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Berry Tramel  


Bill Hancock's Olympic adventure: Cheering in the pressbox

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm •  Published: February 7, 2014

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, is an Oklahoman and a man for all seasons. He routinely volunteers at every Olympics and gives friends and colleagues a peek at his adventures with daily email dispatches. Everyone looks forward to them, which is why I post them on the blog, so everyone can get a feel for what’s going on around the Olympics. And today, a bonus — a section devoted to my friend (and blog contributor) Ed Frost:

Thursday, February 6

(Please excuse the typos and bad writing in this friendly message to family members. They  are sweethearts and so will not object to sloppiness. Will hurry.  There’s too much Olympics to explore.)

Breakfast:  Pear, museli with warm milk (there’s no cold), pear, cucumber, toast with tasty raspberry preserves, orange juice, plump sausage, hard-boiled egg.

Commute from Chistye Prudy to the Main Press Center:  20 minutes by bus.

“Another awesome orangie-and-purply sunrise.  There were the exact right number of clouds to make it spectacular.  Metaphor for life: a few clouds are necessary.  The silvery mountains were out.  Oh, my goodness.

Volunteer du jour:  Oleg.  Round, actually the roundest Russian I have seen.  Maybe looked a little like Curly.  Very happy face.  Stern.  Thumbed through my backpack with great flair.  When done, he said, ‘have a pretty good day.’

“I love when the Russians try to speak English. They love it with I try to speak Russian.  Cyrillic.

Lunch:  Peanut butter, crackers (lots of them), chocolate from the Canadians.

Question from Florida – Who is Vaughn Monroe and what does he have to do with Russia?  I don’t know; do any of you?

“(Good grief.  I’ve been here several days and have yet to hear Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. But people don’t just stand on street corners whistling great Russian music. Just like a Russian visitor might be might be bummed after being in Oklahoma for a week without hearing ‘I Got to Kansas City on a Friday.’)

Weather:  Gorgeous day here.  A few clouds, but mostly bright blue sky.  People who have been in the mountains report things are even better up there.  Low 34, high 48.

“Daily reminder:  it’s 10 hours different from Central time.  So when it’s 10 a.m. in McPherson, it’s 8 p.m. in Sochi.

Russia Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: 1979-1989 occupied Afghanistan after Communist revolution there.

Dinner:  Croissant stuffed with pudding or yogurt.  Awesome.  Plus Cadbury chocolate from our Canadian friends.

Second Dinner: Hotdog at figure skating. Tasty with good bread, but the bread-to-meat ratio was pretty heavy on the bread side.

“Eddie Frost is a Hobart boy (class of 1957) who became Dr. Edgar Frost, professor of Russian.  I asked him how it all came about.  Here’s his great report:

“I was in college during the Cold War.  The Russians were much in the news.  Made me curious about them.  Were they evil people?  Were they normal people?  Took some history and geography.  When I finished J School, Vietnam was heating up, and I would have been drafted. David (his brother) had studied Polish at the Army Language School, and he recommended the school.  

“So I went and fell in love with Russian and with Russians, learning from my instructors, who were all native speakers of Russian.  They were great people with a fascinating culture.  The language fascinated me too.  One thing led to another.  And there went my sports writing career for a 40-year intermission.

“I don’t write it (the Russian language) much, though I can.  I don’t speak it much, but when (daughter) Lydia was in Ukraine and we visited, I did and loved it again.  I do read it some to keep my hand in.  Most recent read was a Russian translation of From Russia with Love.  I also read Thunderball and some Mickey Spillane and such.  Sometimes read the news online–BBC news in Russian.  But it’s been a while since I’ve played Russian Scrabble…”

“Nice visit with Kristi Yamaguchi today.  Charming girl (now 42 years old) and still extremely beautiful.  Also nice visit with Julie Foudy.   Interestingly, also gorgeous and charming, and 43 years old.  I asked Julie how she stays in shape.

“Both are here as journalists.  They say Julie works hard, doing interviews and writing stuff.  She’s yet another brilliant Stanford person. Both Kristi and Julie have two children.

“Went to figure skating competition tonight. Lovely arena, nice crowd.  They DO cheer in the pressbox at every Olympics, and the Russian volunteers and ‘media’ were no exception.  Actually I wanted to cheer for their guy, too.  Had a nice hotdog from the concession stand.  (of course.)  Loved the skating.  Those empty seats you see in the lower level probably were held for Olympic Family—sponsors, etc.  Packed house upstairs where the regular people sit.

“Public address announcements typical Olympics first-class.  In English and Russian.

“For special events, the IOC prints tickets for the press box, so it won’t get over-crowded.  Journalists must have a ticket in addition to their credential.  The IOC allocates tickets to each country, and we give them to our journalists. I took a couple of extra tickets to the skating, to help any American reporters who forgot their tickets or didn’t know they needed one.  Found only one American journalist stranded outside in the cold tonight. It was Elvis Stojko, two-time Olympic silver medalist who is working here with Yahoo.  He was pleading with the security guard—very politely—who kept saying,  ’must have ticket’ and clearly didn’t know him from Elvis Costello.  (He was named after that other Elvis, by the way.)

“The title of each person’s music is printed on the jumbotron. One read,  ’Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony.’

“We took seats in the tabled media section.  My theory is to sit at a coveted ‘tabled’ position—it has power and video monitor—to hold the seat and give it up to an American journalist arrives late and doesn’t have a seat.  Gave ours to a Yahoo reporter (side note: the reporter doesn’t care much for the event that is my professional life back home) and his colleague tonight.

“Beautiful walk back to the Main Press Center with Nicki.  Windless, cool night reminded me of our first date January 14, 1967.  She still smells the same.  Half-moon looks just like the half-moons in Oklahoma.

“A tiny cotton cloud was hovering above the Main Press Center.  It needed only shepherds pointing the way and some angels.  (I had mine.)  Two big spotlights shined on it.  An hour later, back at Chistye Prudy, we noticed the cloud was still there.  Did the Russians somehow manufacture it and park it there?   If so, we have underestimated their cleverness.

“What a privilege to be here!  Every day is an adventure.  Sochi. Hot. Cool. Yours.”


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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