Dr. Tom gets a few things off his chest


EVER HAD some things you just had to get off your chest? I have just a few. I'll burst if I don't get them off. Readers, please allow me an indulgence just this one time.

A few columns back I wrote that the notion of an African diaspora is an illusion. This was apparently too much for one reader, who went to the first refuge of those who believe in such things.

"You're an Uncle Tom and a sellout," she huffed.

Dear me, when will these folks learn! Trying to teach them that the character of Uncle Tom died resisting, not being subservient to, a white man is futile. Telling them the term is not an insult but a compliment is a waste of time. So I'll use the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" strategy.

OK. I'm an Uncle Tom. In fact, I have a Ph.D. in Advanced Uncle Tomism from my alma mater: Uncle Tom University. It's a historic institution. The nickname for its athletic teams is the Handkerchiefheads. Its archrivals are the Mau-Maus of Nat Turner A&T.;

There. Are all you blacker-than-thou Knee-grows happy now?

* While browsing in a video store, I happened upon Curt Ellis, the three-time Division II All-American wrestler from Morgan State. During his wrestling heyday in the early 1980s, he was the slickest, smoothest 118-pound takedown artist I'd ever seen. He'd shoot in low, tie up the other guy's legs and take him off his feet. He had a confidence bordering on hubris. He'd let opponents up and take them down repeatedly. The guy wasn't just a wrestler. He was an artist.

Ellis looked as slim and fit as he did in his wrestling days. We talked a few seconds, and then he gave me the bad news: Morgan, like so many other colleges and universities, has dropped its wrestling program.

That probably does not trouble those of you who are not wrestling fans, but for devotees of the sport, the news is devastating.

"It was a winning program," a woman in Morgan's health and physical education department said earlier this week. That's a bit of an understatement. My Encyclopedia of American Wrestling lists 12 Morgan wrestling Division II All-Americans from 1964 to 1988. Among them were four-time All-Americans William "Bucky" Smith and John Davis; three-time All-Americans Ellis and Greg Veal and eight others who placed in the Division II tournament at least once.

Smith also placed twice in the Division I tournament, gaining sixth place in 1977 (when he had the hard luck of facing three-time Division I and three-time world champion Lee Kemp in the first round) and second in 1980. The golden years for the Bears' wrestling team were from 1978 to 1984, when they placed in the top 20 seven consecutive times. Their highest finish was a fourth in 1984, when they were hosts to the Division II tournament and treated Baltimore wrestling fans to some really superb grappling.

So here's to Jim Phillips, who coached that Morgan team during its glory years, and to Smith, Davis, Veal, Ellis and the rest of the school's wrestling All-Americans: thanks for the memories.

* Speaking of wrestling: When guys are in high school and weigh 130 pounds soaking wet, coaches want them to cut weight to get down to particular weight class. Where are these coaches 30 years later, when those former wrestlers are about 30 pounds overweight and need to lose some excess baggage? My kingdom -- what there is of it -- to the person who can tell me of a good, safe wrestling program for overweight, pot-bellied, over-40 guys.

* This is last but by no means least. In response to a column I wrote what seems like ages ago, a reader from New Jersey called with the question: "Where can I get a home video of 'The 300 Spartans'?"

The sad news is you can't. None of us fans of that marvelous movie -- which pitted 300 Spartans against hordes of Persians in funny helmets -- can get it. According to the folks at Critics' Choice video, who conduct a search of such things, "The 300 Spartans" hasn't been released to home video.

Ponder, "300 Spartans" fans, the meaning of this revolting development: "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is on home video. So are "Attack of the Mushroom People" and "Plan 9 from Outer Space." Every turkey of a movie ever made is on home video. But "The 300 Spartans"? Nah.

It's an insult, I tell you, and smacks of a plot against those of us who love this movie. According to the Critics' Choice video search line, there are about 70,000 films on home video. Fans of "The 300 Spartans" might want to give the search line a call -- 800-729-0833 -- and ask exactly why the movie isn't on video yet.

Pub Date: 5/09/98

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