TALL, DARK MAN
Gil Rogin's piece on Bill Russell ("We Are Grown Men Playing a Child's Game," Nov. 18) is one of the most laudable examples of sports journalism I've ever read. Russell's views on the race problem are not new—yet, as one reads, they take on a stature and importance worthy of a Martin Luther King.
Thank you for telling us about a man so tall in every way that he can look out over the scene with a clear, uncomplicated view.
EDMUND W. BIRNBRYER
I was deeply impressed by Bill Russell's human stature, but I think he was unduly self-critical. The pursuit of excellence in any field is a strong contribution to society. The American mores under which Mr. Russell lives have made him a national hero, and the example he sets is subject to public attention and, therefore, is a source of education, both for his race and for the youth of America. Because of his excellence at a "child's game," Mr. Russell not only gives pleasure (a significant contribution in itself), but commands the loyalty and enthusiasm of his fellowman.
Mr. Russell criticizes himself for not contributing, while he speaks of going to Liberia. His desires are within "the acceptable standards," but is Liberia the place to achieve them? He may not view himself as a leader, but at this period in history he has the opportunity and perhaps the responsibility to become one right here.
MALCOLM FARMFR III
December 2, 1963
Bill Russell's reason for liking Liberia leads him into serious error: "I found a place I was welcome because I was black." If cither Bill Russell or I were to hear a white man say, "I found a place where I was welcome because I was white," we would surely think the white man a bigot.
Nevertheless, I agree with Russell's list of athletes to admire: Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Sonny Liston. I would like to add one more: Bill Russell.
Panorama City, Calif.
Too many of us regard athletes as merely tools for man's entertainment, and it is refreshing to hear an intelligent, articulate sportsman destroy this myth. Bill Russell, a man obviously in a state of rebellion, gave me a view of sports I had never been exposed to before, and I admire him as an outspoken, honest athlete with a clarity of perception that many Americans lack.
Mr. Russell is unhappy over being a basketball player because of his nonexistent contribution to society. I would like to offer an opinion to Mr. Russell concerning such contributions.
The players in the NBA, the NFL and all sports and entertainment fields contribute relaxation and enjoyment to many millions of people at varying degrees of personal discomfort to the performer. Due to the nature of professional basketball, it has, most probably, the highest degree of strain on a performer. To be able to make thousands of people happy (or unhappy) because of his brilliant performances (coupled with extreme self-sacrifice) over the years, seems to be a contribution of which very few people will boast during a lifetime.
If Mr. Russell remains unhappy over his contribution to society, upon the next visit to Cincinnati he should make it a point to visit a person who contributed a wealth of happiness to basketball fans all over the country, Maurice Stokes, who has been lying paralyzed in a hospital for more than five years. After his visit with Big Mo, Bill can then seek out the nearest chapel, get down on his knees and thank God for his existence as a healthy American man.
One of your editors, either benignly or pompously, awarded NBC one long locomotive for canceling its coverage of the Blue-Gray football game in Montgomery, Ala. because Negroes will not be allowed to play. I just as benignly, or just as pompously, will award to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED a stinking dead mackerel.
JOHN E. SCOBEY
THE NOISY SPRING
Your article on pesticides is ridiculous and irresponsible (The Life-giving Spray, Nov. 18). To say that pesticides and aerial spraying "have helped produce the nation's healthiest wildlife crop in many decades" is preposterous. I had been under the impression that pesticides were poisonous; now it seems I am to believe they are an elixir for the wildlife population.
Rachel Carson in Silent Spring provided a valuable service to mankind with her warning about the dangers of the poisons. But her warning really extends beyond the deaths of a few animals. Her real warning is that man, in his headlong rush of progress, is contaminating the natural environment, and the process may not be reversible. The long-range effect of these poisons is not known, and in spite of the "richest, most varied bag in years," continued tampering with the ecological balance can only be disastrous.
A. C. ALLEN
Virginia Kraft has written not only an admirable commentary, but also the truth about animals and man both being doomed victims of pesticides. It is about time that more research into the dangers of pesticides was done, and that the public supported the drive for a safer handling from the factory to the user of the deadly poisons. For it is, I believe, careless users who do not take the time or trouble to read the labels that the factories have put on pesticides who cause the real damage,
I must admit that when I first read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring I was against it, but she put shock power into her work, and now it is up to the people to use pesticides "with care" to keep the spring always noisy.
The biases that caused Virginia Kraft to debunk the alarm about the use of chemical pesticides are problems for a sociologist. But the "science" that she and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED use to arrive at the conclusion that "wildlife populations all over the nation are bigger and healthier than ever, not in spite of pesticides, but in many cases because of them" merits brief analysis.
It will have occurred to most readers that there are at least three factors involved in any formula to evaluate higher returns from the hunt: l) there may be more game, 2) hunters may be more numerous and/or more persistent, 3) weather and other environmental conditions may combine with the same or a longer open season to facilitate the hunt.
Miss Kraft does not give her readers one iota of evidence that wildlife populations are indeed bigger or healthier. The increase of deer herds is a phenomenon of at least a half century's duration and is related to timber-cutting cycles and farm abandonment, with consequent increases in available browse. Many of these deer, like so much other game everywhere, carry residues of DDT and epoxides of heptachlor, and many biologists agree with Interior Secretary Udall that the public health services should view this problem more seriously instead of assuring us that, because only a few people eat game only part of the time, insecticide residues in wildlife are not a problem. Readers who care to know what "Audubon spokesmen" really think about this problem are invited to write to us at ll30 Fifth Avenue, New York 28.
ROLAND C. CLEMENT
National Audubon Society
New York City.
It is indeed refreshing to find someone who will take an attitude toward Silent Spring that is other than wholehearted approval.
Eminent biologist though she may be, Rachel Carson has done a major disservice to her fellow Americans. Regardless of her motives, it has been most unfortunate that her one-sided opinion about what insecticides and pesticides might do has been accepted by so many as fact. Her continued insistence that she is correct, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, has put her even lower in the eyes of many.
Some of us who see hundreds of deer starve to death every winter because there are more deer than there is food to feed them, or the myriad of game that becomes more abundant every year, find it rather hard to believe that the American outdoors is doomed to extinction by careful pesticide use to control nuisances.
Mr. Udall might also ponder the relative amount of grain and crops destroyed by varmints and insects in this country and the Soviet Union—and compare the numbers with the relative amounts of pesticides and insecticides used in each country. Such control is one reason why 8% of the American population can feed 100% of the Americans—whereas 45% of the Soviet population is engaged in agriculture.
Let's see more facts—and less of Miss Carson.
DAVID R. GRAHAM
University of Rochester Medical Center
As a charter member of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and a true sports fan, I sent my buck to the U.S. Olympic Association as suggested by S. Wells, 19TH HOLE, NOV. 18. I hope the rest of your readers all do the same.
CAPTAIN F. N. HOWE, USN (ret.)
Virginia Beach, Va.
•The address is still: U.S. Olympic Association, 57 Park Avenue, New York 16, N.Y.—ED.