FOR SPORT'S SAKE
Hallelujah! There is a light in the forest! Until now I was afraid I was the only person who still enjoyed sports for the fun of competition. Your SCORECARD item, "Win, Win, Win" (March 6), has restored my faith that I am not alone.
From the Pee Wee programs all the way to the professional, it seems that this true meaning of sport and competition is being lost. The Pee Wees cannot have fun when they have their hollering parents interfering, and the professionals cannot enjoy competition for its own sake because of the almighty dollar.
New Rochelle, N.Y.
You did it! You actually said, "Competition...is the lifeblood of sport, not victory alone." Congratulations! This little vignette on the win-at-all-costs philosophy as it is applied to sports is the best brief statement on the matter I have seen. The statement, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," is as great a hoax perpetrated upon our nation as the statement, "Don't trust anyone over 30." You have put this statement on winning in its proper perspective, differentiating between professional and amateur sport.
I will clip that SCORECARD item, frame it and make several copies to send back to your other editors when they fall into the very same win-win-win rut you have now so convincingly deplored.
You ask: "...is the failure to win really such a terrible disgrace?" I ask you: If the failure to win is not a disgrace of sorts, why compete or even keep score?
Winning is the essence of sport, and if it is not a disgrace to lose, then it is at least a terrible shock to learn someone else is better than you are.
JOHN W. SCHWARM
STAN AND BO
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you for the articles on Stan Smith (This Smith, a Mighty Man Is He, Feb. 28) and Bo Belinsky (Once He Was an Angel, March 6). I believe these two articles paint a good picture of what life is like at the top in sport and what it is like after you have fallen from those heights.
What is more interesting, though, is the similarity in attitude toward sport of these diverse personalities. Both seem to believe sport should be played for sport's sake. Whether it be Stan's "living for Christ" philosophy or Bo's unwillingness to "stash baseball," the attitude is still one of keeping sport a game, no matter how their reasons differ. These men have the right perspective. After all, it really is only a game.
I was very pleased to see the article about Stan Smith. I am glad there are still people in athletics who are men enough to play fairly without all of the unnecessary childlike displays of emotion and physical brutality.
After reading week after week about people who will resort to any means to win, in business, sport or elsewhere, it is refreshing to read about someone who lives for Jesus Christ and is willing to stand up for what he believes. We talk of people for our children to idolize, yet we seem to take for granted men of Mr. Smith's character.
PAUL O. DILLON
Many thanks to Pat Jordan for his fine essay on the quintessential Bo Belinsky. I had the good fortune to see Belinsky pitch for the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association not long before his retirement from baseball, and I think the healthy round of catcalls and jeering he received every time he took the mound was indicative of the fact that Belinsky is still one of America's favorite anti-heroes.
Bobby Hull should blame Coach Billy Reay, not the opposition, for his shadows (His Majesty Gets Mugged Again, March 6). As I write this, the Black Hawks have played 65 games; Hull has 42 goals, the rest of the team has only 172, or slightly more than 10 per player. If Billy Reay would play a more offensive-minded game, the opposition would not be able to shadow Bobby because the other players would have to be watched as well.
As for Hull's suggestion that expansion teams put out their worst players when an advertised player comes to town, what good would it do? The expansion teams would still lose, and since visiting teams come to town only three times each, how much money could be made by letting the advertised player score six or seven goals in one night?
Besides, what about the fans in Boston, New York, Montreal and Chicago who get to see 39 home games but must watch expansion teams "performing" in 24 of these? And what will happen next year, when two more teams are added? Are these fans getting their money's worth?
The only solution for both Hull and the fans is to bring back the old six-team NHL and send everybody else to the WHA!
Bobby Hull's traumatic persecution complex can be completely cured. May I suggest that, considering his speed, size, weight and strength, the Black Hawks transform the Blond Comet into a rushing defenseman. Bobby Orr finds skating room!
MAJOR DAWKINS (CONT.)
After several readings, I find that Frank Deford has written an article that deals very superficially with events in the life of Major Pete Dawkins (All-America, All the Way, Feb. 21) and includes less than subtle derogatory comments about West Point. Deford first lost my confidence in his article when he ignored Major Dawkins' request not to be treated as "another piece of nostalgia."
Deford implies that, although Major Dawkins is a man of the times, West Point (and its "inhabitants") still lives in the 1950s. Mr. Deford may be gratified to learn that in some respects we still live in the early 1800s. We still march in reviews on the Plain on Saturdays, and we still wear highly ornamented gray uniforms for these reviews. However, it is neither the uniform nor the pageantry that constitutes the substance of West Point. It is the Corps of Cadets, individually and collectively; the people are West Point. It is the group of 4,000 individuals whom Mr. Deford has referred to as "young men who have not been moved by the events of the 1960s." You are wrong, Mr. Deford.
In the process of deciding whether to come to West Point in a period such as the late '60s and early '70s, a young man must assess the possibility that he will die violently in the process of fulfilling his five-year Army commitment. Could a happy-go-lucky, carefree 17-year-old who is unaware of the events of the past 10 years make the decision intelligently? Cadets reevaluate the verity of that decision countless times before graduation. Had Deford taken the trouble to ask questions of a cadet or two he might have found that we are a bit more aware of the 1960s than he assumed us to be. Perhaps even more aware than the average students at a civilian college who do not have as direct a confrontation with war, government and the Army as we do.
Deford's account of one of our football rallies illustrates his lack of understanding of cadets and West Point. Although spirit is an important part of one of our rallies, there is another thing which is possibly even more important. The emotional release of a Friday-night, end-of-the-week party is not one of our options. After a week of wrestling with a heavy academic schedule (with classes still to follow on Saturday morning), a rally, no matter how put-on, produced or manufactured it may appear, is our only means of releasing the nervous energy of the week. Mr. Deford never tried to understand this.
Class of '74
West Point, N.Y.
Frank Deford's article on Major Pete Dawkins, "the most highly regarded young officer in the Army," was unquestionably one of the finest pieces of journalism in SI's history. Of course, I must admit to a bit of prejudice, being a young Army captain presently serving as an adviser in the Republic of South Vietnam
Major Dawkins, I feel, accurately refutes the myopic views of the civilian world in regard to the Army with one comment: "The military is never so evil as some would have it, nor so gallant as others."
Countless young officers serve their obligatory two-year stint in eager anticipation of separation day only to find that most, if not all, restrictions imposed in the service exist in private industry as well. Haircuts, mandatory social functions and bureaucratic procedures are hardly exclusive to the Army.
I think far too many of us nowadays live in a dream world where war is nonexistent and only peace, love and tranquillity abound. Major Dawkins lies somewhere in between the idealist and the realist. Undeniably, he is an asset to the Army, significantly more so today when we are fighting to establish our identity. Unfortunately, many fellow officers look upon his effort as nothing more than personal aggrandizement. Fortunately, their number is rapidly diminishing, and the day of the enlightened officer, diametrically opposed to the crew-out robot, the epitome of the Army officer of the '50s, is in sight.
ASHLEY B. COLE
Bien Hoa, South Vietnam
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