Christy Winters-Scott remembers the March day 18 years ago as if it were yesterday. How could she not?
"I was 17 years old, and I was talking to the president of the United States, handing him an autographed basketball" she said, recalling the day Ronald Reagan hosted The Washington Post's All-Met basketball team at the White House.
The photo shoots for the newspaper's high school all-star teams had become cliches: the football team in front of the Jefferson Memorial, the baseball and softball teams on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the track team on a fire engine.
"You want to turn these kids into Greek statues," photo editor Joe Elbert has complained for years.
He was right, which is why we wondered why we couldn't just take the boys' and girls' All-Met basketball teams to the White House to meet and pose with President Reagan. Why not? He lived here. His house was reasonably convenient to most of the kids, he loved sports and read the newspaper.
We asked if we could stop by to visit. We told his staff why.
The president said fine. Come by.
So we did.
"It was an amazing day," said Winters-Scott, now 35 and the mother of two. As the girls' All-Met Player of the Year from Reston's South Lakes High School, she joined Gonzaga's Mark Tillmon in presenting the president a basketball signed by everyone on the team.
"We gave him the ball, and he said he would put it in his library in California," Winters-Scott recalled the other day during a week of memorial services for the late president. "I vividly remember his walking into the room, shaking our hands and engaging every one of us. He was so sweet, and he was so personal, so gentle with each of us."
Like many in the room that day, Winters-Scott had a satisfying basketball career: at the University of Maryland, pro ball in Italy and Switzerland, assistant coaching jobs at George Mason and Maryland and a tryout with the WNBA Mystics. She now does television sports for CTV in Prince George's County.
But Winters-Scott said when she looks back on her athletics days, she will most fondly remember the March day in 1986 on 16th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, "sharing it with my children forever."
Hall of Famer Larry Bird, who is president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, made some ludicrous comments last week in an ESPN special, saying he would get irritated when guarded by white players and that the league was in need of additional white stars.
"It's a black man's game, and it will be forever," Bird said. "The greatest athletes in the world are African-American."
Bird's comments came the same week Dallas Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells used an ethnic slur and followed it in the same sentence with, "I hope I'm not offending anyone." This spring, former Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung, a radio voice for the Irish, suggested Notre Dame needed to lower its academic standards in order to recruit skilled black athletes. He also apologized.
When Howard Cosell called Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett a "little monkey" during an ABC "Monday Night Football" telecast in 1983, he was widely criticized, and in 1988, the late Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder's racial remarks got him canned from CBS. In the current climate, personalities seem to have the license to say whatever they want.
But Bird and Parcells have positions of responsibility in their communities and organizations, and they should have been reprimanded, if not fined, by their respective bosses and leagues. If nothing else, we know more about these guys -- and their bosses -- than we did a month ago.
If you're a U.S. track star, be careful about opening your mail. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency sent letters last week to track stars Tim Montgomery, Chryste Gaines, Alvin Harrison and Michelle Collins saying they were being investigated for possible steroid violations because of their possible connections with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Superstar Marion Jones also got a letter, saying the agency had further questions for her.
With the U.S. Olympic track trials set to begin July 9, USADA, the USOC and USA Track & Field need to get their acts together, or we'll wind up with a joke of a team in Athens and two K Street lawyers in gray pinstriped suits carrying the U.S. flag into the stadium.
Sprinter Kelli White, who accepted a two-year ban from USADA after seeing the evidence against her in the BALCO investigation, appears to be singing like Frankie Pentangeli in "The Godfather, Part II." Do our Olympic hopes rest on whether Kelli White has a brother like Vincenzo Pentangeli?
Food for Thought
* You have to love the NBA Finals, with Detroit leading Los Angeles, 2-1, entering tonight's Game 4. It probably would be 3-0 if Detroit Coach Larry Brown had a Piston foul a Laker before Kobe Bryant hit the three-pointer that sent Tuesday's Game 2 into overtime. Great stuff.
* The NHL would be unwise to shut down next season, after Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in a thrilling seven-game finals. Pretty astute, eh?
* Was Freddy Adu better at 14 than 15?
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