As I pulled the December 13 copy of SI out of my mailbox and looked at the cover I could not help but smile and feel glad that I am one of those who subscribe to a magazine that is not afraid to publish what it believes. There it was, in bright yellow letters, clearly stating a fact: "TOP PRO RECEIVER: San Diego's Lance Alworth." Not "TOP AFL RECEIVER." Not "TOP PRO RECEIVER FROM ARKANSAS." Not "TOP PRO RECEIVER WEARING NO. 19," just plain, simple "TOP PRO RECEIVER."
I don't care if someone is better than Lance Alworth (although, in my opinion, it was a valid decision). The point that impresses me is that SI has the courage to put such a statement on the cover of a magazine that will be seen by everyone in this country who walks by a newsstand. Congratulations.
ALLAN C. HADLEY
I found your article on Lance Alworth (They All Go Bang! at Bambi, Dec. 13) very distracting. Sure, Alworth is good enough to be great in the AFL, where the name of the game is defense. But the top pro receiver, in my opinion, is not Bambi but the Baron, commonly known to NFL fans as Pete Retzlaff of the Philadelphia Eagles.
If Edwin Shrake really wants a look at pro football's top receiver, send him a few hundred miles north to watch the 49ers' Dave Parks.
If Alworth is Bambi, Johnny Morris is Superbambi.
FRANK J. MUNSCH
Arlington Heights, Ill.
What about Ray Berry, Paul Warfield, Boyd Dowler, Tommy Mason, Max McGee, etc.? All these players are better than Alworth could ever be.
Because Lance Alworth signed with the AFL, he has had an article in his honor, proclaiming him the best wide receiver in football. Had he signed with the NFL, the title would have been But Why Me, Coach? like that story in the same issue about the Giants' tackle who didn't make it, and Lance Alworth would have been in Mike Bundra's place, wondering why he was put on waivers.
Salt Lake City
Yes, Pete Rozelle, there really is an AFL.
SAN THE MAN
All week I've waited to see who would be your Sportsman, and when I saw Sandy Koufax' picture on the cover of your December 20 issue I was real happy.
Beach Lake, Pa.
Don't get me wrong—Sandy Koufax is one heck of a ballplayer. But neither Koufax nor any other athlete on the face of this earth can even begin to approach the ability, humility, dedication and overall greatness of the one man who has given sport more than he has taken from it. If Noah Webster were around today, he would take the definition of "sportsman" and chop it down into two words: Gary Player.
LAWRENCE MARK JR.
Congratulations on your choice. It couldn't have been better.
I feel that you have done a great injustice to Bill Bradley by not naming him your Sportsman of the Year. He not only was a great basketball player, but also an inspiration to everyone. In this decade, where money has become king in sports, Bradley had the sense to realize that a good education is more valuable than any money he might earn by playing professional basketball. Bill Bradley was a true sportsman.
Valley Stream, N.Y.
Duke fans chant, "Who's he?" when the UCLA players are announced, and this makes a snake pit (SCORECARD, Dec. 20)? Wow. Anyone who confounds this "Who's he?" (quite obviously an example of the considered cleverness of the college mentality, nothing more or less) with bigotry, or who is pained by "UCLA, go to hell" suffers such delicate sensibilities that he should never venture from that extremely high-tone place, New York City. We're all pretty hairy out here in the provinces.
Having never heard Georgia Tech raked over the coals for the famous Rambling Wreck line—"But if I had a son, sir, I tell you what he'd do, he would yell 'to hell with Georgia' / Like his daddy used to do"—I was somewhat taken aback by your scathing criticism of the crowd behavior at the December 10 Duke-UCLA basketball game. "Go to hell, UCLA!" did indeed ring out a few times, but not "throughout the game" and certainly not with any vicious intention behind it. And there was very little of the "shrill whistling" that you so heatedly denounce.
Considering the importance of the game and the whole school's keen desire to avenge the 1964 NCAA finals loss to the Bruins, I think that the crowd behaved exceptionally well. Everyone here has nothing but respect for UCLA; it is a fine school, with a great basketball tradition. We were, of course, deliriously happy to beat them twice, but we wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season—excepting, perhaps, the NCAA finals.
Hooray for SI's views on sportsmanship! I wholly agree with your thinking. It's about time somebody spoke up about this problem.
WILLIAM G. SIGWARD JR.
Congratulations for your article on the wonderful sport of racing pigeons (Sam's Pigeons Don't Leave Nuthin' for Nobody, Nov. 22). Most publicity received on this sport is unfavorable. However, all over the U.S. pigeon clubs sponsor United Fund races, help pay tuition of deserving young men for college and business college and assist in many other community charities and activities. Just recently Governor Scranton of Pennsylvania signed a "Fair Pigeon Act" which gives protection to racers of registered, banded pigeons in that state.
I can assure you this sport is no longer a "poor man's polo." A top breeding pigeon in England sold for $2,500. The average price on good imports from Belgium runs anywhere from $100 to $300 per bird.
JOHN G. CRONAN
Secretary, New Orleans Racing Pigeon Club
You will undoubtedly be deluged by letters from disgruntled pigeon fanciers pointing out the danger of generalization. It is only in the eastern U.S. that the majority of pigeon men are Irish, Jewish or Italian. There are masses of species Homo Columbians west of the Mississippi, among which are more "small giants" like Sam De Lucia.
But ignore the letters! Sam's Pigeons was a fine essay—no, it was a marvelous essay! It treated a much maligned and misunderstood sport in a considerate and congenial manner.
To the uninformed, every pigeon is of the street variety. Robert Boyle has clearly stated the difference between street pigeons (commies) and the highly prized (and highly priced) birds maintained in a racing loft. The uninitiated writers dwell on diseases carried by pigeons. We have flyers who have had pigeons for 50 to 60 years without catching a disease from the birds. Health is a requisite of flying. Without a healthy, well-maintained loft, success is never achieved. Those who do not follow this golden rule soon drop out of the sport.
Our national organizations also sponsor programs through the Boy Scouts and the 4-H Clubs of America. This, we believe, combats juvenile delinquency.
WILSON W. DEITRICH
I would like to express my gratitude for Duncan Barnes's article on falconry (The Hunters of the Sky, Nov. 8). Francis Golden's paintings were simply breathtaking. Having successfully kept and trained a hawk myself, I was amazed at how well his pictures show the bird's undaunted spirit, even while in captivity. There is nothing on earth to match the experience of having your bird come sweeping to light on your fist. He is free, yet tied to you by bonds that are unexplainable. It is an experience that one cannot ever forget and, having once known it, a falconer without a bird to hunt and fly is no longer a complete man. If you think this is overdramatic, ask anyone who has once hunted with a hawk.
I wince every time I read a letter like Will F. Geer's of Seattle (19TH HOLE, Dec. 6). He claimed falconry was a cruel sport. He should have read the article more closely. Falconry is probably the least cruel of all hunting sports. There is either a clean miss or a clean kill; and, at least, the game is trying to elude something it has had some environmental experience with. Contrast that to the shotgun-crippled pheasant or rabbit that clings to life for days before dying.
JAMES G. THOMAS
West Lafayette, Ind.
I imagine some of your readers read Mark Lintz's letter about the hawk killing the jackrabbit (19TH HOLE, Dec. 6) with a sense of revulsion, but Mr. Lintz's obvious admiration for the skill of the hawk reminded me of a passage by Thomas Merton in The Sign of Jonas, a journal of his life as a religious in the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Merton had a habit of retiring after dinner to the attic of the garden house, where he could contemplate the natural beauties of the woods and fields below. As he watched one February afternoon, a flock of starlings settled on the ground and began moving about, singing. "Then, like lightning, it happened," he wrote. "I saw a scare go into the cloud of birds, and they opened their wings and began to rise off the ground and, in that split second, from behind the house and from over my roof a hawk came down like a bullet, and shot straight into the middle of the starlings just as they were getting off the ground. They rose into the air and there was a slight scuffle on the ground as the hawk got his talons into the one bird he had nailed.
"It was a terrible and yet beautiful thing, that lightning flight, straight as an arrow, that killed the slowest starling.
"Then every tree, every field was cleared.... The hawk, all alone, in the pasture, possessed his prey. He did not fly away with it like a thief. He stayed in the field like a king with the killed bird, and nothing else came near him. He took his time.
"I tried to pray, afterward. But the hawk was eating the bird. And I thought of that flight, coming down like a bullet from the sky behind me and over my roof, the sure aim with which he hit this one bird, as though he had picked it out a mile away. For a moment I envied the lords of the Middle Ages who had their falcons and I thought of the Arabs with their fast horses, hawking on the desert's edge, and I also understood the terrible fact that some men love war. But in the end, I think that hawk is to be studied by saints and contemplatives; because he knows his business. I wish I knew my business as well as he does his."
ROBERT ANDREW WATTS
South Salem, N.Y.