Eating Well: The Superstars of Sports - #113

ANNOUNCER: Sports. They got started so early societies could keep in shape for hunting and gathering food. And even today, there is a close association between eating and athletics. In the next half-hour, we'll spend some time with Mickey Mantle and do some cooking in his restaurant. We'll find out how Sugar Ray Leonard keeps in shape, what Joe Theismann does to keep his weight down now that he's no longer playing professional football and we'll get the recipe for power-packed pasta that's perfect for pre-performance meals. Join me, Burt Wolf, Eating Well with The Superstars Of Sports.


(CONTINUES) Anthropologists studying our earliest societies suggest that men in primitive tribes didn't really have a lot of major responsibilities. They had to develop a perimeter in which women could have the next generation and raise them safely and they had to do the big hunting. Important tasks were really not very time-consuming. If no other tribe was challenging your territory and the local animals were generally available, there wasn't much to do.


(CONTINUES) Now in those days, men's bodies were built for real activity. I guess you could take a look at mine and see how much things have changed. Anyway, imagine all these guys standing around, built like Schwarzeneger with absolutely nothing to do. Unacceptable! And so they began to develop a series of activities in which they could practice their defensive and hunting skills. They formed groups that would compete with each other. They wanted things to be realistic. They also wanted to know who was the biggest and the strongest and the most intelligent and the most effective. And it was out of these groups of people practicing their defensive and hunting skills, that our first sports teams evolved.



(CONTINUES) Let's take a look at this. Is it possible that the N in NBA, NHL, NFL, NCAA also stands for nutrients, once hunted for? Is there still a close association between the challenge of sports and the serving of chow? Well, I guess the place the to start searching would be our traditional pastime -- baseball. It's our national sport.

(CONTINUES) But like much of our culture, its origins go back to England. Baseball's heritage can be found in an old British game called “rounders.” The U.S. version got its start in the early 1830's. The first official club was probably the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York City. At the time, it was a sport for gentlemen and the club had an upper-class social atmosphere. But baseball was too much fun to be the secret of socialites. Us working guys got into the act in 1856 with the formation of a team in Brooklyn. Baseball's popularity quickly spread across the country and by the early 1860's we see the first professional teams where the players got paid and the park charged an admission fee. Almost from the very beginning, there was an association between baseball and food.

(CONTINUES) Pitchers practiced on apples. Walter Johnson, who pitched for the Washington Senators for twenty-one years, taught fellow players how to make a perfect cup of tea as a seventh-inning pick-me-up. 

One of the great stars was Cookie Lavagetto and everybody took a bite out of a hot dog. The term 'hot dog' was first used in 1901 at the Polo Grounds, which was the original stadium for the Giants' baseball team. It was an early day in April, quite cold and the food vendors were not doing particularly well with their ice cream. So they came up with the idea of selling a hot German sausage called an 'dachshund sausage.' It was called a dachshund because the shape of the sausage reminded people of the shape of the dachshund dog. There was a sports cartoonist at the game who thought it was a really great idea. And he put a drawing of a barking sausage in the next day's newspaper. He wasn't quite sure how to spell 'dachshund,' so he labelled the drawing, 'hot dog.' What makes these so great at sporting events is that they're easy to eat. It's the combination of the sausage and the roll that makes the play. And that team got put together at a World's Fair in St. Louis. A man named Anton Feuchtwanger was selling sausages, but they were so hot that people couldn't hold them. So sales were slow. His brother-in-law was a baker who saw what the problem was and helped him out by producing a roll that would hold the meat. Talk about a great assist! It's been said that the hot dog is the noblest and loyalist dog of all. It feeds the and that bites it. The nutritional record of the hot dog, however, might be a little confusing. A few years ago, many people became concerned about the use of nitrates as a food preservative in some hot dogs and other processed meats. It is true that nitrates can lead to the formation of cancer-causing compounds within the stomach. And it also appears that in countries like China, where they eat three times the amount of nitrate-filled foods that we do in the U.S., they have a much higher rate of stomach cancer. But like so many things in life, what we're really talking about quantity. The federal government places strict limits on the amount of nitrates that can be added to meat as a preservative. They also insist that the companies include vitamin C in the process, which helps prevents the formation of dangerous compounds. Final score? At this point in time, there is no evidence that hot dogs eaten in moderation are dangerous. And that's good news, because if you take me out to the ballpark, a hot dog is definitely part of the game.

(CONTINUES) Mickey Mantle, the quintessential baseball player, a farm boy from Oklahoma, who was an extraordinary natural athlete. 


(CONTINUES) He was signed to the New York Yankees in 1951 and remained there for his entire seventeen-year career. The shining superstar of the greatest winning team in baseball history. He had explosive power in his bat from both sides of the plate, a rifle throwing arm and lightning speed that served him in the outfield as well as between the bases. Mantle left behind a collection of achievements which will never be matched for overall consistency and excellence. He hit 536 home runs; many of them were among the longest in baseball history. Three times he was voted the Most Valuable Player in the American league. And he set five World Series records. These days he's continuing his winning streak with Mickey Mantle's Restaurant in New York City. The walls are covered with one of the extensive private collections of sports memorabilia, including the uniforms worn by Babe Ruth and Joe Dimaggio. 

MICKEY MANTLE: Of course, my favorite is one on the outside there, the Yankees retired my number and they gave me the plaque to put on the outside of the wall here. Instead of being on centerfield fence in Yankee Stadium, it's on the outside of my wall here at the Yankee -- I mean at the Mickey Mantle Restaurant and I'm, I'm very pleased with that.

BURT WOLF: It's a place where Mickey can sign autographs, talk sports and hang out with old fans like me. What's your favorite meal, some-thing you like to eat to celebrate?

MICKEY MANTLE: To celebrate?

BURT WOLF: Yeah, when you've won something big and it's, 'let's go out. What are we going to have?'

MICKEY MANTLE: Um...I'm...No, not really, I don't have, I'm, I'm still country as I can be, I guess. I like...fried chicken and chicken fried steaks...nachos. I like Tex-Mex food. I found out that I, I have to kind of watch my weight now. So I kind of stay away from mashed potatoes and gravy and stuff like that. But it''s still what I like; I just don't eat as much of it as I used to.

BURT WOLF: But the natural talented Mickey's is not just limited to the front of the house. Executive chef, Michael Salmon, is warming up with his grilled salmon and two-bean salsa. Michael takes the stretch...


BURT WOLF: (CONTINUES) checks the other cooks in the kitchen...the arm comes around...and two boneless, skinless Norwegian salmon fillets hit the grill. A little white pepper comes in from the center... the precooked white beans are off and running... into the mixing bowl and here comes the precooked black beans! Chopped red onions tag up and head on in. And the chopped tomato. Cilantro comes in and there's the juice of half a lime and there's a mix up in the bowl! But it looks like everything’s okay. The salmon flips over. The red bean salsa heads for the plate. The chef signals for a sacrifice. The salmon slides and it's safe.


(CONTINUES) The juice of half a lime comes out of the dugout and the crowd goes wild! It's a grand slam. The salmon gets credit for Omega-3 oil, which is good for your heart. The beans score with lots of fiber and it's a triple crown winner on taste. Just the kind of performance you'd expect from Mantle's team. 

(CONTINUES) The history of sports that involve a small ball or a disc have a rather clear pattern . First we threw them, then we kicked them, then we hit them with a stick. When you remember that sports were originally developed to keep guys in shape between hunting and fighting, it all makes pretty good sense. 

The concept of taking a small disc and hitting it with a stick is really ancient. There's an Egyptian tomb that was constructed during the year 2050 B.C. and right on the wall, there's a picture of two guys and you can only describe their activity as a hockey face-off. The ancient Egyptians played hockey. The ancient Romans played hockey and almost every country in Europe has at least a 1,000-year old history of something that you could describe as field hockey. But the idea of taking it off the field and putting it onto the ice belongs to the Canadians.

Mike Gartner was born in Ottawa, Ontario. But these days he's the right-wing for the New York Rangers. Often described as the fastest man on the ice, his career record sets him apart as one of the great players of today. He's extremely serious about staying in shape and has an excellent approach to his nutritional goals. 

MIKE GARTNER: During the course of the season, I think that basically our training meals consist of a lot of carbohydrates because that is a fuel of the body and I think we want something that will digest quickly and will go to the necessary muscle groups and everything else and be able through our systems quickly. So I think there's been quite an evolution meal, training meals, even over the past ten years. I remember not too long ago that... a big steak was the, was the staple of, of a game-day meal and, and I think it was found out that that steak really didn't help you until maybe a couple of days after the competition was already over. So there has been a change over and I think carbohydrates are, are a big staple right now. 

BURT WOLF: You have a really good sense of nutrition. Where did you get your information?

MIKE GARTNER: Well, I think that we've been taught that over the years. Um, ten years ago, no one cared too much about nutrition, but I think now there's a lot more input from nutritionists. Teams have nutritionists come to them at the beginning of the season, go over some of the different food groups and, and your percentages that an athlete should have in those food groups and a lot of the guys are very aware of, of what are the necessary food groups to have as an athlete.

BURT WOLF: Let's glide down the ice to the restaurant, Il Nido, in New York and cook up recipe for pasta that will rush to Mike's gastronomic goals. A little vegetable oil is heated in a saute pan. A chopped onion goes in and cooks for about three minutes. You want the onion to soften up and just start to brown at the edges. And in goes three cups of canned Italian tomatoes that are crushed by the pressure of your hand as you put them into the pan. And then the juices of the tomatoes; let that simmer together for about twenty minutes and add in a few leaves of basil that have been chopped, heat for a few minutes more and pour in one pound of penne pasta that has been cooked in advance. Penne means 'the pen' and the pasta actually looks like the tip of a pen. When you go to buy penne, get the kind with ribs on the outside. Those little ribs trap the pasta sauce. Toss that around until the pasta is completely covered with the sauce and into a serving bowl, a garnish of fresh basil leaves, a topping of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and you're ready to face off. 


(CONTINUES) Ice hockey has a long history of being filled with moments of controversy, even when it comes to nutrition. Here's a group of players disputing the early research on the amount of fiber that should be part of the average diet. The ref calls it at twenty to twenty-five grams per day and here's how to score it easily. An ounce of wheat bran, 11 grams; half-cup of beans, 8 grams; an ounce of 100% bran cereal, 9 grams. Easy shot. 


(CONTINUES) And there's the Rangers leading an attack on the amount of fat in the American diet. No more than 25% of your calories from fat is good advice. And there they are coming out from behind the cage on the subject of carbohydrates. The officials have ruled that half your daily calories should come from fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals. And everybody on both teams agrees that there's a penalty box for being more than 10% above the proper rate for your height and age. Finally, the best advice from center ice, a regular exercise program. No problem for these guys, but your minimum program is one that's equal to walking three miles in forty-five minutes, and you should do that four times each week. Exercise is a great save.

In 1970, after earning All-American honors and leading Notre Dame to a victory in their second consecutive Cotton Bowl, Joe Theismann was runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting.


(CONTINUES) That same year, he was named Academic All-American for combining his football success with an outstanding performance in the classroom.


(CONTINUES) In 1974, he began his twelve-year NFL career with the Washington Redskins. He played in 163 consecutive games, leading them to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, including a victory in Super Bowl XVII. These days Joe owns and runs a group of restaurants near Washington, D.C.

JOE: I don't really believe back in the, the early '70's that we were as conscious as athletes of what our diet, how important our diet was to us to maintain our, our energy levels. I mean, you know, if, if it looked good, you ate it. You know, we had one of those, "hey, it looks good; I'll eat it." Period. It really wasn't until about, oh, I guess, till I was twenty-five or twenty-six years old and I started to get up around 180, 185 pounds. Then I started to be a little bit more conscious of, hey, I have a muscle.


JOE: (CONTINUES) How about that? You know, if you eat this thing will go to the muscle. 

BURT WOLF: You stopped playing in '85. What happened to your metabolism and your diet?

JOE: Well my metabolism obviously slowed down and my diet didn't change that much and consequently my weight went up. I put on about ten pounds. I broke my leg in November of '85, sat around, literally, for six months with my foot in a cast, didn't eat a lot at that time. And then once I started to work out again, I got into this, this mental frame of mind that, I can eat the same things because I'm still an "athlete," quote unquote. And I went from like 195 to 205 to 206 and what I found is that the more I ate, the bigger I got, the more tired I got, the more I wanted to eat. So it sort of fed on itself. 

BURT WOLF: What did you do to lose that weight?

JOE: I have a theory about, about diets. I'm not one to go out and try and deprive the body... of things it likes. I, I think that's wrong. I mean why punish yourself? You, you, you're not only fighting a physical battle, but you're fighting a mental battle. If you see something, you say, "Gee, gosh, I'd love to have that" or "I can't eat it because it's bad for me." I think moderation is the key when it comes to, to intake of food. I'd look at something...for instance, I love a banana split. Every night before a football game, Saturday night, I'd have to have a banana split or else I didn't play well on Sunday. And I carried that over and, and then I went, "Well, Joe, you know, you can't sit down and eat banana splits every night of your life." So instead of having a full banana split, maybe I had one scoop of ice cream and maybe a half of banana. You know, I, I, I didn't deprive myself of it, so mentally I was getting the same thing. I just wasn't getting as much. And I tried to cut the portions back a little bit...

BURT WOLF: What's your exercise program like?

JOE: I'm right now on a three-day-a-week weight lifting program. If you feel refreshed and you have energy approaching an exercise, you're going to be enthusiastic about it and you're not going to be afraid to do it. If you're tired when you sit down and start to do an exercise program, automatically, the head gets in the play and say, "God, you know, I, I don't want to, I don't want to do these 100 sit-ups, maybe I'll do 50 today." And all of a sudden, who are you cheating? You know, I mean there isn't somebody standing over you with a board going, "Ah ha! I've caught you, Burt. You didn't do a hundred of them."


JOE: (CONTINUES) "Okay, you get one penalty point." I mean it doesn't, you know, you're cheating yourself.

BURT WOLF: What should I have for lunch?

JOE: I'm going to have the, the grilled lime mesquite chicken.

BURT WOLF: Well, I'm ready to order.

JOE: Okay, fair enough.

BURT WOLF: Let's go into the kitchen and see how it's made by chef Louis Isaname. First, there's a marinade. An onion is coarsely chopped and goes into a bowl with some mesquite flavoring, then some lemon grass, a flavoring agent that is definitely optional. Then the juice of two limes, and the limes, some crushed black pepper, a little garlic powder and enough water to cover the ingredients. That gets mixed together and poured over boneless chicken breasts. The chicken can rest in the marinade for a few hours or a few days; just make sure that it takes that rest in the refrigerator. When you're ready to cook, remove the skin from the chicken. Remember, most of the fat and cholesterol in poultry is in the skin. So it's pretty important to avoid it. Doesn't make much difference if they skin is removed before or after the cooking, just don't eat it. The chicken goes on to the grill and is fully cooked on both sides. And onto the dish. A little parsley pasta, steamed green beans topped with sliced almonds, a little red pepper sauce, a garnish of lime slices and parsley and the plate is ready to kick off lunch. You know, somehow I thought Joe's recipe would be served in a super bowl.


BURT WOLF: (CONTINUES) More than any of our spectator sports, football requires a coordinated plan of action, and so it is with good nutrition. Here a team captain teaches some of the basics. Avoid automobile tires as part of your diet. Instead use them as part of an exercise program in order to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid flying wedges of food high in fat and cholesterol. Rush towards vegetables, fruits and grains. A variety of different foods is as important as a variety of different plays. And a good defense against foods too high in sugar or salt is a winning strategy.


BURT WOLF: Boxing is one of the world's oldest forms of competition. The ancient Romans considered it a basic sport, and it was included in the original Olympics over 2,000 years ago. With the decline of Roman Empire, there was a loss of interest in boxing. However, in the true tradition of the sport, boxing made a comeback. In the early 1700's, the kings of England decided that boxing was hot stuff. They even offered prizes for the winners and that's where the sport got the title, "Prize Fighting." By the mid-1800's, it was so important, that a basic form of laws was published to cover the behavior of the fighters. It was written by the Marquis of Queensbury. He called for three-minute rounds, a limited number of them, a ten-second count for the guy on the floor before you called him the loser, the wearing of gloves, and an end to gouging and biting.

(CONTINUES) Then in the early years of this century, boxing became a major spectator sport in the United States. First radio, and then television brought the main events to hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. The day boxers became international stars and national heroes. 

More than any other sport, boxing represented the idea of a culture's fearless, brave, daring champion going into battle for the honor of the society. From the beginning of recorded history, there has always been an association between the hero and hunger. The fearless fighter has always had an ample appetite. Big fighters are big eaters. Before a match, the meal was massive. A couple of thick, juicy steaks, piles of potatoes, loaves of bread, a bottle or two of milk and, of course, mom's apple pie with ice cream. It's amazing that those guys could actually get up from the table, much less get into the ring and box.

When you eat, food is drawn to the core of your body, to help with digestion. It's drawn from your extremities, your hands, your arms, your legs, your brain. The more food you eat and the more fat there is in that food, the more blood is drawn in. That leaves you in a bad position to perform physical tasks and to think.

Nutritionists these days who work with boxers, know that they should be on a low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet. The best meal for a fighter these days before a fight? Big bowl of pasta, low-fat vegetable sauce on top, a drink of half-orange juice and half-water. And the meal should be eaten three or four hours before the fight so that almost all of the digestion is completed before the contest.

A superstar in today's boxing world is Sugar Ray Leonard. Born on May 17th, 1956 in Wilmington, North Carolina, he grew up as a natural athlete, participating in both basketball and boxing.


(CONTINUES) At the age of twenty, he captured the hearts of the viewing audience when he won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Sugar Ray's primary reason for turning pro was to help support his family. And he's done a pretty good job. The gross revenues from his last four fights brought in 184 million dollars. Sugar Ray Leonard, Olympic Gold medalist, Junior Middle Weight Champion, Welter Weight Champion... Middle Weight Champion and Super Middle Weight Champion. Talk about a concern with weight! What's your favorite meal?

SUGAR RAY LEONARD: My favorite meal? Believe it or not, is hard-shelled crabs. I love crabs, but I'm also... the best food, I, that is rates number one is... escargot.

BURT WOLF: Interesting! It's it the garlic you love?

SUGAR RAY: Oh, I love the garlic, yes, yes. know, I've always... had a taste for it, for some strange, bizarre reason. I mean some young kid from the inner city who loves pork and beans and hot dogs, all of a sudden has this taste for escargot.

BURT WOLF: When you try to gain weight, what do you eat?

SUGAR RAY: Calamari. The best.


SUGAR RAY: I love calamari... Fried calamari, I mean hey, you know, you want a million dollars, I'll give you million dollars. Give me fried calamari. Biscuits. You gotta have biscuits. I mean homemade biscuits, you know, kind of, say "come and get me, come and get me, come and get me." The ones that talk to you... and once in a while I love, I love a nice dill pickle. I love a dill pickle every, every now and then. Ice cream and apple pie.

BURT WOLF: Particular flavor?

SUGAR RAY: No, I'm easy. I'm very easy.

BURT WOLF: (LAUGHS) And so is this high-fiber salad prepared by chef Steve Molina to meet the nutritional needs of the champ. A pound of black beans, a pound of red kidney beans and a pound of great northern white beans are covered with water and soaked overnight, then set into fresh water and boiled for five minutes. They're drained, cooled and mixed together. Quarter of a cup of vinaigrette dressing is mixed in, a little fresh thyme and a few tomato slices. Finally, equal amounts of cooked, the yellow beans and green beans. Let's see here. One, two, three, four, five different beans. Okay, ready to serve. You know, if I'm ever offered a five-bean salad that delivered only four beans in my dish I would be in deep trouble. All five beans go onto curly lettuce that has been sprayed with dressing. 

One of the things that Steve and I both do is keep our salad dressings, oils and vinegars in a spray bottle. That way you can apply a mist of the salad oil to your ingredients. You'll get all of the flavor and fewer calories.

A great opening dish to a wonderful meal! What do you say, Sugar Ray?

SUGAR RAY: A, a good meal, you have my heart.

BURT WOLF: Well, it looks like there's a pretty clear historical relationship between hunting and sports and sports and food. But just for the record, let's recap the nutritional highlights. At this point in time, there's no evidence that eating hot dogs in moderation is in any way dangerous to your health. The best source of fast energy is pasta with a low-fat sauce. Most people should get twenty to twenty-five grams of fiber per day. Good sources are wheat, bran, and beans. Half your daily calories should come from fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and cereals. Go for the carbos! A variety of different foods is as important to your health as a variety of different plays to a quarterback. A regular exercise program, something at least equivalent to walking three miles in forty-five minutes is very important for almost everyone and it should be undertaken four times each week. And finally, if you're interested in having a personal eating and nutrition program set up for you by a specialist in the subject, try and select someone who is a member of the American Dietetic Association. They are recognized experts on the subject of proper diet. 

That's Eating Well With The Superstars Of Sports. Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for something that tastes good and is good for you too. I'm Burt Wolf.