I find it very disappointing that most people seem to have no sympathy for the players in the NFL strike and side almost completely with the owners (Star-Struck Canton, Aug. 5). I feel compelled to speak out in favor of the players.
The press and the public by and large see the NFL players as spoiled, rich and greedy with no loyalty whatsoever to the home team or to the fans who pay to see them. They see the fans as the ultimate victims, robbed of the pleasure of attending professional sports events by the sheer callousness and avarice of the players. Whatever happened, they ask, to the good old days when loyalty and pride were stronger incentives than money and a player considered himself lucky to become that idol of millions, a professional athlete?
While it is indeed unfortunate that professional sport has become so involved with monetary issues, the inescapable fact is that sport is a business, and it is unfair to blame this development on the athletes alone. Athletes are no more than one component in a complex of factors that have contributed to the current situation.
Apparently the public does not realize how professional sports are operated off the playing field. The fans demand total loyalty from a player no matter what the personal cost, yet the owners, despite their aggrieved denials, are the first to discard loyalty in favor of money when it comes to dealing with their players. There are very few, if any, owners in professional sports who actually take into consideration loyalty and pride in their dealings; profit, and profit alone, is the overriding consideration.
August 11, 1974
The demands of professional athletes for more freedom within their trade are at the very least worth listening to.
San Jose, Calif.
The football players at Elmore County High School hope the NFL players' strike will not end too soon. It has been a source of great amusement to us. We have enjoyed a few light moments by threatening our head coach with walking off and striking in the same manner as the pros. We are paid nothing, we receive few benefits and we don't even know what they mean by freedom. We play because we love football. Too bad all the strikers can't suffer losing seasons this year.
For the life of me I cannot understand the NFL players' rabid opposition to the "Rozelle Rule." Any NFL player worth his salt was paid a substantial bonus to sign when drafted. Why should an owner give him up without compensation?
GEORGE F. PLATTS
Ormand Beach, Fla.
Pro football owners and players alike should know that their antics have led me to refuse an offer of season tickets, an offer I've eagerly awaited while languishing on the 49er waiting list.
JAMES D. ANDERSON
Being an avid reader of SI, I have always considered it to be excellent. That is until I read the article on the WFL (Ball That Glitters May Be Gold, July 22). I have watched the first two WFL televised games, and those will be my last. I play football at North College Hill High School, and our team is worth more space in your magazine than any WFL team. Instead of glamorizing this bush league, why not write about the 28 veteran Cincinnati Bengals who cared enough about football to defy this stupid NFLPA strike? These men are the real heroes of the game.
In your article Solidarity with Solidity (July 15) you claimed, "The NFL Players Association called a strike and became the first group of professional athletes ever to picket their employers." The least you could do is give credit where it is due. The first group was made up of the veteran players of the Canadian Football League, who went on strike a month before the NFL players did.
Another first for the CFL is that it managed to settle differences before the regular season was affected. A third first is that during the strike the CFL still managed to put on its All-Star Game.
Every summer we here in Ohio have a standing joke that perhaps this will be the year we have an "all-Ohio World Series." The Cincinnati Reds (Beware the Dudes in the Red Hats, June 24) are usually a sure bet to overtake whomever they happen to be trailing at the All-Star break. We expect that. The joke lies in the fact that the Cleveland Indians (Whooping It Up with the Indians, July 29) have never fared as well. The Tribe has often had trouble overtaking anybody, either before or after the All-Star break.
But not so this year. The Indians are alive and well and headed for first place. In fact, maybe the people of Ohio will be spending a few early October days taking short drives into either Cleveland or Cincinnati to watch the master, Gaylord Perry, battle the hustler, Pete Rose. And won't that be a sweet joke on us!
Ted St. Martin's suggestion (SCORECARD, July 29) that there is a place in basketball for the designated free-throw shooter is in no sense innovative. For approximately the first 20 years of this century that was exactly what basketball had. Until the 1923-24 season one player was permitted to shoot all free throws for his team. This led to some prodigious scoring feats in a time when the averages of most players were far below today's marks. For most of the period in which this rule was in effect, free throws were awarded not only for personal fouls but also for what are now known as violations, such as traveling with the ball and double dribbling.
At Kansas, which has one of the richest basketball traditions in the country, the list of alltime single-game high scorers includes the name of Lefty Sproull, who in 1913 scored 40 points against Washington University of St. Louis. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Lovellette, Bud Stallworth, B. H. Born and Walt Wesley ever scored more points in a single Kansas game. Jo Jo White never did. Sproull did it on 14 field goals and 12 free throws. He still holds the alltime Kansas free-throw record for conference games with 279.
The alltime Kansas single-game free-throw record goes all the way back to 1911, when Vern Long, the designated free-throw shooter (although of course he wasn't called that) scored 22 against the Kansas City Athletic Club. My recollection is that the rule was changed to put more of a premium on versatility. Now the trend seems to be to go the other way, as witness not only the designated hitter but the suggestion for designated base runners.
As an avid basketball player, fan and conscientious free-throw shooter, I was extremely interested in your item on Ted St. Martin and his record of 281 consecutive free throws. This is an amazing feat; however, for some time I have been under the impression that the official record for most consecutive free throws was 499, set by Harold (Bunny) Levitt in 1935. I am now curious as to which of these is the record to shoot for.
Browns Mills, N.J.
•Try for Levitt's.—ED.
TALE TOLD OUT OF SCHOOL
Concerning your article on Del Miller (Shrewdest Rube Around, July 29), about 18 years ago a colleague of mine told the following story on herself.
Miller was a member of a junior high social studies class she was teaching. The pupils were given the assignment of choosing a vocation they would like to follow, doing research on it and writing a report on their choice. When my friend saw that Miller had written about horses, she went to the principal for advice. Should she accept this paper? Was raising horses a serious vocation? The principal advised her to accept the paper since Del's grandfather did have horses on his farm, and with some misgivings she gave Del credit for it.
She thought it was a good joke on herself when she later followed Del's career in harness racing. If she were living today she would really laugh at her own misgivings. I wonder if anyone else in that junior high class followed the vocation he or she wrote about. Surely no one could have been more successful than Mr. Miller.
ELIZABETH W. STROHM
Is it a trend or a sign of the times? In one issue (July 29) I find Alvin Dark speaking "darkly," Pincus Sober speaking "soberly," and Al DeRogatis being "derogated." Somewhere I had truly expected to find Myron Cope "coping." Or did I miss it?
MERLE G. FITZGERALD
Chelsea High School
The recent SCORECARD item "Off the Mark" (June 24) gave a typical uneducated track fan's opinion of the starter. Contrary to the author's feelings, starting is a very serious business, and to label all starters "prima donnas" is bush.
The real prima donnas are the not-quite-great sprinters who are trying to upset the world-class dash men as well as harass the starters. With the new false-start rule, this problem of undue delay will soon be corrected.
This year's NCAA championships had two of the nation's finest starters. I've had the pleasure of working with both of these gentlemen. They kept the runners under control and each got a fair and equal start—the way the rules read.
THE TIES THAT GRIND
Bobby Fischer's idea that chess draws be disallowed has merit (A King Takes Himself off the Board, July 15). The weakness of the draw is that it rewards neither player, wastes time and permits the cautious player to play for the draw and hope his opponent will overreach himself.
All chess players will admit that white, the first to move, has a definite plus and that black generally must conform to the opening pattern set by white. The history of tournament play shows that white wins far more often than black. Indeed, many masters (though they would hardly admit it) play to win with white and to draw with black. An improvement over Fischer's play would be to award a "quality point" to black for a draw but no such point to white, since white has the initiative and should be forced to exploit it, whereas black's first concern is to stay even. Then should a match end in a 9-9 tie, the player with the most quality points would win.
THE REV. E. M. CATICH
Re your SCORECARD item "Sinking Feeling" (July 15), on the radical crew shell designed for economy, the British have missed the boat. I worked five years for the MIT crew team, the ultimate in rowing experimenters. They tried all kinds of liquids and salves for hull surfaces, Styrofoam hulls, fiber glass, hollowed-out pieces, electronic stress gauges and photographic studies and I towed several radical hull designs all over the Charles. Nothing really worked.
Harvard's national championship victory (Smooth and Rude and Fast, July 1) is based on the real secret of success. Despite the Harvards' cockiness, they have earned their laurels with many hours of pain-filled work. They always rowed twice as many hours as any other crew on the river. They ran steps, lifted weights and worked hard all year to do one thing: move a shell through the water. If England wants a top-secret formula for increasing speed and saving money, here it is: buy an old eight and get good men to power it.
PETER H. BROWN
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