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Original Issue


Beautiful, man, as in soul writing! Martin Kane's An Assessment of "Black Is Best" (Jan. 18) opens some very special doors indeed. Or it should.

Not only has sport become a "way out of the despair of the slums" for the black man, but Kane's piece is certain to open the minds of those who insist that the only reason blacks take up sports is so they can put Cadillacs in their garages.
Associate Editor
The Frankfort Morning Times
Frankfort, Ind.

Martin Kane deserves recognition on an overdue article that was well worth waiting for. As a black mulatto, I tend to agree with all aspects presented in this factual account of the black athlete. Although few in number, practically all of Watertown's black high school athletes are highly competitive and prominent in all sports. I am proud to be one of these athletes. Mr. Kane has answered many of my questions by presenting this revealing article about the anatomy of the black athlete. Thank you.
Watertown, N.Y.

Congratulations on the thoughtful and thought-provoking article on black athletes. It is a relief to know after all these years of trying to learn the latest dances that I do have rhythm! I was beginning to get positively neurotic about it.

The evidence of the role black jockeys played in racing history can still be seen in the occasional black jockey statue that adorns some white middle-class homes. But horse racing was not the only sport in which Negroes fell from prominence. In 1899 and 1900 Marshall W. Taylor won the world and U.S. bicycle sprint championships, respectively, and was known as the "Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World" for more than a decade. Thereafter, black riders were systematically excluded from bicycle racing; however, since the sport itself declined in popularity the exclusion was not of lasting importance.

But Mr. Kane's conclusion is disturbing. To suggest that blacks should see an inspiration in exceptional athletes like Lew Alcindor and Willie Mays is to be guilty of the very racism that Jack Olsen condemned in his fine series on the black athlete (The Black Athlete—A Shameful Story, July 1, 1968 et seq.). While the typical black may be physically better endowed for some sports than the typical white, the vast majority of young Negroes will not achieve the athletic prowess of a superstar. Telling them to work hard so they can someday be like Willie Mays is a fraud. The white who fails to become a superstar can find other outlets. What chance does a mediocre black athlete have if he cannot make it in the big time? The result is frustration and anger—and violence.
Associate Professor
Department of History
California State College
Bakersfield, Calif.

Martin Kane's article shows great study and research of the physical differential of the black man in comparison with the white; however, Mr. Kane still failed to see the black man as a man. The mere fact that blacks are cast as people who know how to be loose under pressure and relax under stress illustrates more stereotype than I care to see.

This article also shows black kids as making it only with their brawn, while, on the other hand, white kids are "so much more aware of conventional things, of Emily Post...of being right." No one was more scared than my husband the day he had to pitch against Ole Miss during the World Series of collegiate baseball some years ago. Not only did he win that game but today he is a successful black teacher.
Staten Island, N.Y.

I found the article to be both interesting and provocative. However, with the prevalence of racism in sports today, I also found it to be untimely. The problem of racism in sports stems from the belief that one race is superior to another; this holds true for white athletes as well as black athletes. To eradicate this problem we must implant in all athletes' minds the idea that athletic superiority is based solely on the achievements of the man who excels over all others and not on racial distinctions.

SI should strive to remove racism from the sports scene. It appears that Martin Kane is doing just the opposite.
River Edge, N.Y.

Please extend my thanks to Martin Kane for his article on the black athlete. I myself am a black athlete on the varsity track team at my high school. I felt it was about time that the black man be recognized for his accomplishments in sport. This kind of widely acclaimed recognition has wiped out many stereotypes concerning the black man and has been a powerful unifying force in the black community.

In sport, perhaps to a larger degree than anywhere else in society, we see a dream of freedom and equality.
St. Albans, N.Y.

I was fascinated and inspired by Yukio Mishima's remarkably sensitive and astute evaluation of the deteriorating values in sport which are, in turn, symptomatic of our deteriorating culture (Testament of a Samurai, Jan. 11).

Though the ideals he proffered are not a panacea for our athletic ills or original in their proffering, they succinctly portray what good might evolve if all of our assets were properly nurtured.
Montpelier, Vt.

I have just finished reading the article and I have a lump in my throat. I have taken a few of those showers and agree with Mishima that those who haven't had that privilege are missing part of life. After reading this article I mourn over the fact that this superb human being is no longer with us to influence our thinking, especially for those of us over 30. I am reminded of last Sunday's scripture lesson, Romans 12, where we are admonished to "give our bodies as a living sacrifice." What an impact Mishima could have made, if we could have gotten God's word to him! I hope that Yukio's article will stir many of us to rethink our ideas about fitness.
Trinity Lutheran Church
Wanamingo, Minn.

The article on Yukio Mishima's views on physical fitness and his experiences in sport was excellent. He made me appreciate what athletic abilities I have.
Winston-Salem, N.C.

My sincere congratulations to Dr. Del Meriwether ("Hey, I Can Beat Those Guys," Jan. 18), not only for a fine sprint performance at College Park, Md. on Jan. 8 but for his outstanding initiative and general success in track at the age of 27.

You mentioned that Del has no coach. This is true, as I have had little opportunity to work with him. We have, of course, exchanged ideas on training over the phone and he has been given basic guidelines on general exercise and conditioning, but Del confirms the general rule that sprinters need little other than innate ability. What can a coach teach a sprinter other than how to start and to concentrate on relaxation while under pressure? As an individual with above-average intelligence, Del needed to be told only once. The speed was already there. Because of Del's laboratory work schedule, he can practice only once or twice a week at odd hours. He's just phenomenal. He's an absolute rookie in track and he thinks of the sport strictly as a hobby. He's modest, unassuming, intelligent—and fast.
Baltimore Olympic Club

In his enjoyable account of Dr. Del Meriwether's 60-yard dash to supremacy Sandy Treadwell omitted the name of the runner pictured in lane 1. He's Kent Merritt, who defeated Charlie Greene in the qualifying heat and is one of the University of Virginia's outstanding track and football prospects.
Sports Editor
The Cavalier Daily
Charlottesville, Va.

I would like to thank Reporter Anita Verschoth and Photographer Neil Leifer for the excellent job they have done on cross-country skiing (Don't Cry Until It's All Over, Jan. 11). The pictures were very good (although, I wasn't crying).

It would be wonderful if you could do another article on the grace and beauty of the sport, which are so often overlooked. The agony is only a small part of cross-country skiing, and somehow you forget it soon after the race is over. There is a wonderful mental satisfaction that comes after a hard race that makes it all worth it. The longer and harder the race, the higher and longer the mental uplift. I don't understand it all myself. I just know I keep going back for more.
Putney, Vt.

The athletic grimace is common to most sports, but to interpret cross-country skiing as only pain is like showing only the contorted faces of marathon runners, only the limp bodies of bike riders or only the agony of football players who have been hit too hard.

Cross-country skiing is kinder to its practitioners than any of these sports. Your feet don't pound, so you don't get shin splints, the heat doesn't wipe you out, injuries are infrequent and nobody's out to do you in. Those who give their utmost may show it—but the word is strain, not pain.
Certified Coach
Norwegian Ski Federation

I just want to add my voice to those who have been praising you for your efforts on behalf of our endangered environment—John Fowles' article Weeds, Bugs, Americans (Dec. 21), The Great Buffalo Hunt? Shoot? Slaughter? (Nov. 23) and others. One sees so much despoliation, cruelty and ignorance now that it surely gives one a lift to know there are those who care. Your widely read and respected magazine is certainly doing its part in the fight for life.

John Fowles commendably pointed out that America's conservation problems should be blamed just as much on suburban and rural Americans as on industry. In my opinion, our schools are partly to blame for faulty attitudes toward nature, because they have carried 19th century attitudes over into the 20th century. One such attitude is the sense of endless land to be exploited; another is the view that the greatest possible profit must be exacted from each acre.

The system of capitalism that has made our country so rich is also largely responsible for a faulty attitude toward conservation of nature. A society oriented to mass transit, mass production and mass media will see beauty only in orderly, efficient and easily visible nature.

Once suburban and rural America stop placing the blame only where the damage to nature is most visible and begin to tolerate all forms of nature in their backyard, conservation will become a reality rather than just a slogan.
East Palestine, Ohio

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