BOOM BOOM AND BUST
Ralph Wiley has earned my deepest gratitude for his story on Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini's successful first defense of his WBA lightweight title (A Shining Ray of Hope, Aug. 2). I appreciated not only his superb coverage of the Mancini-Ernesto Espa√±a fight, but also his allusion to the positive impact young Mancini has had on his economically depressed and frustrated homeland, Ohio's Mahoning Valley.
Before traveling East this summer from my rural, agriculturally based hometown of Atascadero, Calif., I had seen the effects of our ailing economy only in the real-estate and construction businesses. It was quite an education for me, a fourth-year college student, to witness firsthand the economy's adverse effects on our nation's industrial cities—Youngstown, Ohio especially. I spent three days in Youngstown wishing there were something I could do to help wipe the anguish off the faces of the many unemployed there. It was on my fourth and final day in the Mahoning Valley that I realized there was at least a temporary cure: Talk about Boom Boom. The mention of Mancini's name seemingly led every bartender in the Valley to boast, "The champ was in here just the other night," and the unemployed to say, "Yeah, I'm unemployed, but at least it's in Boom Boom Mancini's hometown." Let's just hope the boys on Capitol Hill can deliver as much relief to the Mahoning Valley as has Boom Boom.
R.L. (BOBBY) SARBER
In his fight against WBC champion Alexis Arguello (Lowering the Boom Boom, Oct. 12, 1981), Ray Mancini proved himself to be a quality lightweight. He deserved, and has received, ample recognition for that achievement. However, now you've fallen victim, once again, to your penchant for trying to turn promising young white American fighters into real-life Rockys. In my opinion, you previously tried to do the same thing with Gerry Cooney and Sean O'Grady. Now it's Mancini's turn; for what else can the reference to Mancini's "tiger eyes" be than an allusion to the theme song from Rocky III?
None of this is Mancini's fault. He is, as you note, an "attraction." Still, he has yet to acquit himself in a winning effort against a quality lightweight. Neither Art Frias nor Ernesto Espa√±a was a true test for Mancini: Between them they have lost four fights in a row. If you must ride tigers, why not tell us what happens to them after they've been declawed—which is another way of asking, where's Sean O'Grady now?
New York City
BILLS FACTS (CONT.)
Your leadoff letters (19TH HOLE, Aug. 2) were by far the most gratifying of my many years of reading and enjoying the magazine. Knowing that class athletes like Bob Chandler and O.J. Simpson really do care about their fans—enough so that both felt it necessary to respond to reader Joseph M. Overfield—makes all the worthless politicking of pro sports today somehow more tolerable, especially here in western New York, where jobs are thin and crowds are still thick to watch our favorite Bills.
The Bob Chandler-Joseph M. Overfield-O.J. Simpson discourse evokes fond memories of Buffalo and the Bills. While in school there, I lived and died with the Bills, as did many others in the community. I will always be grateful to individual players such as Jack Kemp, Ernie Warlick and, later, Chandler and Simpson because they provided thrilling entertainment.
I also recall reader Joe Overfield as a fine man and heady student of sport who taught me the fundamentals of baseball while coaching the neighborhood team when I was a kid. Obviously he is also a loyal Bills fan. His remarks (19TH HOLE, July 26) and those of other readers highlight how vulnerable many Buffalo residents are to comments such as Douglas S. Looney's tired reference to Buffalo geography. Being away for a number of years adds dimension and perspective to one's view of Buffalo and the Bills. One may then indeed laugh at circumstances less than ideal pertaining to either, or both. The fact that one may laugh at such events, however, in no way implies any less esteem for either Buffalo or the Bills. In that sense, Chandler and Simpson are right.
DAVID C. STEPHENS, M.D.
HIGH SCHOOL ALL-STARS
I read with interest Ralph Wiley's article on high school all-star games (Their Rite of Passage, Aug. 2), but why must all journalists write the negative side of a story?
To say that making the transition from high school basketball to college ball is tough is an understatement. A student-athlete just entering college soon realizes what true work really is. As a member of the McDonald's West team who is headed for Oregon State, I say this not from experience, but from knowledgeable expectations. A college player sometimes can spend up to 40 hours a week playing, learning plays and attending chalk talks. It's just common knowledge that playing a sport in college is like having a job.
I believe that all of the players in the McDonald's All American Game know that they have their work cut out for them. For some, it may take a little longer to realize how severe the work is. But, in fact, isn't everything we players do a challenge? Whether it be the McDonald's game or stepping up into the ranks of college basketball, the life of a basketball player is one big challenge. It is something a person learns when entering junior high or high school: You may be better than some players, but there is always another better than you are. This is why all-star games are important. Players get a chance to play with and against those whose talent is equal to or better than their own.
So give the all-star games and the players a chance. Maturity is gained through experience, and these players will all probably come to see the bad and good sides of college basketball and learn how to deal with both. And what if not all 25 players of the McDonald's game become stars? It may be hard to believe, but many of us enter the game because it's the best sport in the country and because it's fun to play. I may have scored only two points in the game, but I learned that I could play with the best. And I brought home some wonderful memories of the players and of the people of Chicago.
McDonald's deserves a hand for sponsoring the All American Game and the Capital Classic and donating 40% of the profits to charity and education. However, what happens to the many great players who didn't get invited to play or who aren't going to the big colleges? I'm sure there are a lot of players of the same caliber who weren't selected. Those who participated are very carefully watched by the scouts, and this may be their big shot at stardom. What of the others?
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.