TRIBUTES TO HAYES
Rick Telander's balanced POINT AFTER (March 23) on Woody Hayes was a moving portrait of the old coach. Since much has been written of Hayes's controversial side, I'd like to share a little-known story that shows another side.
In the autumn of 1968, while Ohio State's "super sophomores" were leading the Buckeyes to an unbeaten season, I was a Marine pilot in the Oakland Naval Hospital, recovering from Vietnam burn injuries. I was invited by Hayes's wife, Anne, who, like her husband, has done many charitable deeds, to join the team in Pasadena, where it was preparing for the Rose Bowl game against USC. There, Coach Hayes gave me one of his Bowl tickets. On Jan. 1, 1969, from a seat on the 50-yard line, next to Mrs. Hayes, I saw Ohio State defeat the Trojans and O.J. Simpson 27-16. This probably did more for my recovery than any treatment.
As my son and I left the Cotton Bowl after Ohio State beat Texas A & M this past New Year's Day, an angry Aggie shouted, "What's a Buckeye, anyway?" The answer: "It's a winner." So was Coach Hayes, right to the end.
As a Buckeye fan for 35 years, I loved Woody, not just because of the great victories he gained for us, but because of his obvious love for football, his players and Ohio State. He was often criticized for his angry outbursts, but I always felt he was just throwing up a smokescreen to protect his players. Instead of focusing on individual OSU players' costly mistakes, the press would turn its attention to the coach's outbursts, thus allowing the team to escape the heat and regroup. I'll miss Woody. College football is diminished by his loss.
Deerfield Beach, Fla.
April 12, 1987
Although I am a Michigan fan and not a Woody Hayes supporter, I take exception to one of Rick Telander's statements. Telander thinks Hayes was not a great football coach, for one thing because Woody just ran the ball.
Maybe Bobby Knight isn't a great basketball coach because he doesn't favor a zone defense, or maybe Babe Ruth wasn't a great hitter because he didn't bunt more often. People don't win consistently for many years without being proficient at their sport. Woody's record speaks for itself.
DENNIS R. HAGEY
Iron Mountain, Mich.
FALLEN STAR (CONT.)
The article by Gary McLain, as told to Jeffrey Marx (The Downfall of a Champion, March 16), is one of the best ever done by your magazine. Certainly it is one that needed to be done. The fact is—and most people involved in sports know it—drug use is prevalent in all sports, and it has gotten worse in the past few years. Gary's story is probably very close to those of hundreds of other athletes across the country. It is the minority of athletes who have not at least tried drugs, because, as Gary says, when you are a good athlete you are the man. You're in the spotlight. You're on the fast track, and most athletes love it.
I have heard people ridicule McLain by saying, among other things, that he is a disgrace and that they hoped Gary was happy now that he was on the cover of SI. These people must be living in a dream world. Drinking and getting high are part of the scene everywhere. Athletes are just part of society.
I hope Gary shocked some sense into a few people by telling his story, but most will probably bury their heads in the sand and pretend that he and Len Bias were just a couple of wayward boys.
Scarsdale, N. Y.
Gary McLain's simple, straightforward, powerful account of his addiction ought to be required reading for every junior high school student. I handed the piece to my 15-year-old son this morning.
It is so easy to see the insidiousness of drug use in McLain's no-excuse account of his road to addiction. None of the things he did was ever meant to lead to big-time drug use. He always felt he maintained some element of control. He started light and wound up with a big-buck habit that led to ruin.
Though he gives a slap on the hands to Villanova officials for not helping him. it should be remembered that McLain did not kick his habit until he was ready. Any effort on the part of coach Rollie Massimino to discipline him or to force him to quit might have driven McLain deeper into abuse.
A copy of the piece should be sent to every school district in the country. Everyone says it can't happen to me, but Gary McLain proves otherwise.
Falls Mills, Va.
I respect McLain because he did something about his problem and is not ashamed to admit that he had one. I wish more people were like that. My father was on drugs for years, but he, too, finally admitted it and is now in rehab. It's a long struggle, and I wish Gary good luck. He made the right choice.
A MCLAIN FAN
Gary McLain has a tough road ahead. But what about the system that encourages kids like Gary to be above the law? Why do we continue to treat star athletes as if they can do no wrong?
McLain's problems, while deeply personal and near tragic, are not his alone. His guilt is his to bear, but our standards and laws must be equally applied or else our own guilt will continue to be greater. We can't just deal with the users; we've got to work on our own attitudes. We have to show our kids that the way to success can be drug-free. Otherwise the McLains and the Biases and the John Belushis will continue to haunt us all.
My name is Steve Beatty, and along with Gary McLain, I was a member of the Big East all-star team that traveled to Angola in 1982. I have never taken drugs, nor do I have any intention of ever doing so. As a member of that team I was aware of many of the incidents revealed by Gary. I knew Gary was getting high on the trip, and I knew that he was caught by Mr. Calzonetti.
The reason I am writing is to wish Gary all the luck in the world. I consider that trip to Angola to be one of the highlights of my life. We players formed a close bond during the tour, and afterward, whenever we met, we always exchanged handshakes and conversation before games against one another.
I didn't realize that Gary had a real problem until I read the story in SI. Gary seems to be well on the road to recovery, and I know he will make it because he is a winner. I never had the success on the basketball court that Gary experienced, but I have been successful in life since college. I know I will continue to be successful because life is like basketball; the harder you work at being successful, the easier it comes.
As someone who attended Villanova on an athletic scholarship and who also had the opportunity to be a resident assistant responsible for overseeing one of the male dorms, I have been exposed to both sides of the drug issue.
The problem of drugs in athletics and in college in general is a real one. However, because McLain was a member of the '85 NCAA championship team, the problem appears larger than it is. Gary became an addict because he was not punished when caught with drugs at various stages of his young life, not because he was at Villanova.
While working as a resident assistant, I learned that one of the reasons for student transfers out of Villanova was that it wasn't a party school.
I don't agree that Gary should have written this article, but I do believe he is sincere in his attempt to help himself and others. I just hope this article helps Gary with his life and career as much as my Villanova degree and education have helped me with mine.
I was a varsity basketball player at Maria Regina High in Uniondale, N.Y., during the time Gary attended the school, and I dispute his statement that "many" of the students were smoking marijuana. Only a select few were in that group, Gary being one of them. Maria Regina was one of the finest schools on Long Island at that time.
KEVIN M. ROCHE
Oceanside, N. Y.
Gary McLain got high on coke when he heard about the death of Len Bias. That's great. How is anyone supposed to learn from that?
Stop being social workers and publish more articles about athletes who are brave enough to stay away from drugs in the first place.
HUGH W. CAMPBELL
Millers Falls, Mass.
For those who felt angry and fed up after reading about McLain. I suggest a rereading, in SI's 1986-87 special college basketball issue (Nov. 19), of the article on Navy's David Robinson (The Mightiest Middie). It did wonders for me.
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