My congratulations to Tex Maule for coming up with the perfect answers to the problems of professional football (Dear Pete: Feb. 5). He hit the nail squarely on the head when he observed that pro football's major concern seems to be the television networks instead of the dedicated fans or the game itself. Because of the fear of CBS and NBC—and the ridiculous realignment of the National Football League—this season was a thoroughly disappointing one. It is very hard to accept the fact that the Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Colts, after compiling their fantastic records last fall, could be left out of the postseason games.
I am sure Pete Rozelle realizes the validity of Mr. Maule's proposed system, and I am certain he will admit that something must be done to make postseason play as exciting as it was meant to be. Once again I thank Tex Maule for devising a system that is surefire. The next move is up to pro football.
The Maule Method for realigning football divisions is ingenious, but it has one glaring fault. One of the greatest injustices in the history of all sport was what happened to the 1967 Baltimore Colts. They lost only one game but got nothing for their efforts—no championship game, no Super Bowl, no Runner-up Bowl, no nothing.
With Maule's divisional setup, not one but three great teams will be thus penalized, while three rinky-dinks will get a slice of the playoff loot and a shot at the championship. And suppose a fourth-division team wins the championship. Does it deserve it?
Mr. Maule's ideas about draft choices and player trading are excellent, but his divisional setup is best forgotten.
LEWIS J. CODDINGTON
Mr. Maule's match of Green Bay and the also-rans is due to his making up divisions that would assure equality of competition in the regular-season play. As a result, the playoffs must be between the good teams and the poor ones, and the championship games lack equality of competition.
I believe that the answer to pro football's problems lies in the complete merger of the AFL and NFL into four conferences of similar strength. In this manner each city will be exposed to some good teams, and the championship games will be played by teams of championship caliber.
RICHARD Z. LEWIS
Professional football is a business—big business! Why kowtow to TV? Simply, because it's what made pro football. Most businesses, successful ones that is, learn to kowtow to their customers. Those who become entranced with their own set ideas, irrespective of market demand, soon end up with the perfect design—only it won't sell! Tex should keep on picking the sure things but leave running a business to successful businessmen. How many people watched the sure-thing Super Bowl?
Tex Maule is right that TV is ruining the sport, but I think he is wrong when he says that top draft choices win football games. The San Francisco 49ers are loaded with first-round picks, but they have never won a division title. In the early '60s, the New York Giants became a power by trading rookies, not collecting them. Sure, the draft has helped Green Bay, but then Vince Lombard could make a flanker out of Hermione Gingold.
I congratulate Tex Maule on another masterful article. The way he envisions the NFL schedule, trading and drafting, I believe there would be many more interesting, surprising, topnotch football games played.
Generally speaking, football is played for the fans—so why not try to better the competition by a few minor Tex Maule changes and make NFL football a 100% success! Football should not be played for television networks and their profits. Four games on one football afternoon does make the game somewhat boring. CBS and NBC should both have their game of the week and let that be all.
Tex Maule for commissioner!
FOR GOOD AND EVEL
Congratulations on a truly fascinating article concerning Evel Knievel and his past and future performances (He's Not a Bird, He's Not a Plane, Feb. 5). Best of luck to Mr. Knievel on his jump of the Grand Canyon, although I doubt he needs it.
Are you sure that Evel Knievel isn't Bret Harte reincarnated? If he isn't, then the guy who wrote his life story must be.
Our early nomination for Sportsman of the Year goes to Evel Knievel.
We plan to attend his sporting event of the century, and see that our hero comes through "unconcussed." This man is undoubtedly the new American folk hero.
This guy is too much!
First of all, I would like to say that Gilbert Rogin's story about me was a good one. However, I led Rogin astray on two points. I am quoted as saying that I was once in Sacramento with a man who was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. This was not exactly the case. I was with two men, the first of whom, when we got to Seattle, went off to meet with the man the FBI wanted; and, at that time, the second man and I left for home. The first man was shot to death early last year in Reno by the Reno police. The second man, whom I shall always consider a friend, was fatally shot in a Butte, Mont. bar two weeks ago.
As far as swindling institutions goes, I guess, again, I didn't make myself too clear. I did not ever in any way take or accept money directly from any institution. I think it is self-explanatory that if I had I would have been behind bars, with the other persons involved, for the better part of my life.
Some people will never know how others have lived, and I hope and pray that my own sons, as well as other young boys, will never go through what I went through. I only wish that the men I knew had found another way of life, as I did.
BOOS AND BOYCOTTS
Pete Axthelm correctly reported on the booing of Tommie Smith at the Los Angeles Invitational Track Meet (Boos and a Beating for Tommie, Jan. 29). But by not completely reporting those moments to your readers he distorts the situation.
When Smith was booed while he was on the victory stand the public-address announcer stated that this action was hardly proper behavior. After this there was a great amount of applause, much more applause than there had been boos. The big majority of the crowd of 10,000, however, kept their feelings to themselves.
Following Smith's season will be fascinating. He was, or is, the best from 200 meters to the 440. Yet, strategy aside, on this night he could not pull up on the other runners in a 49.5 quarter. Tommie Smith has chosen to carry extra and heavy burdens when he runs. The intrigue of the 1968 track season will be whether or not he earns the right to exercise an Olympic boycott—and what follows if he does earn it.
Tommie Smith did not deserve the boos and catcalls, but he should have anticipated them. I see little to be gained from boycotting the 1968 Olympics, because there really isn't anyone who can respond effectively. But if Tommie feels he should boycott, I support his right to present his case.
We are faced with all sorts of boycotts nowadays. I can see the merits of a boycott against a team that imposes racial restrictions or that practices the quota system. But some of the boycotts that are based on subtle and confusing problems dealing with black nationalism or in support of individuals who possibly have been disciplined for insolence, rather than because of race, are as ridiculous as the proposed boycott of the 1968 Olympics. Colleges cannot escape some blame. If the emphasis in sports were more on developing physical specimens and wholesome competitiveness than on popularity and winning, few would be in a position to be affected by a nonsense boycott in the first place.
THE REV. LEWIS P. BOHLER JR.
Church of the Advent (Episcopal)
This letter is in answer to a Mr. Rick Earle (19TH HOLE, Dec. 25), who spoke of Wilt Chamberlain's large salary as though all Negroes could benefit from it. I would like him to know that that money belongs to Mr. Chamberlain and only him. It does not help the Negro whom the white society has cheated out of the right to be a successful man.
I think the white society has taken the racial trouble the wrong way. The Negro only wants the white man to give him a chance to achieve the things that any free American man would want for his family.
Stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Willie Mays, Jim Brown and Bob Hayes are all at the back of the line when it comes to the money that they should make because of their names. Some company might offer a white player twice as much as a Negro to do the same commercial. The white society must realize that the modern-day Negro wants no part of it. Either he gets a fair deal or no deal at all.
The real truth will come to light when the Negro athlete realizes that the owners are not doing him a favor by letting him play in a certain sport, but that it is an equally rewarding thing to both sides.
APO San Francisco
WAY THE BALL BREAKS
About all I know about squash is how to eat it. But, since a George Plimpton byline generally is an invitation to vintage reading, I read his article on the squash ball (The Strange Case of the Balls that Go Poof. Jan. 22). As usual, it was vintage stuff.
I am the director of one of the largest health clubs in the country, and we have had problems with squash balls. I would like to have a reprint of your article so that I can use it as prima-facie evidence 1) that it is not my fault that they are breaking; 2) that I am not purchasing inferior balls; and 3) that problems of this kind are arising among all manufacturers. Thanks a lot.
I would like to thank SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and Gary Ronberg for the splendid article, much awaited by us American hockey fans, about Doug Roberts (A Battling Yank Crashes the Big Time, Jan. 22). Maybe if the cause of American-born hockey players were supported by the mass media here in the States we could someday have a majority of leading NHL skaters. The popularity of this exciting sport is rapidly increasing, especially around the Ohio Valley and the International Hockey League, which has many promising and talented players. I salute Doug Roberts and the other American skaters in their attempt to challenge Canadian supremacy in the NHL.
TIMOTHY M. TURNER