HERNANDEZ'S HARD TIMES
William Nack's profile of Keith Hernandez (He's Still Not Home Free, Oct. 13) was one of the most poignant pieces ever to appear in your magazine. I have been an avid fan of Hernandez's since he entered the majors and, like many others, was puzzled when I discovered that this brilliant athlete had become a victim of drugs.
Now, after learning more about him, I am an even bigger fan of Hernandez's, if that is possible. The courage it took for him to bare his soul in the manner portrayed is remarkable and should constitute evidence for him that he is indeed not only a great athlete but also a super human being. God bless you, Keith. You will surely find your way to contentment.
SPENCER H. HOLLAND
I hope that the many readers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED who are fathers of young athletes—boys or girls—will take the time to read and really think about Nack's revealing portrait of Hernandez.
Sports analyses rarely cause us to reflect so deeply on the dark side of the competitiveness of a professional athlete's life. Many children will benefit if fathers can see a little bit of John Hernandez in themselves as they push their offspring to win in athletics.
WILLIS K. HARTE
October 27, 1986
It appears to me that your writer sensationalized a little crybabying into an 11-page article that can only serve to create a wider breach between a loving father and his two sons. I don't blame John Hernandez for declining to have his photo included with such an article.
I know a lot of guys, including myself, who lost their fathers early in life, and a lot of other guys who hungered for attention from their fathers. They would tell Keith to start counting his blessings.
It seems to get tougher every year for athletes to play the man while playing sports.
J.G. BRADDOCK SR.
Thank you. I had developed a prejudice against all baseball players who are or were involved with drugs. Your insightful story helped me to understand how it can happen. I'm glad Hernandez was able to beat the problem on his own.
JANICE A. PARR
William Taaffe's article on USA Today (The Sports Fan's Daily Spread, Oct. 6) described the paper perfectly.
This past summer I backpacked through Europe with two fellow sports fanatics. We hoped to come across The New York Times occasionally, but we didn't see it once. What we got was USA Today in every town we visited. Every day, Tuesday through Saturday (USA Today's five-day week abroad)—with rare exceptions when the paper was sold out—we studied the sports section. We looked forward to Yankee box scores, football, basketball and hockey news, but we loved those stats. We memorized them and got funny looks while doing so. We read in trains, buses and even at the Vatican.
Thanks to USA Today three 21-year-olds were able to enjoy a whole different world while not missing a summer of U.S. sports.
Spring Valley, N.Y.
In an otherwise excellent account of USA Today's sports reporting, Taaffe misjudged the literary desires of the modern sports reader. He accused sportswriters in recent years of "running long sociological stories at the expense of stats, game summaries and other essentials." He even ventured to call them "Hemingways." As an avid reader of modern sports journalism, I find the current creative trend of sports reporting very thought provoking and entertaining. To capture the essence of a game, the writer must delve into detail and convey to the reader the spirit of the contest rather than the statistics.
THE NCAA'S BYERS
Jack McCallum's In The Kingdom Of The Solitary Man (Oct. 6) comes very close to accurately describing Walter Byers, the brilliant, complex man who has molded the NCAA for the past 35 years.
For those of us who know him well, and that is very possible at the professional level, his accomplishments can scarely be overstated. His intelligence, dedication, courage, toughness, iron will and integrity, along with a carefully fashioned set of operating principles and priorities, have combined to produce, in my opinion, this country's most effective sports administrator of the century.
Oh, sure, those of us charged with p.r. responsibilities through the years—Wayne Duke, me, Tom Hansen, Dave Cawood—have always sought ways to give Walter greater personal exposure, knowing his image would be much different. Early on he told me he used to agonize about what he felt to be unjustified media criticism, but he put it behind him with the self-discipline that is one of his hallmarks.
I think McCallum is right about Byers's successor being someone "willing to stroke a few egos, someone who's willing to schmooze with the college presidents." (He may very well be an ex-college CEO who'll create a new but not necessarily better good-ol'-boy network himself.) But if he does his job right, it won't result in much enhancement of the general perception of the NCAA, because, as Byers knows very well, one of the association's most important functions has been and will continue to be as a lightning rod, diverting criticism of intercollegiate athletics away from member colleges and universities to itself. Walter has always known he could not do the job that has had to be done and win any popularity contests.
Walnut Creek, Calif.
•Hallock was director of NCAA public relations from 1963 to 1968 and commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference ('68 to '71) and the Pac-10 ('71 to '83). Now retired, he is writing a history of the Pac-10.—ED.
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