Gee, Coach, We’re Sorry!

College Football, Uncategorized

Look,  when I get a chance to lob a few grenades in the direction of Nick Saban, I’m certainly not going to hold back.  I can’t take issue with his coaching, his coaching staff, or his teams; Alabama football is the most successful program in the nation, year and year out.  Saban deserves his spot in the pantheon of great collegiate coaches, right up there with Rockne, Bryant, Yost, Robinson, Gagliardi, Leahy, Stagg, and Camp.

But, securely atop the national polls, standing 4-0 with a good chance of running the table unless Georgia gets frisky, Saban delivered an ill-tempered screed aimed at Alabama’s students, essentially calling out the undergraduates who did not attend home games in the number he expected and who did not make enough noise when (if) they did attend.  This was not the first time Saban had railed against what he sees as an unresponsive student population, and his language in speaking to and about them has been consistently dismissive.

Here’s an open letter to Coach Saban –

Sorry to hear that you live with disappointment, Nick.  You mashed Louisiana Lafayette, retain the top spot in every poll, and have the respect of friends and foes.  You are clearly top dog.  And yet … this is where you go in post-game interviews:

“I can honestly say I was a little disappointed there weren’t more students at the last game, I think we’re trying to address that. I don’t think they’re entitled to anything, either.”

Not entitled.

Well, Nick, actually, you see, they are the university.  You are a hired gun.

When I say hired, what I mean is you pull down $7,000,000.00 per year in salary and another $4,000,000.00 in assorted other job related income.  Oh, and you get a $700,000.00 incentive bonus if Alabama reaches the college football championship.  To give your salary a bit of perspective, Nick, the governor of your state earns $119,950.00 a year and the President of your university gets by with $717,000.00

But, go ahead, knock the kids who pay tuition, do the classroom thing, get up on a Saturday morning in order to watch ‘Bama rock the snot out of Louisiana-Lafayette.  Let’s take a moment to remember that more than 100,000 fans packed the stadium as Alabama played the Ragin’ Cajuns, coasting to a 56-14 easy victory, playing the third team for much of the second half.  Up 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.

This was clearly a blowout, and, Nick, not a lot of fun to watch.

“When I first came here, you used to play that tradition thing up there and everybody was cheering and excited and happy and there was great spirit,.  Now, they don’t even cheer. They introduce our players, and nobody even cheers.”

I saw the same movies you did, Nick – “…that tradition video thing”?  I’m pretty sure none of the coaches who inspired us counted on “that tradition video thing” to animate the crowd.  No, the coaches with whom you would like to be compared were actually more than executive mechanics.  They knew that their team was an important part of something larger.  They knew that coaching is in its own way a calling.  Coach shows up on Friday night by the bonfire, Rockne crouches by the Gipper’s bedside, Herman Boone literally pulls the Titans together, Coach Lengyel meets Marshall’s grief head on, Burt Cotton listens to Sandra Bullock, Molly McGrath pulls the Wildcats from obscurity.

You are miffed when students don’t show up, so you made the university end block seating.  You really don’t like spectators who leave halfway through your team’s performance.  Your point is that the players put in 60 minutes of gut busting play on the field; spectators should be expected to invest the time it takes for the team to do its work.

“Everybody else should have the same sort of commitment. You don’t have to do the work all week, you don’t have to practice, you don’t have to come in at 7 in the morning and leave at 11 at night, you don’t have to do any of that stuff.”


Nick, you do understand  how these institutions of higher learning actually work, right?  You and your guys do football.  You get the eleven million and your players attend the university for free.  The best of your players are showcased, ending up as well compensated athletes in the NFL.  The students join the band or the cheer squad, or they get involved with any number of other activities, and may take the opportunity to sit in the stands as you do your thing.

Some of them might be playing volleyball or basketball in Foster Hall, the  university’s auditorium, capable of seating 3,800 vocal fans.  Your spring game attracted more than 70,000 fans.  In searching for information about athletics at Alabama, I found that virtually every article was about football.  You’re the main attraction.  How’d you like to coach football at Duke, where basketball is king?

Or, since we’re discussing school spirit …  well … not school spirit so much as vocal enthusiasm for your team, perhaps you’d like to coach at Kent State, your alma mater?  Coaching salaries are on the rise in the MAC; newly appointed coach, Sean Lewis, will earn $440,000.00 this year for coaching your Golden Flashes.  Dix Stadium holds just over 29,000 spectators in its three grandstands, but averages about 13,000 per game.  Of course, the big bucks for Kent State football come when the Flashes travel to Clemson (56-3) or Penn State (63-10).

That might be fun.

I’m not sure they have a tradition video thing, but I’ve seen the footage of Sean Lewis and the Kent State coaching staff for all sports at the Welcome Week Pep Rally.  Looked like a great event, the stands were packed, all 6,362 seats at the MAC Center were filled.

And nobody left halfway through.


Wait! The Big Ten Has 14 Teams And One Of Them Is Rutgers?


To every thing there is a season, and long, steamy summer days clearly belong to baseball, but, without ignoring the crucial games just before the All Star break, I start to look to the fall and football, allowing myself to leaf through Street and Smith’s College Football Preview.  Chucking neutrality aside, I check Michigan’s place in the pre-season guesswork, assuming that guide is likely to be accurate if Michigan is properly placed in the mix of teams contending for a national championship then turn to the wealth of other information in the hefty magazine including presentation of pre-season All Americans at each position and evaluations of each team’s depth and strength.  Teams are ranked within their conference, the likely champions getting the most ink, the runners-up quarter page blurbs.

Conferences – aye, there’s the rub.  Michigan, a founding member of the Big 10, a midwestern conference made up of flagship public universities (with the exception of Independent Northwestern), now plays Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers.  The conference can’t even call themselves the Big 10 anymore; the conference is now its own logo – BIG – which has been craftily shaded so the uninformed viewer can almost see a 10 hidden in the letters but will see two divisions of seven each season until sanity returns.

The flux in which we live has accustomed me to change, but I do treasure tradition and pageantry, pomp, circumstance, and rabid rivalry.  Once upon a time, most rivalries took place within long-established athletic conferences, but college athletics, I am told, generates a considerable amount of income, roughly SEVEN BILLION dollars which colleges and universities count on to … to … well, to do whatever it is that they do when they are not playing games, but to get to SEVEN BILLION, conferences had to add championship games to have one last mega-event before the bowl games.  The old familiar cozy conferences simply no longer brought in enough revenue, so abracadabra, tradition be damned and geography ignored.

A few of the conferences have not changed over the course of my lifetime as a fan; the Ivy League, for example, has been made up of the same eight distinguished colleges since 1954; almost all of the rest of the Division I conferences have changed both in composition and character.  Some of the changes made sense up to a point; the Big Five Conference made up of Cal, USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Washington became the Big Six with the addition of Washington State and then the Pacific 8 with the addition of Oregon and Oregon State.  As Arizona and Arizona State were poached from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), the conference became the PAC 10.  The thoughtful reader will have noted that Arizona does not (yet) enjoy a Pacific coastline, but at least is within driving distance of the ocean, whereas Colorado and Utah, the institutions recently departed from the Big 12 and the Mountain West Conference, are considerably less Pacific.  Oh, and the Big 12 has ten teams.  I’m just saying.

The slide began in the late ’90s, but by 2013, madness had truly set in, traditional rivalries were abandoned, and the familiar regional associations gave way to collections that seem jury-rigged Frankenconfrences; odd bits of one were attached to limbs of another.  In retrospect, the dissolution of the Big 8 (Nebraska, Iowa State, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) allowed the first of the new super-conferences to spawn imitators as its members joined with Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech to create the Big 12, large enough that competition was divided into the Big 12 North and the Big 12 South, which mirrors the division of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) which was also split when the SEC picked off Arkansas which had defected from the conference depth-charged when the Texas colleges jumped into the Big 12 and South Carolina which had been homeless since ditching the ACC and the dominance of the North Carolina colleges.

But, wait!  There’s more.  The already over-large SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri, both of which deserted the Big 12, which made that conference shaky, especially as there were widespread rumors that Texas was about to bolt as well.  Texas is the straw that stirs the drink in the region with access to television money the others do not see, just as Notre Dame with its own independent contract with NBC had the golden ticket, allowing them to play a schedule of their choosing in football while playing basketball in the Big East, that is, until the Golden Domers by virtue of what must have been a Papal encyclical, have remained independent in football, bound to play only five games within their new home, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), but regular members in all other sports … except hockey, which now joins the BIG.

Let’s remember that like the Big East, the ACC has been most notably a basketball conference.  Why then, oh why, would Notre Dame join up, being as the clever will have noted, not on the Atlantic or even adjacent to states that are?  Why would the ACC, having its own well established traditions welcome feisty and independent Notre Dame?  Probably a union of like-minded academic institutions?  We think not.

There is this.  On any given Saturday, lacking the expensive football package from my cable provider, I am lucky if I can find more than one televised game from any single conference.  Generally, the conference game I will see is some sort of match-up, a rivalry game or a game on which a title might depend.  Of the twelve to fourteen teams in the conference, only two or four at most hit the screen.  Maybe NBC could work in one more?  Oh, that’s right!  They have a contract with Notre Dame.  Every Notre Dame game will have a national audience, and that suggests that Notre Dame and every team playing Notre Dame gets a share of national television bounty.  So, unlovely ACC football gets a shot in the arm, a national audience, name recognition while recruiting outside the Atlantic region, and dough that is split up among the members of the conference.  Yes, The North Carolina State Wolfpack is assured a national audience this fall as are Wake Forest’s Demon Deacons

Notre Dame gets to play most its traditional (and very telegenic) rivals (USC, Navy, Boston College, and Michigan State),  games that offer little challenge at crucial resting points in the season (Temple, Miami University of Ohio, and Navy), and two games against teams (Georgia and Stanford) that are strong enough to boost Notre Dame’s chances of landing a playoff spot or juicy bowl game.


My beef isn’t with making money or trying to enhance the recruiting profile outside of the region; college sports are no longer the bastion of purely amateur athletics played for the beauty of the game.  I am saddened, however, that Missouri no longer plays Nebraska, that Syracuse no longer battles Georgetown in basketball.  This spring, Johns Hopkins joins the BIG in lacrosse, leaving its own traditional regional rivalries behind.  Traditions seem to have died a quick death with the stroke of a pen.

OK, maybe I’m slightly miffed that Notre Dame didn’t elect to keep Michigan among its “must-have” independent games, or maybe I’m just a fussy curmudgeon. In any case,  I’ve got two months, fourteen days, and eight hours to get over myself before the opening game against Florida, and my therapist is on speed dial.



It’s hard to find language to describe the moment in which one of the most remarkable athletes of the modern era was penalized for code violations during the final match of the US Open Tennis Tournament.  The sequence of events that led to Naomi Osaka’s controversial victory revealed a great deal about the autonomy with which a chair umpire manages play in tournaments at the highest level, autonomy which allowed the decisions made by umpire Carlos Ramos to overshadow virtually all play during the tournament, certainly overshadowing Osaka’s victory and Serena Williams’ return to the finals of an US Open.

In the weeks following the Open, Ramos was vilified and congratulated, Williams was vilified and embraced, and Osaka, once again, overshadowed.  Partisan cultural responses were emphatic as the event was characterized as feminist implosion or sexist/racist injustice.  Billie Jean King, whose career is testimony to the difficulties facing female athletes, wrote in the Washington Post:

“The ceiling that women of color face on their path to leadership never felt more impenetrable than it did at the women’s U.S. Open final on Saturday. Ironic, perhaps, that the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium was closed for the championship match. What was supposed to be a memorable moment for tennis, with Serena Williams, perhaps the greatest player of all time, facing off against Naomi Osaka, the future of our sport, turned into another example of people in positions of power abusing that power. ”

The issues for tennis, for sport and for society are profound and profoundly affected by the reality of injustice stretching centuries behind a tennis match in September, but I’m meant to be writing about sports, so I’ll approach the conversation by reminding readers that much of the idiocy in the sporting world has to do with our schizophrenic view of athletic competition.  On one hand, we believe that sports inspire virtue – dignity, humility, generosity, selflessness, resilience, courage, craft, and skill.  On the other, we have created a professional class of gladiators whose only purpose is to beat other gladiators.  Amateurs are not expected to humiliate opponents; professionals are not supposed to display personalized emotion.  Let’s call them warriors rather than gladiators for the moment, recognizing that it is only football and boxing that invite athletes to dare brain injury as the last reward for their service.

So, warriors, and warriors don’t mess around when it comes to competition.  We pay them to entertain us, and a certain amount of heated emotion often adds some spice to our enjoyment of the spectacle.  Bench clearing brawls, fistfights on the sideline , smack downs under the basket – all good fun.  OK, less fun when women are involved.  OK, not fun in those sports that are not deemed warrior sports but which pay like warrior sports.

Manny Machado throws his bat, charges  the mound, slices up Dustin Pedroia sliding into second.  He gets fined, pitchers throw at his head and knees and America’s pastime, “a game so fine it’s played on diamonds”, enjoys yet another classic summer.  Phil Mickelson stops a ball from rolling off the green and, in the words of Brett Cygalis reporting in the New York Post,:

“Phil Mickelson executed one of the most shocking breaches of the rules and etiquette in recent major-championship history, and the fallout from it is hardly over. That includes for Mickelson’s reputation as well as that of the USGA.”  The article is entitled “Phil Mickelson’s defiant defense of his shocking rule breach.”

See, slightly crazy.

Phil’s a good golfer; Serena is the greatest female tennis player in the history of the sport, and at thirty-six years old and a recent mother fighting to win every match she enters while continuing to represent female athletes, and mothers, and women, and women of color.  She is a warrior, and in the last set of a highly significant match that was not going her way, an umpire decreed that she had been cheating by being on the court when her coach made a hand signal to approach the net in playing Osaka.  Williams’ “implosion” was no more dramatic than Mickelson’s, but it was personal.  Apparently that’s an even bigger deal than throwing a ball at a batter’s face, certainly bigger than Mickelson’s shocking rule breach.

We have seen anger in sports and frustration.  I can’t think of another example, however, of the kind of confrontation we saw at Forest Hills.  The greatest athlete in her sport, a woman who had beaten the odds in becoming the greatest in her sport, refused to be called a cheat in the middle of a match in which she had not gained traction.  Serena is an emotional player and one who uses emotion to stoke her game; she had plenty of fuel before Ramos made the decision that she had been cheating  and that he needed to call her on it.  There was racquet smashing as there has been in many, many matches, but the significant difference between this moment and any other in the history of televised sport was that we saw both the human being and the champion in the same moment.

A major title was in play, but for Serena, it was her character that was at stake.  Her first responses to Ramos were not confrontational; they were plainspoken and courteous.  The most influential female athlete in the world did not pout or flounce or kick dust; she told the judge that she doesn’t cheat.  He didn’t care.  We saw Serena unable to return to play until the question of character had been addressed.  It wasn’t.

Every athlete has her day; that was Osaka’s.  She played well, better than Serena had played up to that point.  Tennis fans can appreciate a hard-won victory over a favorite, but we witnessed a man in a chair taking a game from a champion.  It was ugly.  Both Williams and Osaka were humiliated.  The fans were cheated.  Later Williams was fined for her behavior and Ramos was endorsed by the USTA.  Roger Federer who was not humiliated reminded us that, “… they have their job to do and that’s what we want them to do.”

Who’s the Draft King?


I don’t gamble.  Not at all.  Never.  On anything.  The house always wins, my judgment is awful, I let emotion rule, I love a good story more than good odds, on any given day … and so on.

So, here I am about to put another twenty-five bucks in my Draft King account.

This comes up, of course, because the NFL football season is coming soon to a brain near me, and while hockey and baseball were my first true loves, I can’t not watch football.  Since I’m going to watch anyway, doesn’t it make sense that I ought to invest a little extra prep time so that I can see the game on a whole new level?  There’s research to be done and rosters to explore.  No more just grabbing a sandwich and a diet soda, plumping up the pillows on the couch and leaving family and the petty exigencies of life behind for a few (eight) hours.

No, my viewing now demands daily review of players moving to and from the trainer’s table and whirlpool, scanning scouting reports, keeping track of vets and rookies, new coaches, new schemes, suspensions, rivalries, contract extensions, and that’s just the start.

Let’s say I’m looking at a rookie.  Is he a high motor guy, a natural waist bender, does he have a bubble butt, is he quicker than fast, does he have oily hips, is he a dancing bear, is he a space player, can he click and close, can he throw an effective jam?

Full disclosure.  I have never asked any of those questions, but I do scan the opinions of those in the know, each contradicting the other, the result of which is that I’m lucky if I can make my twenty-five bucks last through the entire season.  Last year?  Ended up with one dollar in my account.

So I start this season with twenty-six dollars to plunk down, three bucks at a time.

I do understand that there is some dislocation of fan attachment when I’m less interested in the outcome of the game than the number of yards my tight end has put together or the number of sacks my defense has recorded.  Some would call it rationalization, but I consider myself now a fan of football rather than hanging on to a provincial attachment to one team over all others.

I might also be a Detroit Lions fan, so there’s that.

Look, I have principles.  I don’t goof around with college football, the last bastion of amateur sport; however, with no money on the table, this might be a good time to predict a top five finish for the University of Michigan.  My allegiances in hockey and baseball are so misguided and absolute that I’d be through my small stake after three games.

I like to think of myself as a student of the game of football, an earnest aficionado, but there are moments when I think of Romans roaring encouragement to that week’s favorite gladiator, urging a final act of mutilation so profound that no opponent could crawl from the arena.  Surely, hoping for a blitz so effective that the quarterback has to be scraped from the field with a spatula is nothing like that?

Well, as Julius Caesar is reputed to have said, “Alia iacra est” (The die is cast!).  My twenty five bucks are in; might as well cross the Rubicon and check out the stats on Jimmy Garoppolo.


Measuring Arnold


My daughter grew up in California at a time in which the state and the governor seemed to be in a perpetual state of crisis; Gray Davis was recalled and removed within months of the start of his second term.  Then, the improbable candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger quickly went from dubious prospect to inauguration followed by a solid two terms as Governor of California, leading her to belive that Schwarzenegger completely measured up as highest office holder in the state.

I did some measuring myself, back in 1977 when I met Schwarzenegger and had the opportunity to run a tape measure around his neck, not a feat I’d try again, and a little daunting even in retrospect.  This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose as Schwarzenegger appeared at the unofficial premiere of the film that was to set him on the road to stardom.  Through an odd set of circumstances, I was involved in the arrangement of that event and complied with the star’s command, “Go ahead.  Measure my neck.”

The film was Pumping Iron, a docudrama produced by George Butler, based on the essay, “Pumping Iron” by Charles Gaines.  It was the first film to feature Arnold Schwarzenegger, then known as an Austrian bodybuilder who had captured the title of Mr. Universe in 1966, Mr. Olympia in 1969, and whose sculpted physique virtually owned international bodybuilding throughout the 1970’s.  He’d had bit parts in two movies, one of which, Stay Hungry, had something of a cult following because of Schwarzenegger’s role.  Pumping Iron was released in  January of 1977 and was a commercial success, kick starting Schwarzenegger’s career in film and accelerating the development of franchised exercise and fitness gyms.

Buzz about Gaines’ article had grabbed the attention of Dino de Laurentis who was looking for a project for his daughter.  By the time Arnold and I met face to neck, he had been cast as Conan the Barbarian, a role that established him as the premiere piece of beefcake in Hollywood, a position previously held by the relatively ordinary muscular giant, Steve Reeves.  Beefcake, by the way, was the term used to describe hunky guys in Hollywood fan magazines; Betty Gable and Marilyn Monroe, on the other hand, were pin-up girls, and their photos were known as cheesecake.  Beef, cheese …no Vegan terminology in those days.

In any case, it happened that in those years I ran the Berkshire Film Society in Sheffield, Massachusetts, a very small association attempting to bring classic and experimental films to south Berkshire County.  Our theater was musty and cramped, our equipment was primitive, and our budget was exhausted.  I got a call from the far snappier film society in Salisbury, Connecticut, a near neighbor, asking if I’d like to join in hosting Charles Gaines, Schwarzenegger, and the as-yet-unreleased film, Pumping Iron.

I jumped at the chance for a number of reasons.  Two of the most stalwart members of my small cadre lived just outside of Salisbury and had been hoping we might find a way to connect the two groups.  The only celebrity in my bunch was Terry Southern, author of Dr. Strangelove and Candy, and a wickedly funny man (I do mean wicked) who shared with me an odd appreciation of the competitive world of bodybuilding.  We had both read the Gaines articles, seen Butler’s photos illustrating the essay, and thought the film would be a hoot.

The Salisbury Film Society booked the auditorium of Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, opened the screening to the public, and invited Hotchkiss students to attend as well. My job was to bring in an audience from southwestern Massachusetts, fairly easy to do as I also had an early morning radio show on the only station available in that corner of the state, and, more importantly, there is nothing to do at night in southwestern Massachusetts when the temperature drops below zero.

The auditorium was packed; as a fund-raiser it was a clear triumph.  The film was far better than I had expected, a great documentary about the competitive world of bodybuilding as well as a compelling drama featuring the self-assured prankster, Schwarzenegger, and his aspiring rival, hearing impaired and self-doubting Lou Ferrigno, later a slab of beefcake himself as the TV incarnation of the Incredible Hulk.

Ferrigno did not attend the screening, but Schwarzenegger was in rare form.  He had been at the top of his career for a decade and was eager to move into whatever niche Hollywood could find for him.  He had just found out that the Conan project had been green-lighted, Oliver Stone had been hired to write the script, and James Earl Jones had been cast as Thulma Doom, the fiend who had killed Conan’s parents.  It took another two years to get the project off the ground and into production in Spain; by that time, John Milius as director had re-written the Stone script, toughening the action to give Schwarzenegger more room to flex his personality.

That evening, in the question-and-answer part of the program, I asked if Schwarzenegger hoped to win a part in a film in which he wouldn’t have to take off his shirt.  I know, what the hell was I thinking?  With great restraint and good humor, Schwarzenegger took off his jacket and made a gesture as if he were about to un button his shirt.

The next question came from a student in the audience, asking how his physical features had changed since he had stopped training for competition.  There was considerable back and forth about various body features, dialogue that Schwarzenegger seemed to enjoy.

To be clear, he was still huge.

He wore a suit that allowed him to look something like a mortal, but when he took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, the masquerade was over.  At the top of his game as a competitor, Schwarzenegger weighed about 245 pounds.  He was 6 feet 2 inches tall, and every limb had been developed for perfect symmetry.  A champion can’t have huge arms and skinny legs; everything has to be in perfect proportion, and he had been termed the most perfectly developed human for years.

Arnold Schwarzenegger could not have been more cordial in describing his training  routine and the resultant physical features; he thought of himself as a sculptor, working in his own medium.  His weight that evening was 235 pounds.  He had a 32 inch waist, his chest when expanded measured 57 inches.  I’m going to stop there to suggest that his chest was about the length of a kid just under five feet tall.  His thighs were 28 inches around, both of them, again about the size of a sixteen year old’s waist.  He tapered down to a mere 19 inches at the calf (more than a foot and a half), and his bicep when flexed was 20 inches in circumference.  The next time you see an AYSO team playing soccer, the ball they kick is only slightly larger than Arnold’s arm.

And so, it came to the neck.  Because I had been affronting enough to question the star’s career path, he beckoned me to the front of the auditorium, handed me a tape measure, and said, Go ahead.  Measure my neck.”

I was 5 foot 8 1/2 inches tall.  I had to ask Arnold to lean a bit so that I coud operate the tape.  I don’t know what I expected.  2 feet?  22 inches?  At that time, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a neck that measured only slightly more than 18 inches. As in all other things, in perfect proportion with the rest of his physique.

I was completely charmed by Schwarzenegger that night and have since seen him in almost everything he’s made.  We all have favorite roles, of course, and mine tend to fall into three categories.

Against all odds, he has a lively and gentle sense of humor, a quality best expressed in some of the lighter roles, such as Jingle All the Way, Junior, Twins, and to some extent Kindergarten Cop.  That film generated two of my favorite Schwarzenegger lines, delivered with that signature Austrian accent.  “Who is your daddy, and what does he do?” , and his querulous response to the child who fears he has a tumor, ” That is not a too-mah!”

Schwarzenegger became an action superstar fairly quickly, frequently appearing as the leader of an elite military or para-military crew facing overwhelming odds or as a sleuth on his own, facing overwhelming odds.  My favorites of these many films include Commando, in which his character’s survival skills are so advanced that he can smell invaders before they appear, and Total Recall, an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick Sci Fi adventure in which a special effects moment makes it seem that his head expands and explodes as he exposed to the atmosphere on Mars.  Critics had fun at his expense when Schwarzenegger was cast as a robot in the Terminator series (“Schwarzenegger a robot – now that’s type casting!”), but he made us feel for the machine.

Batman and Robin stands alone in the Schwarzenegger oeuvre.  I’m a fan of director Joel Schumacher, and the cast for the film was fantastic.  George Clooney was Bruce Wayne/ Batman, and Schwarzenegger played his nemesis, Dr. Victor Fries, a Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist whose body was altered as he tried to freeze his terminally ill wife.  Fries, damaged physically and psychically,  can only live in a suit that keeps him at a sub-zero temperature, thus becoming Mr. Freeze.

It’s a goofy sidestep in the cinematic history of Batman, a bit more like the early tv show than the Dark Knights.  Chris O’Donnell is Robin, kind of a bat bro, eager to break out of the bat-shadow.  Alicia Silverstone, fresh from Clueless, is Batgirl, not only a crime fighter in the making but niece of the Bat Butler, Alfred, played by the brilliant English character actor, Michael Gough.  Schumacher brought another contemporary trope to the film, casting Uma Thurman as an eco-terrorist, resentful that a chemical mishap has caused her blood to turn to aloe, her skin to chlorophyl, and her lips to a toxin that goes unnamed.

Mr. Freeze steals the show, I think, with puns that live eternal in the hearts of Schwarzenegger fans.  “Alright, everyone.  Chill!”, “I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas for mercy”,  “The Ice Man cometh”, and “Let’s kick some ice!

From time to time I recall my up-close-and personal with the future Mr. Freeze and Governor of California, wishing I had not been so snarky in challenging his acting skills.  He’s measured up and built a career, several careers, that would be the envy of any aspiring actor.

And … I’m pretty sure he could still crush me like a grape.