Your selection of Bill Russell as Sportsman of the Year in the Dec. 23 issue is by far the best yet. The choice must have been a very difficult one, for basketball is not usually in the limelight. But, as anyone who follows sports knows, Russell surmounted a myriad of obstacles in regaining his stature as a champion. The award is a tremendous tribute to an incomparable athlete.
In this Olympic year, with such outstanding performances provided by Bob Beamon, Bill Toomey and others, it seems incredible to me that you would once again select a professional as Sportsman of the Year. I don't wish to detract from the abilities of Bill Russell, but I imagine this latest award means about as much to him as a newsstand copy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. A professional has his salary to sustain his sports drive, but an amateur deserves recognition for uncompensated achievement.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
•For Russell's reaction to the award, see page 5.—ED.
Your superb selection of Bill Russell as Sportsman of the Year stands and shall stand as a supreme standard for sports selections for several decades!
January 6, 1969
Bill Russell is the tallest athlete in talent in the 20th century.
He has never had an equal as an athlete. No sports immortal of the past or present has ever done for his team or for himself what Russell has done.
H. C. BROWN JR.
Bill Russell has been and still is one of the great athletes of the decade. More significantly, perhaps, he is a superb sportsman, with all the attributes being a sportsman encompasses. He is a sterling competitor—performing at his best when it counts the most. In another year Bill Russell might well have deserved the award which you gave him for 1968. In 1968, however, the honor rightfully belongs to Bill Toomey.
Sport, in its traditional and most exalted sense, is the triumph of one man when this man confronts the most challenging of physical circumstances and with his own physical ability is able to prevail.
Bill Toomey, by winning the decathlon in Mexico City, did just this. He subjected himself, both in body and in psyche, to the most grueling confrontation which any sportsman can experience. Toomey won his event in the 1968 Olympics pulling away. He did not back into his unparalleled victory; his triumph was more resounding by virtue of the fact that he won the 1,500-meter run—the final event of the decathlon—to clinch his gold medal.
I cannot believe that it was a mere oversight on the part of the magazine hierarchy in failing to designate Toomey as the Sportsman of the Year. (Additionally, there was not even mention of Toomey in your listing of those who were in contention for the award.) I am dismayed by the only remaining conclusion, that your philosophy of sport does not give precedence to an achievement of the magnitude of Bill Toomey's.
New Haven, Conn.
I want to congratulate Peter Carry on his fine article on a fine man, Connie Hawkins (Shining Star Under a Cloud, Dec. 16). Connie has overcome many obstacles to become one of the great players in pro basketball. Sure, Connie made a mistake, but do we have to punish him the rest of his life because of it? I am a white man, and I feel that if more people were like Connie Hawkins, this country would be a much better place to live in.
Although I'm not certain of the connection between Harold Peterson's oblique comments about Appalachia and our own bustling Ohio Valley, I must compliment you on your timing in regard to our Ohio Valley Ironmen (Pro Football on a Shoestring, Dec. 16). SI hit the newsstands just one day after Ironman Coach Lou Blumling was named Coach of the Year of the Continental Football League. The Ironmen wound up 9-3, missing the playoff by one game.
If your story helps stir the needed interest of the NFL or AFL in minor league professional football, you will have performed a noble deed. Giving comparatively inactive taxi squad players a chance to play regularly in a good league would help everyone—the majors, the players, and the minor league pros. And the minors are worth helping!
Let's hope your story spurs more financial, support from Ohio Valley industries. They, and you, could then share our fans' affection.
Wheeling, W. Va.
I'd like to make a few observations about your fine story on the Wheeling Ironmen.
1) It might be pointed out that nearly 40 CFL graduates are currently playing in the NFL or AFL.
2) Some of the CFL clubs have more fancy equipment than the Ironmen, including diathermy machines, unshabby dressing rooms and Exer-Genies. In fact, the champion Orlando Panthers have a complete Exer-Genie program.
3) Harold Peterson's brief description of the CFL game ("A crashing and bruising affair on the ball and away rom it. The passes are accurate and the receivers' patterns complex") is a succinct picture of the brand of football appreciated by fans throughout the CFL.
San Jose, Calif.
Wheeling, W. Va., as any other city, does have some problems. One of the biggest is that industry is not coming into the Valley like it used to.
I think one of the reasons is that Mr. Peterson and writers like him label our area as the nation's spittoon.
RICHARD N. DIXON
Morgantown, W. Va.
True football fans everywhere salute you. Your Dec. 9 cover picture of New York Jets Quarterback Joe Namath has done more for the image of pro football than any single event in many years. Through your publicity of Joe's horrific assembly of hair, public opinion reached such a frenzied peak of disapproval that AFL President Milt Woodard was forced to initiate action leading to his shaving off his mustache. But Joe remained his sweet, wholesome self to the end—he shaved it off for a $10,000 profit. After all, with $10,000 maybe he can buy another full-length mink coat. By the way, the cover is now lining my wastebasket.
FREDERICK P. CICHON
I've been coaching high school athletes for 15 years and insisting that all the boys who represent us have a neat haircut and be cleanly shaven when participating on our teams. You've helped to pour all that right down the drain. I know that Joe will probably laugh all the way to the bank when and if he reads this, but some night when he is loafing around that neat pad of his, and there aren't any "foxes" around to bother him, how about his giving some thought to these fine boys who think that he and the rest of our professional athletes are the greatest.
We propose a replay of the last 25 seconds of the Chicago Bears-Los Angeles Rams game. The officials for this game were responsible for the Rams' losing a precious down in the closing seconds and, although suspended from further games this year, their mistake can never be forgiven. The Rams are an exciting team and have put together last-second winning efforts throughout this season. This tragic and heartbreaking loss eliminated the Rams from the most thrilling divisional race in recent years and made the showdown game between the Rams and Colts not even worth watching.
F. SCOTT NICKERSON
S. RODNEY LYNCH
Notre Dame, Ind.
I enjoyed Coles Phinizy's analysis of Bob Beamon's long jump (The Unbelievable Moment, Dec. 23), but I'm sorry he overlooked the wind factor. Beamon had an assisting wind of at least the absolute maximum. The reading was 2.00 meters per second (4.473 mph), and 2.01 meters per second would have invalidated the jump. As it is, there is some question on the wind readings. Over a two-day period world records were set in the triple jump (by two athletes), the long jump and the women's 200 meters, and in each instance the official wind reading was exactly 2.0 meters per second. The odds against this coincidence are incredible.
Just how much the wind, legal or otherwise, assisted Beamon is hard to say. But six inches seems reasonable. Thus Beamon's astounding jump was a combination of the greatest talent ever, a firing-up for the ultimate in competition, a perfect step (rare for Beamon), fast runway, the altitude, a maximum assisting wind and good form. Each plus factor added a few inches and, happening all at once, Beamon achieved the unbelievable.
President and Publisher
Track and Field News
Los Altos, Calif.