Having overcome the nausea which hit me after reading about the hunting of foxes with airplane and snowmobile (Snarling Tractors and No Tallyho, Feb. 17), several thoughts came to mind. It is unsound ecologically and morally that these men should be allowed to kill 100 foxes a year with mechanical aids merely to pass the time. It is a disgusting parody of sport.
Moreover, I was bemused by the complaint that there is not much to do during the Northern winters. Why not try hunting by snowshoe or ski, if one must hunt? The answer, I'm afraid, is that to these Americans (and they are not alone), minimal exertion, gasoline-powered engines, killing if possible, seem to be essential to outdoor "sport." Perhaps they are to be pitied more than the foxes, but meanwhile they are ruining the outdoors for the rest of us.
Palo Alto, Calif.
"He could have gone to ground anytime he wanted." It sounds to me like the speaker is equating his IQ with that of the fox so ruthlessly pursued and killed. Perhaps if this same daring hunter spent more time learning about ecology and the natural balance of nature he could surpass the fox's mentality, leave him alone and wait for the return of the game birds—if the sounds of the snowmobile engines haven't already driven them away for good.
MRS. JOHN A. JOSLYN
The mentality, not to say morality, of Minnesota's snowmobile fox hunters is best revealed in Bob Allison's remark that there is nothing else to do outdoors in the Minnesota winter. Having thus eliminated skiing, skating, sledding, tobogganing, ice fishing and the like, we can only say: don't just sit there—get out and kill something!
March 3, 1969
Groping for a rationale for this disgusting pastime, we are further advised that foxes are to be killed because in them are combined the worst traits of cats and dogs. I don't know about cats, but a dog's worst trait is what it does on people's lawns. I can see it now: after a visit to a neighbor's lawn, the poor poodle is pursued through the neighborhood by some nitwit, foot to the floor of his snowmobile, pump gun blazing, while a plane circles overhead to spot the next offender. After all, what else is there to do during a Minnesota winter?
JOHN R. HUDSON
Each time I read an article in SI or in any other magazine on conservation—or the lack of it—I am reminded of an experience I had some four years ago while I was attending Lehigh University. Like many other engineering students, I was taking a biology course in order to "broaden my interests." In the hall outside the classroom was an exhibit case containing what seemed to me to be a conglomeration of biological species.
One day I arrived somewhat early for class and, to pass the time, I skimmed the exhibit. As my eyes jumped randomly across the case, I suddenly saw a sign that made me stop. Here, in the most dimly lit part of the exhibit, where the glass case seemed to have years of dust caked upon it, I read something like this:
WORLD'S MOST DESTRUCTIVE CREATURE. MUCH OF ITS EFFORT IS SPENT DESTROYING THE VERY ENVIRONMENT IT NEEDS TO SURVIVE.
I strained my eyes to focus on what I expected to see, but I could see nothing. Perhaps a fly or a termite, I thought. No, there was nothing there. I turned away, softly cursing that this, of all the creatures, would be missing. But at the last instant, although it was almost invisible through the shadows and the darkness and the dust, I saw it. With a feeling almost terrifying in its intensity, I realized I was looking into a mirror: Homo sapiens!
DOUGLAS G. MARSH
OLD HANDS ON DECK
As Ezra Bowen has pointed out (I Finally Got the Point, Feb. 10), basketball games aboard the aircraft carrier Midway during the middle '40s were something to behold. However, for him to even suggest that gambling was going on—oh perish the thought! Also, I must take exception to Mr. Bowen's statement regarding "one or two notably ill-behaved officers' teams," for I was a member of one of those teams—and, after all, Congress had decreed that we all were "officers and gentlemen." What higher authority?
I thought I had learned something about basketball during my high school and college days at Notre Dame—but it was nothing to what I learned on the Midway. My first experience in practice was to guard a shifty, exceedingly deceptive forward by name of Buzz Borries. He gave me an education under the basket with elbows and hips, usually the latter (those maneuvers were hard for the referee to detect). I learned later he was the ship's air officer (a full commander) and one of the alltime Naval Academy greats in football and basketball, old Swivel Hips himself.
Being a lowly ensign, I felt honored being in such company. Then we had Adrian G. Back, a onetime All-America from Kentucky, as another forward. Give him the ball anywhere near midcourt and you almost always had a basket.
A couple of other guys made up our team, but memory fails on the names. The day we pulled out of the preliminaries was the day Buzz and A.G. scored over 80 points between them, A.G. scoring an even 50. Maybe we were playing Bowen's team!
MORGAN E. CARTIER JR.
Ezra Bowen's account of his basketball games on the Midway was most enjoyable and revived personal memories on two counts. The outstanding player of Bowen's team, Freddie Swartzberg, was my teammate at North Carolina State in 1943. But while they were mastering the unique skills of hangar-deck basketball in the North Atlantic, I was experiencing a similar perversion of Dr. Naismith's brainchild on board the U.S.S. Santee (CVE-29) some 10,000 miles away in the Central Pacific.
I would like to point out to Mr. Bowen, however, that he has not experienced the ultimate in basketball arenas until he has opposed a team from an LST—on its court. The surrounding steel bulkheads and the protruding flanges at each frame made every movement a basketball version of Russian roulette.
MAKING THE GRADE
Regarding your SCORECARD item, "A Matter of Degree" (Feb. 17), 10 of the 14 University of Houston players who are now playing pro football have gone into the pro game within the last two seasons. Of these 10, five have received degrees, four more are currently completing work on degrees and should have them by the time they go to pro camp. The 10th is in the Marine Corps and plans to finish school after his discharge.
By this summer nearly 80% of our pro players will have degrees. You may then list UH as one of the colleges with the greatest percentage of graduates in pro football.
Sports Information Director
University of Houston
I have never before written a gripe letter of any sort to SI, since most of the drawbacks in the world of sport are due to archaic practices which will gradually yield to inevitable change and give way to newer and better systems. Not to be grouped into such a category, however, is the running of the NCAA basketball tournament, probably the most prodigious amateur sporting event held anywhere in the world. To the naive fan of college sports (and I consider myself within their number), the NCAA tournament has one function, viz., to provide a structured format whereby the teams that have proved themselves the very best in the current season may meet as equals to establish the true No. 1 team in the nation. Although in most cases three of the four semifinalists could be selected before the tournament even begins by anyone with an eye for excellence, all teams should have the opportunity to claim excellence by performance rather than opinion.
My complaint is that the NCAA, in choosing the locations where the playoff games are to be held, does more in the way of damaging this objectivity than furthering it. Last year's choices were bad enough. Having the Mideast Regionals at the field house of the University of Kentucky, which has been the SEC representative for almost every year since Dr. Naismith hung up his basket, and the West finals at New Mexico, a valid threat to upset UCLA at the time, gave the home team unquestionable advantage. But this was nothing like the unfair edge UCLA will have this season when its regionals are held at Pauley Pavilion. And the tournament directors can hardly claim that UCLA's emergence as champion in the Pacific Eight is unexpected, thus making this latest choice more of a mystery than before.
My suggestion is to have alternate possibilities available, in the event that the school whose facility was originally scheduled to be used found itself suddenly (or even expectedly) a tournament participant. Certainly it would not be that difficult to have, for example, the Oregon State field house or even the L.A. Sports Arena available. Such a transfer would insure not only parity among the participants, but in actuality a fuller measure of glory for UCLA itself, which could probably win on the decks of the U.S.S. Midway. In any event, whatever team emerged as the national winner would be truly deserving of the title and not open to the snipes of the cynics.
New York City
Being an active orienteer myself, I enjoyed very much the somewhat satiric report by Clive Gammon on his experiences in England (Subterfuge on a Sylvan Rally, Jan. 13). I do hope he did not get completely discouraged. The first try at a new sport does not mean anything. Inspired by two brothers, one two years younger and one four years older, I started in my first orienteering race in Sweden in May 1928. I was 17 years old and finished last in the beginners' class. In the fall of the same year I won a district championship race outside Stockholm. During the years that followed in the 1930s my brothers and I enjoyed (in turns and together as a three-man team) many victories in Sweden.
Since then my life has been orienteering—and compasses! With another Swedish orienteer, Gunnar Tillander, my younger brother and I developed and marketed the Silva compass, which Clive Gammon often refers to in his article. I participated as late as last year in the first Canadian (open) championships and finished third in the team competition together with two Norwegians. Do you think there is another sport where you would find one Swede and two Norwegians fighting together as a team?
Since Clive Gammon's story was more a personal report of his adventures in the woods than a factual article about this sport, perhaps some facts about it and its present position on this continent may be of interest to your readers:
Orienteering was introduced in the U.S. and Canada by me in 1946 and 1948, respectively. The most popular parts of the orienteering program on this continent so far are the practicing and recreation games, which are widely used in youth organizations, summer camps, etc. But competitive orienteering has also started to take hold. The first Canadian championships were held outside Ottawa in August 1968.
Orienteering is actually a sports program, including a variety of practicing games and recreational types of orienteering, all of which more or less lead toward participation in cross-country competitions. It can be called a "jogging sport" but without the dullness of jogging. But it can also be tough competition for well-trained top athletes. Above all, it is a fun way of learning how to use the map and the compass for all kinds of outdoor life.
If any readers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in this area would like to know more about the sport, they are welcome to participate in an event we will organize in April in the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation here in Westchester County. I do hope that at that time Clive Gammon will give the sport a second try!
Thanks for the good publicity for the sport. It may help to push orienteering on its way in this country!
Pound Ridge, N.Y.