Interview with John Simko

Just today, I got the pleasure of interviewing John Simko, a close family friend. Through my discussions with my parents, I knew Mr. Simko was an amazing athlete, but as I prepared for the interview I was reminded of how amazing he really was. He attended Sioux Falls Washington from 1953-1957, when it was consistently one of the largest high schools in the US at over 2,000 students. At Washington he was a four sport letterman. He won tennis titles in both singles and doubles all four years of high school, played on a state championship basketball team and an undefeated state championship football team, and was also a state-champion hurdler. From there, he went to Augustana where he was a four-sport athlete again. After college, Simko was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers; he continued to compete at tennis for years as well, winning many tournaments in SD, ND, NE, IA, and MN in singles and doubles. Today, he continues to play tennis and golf and be an all-around great person to be around.

Mr. Simko, you played so many different sports. Which would you say was your favorite and why?

Well, it was the one that was in season. Everybody played everything back then. You didn’t see the specialization like today, where we’re choosing kids’ “one sport” so early.

Describe to me the day in your Senior year that you won two state titles.

I don’t remember much about it except for that I was dead tired. I ran the high and low hurdles (with each race having 1-2 prelims before the final) in the morning, then drove to the tennis courts and competed in singles and doubles that afternoon. It was a good tired though. The other thing I remember about that day is that they scheduled my tennis matches around my track events so I could compete in both.

Who were your favorite coaches?

Well, if I had to say most influential I’d probably have to say Bob Burns. He coached me sophomore and junior year at WHS and another four years at Augustana, and he took me with him to work as a graduate assistant at the University of South Dakota. Other favorites of mine were Wally Diehl, who made it possible for me to compete in both tennis and track on that day my senior year, and Bill Autio, my coach from 6th/7th grade.

What do you feel you got out of sports besides the tangible achievements?

To answer that I’d have to tell you a little about Steve Wilkinson, a guy who I competed against in high school and College. He went to the University of Iowa for tennis and majored in Eastern Religions and Philosophy. He wrote a book called Love Serving Tennis in which he gives three crowns of athletics. They are:

  1. Always respect your opponent
  2. Always play with good sportsmanship
  3. Always give your best effort

So I would say those three crowns are what I’ve learned from sports. Steve really put it into words well.

How was your experience with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

*laughs* It was like the Army. Everyone should do it once. Sometimes sports are fun, and sometimes they are a challenge, and playing with the Steelers was often a challenge. I had a teammate named Big Daddy Lipscomb. He was a big, slow, 6’8″ DT, and he only ever moved fast when he had to tackle somebody. We had a meeting to start the week each Sunday night at 6 PM. Big Daddy Lipscomb would always pull up, singing, at about 6:05, then walk right past the coaches, through all the players, and plop down in a desk in the back making all kinds of noise while he did. This whole time, the coaches would have their hands over their faces. And once Big Daddy sat down, they would take their hands off their faces and continue the meeting like nothing happened. Another time, we were playing Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. The whistle blew for halftime, and we all saw Big Daddy Lipscomb running as fast as he had ever ran for the locker room. We all got there a couple minutes later and the whole locker room stunk. He had ran back to have a cigarette before halftime ended!

Well, thank you very much John. This has been great.

Thank you.

Summer Movie Review

Logan – 7.5/10

At the time that I saw it, Logan was the best superhero movie I had seen since Guardians of the Galaxy. It was refreshing as a fan of X-Men to see Hugh Jackman back in the role of Wolverine, and he put forth possibly his best performance in the final movie. Wolverine is an old man, struggling with a sickness and trying to manage a mentally deteriorating Charles Xavier. In the middle of this chaos, a young girl shows up. She possesses claws that eerily resemble Logan’s, and she brings heavy military scrutiny with her. After being around this girl for a while, it becomes clear to Logan that she isn’t alone. His mission becomes to get her to North Dakota and reunite her with the other children like her. All in all, the storyline was plausible and the fight scenes were sweet. The violence got to be a little bit gratuitous by the end of the movie, which is why I didn’t rate it higher. Even so, it was a pretty good superhero movie.

War for the Planet of the Apes – 7.7/10

Caesar, his ascension as King of the Apes, and the fallout between humans all came to a glorious end in this final chapter. Everyone who saw the second movie knew that this finale to the trilogy was inevitable (especially in the modern day, when even the Pitch Perfect and How to Train Your Dragon franchises are trilogies). All in all, the movie was pretty good. Even though I would rate it as my third favorite of the three movies, Planet of the Apes movies in general always hold a nostalgia for me. The plot was complex, and the ending provided closure, but the movie failed to strike the deep chord with me that the first two did. The brutality and cruelty of humans was a main issue confronted by the movie; Woody Harrelson played his role as a brutal, bloodthirsty Captain well. His own human struggles and complexity adds depth and layers to the plot. All in all, I would definitely recommend this movie; it is a solid, interesting conclusion to the trilogy.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – 8.0/10

Starlord, Gamora, Rocket and company return for the sequel to my favorite superhero movie in recent memory. The plot revolves around Starlord’s father, Ego, who is an immortal with his own planet. The storyline takes the inevitable turn when the Guardians discover that Ego’s intentions are less than pure. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The soundtrack was superb once again, with my personal favorites being The Chain by Fleetwood Mac and Bring it on Home to Me by Sam Cooke. Like the first film, comedy was sprinkled throughout, offering a good amount of comic relief while still allowing the story to build suspense. I will add a caveat to my glowing review; a friend whose opinion I respect on movies said she thought the movie dragged on a little bit. While this isn’t an opinion I share, I can see how one could reach it after seeing the movie. Overall, it was a great movie. However, it wasn’t the best superhero movie I’ve seen this summer. That would be…

Spider-Man: Homecoming – 8.5/10

This movie was Fantastic with a capital F. I am a huge Spider-Man fan, having grown up in the golden age of Tobey Maguire and James Franco with four giant phone books full of Spider-Man comics. I regard each Spider-Man reboot movie with skepticism, especially after two lukewarm Andrew Garfield movies. But let me tell you something: this movie knocked my socks off. First, Tom Holland played Spider-Man as good, if not even slightly better, than Tobey Maguire. His boyish features allowed Spider-Man to be imbued with a lovable innocence, and he nailed his performance. Michael Keaton played the part of a super-villain impeccably. His character was relatable, possessing the kind of righteous anger towards America’s top 1% that many feel in daily life. He gave Spider-Man fans a rendition of The Vulture that lived up to the comic book standard, and his evil sidekick Shocker was just a cherry on top of the sundae. Laura Harrier played the beautiful Liz, damsel in distress and secret crush of Tony Parker. Zendaya offered comic relief as the socially aware teen and so much more, and Tony Revolori played a hilarious version of a High School bully. All in all, this movie was amazing. The length of this review should tell you how much I enjoyed this movie; I recommend it very highly.

Baby Driver – 9.0/10

Baby Driver was both the best and most original movie I have seen yet this summer. The plot centers around a career getaway driver, Baby (played Ansel Elgort), who constantly listens to music. He does this to drown out a persistent ringing in his ears that comes from Tinnitus, a medical condition. The rest of the cast is filled out by big names such as Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and Jon Hamm, who all put forth amazing performances. Kevin Spacey’s character is the organizer of this robbery ring, and many jobs are carried out over the course of the movie, with Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm rotating in on different crews. As the jobs get more and more intense, so does Baby’s growing love for Deborah, played by Lily James. Numerous plot points that add depth to Baby’s character are revealed as the movie goes on. He is an orphan, and also the primary caregiver to his deaf, wheelchair-bound legal guardian, and he is very averse to death. The entire movie culminates in a insane climax about seven minutes from the credits, and the falling action after provides a satisfying, complete thought. This movie is hands down my favorite movie this summer. It had suspense, a compelling romance, pathos, originality, a cast full of stars, and a great plot. The only thing keeping it from a higher rating was the gratuitous violence. Like Logan, I was put off by the amount of blood and gore. Even with that, it was a great movie.

Dunkirk – 9.0/10

Baby Driver was my favorite movie of the summer, and then I saw Dunkirk. In a  terrifying two hour film, he tells the story of two soldiers during the evacuation at Dunkirk, France. I have never seen a movie in which I truly felt the terrifying, disjointed manner of war that writers like Tim O’Brien communicate in their writing. The movie was exceptionally tense, as the main character endures countless setbacks in his attempts to escape. Christopher Nolan delivered many emotional blows throughout the film, giving the audience an idea of the atrocity of war. During the course of the film, tragedy occurred over and over again; the characters who survived were the ones who persevered through the terror to prevail. The score by Hans Zimmer provided the tense, fearful atmosphere that was necessary for the setting. After seeing this movie and looking up his filmography, Christopher Nolan may be my self-proclaimed favorite Director. This film is definitely more artistic and deep than Baby Driver, and I liked them for different reasons. With Dunkirk, we were blessed with an Oscar-worthy film in July.