The Olympic Games, now and always, come with a box of politics. The guardians consistently deny this, but history reveals great mountains of evidence, and one of the peaks was the 1936 Games in Berlin.
Though most sports fans know the spectacular performance of United States sprinter Jesse Owens exposed the underlying hypocrisy and inanity of racism, not many realize Owens and his African-American teammates were not the only members of the U.S. Olympic team to feel the oppressive weight of bigotry.
Two of their Jewish teammates were crushed by it -- only temporarily, as it turns out.
The story of one of those teammates is told in "Glickman," a film by James L. Freedman ("Cybill," "Coach") scheduled to be shown in the coming weeks at select Bay Area theaters, the first being San Francisco's Castro on Sunday.
Marty Glickman's name likely is familiar to any American sports fan over the age of 40, or 25 in New York, because he was a pioneering sports announcer, the play-by-play voice of the Knicks and the football Giants, as well as thousands of horse races.
He was the first man to go from the athletic field to the broadcast booth, largely on the strength of an irrepressible spirit that survived the darts and barbs of ignorance.
Glickman's parents left Romania for the United States in part because of the racism directed toward Jews. Young Marty was a natural sprinter, a teenage phenom in New York City, winning citywide
But prejudice and politics slapped Glickman in the face during the trials for the '36 U.S. Olympic team, when he and USC product Frank Wykoff finished in an apparent tie for third behind Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. After the intervention of assistant coach Dean Cromwell (of USC), Glickman was told he placed fifth, behind not only Wykoff but also USC's Foy Draper -- despite photographic evidence to the contrary -- and just ahead of Jewish sprinter Sam Stoller.
Mollified by the fact he had made the team -- runners finishing fourth through seventh were assigned to the 400-meter relay -- Glickman turned his focus on the upcoming Games in Berlin. He and Stoller would compete under the nose of Adolf Hitler, the virulently anti-Semitic leader of Germany's Nazi regime.
Or so Glickman and Stoller thought.
The morning the relay was scheduled to be run, both were informed by head coach Lawson Robertson and Cromwell that they would be replaced by Owens and Metcalfe, who would join Draper and Wykoff. Wykoff had replaced Mack Robinson (seventh at the trials), when Jackie's older brother qualified for the 200.
The German competition, Glickman and Stoller were told, was so good the United States needed its fastest possible team.
It did not matter that Glickman, Stoller, Wykoff and Draper had spent weeks practicing baton exchanges -- or that Stoller and Glickman finished 1-2 in a race to determine running order. They were out.
Were Glickman and Stoller pushed aside by the USC connection? Stoller wanted to believe that.
Was it a case of anti-Semitism? That was the conclusion reached by Glickman.
Either was possible -- as were both. Glickman and Stoller were the only Jews on the team. And they at the time became the only two healthy members of a U.S. Olympic team not allowed to compete.
The hastily assembled team went on to win easily, by 15 meters according to some accounts. Each member received a gold medal, while Glickman and Stoller never took to the track and left Berlin empty-handed.
Robertson later apologized, according to Glickman, who added that he never again heard from Cromwell. There was considerable speculation, gaining momentum as the years passed, that Cromwell -- like U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage -- was a Nazi sympathizer trying to appease Hitler.
Glickman returned to the United States, where he encountered more discrimination. He not only fought through it but also against it.
The young broadcaster who once outran three of the fastest members of the New York (football) Giants became in the 1960s one of the most notable sports broadcasters in American history, one of the early promoters of the NBA as well as a mentor to current broadcasters Marv Albert, Dick Enberg, Mike Breen and Charlie Steiner.
Glickman later became the catalyst behind HBO Sports, recruiting talent in the 1970s for the outfit then known as Home Box Office. Rumor has it that "outfit" has since become a TV goliath.
Glickman, who died in 2001 at age 83, understood bigotry because he had been victimized by it. His glory came the hard way. He worked for it, kept working until the country on whose soil he was born could offer nothing but respect.
A revealing peek into a dark corner of U.S. Olympic history, the early days of sports broadcasting and more is revealed in "Glickman."