Mrs. Richard Ross's Open Letter to Bud Wilkinson (Nov. 12) was the best sports advice I've ever read in your very good magazine by anyone to anyone. It should be required reading for everyone in the entire U.S. school system who is connected in any way with sports.
FRANK C. MORRISON
Surely, she isn't serious! What she really means about the "crux of the whole matter" is that while Buster is starting, fumbling and falling—the gang's supposed to stand around and wait. And what really makes it rough is that he probably didn't like the idea in the first place!
Why doesn't Mrs. Ross quit kidding herself? Or has she forgotten there used to be something called "rugged individualism" kicking around on the vacant lots?
That thing in this world which seems to me to be the most diverting, making the most mirth, being the best pastime is not sport, but something called success. To establish low standards so that everyone could claim success would be ridiculous.
One cannot savor the thrill of succeeding where he once failed unless there is that failure in the first place. Failure, in itself, is not so bad; it's the resignation to failure that dooms men, nations and little boys. Therein lies the lesson of the Soft American.
H. C. HAYNSWORTH III
I am with Mrs. Ross 100%. One of my sons warmed the midget football team bench and in discouragement dropped out. My other son tried out for junior high football, was outweighed, so he dropped out. What can we do with a community so football-minded that the objective is only to win the game—not teach the sport or sportsmanship? I don't want either of my sons to be a football hero, just a well-rounded boy.
MRS. HOWARD MITCHELL
Thank you very much for the issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED with Allan Seager's hilarious and brilliant reminiscences of sports at Oxford (Oct. 29). As a fellow victim of Oxford rowing I consider it a masterpiece of accurate reporting as well as being as witty a bit of writing as I've read in many a day.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Seager calls his piece The Joys of Sport and he ends up by saying it was fun. Somehow we in America have lost the fun and joy—on the playing field and in the stands. It's fun to sit in a green meadow and watch cricket even if you don't understand it. Torpids and Eights are fun. In America it's exciting (maybe), dramatic (maybe), perhaps rather grim...but certainly not fun. So this is why I don't go to football and never have a clue who's doing what in the World Series. But I did read Seager and it was fun.
I was particularly interested since, being an old swimming Blue, I had seen the race Seager described at the Bath Club.
I was rather disappointed that, after pointing the finger at Oxford's amateur attitude towards training in the various sports, Seager did not stress the important point that participation by the many is regarded as being better than excellence by the few—that every college has two teams in practically all the sports, and almost everyone who is not actually lame plays something or other at least four or five times a week.
K. R. ALLEN
Old Greenwich, Conn.
I must confess I looked down my nose a bit at the English method of training their teams and conducting competitive athletics at the college level when I was in attendance at the university. However, in later years, as I have observed the intense specialization, as well as the commercializing of our collegiate sports here in the U.S., I have sometimes wondered if the English system, in the final analysis, might not be a better training athletically for a greater number of our American young men.
HUDSON MOORE JR.
As an old Oxonian, I too have run along the towpath watching Toggers in the cold winds at the start of Hilary term. And Eights Week from the Balliol barge. It's too bad Allan Seager didn't go out for Rugger, for then he could have described that mild little parlor game: the fair-headed, bare-headed English boys, in shorts. No helmets and other heavily armed equipment. And no cheering, no vulgar excitement, only now and again a well-bred voice from the bleachers saying—not shouting—"Aoh, well played, Oxford!" or "Well fallen, Cambridge!"
Also when he was describing the public baths in Merton Street he should have told about the crocodile of little schoolboys on Saturday mornings, carrying their towels, a follow-the-leader line with a master in front. One of my Australian Rhodes scholar friends used to stroll down the High from his digs to Magdalen, his college, for a bath, wearing a bright-figured dressing gown, his towel slung around his neck like a scarf, the way the undergrads wear their little black gowns. And nobody ever turned to look at him twice! That is Oxford!
It all re-creates itself vividly as I read. As if I could put the clock back. As if the Australian Rhodes scholar I just mentioned had not been killed in the war—a very brilliant young man, who had been elected a Fellow of All Souls. As if others had not died, or been lost touch with. As if the dons, my tutors, had not grown old or retired—Mr. Ridley, now living in Bristol, sometimes lecturing over the BBC. A year or so after I was at home again, teaching—yes, I was one of that breed Allan Seager despised, but I didn't ride among the flocks of bicycles traveling up and down the High behind the red buses, and my clothes were bought in Boston, Mass., not from Webber's or Elliston's—I ran into an American Rhodes scholar I had known and we talked Oxford, and I asked if he didn't want to go back (I had been back that summer), and he said, "No—too many ghosts!" which is how I feel now, between laughing and remembering.
But I am delighted with the article! I'd also like to mention that, in my own old age, I have become a Boston Celtics fan, and I read with great interest those articles on the NBA. I hate to face the fact that the Lakers may be the new dynasty. But I had to listen to a game where they pretty well trounced the Celtics. I want to think of Bob Cousy and Bill Russell as invincible and immortal (immortal in the literal sense of existing forever just as they are now). Then I have to laugh again, this time at myself, the American to whom sports are a deadly serious business. Not simply fun, as at Oxford.
MAVIS C. B. McGANN
New London, N.H.
THE HAIR OF THE DOGS
The Underdogs Have Made It (Nov. 12)—SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S finest article. Oh, I wish I could have been around when NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle read it; how he must have winced. People may ignore it, the NFL may try to kill it, New York sports writers may defame it, but in three years the American Football League has pulled a miracle.
Robert Boyle mentioned in his absurd article that the best of the AFL could beat the middling-to-poor of the NFL. Does he really think that the AFL could even begin to stop such stars of this bracket as: J. D. Smith, Bill Kilmer, Jon Arnett, Dick Bass, Sonny Jurgensen, John David Crow, Sonny Randle, Jim Brown, Tommy McDonald and Bobby Layne, among others? Now, really, the AFL is improving, but it's hardly up to NFL caliber!
I was considering letting my subscription to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED expire because you have "ignored" the AFL for these many months. Now all is forgiven with your coverage of the AFL and the Buffalo Bills.
CATHERINE C. KURTZ
The AFL is better than the NFL? Forget it. Big deal, Buffalo came back in the last 10 minutes to win 45-38. If I were trying to boost the AFL I certainly would not reveal this fact because it shows a very good example of the lousy defense in the American League.
I hope that there is a World Series between these two leagues so that Mr. Boyle will learn that the AFL is nowhere near the NFL in football.
Forest Hills, Pa.
The American Football League is here to stay. Give Buffalo a 55,000-seat stadium, four more years and, under the leadership of Owner Ralph Wilson Jr., it will become the best city in pro football.
I certainly appreciate your comments about the new league. As Boyle indicated, the AFL has come a long way in three years and the interest in our various franchise cities is really unbelievable. Naturally, I was a little concerned the first couple of years of operation, but when I saw the large crowds that attended our preseason and regular-season games this year I was convinced the American Football League was on its way to success.
The league will naturally get stronger each year as the teams improve and more rivalries are created and the people in the United States become more familiar with the various clubs. We are all going to fight hard this year to sign our share of the top college players so that we can field even better elevens next fall.
RALPH C. WILSON JR.
Please tell dear, sweet, disillusioned Jonathan Schwartz that the odds against his prediction ("The Celtics will win seven out of nine against the Lakers," 19TH HOLE, Nov. 12) have soared considerably after his "finest basketball team around" was outplayed and outshot and, oh yes, outscored by the Lakers in its first clash—and in Boston yet. The Lakers may not be "the finest professional team engaged in any sport today" but they're ahead of whoever's in second place in basketball circles. You'd better throw Mr. Schwartz's letter away, as I don't think he will want to read it again in April. Shame, shame, shame.
I was interested in reading your spoof on the awarding of stars to football players at the Air Force Academy for exceptional plays (SCORECARD, Nov. 12).
Perhaps you might like to know that DeWayne (Dewey) King, Rutgers backfield coach, originated this idea three years ago. He spoke about it last winter at the NCAA meetings, and since then many colleges have adopted the idea.
Dewey, who calls interceptions "Jerichoes," feels it is an incentive and an important moral factor. Last year Rutgers was first in the country in interceptions with 23, and first in yardage gained on interception returns with 405. We were undefeated and our pass defense certainly played an important role in our success.
It is not unusual nowadays for coaches to find little gimmicks that help the players over the long, hard grind of the season. Games are fun, but practices often are routine.
Perhaps it seems strange to you that big, strong, intelligent young men can be enthusiastic about these little stars and other such devices. Seems to me I remember our pilots during the war used to paint symbols of the planes they shot down on their fuselages.
LESLIE H. UNGER
New Brunswick, N.J.