No one in New York welcomed spring more enthusiastically last week than Ann Scott and the members of the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED letters department. Every winter the letters people struggle to keep up with the mail that follows our annual swimsuit issue. Thousands of letters arrive each month, but that particular issue can be counted on to yield a deluge: "I loved it." "I hated it." "Cancel my subscription." "Renew my subscription." "Where can I get the suits?" "Where can I get the girls?"
Each letter sent to the magazine is read by Scott or a member of her staff. "The job is really great fun," says Scott, who came to SI from the LIFE letters department in 1973.
Every letter received is acknowledged; many of them receive replies.
The writer of a "How dare you?" letter is told how we dared, a "Why didn't you?" one is told why we didn't. Our how-and-why person is usually Judy Hemmel, a sky-diving enthusiast who majored in advertising copywriting and more than a degree of zest for repartee. One reader, having read that Writer Curry Kirkpatrick's child was named Sage, asked whether there was a Rosemary or Ginger in the family. No, said Judy, but Curry was indeed a man for all seasonings.
One group of readers apparently believes we can provide an answer to almost anything. Such requests are referred to our Reader Service Correspondent. For the past four years this has been Susan Kirsch, who last week celebrated the arrival of spring with an arrival of her own, 6-pound 9-ounce Joshua Mathew. Her replacement for the time being is Bob Canobbio, a graduate of Towson State (Md.), where he studied mass communications and played in the outfield.
Reader requests range from those of students who want us to write term papers for them to the type exemplified by a letter from a young woman who was "desperately in love with Franco Harris" and wanted all our extra pictures of him (what she got was the address of the Pittsburgh Steelers). And then there was the reader from Staten Island who requested "all the addresses in sports."
In addition to the thousands of letters, hundreds of phone calls come into the department each month, so many, indeed, that there isn't time to route them through Secretary Sandy Macera. Canobbio and Hemmel answer their own phones, and even chief of the operation Ann Scott gets her fair share of the inevitable inquiries that lead off, "We got this bet, see...." Scott, a patient, gentle woman who recently celebrated her 30th anniversary with Time Inc., observes, "One thing I've learned since coming to SI is that you can't calm an angry fan by telling him, 'Well, it's just a game.' "