The ironic thing about George McGovern, who died on Sunday, is that the Nixon campaign painted him as cowardly and unpatriotic in 1972 for opposing the Vietnam War, when in fact he was an authentic war hero.

He piloted a B-24 in bombing raids over Germany, one of the scariest and most dangerous jobs in World War II. If you want to know how bad it was, just read "Catch-22."

In one raid, anti-aircraft fire knocked out one of his engines and set fire to another. Somehow, he managed to nurse the crippled plane to a British airfield on a tiny island in the Adriatic, saving his crew's lives and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, he practiced the arts of peace, serving as the first director of the Food For Peace program and then as one of the most respected members of the Senate, where he fought unceasingly against hunger and the Vietnam War.

He lost to Nixon in a landslide. (Afterward, he commented, "I wanted to run for president in the worst way, and that's what I did.")

But whom do you think history will remember more kindly? Is there any doubt? Incidentally, on election night in 1972, I called my friends in Berkeley, and every single one was shocked that McGovern had lost. After all, everyone they knew was voting for him, right? That should tell you something about how insular Berkeley can get sometimes.


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A sad farewell, too, goes to former Detroit Lions tackle Alex "The Mad Duck" Karras, one of the greatest defensive players of the 1960s, who died last week.

His anti-establishment attitude went hand-in-hand with an irreverent sense of humor. In 1963, he and the Packers' Paul Hornung were suspended for a year by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle for gambling. Both were eventually reinstated, but with one difference: Hornung apologized and was elected to the Hall of Fame. Karras refused and was not.

At his first game after the suspension was lifted, Karras, who was the Lions' team captain, took the field for the coin toss. The referee told him to call heads or tails, but he replied, "I'm sorry, sir. I'm not allowed to gamble."

He should have been a Raider.

And so long to Beano Cook, the longtime college football analyst who also died last week. Beano's love of college football was matched by his disdain for all other sports. When the 52 American hostages in Iran were released in 1981, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced they would be given lifetime passes to MLB games. Beano's comment was "Haven't they suffered enough?"

Finally, several readers have asked me if my kittens' brother, Sterling, has been adopted yet.

Alas, no. He's still waiting at Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital for his permanent home. I wish I could have taken him, too, but I couldn't. In many ways, he's the pick of the litter -- friendly, playful, loving and oh-so-sweet.

For the last few weeks he's been happily rooming with another kitten named Stewie. But Stewie got adopted over the weekend, and Sterling hasn't stopped crying since. Clearly, he would do well in a home with another cat.

You couldn't ask for a nicer kitten. He's had all his shots and has already been neutered, so he's plug-and-play right out of the box. Please consider adopting this sweet little guy. If you can't, please pass the word.

Thanks.

Reach Martin Snapp at catman@sunset.net.