Smith, Carlos finally get their moment
SAN JOSE, Calif. » Homecoming is supposed to be a joyous time when you go back to your old school a success. It wasn't quite that way for Tommie Smith and John Carlos when they returned to San Jose State from the Mexico City Olympics 37 years ago, after Smith won the gold medal and Carlos the bronze in the 200 meters.
The Spartan track stars returned without the medals, as they were stripped of them for their black-power salute on the medal stand while the Star-Spangled Banner played. They were also kicked out of the Olympic Village and sent home, suspended and shamed.
America was divided in many ways in 1968, a violent year that included the peak of the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Racial tensions were at a peak, and most Americans viewed Smith and Carlos as unpatriotic troublemakers. But to millions of blacks, they were heroes, willing to make a symbolic stand for civil rights with their raised black-glove-clad fists, and their black socks with no shoes representing blacks living in poverty.
Trestin George wasn't born until 15 years later, but the San Jose State senior cornerback knows a lot about Smith and Carlos. He was thrilled that the Spartans homecoming week started yesterday with a day of events honoring the duo, culminating with the unveiling of a 20-foot statue on campus commemorating their action.
"God bless Tommie Smith and John Carlos, I just want to say God bless those two," George said at the Spartans football news conference Monday. "I admire their courage and what they've done for this school. Today they're heroes."
A gathering of nearly 500 people attended the unveiling of the statue, including Smith, Carlos and Peter Norman. Norman, the white silver medalist from Australia, supported Smith and Carlos on the podium by wearing a button they gave him promoting the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Harry Edwards, the activist who organized and threatened a boycott by black athletes at the '68 games, also attended.
"This is the home of the revolt of the black athlete," Edwards said.
Dogs are back: Fresno State is back in the rankings, as the Bulldogs resurfaced at No. 24 after beating up on Utah State 53-21 last week. FSU is 4-1 and 2-0 in the WAC.
Coach Pat Hill's team plays at 1-5 Idaho this week. Hill said his team won't look past the Vandals toward their trip to Hawaii a week later (where they haven't won since 1993).
"This team is very mature although they're young. They practice well, they prepare well," Hill said.
Fresno State leads the WAC and is fifth in the nation in scoring with 44.6 points per game. And it also leads the league in fewest points allowed with 19.2
Efficiency experts: Fresno State's Paul Pinegar and Hawaii's Colt Brennan are both in the top 10 nationwide in quarterback efficiency.
Pinegar's rating of 164.7 is first in the league and seventh in the country, while Brennan's ranking of 157.7 puts him second in the WAC and ninth in the nation.
Brennan is third nationwide in total offense, averaging 348.8 yards per game.
Dave Reardon is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org