Your choice of Muhammad Ali as Sportsman of the Year was as much of a surprise as Ali's first victory over Sonny Liston. I have been an Ali follower since his 1962 KO of Sonny Banks in New York, and it would be pointless to dwell on his boxing achievements since then.
I would hope that your choice of Ali was based as much on his position as a man as on his athletic ability. His absence from boxing during the time he was stripped of his title gave us a good insight into his unique personality. In 1967 it was not popular to refuse induction into the armed forces, for whatever reason, and Ali's stance was widely condemned. His belief in himself and in what he stands for makes him a man for the times, times when this country sorely needs a popular hero. You made the perfect choice, in the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED style. Not just another superstar, but an athlete whose overall impact is greater than his contribution to sport.
A few years back I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Muhammad Ali in Jacksonville International Airport, where he was waiting for his flight to depart for South Carolina.
Before he entered the jet, I told him my father (Bernie) thought he was a braggart and that he was conceited. I think Ali's answer, in jest, tells you something of how nice the man can be. "If I ever see your daddy, you tell him that I'll catch him up some dark alley and I'm going to whip him until he apologizes for all those bad things he said about me. And you listen to me, Bernie. After I whip Joe Frazier and Howard Cosell, I'm going to give you hell. Now I don't want any trouble out of you, Bernie, cause I'll call up Rap Brown and burn your house down."
If Ali can take the time from his schedule to joke about someone he will never meet, that's a tribute to the man. I know when my grandchildren ask me about Muhammad Ali, I'll just bring out the tape of that interview.
Sportsman of the Year? An excellent choice.
West Palm Beach, Fla.
I am very disappointed in your selection of Muhammad Ali as Sportsman of the Year. I can't agree that a one-night shot in Africa that didn't last 30 minutes is worthy of your award. Lou Brock and Johnny Miller applied their skills all season long and established records in their fields that won't be broken for some time.
If Ali were to fight four times a year, maybe, just maybe. I would consider him a likely choice. The award is for the Sportsman of the Year, not the Sportsman of the Night.
Muhammad Ali has not displayed any of the qualities of behavior that would elevate him to the plateau of sportsman. Praising this kind of behavior sets a poor example for the young kids involved in sport and seems to uphold the idea of winning at any cost.
KEVIN J. CARROLL
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Winner he is; sportsman he is not.
LINDA, JOHN and LEWIS COLLINS
Signal Mountain, Tenn.
Muhammad Ali brayed and bragged for days before his fight with Foreman. He insulted and humiliated Foreman during and after the fight. He continued to bray and brag for weeks afterward. He is no sportsman. Boxer of the year, probably. Comeback of the year, possibly. Sportsman of the Year, never.
W. O. BROWN
It is even more difficult to justify a title such as Sportsman of the Year for Muhammad Ali when one compares his accomplishments with those sportsmen shown on pages 86 through 89 of your Dec. 23 issue.
Heartiest congratulations on your choice of Muhammad Ali as Sportsman of the Year!
My friends are extending their sympathy to me since they feel that I, as managing director of the Johnny Miller Golf Academy in Scotland sponsored by the American Leadership Study Groups, must be most disappointed by your choice.
No way. Miller had a great year, is an incredible athlete and a fine person. But Ali is in a class by himself. He is a true hero to millions upon millions of people of all races, and is probably the brightest, wittiest, most clever and entertaining personality we have to provide relief in these gloomy times. And, when fit and determined, he's the best boxer who ever lived.
Johnny Miller? Only after Ali retires.
North Brookfield, Mass.
Well, you've done it again. Muhammad Ali for Sportsman of the Year. What a farce. How quickly you forget. Early in the spring the whole country had its eye on one man. And for good reason, since he was attempting to break the greatest sports record in the world. That man of course is Henry Aaron. Bad Henry went through some very tough times trying to break the record. Withstanding all this pressure should have been enough to give him the award. After he hit No. 715 he should have been given it right then and there.
Ali went out and did what many have done, won a heavyweight championship; Aaron did what no man has ever done.
Park Ridge, Ill.
I have followed Muhammad Ali's career since I was a young man back in Rockaway, N.J. in the early '60s. I'm very pleased with your selection and George Plimpton's story. Ali has paid his dues.
Congratulations on 20 years of fine sports journalism and an excellent end-of-the-year effort. The Christmas issue has to last two weeks, so it was nice to find every article worth reading.
W. H. EVERSMEYER
The nostalgic sporting moments were good, but your look into the future of sports was a masterful display of creative journalism.
Here are the answers to what should be a quiz on pp. 32-33: Dave Wottle Muhammad Ali, Pistol Pete Maravich, Red Auerbach, Paul (Bear) Bryant, Johnny Unitas, Wilt Chamberlain, George Foreman.
During the last four years I have spent much of my time promoting the attractive features of platform (paddle) tennis, both in this country and abroad. I happen to believe the sport has more appeal than regular tennis. Barry McDermott's article on the Cleveland tournament (Paddling Out of the Country Club, Dec. 2) was entertaining. I do wish, however, he had concentrated more on telling the reader why the sport has suddenly erupted in popularity and why many experts predict it will inevitably become America's next major participation pastime. The reason is simple: platform tennis can be enjoyed by everyone.
A couple of minor corrections. The first APTA-sanctioned professional tournament was held in November of 1973. It was sponsored by National Distillers and played at the Sea Pines Plantation Club on Hilton Head Island, S.C. The winning team received $3,000 for a trip to Europe. The first platform tennis tournament for cash ($4,000) was the Mercedes Benz Classic, which McDermott alluded to twice in his piece. It was staged on Amelia Island, Fla. the week before the Cleveland Masters. Eight of the top nine nationally ranked teams competed. If your readers would like to see the "Chaunceys" playing this outstanding racquet and ball sport at its best, highlights of the Mercedes Benz tournament will be shown on CBS Sports Spectacular, Sunday, Feb. 23.
Finally, I really do not see why a roman numeral after a person's name has anything whatsoever to do with his athletic prowess. Doesn't McDermott know the name of the finest tennis player who ever lived? William Tatum Tilden II.
Courts Marketing Inc.
While it was good to see platform tennis recognized by your magazine in the article on the Cleveland Masters, you should have noted that in addition to Chaunceys and Carringtons there were Bettys and Barbaras in Cleveland. The winners of the women's Masters were Pat Reed and Joan Perrine, who defeated Maddy Hill and Nancy Mangin.
At the Summit Tennis Club we are very proud of our women players, including Pat, Joan and Maddy.
Summit Tennis Club
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