Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bill Russell And The Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Bill Russell will be presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week.

I shook Bill Russell's hand in Plattsburgh, NY in 1976 and was as humbled and honored as an obnoxious 17 year-old Celtics fan could be. I had read that autographs weren't his métier and I knew better than to ask.

Curt Gowdy, however, signed my matchbook cover. He had his own pen; I had my own matchbook.

(I was a Curt Gowdy fan, too, but I must confess that I remember the hand shake and likely lost the autograph on the way back to the '69 LTD...)

From the NY Times:

Given his blast-from-the-past ’60s positions on race and just about anything, Russell is often asked about his reaction to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he will receive from President Obama on Tuesday, as will former President George H. W. Bush, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Stan Musial and 11 others. Is this the greatest personal honor in his life? “A close second,” Russell replied.
More here, and cheers to Bill Russell; the greatest team player in American sports history and--anachronistic, I know--a man's man, a winner of games played in shorts, a winner of bigger things.


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