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‘12th man’ wins it for the Pack
by Harry Spencer
Dec 03, 2010 | 1137 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The stunning win by the Nevada Wolf Pack football team on Nov. 26 over the highly rated and undefeated Boise State, in large part, can be credited to the “12th man.”

Normally that appellation is given to the hometown crowd and in last week’s victory that most certainly applies since none of the jam-packed stands emptied out after a first half that saw the Boise State Broncos with a 17-point lead. The rabid home crowd, reportedly the largest ever to witness a Nevada pigskin game, had their faith in the Silver and Blue reaffirmed as Nevada came out and soundly trounced the visitors in the second half.

In addition to the crowd, the “12th man” appellation also applies to the Nevada placekicker, who won the game in overtime. While football teams are limited to 11 starters, the placekicker and punter are usually regarded as the “12th man” since they are called upon to set the other team back on its heels or to score crucial points on field goals and point-after attempts.

Another “12th man” moniker might be laid on the city of Reno, which suited up for the field and turned the Reno Arch blue in honor of the football game.

And last, but certainly not least, you have to cite the Boise State placekicker as a Nevada “12th man.” Kyle Brotzman missed two kicks, which would have reversed the score, giving the Wolf Pack the opening it needed to pull off its major upset, which some are calling the greatest victory in the history of the football program at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Celebrity corner

Watching classic reruns of old Western series on cable television’s Encore Western channel, one comes across many actors and writers, some of whom have a Nevada connection. They were literally just starting out or, conversely, in the twilight of their careers.

Three of the best of those programs are “Gunsmoke,” “Paladin” and “Cimarron Strip.” All three had established actors in the lead roles and, by coincidence, all three leads have northern Nevada ties. For “Gunsmoke” and “Paladin,” James Arness and Richard Boone, respectively both fine actors, were recipients of the Silver Spurs Awards, which used to be given out to the top Western movie or TV performer. The Silver Spurs were a promotion of the Reno Chamber of Commerce and the winners were selected by a vote of the member of the Hollywood Press. Fittingly, the initial Silver Spurs went to actor John Wayne and director John Ford in 1950 in Reno.

Both Arness and Boone were very charming and gracious recipients when they showed up for their awards.

The lead role in “Cimarron Strip” was played by barrel-chested Stu Whitman, who came to Reno in 1993 as one of the celebrities to attend an indoor professional polo match at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. He participated in all the scheduled events surrounding the polo match and again was a delight to the fans who sought his autograph. A few years back, Whitman visited Incline Village and made it a practice to visit the tennis courts there on a daily basis.

We played numerous matches with and against him and he proved to be a gifted athlete, still in remarkably good shape. He also was an interesting raconteur when it came to discussing his Hollywood career at the outside bar of the club between matches.

While everyone recognizes the three leads at the mere mention of their names, there were many other stars of the future in supporting casts of all three programs. The other night, I was surprised to catch the name of Gene Roddenberry as the writer of the “Paladin” segment. Gene went on to great fame and fortune when he created “Star Trek.” I had the good fortune to met him when he was a celebrity guest on the initial junket to Harold Smith Jr.’s casino in Sveti Stefan, Yugoslavia. Of the 200 or so junketeers, he was the only one to send me a thank-you note.

Last week, in a “Gunsmoke” episode, I caught the familiar face of actor Warren Stevens playing a villain to Arness’ hero.

I had first come across Stevens in Hollywood during the early 50s when he was a roommate of fellow actor Bob Patten. I had met Patten when he was in Reno filming “Belvedere Goes to College” on the UNR campus in 1948. One night, while visiting Patten in Los Angeles, I noticed that the usually exuberant Stevens was in an unusually quiet and somber mood. I asked Patten what the reason was and he told me that Stevens had been going pretty steady with a female actress and that a new rising star, from the East Coast, had stolen her away.

“Is this anything to be down-in-the-mouth about?” I asked. Patten responded, "Well, the ex-girlfriend is bringing her new boyfriend over here tonight to take a look at Warren’s MG roadster with the possibility of buying it.”

Since my brother, Fred, had sold the MG to Stevens, I asked Patten if he minded me waiting around to see the possible purchasers. He said that would be fine. Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rang and in came the ex-girlfriend, Joanne Woodward, along with her new boyfriend, Paul Newman.

As it turned out, they didn’t buy the car.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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