I was delighted to read Rick Telander's story about his tryout with the Chicago Blitz of the new U.S. Football League (A Final Farewell to Football, Feb. 28), and I was glad to learn that the new league is taking football seriously. The USFL is just what I need to keep up my boycott of the NFL after its ridiculous strike. I know a lot of people have forgiven the players for their midseason walkout, but I can't.
RANDY J. ROSS
Rick Telander's description of his experience with the Chicago Blitz was absorbing. If the USFL can hold my interest the way Telander's article did, it will be a success.
Rick Telander's fine piece left me as sad as he apparently was about leaving the Blitz training camp. To cheer him up I made this drawing [below]. As you look at it, imagine that Telander did make the team and that he survived a long season all the way to the USFL championship game against the Philadelphia Stars. With the score 17-17 and time running out, Quarterback Chuck Fusina of the Stars lofts a long sideline pass intended for Scott Fitzkee. Telander, playing a deep zone from his safety position, races over and makes a leaping, fingertip interception. Then after juggling the ball, he dodges three tacklers and lunges past a sprawling Fusina to score the winning touchdown.
Every time Telander writes a piece for SI, he scores a winning touchdown.
March 14, 1983
Rick Telander's excellent portrayal of his training camp fiasco with the Chicago Blitz showed that the USFL has a long way to go to compete with the NFL. Most of the USFL clubs seem disorganized, which is what one might expect when as many as 340 players are signed by one team. But what I find appalling is the recruiting of convicts by George Allen. Are these the role models we want our youngsters looking up to?
Although the recent signing of the magnificent Herschel Walker by the New Jersey Generals will help the new league greatly, the USFL's demise is imminent. Americans love quality pro football but will not receive it from the upstart league. I'm an NFL fan and will be watching baseball instead of semipro football until the real season begins in September. Go, Redskins!
BLOUNT'S BALL GAME
When I first heard about the Chicago Cubbies' camp for middle-aged kids (We All Had a Ball, Feb. 21), I fantasized the greatest scam of my life: I would have SPORTS ILLUSTRATED send me there to cover it for all the expatriate Cubs fans around the country still faithfully awaiting the second coming of the pennant. After all, I had kept the torch burning since the halcyon days of Bill Nicholson and was qualified.
Well, you sent the right man in Roy Blount. I was there vicariously through his words and Carl Iwasaki's photographs. Thanks to them, I and a million other overlooked big league prospects got that second chance we know we deserved. Too bad the '69 Cubbies didn't get one too.
Department of Physical Education
California State University, Fullerton
Many thanks to Roy Blount for recounting the most memorable week of my life. From an early November workout at Wrigley Field to diving for grounders in the Arizona sun to coming home to see myself on national TV on the VCR to finally seeing my picture in your magazine, which I've read since my first childhood, the whole experience was strictly fantasyland.
And I wasn't the only one so enchanted. Blount told me during an intersquad game, after he threw out Randy Hundley from third and I threw out Glenn Beckert from short, that "playing ball is easy. I don't know how I'm ever going to write this story." He was so involved with the camaraderie and the game itself that I never saw him take a note, much less conduct an interview. Many of the campers went the whole week without knowing that Roy was covering the event for SI.
But you did a great job anyway, Roy. And I'm sorry about not getting over for that popup. You see, I had just booted one, and I didn't want to embarrass myself again in front of all the cameras.
Camper, '83 All-Stars
As a player, Julius Erving is all class, but I was even more impressed by what he said in Bruce Newman's article on the 76ers (This May Be One for the Books, Feb. 28): "I don't feel incomplete or inadequate in any way because I haven't won an NBA championship. I don't lie awake nights and think about it. I know I've given my best to the public, and the rest is really out of my hands. I can accept that."
What refreshing, mature and reasonable words regarding winning and losing. Perhaps the Julius Erving School of Thought will overtake the Vince Lombardi School. Coming as they do from such an outstanding man and athlete, these words carry considerable weight. Who knows? Perhaps they will one day be recited at all Little League banquets, youth soccer matches. Pop Warner games and even collegiate and pro contests. "I haven't won. I've given my best. I can accept that." If Dr. J can accept it, maybe we all can.
Bruce Newman's article on the 76ers was magnificent. I was glad to see that Maurice Cheeks got some deserved recognition. However, you published three pictures of the Sixers in action against the Houston Rockets, and in each a Sixer is shown passing (Andrew Toney), blocking (Bobby Jones) or driving (Cheeks) against former 76er Caldwell Jones. Anything against Jones?
•Nope, he just happened to be there when we clicked the shutter.—ED.
SI's coverage of the NBA has improved recently, as is evidenced by articles in your Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 issues. However, your mathematical aptitude is declining. If the Boston Celtics have sold out more than 100 straight games at 15,320 in the Boston Garden, please explain to me how the Sixers' average of 15,229 per game could be the league-leading attendance. Is this what they mean by the new math?
Franklin Square, N.Y.
•Not quite. The Celtics have played two of their home games in the Hartford Civic Center Arena, where they drew only 11,762 against the Pistons on Nov. 30 and 12,742 against the Bulls on Jan 31. Thus Boston's average attendance figure was 15,101 at week's end, less than the Sixers' 15,311, and now also less than that of the Lakers, who had taken over the league lead at 15,345.—ED.
Bravo! Within the span of three weeks, SI has masterfully covered two subjects that I can really get excited about—beautiful women in bikinis and indoor soccer. Frank Deford's fine article on the MISL (Show, Sex and Suburbs, Feb. 28) summed up the joy and frustration of being a fan of indoor soccer: the joy of seeing cities like Baltimore, Kansas City and St. Louis fall in love with their teams and support them wildly, and the frustration of seeing the sport founder in other cities and, so far, on the national level.
I hope that people like Earl Foreman and the Leiwekes do not give up. Someday, when people are tired of real or threatened strikes by so-called professionals in other big league sports, they'll wise up and make the MISL truly major on the American sports scene.
Thank you, SI! For the past four years, as I have traveled around the country on business, I have tried to introduce as many sports fans as possible to the wonders of MISL soccer. Now, in one fell swoop you have done the deed. Perhaps this will further the growth of the most exciting, enjoyable and sensible of winter pastimes. Long live the MISL!
Creve Coeur, Mo.
I just finished reading the article on indoor soccer—and, yawn, no offense to you or to author Frank Deford, I was barely able to get through it. No wonder the MISL is such a joke. There's more emphasis placed on light shows, music and fireworks than on the game itself. If people want that sort of thing, they can go to the circus or the movies.
Let's face it, soccer is about as American as communism. I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of white-toothed, hairstyled, "normal-sized guys" with tight, fluorescent shorts strut their stuff on the artificial turf? Not I. The MISL is going to need a lot more than a bunch of sexy guys who can simultaneously smile and kick a ball. I'll give you credit for trying to explain indoor soccer, however.
CARS AND CRASHES
In a short but well written piece (The King Was Right, Good Buddy, Feb. 28) Sam Moses captured much of the essence of the finest and most competitive form of auto racing in the United States. The Daytona 500 is spectacular, but it remains only a sample of the level of competition that NASCAR racing offers each week at tracks like Talladega, Pocono and Riverside. The 1982 Indianapolis 500 was heralded as a great race because the first two cars were just yards apart at the finish. This happens at practically every event on the NASCAR circuit, and I, for one, am glad that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED provided this taste of what is becoming America's No. 1 sport.
WILLIAM R. TURNER
In response to Sam Moses' article, I object to the statement, "A crash is the most spectacular thing that can happen at an auto race. It excites people, and it pleases and satisfies them when the driver walks away from it." I also object to his use of a phrase like "a gymnast doing handsprings" to describe a crash. He implied that an end-over-end crash is harmless: the sheer violence of such a crash is quite clearly illustrated in your photographs and by the injuries to Bruce Jacobi.
A crash is the single most horrible aspect of an auto race. In no way does it excite me. Rather, I find it upsetting. True, I am relieved when the driver walks away, but this doesn't make an accident exciting or satisfying.
The drama in auto racing comes from watching one car overtaking another or photo finishes. As a case in point, there was Neil Bonnett's spectacular charge back into the lead group at Daytona. Moses failed to even mention that.
The backup car brought in for Cale Yarborough at Daytona was not a one-year-old Grand Prix, as Sam Moses stated. It was a 1981 Pontiac LeMans. It is the same car that, because of its sloped roof, caused a turmoil at Daytona in 1981 over spoiler heights and the same car that Benny Parsons used to break the 200 mph barrier at Talladega Speedway last year. Please clarify this, because it does make a difference to us 20-year-veteran NASCAR fans.
•Yarborough's victory car was indeed the same 1981 Pontiac LeMans driven by Parsons in his record-setting (200.176) qualifying run at Talladega last year. The '81 LeMans in which Bobby Allison finished second to Richard Petty at Daytona two years ago was not the same car but a stablemate.—ED.
Many memories were stirred by Kenny Moore's article on Jamaican athletes (Land of Sprinters and Dreamers, Feb. 14). The name Herb McKenley had a special meaning for all athletes who grew up. as I did, in Guyana—then British Guiana—in the '50s and '60s. It meant running with a special abandon, in keeping with his dictum that the most important aspect of middle-distance running was "bravery." It was not unusual for McKenley to cover the first 200 meters of a 400-meter race in less than 21 seconds. It took one more generation for the world to produce Lee Evans, whose conditioning enabled him to maintain his form over the final 200 meters.
My abiding interest in McKenley lies in his disappointing fourth-place finish in the 1948 Olympic 200. Because he had shown superior speed in the 100 in previous races and strength in the 400 meters—he was the world-record holder—it was expected that McKenley would easily win the 200. Was it a matter of hubris? Is the 200 meters so different that no transfer of talents could occur between the shorter and longer sprints? Whatever the reasons, McKenley remains unique among Olympic athletes in reaching the finals in all three sprint races.
New York City
Jamaica is the birthplace of numerous great athletes; yet for many, Jamaica means even more. The island has given rise to great leaders, such as the late Bob Marley, a musical genius with a genuine, heartfelt concern for the people. It is through these Jamaicans that this American has learned many values, and I have the utmost respect for the "land of sprinters and dreamers." I sincerely hope that Jamaica, with its prodigious character and tremendous natural beauty, will be given increasing recognition in coming years.
I was disappointed that this year's selection of swimsuit models ("The Fairest Island that Eyes Have Beheld," Feb. 14) excluded non-whites. Irony is added to insult when you consider that the chosen tropical island spot, Jamaica, is lush with beautiful women of color.
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.