It is certainly a shame when a high-class magazine such as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED lowers itself to devoting space to a nonsport such as Roller Derby (Five Strides on the Banked Track, March 3).
While it is tragic that "sports" like professional wrestling and Roller Derby should exist at all, it is doubly tragic that people will spend money to see the phony theatrics that these two offer.
Most tragic of all is the fact that Roller Derby's ridiculous "fights," "grudges" and so forth eventually hurt the public's confidence in the legitimate sports.
R. P. GRIFFIN JR.
I found Frank Deford's article on the Roller Derby interesting. However, I must mention that Publisher Valk, in the same issue, sounds extremely apologetic when explaining to SI's readers why 15 hallowed pages of his journal are devoted to the rambunctious Roller Derby.
March 17, 1969
I do want Mr. Valk to know that we in Roller Derby sympathize with his situation. Many of our fans were quite upset when they heard that we were permitting SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to do a story. After all, this publication gives coverage to sissy games such as baseball and tennis.
GERALD E. SELTZER
Ever since I saw my first Roller Derby back in Cincinnati at the old Music Hall in 1937, when a mother-son team skated, I've thought that it was deadly dull and cheaply sensational. My opinion has not altered.
Barnum was right.
D. D. ALLEN
Many thanks for a fine article. It is clear that the girls in the Derby would not be confused with Miss America contestants. It is also apparent that the men in the Derby lack the pizazz of a Ken Harrelson, the sheer bulk of a Deacon Jones and the finesse of a Billy Casper.
What came through most clearly to me in the article, however, was the true professionalism of the Derby participants. Recognition of their individual talents is minor, yet they're willing to travel on inhuman schedules in crowded cars to distant tracks filled with screeching ladies. The pay is poor by professional standards, but they're willing to take (and give) bumps and bruises like a professional fighter. In sum, they're willing to endure hardship and withstand pain solely for the love of the sport. Can the same be said of "professionals" in other sports who spend more time talking about their side business interests than their enjoyment of the game?
You've got to be kidding! Fifteen pages devoted to Roller Derby and four to Vince Lombardi?
New York City
I enjoyed reading the article on Ted Williams (The Newest Senator in Town, Feb. 24) by John Underwood. But I must disagree with Owner Bob Short's reasoning. At least Vince Lombardi is a proven winner. Williams is not—at least not as a manager. I'm not saying Williams will make a lousy manager, I'm just saying the fans will pay to see the players, not the manager. Sure it will be big for a little while, but what after that? Get another big name manager? I would advise Bob Short to use his money to get big name players to play-instead of to manage.
Hooray! The brashness is back in baseball and Ted Williams is his name! He's still saying it like it is: he accepted the job of managing the Senators because of "my real love and guts for baseball and money." Now there's a manager worth listening to—a welcome change from the drivel that issues from the many public-relations pennant predictors who are passing themselves off as managers this spring.
San Marcos, Calif.
Ted Williams is still in good form. He arrived in Washington and spit across the Potomac.
JOHN J. LYONS
THE BLOOMER GIRLS
Thanks for your excellent article Les Girls in Des Moines (Feb. 17). Here in Tennessee girls' basketball is a big thing (SCORECARD, Jan. 27), and I was recently shocked to discover that it is unheard of up North! I am glad you brought the girls out into the light, for not only do they play the game prettily, but they can sometimes play with as much belligerence as the boys, if not more!
The fine boost you gave Iowa's girls' basketball program is one thing, but to do it at the expense of the boys' program is another. We do have boys who can dribble, shoot and rebound, just like any other state. The girls' ability is a bonus no other state enjoys on such a scale.
Fort Dodge Messenger
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Your article on girls' basketball was very well written, and showed the vivid excitement of the sport, but when I think that I might be replaced at guard by a 16-year-old, red-haired, freckle-faced girl with braces who is scoring 33 points a game, I feel inferior and regret that I even read it.
In FACES IN THE CROWD (March 3) you credit Bert DeHate of Wisconsin as the leading hockey scorer in collegiate ranks. I beg to differ on this count: Army Captain Dave Merhar has the lead by far. In Army's 25 games to date, Merhar has scored 50 goals and 45 assists for 95 points.
The Cadets are now 17-7-1 with two to play. Merhar is recognized as the leading scorer in the East, why not make the recognition national?
U.S. Military Academy
West Point, N.Y.
Gwilym Brown's article on ski bobbing and the second World Skibob Championship races in Switzerland was most interesting (Tall in the Saddle out East, Feb. 17). It points out the competitive nature of the sport as well as its recreational attraction, based on ease of learning and safety. There are a couple of points, however, worthy of comment.
The American Skibob Association (not the U.S. Skibob Association) was organized in Nov. 1967 for the purpose of developing ski bobbing in the U.S. in a sound and progressive manner. The president of the ASBA is Keith Anderson, a prominent Denver attorney. Bill Cartwright of Missoula, Mont, is the U.S. representative of the Fédération Internationale de Skibob (FISB), headquartered in Munich, West Germany. The FISB is the sanctioning body for the world championships, which will be held in Missoula in 1971, and Mr. Cartwright is chairman of the committee responsible for hosting the 1971 event.
The ASBA has been actively involved during the past year in educating the various organizations of the ski industry as to the proper procedures for riding ski bobs. Although ski-bob lessons are not necessary, the ASBA does recommend that a basic one-hour course be conducted by the existing ski school to teach beginners how to ride a ski bob without doing unnecessary damage to the slopes, which can happen if they do not ride the device properly. It will also teach them how to ride various ski lifts properly and, most important, point out the rules of the slope and ski-bobber conduct.
The ASBA is also promoting the development of ASBA chapters in various communities as well as in schools. Incidentally, serving with Willy Schaeffler on the ASBA board are Lowell Thomas, John Jay Sr., Lawrence Jump and George E. Garcia.
American Skibob Association
A MATTER OF MONEY?
As everyone knows, it is impossible for anyone to defeat an opponent in any field of competition—bowling, bridge, golf, basketball, football, etc.—unless all players involved have a substantial monetary stake in the game. You can outscore an opponent, but you can't beat him. It would be interesting to see the list of champions if all opponents had to support their abilities with cold hard cash.
This observation is prompted by your article on JoAnne Gunderson Carner (Gundy's Victory Was No Fluke, Feb. 10). JoAnne can be called the world's best woman golfer only when she competes with her peers for money—not when she can play the game nice and loose with nothing to lose and everything to gain. There is no doubt that Mrs. Carner is a fine player and may be the best in the world, but until this is proved day in and day out, I for one will go along with the gals who drive for show, putt for dough and maybe squeeze the club just a little when they have to make a shot that means bread next week.