Thank you for the amusing and ironically respectful look at the Land of the Last—Philadelphia (Enough Cracks About Philly? Dec. 4). Being a lifelong fan of Philadelphia sports, I can identify with much of the article.
Let it be understood, however, that Philadelphians appreciate professional talent as much as or more than residents of any other American city. Rare items are always valued higher. The popularity of the Flyers, the rampant excitement over the 1964 Phillies, the explosive interest in the second-half 1971 Eagles (only to have them lose their way somewhere in the off-season) and the adoration of Steve Carlton are just a few examples of this appreciation.
While faithful Philadelphia rooters deserve infinite credit, perhaps Ruly Carpenter could trade the fair-weather fans for Curt Flood. Keep watching and waiting, Philly, we've got no place to go but up.
As one who has assiduously avoided the city of Philadelphia for most of his life, I enjoyed the article by Herman Weiskopf.
December 18, 1972
But please, let's give credit where credit is due. It was our own woebegone New England Patriots to whom Ed Marinaro was referring when he said, "I'd like to play for the Patriots [not Eagles] for a year and then go on to the pros."
May I propose a true Super Bowl between the Eagles and the Pats? The stakes could be, say, the Old North Church steeple vs. the Liberty Bell. Loser take all.
No group of somnambulant Philadelphians can take away what might have been our No. 1 draft pick.
GLENN A. BRIERE
•Marinaro used the line about local teams while speaking in several cities, including Philadelphia, Boston and Cleveland.—ED.
Although I recently moved to Florida, I am a longtime fan of Philadelphia sports. I immensely enjoyed Herman Weiskopf's article on the City of Brotherly Booing. I agree that our Phillies are hopeless, our Eagles are ridiculous and our 76ers deplorable, but one point I disagree on. Big Five basketball is definitely the best in the country. It is a poor season if at least three of the schools don't go to a postseason tournament.
The record speaks for itself. Penn has won the Ivy League title the last three years, and this year may win its fourth. Villanova has never missed a postseason tournament in the 11 seasons Jack Kraft has been there. Temple (the 1969 NIT winner), St. Joseph's and La Salle are consistently on top in the MAC. Say what you want about our other teams, but don't jive with the Big Five.
Fort Myers, Fla.
What a rotten article! It no more captures the personality and character of Philadelphia and its fans than it does the personality and fans of Shanghai.
And talk about the "Philadelphia fighter," your author is a perfect fit.
Boo! to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
Boo! to Herman Weiskopf.
Boo! to the mailman who delivers SI.
Boo! to my dog for not biting him.
Boo! to my son for subscribing.
Boo! to anyone I may have missed.
WILLIAM C. BUSCH
A group of us native-born Philadelphians now located in Mobile, Ala. read Herman Weiskopf's article with mounting indignation interrupted by fits of hysterical laughter. We have appointed several committees to consider whether we should cancel our subscriptions to your publication, and we expect to be in touch with you on this matter within a decade or two.
C. C. HEISLER
How could you discuss W.C. Fields in your article without mentioning the inscription on his tombstone? Fields paid the City of Brotherly Love a grudging compliment (or perhaps delivered a final blow to municipal pride) when he directed that his epitaph read: "I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
ROBERT J. DWYER
New York City
•Even in death W. C. Fields did not pay a grudging compliment to the city. The bronze plate above his ashes at Forest Lawn Park in Glendale, Calif. simply reads: "W. C. Fields—1880-1946." His alleged and oft-quoted epitaph—"On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia"—stems from a series of such inscriptions conjured up by Vanity Fair magazine in the 1920s.—ED.
Perhaps it is true that Philadelphia has had more than its share of poor trade deals, oversensitive superstars and undersensitive and unappreciative fans. And perhaps it is also true that Philadelphia "boasts" a tradition of apathy and failure.
I have gotten out of Philadelphia, but mine is not a permanent leave of absence. I look forward to my earliest return so that I can, once again, join the large contingent of Philadelphians who find pleasure, solace and pride in participating in the one pastime you overlooked—booing the booers.
HE WASN'T BOOED
How ironic that the amusing article by Herman Weiskopf appeared in the same issue as the four-line death notice of Francis X. Reagan, the University of Pennsylvania football star of 1938-40.
Nobody in Philadelphia ever booed Frank Reagan; his accomplishments verged on the incredible. As a sophomore in 1938 Reagan completed a long pass in the waning seconds of a 0-0 Cornell game, against a team that was ranked among the nation's 10 strongest that season. Only a fine tackle on the Cornell 25 prevented the Penn receiver from going all the way in the mud and rain. In the 1939 Penn-Michigan game at Franklin Field, won by Michigan 19-17, Reagan outgained the great Tom Harmon in total yardage, even though Harmon had one of his best games.
In 1940 Reagan led Penn to the most decisive routs in the gridiron histories of Army (48-0) and Yale (50-7). But he saved his greatest performance for the last, scoring all three Penn touchdowns in the Quakers' sensational 22-20 win over Cornell, a team that had given up only two touchdowns that year.
To me, the intercollegiate football Hall of Fame will be a meaningless institution until the name of Frank Reagan is admitted. But whether it ever is or not, he will forever be enshrined in the hearts of all who saw him.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
UNION MEN OR HEROES
I don't think the Alex Hawkins controversy should be extended indefinitely, but I do believe the dissident reader you quoted in SCORECARD ("Anti-Alex," Nov. 27) was wrong. He missed the point of Hawkins' statement dismissing the NFL Players' Association as having "outlived its usefulness."
I have worked on the sports staff of the New York Daily News and ABC over the past 10 years, so my interest in sport is substantial. It is also dwindling, for the very reason Hawkins cites: overkill. All young sports fans used to know all the major league managers and, possibly, the starting lineups of the American and National League teams. They knew the head coaches and most of the players in basketball, football and hockey. Now, even when you work at it for a living, as I do, I'd wager the same is no longer true. How can the average sports fan be expected to know the first line of the Houston Aeros or Atlanta Flames?
And how can a man work up enthusiasm for Archie Clark or Vida Blue? Clark has to struggle along on $130,000 for a year's work and Blue doesn't feel an $80,000 raise is adequate. Heroes? They are longshoremen, going on strike and complaining about lunch hours and wash-up time.
The age of the hero is gone. The age of the individual is past. Collective bargaining is the name of the game. It must seem suspicious to any reasonable man that all votes by the various players' associations are unanimous. Can 1,000 men with minds ever agree on anything? Unanimously?
Your reader chose poor examples to sustain his untenable position. Can anyone deny that the glamour has vanished from the theater and from Hollywood? Does anyone believe that a tenth of the romanticism remains in the newspaper business?
Collective bargaining is a democratic right, he says. Not a right in most places, alas, but a requirement. There is no democracy in it. One must belong to the appropriate union or one cannot have the job. The choice is gone. Freedom is gone. It is another victory for the totalitarianism of unions.
There are too few Alex Hawkinses left in this country. Mike Curtis showed rare courage by revolting against his union. Let us hope that someday other athletes will have the strength and morality to do the same. It would be nice to watch individuals compete again, to root for a man in a battle of heroes. Until then, we must ignore sport or watch two guys with lunch pails, representatives of Local 765, ho-hum their way through the day. After all, they don't have to win or even perform well. They have their security. Management can't fire them, because they're in the union and they have seniority.
Your reader's dissent relative to Alex Hawkins' dismissal of the NFL Players' Association compares that association with Actors' Equity and the Newspaper Guild. How many legitimate plays are successful on Broadway today? How many newspapers are left in New York City? One bright spot remains. When Alex' logical prediction comes true, we won't have to listen to Howard Cosell on Monday night. No strong union will put up with those working hours.
As a sometime student at the University of Chicago and a full-time member of the Kazoo Marching Band, Loyalist Fez Faction, I express my thanks for Herman Weiskopf's depiction of varsity football here (Chicago Is a Toddlin' Team, Nov. 27). With today's emphasis on victory at any price (in order to fill massive stadiums for the purpose of fattening, or in most cases balancing, athletic-department coffers), it is refreshing to witness a program that is truly centered on the wants and needs of the student who is incidentally an athlete, and not the other way around. Improvement in the caliber of the football program at Chicago will come, but never at the cost of sacrificing student interests for the interests of mere victory or masked professionalism.
Who knows, given a few brief decades of gradual improvement, we could end up as the westernmost member of that conference of football factories known as the Ivy League!
THOMAS M. BODENBERG
I do hate to correct the representatives of that noted home of academia quoted in Dan Jenkins' article on USC (That's Not Thunder You Hear, It's USC, Nov. 27), but UCLA's football program, along with the rest of its athletic program, is self-sufficient and not supported by taxation.
Perhaps if the individuals so quoted had been attending the "Radcliffe of the West," they would be receiving an education along with their football training and would be less likely to make such a false accusation. Perhaps, too, they would have experienced the satisfaction of winning two straight Rose Bowls (a triumph not recorded by USC since 1945).
No, that's not thunder you hear in Los Angeles—it's arrogance. Instead of gaining the humility which hopefully might come from being evicted from their Pasadena "home" for two years, the football factory is returning to its old ways. With a "neat sense of humor." I suppose, one is permitted a disdain for sportsmanship.
Santa Ana, Calif.
As a former UCLA student and eternal UCLA fan, I had to chuckle at the USC football players' contention that UCLA has "the best team your taxes can buy." This would mean that USC, being a private institution and therefore not relying on limited public funds, has the best team its money can buy!
San Carlos, Calif.
Stanford, which USC Coach John McKay refers to as "Radcliffe of the West," must pick athletes who are also scholars. There are a few prerequisites to get into Stanford, John. Also, he must be saying that a girls' school (Radcliffe was once all female) beat USC those last two years.
NATE AND THE WARRIORS
A standing ovation to Peter Carry for the long-awaited article on the Golden State Warriors (Could Have Been, Now May Be, Nov. 27). Last year all I read about was the Lakers. Bucks and Knicks. With the additions of Rick Barry and newly acquired Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, the Warriors should keep pace with the Lakers and maybe even go all the way to the NBA championship. But special thanks go to Pete, from me and all Warrior fans, for finally giving Nate (The Great) Thurmond the credit he deserves.
We were delighted and happy to read your article about Snowbird in your Nov. 20 issue (The New Snowplaces Are Showplaces) and the long overdue recognition of our former Alta-ite (though we still consider him part of our community), Ted Johnson. We feel that your article really got to the essence in describing how wonderful Snowbird is.
Some minor corrections are in order, however. Poor "unassuming, shambling old Alta" has five lodges, not four, with 600 beds (vs. Snowbird's 350), and the lodges in Alta, with their new additions, are nationally recognized as being among the best and most modern in the nation. While we are still the Mecca of powder skiers, we also have two relatively new double-chair lifts serving beginners and novices in one of the finest and biggest machine-packed beginning areas to be found anywhere, as well as a new area for intermediate skiers.
A more serious omission in the article, and perhaps even more significant than ours and Snowbird's facilities, great snow and convenient location, is the unique fact that two ski areas, side by side, have established a rapport and a cooperative, harmonious relationship—a coming-together that probably cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We have arranged a package ticket, allowing people to ski in both areas, as well as in nearby Park City, with which we enjoy the same cooperative relationship. Indeed, we in Utah like to think that people who come here enjoy this harmonious spirit as much as the beautiful skiing and the wonderful ambiance.
WILLIAM H. LEVITT
Town of Alta
Although Kenny Moore finished fourth in the Olympic marathon, it is glaringly apparent that he deserves a gold medal in journalism for his unveiling of Uganda's John Akii-Bua in A Play of Light and Shadow (Nov. 20). To borrow from Moore's prose, one finds the article to be "eminently worth" reading. With grand and precise strokes that are not unequal to the elegance of the Ugandan sky at sunset, Moore gives a wondrous account of a genuine and likable fellow. Further, one is presented with another and perhaps more important insight from this excellent commentary. That is, in a small country like Uganda, which is torn apart internally, the Olympics take on special significance, for they create not only heroes, but also national spirit.
You did very marvelous, Kenny Moore.
JOHN E. ROBINSON
One had to be at the Munich Olympic Games to really appreciate Kenny Moore's article about John Akii-Bua of Uganda. Despite the tragedies and bizarre happenings, the 400-meter-hurdle event brought together three of the finest athletes: Dave Hemery, 1968 Olympic champion; Ralph Mann, the leading contender; and Akii-Bua. In winning, Akii-Bua was superb in establishing an amazing world record of 47.82. But his victory lap was most expressive of his elation, as was his acceptance of the gold medal on the victory stand. As Kenny Moore put it, "Akii-Bua most symbolized what the Olympic Games might have been."
John Akii-Bua, a humble, well-conditioned and disciplined athlete, is truly the Sportsman of the Year.
EDWARD E. BRUNNER
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