A PHOTOGRAPHER'S VIEW
Brian Lanker's photography in the year-end issue (Dec. 23-30) is, hands down, the finest I have seen in my 15 years as a subscriber. The Smithsonian collection (Your Uncle Sam's Attic), the dramatic goggle-eye view of Sportsman of the Year Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Now, More Than Ever, A Winner) and the warm portrait of Snoopy and friend (Good Ol' Charlie Schulz) were priceless.
I enjoyed the photo essay on the Smithsonian collection, especially the two tickets to a heavyweight championship boxing match between Jim Flynn and Jack Johnson. To my knowledge, Flynn is the rarely known answer to a sports trivia question. Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Flynn's claim to fame the fact that he was the only man to knock out Jack Dempsey?
CHARLIE BROWN'S CREATOR
Many thanks for Franz Lidz's piece on Charles Schulz. My alltime favorite Peanuts drawing appeared in a Crosby golf tournament preview years ago (That Doggone Crosby, Jan. 8, 1968). It has Snoopy saying, "So there I was leading the field by two shots going into the eighteenth hole, and then they tell me that dogs aren't allowed on the course."
January 13, 1986
One Peanuts strip I have kept since college has Snoopy—the only tennis player I know of with floppy ears and a tail—practicing the John McEnroe method of self-motivation. "Rats!" he says. "I should've had that point, and I should've had that game and I should've had that set...." But he concludes, "Unfortunately, we're not playing 'should' ves'!"
Which led me to think we should've had Franz Lidz's grown-up profile of Charles Schulz much sooner.
East Northport, N.Y.
I have always believed that, at least once, "Good ol' Charlie Brown" should be named SI's Sportsman of the Year. However, your article has now convinced me that Charles Schulz should share this honor with Charlie.
Logan, W. Va.
THE STATE OF SPORTS
Frank Deford's excellent piece on the proliferation of sports in this country was right on the mark (No Longer A Cozy Corner, Dec. 23-30). How many even above-average sports fans can recall which college teams played in last year's four major bowl games, much less which ones played in the Liberty, Fiesta, Holiday, Cherry and so on?
I tip my hat to Frank Deford. To my mind, today's athletes are overspecialized, greedy, pampered brats. What ever happened to the ones who could throw a tight spiral 40 yards, nail a 15-foot turnaround jumper, drive a golf ball 250 yards, drill a down-the-line backhand and take pride in doing any of the above without demanding cash?
Big Rapids, Mich.
As a creative writer, Frank Deford excels. As a commentator on modern society, he falls short. Has he said anything but "bring back the Good Old Days"?
Sports inevitably mirror the societies in which they exist. If at one time life in the U.S. was thought to be pure, simple and easy to understand, that's fine. But today, this is surely not the case. Today, the world is complex and confusing. Wishing that sports would be anything else is asking a bit much.
Aside from enjoying the thrills of victory and suffering the agonies of defeat, being a dedicated sports fan today proves most enlightening. What better way to understand modern man than to study such pure products of the system as athletes? What better way to learn about the workings of society than to dissect one of its most cherished institutions? If our country has reached a point where we can no longer cope with the growing complexities of modern life, if we expect all issues to be black and white, good vs. evil, winning vs. losing, we may be in sorry shape. Days of innocence are memories. Effort is required to function effectively. We can't turn back. Those who don't keep up will get left behind.
So while others lament the loss of the Good Old Days, mourn the march of progress and cry, "These are the worst of times," I, for one, will enjoy the games we play—be they good, evil or something in between—and proclaim, "These are the best of times."
LAYDEN & CO.
Bob Ottum's story on Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden (Seriously, Folks, It's A Wonderful Life, Dec. 16) was like the man himself: funny and good. But I was wondering if you realize who that is in the background of your 1950s photo of Layden playing for Niagara University. No. 69 is Larry Costello, who would go on to coach the 1970-71 NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
There is a story behind Costello's number. Niagara beat Siena College in six overtimes in a celebrated 1953 game. Costello played 69 minutes and teammate Ed Fleming all 70, which is why they later got those numbers. Layden mostly kept stats on the bench in those days, but coach Taps Gallagher called on him in the fourth overtime against Siena because he was the only rested player on either side. It was a winning move: Layden scored a career-high eight points. Gallagher's '53 team produced three NBA coaches: Layden, Costello and the New York Knicks' Hubie Brown.
Alexander Wolff deserves a big round of applause for giving credit where credit is due (For Now He's The Cats' Meow, Dec. 16). Eddie Sutton has brought a winning tradition to Kentucky, and he has not been afraid to change some of the old Kentucky ways when necessary. Through the years, Sutton has gone with his instincts, and more often than not they have proved correct.
In response to your special college basketball issue (Nov. 20), specifically OPENING TIPS by Alexander Wolff, I would like to rebut your comments about the poor academic records of those who played for former University of Hawaii basketball coach Larry Little. I played for him between 1977 and 1981 and graduated with a degree in business in December 1981. Though Little's basketball record at Hawaii may not have been "paradisiacal," his academic support off the court should have been noted.
Laguna Hills, Calif.
In FACES IN THE CROWD (Dec. 23-30) you noted that Kubwa, the 3,050-pound African elephant, beat seven NFL Colts in a best-of-three tug-of-war. It seems that anyone or anything has been able to defeat the Colts since Robert Irsay took over ownership.
I thank you for the mention of J.R.'s Ripper and his record-setting feat of 138 career wins. And yet, I think this greyhound racing achievement has been diminished greatly by placing notice of it in the same column with a trained elephant and two racing oxen. Hilarious? Yes! But hardly the respect that such a great greyhound deserves.
Your profile of Charles Schulz was delightful holiday reading. As a baseball fan, I'd like some of our Phillies to age as gracefully as the Peanuts gang.
How about some more?
HEWITT HEISERMAN JR.
•Here's Snoopy at Wimbledon.—ED.
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