19TH HOLE: THE READERS TAKE OVER

June 27, 1982

COCAINE
Sir:
Your special report "I'm Not Worth a Damn" (June 14) by Don Reese with John Underwood was the best article I've ever read in SI. I fear that Reese's story about the use of cocaine in the NFL is all too true. Drug abuse is usually accompanied by denial, and the denials come not only from the abuser but also from the people who perpetuate the situation. I, for one, think Reese is worth a damn for having the guts to stand up and tell it like it is. To quote the last line of the story, "The sad part is that it wasn't said a lot sooner." Well, now it's said, so let's do something positive about it!
SUE BACON
Novato, Calif.

Sir:
You have gained tremendous respect by printing the story by Don Reese. What courage! What guts! What a service to those who think cocaine is a harmless, recreational drug! I applaud SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which dares to go beyond any other sports magazine, news magazine or human interest magazine.
ELIZABETH A. WHITE
North Branford, Conn.

Sir:
Your June 14 cover story was timely, concise, educational and, I hope, useful. It was also one of the most daring, necessary and appropriate sports journalism presentations of modern times. Hearty congratulations!
HENRY M. PLYMIRE
Willits, Calif.

Sir:
A blockbuster! Don Reese's article and the increasing stories about conniving in college athletic recruitment and the ensuing exploitation of the athlete lead me to only one conclusion: As a society, we have equaled the decadence of the Roman Empire. The NFL has become an employment agency for gladiators and a promoter of spectacles. We fans are the pampered, affluent throng thirsting for blood, not caring what devices have been used to prepare the gladiator for combat. Feed him well. Toss him whatever will make him content. The spectacle's the thing!
ROBERT M. KUNKEL
Essex, Mass.

Sir:
As an avid NFL fan for more than 20 years and a pastoral counselor who has spent thousands of hours with people as they faced the difficulties of their lives, I was powerfully touched by Don Reese's confessions. There is a strong theme of repentance in his recent resolve to change his ways, take responsibility for his life and go for help. Because of its compelling honesty and potential relevance for those who idolize pro stars and are tempted to get involved with drugs, I believe that this is one of the most significant articles you have ever published. I am praying that this revelation will be redemptive both for Don and for his former profession.
THE REV. ROBERT H. GRIZZARD, PH.D.
Bloomington, Ill.

Sir:
Since the publication of your special report, Don Reese has proved to be a prophet. The NFL and the NFL Players Association have tried to discredit him, downplay his accusations and ignore the truth. It's hard to understand why Reese's revelations provoke such an attitude on the part of those who have the most to lose. The drug abuse problem, no matter how small, will destroy the game if it isn't brought under control.
LEE WELDIN
El Paso

Sir:
As parents, my husband and I were urged to learn—and we did learn—how to recognize the telltale signs of drugs in children. It is a sad commentary that after we parents have done our job, the team officials in the NFL can't do theirs. It is inconceivable that we, as novices, can detect drug afflictions and they can't! They may know how to call the signals in a game, but their rules for life are shameful.

Don Reese's story has greater impact than any other article SI has ever published. Maybe, just maybe, it will compel someone or some group to fight this insidious crime on and off the gridiron.

Already, the NFL is proclaiming exaggeration, as Reese predicted. He may face further incarceration because of the article and the admissions made therein. I want him to know that I will help him in whatever way I can. We have a son who at one time wanted to be a professional quarterback. Thank God someone along the way dissuaded him. Please forward my name and address to Reese so he knows there are people in this world who feel he made the greatest play of his career.
AGNES HART
Kingston, N.Y.

Sir:
I think that Don Reese's idea of having players take urine tests is what the NFL needs. It would make the players think twice about taking cocaine and other drugs.

I also wish Reese all the luck in the world in getting his life back in order.
DAVEY WINTERS
Logansport, Ind.

Sir:
Drug abuse is a widespread problem not only in the NFL, but also in college and high school football. It's hard to believe that high school athletes use drugs like the pros, but some do. Before games and during halftime, cocaine and speed are used. Marijuana usually isn't used before games, but it's used nonetheless. I know; I've seen it.

Something must be done soon to restore professional sport's reputation, because pro athletes are looked upon as examples. What they do, younger athletes do also.

Please withhold my name for obvious reasons. Thank you.
NAME WITHHELD
Birmingham, Mich.

Sir:
I thought your June 14 cover story was a disgrace. Cocaine is a so-called rich man's drug, and it's a big problem in all walks of life for those people like Don Reese who are weak enough and stupid enough to let it ruin their lives. Who is Reese kidding when he says that the NFL turned its back on him? Name another place of employment that will offer a $40,000 signing bonus and a $70,000-a-year contract to a narcotics felon one week after he has been released from jail.

Your cover makes it look as though the NFL coaches, owners and league office don't care about the drug problem. However, Pete Rozelle didn't ban Reese from the league. New Orleans Coach Dick Nolan asked Reese on "a couple of" occasions if he had a drug problem and Reese told him no. Saints owner John Mecom gave him a second chance.

I feel sorry for the athletes who have the heart and talent to make it but whose chances are cut short by injury. I don't feel sorry for poeple like Reese who snort their chance away and then try to take everyone down with them.

Finally, I don't appreciate your isolating cocaine as an NFL problem when, in fact, it's society's problem. Leave covers like this one to the supermarket scandal sheets.
PATRICK C. WALSH
White Plains, N.Y.

Sir:
It is embarrassing that your publication made such a big play of the Don Reese "special report" on cocaine use in the NFL, especially the long quote on the cover. Millions of Americans use cocaine as a recreational drug and suffer no lasting ill effects from occasional use. While there are undoubtedly many victims of drug abuse in our society, it is ridiculous to evade personal responsibility the way Reese did and blame the drug. It was Reese's own problems that led him to abuse cocaine and ruin a promising athletic career. That he allowed what is for many a harmless diversion to control his life is an indictment of his personality. For SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to ignore this fact is a severe error in judgment.
NEWMAN BRUCE PICKERING
Berkeley, Calif.

Sir:
After reading the article concerning Don Reese's cocaine habit, I came to the conclusion that the NFL is a reflection of society. At college parties cocaine is readily available in small quantities. Prices start at $100 for a gram. At some Washington, D.C. parties, I have seen an eighth of an ounce to an ounce consumed in one night without any problem. In fact, it is hard to find a party where no cocaine is present. Why should athletes be any different?
EDWIN LORD
Springfield, Va.

Sir:
So what if pro football players use cocaine? It's their bodies and they have a right to put anything into them they want.
WALT KARWICKI II
York, Pa.

Sir:
Cocaine may have ruined Don Reese's NFL career, but it is unthinkable that drugs will ruin the NFL. Even if Reese's plight were an understatement, rather than an exaggeration, the NFL is not and should not be in the business of baby-sitting overprivileged men.

Like a crude form of natural selection, the function of the NFL is to provide a proving ground where mentally and physically tough men like Fred Dean rule, and where the weaker of the species tend to become extinct.
JIM SCHNEIDER
Tucson

Sir:
It was of great interest to me that John Candelaria (The Mad Hatter of Pittsburgh, June 14) preferred LSD in high school. Don Reese's "how to" on freebasing cocaine was also noteworthy. Is there any other vital sports information you can provide that I might pass on to my children? What garbage!
MICHAEL J. BENSON
Fort Lee, N.J.

Sir:
My son and the youth hockey team I coach will find this article mandatory reading this fall.
PAUL B. AHERN
Melrose, Mass.

Sir:
I respect and admire Don Reese to the utmost degree not only for kicking his cocaine habit but also for being strong enough to reveal his story to the public. My hat's off to SI for printing the article, and to Reese for having the guts to show the world the other side of the NFL.

Last year I overdosed on drugs (I'm 15 years old now). To this day I still have a drug problem. The article made me think twice about my own life, and I now realize I'm heading the wrong way. Please show this letter to Reese, and, if he has the time, I'd like him to write me a letter encouraging me to quit my own habits.
NAME WITHHELD
Norman, Okla.

Sir:
Don Reese should be highly praised for writing an article about drugs in the NFL, a problem most people don't wish to hear about. However, I think that it was wrong of Reese to incriminate other players who are currently playing in the NFL, particularly Chuck Muncie.
MICHAEL S. DIAMOND
Manchester, Conn.

Sir:
I would like to thank Don Reese for showing me what happens to pro football players when they get money and success and then get in with the wrong crowd. My dreams include playing pro football, and now I know what I may have to deal with in the future.
MIKE YOUNG
Bedford, Va.

Sir:
This story made me think twice about wanting to play pro football.
PETE ROTH
Chesterfield, Mo.

Sir:
As a high school student, I, too, have been exposed to the disastrous effects of drugs on young people. It scares me that the lives of so many people—not just pro football players—are being destroyed by drugs. It seems that too great a part of society doesn't realize the extent to which street drugs are available to anyone who wants them. If the widespread use is recognized, then why aren't individuals and organizations responding?

It's a crime not only that illegal drugs have become so available and popular, but also that more individuals aren't working to reduce the drug problem. Let's stop ignoring the calls for help of concerned citizens such as Don Reese before it's too late.
MEGAN YOUNG
Bronxville, N.Y.

Sir:
SI deserves to be highly commended for having the courage to publish this article and for giving it the prominence that it deserves. It now remains to be seen if the NFL has the courage to own up to this problem and to take more constructive action to cure it.
JOSEPH D. CORN
State College, Pa.

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.

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