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May 10, 2004
May 10, 2004

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May 10, 2004

Triple Crown
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Letters

By Roy Blount Jr.

Philled Up

This is an article from the May 10, 2004 issue Original Layout

While I was reading Alan Shipnuck's article on Phil Mickelson
(Amen, April 19) over breakfast, my five-year-old daughter asked
me if "the man who won the green jacket was a good guy." It
really felt good to answer her. I told her he's a really good guy
who never gave up in the face of adversity. (Of course I had to
tell her what adversity means.) I said it took him nearly 50
tries over 13 years to win a very important golf tournament, that
he worked very hard and never lost confidence in himself and as a
result he achieved his goal. (Achieve needed some explaining.)
She got the picture and said, "That's what I'm gonna do with my
swimming and tennis lessons." Thanks, Phil, for helping me raise
my kid.
Chris Melendes, Short Hills, N.J.

Viewing the cover shot of Mickelson's victory leap, I had two
reactions. First I was heartened by his look of sheer joy.
However, disappointment quickly set in when I noticed the utter
lack of ethnic diversity in the crowd behind him. If the group in
this photo is representative of the whole gallery, it appears as
though the Tiger Era has not brought with it the progress many of
us had hoped it would.
Joshua Wilson, Corrales, N.Mex.

Going the Distance

As a former Connecticut resident, I was extremely pleased to read
about the UConn women's basketball team (UConn's Flashy Finish,
April 19). I couldn't agree more with fellow Nutmegger Frank
Deford's appreciation of Diana Taurasi and her teammates for
sticking around for a full four years of college.
Tim Gaumond Mill Valley, Calif.

Tigers' Turn

Albert Chen's Earning Their Stripes (April 19) eloquently
described the Detroit Tigers' trek back to respectability. After
10 years of misery, things might actually be changing. I went
down to Comerica Park and witnessed the Tigers' first loss of the
season, but I have not seen that much excitement since Comerica
opened. Detroiters are just happy to see a roster with bona fide
major league players.
Dan Timmis, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Croom at the Top

It's a good thing your magazine doesn't have too many stories
each week like the one about Mississippi State coach Sylvester
Croom (Long Time Coming, April 19). I'd never stop reading except
to wipe my teary eyes.
Jeffrey Pattison, Maryland Heights, Mo.

On April 4, 1968, my view of the evil called racism crystallized
as I sat alone in my freshman dorm room at Mississippi State and
listened as a number of my fellow freshmen--like me, white and
raised in the segregated South--"celebrated" the assassination of
Martin Luther King that day in Memphis. I learned to hate racism
that night, and now, 36 years later, I wish Sylvester Croom every
success as he leads our Bulldogs football team--and our
nation--to a better future.
Cy Nobles, Addison, Texas

Not long ago Green Bay was probably the NFL equivalent of
Mississippi State: Our football fortunes were down, and we were
not a place where most big-time players, particularly those of
color, desired to be. Croom, and players like Leroy Butler and
Edgar Bennett, helped change that through their dedication to the
team and the class they showed the community. Croom may
experience difficulties trying to revive a troubled program, but
I wouldn't bet against him. The character shaped by his father
and the football acumen he learned from Bear Bryant will surely
be passed on to his players.
Mike Quillin, Milwaukee

I find it ironic that while Mississippi moves ahead with racial
harmony quicker than any other state in the country--with little
or no fanfare--your magazine chooses to put our great state in a
negative light. Why did you make Croom's skin color the subject
of the story? Those of us in Mississippi don't judge him by his
race.
Bobby McKay, Waterford, Miss.

Mass. Hysteria

Tim Layden's story about the Boston Marathon was terrific but way
too short (The Long Run, April 19). For those of us who have run
the race, the memories are incomparable. My favorite recollection
comes from the late 1970s when I ran behind eventual champion
Bill Rodgers three years in a row (way behind!). In '78, dressed
in full baseball gear, about two blocks from the finish, was Red
Sox pitcher Spaceman Bill Lee, shaking runners' hands as we went
by.
Patrick Mattimore, San Francisco

Because I do not live and never have lived near Boston, I had no
idea of the fascinating history associated with the Boston
Marathon. The list of elite runners who have won the event is
amazing, and through the description of the actual run, I was
able to imagine myself there, surrounded by the legends.
Cammy Ferguson Lewisville, Texas

It looks as if there's no middle ground for the New York Yankees
in your poll of Massachusetts sports fans (Sports in America,
April 19): either they're the most hated opponent (94%) or the
favorite baseball team (6%).
Matthew McEvoy, Dallas

It's hard to believe that Harry Agganis, the greatest athlete in
Massachusetts history, didn't make the top six in your list of
Alltime Best Bay State athletes. The Golden Greek was an
All-America quarterback at Boston University, for which he also
played defense and handled the kicking. Although he was drafted
by the Cleveland Browns, he chose to pursue baseball and became
the starting first baseman for the Red Sox before his life was
tragically cut short by a pulmonary embolism in 1955. He wasn't
just an Alltime Best, he was a legend.
Bob Shannon, Plymouth, Mass.

To my shock, there was no mention of Marvin Hagler among the Bay
State greats. Why don't you ask Thomas Hearns what happened the
last time somebody didn't respect the man from Brockton?
David O'Connor, Duxbury, Mass.

Where was Joe Bellino, a Winchester native and Navy's 1960
Heisman Trophy winner? And how was the godfather of golf in
America, Francis Ouimet, not included? Like they say about the
Sox, try again next year.
Jack Brophy, Topsfield, Mass.

Punching In

Get off the Cory Spinks bandwagon (Inside Boxing, April 19)! He
dominated nothing in his fight against Zab Judah, who was the
much smaller man by fight time. In my opinion, after winning some
rounds early, Spinks scored a flash knockdown to give him the
11th, but that's it. He was rocked in the 12th round by Judah,
who was moving up in weight. Had Judah had a few more seconds,
Spinks would have walked away with nothing except his name--which
is what seems to be carrying him through anyway.
George Norris, Martins Ferry, Ohio

Leery of O'Leary

As a former football walk-on, I find it strange that new Central
Florida coach George O'Leary, a man who was given another
chance--not once, but twice--would show what you called
"trademark toughness" by banishing two walk-ons (No Questions
This Time, April 26). They were probably late for practice
because they were coming straight from work. O'Leary can show how
tough he really is by letting a blue-chipper go for being late.
Mark Sutter, Toledo

On Board

Thank you, Sports Illustrated and Josh Elliott, for the riveting
article on the rebirth of professional surfer Kelly Slater (Kelly
Slater Grows Up ... Again, April 12). Slater is a sports legend
on the same level as Michael Jordan. I'm sure very few nonsurfing
Americans realize how incredibly difficult it is to catch a wave.
Just standing up on that board takes amazing strength and
balance. The 31-year-old Cocoa Beach, Fla., native is living
proof that you don't have to be born in a surfing hotbed to
become a great surfer, and Kelly Slater is the greatest surfer of
all time.
Jonathan Edelman, Huntington, N.Y.

I had never heard of Kelly Slater and knew virtually nothing
about professional surfing. However, after reading your story, I
felt as if I had gained a new appreciation for the grace,
passion, purity, magnetism, culture and sensibility of Slater's
sport.
Eric Atwood, Tiburon, Calif.

Passed Over

Thank you for noting that the 2004 NCAA men's basketball title
game was the lowest rated since CBS began broadcasting the game
22 years ago (Scorecard, April 19). One reason seems to be clear:
by scheduling the championship match on the first night of
Passover, one of the most holy and observed Jewish holidays, the
NCAA and CBS eliminated a sizable percentage of their potential
viewers. Perhaps in the future the NCAA and CBS might want to
avoid scheduling the national championship game on a major
religious holiday.
Jason Allen, Baltimore

COLOR PHOTOB/W PHOTO: AP MISSING PERSONS Bay Staters wanted to read about (from left to right) Ouimet, Agganis, Bellino and Hagler.B/W PHOTO: NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME [See caption above]B/W PHOTO: GEORGE SILK/LIFE/TIME LIFE/GETTY IMAGES [See caption above]COLOR PHOTO: BETTMANN/CORBIS [See caption above]

Update: It Happens Again

"My first thought was Derek Jeter's slump was done on purpose for
the good of baseball," says Kenneth Yorik. "It was so blatant!
Coming so soon after our study was released!"

Yorik is, of course, the economist who headed a statistical
inquiry into LOOFA, for Lead Off/Outstanding Fielding Alignment
(a.k.a. LIRPA, for Leadoff of Inning After Remarkable Putout or
Assist), which produced a startling revelation, first reported in
SI (As So Often Happens? April 5). Before 1990, according to the
study, a player making a great play in the field would come up to
bat first in the next half inning--causing traditional observers
to remark "as so often happens"--around 41% of the time. But
since 1990, the study concluded, the frequency had dropped
precipitously, to .041%. That which had "so often happened" was
not happening anywhere near as often.

Then on April 29 the Yankees' Jeter brought visiting Oakland's
first inning to a close with a leaping catch of a line drive off
the bat of Scott Hatteberg. Less than five minutes later, he led
off for the Yankees--and hit Barry Zito's first pitch into the
left centerfield seats, thereby ending a widely publicized
0-for-32 slump, the longest barren stretch of Jeter's career. It
couldn't just be a coincidence, could it?

"Our study group got back together," says Yorik, "and took
another look at our figures. And...."

And?

"And, frankly, they were a little off. It turns out that "as so
often happens," as best we can tell, has probably happened
consistently throughout history. We made a couple of simple
arithmetical errors. Hey, it happens." --Roy Blount Jr.

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