Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2017

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Bruce Spotleson: Southern Nevadans are every bit as local as we’re global

At Sports Hall of Fame dinner, the ‘other’ Las Vegas is center stage.

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Bruce Spotleson

VEGAS INC coverage

The first real warm weather had arrived, just right for celebrating the two sides of Las Vegas: The glamorously global and the intimately local.

At midweek, the Mirage hosted the fifth anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s magnificent “Love,” with no less than Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and the Harrisons in the audience to memorialize it. A stellar performance, global media coverage and a memorable evening for any baby boomer. Now, really, how often does anyone get to see a former Beatle lip-sync along to songs he wrote?

The acclaimed Cirque show gives us special credentials: When the Beatles approve of you, well, you’re cool. And the Paul-Yoko entourage even hung out here for the weekend, before having to get back to where they once belonged.

Meanwhile, as McCartney was performing in concert at week’s end, one of our truly local annual gatherings was taking place at the Orleans: The Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame dinner for its latest inductees. Quietly located in the Findlay Automotive Store, the Hall gives evidence to more local achievement.

For this dinner, it’s wise to check an ego at the door. The crowd is full of overachievers from a wide world of sports—athletes, coaches, executives and supporters who left marks.

Like the 1944 Las Vegas High football team, which was inducted with some statistics that are hard to believe. Offering a Friday night diversion during the war years, the smallish Wildcats won the state championship with style. They were not scored upon and no opponent got back-to-back first downs against them. All season long.

Teammates Bill Morris and John Mendoza went on to successful careers, and like many of the other players, earned additional fame in business, medicine or the military.

Next up was new Hall member Tasha Schwikert, perhaps better known today because her gymnastics and Olympics success were more recent. Having practiced extremely hard during childhood here, she went on to compete at UCLA, was on the 2000 Olympics bronze medal team, and was a member of the first US team ever to win a gold medal at the World Championships. She became one of our nation’s more well-known and heralded gymnasts, and is now obviously a pretty good speaker as well.

Then there’s inductee Christina Hixson, whose very name symbolizes philanthropy in our community. The sole trustee of the Lied Foundation Trust, she has directed the funding of numerous athletic and academic programs at UNLV. Tell me if you hear a more frequently mentioned name on campus, because I haven’t. Yet, she remains low-key and humble.

“All the people in this room who know me know I don’t make speeches,” she said. And true to that form, she was back at her chair within a minute.

Steven Jackson had a child’s dream of playing in the National Football League. He starred at Eldorado High and then Oregon State before his dream came true in the NFL, where he became the St. Louis Rams’ all-time leading rusher. He’s one of the good guys, readily posing for pictures and supporting a whole lot of charities. Given his fame, he’s surprisingly incognito.

“I don’t think I’m better than the next person,” he said. “I don’t walk into a room expecting everyone to know my name.”

And then the evening was given to Don Logan, the personality, brains and stability behind local minor league baseball for more than 25 years now. He’s had a few titles over the years; today he’s the team’s executive director.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say he’s also the most recognizable person ever to come out of Tonopah, the small mid-desert town best known today as a gas and water checkpoint on the drive to Reno. Most anyone driving through has noticed his old high school.

“I’m a Mucker,” he said, his high school team’s nickname. “It was a special place to grow up.”

It had to have been a crazy week for Logan, forced to endure the demise of a stadium bill he cared about, the one near Mandalay Bay that would have meant a new ballpark and energized ownership for the Las Vegas 51s.

Like the ’44 Wildcats did, and like Schwikert, Hixson and Jackson have done since, Logan also gives back to the community with a gym bag full of support.

As much as any individual statistic, community contributions seemed a common theme for this particular recognition, a reminder that Southern Nevadans are every bit as local as we’re global.

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