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Lajos Balogh, Sports Hero

Lajos Balogh, faculty member in the Department of Music, was profiled in the March 2013 issue of Alaska Airline's flight magazine.

Author Jeff Wallach called Balogh his "unlikely sports hero."

Here's an excerpt:

On a rainy night this winter that was cold enough that you hoped it would just drop three more degrees and start snowing, I was headed to a men's weekly over-50 pickup soccer game in Portland—a game held, inexplicably, outdoors. As the rain pounded on my windshield I thought to myself: Nobody else is going to come out on a night like this.

But when I pulled up to the field I spotted a red sports car in the parking lot, and out of it climbed Lajos Balogh in his knee-high socks and soccer jersey.

Balogh is 81 years old, and when you talk about an 81-year-old grandfather dribbling, it doesn't usually refer to moving a soccer ball down a wet pitch crusting with ice. When he receives the ball from his teammates he often finds himself with an open-field run toward the goal. Defenders flee from his path as if he were Godzilla storming Tokyo. Nobody wants to bring an 81-year-old's playing career to an end through clumsy defense. Better to let him score, which he does with some regularity—to cheers of "Go, Einstein!" because Balogh bears some resemblance to the legendary genius.

Balogh not only resembles Einstein but is a kind of genius in his own right. Born in Hungary in 1931, he picked up the violin at age 3 after hearing his father play in the other room while he was supposed to be napping. When asked early in life what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered: an archbishop. Forced to leave his country after the Soviet invasion in 1956, he worked as a professional musician throughout Europe before immigrating to the United States in 1966. He has been on the faculty at Marylhurst University for most of the time since, and founded the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and Portland Festival Symphony in addition to playing violin in the Oregon Symphony for many years.

Balogh began playing soccer regularly when he was 65, explaining, "I'm a lifelong learner."

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