The article about the University of Florida's problems (Partly Cloudy Week in the Sunshine State, Sept. 10) broke my heart for several reasons. First, I'm a rabid Gator fan and a proud graduate of the university, and I don't like to be characterized as "obnoxious." I've never thrown fruit, and I only spit sometimes.
Second, the article brought to public attention the frustration of following an "almost" team. But third, and most important of all, it made me realize that my very own alma mater isn't immune to the football factory mentality, and for that I'm truly sorry. I know that we're going to get socked with NCAA penalties, and I'm sorry for my school and for Charley Pell, who obviously felt he needed to do what he did in order to please fans like me. What Florida needs now is a coach with impeccable credentials who's a proven winner. Think you'd like it in the South, Joe Paterno?
Somewhere out there, Red Parker [the Clemson coach Charley Pell replaced] must be having a good laugh. In 1978, Pell left Clemson for Florida, where he would have "an opportunity for the ultimate goal, the national championship," something he believed he wouldn't get if he stayed at Clemson. Pell bombed in his first year, Clemson won all the marbles two years later and now Pell has thrown himself and the entire Florida football program into the mud. You sure did give 'em hell, Pell.
Thanks to John Underwood for the insightful and ofttimes humorous look at football in the Sunshine State. I'm a proud state of Florida fan who's grateful for any recognition any of its teams (Florida, Florida State, Miami, the Dolphins and Bucs) can get, favorable or not. Personally, I'd like to see John McKay, a great college coach, at Gainesville, and please, Lord, bring Howard Schnellenberger to Tampa Bay.
I spent my childhood in Gainesville and quickly became one of those Florida loyalists described in your story. Yet, like many other Gator fans, I don't wear silly hats, spill my drinks or throw debris of any kind. I simply cheer very loudly when Florida wins, which is often, and rationalize quietly when it loses. Here's one quiet rationalization: Last year the loser of the Florida-Miami game went on to be the national champ. Go, Gators!
THE HEAVYWEIGHT SCENE
Pat Putnam's article The Champ's in the Pink (Sept. 10) got me to thinking about all the heavyweight champions we've had in the past few years: Spinks, Norton, Holmes, Tate, Weaver, Dokes, Coetzee, Witherspoon and now Pinklon Thomas. We have the WBA, the WBC, the IBF and various smaller sanctioning bodies. So since there is no one real power in boxing, I've decided to lay claim to the IWM (I Want Money) heavyweight title. Of course, being champion entitles me to receive at least $100,000 for my first defense. I know I'm not worth the money, but I want to buy a house. I'll admit I can't fight very well, but neither can the other champions. Thank goodness Ali's hot in his prime or we'd all be ex-champs.
IWM Heavyweight Champion
Forest City, N.C.
Yahoo! Bob Ottum's article on Greg LeMond (Climbing Clear Up to the Heights, Sept. 3) made thousands of cyclists extremely happy. Finally our sports hero (in Europe) has made it into America's best-read sports magazine. Bike racing in the U.S. has been accelerating steadily in popularity and deserves the recognition it's getting.
Los Altos, Calif.
It's about time an American publication recognized the achievements of cyclist Greg LeMond! His accomplishments can be fairly compared to those of Wayne Gretzky, John McEnroe and Carl Lewis. Cycling is ready to explode in the U.S., thanks to LeMond. Bob Ottum's article delineated very well the story behind this fine racer. Bravo!
San Jose, Calif.
I was all set to write you a nasty letter asking why SI hadn't had a feature on John Henry in three years when, to my surprise, I opened my Aug. 27 issue and found William Nack's excellent story (An Oldie but Goodie) and some wonderful photography. But afterward I thought, "This is all very nice, but now I'll probably have to read about John Henry's win in the Arlington Million next week in FOR THE RECORD." You've got me spoiled! There was old John again in the lead article of your Sept. 3 issue (John Henry Was the One in the Million), along with a fantastic head-on shot of the finish.
I'm 20 years old and have been a fan of this horse ever since I watched in disbelief when, as a 5-year-old, he went wire-to-wire in winning the 1¾-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap in 1980. Now, four years later, I've watched him 15 or 20 times, including traveling to Chicago for the '81 Million. After seeing many heart-stopping victories, I thought his win in this year's Million was almost boring because it was a textbook race. He's the best thing that could have happened to racing. Now if only you could get him on the cover.
Much has been made in recent issues of the "senior citizen" status of 9-year-old John Henry, who, according to your stories, is only a few strides away from a rest farm.
I note that it is only in racing that a horse is considered old at nine. The horses that competed on the U.S. Equestrian team in the Los Angeles Olympics ranged in age from eight to 18. Touch of Class (11) won the individual gold in show jumping and Abdullah (13) the silver, and Ben Arthur (12) won the individual silver in the arduous three-day event. These "ancient" animals also brought home team gold in three-day and show jumping.
I've fox-hunted and played polo on horses who were more than 20 years old, but then in horse sports other than racing, the horses are rarely started at two, worked heavily and then retired at three. Obviously, it does make a difference.
Night Sports Editor
The Detroit News
USFL commissioner Chet Simmons speaks prematurely when he says the league's move to a fall schedule "puts to rest the idea that televised football has reached the saturation point" (SCORECARD, Sept. 3). No such conclusion can yet be drawn, and Simmons, I fear, will soon experience the humbling taste of his own words. A "unanimous" vote by a bunch of wealthy egocentrics proves nothing. I would have been glad to advise the league's owners of the USFL's chances (inevitable demise) in a head-to-head duel with the NFL, and I would have done it for substantially less than the $700,000 they collectively paid to learn that most football fans have heard of the USFL (which is what a "98% recognition factor among America's football fans" sounds like)!
Color the USFL dead. The schedule change can only hasten its flight into football oblivion.
Even though it's a bit early to be thinking about your Sportsman/Sportswoman of the Year award, I'd like to bring up two possible choices—the only two, as far as I'm concerned. First, the man who has built the greatest sports franchise in history, Arnold Jacob (Red) Auerbach. Auerbach is one of the most outstanding sports figures of all time. But if not Red, the only other choice is Larry Bird. Bird, believed by many to be the NBA's best all-around player (since Oscar Robertson), helped win another NBA title and was named MVP of both the playoffs and the season.
My nominations are Peter V. Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, and whoever was responsible for organizing the Winter Games at Sarajevo. These people helped put together the two best Olympics ever. Their labors and successes were no mean feat when one considers the state of athletics and politics in the world today.
MICHAEL S. TIGHE
Howes Cave, N.Y.
The dazzling smile of Mary Lou Retton following her scintillating triumph at the Olympics will forever be imprinted in my memory. The joy of competing was never more apparent, the spirit of competition never so well defined. Only you, Mary Lou, for Sportswoman of the Year.
KATHLEEN A. FURLONG
Joan Benoit and Edwin Moses.
GARY J. SALAMONE
South Portland, Maine
U.S. light heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield epitomizes the true spirit of sport. He was graceful in victory, concerned about the defeated and even more graceful in an unjust disqualification. I admire Holyfield and hope other athletes heed his example.
Hey, SI, we love ya! William Taaffe's article on "baseball's lovable shnook," Bob Uecker (TV/RADIO, Sept. 3), was an unexpected fix for us Uecker junkies, but you showed the wrong baseball card. In 1965, Uecker, a career righthanded batter, displayed his wry sense of humor by posing for Topps batting lefty. And in a true show of mediocrity, nobody noticed!
THOMAS JAMES LONG
•For a look at that 1965 Topps card, see above.—ED.
I'm disappointed that the world's greatest sports magazine devoted only one page to Bob Uecker. You should have given him at least six. Just the mention of his name gets me laughing. The Miller Brewing Company will never have to worry about VCR owners fast-forwarding past Uecker's Lite Beer commercials. I'd rather watch "Alone in the Cheap Seats" than Three's Company any day!
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.