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Louis ‘Red’ Klotz, Who Won Respect As Loser To Globetrotters, Dies At 93

By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times

In the early part of his basketball life, Louis “Red” Klotz did plenty of winning.

A high school all-star in the 1930s, his team twice won the Philadelphia city title and he went on to play guard for the NBA champion Baltimore Bullets.

But victory took a near-permanent detour for Klotz when he began coaching and playing for the Washington Generals, a squad best known as permanent comic fodder for the Harlem Globetrotters.

“Jackie Gleason has Art Carney,” Klotz was fond of saying. “Abbott has Costello, and the Globetrotters got us.”

Did they ever. Over a five-decade span, Klotz’s teams forged a record against the Globetrotters of four wins against roughly 15,000 losses, according to his biographer, who notes there may be a few hundred more defeats but nobody really knows since official records have not been kept.

It was 1971, at a college gym in Martin, Tenn., when the most memorable victory came. Klotz, 50 at the time, sealed the win in the last seconds with a signature set-shot. Then he and his players ran off the court, away from the stunned Globetrotters and disbelieving crowd, and celebrated by spraying themselves with orange soda pop. Klotz would never beat the Globetrotters again.

“I didn’t get famous apparently until I became the biggest loser that ever lived,” he said in a recent television interview. He smiled. “The losingest coach in the world.”

Klotz, 93, died on July 12 at his seaside home in Margate City, N.J. The cause was cancer, said his daughter, Ronee Groff. “My dad’s feeling about losing was that everybody sometime in their life loses, so it is all intertwined,” said Groff. “He accepted the losing as part of something more.”

Still, despite the unending barrage of futility, Klotz drilled his teams to play hard and become well-honed practitioners of basketball fundamentals.

“We were never told to lose,” said John Ferrari, one of his sons-in-law, who now serves as general manager for the team, currently known as the All-Stars. “We were not owned by the ‘Trotters, never told who to have on our team. It’s always about entertainment and fun, but Red was a keen proponent of quality basketball. Every night, if the guys were not playing well, there he was, yelling, drawing up plays, doing what a coach could to have his team win.”

Redheaded and diminutive by basketball standards at 5 foot 7, Klotz loved every part of competition. During games, the Globetrotters would be serious for a while and then launch into their comedy act — pulling down opponents’ shorts, bouncing balls off heads or hiding them under shirts, dancing, prancing, twirling, dunking. His teams, made up primarily of former college players, would have to take it.

“They basically were spotting the Globetrotters 15 to 20 points each game,” said biographer Tim Kelly, author of “The Legend of Red Klotz.” “That puts his teams under extreme pressure. They had to value each possession because the games needed to be close for the fans.”

Louis Herman Klotz was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 21, 1920. After leading his South Philadelphia High team to a pair of city championships in 1939 and ’40, he played briefly for Villanova University before joining the Army during World War II.

When the war ended, Klotz played for the highly regarded Philadelphia Sphas (an acronym for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association), which beat the Globetrotters in a pair of exhibitions.
Impressed, and looking for a regular foil, Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein asked Klotz in 1952 to put together a squad that would barnstorm with his team. So began the Washington Generals, which Klotz named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

For marketing reasons, the Generals ended up with a variety of other names through the years — the Boston Shamrocks and New Jersey Reds, for example. No matter the moniker, they went head-to-head with the Globetrotters roughly 400 games a year. Crisscrossing the globe, the two teams entertained popes, premiers and prisoners, competing on a frozen lake, an aircraft carrier, inside a Spanish bullring, atop a court laid down over wine barrels in the Amazon, all well before the age of the NBA as a global brand.

“The NBA loves to brag about how international they are now,” Kelly said. “But the foot soldiers were the Globetrotters. And Red would tell you, ‘The Globetrotters, hey, they had to play somebody. Somebody had to help make it a show.'”

Klotz played until he was 63 and coached until his early 70s. The Globetrotters retired his No. 3 jersey in 2011, making him the sixth person in Globetrotter history to receive such a distinction, joining a group that includes Meadowlark Lemon and Wilt Chamberlain.

He continued to consult with Ferrari about the team even after turning 90. He also often drove to an outdoor court near his waterfront home, eagerly joining in on pickup games with players who hadn’t been born when the Generals began.

“The other regulars on that court, they loved him,” Kelly said. “They felt like he was basketball royalty and they showed their respect by trying to stop him. Of course, he showed his respect by trying to win, always trying to win.”

Klotz is survived by his wife, Gloria; sons Chuck, Glenn and Kenneth; daughters Ronee Groff, Kiki Smiley and Jody Ferrari; 12 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Photo: acidpix via Flickr

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Percentage Of Catholic Latinos In U.S. Down 12 Percent, Pew Study Finds

By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Buffeted by a rise in converts to other forms of Christianity as well as a falling away from religion entirely, the share of Latino Catholics in the United States continues to decline, a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found.

The study reconfirmed that the vast majority of Latinos in the U.S. remain Catholic, but it also showed how that stronghold has weakened. Fifty-five percent of the nation’s Latino adults self-identify as Catholic, a drop of 12 percentage points over a three-year period that ended in the summer of 2013, according to Pew.

The decline has been sparked in part by shifts underway in Latin America — where Protestant, evangelical forms of Christianity have made significant inroads over the last several decades. In the U.S., increasing numbers of immigrants either converted to an evangelical church before coming here or made the switch once they arrived.

Also contributing to the shrinking share of Latino Catholics is a broader societal trend: People in the U.S. increasingly are referring to themselves as “unaffiliated,” a broad category that includes those who identify as atheists or agnostics or who simply do not believe in a particular form of religion. The number of unaffiliated Latinos has increased from 10 percent to 18 percent since a similar study in 2010, according to Pew.

Father Allan Figueroa Deck, a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, said the study highlights the fact that the Catholic Church faces stiff competition in an expanding marketplace of faith.

“Latino Catholics now live in a world of religious pluralism that is relatively new,” he said. “The Latino church in Latin America was one of monopoly for several centuries. Increased options reflect the reality of today.”

Deck added that the study magnifies an urgent need for the Catholic Church to advance reforms pushed by Pope Francis, who is prodding it to become less hierarchical and more concerned with meeting people’s daily needs.

Former Catholic Latinos often say they left the church because it felt stifling and failed to speak to modern concerns.

Based on a survey of 5,103 Latino adults living in the United States, the study showed that the most dramatic identity shifts are occurring in younger generations.

Among Latinos between 18 and 29 years old, the ranks of the unaffiliated have swelled from 14 percent to 31 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage in that age group who identified as Catholic declined from 60 percent to 45 percent. By contrast, among Latinos who are 50 and older, the survey didn’t find a statistically significant change in Catholic affiliation.

Although American Latinos are leaving the Catholic Church in large numbers, they are still a significant share of all Catholics in the U.S., making up one-third of the church.

Both trends are occurring simultaneously because of the steady increase within the U.S. of the Latino population. Pew researchers speculate that a day could come when a majority of U.S. Catholics are Latino, even though most Latinos will not be Catholic.

“The shifts we see in the study show huge implications for American religious life,” said Edwin Hernandez, a research fellow at the University of Notre Dame who focuses on Latinos and religion.

Of particular interest to Hernandez were the survey findings that showed an increasing prominence of conservative Latino evangelicals, a group he said has been “operating under the radar” but could end up having a significant impact on American politics and culture.

AFP Photo/Joe Klamar

Muslim Group Urges New Way Of Dealing With Radicals

By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Seeking a way to prevent violence like last year’s deadly Boston Marathon bombing, an Islamic advocacy group Monday announced a plan aimed at helping U.S. mosques identify and re-educate radicals.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council — which long has pushed for a moderate, American-based Islam — hopes its “Safe Spaces Initiative” will get mosques to stop a pattern of dealing with extremists by simply shunning them and kicking them out.

The plan was unveiled a day before Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of the marathon bombing, allegedly orchestrated by ethnically Chechen Muslim brothers who lived in the Boston area. One of them, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had turned toward extremism and was banished from a Boston-area mosque after challenging its moderate teachings.

“The message there was that ejection is not the answer,” said Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Los Angeles-based council.

But, Al-Marayati noted, it is not an uncommon reaction: Many American mosques traditionally have dealt with radicals by kicking them out or finding ways to isolate or distance them from the larger group.

“Ejection from the community does not solve the problem. It just makes the problem worse,” Al-Marayati said.

The initiative, which the Muslim council will begin promoting nationwide, calls for mosques to continuously present mainstream visions of the faith. If a believer turns toward radical — potentially violent — views, mosques should intervene by offering mental health and religious counseling and, when warranted, seeking help from the police.

If counseling doesn’t work, the plan states, radicals should be kicked out while the mosque alerts law enforcement about a potential troublemaker.

It is unclear how many mosques will follow the initiative’s set of voluntary recommendations. Al-Marayati said an additional hurdle will be getting mosques to budget for its implementation. “But we believe this is a healthy investment to building healthy communities,” he said.

Photo: Aamir Qureshi via AFP

Pope Francis’ Popularity Not Bringing More Into Catholic Church, Poll Shows

By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times

Pope Francis is one of the best-known religious figures in the world, but a new Pew Research poll seeking to quantify his popularity raises questions about the so-called Francis effect.

The poll found an overwhelming embrace of Francis, who has been trying to steer the Catholic church toward a greater emphasis on compassion for the poor and marginalized. Sixty percent of non-Catholics and 85 percent of Catholics surveyed said they viewed the pontiff favorably — numbers approaching those of Pope John Paul II, whose peak popularity ratings among Catholics hovered just above 90 percent.

However, the poll found no change in the number of people who self-identify as Catholic or in the number sitting in church pews on Sundays. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed described themselves as Catholic, the same figure as in the year preceding Francis’ election. Forty percent said they attended Mass at least once a week, unchanged from just before the papal transition.

While the survey found a significant increase in the excitement Catholics are feeling about their faith, there wasn’t evidence they are volunteering or attending confession more.

“This study underscores that the pope is not the Catholic church,” said Father Thomas Reese, a Vatican expert and senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter.

“Tip O’Neil said: ‘All politics is local.’ It’s also true here that all Catholicism is local,” Reese said. “If people get excited to go back to church and they don’t find Francis’ message, if all they hear from local priests is about following rules, they are going to turn around and walk out the door. The pope can have tremendous influence, but the bishops and the priests have to get with the program.”

Reese noted that Francis’ popularity should be put into context, since Catholics tend to broadly support their popes even if they don’t always agree with them on finer theological points. The church’s flat attendance since Francis’ ordination can be considered a positive for Catholics, Reese said, since church attendance has been declining since the 1950s.

The poll released Thursday surveyed 1,821 adults nationwide. It included several hot-button issues for Catholics and found that roughly three-quarters supported birth control, allowing priests to marry and allowing women to become priests. Half of those surveyed said the church should sanction same-sex marriage.

AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro