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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Happy Retirement, Sid Sink

Raise a glass to the man of the evening.

I first met Sid in the fall of 1988. I was a high school senior who was being recruited by Bowling Green State University. Not for athletics--I wasn't any good--but for academics, as I was a National Merit Scholarship finalist. The recruiter found out that I wanted to walk on to the cross country and track teams, so she arranged for me to have lunch with the coach. That lunch taught me everything you need to know about this man.

I thought it was a very big deal that the head coach was going out of his way to meet me. Now I know that Sid simply doesn't turn down a meal on someone else's dime. But while taking advantage of this opportunity, Sid paid attention to me and my interests even though it was obvious I would never help his team. All the years I was on his team and afterwards as well, Sid has always had time for me because he never saw athletes as mere cogs in a sports machine but as real people.

At lunch that day I made a bit of a faux pas. I gushed "Weren't you in the Olympics?", to which Sid replied a short, clipped "no". I thought I'd offended him because I confused him with BGSU teammate Dave Wottle. In fact, Sid was easily good enough to have been a 1972 Olympian; in 1971 he was NCAA and AAU steeple champ, a Pan-Am silver medalist, and set an American record. But sciatica severely hampered his training in '72 and he finished a well-beaten ninth in the steeple trials. He bravely came back and attempted to make the team in the 5000, not his best event, and came up just short in a late charge.

That exchange actually showed that Sid really doesn't feel a need to talk about himself or his own accomplishments; he's quite modest. But it also showed why I and my teammates enjoyed running on his teams. He was still irked by that episode some sixteen years later because of a personalioty trait every speaker tonight talked about--his tremendous competitive desire. Whatever it took to do his best was what he was going to do, and real competitors appreciate that. Thanks, Sid.

I came to Bowling Green the next fall and never left until now. I think it's fate that the movers came to my house this morning, the very same day that we celebrated the end of Sid's 40-year attachment to the University. With the exit of Sid, no one with any connections to the BGSU men's track program is left here. They said they couldn't afford men's track, cut it, and proceeded to spend $2.2 million on a stadium upgrade, $800,000 on artificial turf, and $7.4 million on an athletic center. Yesterday they announced plans for a $38 million "convocation center", aka basketball arena. But they still can't afford men's track.

Yep, it's time for me to go.

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