After reading Dan Jenkins' fine article on international sports and where we stand in them (Stop the World, the U.S. Is On, May 2), curiosity prompted me to run a little test between the U.S. and the Soviet Union on their dominance in sports on an international competition level. Using your chart, I devised a system awarding 5 points for a first-place ranking, 4 points for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth and 1 for fifth. The U.S. total came to 53 points, which included seven first-place rankings and two seconds. And, in line with my expectations, the Russian total came to 60, with only four No. 1 rankings but nine seconds. A conclusion can be drawn from this experiment that the U.S. isn't as dominant in international sports as a lot of people think.
Your ranking of the U.S.S.R. fifth in international tennis is ridiculous. In the past two years the Soviets have not won a round in the European zone of the Davis Cup. They lost to Italy by a decisive 4-1 margin this year.
The furthest a Soviet has advanced in one of the big four tennis tournaments was Tomas Lejus' quarter-final effort at the 1965 French Championships. The only outstanding achievements by U.S.S.R. players were V. Korotkov's and C. Morozova's junior titles in the 1965 Wimbledon Championships.
Countries such as Italy, France, Mexico, India and Czechoslovakia should all be rated ahead of the U.S.S.R.
FRANK M. MANSBACH
May 15, 1966
Please explain how you manage to rank the speed skating as you do. How can you rank Sweden, North Korea(!) and the U.S. before Norway? Norway, The Netherlands and the U.S.S.R. form the three contenders for the first place.
The only sports I noticed appearing in the article were ones we excel in and will probably continue to excel in during the coming years. No mention was made of how we might establish ourselves in the seven sports we rank poorly in or the three sports in which we do not rank at all! As an example, one of the sports your magazine listed our country unranked in, namely, soccer, is played by 95% of all countries in the world. Why aren't we developing our youth who don't swim or play football or basketball to lead us to recognition in this sport? This same holds for many other sports that we lag in.
It seems to me that our country should have a National Sports Federation that could not only unite the feuding NCAA and AAU but also aid in the development of the sports we rank poorly in as well as the ones we rank highly in so that in the future our athletic youth could lead us to world domination in every sport.
KENNETH R. HAMANN
Jenkins renewed my feeling of pride in this great country.
HITS AND ERRORS
Your baseball issue was really great. Gary Sprinkle, my best friend, and I are both Oriole fans. We are sure you are correct in predicting them first. As soon as the Indians trip over their shoestrings and fall into third or fourth place, the Orioles will take first by such a margin that you would have to take an airplane to get from first to second.
I wonder how many of SI's baseball fans have sworn off air travel after reading what Bobby Bragan had to say about Ken Sylvestri's off-season job at the control tower in O'Hare Field. The big yuk in the story was that Ken purportedly instructed two airliners to head for the same runway at the same time. Some fun!
As a seasoned air traveler myself, I know it's the bunk; airport control towers are not manned by part-time job seekers. But I think you ought to explain to your more squeamish readers that the exuberant Bobby was just making a funny.
J. C. JACKSON
•Braves Manager Bragan was indeed retelling a purely apocryphal tale he has used to good advantage all winter on the banquet circuit.—ED.
Your articles on Cassius Clay have been both significant and topical. The problems this often-misunderstood person has encountered and the forces that have made his values and beliefs almost inevitable are of the utmost importance regarding the Civil Rights problem that faces our society today. Congratulations to Jack Olsen on this excellent series.
North Bergen, N.J.
I have enthusiastically followed your series on Muhammad Ali, especially so because of the fairness which characterized Mr. Olsen's writing in Parts 1 through 3. In Part 4, however, he commits an error in discounting the stories told by Mr. Clay Sr., Muhammad and others concerning injustices perpetrated upon Negroes in Louisville. Mr. Clay certainly grew up under great disadvantage there because he is black. I don't contend that the radical points of view which he or Muhammad argue are anything more than their own reaction to their disadvantage—other black men react differently. But I do argue, contrary to Mr. Olsen's opinion, that their stories of injustice done to the black man in Louisville, as elsewhere in the South, are essentially true. Had Mr. Olsen seen what some of these people have, he might be a little "paranoid" too!
If Catious Clay is the Werld's Best Athleet, I'm its best leter riter.
SMART AS AN ASS
Bil Gilbert pitches like a heron when he insists that exact mammalogical references rather than the old animal clichés be used to describe sports heroes (Fast as an Elephant, Strong as an Ant, April 25). This is not the 175-mph dive of a true newshawk. The pigmy hippo and female gray seal, which he uses to describe Ernie Ladd, are both meant for slippery fields and should never be taken out of their element.
Also, I would advise sportswriters never to call an earnest athlete a cheetah, no matter how fast he can run. Say it out loud, and you'll see why.
DAVID E. REILLY
New York City
My boss is an Indian fan. He may not have noticed when I said that Birdie Tebbetts' strategy was skunky or that big Sam McDowell looked like a female gray seal. But when I added that Vic Davalillo ran like an elephant, I think I lost my last chance for a raise.
Although I feel that the majority of Mr. Gilbert's observations are entirely correct, there is one in particular that is certainly false. He states that "any wheezing old dog worth its salt can catch a cat." It is generally accepted by authorities that the average speed of the typical alley cat is anywhere from 30 to 40 mph. How many "wheezing old dogs" go that fast?
R. A. MLECZEK
Fox Lake, Wis.
Bil Gilbert asks, "If foxes are so sly, how come they never run down the hounds?" I offer him this incident from Wyman Richardson's book. The House on Nauset Marsh. "Fatty Spilliker started a fox in Fulcher's Swamp, and could be heard baying away at a great rate. Finally his owner took a gun and hid himself behind an old, tumbledown shack that overlooked the swamp. Pretty soon, at the edge of the bushes, old Fatty came lumbering along, every once in a while giving forth with his peculiarly melancholic wail. And about thirty feet behind him came the fox, who had lapped Fatty and was now close behind him. Round and round they went, until Mr. Fox tired of his sport and raced off across the hills to the railroad track, where, I have no doubt, he ran down a rail for several hundred yards. Fatty's owner could have killed the fox and secured his pelt, but he had no heart for it, and went home chuckling."
Richardson adds, "Here we have an animal showing not only intelligence but a sense of humor. This is important because some people insist that a sense of humor is an integral part of human intelligence. I have never heard a fox laugh, but I am willing to bet that this fox had a good laugh at Fatty's expense when later he safely returned to his burrow beside the crooked cedar."
As an avid fox hunter I could not help but take exception to Bil Gilbert's article. His comments on horses and fox hunting were, to say the least, asinine.
DONALD C. BYRNE
Lincoln University, Pa.
•According to some authorities, the surefooted ass is a very smart beast.—ED.