Sugar Ray—a perfect pick (One Life Fulfilled, Dec. 28-Jan. 4).
Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing accomplishments, plus his artful, tasteful handling of his role as champion, certainly support his selection as SI's Sportsman of the Year.
Also, it was somewhat gratifying to note that, according to Frank Deford's article, Thomas Hearns is a good enough fighter to be acknowledged as Leonard's greatest challenge. This is a conclusion that was hard to draw from the cruel, demeaning treatment of Hearns in your articles before and after their fight.
JOHN R. WHEELER
You blew it! I have nothing against Sugar Ray Leonard. He really did have a very good year. But how could you choose Leonard over John McEnroe? McEnroe had an unbelievable year. He was an underdog to Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon, but beat Borg where Borg is best. He won the U.S. Open for the third time in a row, and, finally, he led the U.S. to its Davis Cup win. His Cup final against Jose-Luis Clerc was a perfect ending to a wonderful year. I've never seen anybody play tennis the way McEnroe did in 1981. He was just phenomenal. You better make up for it with a heckuva swimsuit issue!
January 11, 1982
George Plimpton's ode (Birds Thou Never Wert) to the imaginary "superb song swift" in the same issue only heightened my disappointment over your choice for Sportsman of the Year. For me, that perfect bird brought to mind Wayne Gretzky, hockey's perfect player in 1981, and Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett, the perfect runners of 1981 who, though they never met, repeatedly pushed each other to new heights. The selection of Gretzky or the joint choice of Coe and Ovett would have been better than picking a boxer who has learned to market himself.
DR. Z'S ALL-PROS
Thanks to Paul Zimmerman for his accurate selection of the 1981 All-Pro team (Dr. Z Picks the Pick of the Crop, Dec. 28-Jan. 4). Instead of merely choosing all the old familiar names, he determined which players had really had the best year.
I was disappointed when I saw that James Lofton was the only Packer named to the Pro Bowl. Mike Douglass was overlooked, even though he is the best linebacker on one of the best linebacking crews in the NFL. I was delighted to see Dr. Z picked him. His choice of Jan Stenerud was good, too. As Zimmerman mentioned, Stenerud set a record for field-goal percentage. He didn't have as many points as other kickers because he didn't get as many PAT opportunities with the comparatively low-scoring Packers.
Traditional names will continue to reappear on All-Pro and Pro-Bowl lists unless people like Zimmerman point out the players who really had the most outstanding season.
Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
Many thanks to Paul Zimmerman. After looking over the various All-Pro teams, I was glad to see that at least one—Zimmerman's—acknowledges the extraordinary talents of the Giants' Mark Haynes. It's hard to get interceptions, much less press clippings, when no one is throwing your way. Furthermore, no defensive back in football plays the run better.
JOHN D. SHAUGHNESSY
Just who does Dr. Z think he is? His selection of players for his All-Pro team is just that—his. Although I agree with some of his choices, I find others laughable, especially on defense. The Philadelphia defense was second to none—it was rated No. 1 in the NFL—so how come there were no Eagles on Zimmerman's team? No Carl Hairston, Dennis Harrison, Frank LeMaster or Al Chesley? As for Wilbert Montgomery being only the fourth choice at running back, come on! Zimmerman's first and second selections, Tony Dorsett and Billy Sims, can't compare with Montgomery when it comes to taking a good hard hit but still gaining another couple of yards. Zimmerman may be a good writer, but his All-Pro selections leave something to be desired.
ALAN J. EBY
Either Dr. Z doesn't read stats or he has never watched Atlanta's William Andrews play football. Zimmerman claims his picks of Dorsett and Sims were based on their game-breaking ability and their pass-catching skill, short or long. Andrews gained more than 1,300 yards rushing, for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, and caught 81 passes for more than 700 yards. This makes Andrews one of only five backs in NFL history to have 2,000 or more combined yards in a season. Andrews is the best running back in the game today, period. What an injustice!
CHARLES M. YARBROUGH
ANDRE THE GIANT
As a faithful reader of your magazine for more than 20 years, I want to thank you for the article on the sporting scene's eighth wonder of the world, Andre the Giant (To the Giant Among Us, Dec. 21). While some will argue that pro wrestling is nothing more than exhibitionism and athletic buffoonery, the feats of strength and dexterity demonstrated by wrestlers weighing 250 to 300 pounds would make their counterparts on the gridiron blush with embarrassment. As for Andre, he is everything a fan could want in a sporting hero; he always turns back his most hated rivals and comes away with victory after victory.
Let me commend SI and Terry Todd on the fine story on Andre the Giant. As a casual observer of pro wrestling's orchestrated slapstick, I have always found Andre easy to cheer for in his struggle against "evil." He always wins but never deliberately hurts his opponent—the latter being a tactic that, inexcusably, seems to gain crowd approval when employed by other wrestlers. It's refreshing to see that in private as well as in the ring Andre is a man we can all look up to, literally and figuratively.
Just one question, please: How could you possibly write a 13-page feature article about a practitioner of a sport that glamorizes people like Sergeant Slaughter, the Fabulous Moolah and Abdullah the Butcher?
Professional wrestling is not only fake, but it's also totally stupid. Worse yet, you give it more coverage than you do the real sport of wrestling. Last season, the Iowa Hawkeyes won their fourth consecutive NCAA wrestling title, and what did you do? You gave the story two pages in the back of your magazine. What's next? A weekly feature on women's Roller Derby?
In answer to the inevitable question as to whether SI should carry stories about professional wrestlers, I submit that anyone who read Terry Todd's piece as a story about a wrestler missed the point. To me, Andre Roussimoff is much less remarkable for his success in the ring than for the fact that he lives life at a pace more frantic than the majority of people could ever imagine and keeps up this pace despite the fact that his size denies him most of the comforts that we tend to take for granted. Not only does he endure, but he also, seems to have maintained a decency and a concern for others that is often lacking in those who lead a much simpler life.
I have been a more-than-casual aficionado of televised wrestling for years, and the sport-or-show controversy about it long ago lost its importance in my mind. It's entertaining, and that's enough. I congratulate Todd for coming up with an interesting insight into a man who is such a major part of pro wrestling.
Terry Todd missed one sidelight of Andre the Giant's career. I believe that George Allen, when he coached the Washington Redskins, once gave Andre a tryout as a defensive tackle. As I recall, Andre was judged too slow and didn't make it.
•According to Joe Blair, public relations director of the Redskins, there was talk about giving Andre a tryout in 1976, but it never happened. Andre told Todd that he chose not to risk his wrestling career—he was making more money than any lineman was earning at the time—by taking time off for a trial in a sport in which he had no guarantee of success and no previous experience.—ED.
WINDS OF CHANGE
As an avid backpacker, I enjoyed the article about survival skiing in the wilderness (Just Blowin' in The Winds, Dec. 14). But what impressed me most was the attention paid to leaving the environment as it was found. This is a good principle to follow for anyone who ventures into the out-of-doors. It's only too bad that the one man who is charged with protecting our natural beauty. Secretary of the Interior James Watt, seems to be more interested in fixing the plumbing than in seeing to it that Mother Nature is left well enough alone.
JUNE E. COOLEY
San Jose, Calif.
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.