Ingrained in my mind as I watched the Chicago Bulls defeat the Mike Dunleavy-coached Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title (Shining Moment, June 24) was a photo (above) that SI ran in 1984. At the time, Michael Jordan was a member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, which would win the gold medal at the Los Angeles Games, and Dunleavy, a Milwaukee Bucks guard, was one of several NBA players assembled to toughen up the Olympians in a series of exhibitions. The photo, which accompanied a story on the Olympic team's preparations (Hooray for the Red, White, Black and Blue!, July 23, 1984), showed Dunleavy giving Jordan a tremendous slap in the face. Seems like Michael now has the last slap.
This letter is prompted by Nicholas Dawidoff's June 3 article, You (Bleep)!, about the increasingly offensive verbal abuse of ballplayers by the fans. I grew up as a Red Sox fan, and last year, after an absence of many years, I took my family to Fenway Park to show my wife and three sons how special that ballpark is to me. I do not intend to return.
It's not just the obscene language—my kids hear that at school. It's not just the racial insults and taunting of players, for that is a valuable lesson in the dark side of human behavior. It's that it becomes impossible to enjoy a game you can't see or hear because drunks are shouting, spitting, throwing litter and falling over you. After a while, you concentrate on the security and safety of your family.
Before we went to the game, I had promised my boys that I would buy season tickets for this year. I decided not to do this, and my sons have not reminded me of this promise.
June 30, 1991
I've just graduated from high school, where I played on the basketball team. During the past season I became the father of a baby girl, for which I was taunted by opposing fans. When I stepped to the foul line, I was greeted with imitations of a baby's cry or serenaded with Rock-a-Bye Baby. Students held up diapers and condoms, shouted obscenities about my girlfriend and even ridiculed my daughter.
After my final home game, a fan of the visiting team yelled, "Hey, Clausen, I'm gonna kill your kid!" I had a basketball in my hand, and I threw it at him, but I missed. When I read about Albert Belle's throwing a baseball and hitting a fan in Cleveland, my reaction was "Nice shot, Albert!"
Dawidoff overlooks one cause for the increased boorishness of fans: the conduct of the players toward one another. Brush-back pitches lead to bench-clearing brawls. The play of basketball's Pistons could, like the conduct of some fans, result in assault charges if it took place on the streets. And hockey, of course, remains boxing on skates. Fans are reacting to the level of civility they see on the field.
I suspect the worst fans are those with the least sports background. Fans who have been athletes typically behave better because they are more able to put themselves in the players' shoes.
THOMAS E. WILSON
Players who think all fans are abusive and vulgar should think again. Most of us are as disturbed by the horrible actions of the few as they are.
It seems to me that one step in correcting abusive behavior would be to eliminate the sale of alcoholic beverages at games.
JAY D. MONDRY
Park Rapids, Minn.
Maybe there should be an abusive-fans section.
Mercer Island, Wash.
Dawidoff suggests education might be a solution, "perhaps through public-service announcements." Since 1989 the NFL has been conducting a national television campaign called Don't Rock the Boat, featuring former Ram All-Pro safety Nolan Cromwell and such current NFL personalities as Raider coach Art Shell and Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. The spots urge fans to "leave the action on the field and not in the stands.... Be courteous and considerate to your fellow fans.... Don't party too hard before or during the game.... Don't you rock the boat."
SI should be commended for focusing attention on this important issue.
Director of Communications
National Football League
New York City
Letters to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and should be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020-1393.