DEATH OF AN ATHLETE
Thank you for Jack McCallum's sensitive, compassionate and downright decent article about the death of Len Bias ("The Crudest Thing Ever", June 30). In this day and age, there are too many horror stories about drugs and athletes, but SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's job is to report and communicate what happens in the sports world as a whole—drugs included. I'd like to compliment SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for doing its job—nothing more, nothing less. It was a fine piece on a not-so-fine episode.
PHILIP O. CARDACI
West Milford, N.J.
Compliments are in order for the article on Len Bias. I was glad to see that it presented only the facts and did not dwell on degrading Bias for his actions. Some of the media had jumped to conclusions and used his death as a chance to show that drugs are prevalent in sports, when instead we should be mourning the loss of a great athlete.
Sadly, most people will inevitably remember Bias as that basketball player who overdosed, but we basketball fans will remember him simply as one of the great players in college history.
Maple Grove, Minn.
The tragedy of Len Bias's death has touched the sports world in a profound way, and this is clearly exemplified by your outstanding cover. As a high school coach, I am keenly aware of the many obstacles athletes face at every level of their careers, including the widespread availability of drugs. Bias symbolizes the spirit of athletic success while at the same time serving as a grim reminder of what success can bring.
July 13, 1986
I plan to frame and display your cover in the locker room to inspire our young athletes to greatness while reminding them that sports and drugs don't mix.
Though I agree it was a tragedy, I hardly agree with Larry Bird's assessment that it was the "crudest thing I've ever heard." A child who dies of leukemia or child abuse is the crudest thing I've ever heard. But when a 22-year-old college-educated man with the "world at his fingertips" dies of cardiorespiratory arrest brought on by the use of cocaine, I call that the most "foolish thing I've ever heard."
I hope the people who wanted their subscriptions canceled after your swimsuit issue caught the cover and story on Len Bias.
It no doubt will save and has saved many lives.
I have three sons between the ages of 18 and 28. I guess they would be extremely concerned if they saw your cover and read the five-page article on the Len Bias tragedy. The youth of America will get your message, loud and clear, and maybe that's why you chose him for your cover subject.
But here is a college senior, taking cocaine and canceling his dream. Is this tragedy really worth a cover and five full editorial pages? The World Cup. Major league baseball. Wimbledon. Golf. USFL vs. NFL. I know they're all covered well, but surely there must have been some more sports-worthy events that week. Why glorify the death of Len Bias? You did include it in FOR THE RECORD, which I feel would have been more than sufficient.
ROBERT BUECHNER JR.
The death of Len Bias was a tragedy, albeit a self-inflicted one. The real tragedy is that with all the potential fame, fortune, NBA championships and awards that were his for the taking, Len Bias was not smart enough to lay off the cocaine.
Mistakes are made, and Len Bias paid for his, but under the circumstances, he did not deserve the honor of a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover.
IRA D. SEIBEL
I have often admired Len Bias, while hating him for what he was doing to North Carolina's Tar Heels—the team I follow. My feelings of ambivalence toward him are even more intense now. Poor Len, how stupid can you be?
I know we shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I am angry with everyone who is culpable in this sorry episode, including Bias. I hope the others, pushers and fellow travelers, are brought to justice. I think, though, that we must start teaching our kids that they are not just victims of circumstances beyond their control. They are, indeed, primarily masters of their own fate. Perhaps we can direct our sorrow and anger over Bias's death toward some good. Otherwise, what a waste!
PAUL B. WOOD
TRAVELING WITH TED
My hat is off to Gary Smith for another stirring piece of writing (What Makes Ted Run? June 23). At first his article seemed focused just on Ted Turner's amazing acquisitiveness, but then Smith created a full and illuminating portrait of an unsettled, inwardly haunted, essentially decent and perhaps doomed man. Like Macbeth—who could neither abide his own gentleness nor brook seeing the violent consequences of his ambition—Turner seems at this point to regard looking or turning back "as tedious as to go o'er." Smith's attentiveness to the subtle paradoxes of human character exemplifies the best that sportswriting has to offer.
JONATHAN M. PITTS
I simply cannot understand how Ted Turner, a man who says we shouldn't abuse the planet, who cares about the environment, who has fed a bison from his hand and who has a dog and a big bird for pets, can go around shooting and killing animals. So, when he says "all this killing and arms race is for nothing," he means killing only some things. How can an environmentalist and animal lover take him seriously?
Ted Turner as President of the United States? That's about as likely as Spud Webb winning the NBA slam-dunk contest. Hmmm...Jiminy Crickets! He just might do it!
After suggesting a design consultant for Boise State University because of their new blue artificial turf and orange football jerseys (SCORECARD, June 23), you might want to consider the same. Heading the SCORECARD page were blue and orange stripes.
I think Boise State's new playing surface sounds great, and I would like the chance to see it on national television. But, what I'm really waiting to see is Miami of Florida wearing pink jerseys while playing on a mint-green field. Guaranteed national exposure.
Fort Wayne, Ind.
The satellite image of New York Harbor in the June 30 issue (A Harbor Like No Other) was taken by the SPOT 1 satellite orbiting at an altitude of 530 miles, rather than 300 miles as stated in your caption. From its orbit, the SPOT satellite can take "pictures" that allow detection of features as small as 10 meters, or half the length of a tennis court.
It was our satellite, launched last February, that took pictures of the Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear plant that showed the world what had happened.
DAVID S. JULYAN
SPOT Image Corp.
The article on the split-fingered fastball (The Pitch Of The '80s, June 9) referred to its ancestor the forkball, but with a glaring omission. It seems to me that when I was a kid during the '40s, the foremost practitioner of the forkball was Mort Cooper of the Cardinals—the pitching half of the brother-brother battery (Walker was the catcher). From 1942 to '44, Mort won 65 games and lost only 22—pretty fair even if it was during the war years, and the Cards won the pennant all three years.
•In this 1942 photo, Mort (right) and Walker Cooper flank Card manager Billy Southworth.—ED.
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