BORING AND UNJUST
Tex Maule for commissioner of baseball, football, basketball and all other sports (The Curse of the Endless Playoff, April 7)! His keen insight into this area is what the sports world drastically needs. Seasons of the various sports are already too long and boring at times. As for pro football, with six conference champions and the addition of the second-place teams from each conference in the playoffs it would be, as Maule so aptly states it, a farce.
I hope Tex Maule's article will start a movement to prevent pro football from committing suicide.
I love football like a kid loves candy. If you give a kid enough candy, he will get sick. If you give me enough football, I will get sick. I guess there are about 40 million fans just like me. If we all get sick who will be left to buy Mr. Rozelle's candy?
TOM H. FERGUSON
Tex Maule has an excellent point, but his article misses an important distinction. The issue is not so much boredom as justice.
Basketball and hockey have an unjust system. The teams play all year and then, in effect, establish the winners in brief playoffs. Hal Greer of the Philadelphia 76ers put it well after the Boston Celtics won in the playoffs: "Sure, they're a great team, but to this day I think the better team didn't win." It didn't. The season-long record proves it. Maule makes this point well.
But the new system for baseball is entirely different, as is the pro football system established up to now. Here well-established divisional winners have a playoff against one another and then against the champion of the other league. It is a fair system. The issue of too-long seasons is different from the issue of fairness. Separate divisions make sense and, thus, playoffs make sense. I do not know, of course, how the pro football wrangle will work out, but central to the outcome should be this matter of a system that reflects season-long supremacy, as the present system reasonably does.
Thank you, Tex Maule. Finally someone has recognized the problem that sooner or later will affect all professional sports—loss of fan interest. Lately the pro owners have assumed the fans' appetites to be insatiable, and we are being overwhelmed by more and more teams, divisions, games, playoffs, etc. We will soon need home computers to keep the situation organized.
The proliferation of playoffs is only symptomatic of the fact that there are just too many teams. When there were only 12 football and 16 baseball teams it was a relatively simple matter to be on top of the situation. You could commit the schedule of the football Giants to memory and would know just who they had to beat on which Sundays to win the conference.
A possible solution is to systematically structure the leagues into six-to-eight-team divisions with little or no interdivision play. A good part of the friendly arguments over baseball are concerned with National vs. American League teams. If interdivision play is absolutely necessary, I think it should be rigidly structured (e.g., six or eight weeks of play within a division, a week or two of interdivision play perhaps between teams that are at the same level in the standings and finally another six or eight weeks of intradivision play followed by appropriate playoffs). Concentrating the interdivision play would have the effect of midseason playoffs on a multiteam basis whereby the winners, both teams and divisions, could get appropriate rewards, such as money and/or home team advantage in the finals.
THE PLAY'S THE THING
It was my pleasure to read your article about Torben Ulrich (A Not-So-Melancholy Dane, April 7). I was glad to learn that someone felt that way about tennis. Very rarely does one see a player so engrossed in the sport that the fact of his winning or losing means nothing. I believe that tennis should be a sport of concentration and form rather than a game of one defeating another just for a victory.
I commend Mark Kram on his excellent portrayal of tennis mystic Torben Ulrich. The article—a uniquely interesting study of a uniquely interesting individual—shows your magazine's recognition of the fact that sport is more than just RBIs, touchdowns and free throws.
Robert Cantwell's article (The Ultimate Confrontation, March 24) focused on the challenge facing the oil industry in Alaska—to develop that state's great petroleum resources and still preserve the wilderness.
Increasing population and urbanization underscore the need to preserve wilderness areas in our country, but they also increase the importance of providing adequate supplies of petroleum energy for society's needs.
To oilmen the two goals are not contradictory. We believe they can be achieved and that the challenge posed by Mr. Cantwell can be met.
FRANK N. IKARD
American Petroleum Institute
New York City
The more I look at the painting of Gene Sarazen getting ready for his double eagle on the 15th hole at Augusta in 1935 (Moments of the Masters, April 7) the more he seems to be aiming at that green-side trap. We all know Gene didn't knock it into the sand. Actually that would have been impossible because the trap wasn't there in 1935. Don't you remember telling us it was placed near the green at Ben Hogan's suggestion a few years ago—to toughen the hole (Masters in Flux, April 1, 1957)?
Forgive the nitpicking. It is merely my way of telling you I enjoy SI and read every word you ever print about golf.
New York City
BATMAN AND BOOZE
Three years ago when you reported that Jim Jacobs collected and read Batman comics (Really the Greatest, March 7, 1966) I immediately became an avid Batman reader, in hopes that my handball game would improve. It has not.
Now that you report Paul Haber has won the U.S. Handball Association four-wall title on a diet of booze and nicotine (A Win for Booze and Nicotine, March 31) I have something else to try. Already my off-court bragging game has improved. Hic!
I read the article with anger and disgust. It seems that a sport that is enjoyed and participated in by so many wonderful people and fine athletes should be treated with more respect and presented in a better light than you have done. From the standpoint of physical education, there are few sports that offer as much opportunity for competitive fulfillment and complete mental and physical dedication.
Director, Health Clubs
It seems to me that I can recall a story about Walter Hagen's showing up for a golf tournament in a tuxedo after an all-night party and another about John L. Sullivan's saloon-boasting that "I can lick am man in the world!"
Paul Haber is a colorful individual, on the handball court and off, and if he were not the champion the 1969 national handball tournament might have received a one-sentence review on one of SI's back pages. For example, who are the doubles champions?
BRUCE T. PEARSON
Johnny Bench better than Bill Freehan (The Big Zinger from Binger, March 31)? Roy Blount writes that the catcher is the leader of the club. The team usually reflects back on its leader. Where did Cincinnati finish last year? Detroit became the world champion behind Freehan. I am not taking anything away from Bench, because he is a very good catcher. But better than Freehan? Wait about five years.
MORE OLD BOYS
Congratulations on your article on lacrosse (The Old Boys Are Still Best, March 31). I think, however, that your readers should know that the 1968 U.S. Club Lacrosse Association Champion was the Long Island Athletic Club lacrosse team, not Mount Washington, which was beaten by L.I. 14-12. The Long Island AC is also a team of businessmen with families but without the benefit of half a century of tradition or a "modest clubhouse" or any other permanent facility. The LIAC team practices only one night a week and has a 1969 schedule of 14 club and college (e.g., Army, Cornell) games, a 1968 record of 10-1 and a 1967 record of 8-1.
MRS. J.D. PHILLIPS
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