Kim Chapin's piece on powerboat racing (A Rewarding Race in Detroit, July 10) ended with the point that there is no real solution in sight for the deaths of unlimited hydroplane drivers. Simply stated, no one has yet discovered how to build a boat strong enough to be safe at 150-plus mph—and no one can stop an aggressive driver from pushing his boat beyond its limits in a hot race.
Each of the more than 5,000 registered A.P.B.A. racing drivers—who push the 4,469 registered A.P.B.A. boats—realize that their chances go something like this: barring a collision a driver seldom suffers more than having the wind knocked out of him in spills up to 60 mph; from 60 mph to 100 mph he is due some cuts, abrasions and breaks; from 100 mph to 140 mph he is sure to have serious breaks, such as ribs or legs (unless his body or the boat stays in the air long enough to slow down and break the fall); beyond 140 mph the driver can be practically certain that nothing short of a miracle can save him.
Racing limited boats—even very fast ones—is a remarkably safe sport. More lives have been lost driving autos to and from regattas than in competition. Unlimited racing is obviously a dangerous sport, and our best minds have not been able to make it safe—short of outlawing racing, which is not likely to come about.
EDWARD H. NABB
Vice-President, Union International Boating
The stunning upset of the U.S. Davis Cup team by Ecuador in the North American Zone final (The Best Losers in the World, July 3) has left the tennis world and the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association gasping. For the sixth time in eight years the U.S. has failed to survive the preliminary rounds.
As a tennis professional, I am convinced that the tactics and attitude of the American players are two major factors in this seemingly endless series of defeats.
For years the USLTA has advocated to junior players the strategy of ATTACK-ATTACK-ATTACK. This is sound strategy when the opening to attack presents itself. However, to be a complete player one must also be able to defend when one is attacked. This is where the Americans come a cropper.
I am certain that U.S. players do not fully realize the value of the lob—the most underestimated shot in tennis. The lob is your only reply when you are forced off the court or your opponent has come to the net on a forcing approach shot. A perfect example of this inability to lob was demonstrated in the 1967 U.S. National Indoor Men's Singles Championships between Arthur Ashe and Charles Pasarell. When Pasarell came to the net, Ashe could not lob the ball any deeper than the service line. Because of the short lobs, Pasarell smashed away winner after winner. Our players could well emulate Bobby Riggs, rated by many experts the smartest player of all time. Often Riggs would go on the court with probably 100 balls and practice hitting lobs from his backhand side (the side usually attacked by the volleyer) to the opposite backhand side of the court. Out of 100 practice shots, about 95 of the balls would land within a foot of the corner. Such lobs are demoralizing, as many of Riggs's opponents will recall to their discomfiture. The overemphasis on attack as advocated by the USLTA has been largely reponsible for the American ineptitude in Davis Cup competition.
As for attitude, let's take an example from golf. After Jack Nicklaus finished his third round of play in the 1967 National Open Golf Championship, he went out and practiced for an hour. It certainly paid off—the next day in the final round he sank a 22-foot putt on the 18th hole to clinch the championship. If only our tennis players had this determination.
Unless the American players forget about their press clippings and knuckle down to playing percentage tennis on key points using the orthodox shots and foregoing the crowd-pleasing, spectacular shots, the U.S. Davis Cup team will continue to be an also-ran. The answer is to play the game the way it was designed to be played—with brains, and not just brawn.
It seems to me that the article referring to our U.S. Davis Cup team as "a bunch of goodwill ambassadors who would rather quit than fight" serves no constructive purpose whatsoever. Will ridiculing our players for lack of fight help them do better next year? Perhaps they were trying too hard because of the tremendous pressures on them to win, with each additional year of failure only increasing the pressure buildup.
To further criticize them for showing good sportsmanship and being good ambassadors is even worse. The fact that they were able to be good sports in the face of such a humiliating defeat shows the kind of character that can make us all proud that this type of person represented our country. The attitude that Americans are superior and always have to win seems to me to be a very spoiled philosophy and one which contributes to bad public relations with other countries.
MRS. FRANK SKILLMAN
DON'T KNOCK HOCKEY
I am truly happy to set the lady pros get some publicity (Sprightly Boppers and a Cool Golden Swinger, July 3). I for one feel they're playing for peanut purses while the men pros and the rest of the country in general have moved into the cashew class.
I don't know what Pat Ryan meant when she said, "Not so long ago the women pros looked like field-hockey players out of Philadelphia," but I assume it was meant in a derogatory sense. My apologies to the LPGA, but I think a closer comparison would be to an NBA basketball team, as I believe they could field quite a sizable "Big Five."
Take any kind of group, whether it's a bridge club or a pro football team, and there will be good-looking people, average-looking people and just plain homely people!
As for field-hockey players from Philadelphia, at least they're a proud lot. Last year's U.S. team was composed of 10 Philadelphians and one ex-Philadelphian. The U.S. Touring Team that leaves for Germany August 30th for three weeks of international play has 12 out of 14 players from Philadelphia. The reason for this outstanding record is that we have the best interscholastic and collegiate program in the country.
G. A. DUNN
Since it seems to be the current avocation to castigate the U.S. National Basketball team for its failure to win the World Amateur Championship in Montevideo, I would like to present some facts that your readers may find interesting.
Mr. Clifford Fagan of the U.S. Basketball Federation states (19TH HOLE, July 10) that the reason the top college players did not play in the World Championship was because the AAU selected the team. The fact is that AAU President Matlin requested by letter to NCAA President Plant that the NCAA cooperate in sending the best possible team to represent the U.S. in this important event. The NCAA answered this by sending a bulletin to its member institutions denying undergraduate students the right to participate in the World Championships in Montevideo and the first 1.80-meter (5'11") championship in Spain (won by the U.S.). The NAIA, however, cooperated fully by making its undergraduates available for both teams. Why did many of the top college stars (e.g., Walker and Alcindor) also bypass the Pan-American Games?
If the 12 players comprising the team for the World Championships (nine of these had previously been selected for the U.S. Pan-American Team) were not all the best basketball players in the U.S., they certainly were the best available to represent their country under adverse playing conditions, including hostile crowds and 35° temperatures inside the arena. The team had only 10 days to work together before its first game to give the NAIA college men the opportunity to finish their exams and still participate. Coaches Hal Fischer, Jim Gudger and the entire team worked as hard during this training period and the championship as any team ever. The only thing this team did wrong was to fail to win the championship, because a U.S. team is not supposed to lose in basketball. It did defeat Russia 59-58, and only lost the championship in the final second of play when Yugoslavia defeated it 73-72.
DAVID H. GREGG
Basketball Administrator, AAU
New York City