I read with sadness and outrage the statement made by the father of the young mini-cycle racing competitor: "Well, as the old saying goes, it isn't really cheating unless you get caught, now is it (Down Will Come Baby, Cycle and All, Aug. 13)?" That's just beautiful, really beautiful! There is a group of men in Washington, D.C. who probably justified their actions of about a year ago with the same old saying.
I am sure that this type of father is the exception rather than the rule, but I'm afraid that his type is becoming more prevalent. Would a lifetime suspension for flagrant cheating, and especially a second violation, be too severe a penalty?
ARTHUR E. BOWERS
Regarding your article on "minimen"—or should I say "minibrats"—this goes to show how competitive our society is today, pushing children further and further into winning. Who is winning the race, the parent or the child? There is a time and place for competition in a child's life, but not right out of the maternity ward!
JOHN F. JONES
My mother just sold my Honda SL 70 because she doesn't think it's safe for me. I'm only 13 and a girl for that matter. But my brother is 14, and he's got a Suzuki 125, which he rides all the time. It's not fair.
St. Joseph, Mich.
Those of us in the health-care field who are dealing with an epidemic of motorcycle accidents and the injuries therefrom have to consider the article a true disservice.
The increase in injuries to small children riding minibikes is significant, though there is no mention of this in the article.
I would hope that the commercial interests will not continue to have their way totally. Discerning parents should protect their children from this source of harm as they would from any other.
THAD C. STANFORD, M.D.
Ernest Havemann attempted to draw a close comparison between minicycle racing and Little League baseball. Although I agree that the parents in both sports do become excited and sometimes overly zealous in their support and criticism of the youngsters, the comparison ends there. In Little League baseball the father cannot buy his son a strong arm, a sharp batting eye or quickness, or enter him on a team with a 100% chance of receiving a trophy. The only items usually purchased are a baseball glove for about $10 and, sometimes, baseball shoes with rubber cleats. Trophies or medals are won by teams, not by individuals.
In over a decade of managing Little League teams I have yet to see anyone connected with the program intentionally cheat. Your analogy of "minimen" riding motorcycles to Little League baseball players does not hold up. Let each stand on its respective merits (or demerits).
Santa Maria, Calif.
Your coverage of the minicycle racing scene is the fairest representation of the sport that I have seen in the national media. Havemann's comments on the "Little League syndrome" among parents were accurate and fair. However, the entire growing-up process is subject to this parental influence, a fact not often recognized by those who criticize it. Without stretching things too much, we could say that our civilization, imperfect though it is, resulted from variations of the Little League syndrome. Its root cause is that desire for our children to be a little better than ourselves.
Parents wrapped up in sports activities for youngsters sometimes carry this desire to excess, but they are in the minority. Usually, parents behave the same at the motorcycle track as they do elsewhere, and the effect on their children would be the same.
One final point. Ernest Havemann based his story on what he saw at a very competitive and professionally run race. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. For every "professional" race there are a thousand that are a result of "betcha my Rupp'll beat your Indian." That type of racing costs very little and is about the best thing that could happen to a developing youngster.
PATRICK J. MACKIE
Laguna Hills, Calif.
A yellow jersey to you for finally printing an article about American cyclists (Fastest Legs in Two Leagues, Aug. 13). As an officer in charge of the newly formed United States Military Academy Cadet Cycling Club I am in favor of any attempt to foster interest in this Olympic sport.
West Point will have a racing team this year and we are seeking other college teams with whom we could compete. Eastern intercollegiate cycling, to our knowledge, is nonexistent at this time; however, we hope that that situation will change soon. I know that all of the cyclists in our country join me in asking you for more articles about this sport.
THOMAS B. SURLES
West Point, N.Y.
BRUTALITY AND HATE
I was thoroughly disgusted by George Plimpton's article (Thrown to the Lions, Aug. 6). As a part-time intellectual, I understand a writer's yearning to question and analyze. However, as a former football player I am always irritated by non-football friends who delight in remarking about football games, players and coaches, based only on brief or superficial observations. I am equally irritated by Plimpton's intellectual "violin teacher" approach to his football experience. Football is a game to be played brutally and unquestionably, not to be analyzed in wonderment by an Ivy League egghead.
West Chester, Pa.
It is time we all realized what football is really like. It is hard for me to believe that a nation of intelligent people would spend so much blood, sweat, tears and money on a sport that is so dehumanizing. Coaches say football makes players "mean." In the words of Plimpton the hate is "as thick as steam."
Edwin Shrake's story ('I Talk Real Polite and Nice,' Aug. 13) depicts the true Leo Durocher—the one people often don't see, due to the impression given them by the press. What he gave to baseball will be remembered: the excitement of the teams he managed, his quarrels with umpires and players and his coaching philosophy.
This year has been particularly disheartening for the Astros. Injuries and poor pitching have plagued the team, and I hope fans realize that it was not Durocher's fault.
I honestly feel that Durocher's association with the team will be felt next year, whether or not he is still the manager, and that next year the Astros will be the team that their fans have dreamed about.
I read with great interest your article on Ben Jipcho (Jipcho Is Hitting His Stride, July 30), as this fabulous athlete seems to have been overlooked in the North American press. There is one point in this article which I would like you to clarify. Jipcho names as one of his goals becoming the first man to break any world record on African soil. If we still consider South Africa to be part of the continent of Africa, which even the most ardent anti-apartheid groups must admit, then Jipcho will be disappointed. I think that I am correct in saying that Gert Potgieter of South Africa broke the world 440-yard hurdles record in Bloemfontein on April 16, 1960. This would be the first world record broken on African soil.
Potgieter was a co-favorite with Glenn Davis to win the gold medal at Rome that year, but unfortunately he was involved in a very serious automobile accident while touring the Continent in preparation for the Olympics, and the sight of one eye was impaired I believe that this courageous athlete recovered sufficiently to become a pole vaulter.
It is also interesting to note that Potgieter's record stood for over 10 years, until broken by Ralph Mann in 1970.
GARTH S. JOWETT
NO KICKS (CONT.)
This charter subscriber finds it gratifying that SI occasionally finds space for an article on the world's No. 1 sport (Learning the Game by Rote, Aug. 6). Soccer is very much alive and kicking in the U.S.
Our own Rochester Lancers are from the smallest city in the NASL but should survive due to the extensive youth programs here—if they, like the others, put more Americans on the field.
Every public high school in this city and county fields a soccer team; the summer junior league has grown to two divisions, the amateurs to three, and most of our towns have a summer program for boys and girls.
We of the Chili Soccer Association are proud that the Little Guy soccer program, which began in our small suburb in 1970, has grown to about 150 teams in the county this year. Chili, with a population of about 20,000, is completing its fourth season with more than 600 soccer players from 6 to 15, plus two junior and two amateur teams and four girls' teams.
If the NASL can just keep going, programs such as ours will provide the future stars. As predicted earlier this year in SI by Clive Toye, the future Pelé is playing now in this country—maybe right now here in western New York.
DAVID A. BAILEY
I read Gwilym Brown's soccer article on Kyle Rote Jr. with great interest but also with a keen sense of frustration. Having also played in college (University of North Carolina) and graduated at the same time as he, I'm sure I share many of his feelings and hopes for the success of American soccer. I only wish I could share in his present opportunity to advance the game here.
Though I was an All-South selection in college and am presently playing for an amateur club, I have never been made aware of further professional possibilities. I mention this fact because there is much American-bred talent that is going to waste, not only from my standpoint but also that of many others. There are no clearly defined avenues to pursue leading into the pro ranks. If there were I'm sure you would see many more capable American players "learning the game by Rote."
Basking Ridge, N.J.
UP WITH THE BIRDS (CONT.)
I have tried to watch with equanimity your obsession with certain teams of the NL East Division, specifically the Cubs and the Pirates. It was with satisfaction that I read the article on the "scrappy" Cardinals (Cashing in Those Intangibles, Aug. 6) after weeks of articles on the "awesome" Pirates and the "balanced" Cubs. It was with even greater satisfaction that I noted that through Friday, Aug. 10, the run-poor Cardinals had scored 471 runs while the awesome Pirates had pounded out a devastating 475 runs. With their traditionally underwhelming pitching staff (which is running true to form this year), the Pirates could hardly be considered real threats to the division title hopes of the Cards, the Cubs having politely removed themselves from the race (also true to form).
As I was watching Wilbur Wood winning his 20th game against the Minnesota Twins, I wondered if any modern major league pitcher has ever won 20 or more games and lost 20 or more games in the same season. I cannot find any evidence supporting this, but if it has not happened before, I believe Wilbur has an excellent shot at it.
His record at this time is 20-17.
Grafton, N. Dak.
•The last pitcher with such a record was Walter Johnson (25-20) in 1916.—ED.
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