). Some went hiking in the redwoods, some rafted down the Trinity River and some tested their handicaps at Beau Pre Golf Course.

For Stull, the conference was a chance to get his mind off heavier issues. His daughter's battle with leukemia has reached an apex. This week he will fly to Memphis, as he often does, to be with her for a bone marrow transplant. His conference cohorts all expressed their support as they bid farewell.

"This conference has been a good distraction," he said.



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