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This Week in Freudenfreude: Bill Walton... Motormouth

It was mentioned in the mailbag this past weekend, but basketball player and announcer Bill Walton passed away last week. He was an admirable figure in a number of ways; in addition to his outstanding basketball career, he was also a generous soul who gave freely of his time, a mentor who helped countless people get started in the announcing business, and a good friend to seemingly everyone in the sports media.

One thing that hasn't gotten quite as much attention is... his stuttering. Up through his late 20s, Walton was often tongue-tied, to use the slang of that era. That made it difficult for him to talk to the media, a source of much angst throughout his legendary college career, and into his pro career.

Eventually, Walton talked to Marty Glickman, himself an elite-athlete-and-stutterer-turned-basketball-announcer. And what Glickman told Walton is that being able to speak properly is not a birthright for everyone, and that some people have to work at it, just as hard as they worked to become an elite athlete (or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a fireman, or a teacher). So, Walton put his nose to the grindstone, and by the time he was 30, he had largely conquered his stutter. Thereafter, he became somewhat legendary for his loquaciousness. Walton himself explained that he became a "motormouth" to make up for all the lost time before the age of 30.

Given that Walton not only overcame his stutter, but made a living from talking, he became a role model and helper to many other stutterers. To take one example, Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation, spoke to the BBC and said: "People like Bill Walton are so important, because he's like: 'Look, I stutter sometimes, and here I am an announcer on NBC,' If someone contacted us and said they would like to reach out to Bill (for advice), we knew that he would always answer."

Anyhow, rest well, Bill Walton; you've surely earned it.

Also, readers may recall that we solicited questions about stuttering a month or so ago, and got answers from a reader who has experience in the matter. We'll be running those next week. Until then, have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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