19TH HOLE: THE READERS TAKE OVER

June 22, 1975

INSIGHTS
Sir:
Thank you for a highly inspirational insight into the career of Rocky Bleier (Rocky Bleier's War, June 9). Your story not only tells of the indecencies of war, it shows the courage of a man whose life has been put before him. I only hope SI will give us more quality stories of this nature.
BILLY MERCHANT
Oviedo, Fla.

Sir:
I thought the article on Rocky Bleier was one of your best. More people should know about him—not just what happened to him in Vietnam, but what happened when he came home, how he showed everybody that, despite his injuries, he could still play football. He proved it in the Super Bowl.
EDDIE LEIBECK
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Sir:
Rocky Bleier's War moved me deeply. It brought out, better than any of the weighty tomes on Vietnam I have read, the ultimate irony of America trying to "save" a battered people. I don't know how aware of it Bleier is even now, but the inadvertent actions of ordinary, decent American soldiers (those of vicious ones need no comment) probably have made us more enemies among the ordinary South Vietnamese people than anything the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese can dream up. No Caucasian can fully sense this; one has to be a "colored" to know how it feels to be saved by uniformed, armed and unnaturally tall men running around one's countryside shooting up everything in sight. Thanks to Rocky Bleier and Terry O'Neil, your huge reading public might just get a glimpse of this truth while they are admiring Bleier's personal candor and courage. Thanks for a touching reading experience.
SAMUEL C. CHU
Columbus, Ohio

Sir:
As a fellow Notre Dame graduate and Americal Division veteran, I read with particular interest Rocky Bleier's account of his experiences in Vietnam. I wholly concur with his notion of the "My Lai mentality," but even more telling was his description of how his company, still jumpy from the previous night's mortar attack, poured a needlessly large number of rounds of ammunition on a single hootch at the far end of a rice paddy. Undoubtedly, it was out of similar feelings of jumpiness and frustration that the tragedy at My Lai was born.

In a war where "strategic air strikes" and "free fire zones" were accepted military tactics, it is indeed ironic that the actions of the infantrymen should be judged so harshly. It was the infantrymen—the "grunts"—who learned most vividly one of the saddest truths about the war in Vietnam: the much-ballyhooed effort to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people was nothing but a euphemistic myth.
DONALD G. LEIS JR.
Enfield, Conn.

Sir:
Rocky Bleier's unit in Vietnam apparently was made up of soldiers who were totally indifferent to the problems and lives of the Vietnamese, and it is unfortunate that his image of the American soldier in Vietnam is likely to be perpetuated by his book. He portrays most of his fellow countrymen as potential atrocities looking for a place to happen. I, too, served as an infantryman in Vietnam and can say with equal authority that, while there were occasional abuses, the behavior of the majority of our troops in that country was no cause for shame. I know of incidents in which U.S. soldiers risked their own lives to avoid injuring innocent Vietnamese who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While Mr. Bleier is certainly entitled to report those incidents and experiences about which he has personal knowledge, I believe the opposite view deserves equal attention.
JAMES F. ROBINSON
San Diego

Sir:
In his tale, Rocky Bleier recalls the death of a close friend, Hawaii, one of more than 50,000 Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam. Bleier was awakened to the injustice of war by his friend's death, but he did not lay down his arms. Perhaps if Bleier and the rest of his comrades had displayed the subtle courage of those who refused to fight because of conscience, the tragedy of Vietnam might never have taken place.
GEOFFREY DUNN
Soquel, Calif.

Sir:
It is my considered opinion that Rocky Bleier's adventures in Vietnam have no place in what is primarily a sports magazine.
CHARLES G. MANNIX
Clinton, Conn.

Sir:
I wish that everyone in America would take the time to read Rocky Bleier's War. I spent almost a year in Vietnam, and this fine article brought back memories of pain, hurt and bewilderment. It also brought back memories of the best friendships I ever made. In reading the article maybe people will begin to understand just what the Vietnamese soldier had to contend with. Certainly Vietnam veterans deserve more recognition from the public. Hats off to Rocky Bleier, and God bless him for telling it like it was.
JERRY BERNA
Milwaukee

PRE'S LEGACY
Sir:
Thanks to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and especially to Kenny Moore, for the superbly written article on the life and untimely death of Steve Prefontaine (A Final Drive to the Finish, June 9).

Living in the Northwest, I was fortunate to see Prefontaine compete on several occasions. My respect for his dedication and sacrifice, as well as for his obvious athletic talent, has been considerable. Moore's article has heightened and broadened my respect for Prefontaine the man.

Pre's honest and straightforward pursuit of excellence in himself and in the caliber of competition in general is something we can all emulate and be the richer for it.
EDWARD L. DOUGLAS JR.
Seattle

Sir:
Kenny Moore's article on Pie's final race and all of our last moments with him is the most poignant, perceptive and memorable sports chronicle I have ever read. We can never completely accept the tragedy of a young champion denied the full accolades of the international running world he might have dominated. Moore's work of art gives Pre the next-best thing: a memorial that will outlast all the awards and publicity already attained.
LAURENCE G. BROWN
Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Sir:
Steve Prefontaine's tragic death is a loss not only to America's Olympic hopes, but to all American amateur athletes. I am sure other American runners will eventually eclipse Pre's track records, but they probably will not be nearly as outspoken against the absurdities and inequities of America's amateur system as Pre was. It would be a fitting tribute to Pre if the system were changed so that the athletes and their needs came first.
DWIGHT S. WOLF
Charlottesville, Va.

FORWARD MARCH
Sir:
I can't thank you enough for Roy Blount's article The Reds Are Coming (June 9). Just one small correction. The Reds are no longer coming. They have arrived, and the Dodgers know it.
ART MORAN
Cincinnati

Sir:
Your article on the Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers (A Bunch with Character, June 9) was a beautiful piece of writing, but reading it on page 72 was a lot like eating a birthday cake with no icing. Will a hat trick in '76 rate a cover story? We Flyer fans sure are hungry for one.
PHYLLIS CLARKE
Margate, N.J.

EMPTY CUP
Sir:
How in the world could you neglect the Flyers two years in a row? The last U.S. team to win two consecutive Stanley Cups was the Detroit Red Wings 20 years ago, yet all the Flyers get for their achievement is one little black-and-white picture.

There was no mention of Rick MacLeish winning back-to-back playoff scoring titles. That feat was previously accomplished only by Phil Esposito and Gordie Howe. Also, you did not mention Bernie Parent's two consecutive Conn Smythe trophies. He is the only player ever to do that. Furthermore, you made no note of the record the Flyers set by shutting out their opponents five times.

Last year when the Flyers won the cup all they got was a two-page write-up and another small picture (at least that one was in color). The Flyers are the best; you can't overlook them anymore.
MIKE BALON
Wecosville, Pa.

COACH SHERO
Sir:
Mark Mulvoy's article on Freddie (The Phantom) Shero (Hockey's Eclectic Wizard, May 26) was as masterful as the "wizard" himself. But the author neglected to expound on one interesting item. Shero's first team in Philadelphia, which missed the playoffs in the final four seconds of the regular season, as Mulvoy reported, did so in a game against the same Buffalo Sabre club it defeated for the cup this time. Ah, revenge!
ANTHONY M. LONGO
Philadelphia

Sir:
Your article on Fred Shero shows that coaching still plays an important role in sports. Talent isn't everything, unless you know how to use it.
WILLIAM KILE
Atlantic City, N.J.

Sir:
Much has been said about the style of Coach Shero and the Flyers, but one important point has been overlooked. The basis of their game plan is karate-on-ice. They seem to work on the theory that if you commit 20 to 25 infractions per period, an intimidated referee will call only three or four, allowing you to get away with the rest. Such tactics will naturally keep any opposing team behind its own blue line, and the Flyers have them down to a fine science. This may be their game, but it is not hockey.
ARTHUR A. KLEIN JR.
Long Island City, N.Y.

Sir:
The quotation on page 33 of your article ("Success requires no explanation, failure permits no alibis") does not come from Fred Shero, nor does it have any real meaning concerning athletes. Athletes and teams have been explaining their successes and alibiing their failures for many years.

The true meaning of this motto can be realized when one considers that it hangs as a constant reminder of the work being done by a few well-trained men at the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal School located in Indianhead, Md. This school trains members of all services to render safe any hazardous item (e.g., a bomb). The persons engaged in this work who fail (extremely few) don't say very much.
MARTIN A. WALLER
Wayzata, Minn.

VOTE FOR SENIORS
Sir:
For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that an item in SCORECARD in your June 9 issue contains a major blooper. The Ohio General Assembly did not defeat a bill (House Bill 123) to reduce greens fees for senior citizens at state-owned parks. In fact, the bill passed the House on May 27 by a vote of 80 to 13 and is now in the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee. The bill has not yet been reported back for a floor vote by the Senate.
SUSAN B. STINE
Research Associate
Ohio Legislative Service Commission
Columbus, Ohio

Address editorial mail to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, TIME & LIFE Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.

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Eagle (-2)
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