To the Editor:
Mark Segal’s recent columns have brought together the history of the fight against intolerance and this year’s acknowledgement of acceptance by the U. S. Supreme Court, among others. The maturity of his words reveals his collection of experiences and memorabilia and his transition of now passing those things to the next generation.
This spring, I was part of the Penn State Men’s Gymnastics reunion and celebration of the 100th birthday of my coach Gene Wettstone, the father of American gymnastics and who reincarnated the Penn State Nittany Lion. I thought the prize of my collection was a wooden trunk lined with photos, programs and newspaper articles. It wasn’t.
The prize was a series of newspaper articles about the fight between the old AAU, which controlled American athletics with myths and prejudices and the group of men and women [Wettstone] selected over the years who together acted to do what was right for everyone to participate. The ignition event was Penn State’s invitation to the University of Cologne for a gymnastics meet. After litigation, which was finally resolved by Congress, the United States Gymnastics Federation assumed responsibility and led the development of gymnastics with teams captained by open gay gymnasts (Temple 2013) and gay Olympians. Years later, the University of Cologne hosted the 2010 Gay Games,where Team Philadelphia competed. The circle was nearly complete. The final thing I found was a letter from Coach Wettstone in which he was describing the last gymnastics event he would organize, named “The Best Years of Our Lives.” In the last paragraph, he ended by saying he was proud of us as student athletes, but that he was more proud of us for what we accomplished in our adult lives.
As Team Philadelphia and its affiliated sports and music organizations, with more than 1,300 individuals comprising the largest adult sports and musical organization in the region, prepare for 2014 with Gay Games in Cleveland, the Bingham Rugby Cup in Australia and the National Flag Football Championships in Philadelphia, and many other local and national events, we extend our thanks to those many individuals who stepped forward to organize protests and sporting organizations that are now celebrating decades of existence. We hope to acknowledge those leaders with a sports historical retrospective in 2014 expressing our appreciation for doing what was right and bringing us all to the open fields of play, where we are acknowledged for our efforts and accomplishments. To all of them, we say thank you.
Bob Szwajkos Team Philadelphia chair