ON THE STRIKE
I have been an avid baseball follower for many years. I think it is a great game and would support it at any level. But with nothing to cheer about during the major league players' strike, I feel moved to ask a few questions.
Aren't the major league players placing themselves on the same level as employees of giant corporations? How can we regard baseball as a sport in which athletes compete against each other when the actual competition is between the players and the owners?
Obviously, the main objective for both sides is money. However, those already lucrative contracts most ballplayers have signed mean nothing if the players are sitting at home. The owners, too, will suffer, though most have other avenues of business. So aren't the ballplayers hurting themselves for a few dollars more a month?
I am sure I speak for most of America's sports fans by expressing my sorrow over the demise of what once was our national pastime.
All I can say about the baseball players' strike is that it is permanently damaging. It damages the fans with all their dreams and expectations. It damages the owners, who have their financial limits. It damages TV sponsors. (Who knows? They just might find someplace better to spend their money next year.) And most of all, it hurts the players themselves. What is wrong with a wealthy America when it does not know a good thing when it has one?
If anyone could explain why a baseball player needs so much money, I am sure plenty of fans would be interested. Maybe a story about a day in the life of a player could answer the many questions fans have about this whole thing. I cannot find the answers myself.
M. J. SIGNAIGO
When and if major league ball parks open their golden gates after such a ridiculous strike, wouldn't it be great if the fans all across the nation went on strike and boycotted every single stadium in the country in their own display of anger at the actions of the owners and players with their greedy, conflicting demands on each other? It would be a delight to observe Mr. Busch boil in his brew, Mr. Yawkey bake in his beans and Charles O. Finley break all his crayons and throw out his coloring books. Fans, unite. We've been taken for granted too long!
In your Oct. 25 issue previewing the 1971-72 pro basketball season, three "classic confrontations" were pictured: Gus Johnson of the Bullets against Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Bucks against Nate Thurmond of the Warriors and Jerry West of the Lakers against Jerry Sloan of the Bulls. As fate would have it, these battles are presently going on in the NBA playoffs. The only matchup you did not picture is the one between the Boston Celtics' John Havlicek and the Atlanta Hawks' Pete Maravich.
I have to agree with Barry McDermott when he says that if basketball eliminated its bizarre fans the game would lose some of its crowd appeal (Gimme an A, Gimme a Boo! March 27). It is amusing to watch Dancing Harry of Baltimore or a screaming fan in Madison Square Garden—from a distance. But if you have to shell out $8 or $9 and then sit next to one of these monomaniacs who scream every time the opponent gets the ball they aren't so funny, and they'll probably ruin the game for you.
One solution to the problem would be to set up a specific area where screaming zealots could go to sound off. Then everyone could see and hear them, and they wouldn't ruin the game for an innocent by-sitter.
Oyster Bay, N.Y.
In a day when bad examples are seen everywhere, why must a good publication like SI sink so low as to cheer the immaturity and thoughtlessness of the people featured in that article. There is plenty of obnoxiousness at sports contests as it is.
William Johnson's article (Private Journey Through the Blue Snow, April 3) is the most eloquent statement of true sport that I have read in some time. The Volvo worker who sucks in his gut, pulls up his pants and traverses 53.5 miles of wet snow without monetary incentive is a winner in every sense of the word. The current crop of million-dollar ABA-NBA crybabies would do well to take note, for they pale in comparison.
CURT N. RAUSCH
Tips up to William Johnson and SI for sharing with us the ardor, the pain and the beauty of Vasaloppet P√•s √ñndag.
The barrage of accusations that Bill Walton is a crybaby and that the Bruins are overprotected by the officials goes on. The latest installment was provided by SI's Curry Kirkpatrick in the article Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh! (April 3). Impartiality and adeptness are the basic criteria for good officials. The officials for the UCLA-Louisville game were Jim Hernjak and Reggie Copeland—Hernjak from the ACC and Copeland from the Southeastern Conference. Both men represented neutral areas and are considered to be among the best in their respective areas.
As for Walton's image of being a crybaby, one must understand Bill for what he is, a very talented and able athlete. But while everyone raves about him, Bill is more concerned about the team's play. He is an extremely unselfish ballplayer, but more importantly a good teammate and friend.
While Bill Walton's honesty in expressing his emotions during games as well as in dealing with the media draws criticism, one must respect his refreshing candidness as an individual.
UCLA basketball team
Come on, don't be too hard on Walton. He probably gets that way watching rival coaches jump up and down, yelling at the refs and chewing towels on the sideline.
After watching UCLA basketball for, lo, these many years, I cannot recall ever hearing a UCLA player complain after a game. So if the rest want to break up the "dynasty," let them field a team that can do it!
I wish to make no excuses for the North Carolina basketball team. With a better-played first half, the Tar Heels could have won their game against Florida State going away. Instead, they played the worst 20 minutes of basketball I have ever witnessed and lost their bid to dethrone UCLA. But no matter, things like that can happen. What does matter, however, is how the two officials involved in the game ever got out of the bush league. I am really undecided as to which was worse—North Carolina's first-half play or the officials' calls for the entire game.
While many of the calls against North Carolina left me enraged, I must in all fairness admit that some of the calls against Florida State were equally inept. So I am not suggesting favoritism. The burning question remaining in my mind is: With only four teams left in its national tournament, couldn't the NCAA come up with enough capable officials to call those games? Kind of makes you wonder how they get through the regular season, doesn't it?
ROBERT M. BEACH
I just cannot believe what I saw on national TV. The NCAA championship semifinal between North Carolina and Florida State was a travesty. The referees had absolutely no control over the game. Never have I seen such hacking, charging, traveling and so many other blatant infractions go unnoticed. The game got so far out of the officials' grasp that when they tried to recover they were usually wrong. I don't know how the NCAA selects officials for these games, but I know we fans, not to mention North Carolina and Florida State, deserved better than what we got.
Rockville Centre, N.Y.
SWEETER THAN A KISS
Unaccustomed as I am to writing to the 19TH HOLE, Pat Putnam's article They're Sweet 16 and Deserve a Kiss (March 27) cries for comment. I was there at the Richmond Coliseum for the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. track meet and, frankly, our girls, 16 or otherwise, deserve a lot more credit than a collective smooch or a Coca-Cola. One veteran track observer, John T. Core, ranked the crowd response (9,000 plus) to Debbie Heald's record-breaking mile run as one of the top three emotional reactions he had ever witnessed.
My quarrel with Mr. Putnam's story, I guess, is that he did not capture the full emotion of the meet. Maybe it was not Billy Mills at Tokyo, but the showdown was billed as an "us vs. them" confrontation, and those in attendance took it that way. Days later I still get choked up just reading about Debbie's race—and to summarily dismiss Wendy Koenig's start-to-finish 880 victory with the words "two minutes and 11 seconds later..." is surely the injustice of the indoor season. Thank goodness you had Photographer Tony Triolo there to capture Wendy as she was—disbelieving. Triolo does first-rate work, and so does Putnam most of the time, but with the wasteland of professional athletics garnering so much ink on today's sport pages, full acknowledgement of the emotional dimension of an amateur event would have been refreshing.
I enjoyed Pat Putnam's article, including his fine recognition of our Wendy Koenig. But it is too bad he did not mention that Wendy stopped off in Boulder, Colo. two days after beating the Russians and set a new Rocky Mountain AAU record (55.3) in the 440. Wendy also won the long jump and ran a 440 leg on the winning medley-relay team, which set another meet record.
Estes Park, Colo.
Congratulations are in order for Pat Putnam and the SI staff for the excellent article about the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. track meet. Your past coverage of women in sport has been just about zero, and I considered canceling my subscription. But Mr. Putnam has restored my faith in you completely.
In a letter published in your March 27 issue, Mr. James Donn Jr., president of the Gulfstream Park Racing Association, mentioned "the salient fact that thoroughbred tracks throughout the U.S., with the exception of those in California, generally are down in wagering and attendance as a reflection of the national economy...."
I would like to point out to Mr. Donn that horse racing in Arizona has never been better. The current Turf Paradise (Phoenix) season is setting alltime marks for both wagering and attendance. Wagering figures to be up in the area of 12%, by the time we close on April 23. And last year was also a record season.
Folks in Arizona are trying horse racing and liking it.
Turf Paradise Inc.
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