CRAWFORD BLOG: (Video) Burleson's retelling of hostage tragedy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD BLOG: (Video) Burleson's retelling of Munich hostage tragedy was emotional, painful and important

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Last week, when the 1972 Olympic team reunited in Lexington, Ky., there was plenty of talk about: the tragic events of those Munich Olympics, the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed by terrorists, and the effect it had on everyone there.

We've all heard the news accounts. We've seen replays of Jim McKay's haunting reports, his words that, "They're all gone."

Steven Speilberg memorialized the events in his film, "Munich."

But I don't think I had a true feeling of the impact of those events until I saw Tom Burleson talk about them last Saturday.

It was a routine question from Billy Reed that prompted Burleson's emotional and graphic response, available in the video above.

The purpose here isn't to take advantage of a man in the midst of a painful emotional moment. There's been some discussion here over how and whether to present this video.

But in the end, for the minutes in which he was speaking, Burleson was transported from that room with his 1972 teammates to a position with his hands spread against a concrete wall in Munich, the nine Israeli hostages being marched behind him to their deaths.

Burleson, all 7 feet, 2 inches of him, is normally a stoic person. He's active in Christian causes and with the V Foundation. We're generally not comfortable with such shows of emotions in this culture. But Burleson's were real and appropriate. It's a difficult thing to watch. It should be. But the emotions he showed were ones any good man would feel.

It's interesting, on a weekend designed to honor that team that had gold snatched away, not a single player failed to mention the bigger tragedy of the games, or to put his life into a larger context than those events. That, in the end, is how you win.

"I went there as a young 23-year-old kid who was concerned about the proper brand of clothing and whether I was wearing it or not," Davis said. "Then all of a sudden we see them take those Israeli kids out in those caskets. And I think all of us immediately went from whatever age we were as a youth to a pretty mature person. They were our age, ate the same food, lived in the same village, dreamed the same dreams. And they took them out in caskets. We all came back home and started families and had good careers and life has been good for us. We're still alive. It's been said what happened to us was unfortunate but what happened to them was a tragedy. And I believe that with all my heart."

Read my full account of the 1972 Olympic basketball reunion here.

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