OF COWARDICE AND COURAGE
Put me down as one of the cowards in this Walking Horse business (SI, Jan. 11, Feb. 22). There was a time—before Honey Gold brought the big show gait to the East—that I showed a few plantation Walkers. And for a while I judged them at the smaller shows.
Now I hide from the issue by firmly refusing to act as judge at any of them. I find I can make enough people mad without putting myself in the position where one group will jump on me if I look under the boots and another will be just as violent if I don't.
Looking under the boots, however, may not be the answer. I suggest we look under the hats of the owners. It seems to me that anyone who will deliberately and drastically shorten the period of usefulness of a $5,000 investment in order to win a $50 prize is a prime candidate for a rubber room.
Yes, I'm a coward about this whole thing myself. But I sure do admire the stand you are taking and the courage with which you are attacking. As you have suggested, it's high time someone did something.
W. DAYTON SUMNER
March 28, 1960
SHARKS: NO MORE QUESTIONS
Your article Shark! (SI, Feb. 22) was the best that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has ever put out and by far the most useful for me. I am a lifeguard during the summer months at Los Angeles County beaches. Maybe now I won't be answering questions a good part of the day about whether or not there are any sharks in the water.
Many seals and porpoises are mistaken by the bathers to be sharks. People will notice a seal on its side basking in the sun, a flipper will stick up into the air and the fun begins.
One man came up to me one day and pointed out to a school of porpoises swimming by and told me that they were sharks. I said no, they were porpoises, and wouldn't bother anyone. He got mad when I refused to swim out to them and chase them off. He said: "Son, those are sharks out there and don't try to tell me any different. I was at Marineland yesterday and saw them. Those are sharks!" What can you say?
People have not believed me when I told them that the number of swimmers has increased and that the sharks have always been around and most likely always will be. I am glad that I now have some authority to quote from.
Long Beach, Calif.
ATHLETICS: A VIEW FROM THE WINDOW
I read in the Detroit News that James B. Conant, president emeritus of Harvard, views with alarm the almost vicious overemphasis placed on athletics in some junior high schools in this country. This conclusion was reached after a one-year study.
Based on a two-year observation from my living room window, I view with equal alarm the almost vicious under-emphasis placed on athletics at the junior high school directly across the street from my home.
I would be willing to take a learned scholar's word on almost any subject except athletics for kids. This is one subject scholars are not in a position to be impartial about. These studies always seem to magnify the harm done in a few isolated cases and ignore the benefits which accrue to thousands of participants in varsity competition. I submit that milk might also be harmful in a few isolated cases (say your kid already weighs 400 pounds), but no one has started a movement to abolish milk.
If some people presume that they can remove varsity athletics without other activities, equally dramatic and exciting but a hundred times more harmful, filling the void, they presume too much. Kids will not tolerate a vacuum for long. Drinking and smoking are equally dramatic and exciting, and dope is just about tops in these respects.
I know what the kids are supposed to do. They are supposed to wholeheartedly embrace intramural sports, but this is pretty weak tea. Did anyone ever hear of a kid who stopped smoking, much less started training, for intramural athletics? Intramural sports have failed to capture the imagination of American youth. They have entered into them with such lack of enthusiasm that intramural sports cannot be considered an effective means of physical improvement for the youth of this country.
I believe varsity-type athletics should be expanded at so many skill levels and in so many sports that any kid who is willing to try hard can make some sort of varsity team, engage in interschool rivalry and earn his letter. I can see no point in trying to gear our physical education programs to those students who are not willing to try. Our schools offer plenty of other outlets for their talents.
FITNESS: HERE'S WHAT WE'RE DOING
With National Fitness Week due soon this is an especially appropriate time to tell you what we are doing here in Middle Granville, N.Y.
Middle Granville is what some might call a hick town. In fact, it is not even a town; it is a crossroad with a post office, a couple of stores and gas stations and a broken-down crowded school of around 200 pupils, 100 of whom come by bus (grades kindergarten to six), in a very low-income part of New York State.
However, we are operating a physical education and recreation program that, in my opinion, is providing a maximum of participation for a maximum number of pupils. The kids here display above-average fitness because of the program at their disposal.
This includes three periods a week of physical education, plus supervised recreation before and after school, during the noon hour and one evening a week.
At any of these times our gym and playground are a beehive of purposeful activity, with from 20 to 70 kids in our two-by-four gymnasium in the winter and about 90 % of the students active outside in good weather. We are not committed to developing star athletes, but sometimes it does happen that a boy turns into a fair varsity performer. As for the girls, I feel that the reason they dominate the teams when they go into high school is that at our particular school they are not treated as second-class but receive the same attention as the boys.
Activities include everything from squirrels in the treetops to boxing and wrestling. We have a tumbling team made up of 12 girls and one boy (in grades three to six) that is a story in itself. They have performed over television, at veterans' hospitals, at all types of benefits, and in the summertime they turn into a smart marching group.
This is something that should satisfy your crusade for the betterment of physical fitness.
PAUL F. FISH
Physical education instructor
Middle Granville, N.Y.
BOWLING: FROM 6 TO 60
Your cover and inside spread on family bowling (SI, March 14) did an excellent job of showing what a wholesome recreation bowling has become.
Articles like this are invaluable for showing how bowling is one of the very few recreations a person can take up in his teens or subteens and continue into his most advanced years. I know the entire bowling "family" appreciates the attention you've given us over the years.
American Bowling Congress
So family bowling made your front page. The fact that we have 26 million bowlers seems to leave your editors, who teach physical fitness, unmoved.
Where is the youth of the nation in winter? The kids hibernate in bowling alleys for four long months competing athletically with their own grandmothers.
It should be a civic duty of every community to counteract this alarming situation by installing outdoor artificial ice-skating rinks. This is about the only practical and comparatively inexpensive means of giving our children (and many adults too) an escape from the artificially sheltered life of steam-heated indoors.
Let us have more hockey players and figure skaters and fewer bowlers.
WALKING HORSE: BUSINESS IS SLOW
Business in the Walking Horse profession has fallen off drastically as a consequence of your articles (SI, Jan. 11, Feb. 22) and some follow-up pieces in the Nashville papers. The trainers and exhibitors are really becoming desperate. The few of us around here who are genuinely upset about the plight of the Walking Horse feel no sympathy for the poor business that their tormentors are suffering. If financial pinch is the only path to reform, then that path must certainly be followed.
Several years ago this society spent much time and energy on the Walking Horse problem. Humane work in Tennessee is an uphill proposition. We did manage to intimidate and irritate some Walking Horse men by attending shows and pretending to inspect. Local veterinarians are reluctant to give us assistance. We tried to import one from Kentucky, with all expenses paid, but he was scared, too. We were encouraged when a Tennessee law was passed, which in theory would protect the Walking Horse. However, it is too weak a law, and in any case has never been invoked as far as I know. Recently we learned, shortly before your first article appeared, that the abuses of the Walking Horse continued unabated and with increased skill of concealment.
A representative of the Humane Society of the U.S. in Washington flew to Nashville last week to accompany me to a gathering of Walking Horse trainers and exhibitors in Shelbyville. This was not a meeting of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association, but a group of dissenters. They were protesting the new rule requiring the hinged boot. Abuses constituted a big part of this meeting. There were many protestations of innocence, many promises to do better (in spite of the prevailing claim that conditions were above reproach). Three men did have the courage to rise and state the true situation with the Walking Horse. They were not popular. The Humane Society of the U.S. is prepared to attack the problem and will send people again, including an out-of-state veterinarian.
Today's Nashville Tennesseean contained a statement of warning by Governor Ellington to the Walking Horse profession. He went on record as saying that, if the present law is not sufficient to s control the abuses, then the legislature would provide a stronger measure.
MRS. WALTER SHARP, Secretary
Nashville Humane Association