PORTRAIT OF BILL
Frank Deford's story of Big Bill Tilden (Hero with a Tragic Flaw, Jan. 13 and 20) is one of the most affecting, poignant, splendid pieces of writing and reporting I have seen. Please convey my congratulations to him for his accomplishment. Please accept my congratulations for printing it.
GEORGE V. HIGGINS
In my opinion Frank Deford's story was the finest piece of writing ever to appear in the pages of SI, a magazine with a long history of well-written articles. Deford presented to me an athlete about whom I knew very little, and brought him to life. It is hard to believe that he never knew Big Bill personally, so sensitive was his approach to the man. At the end of his article Deford states that Bill Tilden's gravestone "is the only monument of any kind anywhere in the world...that pays tribute to the greatest tennis player who ever lived." Wrong. Hero with a Tragic Flaw serves as a far greater and more meaningful monument to the man's lifetime than a gravestone ever could.
South Ryegate, Vt.
If anything, these two articles, besides telling of Tilden's tragic flaw, show an even greater flaw in man: his callousness and insincerity toward his fellow man when one falls on hard times or is going through a crisis.
RONALD J. ROGACKI
In my 33 years I have never before written a letter to an editor, and probably never will again. However, I can't resist thanking Frank Deford for his moving articles on Bill Tilden. It strikes me that Big Bill experienced "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" in his effort to discover what it means to be alive. Thanks, Frank, for giving Big Bill a fair shake.
February 3, 1975
As Bill Tilden's great-nephew, I was most interested in your articles on him. Unfortunately, I only met Uncle Bill once, and have no memory of the experience. But I'll always regret that I never had the chance to know him as a person. Your articles confirmed my belief that he was a fascinating individual. Tilden may have been childlike, but he was never small. His triumphs, mistakes and shortcomings were all larger than life.
Lord knows, Tilden had unique family and personal problems that plagued him his entire life. However, he faced a more general problem, one that every dedicated athlete must face during his lifetime. Anyone who spends his formative years developing a purely physical talent to the exclusion of all others must realize that at an early age his ability will deteriorate for the greater portion of his adult life. The deterioration of one's major talent, the talent by which one defines one's self, prior to middle age, must require a tremendous psychological adjustment. As Deford implies, Tilden's homosexuality and personal problems increasingly manifested themselves as his physical talents declined. Uncle Bill's failure to adjust to his physical deterioration created pressures that he could only release through socially unacceptable activities.
Perhaps Uncle Bill's greatest tragedy was that he possessed talents which, if cultivated, might have sustained him throughout his life. As Deford correctly indicates, Tilden was an abominable novelist. However, he was an intelligent and analytical writer who wrote several books on tennis, Match Play and the Spin of the Ball for one, that are still considered classics. People have told me that Tilden clarified the game for them as no one else ever had. But Uncle Bill's concentration on tennis, which consumed all his time and energy, forced him to neglect this talent which, as a result, remained essentially dormant. Had he found time to develop his journalistic abilities, he might have discovered a release for his growing frustrations. Tilden's singleminded pursuit of excellence in one field forced him to waste his other talents. This is the Catch-22 situation every dedicated athlete faces.
WILLIAM T. TILDEN IV
Thumbs up to Dan Jenkins for his article on the Super Bowl (Pittsburgh Punches It Out, Jan. 20). He captured all the excitement and color of New Orleans and the superb Pittsburgh defense. It's a shame Minnesota Coach Bud Grant could not accept another defeat, and admit Super Bowl IX was a game well executed by two fine teams. Art Rooney, Chuck Noll, the Steelers and all Pittsburgh fans can be proud of a great season and a richly deserved NFL title.
DIANE M. BRANAGAN
Dan Jenkins told it the way it was, with the Steel Curtain rampaging through the line and pressuring Fran Tarkenton into throwing some passes that were intercepted and others that didn't make it past L.C. Greenwood. The Vikings' third Super Bowl loss only confirms that there's no stopping Franco's Army once it gets rolling.
Bellows Falls, Vt.
It is all too obvious now, so Viking fans can stop making excuses. Minnesota just can't win the big one. It's as simple as that.
S.E. KILDAHL JR.
I think photos make the magazine, and your Super Bowl issue contained the best collection of football photographs I have ever seen.
La Habra, Calif.
In front of me is a stack of SI issues that has accumulated since the school year began. I am the world's No. 1 debunker of superstition and I am writing to comment on that awful "cover jinx" of yours.
Consider what you did to Archie Griffin (Sept. 9). Poor guy, he only got the Heisman Trophy. Or take O. J. Simpson (Sept. 16). He proceeded to help put his team in the playoffs and his feet up and down for more than 1,000 yards.
Then there was your "A's Go for Three in a Row" cover of Oct. 7 with Catfish Hunter. The A's lost one of five and Hunter gained one victory and a save. The week after rookie Woody Green of the Kansas City Chiefs made the Nov. 18 cover, the jinx weighed him down so badly he achieved only 114 yards in a victorious effort. Oklahoma (Nov. 4) never lost.
Despite a difficult road schedule your No. 1 college basketball choice, Louisville (Dec. 2), has so far won all but one; USC, on the Dec. 9 cover after its miracle win over Notre Dame, dumped Ohio State 18-17 in Pasadena; Rick Barry (Dec. 16) is still dynamite; and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Franco Harris (Jan. 6) won the Super Bowl by 10 points and Harris was named MVP.
People should be thrilled to make the cover of your fine magazine.
Kentucky has class, true (Rupp's Old Fief Is Far from Barren, Jan. 20), but since you chose to illustrate your article with photos from the Wildcats' game with Auburn, I feel you should have made more mention of the Wail Eagles' fine 90-85 victory. Auburn out-rebounded the 'Cats 60-42, with a starting lineup that includes three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. I suggest you keep an eye on this bunch of fuzzy-cheeked upstarts.
ORVILLE E. BACH JR.
It took several rereadings of your article Pennsylvania Big Shot (Jan. 20) before it finally sank in that this appalling story is true. Herb Miller belongs at a target range, not in a deer woods. He is merely using the animals as convenient targets. There is no place in today's fragile American hunting scene for a man of his values.
Although Miller's assertion that he is "the best deer killer in the state" may be true, I am certain that he is a far cry from the best deer hunter.
You've got to be kidding! I take exception to the fact that I pay good money to subscribe to a sports-oriented magazine and then must read about a "Pennsylvania big shot" who is in fact nothing more than a guy who is obviously too lazy to hunt in a sportsmanlike manner.
How can SPORTS ILLUSTRATED glamorize the killing of a deer from the comfort of a perch one mile away? Your next article will probably tell us about the heroic exploits of a big-game hunter in a Learjet equipped with air-to-air missiles engaged in a deadly dogfight with mallard ducks.
WILLIAM J. BURKHARDT
I'm really sorry to hear of someone calling himself a sportsman when all he has to do is sit on a hillside and wait for a deer to appear so he can shoot it. Thank goodness fewer than 1% of U.S. hunters engage in such activities. A vast majority of hunters are willing to pit their skill against an animal's instinct and at least make a sport of it.
It must be quite a contest, downing a deer at a mile with a highly sophisticated weapon perched atop a table. Perhaps Mr. Miller could fathom a way to set up a howitzer at his living-room window, thereby eliminating the need to ever venture forth into the outdoor world.
East Windsor, N.J.
Here is the perfect solution: put Herb Miller in the Louisiana marshes armed with a stiletto, a .357 magnum, a blowgun, or even a howitzer, if you please, but preferably at night. With luck Miller will not only decrease the growing reptile population (Getting Swamped by 'Gators, Jan. 20) but will have ample opportunity to prove what a great competitor he truly is.
CARL LAMBEIN JR.
Please. In the future if you have no better article than this one, leave a blank page.
BRENT A. WESTLUND
Dr. George Sheehan (SCORECARD, Jan. 6) is absolutely correct when he says sweat is odorless. However, that does not mean "the Saturday night bath is ablution enough." One estimate of the number of bacteria per square centimeter in the armpit is 2.4 million. Merely rubbing down with a towel after a workout is not going to remove all the bacteria and prevent the malodorous condition that has enriched the coffers of deodorant manufacturers. Unless Dr. Sheehan is anosmic, he can verify this by going into any of many locker rooms that have sweat-soaked clothes or towels lying around.
The running physician says showers are "time-consuming" and that they can "lead to a chill and complications." Running, football, basketball, soccer, etc. are time-consuming and can lead to blisters, shin splints, twisted ankles and complications. So what? So shower.
Louis R. HUNDLEY
Professor of Biology
Virginia Military Institute
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