THE GAMBLING SICKNESS (CONT.)
For many years I have been telling anyone who would listen that a series you did in the 1960s on discrimination against black athletes (The Black Athlete—A Shameful Story, July 1-29, 1968) was a classic. But your special report on gambling in sports (The Biggest Game In Town, March 10) must rank right up there with it.
Little Rock, Ark.
The positive opinions on gambling quoted by Pat Putnam in the box entitled "Another View Of Gambling: It's Good For You" are good examples of sloppy thinking at its worst.
Those who equate the risks taken by American pioneers and entrepreneurs with those taken by gamblers overlook one distinguishing factor: The former have a great deal to do with the outcome of their venture—through the efforts they put forth and the decisions they make, they can in large part determine the results of the risks they take—while gamblers place assets of value in a position over which they have no control. They trust not in their own abilities and efforts but merely in blind luck.
No matter how many people tell you that it takes "courage" or "strength of character" to be a gambler, the fact is that gamblers are essentially people hooked on the idea that they can or should get something for nothing, rather than for producing things that will be of value to their fellow man. Gambling—the leaving of things to chance—is a replay of Old World fatalism. It had nothing to do with making America great. America was built by people who thought that what they did made a difference.
March 31, 1986
I made my first bet at the age of 12 on the first Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight. I won $15. By the age of 15 I was a bookie, winning or losing from $50 to $100 a weekend. When I went to college, Atlantic City was only an hour away. Every Tuesday night, after attending a class from 7 to 10, I went there for a few hours and discovered how to win or lose from $500 to $1,500 at a time.
Gambling taught me how to live bet-to-bet, never making any plans for the future. From weekend-to-weekend I made bets on all types of sporting events. My future was tied up in gambling.
Recently, I quit gambling for 10 weeks during football season. It was the hardest challenge of my life. But when the Super Bowl came around, I came out of retirement. I won a nice amount of money.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD BY REQUEST
Minutes after finishing your special report, I glanced through my copy of the March 10 issue of your sister publication TIME. There, in the Business Notes section, was confirmation of the spread of the sports-gambling frenzy: Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust in Louisville was offering certificates of deposit with varying interest rates tied to the performance of the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals in this season's NCAA basketball tournament. It seems you will have to increase your tally of legal bookies to include the banking industry.
RONALD K. RITTER
Thanks for Clive Gammon's story (Tales Of Self-Destruction) about compulsive gambling, a subject that needs exposure. It's hard to believe that a disease that afflicts millions of people in this country and causes untold suffering in the lives of many millions more can spread in relative obscurity, unnoted by the general public. But compulsive gambling, described by psychiatrists and psychologists as an incurable chronic illness and the most pure form of psychological addiction, is just such an unrecognized national epidemic.
As more states legalize gambling, it is time to take notice of the problems that may be connected with this method of obtaining revenue. A study conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health in 1979 (the most recent such study) found that, at a minimum, approximately 800,000 of this state's 7.3 million residents were affected in some way by compulsive gambling.
I hope people who need help with a compulsive-gambling problem will seek help after reading the articles in SI.
Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey
IVY LEAGUE VS. THE BIG TIME
As a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton, 1972) and the University of Georgia (J.D., 1975), I have experienced both schools of thought concerning college athletics. Pennsylvania's basketball teams over the years certainly have proved that student-athletes can produce championship results, as your piece on the Ivy League noted (Color Of The Year In The Ivys: Brown, March 10). So, too, Georgia boasts of such graduates as 1960s football star Robert (Happy) Dicks, now an extremely successful neurosurgeon in Georgia.
There must be some merit to both sides of the Ivy League vs. The Big Time athletics debate. Perhaps a solution can be found in the no pass-no play rules of Texas (SCORECARD, Nov. 4), which are being studied here in Georgia. But then, many SI readers recognize college athletics for what it is: a minor league system not subsidized by professional athletic teams. Perhaps if each professional team that signed a college athlete paid that athlete's school a signing bonus, the scramble for television revenues, gate receipts, recruiting funds, etc. could be reduced, and the students could concentrate on education. Perhaps restricting recruiting to subsidizing an athlete's visit to a "recruiting convention," where the prospect would be exposed to every school expressing an interest, would not only reduce recruiting budgets but also relieve pressure on young minds.
In the meantime, some of us can only smile when an Ivy League team made up of poets, mathematicians, and doctors-and accountants-to-be knocks off a PAC-10 squad, or when a Georgia graduate goes on to perform intricate brain surgery.
GARY E. JACKSON
Congratulations to Rick Reilly on a super-funny, tell-it-like-it-is golf article (Who Are Those Guys, Anyway? March 3). I'm still recovering from laughing so hard I forgot the name of the winner of the L.A. Open—or is it the La La Open?
GARRY G. BLUNT
Rick Reilly is a knowledgeable and extremely entertaining golf writer. Too bad he didn't pursue the cogent statement that last year's low pro average was one stroke higher than 37 years ago, in spite of improvements in clubs and balls. It takes more than money to bring another Ben Hogan or Jack Nicklaus to today's mediocre golf world of economics-minded look-alikes.
Several friends and I have formed a golf league in which we select PGA tour players and use their weekly performances to compete among ourselves. We knew about Doug Tewell, Bob Tway and Donnie Hammond, as well as Clarence Rose, Paul Azinger and Willie Wood. In fact, Corey Pavin was the first pick in our draft. However, even we did not know about Kenny Knox, the following week's Honda Classic winner, a true Who Are Those Guys guy!
"Golf is stuck in an awkward age." Balderdash! Any consistent observer of the PGA Tour notices that Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Lanny Wadkins & Co. still hover near the lead each week, but the evolution of this great game has simply resulted in more players who can stand up there in the final round on Sunday and hit the shots.
Golf today doesn't need a "superstar"; it already has a potful of them. So what if yester-year provided only a handful? My hat is off to the potful.
R. BRYAN RATLIFF
It's obvious that the only people who really long for the big-name winners on the PGA Tour are the sportswriters. The true golf fans don't seem to mind. Just look at the record attendance at the final round in Los Angeles, even with that "federal witness-protection program" leader board.
In your Dec. 9 issue (FACES IN THE CROWD) you featured coach Bob Catapano, whose Raleigh (N.C.) Sanderson High soccer team holds the national high school record for games without a loss, at 72.
At Scarsdale (N.Y.) High School, the girls' soccer team of 1979-84 set the national record by going 109-0-2 and winning a total of 85 straight games without a tie!
I happened to be the coach during those years and was featured in FACES in 1982, when our team was 75-0-1.
Please correct the record, as we are very proud of going undefeated for 5½ years. In 1983 I was voted National High School Girls' Coach of the Year, as well.
Coach, Girls' Soccer
Scarsdale (N.Y.) High School
Curry Kirkpatrick was wrong to characterize the North Carolina Tar Heels as "late, not so great and currently prostrate" in his article One Devil Of A Team (March 17). He should instead hail them as models of consistency. Carolina is the only basketball team in America to reach the regional round of the "sweet sixteen" in the NCAA tournament for six consecutive years! My hat is off to the players, the athletic staff and the whole university for this accomplishment.
Last year (19TH HOLE, Feb. 4, 1985) I drew your attention to the fact that the winners—and only the winners—of the previous five Super Bowls had one thing in common: a player (or players) from Brigham Young University. This year, with former BYU star Jim McMahon as their quarterback, the Chicago Bears made it six in a row.
VALIANT LADY II
Thanks for your fine coverage of Libby Riddles' victory in the 1985 Iditarod race (Valiant Lady, Feb. 17). I enjoyed it immensely, but the 1986 Iditarod is now over and there is a new winner, Susan Butcher, and a new record (11 days, 15 hours and six minutes). I'm looking forward to seeing a picture of Butcher in SI real soon.
•For a look at Butcher and her lead dog, Granite, just after they crossed the finish line, see below.—ED.
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.