What a delightful, insightful article on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (A Different Drummer. March 31)! John Papanek has taken one of the most complex figures in sports, cut through the misconceptions and revealed the Abdul-Jabbar I have always wanted to believe was there. It's writing such as this that separates SI from other sports magazines.
TERRY B. KRAFT
John Papanek's portrayal of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the best pieces of journalism I've ever read. It was thoughtful, informative and captivating.
It is especially gratifying to see an article of such excellence done on a man of such excellence. One of the least understood players in pro sports, Abdul-Jabbar has no equal on the basketball court.
Utterly fascinating writing on an intriguing man. I can't decide which is sweeter: a sky hook by Kareem or Papanek's writing.
RON K. BUTLER
April 14, 1980
Your article on Abdul-Jabbar was great, even though I don't really like him.
Douglas S. Looney's article on former Olympian Don Bragg ("I Don't Make a Good Pet," March 31) was a joyful reading experience. Bragg's poetry may not be in iambic pentameter, but his life-style seems to be straight out of Chaucer.
Given his proclivity for blowing cigar smoke at pulmonic bar patrons, making 60-foot leaps into the Mullica River, aping Johnny Weissmuller and Elmo Lincoln on various New Jersey vines and, most of all, repossessing a Mafia car, I think that Bragg missed his true calling. The man has the makings of a perfect NFL linebacker, his 44 years notwithstanding.
Stockton State has itself one helluva man.
Director of Media Services
New York Football Giants Inc.
East Rutherford, N.J.
Congratulations on a thoroughly entertaining article. My wife, Posy, and I were with Don Bragg last fall in Atlantic City during a special weekend for Olympic gold medalists. Don did it all: smoked through his nose, belched, chewed up his napkin, spit it in his soup and gave his Tarzan call when he wanted the waitress. Never having met Don before. Posy was horrified. I didn't think he had changed a bit since I had seen him 20 years ago—except we watched a TV show on which Don read his poetry, and it was unusually good.
Sewickley Heights, Pa.
In this day and age it's refreshing to know there are people in the world with a sense of individuality as well as a sense of humor. Your article on Don Bragg had me smiling long after I read it.
Speaking for all subdued 40-year-olds. I have just this to say about (Tarzan) Don Bragg's lifestyle: Aaaa-eeyaa-eeyaa-eeoo!
One picture shows a middle-aged man with a cigar in his nose, and another shows him swinging in the trees wearing a Tarzan outfit. Come on, SI! We want to read about people who have grown through their experience in sports, not regressed.
N. THOMAS RICE, M.D.
As a former captain of two intramural championship volleyball teams at Stockton State College. I must congratulate Douglas S. Looney on a thoroughly candid article.
There are two schools of thought at Stockton as to where the credit should go for the success of its intramural program. One holds that Don Bragg is truly a genius. The second tends to feel that the success of the program is the result of the athletes' ability to pole-vault themselves over this self-righteous, conceited and overbearing oaf.
I was president of Stockton's soccer club when Don Bragg arrived. His first words to me were "Who the——are you?" Our relationship continued downhill from there. I am proud to say that the soccer team survived and flourished despite Bragg.
Although we were thorns in each other's sides. I will say this: Don runs one fantastic intramural sports program that is a valuable aspect of Stockton's campus life.
DAVE (SPARKY) KOLATOR
THE MOSCOW GAMES (CONT.)
Regarding your special report on President Carter's call for an Olympic boycott (Stating "Iron Realities." March 31), it's a pathetic-state of affairs when a group of young Americans, many of whom are not old enough to vote, are forced to alter their lives because of the total failure of our government's foreign policy toward the Soviets for the past 35 years.
FRANK X. CHAMPAGNE
West Los Angeles, Calif.
What would Tommie Smith and John Carlos have accomplished had they chosen to boycott the Mexico City Olympics? Nothing. And what did the African nations achieve by failing to appear at the Montreal Games? Very little, except that track fans were deprived of a potentially classic meeting between John Walker and Filbert Bayi.
I think everybody would agree that the Administration's goals are sound, but whether a boycott would contribute toward the attainment of these goals is doubtful at best. As a result, we will punish our athletes to a far greater extent than we will punish the Kremlin.
It's a matter of sacrifice vs. selfishness, or the country vs. "me." If our athletes agree that they must sacrifice, the Soviets may realize that President Carter and our entire nation will stand up for what we believe in.
LOSER OR VICTIM?
I take exception to Larry Keith's article on Glenn Fletcher (Sitting, Waiting and Hoping, March 31). He describes an individual who failed to take advantage of the many educational opportunities offered him and who appears to have no more athletic ability than the average small-college football player. There are lots of guys who are "nice persons to be around" but who do not warrant four pages in your fine magazine. Why did you waste space on this loser?
I suppose your article on Glenn Fletcher was meant to expose the exploitation of college athletes. I know that it was no news to any student who attends a major university. There are Glenn Fletchers walking the campuses of schools all over America.
Larry Keith's poignant piece on Glenn Fletcher clearly depicts the black male's enslavement to the cruel myth that salvation—the promise of upward socioeconomic mobility—can be realized through athletic-prowess. For young Fletcher, achievement in football has become the ultimate ceremony of self-recognition and self-assertion. Nevertheless, of greater import here is the fact that he was victimized and condemned to failure at an early age by the educational system and its representatives.
I strongly urge you to continue reporting on the darker realities of sport in general and intercollegiate athletics in particular. By doing so, you will foster a more perceptive understanding of sport in the black community.
PHILIP A. NABIL
Your SCORECARD item (March 31) on the academic problems of USC athletes illustrates how great the gap between college athletics and academics has become. But let's not blame the schools for "exploiting" the athletes, as one USC administrator put it. If these athletes fail to acquire an education, it's their own fault. They are not forced to enroll in these ridiculous classes. If they want an education, why don't they take challenging courses that will lead to a degree and increase their appeal in the job market? After all, if they can't recognize the importance of a degree, what are they doing in college?
Paul Zimmerman's references to the word GOD etched on the hillside near the site of the NFL's annual meetings in Rancho Mirage, Calif. made for an interesting lead into a well-written article that explained a few of the many intricacies of the Raiders' proposed shift south (Whither the Raiders? March 24). However, had Paul looked more closely, he would have seen that what is carved on the hill is not GOD but COD—a reference to the local junior college. College of the Desert. Then again, the College of the Desert basketball team recently made it to the semifinals of the state tournament, and many feel God may have had something to do with it.
Palm Springs, Calif.
•It is COD, although College of the Desert Athletic Director John Marman says, "Kids are always going up there and changing the C to a G."—ED.
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