SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Excellent choice! Mary Decker is the consummate athlete: gifted, dedicated, resilient. She's also an inspiration. She has shown us that there's a place in this world for the insecure. Rather than being beaten by her emotional needs, Mary has used them to become the best woman track and field athlete of the '80s. In addition, she has one other asset: She's beautiful!
Saint Michaels, Md.
As a strictly amateur runner who runs simply for the pleasure of it, I was thrilled to see your selection of Mary Decker as Sportswoman of the Year. Thank you, Mary, for your soul and for your spirit. And thanks, SI, for recognizing the part of her that goes beyond world records.
It's difficult to argue with your pick of Mary Decker as Sportswoman of the Year, but I wonder why Julius Erving, a man who has deserved to be honored for so many years, a man who is the embodiment of the term sportsman, has never been chosen Sportsman of the Year. Dr. J has graced the pro basketball court for 13 years now, giving fans his supreme effort, and he has served his community and numerous charities. Maybe you should initiate a new award, Sportsman of the Century, and give it to him.
Granted, Mary Decker had an outstanding year, but you should have selected Edwin Moses, who has had seven outstanding years and who also has dominated his event as no other person has. Decker may go down in history as one of the alltime track greats, but Moses, who is probably the world's best active athlete, will certainly be remembered as the greatest intermediate hurdler ever.
Not since you bypassed Ron Guidry for Jack Nicklaus in 1978 have you made such a mistake. An amateur athlete might well deserve the award in 1984, but a more appropriate choice this year would have been Moses Malone, Martina Navratilova or the New York Islanders.
HENRY A. MEER
New York City
DR Z's ALL-PROS
As usual, Paul Zimmerman picked a superb All-Pro team for the 1983 NFL season (Dr. Z Lets You Know Who's Really All-Pro, Dec. 26-Jan. 2). With so much veteran and rookie talent to choose from, he had to make some tough selections, but the final squad looks fine.
Unfortunately, I have to point out a rare error by Dr. Z. He stated, "O.J. Simpson (1973), Earl Campbell (1980) and Jim Brown (1963) are the only NFL players ever to rush for more than the 1,808 yards [Eric] Dickerson gained this year...." Sorry, but not included on that list is one of the best backs of all time, Chicago's Walter Payton. In 1977 Payton had 339 rushes for 1,852 yards and 14 touchdowns. What's more, Payton did it in a 14-game season!
•It also should be noted that Simpson surpassed 1,808 yards twice, rushing for 2,003 in 1973 and 1,817 in 1975.—ED.
Finally someone has recognized Baltimore's Raul Allegre as the fine kicker he is. After finding out he wasn't picked for the Pro Bowl, I thought all the so-called experts were crazy. Way to go. Dr. Z. At least someone knows what he's talking about.
As a longtime San Francisco fan, I applaud Paul Zimmerman's choice of 49er offensive tackle Keith Fahnhorst for his All-Pro team. Conversely, I contend that the reason Dr. Z offered for not naming San Francisco wide receiver Dwight Clark to his team ("...he labored under tight double coverage all year, which kept his numbers down") is the very reason that Clark should have been chosen. Clark's numbers were 70 catches for 840 yards (12.0 average) and eight touchdowns. That's outstanding, considering the double coverage.
An important intangible not reflected in the stats is the fact that Clark is a more tenacious downfield blocker than any other wide receiver in the NFL.
HAROLD O. CHRISTENSEN
Dr. Z has to be kidding. He said that the Dolphins' Ed Newman was "close behind" John Hannah at offensive guard, that Miami quarterback Dan Marino is "the future Joe Namath" and that Dolphin center Dwight Stephenson played with "high efficiency." He also asked, "How do you keep Miami's [defensive end] Doug Betters off the team?" Still, he selected none of them to his All-Pro team. All four of these men will be going to the Pro Bowl this year, three as starters. Also, what about Zimmerman's omission of Dolphin wide receiver Mark Duper from his All-Pro lineup and Dr. Z's failure to name Don Shula, the best head coach the NFL has ever seen?
Sorry, Doc. You really blew it this year.
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Many thanks for a terrific Dec. 19 issue. It was below zero when it arrived here in Minnesota, and the warmth of your profiles of the Browner family, Mike Boddicker and Minnesota's favorite son, Kevin McHale, was just what we needed. Athletes and their performances can't be fully appreciated until we know their roots. Keep your staff digging.
Alexander Wolff's article It's No Joke: This Card Is an Ace on the Celtics' Kevin McHale was very amusing, especially because it showed McHale to be a man who can have fun and be funny, despite playing in the pressure cooker of Boston Garden.
We're very happy to see McHale playing up to the level of his $1 million-a-year salary, especially after all the doubts and negative publicity that accompanied the negotiation of his contract. However, it was with great distress that we noticed, in a photograph of McHale, his wife and their baby, a large hole in Kevin's shirt. We have one question: What the heck is he doing with all his money?
I would suggest to Kevin McHale that instead of stuffing a cocktail napkin into the mouth of a sleeping Robert Parish, he could better use it to patch the hole in his shirt. Still, it's comforting to know that a man who makes $1 million per year wears a shirt like mine.
As a longtime admirer of your magazine, I was dismayed that your recent report about Yale football entitled "Call It a Boo-la Boo-la Brouhaha" (SCORECARD, NOV. 28) passed along a number of misconceptions that had first appeared in the local newspapers. I would like to set the record straight.
Regarding admissions, Yale president A. Bartlett Giamatti did not "cut back on football admissions" in 1979, or any year. By long-standing custom the president is not a party to admissions decisions, and certainly at no time has Giamatti directed the dean of admissions to change Yale's admissions policy with regard to students interested in athletics. There has been much conjecture about the effect on admissions of Giamatti's 1980 speech on athletics, but in fact the number of students interested in athletics admitted since then has increased. For example, more students interested in football were admitted to and matriculated in the classes of 1984, '85 and '86, which in 1983 produced Yale's worst football record, than were admitted to and matriculated in the classes that provided the players for the 1981 team, one of Yale's best.
Regarding funding of the football program, there have been no cutbacks during my six years at Yale, although the athletics program overall has not been spared the budget constraints adopted by the university. In fact, funds for football have increased as necessary to keep up with inflation, and a multimillion-dollar renovation of our football-practice and weight-training facilities is currently under way.
Regarding spring-sport coaching assignments for three of our six football assistant coaches, these have been organized so as not to limit the coaches' off-campus recruitment. This practice, which is not unique within the Ivies, enhances the attractiveness of Yale for multisport student-athletes interested in football. Obviously, the poor season just past confronts Yale with an unusual recruitment challenge, and one response will be to relax these spring-sport coaching assignments somewhat this winter.
Regarding Yale's football alumni, the vast majority of them have been supportive and tolerant of this season's record. The report's characterization of their viewpoint does them a disservice, as they are not generally the sort to convert disappointment into unreasoned outcry.
Yale football is healthy in a fundamental sense, and I am confident that it will return to its winning tradition.
FRANK B. RYAN
Director of Athletics
New Haven, Conn.
MARY AND DEBBIE: UNSINKABLE SPIRITS?
As I looked at the picture of Mary Decker on the cover of your year-end issue (Dec. 26-Jan. 2), I had a sense of having seen a similar picture before. It was a photograph of Debbie Reynolds that appeared on the cover of LIFE more than 30 years ago (LIFE, Feb. 26, 1951). Same pose and expression. Is my memory playing tricks on me?
•For a comparison, see above.—ED.
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