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MIKE DOWNEY

Give Green, Be True to Your School

March 05, 1995|Mike Downey

Santa Monica High is having a little game of basketball this afternoon, 2 o'clock. I don't think Charlie Sheen is going to be able to be make it. Robert Downey Jr. (no relation) might not be there, either.

But, let's see. I think Joe Regalbuto from the TV program "Murphy Brown" is supposed to play. Oh, and Dean Cain from "Superman." And Joel Murray from "Love and War." And Scott Paulin from "I'll Fly Away."

Keith Erickson, who played for the Lakers, and Tim Leary, who pitched for the Dodgers, and Dennis Thurman, who played for the Dallas Cowboys, are scheduled to play as well, and who else? Liz Mazakayan and Sinjin Smith, the volleyball greats, and Pat O'Hara, the old USC quarterback, and Sterling Forbes, who played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Even James T. Butts, the Santa Monica chief of police.

Samohi. That's what the alumni call it.

The booster club from Santa Monica High is holding its first celebrity basketball game today, with proceeds going to Samohi's athletic program. Ten bucks for adults, five for students, and, this being California, special courtside tickets as high as $100.

The main gym is at 601 Pico and pregame festivities begin around 1:15.

Now, let me explain something.

I don't normally write about booster-club benefits. But a couple of things happened recently to change my mind.

One was that my high school dropped sports.

We had one of the best athletic programs in the Midwest. Those kids in "Hoop Dreams," we used to play their schools in basketball. Our track teams turned out fabulous athletes, Olympians even. Our wrestlers won state championships by the dozens.

There was a newspaper article recently about a Californian who was trying to persuade people to donate money to their high schools, rather than to various charities.

Sure, we all know that disease research and world hunger are more important causes. But this guy was making a point that maybe, if someone had the money to spare, he or she might consider that a generous donation could finance athletics--or at least a single sport--for an entire school term, maybe more. Could buy needed equipment or pay for bus rental.

He made me feel guilty. I hadn't lifted a finger for mine.

Oh, I mentioned the death of my alma mater's athletic program in passing to some brother alumni of mine, such as Jerry Colangelo, the president of the Phoenix Suns, and football player Bryant Young, the great rookie lineman of the San Francisco 49ers, and Jim Bouton, the old baseball player. But did I do anything about it? Did I make a phone call or write a check? No.

Every now and then, I think about how important the games were to me in high school. Not who won and who lost. The entertainment. The social value. The passion of rivalry and tradition.

I miss that rush. My high school meant something to me. It wasn't just some place where I carried books and dissected frogs. It formed me as a human being.

Glyn Milburn knows what I mean.

Formerly of Stanford and now a fine Denver Bronco running back, Milburn is a graduate of Santa Monica High. And so is his Denver teammate, Dennis Smith.

Glyn wrote an open letter to Samohi students and faculty, in conjunction with today's game. And what he had to say in it captures perfectly how I feel about my own school, or maybe how you feel about yours.

"I often reflect on the memories I experienced as a Samohi student-athlete. I am proud to have attended Samohi not only because of the high standard of excellence in academic circles, but also for the tradition of excellence it retains.

"High school is a time in life where our dreams and futures are being materialized. Samohi gave me the confidence that comes with a proven discipline for building leaders.

"As a high school sophomore, I was an aspiring athlete on the junior-varsity football team. I knew of the long list of former Vikings who went on to excel on the collegiate level, and some in the pros.

"That year, I saw Dennis Smith of the Broncos, a former Santa Monica Viking. He was preparing to play in the Super Bowl of 1986, but took time to visit the school.

"That memory remained with me because Dennis was someone visible and tangible, someone I could point to and say, 'He went to Samohi, and now he's in the Super Bowl!'

"My words tell of one person's impact on a pint-sized student-athlete named Milburn. There are other former Vikings like Dennis Smith who positively influence the lives of Samohi student-athletes. However, there are far more high school athletes who need to carry the torch.

"Let us start on our mission to achievement that starts by looking at our tradition. Understanding the tradition of Samohi athletics and the heritage of the school will surely allow current and future students to set the pace that leads our school into the next century."

I'm calling my school this week to see what I can do.

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