Three Up, Three Down

The first thing you notice about a Locomotives practice is that if the players don’t do what they’re supposed to do, coach Jim Fassel will let them know in no uncertain terms, and he might throw his straw hat for emphasis.

The second thing you notice is Zeljko “Zee” Djukic filming practice high atop one of those scissorslike hydraulic lifts. One probably could see Boulder City from there on a clear day, if the model airplanes weren’t buzzing one’s flight deck.

Actually, the aircraft from the model airplane park next door to the practice field at Sam Boyd Stadium don’t invade Djukic’s air space, although you can’t tell that from the ground. I was thinking if Djukic rented a gorilla suit, it would look like that famous scene where King Kong climbs the Empire State Building with Fay Wray in his arms.

And then I thought about 20-year-old Declan Sullivan, the kid who was filming Notre Dame football practice Oct. 27 on one of those lifts when wind gusts of 51 mph knocked over the lift and killed him, and there was nothing even remotely humorous about any of it.

“We’ve had a couple of windy days out here, but I always make sure that safety comes first,” said Djukic, who has been filming football practices from hydraulic lifts for nearly 15 years, mostly in NFL Europe. “We always check the weather in the morning, check the conditions when we go up a little bit earlier and come back down, just so we can get an idea for what it feels like up there.

“We’ve come down to halfway several times because the wind has exceeded 20 miles per hour. The ratings on these lifts are 25 (mph).”

Not once has Fassel thrown his hat and told Djukic or video assistant Arash Daghighian to get back up there.

If 25 mph is the limit, then the lifts at Notre Dame must be made of some space-age alloy or somebody didn’t read the manual. The Notre Dame president said on Friday that the school is responsible for Sullivan’s death, and when a guy wearing a priest’s collar says something like that, you tend to give it more credence than when a lawyer says it.

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger, and when the wind blows, you don’t suspend yourself 50 feet in the air on a hydraulic lift. It’s that simple.

Even Sullivan, described as a neophyte student videographer, posted on his Twitter account on the day he was killed, “Well, I guess I have lived long enough.”

It can be assumed he was joking because now it just seems sad. 


■ UTAH VS. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: During the same week it was announced UNLV would be playing Southern Utah and Western Illinois in football next year, it was announced Utah would play Southern California in the first Pacific-12 Conference game. Which is sort of the same thing, times about 70,000 spectators.

■ KYLE BUSCH: The Las Vegas leadfoot has won 12 of 24 starts in the Camping World Trucks Series this year for a winning percentage of .500 and 12 of 27 in the Nationwide Series for a batting average of .444. He’s like Cody Ross, only with a better haircut.

■ JOCKEYS FIGHTING: After Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon, I’m thinking about pulling out the pink flamingo and gazing ball in our front yard and replacing them with a couple of ceramic fighting lawn jockeys.


■ CHRIS SHEFF: In lieu of hiring personal trainers and wolfing down post-practice Buffalo wings, the great Walter Payton used to stay in shape during the offseason by running up a steep hill. If it were still like that today, Chris Sheff might still be the College of Southern Nevada baseball coach. And Wheaties might still be the “Breakfast of Champions.”

■ EDGAR RENTERIA: Three days after he hit a clutch three-run homer in helping San Francisco win the World Series, the Giants declined to pick up an option on the Fall Classic’s Most Valuable Player. Geez, you think they could have at least made him first-base coach or something.

■ UNLV FOOTBALL: Maybe it’s just me, but the Rebels seemed to be doing better when coach Bobby Hauck was cussing at the players.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at or 702-383-0352.


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