THE OLD SAVAGERY
First it was your hilarious probe of the Heidi incident (Television and Spoil, Dec. 22 et seq.), then the true story of Booth Lusteg ("The Coach Wants to See Yon," Sept. 21). Now Alex Hawkins tells all (My Career (So to Speak), Nov. 16 et seq.). These have to be the three funniest stories in the history of football. What will SI ever find for an encore?
The Columbia Record
I would like to compliment Alex Hawkins on an interesting article. However, by portraying an established star like Tom Matte in the manner that he did he has done him an injustice. Tom Matte doesn't lack ability. What is lacking is Alex Hawkins' ability to recognize something that transcends physical ability. If an athlete doesn't have truly outstanding natural skills, he can rise above this deficiency with extra effort and dedication. These are inborn characteristics of all great athletes.
BOB VANDER SCHOOR
Good old Captain Who has outdone himself again. He is just as slick now as he was in his playing days (when he was enjoying the full benefit of his various escape routes to hotels and bars after curfew). Nevertheless, I think Hawkins has something going when he mentions the "secure" football players of today. With the advent of huge contracts and player pension funds, some of the old savagery of pro football has disappeared (forgive me, Dick Butkus). Remember the good old days when guys like Red Grange, Norman Van Brocklin, Alan Ameche and John Henry Johnson really had to work to bring home the bread?
Chip Oliver was saying almost the same thing (Wow, Like Let's Really Try to Win, Oct. 12). He claimed that football was harder in college than in the pros. I believe him. Heck, these college kids don't worry about getting hurt—they just give it the old college try and go out and crack heads.
Alex Hawkins comes through as a man who is his own person. While some will contest his views about the types of players today versus those of the 1950s and about whether giving the players a sense of security is bad for the game, for me they explain why I am quite able now to leave a game (at the park or on TV) before it has been completed. I am bored. We needed the Hawkins type of player to establish the game just as we needed the Frank Lukes to establish aviation. But where is the excitement today in visiting an airport? Sorry, Alex, this is progress.
It appears to me that when Alex Hawkins relates his being in the broadcasting business to being a part of football and putting off growing up he is being extremely modest. A man who can and will write about his "inadequacies" in such a manner is as big a man as there is. Professional sports could use more like him.
I commend you on the article What a Way to Make a Living (Nov. 16), which clearly shows that it takes physical endurance to play the game of football. Instead of glorifying the quarterbacks, who many people say play the hardest position, you have highlighted the men who really play the toughest and the most painful position in all of pro football. The number of injuries proves it. A running back lasts an average of five to six years, but there are a couple of quarterbacks who were playing before most of the current running backs were born.
New York City
I thought a running back just ran, blocked and caught passes, instead of being clobbered. The story Mac Arthur Lane told to Robert Jones was great.
CALVIN AND GOLIATH
Congratulations on a fine article (Calvin and the Kiddie Corps, Nov. 16). After four outstanding years at Niagara, Calvin Murphy has certainly proved that the little man is back to stay in professional basketball. San Diego has a gold mine in Calvin. He and other members of the kiddie corps have shown that it wasn't only David who slew the giant.
BLAIR J. CIKLIN
New Concord, Ohio
I enjoyed your article, but I was surprised that you limited your discussion to guards and failed to note the increasing trend toward smaller, quicker players at all positions, especially in the NBA.
Even at center, where the very minimum height was believed only a few years back to be 6'10", the trend toward smaller players is evident. Although it cannot be denied that Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor are over 7', neither can it be overlooked that Willis Reed, who brought the Knicks the title and himself the MVP award, is 6'9"; that Wes Unseld, who transformed the Bullets from also-rans into championship contenders, is 6'7"; and that Dave Cowens, who is leading the Celtics' resurgence, is 6'8½". (It might also be pointed out that Bill Russell, the best ever, was never, at 6'9½", a really big center.)
But it is at forward that the de-emphasis on mere size is most apparent. Of the 10 forwards who appeared in last year's NBA All-Star Game, nine of them—Cunningham, DeBusschere, Havlicek, Johnson, Van Arsdale, Baylor, Walker, Bridges and Caldwell—are 6'5" or 6'6"; only Connie Hawkins reaches 6'8", once projected as the future "minimum" for that position.
Indeed, it is this new emphasis on quickness and skill, rather than on uncommon size, that has led the fans to identify—as they never used to—with NBA players and caused the notable upswing in attendance in recent years. This identification would become even stronger if NBA teams would list heights honestly and drop the present practice of adding at least an inch to every player's "official" size.
THOMAS N. LONGSTRETH
Are you trying to make the 76ers look bad? On a cover last winter (March 9) 7'1" Lew Alcindor was shown driving past three Sixers. Now you show 5'9" Calvin Murphy faking out four Philly players!
In my book, Bobby Orr, Muhammad Ali, Brooks Robinson and Willie Shoemaker are the only contenders left in the running for your 1970 Sportsman of the Year award. Orr is the star of hockey, Ali has come back with a vengeance, Robinson has excelled at baseball and Shoemaker has booted home more winners than any other human being.
On second thought, I am confident that the champion pilot of the Sport of Kings will emerge as your first Sportsman of the Year for the new decade. Yes, it must be Willie Shoemaker.
It is not necessary to list all of Bobby Orr's accomplishments in his brief National Hockey League career. I am quite sure that anyone with even a passing interest in the game knows that Orr has already revolutionized a sport that is at least three times as old as he is.
I'd like to nominate Bob Gibson for Sportsman of the Year. I believe he deserves the award over all the others, not necessarily for his efforts of the past season which were outstanding, but because he has established himself as a winner over the years. I respect him as an athlete, and I respect him as a man who has overcome great obstacles to become a success. This is my idea of a sportsman. I hope that it is SI's as well.
My nominations are Jack Twyman and the late Maurice Stokes for showing all of us that the essence of sportsmanship, and indeed all sport, is a human encounter. These two men showed that encounter on its finest level.
Wheeling, W. Va.
SI's Sportsman of the Year can only be one man—the late Vince Lombardi, a great coach but an even greater human being.
Willis Reed, who led the Knicks to the championship of the NBA. Although hurl, he came out onto the court and inspired the Knicks to victory. This feat of courage is worthy of recognition.
I nominate the sly fox of the Oakland Raiders, George Blanda.
JAMES R. GARTON
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