THE GREAT GRETZKY & CO.
The article by E.M. Swift on The Great Wayne Gretzky (The Best and Getting Better, Oct. 12) was itself great! One can only hope the NHL capitalizes on this wunderkind and his style of play. Who said the NHL couldn't be exciting without violence? Isn't it interesting that unquestionably the best player in the league won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the most gentlemanly player and the MVP award in the same year?
East Thetford, Vt.
Wayne Gretzky the best player in the NHL? Without question? Aren't you forgetting Bryan Trottier, the Islanders' star center?
West Hempstead, N.Y.
So The Great Gretzky goes behind the net, a tactic that may revolutionize the game of hockey. That's nice! Any of the kids on the streets of north Baltimore carrying lacrosse sticks could have told him about it. It's been a primary offensive tactic in lacrosse for years. And lacrosse isn't unknown in Canada.
I must compliment you on Paul Zimmerman's well-written article Violent and Eloquent (Oct. 5). Lester Hayes is a fine football player and, from what I've read, a fine person as well. A stutterer myself, I have nothing but admiration for this man who has defeated his speech impediment. He has shown me that stuttering can be conquered.
JOHN C. HATHAWAY
October 26, 1981
Your article celebrating the "head butt" tackling technique used by Lester Hayes, one of the most successful defensive backs in professional football, was circulated throughout our law office with great interest. We have defended products-liability actions brought against football helmet manufacturers for more than 10 years and intend to continue that representation. We do not now and never have represented Riddell, Inc., however.
Your glorification of a violent tackling technique long recognized as the leading cause of quadriplegia in football players is hypocritical in view of your pious and self-indulgent August 1978 series, Brutality—The Crisis in Football. The Oct. 5 article is also irresponsible and incredibly dangerous.
It is irresponsible to allow Hayes to characterize the "head butt" as a "Riddell technique," when anyone remotely familiar with football knows that all helmet manufacturers are horrified at the prospect of their helmet being used as a weapon and specifically warn against the potential catastrophic consequences arising from the use of such techniques. And it is dangerous because of the probability that college, high school or youth league players, their parents and coaches will be inspired by your article to adopt the "Hayes technique." As an attorney faced on a daily basis with the human tragedy caused by football accidents at all levels of play, and as an individual who cares about youngsters in general and those involved in football in particular, I'm furious at the damaging effect your article will have on the efforts of countless concerned individuals to prevent needless carnage on the football field. The current movement in many areas to ban football in interscholastic competition is in great measure fueled by the very injuries your article could help to perpetuate. You have pushed football tackling back into the dark ages.
Somebody should throw a flag on SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and Lester Hayes.
Rust, Armenis & Schwartz, P.C.
As president of Riddell, Inc., I want every football player in America to know that the head butt described by Oakland Cornerback Lester Hayes as the "Riddell technique," is illegal under high school, collegiate and, under some circumstances, professional rules and is contrary to the clear warning placed in the football helmet by all manufacturers. Hayes is correct in saying that using this technique is "flirting with disaster." The disaster is not chasing feet, however; the disaster is spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair with a broken neck. My advice to young football players is: Think about it. Follow the rules and play safely so you can live to enjoy the game of life.
FRANK W. GORDON
•The points readers Patterson and Gordon make are very well taken, but printing what the subject of an article says, or describing his method of play, doesn't mean that we condone, much less glorify, it. Moreover, it should be noted that Hayes's technique, however dangerous and deplorable, is not forbidden under NFL rules, which make it illegal for a player to "use the crown or top of his helmet unnecessarily" or to "butt, spear or ram an opponent" who is in a defenseless position, such as standing still, or on the way down or already on the ground. NCAA rules, on the other hand, state: "No player shall deliberately use his helmet to butt or ram an opponent.... There shall be no spearing.... No player shall intentionally strike a runner with the crown or the top of his helmet."—ED.
THE AINGE CASE
The story of Danny Ainge (The Courting of Danny Ainge, Oct. 12) is a sad one; sad because here is a young man who had committed himself to playing baseball but apparently isn't willing to work at his chosen profession in order to make himself a better player. He has played the equivalent of two full seasons in the majors without the benefit of spring training or winter-league baseball, and still he expects to go out on the field and be successful. When he isn't successful he considers his career in baseball a failure and wants to pack it in, to move on to supposedly greener pastures in the NBA.
Many of today's successful baseball players have had to put in long hours of hard work and play in the winter leagues to improve their skills. It's necessary in baseball; only a rare few make it on raw talent alone. In my opinion, Ainge is an example of a spoiled athlete who wants everything handed to him.
In spite of the scathing criticism Danny Ainge has received for wanting to change jobs, it appears to me that his crime is having an alternative to baseball. Heaven knows there are hundreds of promising athletes who don't quite measure up to expectations. If one of them ever offered to return his bonus money, I've never heard about it. I can't help but think how Toronto would have jumped at his offer if the only other things Ainge could do in life involved menial labor.
Ainge can live just fine for three years without baseball on what Toronto will be paying him, but what will the Blue Jays have to show for it? The biggest losers will be those of us who have marveled at Ainge's basketball talents for the last four years and would like to go on enjoying them.
Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.