Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 29 Mar 2000 08:34:20 -0500

Jack Scott

I remember seeing him for the first time -- and the last. The first was when came to Track & Field News in 1967 or '68, carrying his message of athletic rebellion and asking the magazine to give it wider circulation.

The last was a chance meeting in a Eugene vegetarian restaurant, where he was eating a quiet meal with his daughter during the Track Nationals last summer. This was one of the few times I'd seen Jack Scott out of the company of someone famous.

He had a knack for standing next to the people making news. In the 1960s he spoke up in support of Olympic protesters Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In the 1970s he befriended Bill Walton, a rebel within the NBA.

Then Scott, a Stanford sprinter until he quit the team in protest of team rules, ventured outside of sports. He attracted FBI attention for his marginal involvement in the Patty Hearst case.

That episode would dog him the rest of his days. Recently he came back into the news when called to testify against one of Hearst's kidnappers.

Scott, 57, asked to be excused for health reasons. He had throat cancer and said he might not live long enough to appear at the trial.

He had moved from Berkeley to Eugene, ending a long separation from his wife Micki so she could care for him. He died in February while fighting the system one last time.

I don't want to leave the impression that Jack Scott was just a celebrity-chaser. Sure, some self-interest motivated his association with the stars. But while gaining attention for himself through them, he also gave help.

Jack founded a club called "Otherways," which welcomed fellow running rebels of 30 years ago. Its members included Bob Deines, former American record-holder at 50 miles, and Mike Spino, now a coach at Kenyan-powered Life College in Georgia.

Jack briefly served as athletic director at Oberlin College. He hired Tommie Smith as track coach at a time when the Olympic protest had hurt Smith's career prospects.

Jack was reborn as a sports-medicine therapist in the 1980s. He helped heal Joan Benoit for her run to the first women's Olympic Marathon title.

"After 20 years of pointing out problems in sports," Jack said at the time, "I'm no longer just saying what's wrong. I'm enjoying more offering solutions."

I recall a party at the Scotts' to celebrate Mike Powell's world long jump record of 1991. Jack loved sharing in the glory, and Powell was happy to let him have some of it as repayment for help received.


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