A&M'S TWELFTH MAN
Now that the football season is over, please update Douglas S. Looney's story on Texas A&M that ran in your special football issue (Sept. 1). How did the Twelfth Man kickoff team do? Did it allow any touchdowns or recover any fumbles? The Twelfth Man team is the best thing to happen to college football in years.
•The student volunteers who made up A&M's Twelfth Man kickoff team went down the field on every kickoff in seven home games last season, allowing no touchdowns and only 131 yards on 10 returns, or an average of 13.1 yards per return. The longest return against them was 28 yards by Houston. By comparison, the varsity, which took over for the Twelfth Man team on the road and also allowed no touchdowns, gave up 113 yards on the six returns it handled, for an average of 18.8 yards per return, the longest being 21 yards by Rice. As for fumbles, the Twelfth Man team can take credit for helping to seal A&M's victory over Arkansas. Following an Aggie kickoff in the second half, with the score 30-17 in A&M's favor, Twelfth Man Larry Johnson jarred the ball from Razorback returner James Shibest. It was recovered by Twelfth Man Tom Arthur on the Arkansas 30. Six plays later, the Aggies scored a TD. The final: A&M 36, Arkansas 17. Says Aggie sports information director Ralph Carpenter, "The Twelfth Man kickoff team is at A&M to stay."
Your year-end issue (Dec. 26-Jan. 2) was the best Christmas present I could have asked for. You celebrated the work of three residents of Eugene, Ore.: Mary Decker, the obvious choice as Sportswoman of the Year; Kenny Moore, an equally obvious choice for Sportswriter of the Year; and Brian Lanker, whose photographs I so often have enjoyed in our local newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard. You even included a picture by Lanker of some of the aspiring performers at Eugene's National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics. All brought a warm glow of joy to this homesick Eugenean who is currently languishing in graduate school in the frozen Midwest.
Thanks to Brian Lanker for his series of photographs entitled Basic Training. It has long been my feeling that most people fail to realize what it takes to make a winner. Few spectators are aware of the long, hard hours an athlete puts in on the practice field or in the gym in front of empty bleachers. That's where champions are made, in pools of sweat. As a wrestler, I know this quite well.
Brian Lanker's photo essay portrayed athletics as those of us who live it know it.
Age-Group Coach Sunkist Swim Team
SPORTSWOMAN DECKER (CONT.)
Congratulations on a fine story by Kenny Moore on Mary Decker (She Runs and We Are Lifted). I was lucky enough to be visiting my family in England at the time of the World Championships in Helsinki last August and I watched the daily coverage on BBC-TV. The commentators were full of praise for Decker and were thrilled to see her take on the Soviets and beat them. And what a graceful, glamorous champion she is! After watching her race in the U.S., where she wins so easily, I was delighted to see that she could run a tactical race and have a finishing kick. Way to go, Mary. You made us proud.
JEAN A. NEWBOULT
I was very happy to see that your magazine had chosen a Sportswoman of the Year for the third time. Mary Decker had many fine achievements and is deserving of this honor. However, there is another sportswoman who deserves at least equal billing. Martina Navratilova totally dominated women's tennis in 1983, losing only once in 87 matches. Doesn't it say something that most of Navratilova's opponents strive just to keep her on the court for more than 45 minutes?
Your selection surprised me. I believe it was based not only on Mary Decker's performance as an athlete, but also on the fact that she is a woman. SI should realize that the real athlete of the year was Carl Lewis, a man who won three events at the TAC meet (the 100 meters, the 200 and the long jump) and also won three golds, in the 100, the long jump and the 4 √ó 100 relay, at Helsinki. His accomplishments far outweigh those of Decker.
North Scituate, Mass.
If you had to choose someone from a minor sport like track and field, why couldn't it have been Carl Lewis or Edwin Moses? The selection of Decker is a slap in the face to such deserving major sports athletes as Moses Malone, Wayne Gretzky, John Riggins and Dale Murphy. In the future please give the minor sports the recognition they truly deserve—a few lines in FOR THE RECORD.
Slippery Rock, Pa.
A SCORECARD item in your Double Issue of Dec. 26-Jan. 2 mentioned Vern Rapp's 16-year streak of hitting 1.000. Did you know that Babe Ruth had a 1.000 average in pitching in the American League starting in 1920 and going through 1933?
He never pitched a losing game after the 1919 season, when he was 8-5.
Bless your hearts for the great quotation from Douglas S. Looney's article It Rained on SMU's Parade (Nov. 28): "So it's a second-rate Alabama team against a first-rate SMU outfit in El Paso. There's the injustice of it all in a nutshell. The Mustangs deserve a place in the sun, not the Sun." I'm sure that after the Crimson Tide's 28-7 Sun Bowl win Alabama coach Ray Perkins thanks you too!
FRANK O. BURGE JR.
There are many things in this world that can be classified as "second rate." University of Alabama football is not one of them.
Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Hey, what has come over my favorite magazine? The Redskins stomp the stuffing out of the Cowboys at Texas Stadium—something that some of us have waited years for—and Paul Zimmerman opens his account of the game with "Warning to the Washington Red-skins: Beware the wounded animal" (The 'Boys Lost Poise, Dec. 19).
What's this baloney about the Cowboys' second-half loss of poise being uncharacteristic? Are we talking about the same team that lost the '71 Super Bowl to Baltimore with five seconds to play, that was eliminated in the last 38 seconds by San Francisco in the '81 NFC title game, that was dumped in the fourth quarter of the conference championship game against the Eagles in '80 and by the Redskins last year? Seems to me that the only thing uncharacteristic about this Dallas team is that it started to nosedive a little earlier.
How come when the Redskins go for it on fourth-and-one and fail, it's because the Cowboys stopped them, but when the Cowboys do the same thing, it's because they choked? Is it possible Dallas' loss of poise had something to do with Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz playing in its backfield all day? The Cowboys aren't wounded, they're dead.
We hope Paul Zimmerman wasn't too upset about the Cowboys' fall from grace—and the playoffs—against the youthful Rams and their rookie coach, John Robinson. Beware the wounded sportswriter.
DAVID J. HIGHSMITH
DR. Z's ALL-PROS (CONT.)
How can Paul Zimmerman honestly tell me that Eric Dickerson, William Andrews, John Riggins and Curt Warner are all better backs than Walter Payton (Dr. Z Lets You Know Who's Really All-Pro, Dec. 26-Jan. 2)? Sure, Payton is a boring pick, but he remains the best at his position.
Dr. Z would have us believe that Eric Dickerson and William Andrews rate higher than John Riggins. That's nonsense!
WILLIAM B. BARNES
Dr. Z knocked the Pro Bowl pickers for failing to choose "new guys." yet he ignored linebacker Rickey Jackson and cornerback Johnnie Poe of the vastly improved Saints, who were the second-ranked defensive team in the NFL in 1983. Jackson led the league's linebackers in sacks with 12, three more than the Giants' Lawrence Taylor had.
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.