A LOT OF RUBLES
I thoroughly enjoyed William Oscar Johnson's intriguing account of the high-powered negotiations between the Soviet Union and the three major American television networks for the TV rights to the 1980 Olympic Games (A Contract with the Kremlin, Feb. 21). It was interesting to learn how completely the Soviets' ideological disdain for capitalism and profiteering vanishes when they are the ones who stand to make the better part of $85 million.
Now that NBC has agreed to pay this exorbitant sum on behalf of all of us who watch their programs and buy the products of their sponsors, it will take a super effort on the network's part to give us our money's worth. On the other hand, if NBC can handle the Olympics with the excellence that we have become accustomed to, thanks to the previous efforts of ABC, the price of $85 million may prove to be a bargain.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Please send copies of your Feb. 21 issue to President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance with my compliments and bill me accordingly. The article should be required reading for anyone contemplating negotiations with the Russians.
RAYMOND C. STEUART
Lenin said the capitalists would sell the rope that would be used to hang them. He was wrong. NBC has bought it.
MARK E. MEDVETZ
March 7, 1977
Another Russian wheat deal.
Your article portrays the supposedly shrewd network executives as overeager, opportunistic, bumbling lads overstuffed with a sense of their mission and self-importance. It is time to justify the purpose and expense of such nonsense. The overpriced, political and/or big-business sham that quadrennially masquerades as the Olympic Games is nothing more than a vaudeville show from which the participants graduate to the big time. It is an unfortunate commentary on the state of our world community and its regard for the ideals of the Games.
(THE REV.) JONATHAN ALMOND
North Kingstown, R.I.
I'm afraid that 1980 will be it for the Olympics. Nobody will be able to afford the Games anymore.
I am appalled by the deplorable manner in which our television networks were treated by the Russians. It is disgusting to think that we would stoop to the sleazy Soviet demands. I admire the CBS people for their turndown of the deal when they had it for the asking. I have contempt for NBC for rushing in to grab it. May NBC lose its shirt.
TERRY N. ANDERSON
The so-called surprise winner of the 1980 Olympic television deal is in reality the loser. ABC and CBS are the victorious ones. The eventual impact of the totally unrealistic $85 million shelled out by NBC will be on the consumer, so in essence we, too, are losers.
But the Russians are the main source of my disgust. They treated the networks like dirt. I just wish our networks had had the foresight to pool their negotiating power and resources to get a realistic cost figure, to make the Russians bargain on our terms.
MARK R. WINTERS
JOHN E. MADDUX
State College, Pa.
William Oscar Johnson asks who won this confrontation. We all know who won. The score is Russia 85, the U.S. and NBC 0.
JACK R. NIELSEN
There are two points that I feel must be made to complete the story. First, no mention was made of Al Rush, NBC senior vice-president for program and sports administration, whose dealings over the two-year period with the Soviet Olympic and television authorities, as well as within NBC, were most significant in bringing the pool idea to near reality.
The second point that concerns me is the incorrect impression left by the story of Roone Arledge's activities during the closing weeks of the battle. I must congratulate him on his persistence, which continued up to the time (some two hours before the signing ceremonies) when his European representative. Georges Croses, met Madame Monique Berlioux of the IOC at the Moscow airport and tried to upset the NBC agreement. The impression that Roone ever deviated in his desire for these Games is incorrect. He is a splendid competitor and I think you do him an injustice by not reporting his activities right to the final gun.
CARL LINDEMANN JR.
New York City
There's a rumor going around here at ABC Television that the initials NBC stand for National Bolshevik Company.
New York City
Now we know what the "N" in NBC stands for: "nuts," as in "They are...."
MICHAEL G. HUTSKO
As a rooter for the underdog, I'm glad NBC won.
I'd like to add a few facts. When Lothar Bock told me that he knew people in Moscow working on the 1980 Olympics and suggested that perhaps if he helped one of the networks with the Games it would help him with his cultural projects, I called all three networks: Roone Arledge of ABC, Bob Wussler of CBS and Chet Simmons of NBC. Arledge and Simmons were out, and Wussler was on a long-distance phone call. Wussler called back and asked that Lothar and I come to his office that afternoon. We did, and the rest of the story is well documented in the article.
New York City
THE GANDOLF REPORT
Those of us out here in TV land with an abiding interest in preserving the English language are most appreciative of your piece on Ray Gandolf of CBS Morning News (TV/RADIO, Feb. 14). In this age of pretty faces, phony teeth and balloon brains, he is the ideal blend of literacy, succinctness and wit.
If the station executives and the TV/radio professors of America want to know how sports should be presented (without clichés, hype and homerism), I suggest they tape Ray's shows for a week and use them as texts. Ray and Hughes Rudd are masters of understatement, true pros in a spotty league of overrated amateurs. Worst of all, they do not get a fraction of the acclaim due them.
W. RICK GARR
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The only better way to start the day would be with 15 minutes of Ray Gandolf in lieu of the five minutes we are given.
As a charter subscriber to SI, let me congratulate you on the article Ugly, Pestiferous and Prepotent (Feb. 7) by William Humphrey and also on its unusual illustrations. It was well written, descriptive and even picturesque. One can well imagine being one of the group of hunters.
RICHARD J. MILLER, M.D.
Kennett Square, Pa.
I enjoyed William Humphrey's evocative piece on boar hunting in the Sologne, partly, no doubt, because I am a professor of French and therefore inclined to appreciate the literary allusions (e.g., Vigny's romantic poem) and the sketches of French mores. But I feel obliged to offer one correction. Contrary to what Humphrey says, Alexandre Dumas had more than a drop of blue blood in his veins. As André Maurois points out in his biography of the three Alexandre Dumases, the writer's grandfather was "a onetime colonel, and Commissaire-Général of artillery [and] came of a noble Norman family, and held the courtesy title of marquis." Your readers might be interested to know a little more about how this family came into being: the "marquis" sired a son by a black slave girl in the French West Indies. This mulatto boy later became a general in Napoleon's army as well as the father of the Alexandre Dumas who figures in Humphrey's story.
JAMES S. PATTY
THE WINNER'S VIEW
E. J. Kahn Jr.'s article on the World Championship of Backgammon (A Quarter a Point Isn't Twenty-Five Cents, Feb. 7) was very interesting. He captures some of the exciting world of tournament backgammon but, unfortunately, expresses the typical loser's syndrome that his opponents won only because they threw fantastically lucky dice. As one who has been playing the game for a year and a half, I can tell him that I've had my share of bad dice. I can also point out that I've had good dice as well and answer his last question as to who won by simply signing this letter.
1977 World Backgammon Champion
Des Plaines, Ill.
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