ON THE LINE
Hooray! Someone has finally laid it on the line and made an effort to stand up and be counted (The Desperate Coach, Aug. 25 et seq.). Athletics in the past have been a means, or a stepping stone, to reach the goals of a democratic society. The coaches, naturally, have been the vital cog in the leadership necessary for these goals. I only wish that every person in America understood the relationship of athletics to the necessary morals for survival and for democracy.
Let's get rid of the buck passers, those who don't want to rock the boat, those who want to feather their own nests and all the other gutless leaders who won't stand up and be counted. Discipline promotes respect, and respect is a reflection of discipline. Young people need and desire discipline and guidance. It is past time for all of us to stand up on our own two feet, on our own training and on our own experience and give this guidance to them.
I have some difficulty understanding what coaches mean by "discipline." If discipline means shaving your face and skull and wearing a bright red blazer with the middle button buttoned, then this is ridiculous.
An athlete has to develop most of his playing ability prior to reaching college—otherwise he wouldn't be given a contract, er, scholarship. But players don't learn how to play football and basketball by rigidifying their lives, they learn by playing on playgrounds, in alleys or parking lots and they do so for fun. They wear sneakers and dirty trousers and sweat shirts. Only after coming to certain colleges are they subjected to what is called discipline.
But does this discipline and unquestioned obedience have harmful results? I think the answer is clearly yes.
Bear Bryant's statement was indicative though incomplete. He said: "If they see anything that looks like a hippie or a rebel in those pictures, they'll have to point it out to me." To this it should be added that if they see anything that looks like a black athlete it should be pointed out to him.
And what is Bear's defense for his ways? He won't change because he's "too old." I believe he's right, and when people get old they ought to step aside. Coaches take heed.
JERRY V. LEAPHART
New York City
Who are college athletics for, the athlete or the alumni? If it is for the latter, which I suspect it is, then maybe the desperate coach ought to take a closer look at the desperate athlete.
JEFFREY A. GLINER
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio
I wonder if Coach Bob Devaney realized how hilariously appropriate at least half of his homely analogy was ("Faculty people telling athletic people how to do their job is like a carpenter telling a barber how to cut hair"). John Underwood's article makes it very clear that the desperate coach is mostly desperate about getting his players' hair cut.
E. W. OLDENBURG
Grand Haven, Mich.
John Underwood's article implies that any player who is not solely concerned with the team effort and relating to the coach like a mindless boob cannot and should not be tolerated. In Mr. Underwood's opinion the coach who attempts to deal with his players as intelligent, rational and concerned young men ends up losing games and face.
The type of mentality long popularized on football training fields and accompanied by banal, chauvinistic halftime ceremonies will not enable our young men to confront the critical problems that face our society today.
There is definitely a place for athletics on the college campus, but no place for coaches who divorce themselves from the reality of change and who avoid recruiting what Dee Andros calls "freethinkers."
GEORGE H. MCGLYNN
Department of Health, Physical
Education and Recreation
University of San Francisco
I am both a desperate coach and a free-thinker. Being 23 and an athletic director, I know what is "going on" on both sides. Our youth today do not have to work very hard or use much initiative to become economically secure, the ultimate in goals in our society. They now have more free time to worry about race problems, about the haves and have-nots and about many other social problems that plague us. By being rebellious they are trying to tell us that something is wrong. Few, though, have the fortitude to do anything concrete to help solve our many problems. Those who protest against athletics do not realize that the same qualities taught by the athletic department—sacrifice, determination and patience—are also the building blocks for coping with and solving our social diseases.
Sometimes the coach of the old school underestimates the intelligence of his athletes. Today's young athletes are different from those of bygone days in that they know more and are absorbing more and more information all the time. They are capable of understanding why you run a zone pass defense instead of a man-on-man, if only you take time to explain it to them. The explanation will also help them perform your instructions more readily. Young people are not animals to be trained to follow orders without question. They are intelligent, understanding and responsive individuals to whom the coach can and must relate.
FRANCIS A. PETRUS
St. John the Evangelist School
While Arts and Letters wows 'em in the East (Confirmation of a Hero at Saratoga, Aug. 25), my mind instinctively wanders out West to a certain big chestnut cooling his ankles at Del Mar. You see, I am not convinced yet that Arts and Letters can beat a healthy Majestic Prince. Since the Belmont, Arts and Letters has had his pick of big stakes with relatively thin fields. If, as some suspect, Majestic Prince had signs of osselet trouble as early as before the Preakness, and this condition was responsible for John Longden's initial decision to skip the Belmont and the Prince's subsequent "choppy" (Whitney Tower's word) performance, all the talk in the world about "an astonishingly bad ride," "bumping in the Preakness" and Horse of the Year is wasted.
I'm no turf expert, only a fan, but my interest in racing has always been based on the premise that, when all is said and done about breeding and training and riding, the crux of racing is a test of a horse's courage. The record plainly shows that on two occasions this year Majestic Prince outran and outgamed Arts and Letters. So while Elliott Burch bemoans the luck that he thinks kept his horse from winning the Triple Crown, I'm cursing the luck that's kept Majestic Prince out of competition and ended the tests of courage that the spring had led me to expect of the summer and fall.
Thanks for the excellent article on Seymour (Sy) Siwoff, who has made a successful business compiling and certifying sports statistics (His Word Is the Law of Averages, Aug. 18). However, let me be one of the first amateur baseball statisticians to correct the statement that the Mathewson brothers won the most games in the majors. The three Clarkson brothers (Arthur, John and Walter) from Cambridge, Mass. won 384 games and lost 231 in the National and American Leagues from 1882 through 1908.
Baseball executives should read two of your recent articles, Kids' Crusade in Boston (June 16) and Baseball Booms Again (Aug. 4), because they survey a paradoxical situation of crowded old ball parks and largely empty, multipurpose new ones.
The multipurpose arena—the architectural cliché of the last 10 years—manages to house both baseball and football as well as Barnum & Bailey and Billy Graham, but none of them well.
Football doesn't fare too badly. It requires a large stadium, the larger the better, and on only one day a week. The audience contact is with the action, which is constant and which moves up and down the field. But baseball requires only a modest-size stadium most of the time. The action is usually slower, and it is not as evenly distributed over the playing field. Thus many of the older parks have an intimate setting, which affords the proper audience contact with the players. This contact is what enables losing teams to continue to attract fans in the last 100 games of the season. The nonsymmetrical playing fields of the older ball parks also contribute more to the game than a lowered pitching mound.
As pointed out in your latter article, baseball and football also have somewhat different audiences. The crowd that grew up in cars in A & P parking lots and lives for the weekend date can get to the new stadiums. But baseball's less affluent weekday audience cannot.
I do not believe that the requirements of baseball and football cannot be met by a multipurpose stadium. But perhaps baseball owners should look more closely at what baseball fans enjoy before they turn the design of stadiums over to architects who seem to have decided that symmetry, lots of parking and no visible posts are all that count in making a good stadium.
Department of City and Regional Planning
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