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Original Issue


I can't believe it. You blew the whole ball of wax in an Olympic year by naming John Who and Mrs. Women's Liberation as Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year (Dec. 25). And you did not enclose a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets with each copy of your magazine to make it digestible for true sports fans. But those of us who follow sports realize that you could not really be serious, that it was just your way of slipping us an early April Fool for our 1972 Christmas present.

I think that on April 1 you should publish the true 1972 Sportsman and Sportswoman. The man would have to be Dan Gable, as he is the greatest winner since Bill Russell. And how about either Shane Gould or Olga Korbut (my choice) for Sportswoman of the Year? Billie Jean King? Ho, ho, ho!

George Allen says the name of the game is defense and concentration. You were strictly offensive.
Alexandria, Va.

We feel that the naming of John Wooden as Sportsman of the Year has to be considered one of the great blunders of all time. While it is true that Coach Wooden deserves sizable recognition for his great accomplishments at UCLA, we are unable to understand how you can honor him instead of the other greats, Bobby Fischer and Mark Spitz, who by themselves brought pride and prestige to the United States with their unprecedented achievements, and Jack Nicklaus, Wilt Chamberlain and Steve Carlton, who dominated their respective sports throughout the year.

Carlton, for example, had absolutely no assistance in attaining his glory with the hapless Philadelphia Phillies. Wooden, however, has had the tools necessary to win six straight NCAA championships (Kareem Abdul-Jab-bar, Sidney Wicks, Henry Bibby and Bill Walton). Surely, Wooden is our unanimous choice for Coach of the Year, but for Sportsman of the Year the others must definitely be considered first.

We do, however, agree with your selection of Billie Jean King as Sportswoman of the Year. Her actions both on and off the tennis court make her very worthy of this coveted honor.
Salt Lake City

You jest. Only one person deserved to be named Sportsman of the Year: Mark Spitz. No one else came close.
State College, Pa.

My compliments on the best possible selection of Sportsman of the Year. I have been an avid reader of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for quite a while and always hoped that you would recognize the greatest feat ever to be accomplished by an amateur coach and team.

There are hundreds of colleges in the U.S. today, yet John Wooden has won six straight basketball championships. This record is one of the most remarkable accomplishments in sports history. Mr. Wooden deserves to be ranked with the immortals.

Many sports fans will be disappointed that Mark Spitz, Wilt Chamberlain, Steve Carlton, Larry Brown or Joe Namath did not receive the award, but we all must look back. None of these has excelled as continuously as John Wooden.

Congratulations on making an outstanding choice of Sportsman of the Year.
Pottsville, Pa.

I want to congratulate you on your selection of Sportsman of the Year. As usual, it will probably evoke a lot of controversy, and, to be honest, I am embarrassed that your very logical choice never entered my mind. I believe all too often we think only of the performer in sports, and it is gratifying to see Mr. Wooden recognized as a sportsman, which, for me, encompasses much more than winning medals or being late for a chess match.
Lawton, Okla.

Few people can seriously dispute your selection of UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden as Sportsman of the Year, even considering such celebrated performers as Mark Spitz and Bobby Fischer. Not only has Mr. Wooden forged an incomparable record in sports history, he also has distinguished himself as a most honorable and modest gentleman. His selection undoubtedly adds dignity and prestige to your award and serves to differentiate it from Athlete of the Year designations by others.
New Orleans

I applaud the excellence of your coverage of the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year. I admire Billie Jean King for her work in advancing the game of tennis and John Wooden for his remarkable coaching record at UCLA. I can't think of two more deserving people to receive your 1972 award.
Richland, Wash.

It is a good thing you had Billie Jean King and John Wooden as choices for leading sports figures of the year. Otherwise you would have had no other choice than Bil Gilbert, whose article Gleanings from a Troubled Time (Dec. 25) showed so much insight into what is really happening in sports. He must surely receive SI's Heaviest Article of the Year award.
Ridgefield, Conn.

Bil Gilbert's article typifies the kind of literary work that makes SI the finest sports magazine available today. Gilbert's application of the Instrument-Institution theory to sports was an interesting analysis of Big Sport in terms of human organizations and the society of which they are a part. Many will not agree with Gilbert's provocative thesis; yet it will be difficult to deny that he has done an effective job of capsulizing the events and trends that have made 1972 a troubled year.
Elmira, N.Y.

Those iconoclastic conclusions of Bil Gilbert are not a prescriptive but a proscriptive analysis of the problems troubling sport. Even more, the article is an example of the masochistic journalism that permeates our society today. Gilbert seemingly takes joy in writing that we Americans are whiners when we lose. If he is referring to those decisions at the Olympics which cost our swimmers and boxers medals they deserved and our basketball team the medal it deserved when officials gave the opposition a second chance to win, then I can understand our athletes whining. What Gilbert labels whining I call rightful dissent against an international system, dominated by Iron Curtain countries, that seeks to beat Americans by hook or by crook.
Reston, Va.

Having just read your article on John Wooden and Billie Jean King, and Bil Gilbert's piece, I think maybe it is time for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to examine the environment in which it functions. Mr. Gilbert's terms—True Sport, High Sport and Big Sport—might be more easily understood if one substituted Life for Sport. The criticism of Fischer, Spitz, et al. takes on a surrealist quality when one takes into account their operating environs. In a society (the world scene, not exclusively America) that in no way encourages or supports the Jack Armstrong ideal, it is absurd to think that such a figure can function. Fischer's demands, Spitz' greed, Rick Barry's peregrinations can only be honestly understood if one realizes that the spin-off effects of these people is to enhance the financial wealth of the sporting entrepreneurs who profit enormously from their performances. In a world that does not function according to a Jack Armstrong ideal of fair play and genuine honesty, the foolish expectation that the sporting heroes will do so is self-evidently nonsensical. For the sports fan, and maybe for the participants, this may be very depressing. Possibly this depression should encourage a keener, more incisive look at the wider range of human activities. Attempting to cope with sport as an exclusive entity will surely be a fruitless effort.
San Francisco

Please accept my thanks for Bil Gilbert's article. Seldom will one read a more perceptive, provocative one. I wish only that it could be required reading for every self-proclaimed True Sportsman. Bravo!
Lancaster, N.Y.

Here's hoping those involved in Big Sport glean some insight from your article. How do I get a dozen reprints?
Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

This letter is prompted by the marvelous piece that Frank Sleeper and Robert Cant-well wrote on Winslow Homer (Odyssey of an Angler, Dec. 25). However, I have wanted to write you for quite some time anyway to tell you how very much I enjoy your magazine. Subsisting on a fairly heavy magazine diet consisting of such intoxicating journals as The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, etc. I decided to lighten the load a bit by subscribing to SI. It has been almost a year now, and I must confess that it is your magazine I most look forward to receiving. Not simply because of the superb sports coverage, but also because of outstanding works like Hemingway's African Journal and the excerpt from Don DeLillo's novel End Zone.

I hope that in the coming year you will continue to provide the faithful with the same balanced diet you have been serving up so deliciously this past year.
Springfield, N.J.

Odyssey of an Angler deserves to be registered in the Library of Congress. It certainly will be in ours! The research, construction and style were superb. And it was so suitable for your publication. The reproductions of the watercolors and their selection were unusually discerning, too. Thank you for a genuine and long-to-be-enjoyed Christmas present.
Neenah, Wis.

I think. Tex Maule really blew it when he said, "While it is to Miami's great credit that it went undefeated, the feat is merely academic" (Old Brodie Went Witcher-Way, Dec. 25). Academic? Then why is this the first time in 30 years it has been done?

As for the "cream-puff schedule" line, the New York Jets could have been a wildcard team with a little luck. What about Kansas City and Minnesota? A win or two for each of them would have meant no Oakland and no Green Bay.
Silver Springs, Fla.

After reading the last paragraphs of Tex Maule's article, I was pretty mad. Sure the Dolphins have an easy schedule, but to go 14 and 0 is fantastic! Wasn't it cream-puff New England and cream-puff Buffalo that beat the Redskins? I'm sure in the last 10 or 15 years some team has had just as easy a schedule as Miami. Why didn't it go 14 and 0 through the season? C'mon, Tex, give credit where it's due—to Don Shula, his staff and the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Neither the Cowboys nor the 49ers should lose to the Over the Hill Gang this late in the long, arduous season."

Eat your words. The Washington Redskins are the Kings of the Hill.
Alexandria, Va.

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