SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is to be commended for publishing John Underwood's series on football brutality (Aug. 14 et seq.). It is unquestionably a landmark in sports journalism. If The Washington Post won a Pulitzer for Woodward and Bernstein's exposè of Watergate, Underwood deserves no less for exposing the dark side of football.
I have been a subscriber for more than eight years and have read many excellent articles in your magazine, but I was never prompted to write a letter to the editor. John Underwood's series has changed that. I commend him for his well-thought-out, well-written series. Rarely do a man's love for a game and his fear for what is happening to it shine through so strongly on the printed page. Underwood's bias does nothing to harm what he is saying; if anything, it enhances the points he makes. Here's hoping that those who are responsible for the rules and practices at the high school, college and pro levels open their eyes before it is too late.
JAMES M. ANASTOS
I have been a devoted fan of pro football for the past 10 years, but after reading Part 3 of your series I'm not so sure. Football has always been a violent sport, but I have no wish to see players permanently injured. And when the element of drugs is added, I cannot see how this can be avoided. I, for one, support your proposed rule changes.
North Bend, Ore.
Good for you, SI. Finally a major magazine candidly exposes the massive use of dangerous drugs in football. If Pete Rozelle is so sure that pro football players do not use drugs, then why doesn't he institute mandatory urinalysis for all players?
September 10, 1978
Hats off—or shall we say helmets off?—to John Underwood. His series vividly challenges football to initiate safety changes. It's too bad ancient gladiators did not have today's modern football helmet. They could have thrown aside their weapons and merely "speared" one another.
John Underwood's series makes a powerful statement. It is almost as effective as an ad currently appearing on television for your magazine. You may have seen it. It features "hitters" and concludes with Lyle Alzado taking a bat out of Steve Garvey's hands while musing, "I gotta get me one of these."
It is reassuring to know that the business side of your magazine does not control your editorial policies. It would, of course, be too much to hope that the editorial side might influence your business practices.
CLIFFORD D. ALLO
John Underwood's series is a sideliner's point of view. Now a lot of parents will be too afraid to let little Johnny play football, because he'll run into a 200-pound defensive tackle and hurt himself.
I am now a junior at Choctaw High School and I have played football for six years. I have suffered no serious injuries on the field, but I've seen and given out a few. Football is a contact sport; it should not be built up to be anything else. If a coach tells me to center the ball and protect the quarterback, well, I'm going to block the guy in front of me any way I can. If that means I've got to crab-block him or throw a forearm to his windpipe, I'm going to do just that, because he's going to try to do the same.
If I get the chance to tackle a fleet back, I'm going to put my face mask in his numbers so hard that I hope he never gets up. Someday I hope to teach the way I play. Stick him before he sticks you!
There is nothing more satisfying in football than plastering the quarterback. If quarterbacks can't take earning their big money, let them play basketball.
I think you are dead wrong and I think all other guards would agree with me. The "chop block" should not be eliminated in the "clipping zone." I've played football since I was nine, and up to this, my sophomore year in high school, I've been a major user of the chop block in the legal clipping zone. I also think your 11 ways to play "nice" football stink. It sounds like you invented a new game, not football.
La Puente, Calif.
Your discussion of the damaging impact of headfirst tackling techniques brought to mind a concussion I "won" in a one-on-one tackling drill in high school during my sophomore season. Although I had dropped the runner with a shoulder tackle, I repeated the drill, this time sticking my head in the numbers. I guess my concussion proved to the coach that I was a tough guy. As a 15-year-old linebacker, that meant a lot to me. Now as a 25-year-old with recurring neck aches, I realize those tackling techniques were for the birds.
MARK H. MASSÉ
Although it is obvious from his letter (Aug. 28) that John Blacksher is in favor of using his helmet, it is equally apparent that he has not yet begun to use his head.
MARY JANE RYAN
One need look no further than John Blacksher's letter for sufficient reason to make significant changes in football.
In addition to the proposed rule changes, I would add two borrowed from basketball: 1) keep track of personal fouls—after a certain number a player fouls out; 2) call "technical fouls" for flagrant personal fouls and for abusive language directed at officials. In the latter case, give the other team a free one-point field-goal try from the 40-yard line.
Fining a professional athlete who makes more money than the President for unsportsmanlike conduct would be analogous to slapping the wrist of a criminal in a court of law. It wouldn't carry much weight as a useful deterrent. However, if we believe that good sportsmanship is the coach's responsibility, then I suggest: 1) that fines for bad sportsmanship be increased; and 2) that coaches be made to pay half of them.
I have been following Jimmy Connors' career since he first burst upon the tennis scene, and I'm sure I've read just about everything that's ever been written about him. Frank De-ford's piece Raised by Women to Conquer Men (Aug. 28) is, in my estimation, the finest, most complete and perceptive analysis of Connors—the player and the man—ever written. As Deford astutely points out, Connors is a jumble of contradictions; this, coupled with the fact that he and his mother Gloria mistrust the press, must have made writing the article a demanding, frustrating task for Deford. I hope Jimmy reads it.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
It was interesting to find out what has made Jimmy Connors tick. But for anyone to say that Jimbo has turned tabby is ridiculous. In '78 he has won nine tournaments and he leads in Grand Prix points. I hope his tiger juices flow at Flushing Meadow.
Your profile of Atlanta's Ted Turner was a delight (Going Real Strawwng, Aug. 21). It was a pleasure to discover that my hometown does not have a monopoly on thoroughly revolting people.
New York City
It is amazing that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED would devote so much space—any space at all—to a blowhard like Ted Turner. He wouldn't know honor if he fell over it.
Although he sometimes seems to speak without thinking, Ted Turner is a refreshing breeze in professional athletics. His carefree attitude and successful record should be a lesson to others who go through life taking themselves too seriously. Turner is one owner whom I'd truly like to meet.
BRUCE J. BERNSTEIN
As a TV man, professional team owner and sailor, Ted Turner may be a star, but as a military historian he doesn't shine so brightly. Alexander the Great won battles at Granicus, Issus and Arbela, as Turner wrote in his youthful poem. He also routed the Persians at Gaugamela, as Turner says. But the battles of Arbela and Gaugamela count for only one game in the standings, because they were the same battle. Gaugamela was a plain about 20 miles outside of the city of Arbela, and the historic battle fought there in 331 B.C. inherited both names. As one named after the loser at Arbela-Gaugamela, I should know.
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