Gators and Vols
Your story on the Florida-Tennessee game (Swamped, Sept. 27) blew out of proportion the behavior of Florida fans and Gator coach Steve Spurrier. You portrayed Gator fans as savage, bloodthirsty gorillas who live to heckle visiting fans. The SEC's new policy of moving the student section back 25 rows from the field is as much the fault of the Vols as of the Gators. In 1990, when the teams played in Knoxville, Tennessee students threw debris at the Gator sideline and chanted, "Our students don't die," referring to the infamous serial killings of five Florida students in Gainesville the previous August.
Merritt Island, Fla.
I take issue with your statement that "Tennessee hasn't won the really big games, especially on the road." In fact, over the last four years Tennessee has won at Georgia, UCLA and even Notre Dame. Tennessee has also beaten Florida twice since Steve Spurrier took over as Gator coach in 1990, something no other SEC team has done. Finally, the Vols are 3-1 in their last four bowl appearances.
The phenomenal success of the Chinese women runners (Great Wall of Doubt, Sept. 27) has predictably evoked suspicion that their record-breaking feats were drug-related. There may be a more likely though little-recognized explanation. In distance running life-style is everything, and the life-styles of Asians and Africans involve a spartan existence unknown to most people in the West, where the automobile is everything.
Little is known about Wang Junxia and her remarkable teammates, but one thing is almost certain: From early childhood they have seldom ridden in automobiles. They have relied on bicycles and their two legs to get them to school, to market, to the movies. We know this is true of the African men who have dominated distance racing for years. Many of them tell, for instance, of running long distances to and from school while growing up.
October 24, 1993
Compressed Strike Zone
Tim Kurkjian misses an essential point in his analysis of high batting averages and other offensive feats in baseball this season (The Big Bang, Sept. 13). A juiced ball and talent dilution by expansion may have made a difference, but the main reason batters hit the ball so hard, so far, so often was that umpires ensured that they had meatballs to hit. The umps' strike zone shrinks more and more every year.
Twenty years ago "belt-high fastball" was a synonym for gopher ball. Nowadays it's not even a strike. Check the rule book for a strike-zone definition and then watch a game on TV. The centerfield camera shows all. You'll find that the ump is calling balls and strikes not based on rules but on his accumulated experience of a much smaller zone. That means that a pitcher gets 15 inches or so from the knee to somewhere below the belt as the place to ply his trade. That's why the game is so unbalanced right now.
South Windsor, Conn.
In INSIDE THE NFL (Sept. 13), Peter King uses the word pathetic to describe the Buccaneer fans who did not fork over $18 to see Joe Montana's first game with the Chiefs. Until the Bucs have another winning season, sellouts will be nonexistent, Montana or no Montana. What's pathetic is not the fans but the lack of commitment to winning by Tampa Bay's ownership.
TOM BROWN JR.
Peter King concludes in Perils of a New Era (Sept. 6) that players will go "wherever they can strike the best financial deal, on-field loyalties...be damned." John Steinbreder's article on the net worth of the owners of pro sports franchises (The Owners, Sept. 13) says that Buccaneer owner Hugh Culverhouse is worth $350 million.
In the same issue, King writes it is a "disgrace" and "pathetic" that there were 11,000 empty seats at only $18 a pop for Joe Montana's debut with the Chiefs. Disloyal players, filthy-rich owners and a lingering recession in which $18 a person (not including parking, concessions, etc.) is real money for many people, and King is surprised that fans don't care. King is a fine football writer, but he should save words like disgrace and pathetic for more suitable targets than Tampa Bay's fans.
MARK S. JOHNSON
New York City
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