John Riggins Biography and Interesting Facts About His Career

Biography

When it came to John Riggins everyone knew what to expect. He played by his own rules. He ran hard, and he ran his own way. He was just as likely to show up to team functions in army fatigues as he would in a tuxedo. However, when it was time to play football, he was a no nonsense running back whose strength and speed were only surpassed by his determination and toughness.

Riggins didn’t tire down as the game wore on. The more times that he got the ball, the stronger he seemed to become. The same applied to his NFL career. When other backs would lose a step as they aged, John Riggins picked up momentum with each passing NFL season. He was 35 years old when he recorded his sixth 1000 yard rushing season. While nobody knew what to expect from Riggins off the football field, teammates and fans could always count on exceptional play when it was time to play football.

While still playing at a high level, Riggins shocked the world when he retired from football after posting back to back 1000 yard seasons. One day he just walked out of the Redskins training camp in 1980 and announced his retirement.

Riggins played by his own rules. He was not happy with his contract and with football in general, so decided to leave on his own rules. After spending the offseason on his Kansas farm, he returned to Washington in 1981 and said “I’m bored, I’m broke, and I’m back” Riggins decided he was ready to play football once again.

After Riggins humbling declaration to return to football, he launched his second career as an NFL player. His one year layoff showed during his first season back, but by the end of 1982 he completely regained his form. Entering the playoffs he approached the Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and told him that if he could be given the ball 20 times a game or more, the Redskins would win.

Coach Gibbs took Riggins advice. The next three games, Riggins averaged 148 yards and 33 carries and led the Washington Redskins to Super Bowl XVII.

In the Super Bowl against the Miami Dolphins, the Redskins relied on Riggins heavily. His biggest play came in the 4th quarter. Losing 17-3 and facing fourth and one, Riggins took the handoff, darted to his left and raced 43 yards to the end zone. Behind John Riggins’ 166 yards on a record 38 carries the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl 27-17.

The following season at the ripened age of 34, John Riggins had his best year as a pro. At the time he retired, he was ranked fourth on the all time rushing list. It was a career that nobody could have predicted. Nobody who didn’t understand the will and determination of John Riggins, that is.

Neil Bonnett Biography

Lawrence Neil Bonnett, later known as Neil Bonnett, later part of the famous “Alabama Gang”, was born on the 30th July 1947 in Hueytown, Alabama. During his eighteen year career he ran in 362 races with eighteen wins, 156 top tens and poles. His first race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was in 1974 in the Winston Cup Series, Nashville 420 at Nashville and gained his first victory in 1977 at the Capital City 400 in Richmond, Virginia whilst driving for the Harry Hyde/Jim Stacy Racing team, taking another victory in the same year at the Los Angeles Times 500. Onlookers expected the following year to be Neil’s year but due to equipment and financial troubles for the team many of the cars that he raced experienced problems and had to pull out. 1979 saw him driving for the Woods Brothers Racing team, taking three victories. He won NASCAR’s longest race, the World 600 in 1982 and 1983 and also the Busch Clash (now the Bud Shootout) in 1983 and 1984. Joining Junior Johnson’s team in 1984 he went on to have one of his best seasons in 1985 when he finished fourth in the points placing.

On 1st April 1990 he suffered a near fatal crash at Darlington, South Carolina during the TranSouth 500. His car hit the water barrels at the pit stop and Neil suffered cracked ribs, a broken sternum and amnesia, forcing him into recovery and retirement from racing for three years. During this time Neil became a television colour commentator (colouranalyst) with TNN, CBS sports and TBS Sports. A sports commentator is the person who assists the main commentator by filling in any time when play is not in progress. In motor racing coverage, the colour analyst provides expert analysis and background information, such as statistics, strategy and injury reports. He was also the host for the show “Winners” for TNN. Neil was a very popular television commentator and host but despite this the lure of the race track was never very far away and he started to test cars for pals Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress in 1992. In 1993 Neil was given the all clear to be able to race again and was promised a car for the 1993 Diehard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway but, unfortunately, his car had a spin-out, took to the air and collided with the spectator fence. He was uninjured and he finished the race in the CBS broadcast booth. He was also driving in the final race of the season at Atlanta but was called off after three laps, supposedly because the engine had blown but as he was teamed with Dale Earnhardt, the point’s leader in this season’s championships; it could have been to secure the three points needed for Dale to win the season’s championship. This was his last championship start. Disappointing but Neil was not discouraged because he had secured a car and sponsorship for at least six races in the 1994 season, including the season opening Daytona 500 but on 11thFebruary, 1994, during the first practice session for the 1994 Dayton 500 his car suffered a right front tyre failure in the track’s fourth turn. His car hit the outside wall nearly head-on. Neil was taken to the Halifax Medical Centre but he was found to have died at the scene of the crash. He is buried in Pleasant Grove’s cemetery, Forest Grove Memorial Gardens. He left a widow, Susan, a son, David (also a NASCAR driver) and a grandson, Justin. Neil has been awarded Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, Inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame in 1997 and Inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2001. A road called “Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive” in his hometown is honoured by him, along with fellow driver Davey Allison, who died in1993.

Neil also raced in the International NASCAR Racing Champions during 1979, 1980 and 1984 finishing second twice. Neil’s career also touched on film and television when he appeared in television movies, Bandit; Bandit Goes Country and Daytona 500 and the big screen cinema in Stoker Ace and Days of Thunder. Neil was considered to be one of the nicest, most popular drivers in NASCAR’s history.

Sukarno, A Political Biography by J D Legge – Nationalism Revisited

I don’t read a lot of history, contemporary or otherwise, and when I do, it is usually in the area of political economy. In recent years, for instance, I have delighted at the scholarship and intellect of Eric Hobsbawm. But what always strikes me about history is how perfect our vision can be from the distance of time. Not so if you are closer, and so I can forgive J. D. Legge my single criticism of his book, Sukarno – A Political Biography, which is its lack of overview. Legge published the book in 1972 and so did not have the luxury of 35 years of clarifying hindsight that we have today.

J. D. Legge’s biography charts the life and career of Sukarno in intricate detail. Particularly strong are the descriptions of the internal machinations and wheeler dealing amongst the Indonesian political elite. Sukarno is presented as one of the major political figures of the twentieth century. If anyone should doubt this, then recall that the terms “Third World” and “Non-Aligned”, terms that structured our thinking about the world for decades and perhaps still do, would probably not have existed if Sukarno had not promoted them. The former arose out of the 1955 Bandung conference, which Sukarno hosted, and the latter out of continued initiatives involving the Indonesian president. Furthermore Sukarno’s significance for the century is also underlined by the fact that the aftermath of the coup that ousted him led to the murder of 250,000 people, while the president himself was allowed to live out his last years and die a natural death. Legge stops short of laying the ultimate responsibility for these deaths at Sukarno’s door, and neither can he be certain about the president’s relation to the coup. True, he lost power as a result, but he did not lose his life. He lost most of his dignity, but remained such an esteemed figure after 50 years in politics that he retained at least a figurehead status up to his death.

A point that Legge underplays, however, is the relationship between the nationalism that formed the basis of Sukarno’s politics and the pragmatism that sought inevitably loose alliances to both define and promote it. One such Sukarno initiative in particular, NASAKOM, may have been responsible ultimately for precipitating the coup and even causing the slaughter.

Sukarno was almost as old as the century, being born in June 1901 in East Java. Legge makes an interesting point about his parents, who met in Singharaja, Bali, while his father was a teacher there. The father was Javanese, a member of the aristocratic priyayi class, but his mother was Balinese and not even a Muslim. I have visited Bali and Singharaja and East Java and can fully appreciate the fundamental differences, both cultural and religious, between these places. And yet, from this mixed parentage there was born a figure who consistently espoused nationalism as a defining ideology. But from the start, and perhaps because of his background, it was a syncretic nationalism that tried to create unity by bridging difference.

Initially, of course, this nationalism was defined via opposition to Dutch colonial rule. It was a nationalism that brought the young Sukarno into conflict with the authorities, led to periods of imprisonment and exile. Nothing strange here. The twentieth century is full of such figures who struggled against externally-imposed colonial rule. In the Second World War, Sukarno, like Laurel in the Philippines, collaborated with the Japanese. But whereas to the north Laurel was eventually disgraced by the association, Sukarno found himself in 1945 the president of an independent Indonesia. And here, perhaps is where the nationalist ideology became, out of necessity, essentially pragmatic.

As an ideology, nationalism claims it expresses a single identity or culture, often defined by language or religion. And this despite the fact that there are almost no nations that actually display the homogeneity that the ideology assumes. It thus has the capacity to become an exclusive force in direct contradiction to its stated aim. Thus nationalism inevitably is an ideology that is easiest to define and promulgate by opposing what it is not, rather than defining precisely what it is. We only have to think of the agendas of the so-called nationalist parties and movements in contemporary Europe, and how they crystallize around opposition. In Britain, we have the United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP, which is nationalist because it opposes the European Union. And we have the National Front, nationalist because it opposes immigration. The list could be a long one. So nationalism often must be defined in relation to what we are not, rather than via what we are.

If you live in a country subjected to colonial rule, it is surely easy to define nationalism around concepts of independence and self-government. One these things have been achieved, however, the focus that defined the nationalism is removed. If it is to continue as an ideology for an independent nation, it must change, one option is for it to be elevated to state-worship, almost to the status of a national religion. The North Korea of Kim Il Sung was this route in extremis. But in a country as vast as Indonesia, the social conformity this route requires could never have been achieved.

So Sukarno took the other route that can sustain nationalism as a state ideology, which was expansionism, coupled with attempts to create coalitions across political ideology and religion. The expansionist tendency led to the incorporation of West Irian into Indonesia. It also led to Sukarno’s opposition to the establishment of a Malaysian Federation and thus to several years of war in Borneo. It might be argued the same need for expansion to bolster nationalism led, under Suharto, to the invasion of East Timor. The point here is that the external positions are adopted in order to define internal political identity.

As well as promoting an external focus, alliances and coalitions must be erected internally to create at least a semblance of unity. Sukarno’s NASAKOM was such an attempt, an initiative to unite Nasionalisme, Agama and Komunisme, Nationalism, Religion and Communism. And so the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, was part of an equation whose result was always going to be a problem, given the ubiquity of the cold War and the proximity of China. When we consider the difficulty of creating unity out of such an admixture, we then appreciate the need for nationalism to retain its external focus. No nationalist agenda can cut across ideological differences that are global. In Sukarno’s case, effectively the Cold War won. The internal tensions had to be resolved and, in Indonesia’s case, it led to military action, the slaughter of 250,000 communist sympathisers and anyone else who got in the way, and the emergence of an initially pro-Western government under Suharto.

But despite this unsatisfactory end for Sukarno’s nationalism, J. D. Legge reminds us of his achievements. Modern Indonesia came into being under Sukarno’s leadership and vision. The politics of the region and of the century were influenced by him. And he was leader of one of the world’s most populous countries for over two decades. Certainly he was a great figure, but, because of his use of syncretic nationalism, he was not a contributor to political thought and so, perhaps, his influence died with him. J. D. Legge’s Sukarno – A Political Biography is a superb, scholarly and measured account of this life and career.