I read with interest your articles covering the Soviet Union's boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics (Doleful Days for the Games, May 21). However, I was astonished to see that your writers consider the politicization of the Games to be a recent phenomenon. Since 1896, the Games have featured national teams, the hoisting of flags, the playing of national anthems and unofficial medal counts to determine who "won." Although it may be argued that nationalism isn't politics per se, the modern state draws its strength from the nationalistic sentiments of its population. Politics has interfered high and low in the Games—from biased judging to the cultivation of Olympic athletes from early childhood to the "shamateurism" of some national teams to the use of the Games as a national pageant and as a showcase for tyrants. Politics and the Games are inseparable.
Should we have boycotted the Moscow Olympics? If one regards the Games purely as a sporting event, the answer is, of course, no. But how could we, with a clear conscience, have participated in a pageant designed to glorify a government that at that very moment was brutally conquering one of its neighbors? Should the Soviets boycott the Los Angeles Games? Again, from the perspective of sport, no. But from their standpoint, how could they come and help us celebrate what has foolishly been called "America's Olympics"?
Perhaps the Games can be reconstituted in some way that would eliminate nationalism, but then interest in the Games would evaporate. I love sports, but I also hate hypocrisy; for that reason, I hope the Olympics are dead.
Despite any rationalization to the contrary, the single most important reward that comes with winning an Olympic medal must be in knowing that, on a given day in a given athletic event, you are the very best (or second-best or third-best) in the entire world. How sad that many of the 1980 and, now, 1984 Olympic winners must forever be "marked" with asterisks denoting that not all of the world's best competitors were there.
WILLIAM J. YOUNG III
June 3, 1984
No one can deny that the Soviet boycott of the L.A. Games is a disappointment. Some of the world's best athletes will be missing. But the media and public must not let this absence of some of the competitors cause them to lose perspective. Whom a world-class athlete defeats is not as important as how close he or she comes to achieving perfection in his or her event. In preparation for L.A., the competitors and the public alike should be thinking, "Forget the Soviets, run for the records!" It's in the quest for the record that the ultimate competition lies.
I was saddened to see SI join in the communal whining over the Soviet decision to boycott the L.A. Olympics. If the aim of the Soviets was to upset the American Games in retaliation for 1980, then they must be laughing up their sleeves at the spectacle of LAOOC president Peter V. Ueberroth et al. bowing and scraping before the mighty U.S.S.R. Let's quit crying and get on with the Games!
CRAIG L. CAUGHMAN
RACE WALKING, TOO
In SCORECARD (May 14) you announced the inclusion of the women's 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs as exhibition events in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials to be held in Los Angeles from June 17 to 24. I'm happy to report the addition of another exhibition event to those trials: the women's 10,000-meter race walk. The June 23 race in the Coliseum will serve as the qualifier for the team of four that will represent us in any international competitions in the ensuing 12 months. This event has also been added to the next world championships in 1987 and to the 1985 European championships. With the support of The Athletics Congress and the IAAF, we, too, have our sights set on Seoul in '88.
TAC Race Walking Championships
Redwood City, Calif.
As a former classmate of Danny Sullivan's at the Kentucky Military Institute, I think I can shed some light on his tremendous ability to grip the race courses of the world (A Hunk Hits the Road, May 14). You see, as a graduating senior at KMI, I had the duty of commissioning a select few (three) underclassmen for what was known as "gravel gripper" status. These grippers had to be able to turn on a dime, weave through opponents like a snake and accelerate in a bullet-like fashion. We weren't race car drivers, however; rather, we were forwards on the school's soccer team. Of course, Danny was chosen to help carry on the gravel-gripper tradition.
It's of little surprise to us oldtime grippers that Danny retained his ability in the switch from soccer player to world-class race car driver. We always knew he had it.
GREGG J. FENDER
Sarah Pileggi's story on Ben Crenshaw ("This One Was for My Friends," May 14) was another SI masterpiece that should help golfers throughout the world to rejoice in Crenshaw's newfound peace with himself. After a cool drink to settle my emotions after reading the last section, I couldn't help but think of another golfer who also has had difficulty living up to her image.
Those of us who remember seeing, in the early '70s, pictures of young Ben Crenshaw and LPGA newcomer Laura Baugh smiling together as fashion models for Golf Magazine (both were advisers to the magazine), can only hope that Laura, now Laura Baugh Cole, will someday find similar peace of mind. I've been following Laura's progress and scanning the golf statistics to evaluate her chances of winning a tournament. Her comeback after the birth of her first child has been most encouraging, and I'm absolutely convinced that in the near future the putts will be falling in for her when, as Charlie Crenshaw said in reference to his son's incredible 60-footer, "Destiny takes hold."
To have the dual pleasure of reading a story by Sarah Pileggi and a second story on the Masters made my day. You brought a tear to my eye with Dan Jenkins' Masters coverage (A Breakthrough for the Heartbreak Kid, April 23) and then did it again with Pileggi's piece about Ben Crenshaw. What a thrill it was to see Crenshaw put on that green jacket and say with all sincerity, "I can't tell you what this means to me."
I've never met Crenshaw and probably never will, but it's stories like these that make me feel as though he's a friend of mine.
BULL CYCLONE (CONT.)
Thanks to Frank Deford for his excellent article on Coach Bob (Bull) (Cyclone) Sullivan (The Toughest Coach There Ever Was, April 30). I feel very fortunate to have been a friend of Sullivan's and one of his players. He had a great influence on my life and playing ability.
I've been asked why, out of all the players who played for him, my number, 31, was the only one retired. Before the article came out, I really hadn't thought too much about why But looking back on my playing days, I now realize that Bull expected 100% from every player who walked on the field; if you couldn't give this, then you didn't stay. Because of my size—I weighed 124 pounds—I had to give 150%. I gave all I had in ability and determination, and I gave it because of the respect and love I felt for Coach. He knew that whatever he told me to do, I would do it. I never let him down on the field. He never let me down off the field.
Your article was entitled The Toughest Coach There Ever Was. This is true, but he was also the most caring coach there ever was. On the field he was tough, mean and abusive, but off the field he was the most thoughtful man I ever knew. I thank God that He allowed me to know such a great man.
CLYDE (BABY DOLL) PIERCE
West Point, Miss.
THE ROTISSERIE LEAGUE
As the owner, general manager, manager and director of player development for the Oriental Beef of the "Gulf Coast League" (Quadruple A), I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Wulf's article on the Rotisserie League (FIRST PERSON, May 14). Though our stakes are a bit lower ($20 vs. $260), the suffering is the same. Last year I, too, was forced to endure the sophomore slump of Chili Davis, the disappearance of Lee Mazzilli (curse you, Marvell Wynne!) and the utter mediocrity of Greg Minton—no bargain as far as I was concerned at 11¢ per save or, more appropriately, 6¢ per earned run allowed.
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and this spring the Beef has been fortified by bargain acquisitions Tony Gwynn, Eddie Milner and Von Hayes (a Reverse Littlefield Effect, no doubt). Despite this good fortune, however, I'm still haunted by the memory of a disastrous 16-player swap at the beginning of last year. Would it be possible for you to list the 10 Cardinal Rules (Blue Jay Rules for American Leaguers) of trading?
•The rules as given in the book Rotisserie Baseball League are fairly involved, but here are brief excerpts: 1) "The value of a Rotisserie League player is not necessarily the same as his value as a major league player.... In short, don't be a 'homer' [for your favorite major league team]"; 2) "Do your homework"; 3) "Rotisserie baseball, like the other kind, is a game of inches. You get to the top by degrees [especially in trading]"; 4) "More at-bats are usually better than fewer at-bats [usually]"; 5) "Maintain control of the negotiations"; 6) "[Except where contending teams are concerned] a trade that helps both clubs is a good trade"; 7) "Either play for this season, or build for next year"; 8) "Never lie"; 9) "Know the intellectual, emotional, and psychological makeup of your fellow owners"; and 10) "Create your team in your own image."—ED.
Wulf's article gave me the most fun I've had with baseball since the Phillies and the Astros showed us what the game was all about in the 1980 National League playoffs.
PETER H. CRAIG
St. Davids, Pa.
Robert F. Jones's article on Michigan morels and Boyne City's annual National Mushroom Hunting Championship (ON THE SCENE, May 14) really struck home with me. 'Roon hunting has been a tradition handed down from generation to generation in my family. Every year for as long as I can remember, the week after Mother's Day has been set aside for our annual excursion to a little town called Mesick, in northern Michigan. I've picked 'em in rain, snow, sleet and bright sunshine and enjoyed every minute of it. Because I'm now in the Navy, I unfortunately had to miss this year's trip. Thanks for letting me catch a glimpse of 'roon hunting through Jones's piece.
JAMES R. HARRISON
Was Robert F. Jones pulling that favorite fisherman's ruse of publicizing the average fishing hole, keeping the best to himself? Everyone who's ever hung his morels up to dry in discarded onion bags knows that the mushroom capital of the world is Mesick, Mich., not Boyne City.
I've been hunting and eating wild mushrooms for about 65 years and have yet to get my fill of the most delectable one of all, the morel. Robert F Jones covered the subject well but omitted mention of (or didn't know about) the fact that morels may someday be grown commercially.
Michigan State University mycologists announced a couple of years ago that they had found the secret, but they didn't give it away. Perhaps SI can pry it out of them and give all of us mycophagists the break we've been waiting for for so many years. It's more fun to find them, but we don't all live in Michigan or other morel habitats.
Holmes Beach, Fla.
•Alas, Michigan State spokesmen say that experiments in producing the morel commercially are still in the laboratory stage.—ED.
Six pages of coverage on mushroom hunting? Robert F Jones calls it "America's strangest sporting event," but I think he's asking too much of my imagination for me to connect that article with sports or see any merit in it.
FRANK P. MASTERSON
Ewing Township, N.J.
THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT
The question raised in William Oscar Johnson's article Is There Life After Los Angeles? (May 21) is triumphantly answered 24 pages later in the same issue! Kenny Moore's article A Joyous Journey for Joan captured the spirit and excitement of the women's Olympic marathon trial. It was all there: "gutty" Joan Benoit, strategist Julie Brown, thrilled and thrilling Julie Isphording and the "innate Olympian," Lisa Larsen. Sister Marion Irvine's 132nd-place finish and Cathy Schiro's heroic attempt at third added to the color and drama. The athletes' continued efforts to participate in the Games and public support like that shown for the trial in Olympia, Wash, will ensure the future of the Olympics.
But please, publish a picture of the "joyous" Isphording taken during that last half mile. The expression on her face will serve as inspiration to thousands of boys and girls across the country who have as their goal making a future U.S. Olympic team.
•Here she is as she appeared just after crossing the finish line.—ED.
"It's Al Arbour-style hockey, playoff hockey, and it's the reason the Islanders will beat the Edmonton Oilers and win their fifth straight Cup. Five games? Six games? It doesn't matter. The Islanders will win it."—E.M. Swift (The Great Ones Go After the Great One, May 14).
Swift was right: It was Al Arbour-style hockey, and the Oilers played it to perfection. A large raspberry to Swift from Oiler fans everywhere.
Salt Lake City
Enclosed is E.M. Swift's article on the New York Islanders. I thought it would be a good idea if he ate his words. I hope he can afford the salt to season them.
Center Conway, N.H.
To E.M. Swift:
With best wishes for your future hockey predictions.
Home of the Stanley Cup
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.