SPIRIT OF '76
I totally agree with Curry Kirkpatrick about the 76ers (Good, But Why Not the Best?, March 21). I hope players and management read this article. Maybe then they can figure out what's gone wrong.
Lloyd Free's head is as big as Fitz Dixon's bank account!
DAVID J. SARTORY
East Norwich, N.Y.
The 76ers' problem is the same one the Los Angeles Lakers had nine seasons ago when they acquired Wilt Chamberlain from Philadelphia to go along with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Obviously the 76ers failed to get the message. The conflict of egos and lack of harmony and unity that kept the Lakers from winning the title in 1968-69 will do the same thing to this year's 76ers.
Unless Gene Shue starts acting like a coach and the players stop griping, they will win a lot of games but not the championship. Teamwork, discipline and hard work determine the finished product. Talent is just the raw material. A team wins championships when the above ingredients are added to the raw material.
I had to laugh when Shue said, "I've never had a job where my team stayed mediocre. They get good." With the players the 76ers have, my pet St. Bernard could coach them and they'd still win. The front office ought to tell the players to play basketball or quit. Then they should fire Shue and get a real coach.
If all Mix, Dawkins and Free want to do is complain, isn't it high time the 76ers get rid of them and find somebody who isn't interested in how many shots a game, but how many assists? Judging from their quotes, McGinnis and Collins have the right idea—play as a team and let Julius Erving be what he is, one of the greatest ever to play the game.
The 76ers are definitely exciting and flamboyant. They have had 28 sellouts on the road and nine at home.
Your story should have been on the New York Knicks. The Knicks are the team with the talent but not the winning record. New York has two fine guards, Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier, a great front line in Bob McAdoo, Spencer Haywood and Jim McMillian. The Knicks are the team to beat in 1977-78.
Saddle Brook, N.J.
LOWDOWN IN ATLANTA
Roy Blount's diagnosis of Atlanta's ailing sports franchises (Losersville, U.S.A., March 21) is right on the money. This city has been plagued too long by double-knit lintheads like Rankin Smith and Tom Cousins trying to cash in on the glamour and growth that marked professional athletics in the '60s.
I disagree, though, that racism underlies the Hawks' inability to draw. Cousins and friends have simply never put a winner in the Omni, and the remarkable increase at the turnstiles following the Hawks' recent successes against division leaders Washington, Denver and Philadelphia is evidence that white as well as black Atlantans will back a successful team.
The Falcons, on the other hand, seem destined for failure as long as good ol' Rankin is at the helm. While the Braves are in the capable hands of Commodore Ted Turner, the Falcons must suffer Smith's blasé ineptitude and murmur with disbelief as their Sugar Daddy hires the Little General [Eddie LeBaron, the new general manager] and Leeman Who [Leeman Bennett, the new head coach]?
The idea of "too many teams too soon" is not believable; it was obvious the city was sports-starved. I have now suffered through many seasons of last-place teams. The fans, white or black, should not be blamed. The blame belongs to the stingy owners and inept front offices. The Braves, for instance, traded Henry Aaron for Dave May. Dave May? The Falcons signed Norb Hecker as their first head coach, over Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi. Norb Hecker? The Hawks' failure to sign David Thompson and Marvin Webster created instant apathy among the fans. The energetic Ted Turner, a good man, will spend money and make worthwhile deals to help turn the city's sports around. It's easy to support a winning team.
Maybe the famous SI jinx will work in reverse this time and we will get a winner.
As a native San Diegan I was shocked to see that Atlanta was your selection for "Losersville, U.S.A." How could you possibly overlook a town with as dismal a sports record as San Diego? The last winning team we had in a major league was the 1969 Chargers, which have since had seven consecutive losing seasons. Our Padres have had a losing record all eight years they have been in the National League, including an unprecedented six straight last-place finishes. And let's not overlook eight consecutive losing seasons in professional basketball—four by the NBA Rockets and four by the ABA Conquistadors/Sails. San Diego has established a fine tradition of losing, so let's give credit where credit is due.
Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks has been playing in the NHL for 19 seasons. Don't you feel that his 500th goal, against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 27, is important enough to mention in FOR THE RECORD?
AETNA WORLD CUP
Frank Deford's article on the troubles that the Australians are having in the Aetna World Cup (After the Last Hurrah, a Final Murmur, March 21) mentioned that a change in the format of the tournament is being considered.
As I understand it, the idea of altering the format has arisen because the Australians lost by a score of 7-0 this year. I don't think this fair. The Australians are still ahead 5-3 in the series. The Americans lost four years in a row and that did not bring about a clamor for the format to be changed.
I feel the Australians should be given a couple of years more to see if they can end their losing streak. The World Cup is an event that quite a few people look forward to.
New Canaan, Conn.
What you call the huge success of Bowling for Dollars (Right Up the Viewers' Alley, March 21) can be explained relatively easily here in Baltimore. In the middle of each show, the state's daily three-digit lottery number is drawn out of three huge jars, each containing 10 Ping-Pong balls numbered 0-9. There are 2,000 Marylanders holding tickets, watching to see if their number is drawn. So they won't miss the drawing, they watch Bowling for Dollars from the start, and since by the time the number is drawn all the other 7 to 7:30 shows are half over, they watch it to the end.
Never has an article in Sports Illustrated evoked so many memories as Ron Rau's piece on Herman and his friends (The Day the Pike Put the Move on Herman, Feb. 28). It has been at least 20 years since my father took me spearing for yellow perch near my boyhood home by Saginaw Bay. I read many passages aloud to my wife because I was so excited by the author's remembrances. Some things never change.
The reference to naming Secretariat's foals (SCORECARD, March 21) brought to mind the name proposed several years ago for the foal of Beach, a southern Illinois thoroughbred: Son of Beach.
GARY C. THOMAS
I recently witnessed a basketball game between Providence College and Fairfield University in which the final score was 44-31 in favor of Providence. Fairfield's plan was simply to stall in order to pull off an upset, or at least to avoid being blown out. Afterward, the subject of the 30-second clock came up. Why does it have to be a choice between leaving the game the way it is, which allows a team to pass the ball around all night and bore everyone, and installing the 30-second clock, which would turn college basketball into run-and-shoot, one-on-one affairs.
To leave the game the way it is would be a mistake in my opinion, but to install a 30-second clock would be an even bigger one. Team play, set plays, coaching plans, intelligence, would go down the drain. The UCLAs, the Indianas, the teams with the big budgets would get, as always, the most talent, and the 30-second clock would benefit these schools more than anyone else. The Princetons, the Providences, etc., would have to convert to this run-and-gun style and would not be as successful.
Why not a 60-second clock? This would keep teams from going into those ridiculous stalls, while at the same time allowing for some good passing, set plays, game plans, etc. It would allow elements of the college game to continue to be important.
RUSSELL C. TEEDEM JR.
In FOR THE RECORD of March 7, under Track & Field, you mention the Los Angeles Mercurettes winning the 880-yard medley in 1:42.6.
How do you break down an 880-yard medley?
ROBERT A. SPICER
El Paso, Texas
•This seldom-run event is for women only. It consists of a 440-yard leg, two of 110 yards and one of 220 yards.—ED.
Your story of the Stratford High team that had to lose in order to win (SCORECARD, March 7) reminds me of what must be a classic in college baseball. In 1929 the Northwest Conference consisted of five schools, each playing a 16-game schedule. In May, Oregon, Oregon State and Idaho were out of the race, and with only four games to play on the road, the Washington Huskies were a half game behind Washington State because of a rained-out game, there being no provision for replay of a rainout.
In the third inning of a game against the Cougars, the Huskies had a 5-2 lead when Coach Tubby Graves noticed menacing black clouds overhead. "We have to get in five innings to make it an official game," he told the first batter. "Get up there and strike out."
There followed two of the strangest innings ever witnessed by baseball fans. The Huskies tried to get up and get out, swinging at bad pitches, bunting third strikes foul and making no effort to score. Meanwhile, the Cougars tried to prolong the action in the hope that the game would be rained out. One Washington runner on first, after being hit by a pitch, ran toward second and stopped short as the catcher unthinkingly threw to the second baseman. Tubby yelled, "Tag yourself," and the runner obliged by gently lifting his knee into the fielder's glove. The Cougar pitcher stalled by winding up interminably, throwing bad pitches, conferring with other players. The catcher's equipment was inspected and changed by Cougar Coach Buck Bailey with one eye on his catcher, the other on the sky.
After three innings of such play the umpires still had not called the travesty. Then the clouds blew over, and a good ball game ensued. The Huskies won that game and ultimately the conference championship.
In the annals of baseball there must have been similar situations, but I have never heard of them.
ARTHUR L. (GABBY) HARNETT
State College, Pa.
Yesterday up at the 5th Street Gym I met the "new" Sugar Ray, and my thoughts went to the piece Pat Putnam did about young Leonard (The Day the Gold Turned Green, Feb. 14). The true test of this young man is not, nor will it be, in the ring but in his soul—how he reacts to all the publicity and how much of his fate he can control, if any. I wish him well.
Back in 1964 I boxed for Angelo Dundee, too, but unfortunately two years later I got drafted and went into the Army. They made me a medic, a combat medic. I did a tour and a half in Viet Nam and came back with scrap iron in my leg and something worse in my soul. But this is another story. I had a few more fights, trained some, fought in Africa, made a little money. In all of my 43 fights put together I didn't make anything close to what Sugar Ray made in his first, but I had a good time and still am in the business: I box and work with the PAL kids down here.
The Leonard piece was very good. Keep up the good work.
DON T. LUTZ
Kent Hannon's article on Bubbles Hawkins (Nets Sink, Bubbles Rises, March 7) left out an interesting fact. Bubbles' teacher was Coach Will Robinson of Detroit Pershing High School and Illinois State University. Bubbles joins a list of great athletes trained by Coach Robinson, including Spencer Haywood, Ralph Simpson. Mel Daniels and baseball's Ted Sizemore. Robinson also was the coach at Illinois State when Doug Collins and Bubbles scored their 57 and 58 points.
Will Robinson is not only a great coach but also an outstanding gentleman who deserves the recognition.
RICHARD A. BARTON
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