Author Regrets Ignoring Racism Toward Ewing

Gary Pomerantz and Bob Cousy came of age in different eras; decades later, they share similar regrets

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
January 17, 2019 - 10:10 am

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Author Gary Pomerantz dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss his new book, "The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End,” which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the greatest dynasty in American professional sports history.

It’s a story about success, but also about regret – regret felt by Bob Cousy, in particular. The Celtics’ run of 11 titles in 13 seasons occurred against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Era, and Bill Russell encountered his fair share of racism during that time.

Pomerantz has seen racism directed toward athletes in his career. In 1983, for example, Pomerantz – then a 22-year-old sportswriter for The Washington Post – recalls Villanova fans being racist toward Patrick Ewing, then a star at Georgetown.

“He was the object of taunts that season,” Pomerantz said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Fans in opposing arenas would hold up signs that said, ‘Ewing Can’t Read.’”

Pomerantz recalls covering the Georgetown/Villanova game at The Palestra. During pregame introductions, Villanova fans unfurled a banner.

“(It) said, ‘Ewing Is An Ape,’” Pomerantz said. “And as Patrick was announced and started to run onto the court for pregame introductions, a banana peel landed at his feet. . . . As a young sportswriter, I was there to cover the game, and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t write about the banner or the banana peel. I wrote about this game.”

Pomerantz regrets that.

“I can’t believe that I missed the story,” he said. “I can’t tell you a darn thing about the game that night, but I remember the words on the banner, and I remember the banana peel landing on the floor. That night, I missed the story. That’s a regret for me.”

Cousy has similar regrets, only his regrets are from incidents decades earlier.

“When Cousy is talking about his regret about not having spoken out against racism – he was Bob Cousy, people would have listened,” Pomerantz said. “He wishes he would have done that. Cousy also wishes that as captain of the Celtics, which he was for 13 seasons, that he pulled Russell aside and said, ‘Russ, I’ve got your back.’ But he didn’t do that. And that’s the source of his regret.”