NEW YORK – The Eastern Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented ‘Hellenic-American Athletics and AHEPA- A Glorious History’ webinar panel discussion in association with AHEPA on February 5. The fascinating and informative panel discussion was introduced by Lou Katsos, EMBCA’s President and AHEPA National Hellenic Cultural Commission Chairman, and was moderated by attorney and AHEPA Athletic Awards Selection Committee Chairman Gregory J. Stamos.
The distinguished panel included educator, co-author, radio announcer, sports editor Nick Tsiotos; former sports executive and Athletic Director of Temple University Charles Theokas; journalist, sportswriter and columnist Terry Poulos; Executive Wealth Advisor, Certified Financial Planner, and AHEPA Supreme Athletic Director Chris Atsavas.
“Hellenic-American athletes have attained success on the playing fields in accomplishments and acclaim far greater than one would expect, reaching the heights of their sports,” Katsos said in his introduction, listing some of the sports stars- “tennis’ Pete Sampras, hockey’s Chris Chelios, the NFL’s Alex Karras, baseball’s Clay Bellinger, Eric Karros and Milt Pappas, the great Olympian Greg Louganis.”
“The success of the Hellenic athlete in assisting the Greek immigrant assimilate into the American mainstream and feel worthy is certainly exemplified by the Greek tragedy of the iconic Harry Agganis,” Katsos continued. “The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association has both complemented and supported and spearheaded the success and accomplishments of the Hellenic-American Athlete.”
The program both illuminated and illustrated “the remarkable feats of these athletes while highlighting the crucial role of AHEPA in nurturing and publicizing these sports luminaries,” Katsos said before introducing the moderator.
Stamos noted that in athletics “we’ve reached the highest points and the highest pinnacles and integral to that has been the Order of AHEPA, which of course just celebrated its centennial, and AHEPA has nurtured the Greek-American athlete, its really advanced the importance of athletics as a gateway into AHEPA into the Greek Orthodox community and most importantly into assimilating into American society.”
Nick Tsiotos spoke about some of the iconic figures, including “Golden Greek” Jim Londos, born Christos Theofilou, world champion wrestler between 1930-46, noting that Greeks dominated the sport of wrestling in the United States from 1900-1930, and Londos is best known for a 1932 match against another famous Greek wrestler George Zaharias, drawing 14,500 fans, the most that year for wrestling.
Tsiotos also spoke about Harry Agganis, also nicknamed “The Golden Greek”, who played college football player and was a professional baseball player with the Boston Red Sox. His family was from Longanikos, Sparta, Greece. Agganis died tragically at age 26 of a pulmonary embolism.
Stamos added that AHEPA’s premiere athletic award is named in honor of Agganis.
Terry Poulos spoke about NFL Detroit Lion Alex Karras, elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 as a Centennial Member, and the remarkable Karras family, the three brothers who played in the NFL who also had two cousins also in the NFL. Alex Karras, a “colorful character” went on to an acting career, appearing in the film Blazing Saddles and also in the ABC sitcom Webster. Stamos noted that the Karras family credits AHEPA with helping Alex Karras’ induction into the Hall of Fame in 2020, after three decades of not being inducted.
AHEPA Supreme Athletic Director Chris Atsavas spoke about the many worthy inductees into the Hall of Fame, including not only athletes from the four major sports, baseball, basketball, football and hockey, in the U.S., but also from tennis, bowling, swimming, diving, track and field, wrestling, and soccer among others as well as referees and sports commentators, men and women.
Charles Theokas was visibly moved as he shared his personal recollection of hearing as a youngster from Lowell, Massachusetts, of the death of Harry Agganis, who he said “was very much a part of our lives.”
The video of the discussion is available online: https://bit.ly/3KsCbil.