In his article What's Happened to Our Heroes? (Aug. 15), William Oscar Johnson wrote, "The American sports fan really does not care very much whether jocks misbehave," as long as he has his tickets. Not true! I will be the first to admit that pro sports have a drug problem, and I feel it is sheer stupidity to think that the fans are not concerned. If drugs in sports are not controlled, the American fan will, in time, stop attending sports events.
Apart from the issue of whether the actions of today's athletes are really any different from those of their predecessors, a more important issue has been left unaddressed: Should professional athletes be expected to follow a morally impeccable code of ethical conduct?
The bottom line in our society is that professional athletes are leaders. Leadership is not a part-time job. Leadership is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week commitment. The burdens are awesome and sometimes unfair, but nevertheless the responsibilities are there. Along with political, judicial, educational and business leaders across the country, professional athletes must help to provide direction for society. They must set an example. Therefore, it is time to stop excusing athletes' actions as a mere reflection of what is happening in our society. Our society is only as strong as its leaders.
I find the lack of integrity on the part of some of the athletes mentioned disgusting. As for the drug users, I agree with Reggie Jackson. There is a weakness in the character of a person who chooses to use drugs. Perhaps there is a solution to the problem of dealing with these delinquents. I feel Pete Rozelle & Co. are on the right track with their disciplinary measures. However, their efforts would be more effective if the miscreants were banned from their respective sports for a lengthy period of time. Such athletes are by no means suitable examples for the youngsters who idolize them. Someone must draw the line and levy substantial penalties before this nonsense gets out of hand.
Dale Murphy may have said it best: "[Athletes] should be treated like everybody else because we are like everybody else." Today's athletes are placed on pedestals by us fans, which puts added pressure on them to perform well for us. This is not to absolve athletes of any wrongdoing. It is merely to suggest that we fans are part of the problem and will remain so until athletes are treated like average citizens.
SCOTT P. EDWARDS
You hit it right on the nose. The sports fan doesn't really care how his favorite player conducts himself off the field. Whether the athlete is dealing in chemicals or cars on Wednesday, the bottom line rests on his ability to play the game on Sunday. To the public, today's major league athletes are merely gladiators, one and all.
New York City
SI is to be commended for its clearheaded diagnosis of the ills plaguing American sport in this megabucks era. I refer not to William Oscar Johnson's timely piece What's Happened to Our Heroes?, but to Douglas S. Looney's palaver about John Elway's preseason professional football debut (In Denver, Delirium Is Spelled E-L-W-A-Y) (Aug. 15). Looney on the "showstopping," "brainy"—Does Elway read Proust and defenses with equal aplomb?—"phenom going on legend going on saint" vividly illustrates the modern sports equation: spendthrift owners + pampered players + hysterical media + boorish fans = puerile spectacle.
God forbid that the Broncos do play only .500 ball this year. Would Denver's rabid fans string up their golden boy?
So, Denver sportscaster Mike Haffner calls John Elway "...Bradshaw with brains." When Elway has won four Super Bowls, then maybe we'll talk about comparing him to Bradshaw.
WHAT PRICE VICTORY? (CONT.)
Sometimes an interesting set of letters prompts me to read an article that I neglected. Such was the case with the letters (Aug. 15) regarding Terry Todd's story The Steroid Predicament (Aug. 1). While I decry the use of anabolic steroids by participants in any sport, I was overwhelmed by the negative possibilities of steroid use in pro football. The player quoted said aggressiveness acquired via these drugs might inspire him to answer a cheap shot with "a death blow." Does this mean that there will be more Darryl Stingleys in the NFL's future? A broken marriage is a serious enough result of steroid use, but a broken life?
I think Pete Rozelle should be as concerned about steroid users as he is about cocaine users. If they can't play without steroids, I wish they wouldn't play at all.
JANET R. HERRMANN
PROTECTING BOXERS (CONT.)
This is in response to your special report on boxing in the April 11 issue. I'm against the sport, but in view of the fact that it will continue, here's a suggestion to lessen its brutality. Legally, the fist of a boxer is considered a lethal weapon. The cestus, the thong hand covering—often loaded with lead or iron—used in ancient Roman times, certainly was. Boxers today tape their fists to protect their hands and use gloves to cushion the impact of their blows on their opponents. But despite this, repeated blows to the head cause concussions and sometimes cerebral hemorrhages and death.
Fighters and trainers who tamper with the horsehair padding in their gloves to reduce the cushioning effect are subject to disqualification and banning. However, after repeated impacts in a number of rounds the horsehair has been known to break away in the knuckle area, thus nullifying the desired cushioning effect. Therefore, I propose:
1) that a complement of gloves be available for each bout under the care and charge of the referee or an assistant;
2) that gloves be put on in the ring under the supervision of the referee;
3) that at the conclusion of Round 3 (or 4), an extra minute be added to the rest period so that a set of new gloves can be laced on the fists of each fighter; and
4) that this procedure be repeated at the conclusion of each three (or four) rounds of a fight.
I believe this will reduce some of the injuries to the contestants, especially facial cuts.
NATHAN GEORGE HORWITT
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.