A perfect selection for Sportsman of the Year (Dec. 19-26). Aside from his exquisite riding ability, Steve Cauthen has shown perseverance and a sturdy character under immense pressure. Being a champion jockey takes a lot of courage, coordination, strength and timing. Race riding is not all glory, fame and fortune. To the jockeys who make it, I say more power to them. Young, gutsy Cauthen deserves to make it.
Concerning your tribute to Steve Cauthen, please convey my appreciation for this outstanding article to its author, Frank Deford. I was moved both by the achievements of this young rider and by the understanding of Deford. You have done a great service to Cauthen and to your readers.
MRS. JOHN C. THORNTON JR.
Terre Haute, Ind.
A great choice.
JOHN V. LYNN
Kings Park, N.Y.
You've gotta be kidding. Steve Cauthen Sportsman of the Year? A jockey? Never! What's this world coming to? The Chicago Bears make the NFL playoffs, Fran Tarkenton gets hurt. Tampa Bay wins.... What will 1978 bring?
Steve Cauthen? Neigh!
To paraphrase Dan Jenkins' comment on the Dolphins' A. J. Duhe in the same issue, if a soccer player named Pelè is not Sportsman of the Year, there is no such award. Granted, Steve Cauthen's athletic achievements are great and unprecedented, but there is more to being a sportsman. Pelè's actions on the field are a model for all budding soccer players—and for all athletes in general. He exhibits teamwork and enthusiasm as few athletes do, or care to. Off the field he transcends sport. Pelè is a humanitarian, generous with his time and love.
There will always be outstanding athletes with exceptional seasons, but how many of these athletes will shape the whole course of their sport? What will Steve Cauthen do besides ride more winners? The saddest part is that while Pelè has been the greatest player in the history of the world's most popular sport, he has never been honored by your magazine as Sportsman of the Year. And now that he has retired, he never will be.
New York City
It's been a terrific year in sports—until now. Reggie Jackson is the true Sportsman.
How can Reggie Jackson be a runner-up? I will agree that Reggie was great in the sixth game of the World Series but, after all, SI, this is Sportsman of the Year, not Sportsman of the Day.
Fantastic! Frank Deford's story A Christmas Gift for Fort Zack (Dec. 19-26) is an enlightening portrayal of the American athlete and of the growth of human sympathy and love. Let me commend SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for transcending the normal realm of sports reporting and daring to play Santa Claus.
Not only did Frank Deford's story put me in the Christmas spirit, but it also completely changed what had been a miserable day. I am going to keep the article and use it to cheer myself up whenever I need it. In fact, I would like to see it run in your magazine every Christmas. It would be the start of a beautiful tradition.
Why can't all ballplayers—indeed, all people—be as compassionate as "Double T" Townsend turned out to be in the end?
STEPHEN A. KAIRYS
New York City
AFC VS. NFC (CONT.)
I totally agreed with your article on the superiority of the AFC over the NFC and the reasons for that superiority (Vince, You Wouldn't Believe It, Nov. 21). And now, after reading the letters sent in by die-hard, old-line NFLers (Dec. 5 and 12), I must rebut.
The NFL diehards claim that AFC superiority is the result of the addition to the AFC of three "old NFL" teams: Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland. While it is true that these three are fine teams, it is wrong to contend that they are old NFL teams. My check of the current rosters of the three shows that: 1) of the 43 Steelers, only seven played in the old NFL; 2) of the 43 Colts, only four played in the old NFL; and 3) of the 43 Browns, only four played in the old NFL.
In other words, 114 of the 129 Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland players have grown up in the AFC. And that number includes Terry Bradshaw, Bert Jones, Brian Sipe, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Greg Pruitt, Roger Carr, Lynn Swann, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Dwight White, Ray Chester, Jerry Sherk, John Dutton, Mel Blount, Glen Edwards, Joe Ehrmann, Don McCauley and Steve Furness—to name a few.
The conclusion is obvious: Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland are in fact American Football Conference teams.
New England Patriots (AFC)
No wonder the New York Giants have been so pitiful for so many years. Instead of working on acquiring new talent, their owner, Wellington T. Mara, has been compiling meaningless and trivial statistics regarding the NFC-AFC rivalry. If Mara had as diligently done his homework for recent NFL drafts, perhaps he might have a representative team.
Two states, Texas and Pennsylvania, can claim four collegiate football titles so far this season: Lehigh (Pa.) won the NCAA Division II championship; Widener (Pa.) earned NCAA Division III honors: Abilene Christian (Texas) is the NAIA Division I champion; and Westminster (Pa.) took the NAIA Division II crown. A Cotton Bowl victory by the University of Texas will make it five titles and a clean sweep.
ROBERT L. HAIGH
As a recent graduate of Ohio State, I found your article on the resurrection of Buckeye basketball extremely interesting (A Big Change in the Affairs of State, Dec. 12). I am glad Coach Eldon Miller is restoring Ohio State to its once lofty position in the college basketball world. The most pleasing aspect of the story, though, was the recognition given former Coach Fred Taylor as a superb teacher of the game and a man of unquestioned integrity.
Basketball was always overshadowed by football at Ohio State, and that was shameful, because Taylor's coaching abilities did not get the attention they deserved. If Taylor had received the full backing of the athletic department, I feel he could have given basketball the stature it deserved. But more important than his won-lost record, Taylor was a fine representative of the university and the ideals it espouses. As the high jinks of football Coach Woody Hayes bring the school into disrepute, I can only bemoan the day it let a man like Taylor slip from its grasp.
MICHAEL J. FORQUER
Having granted an interview to Larry Keith, I feel the tone of my comments was grossly misrepresented. My hope was to clarify the events that led to the change in leadership of the Ohio State basketball program. My remarks centered on the changes in recruiting practices and in college athletics in general over the past 15 years, i.e., on how jet travel and national media coverage have broadened the awareness of the high school athlete and contributed to national recruiting vs. the old system of local boys automatically playing for their state universities. Unfortunately, my description of this progression and its effect on Ohio State was interpreted as personal criticism of Coach Fred Taylor.
Seventeen years' worth of loyal former players, myself included, will agree that Fred did more for them and their families than they can ever repay. In my case, his influence led, in addition to my college degree, to my participation on the victorious Olympic basketball team of 1968 and an opportunity to play for the 1970 world champion New York Knicks. These are the types of things for which Coach Taylor should and will be remembered, not recruiting difficulties in his final seasons.
In SCORECARD (Dec. 12) you said that the "dismal" Pittsburgh Penguins made another bum trade when they acquired Peter Mahovlich and Peter Lee from Montreal for the brilliant Pierre Larouche. Ha! After the trade and following a loss to Montreal, the Penguins had a four-game unbeaten streak. Mahovlich scored seven goals in five games and has fired up the Penguins with his leadership on and off the ice. At the same time, Lee has done some things that Larouche never did—hustle and play defense.
North Huntingdon, Pa.
Thanks for the article Does He or Doesn't He? (Dec. 5) by Wilmer Ames. Anabolic steroids are a risky means to an end that is at best questionable. Few people make it to the top in body building and even fewer can make a living from it.
In my shortsighted quest for massive muscles, I considered using Dianabol (the Big "D"), but wisely decided against it. No way am I going to risk permanent damage to my internal organs and who knows what else for the sake of an inflated, disposable physique. It takes time and hard work to achieve any worthwhile goal. Those looking for a fast trip to the top through steroids may get more than they bargained for. Slow and steady is the way to go.
Wilmer Ames' article on the use of drugs in body building ranks as one of the greatest cheap shots ever. What modern sport can be named in which the athletes competing today are not bigger, stronger and better than they were 20 years ago? Do seven-foot basketball players and 280-pound linemen owe their extraordinary size to drugs?
Dianabol abuse certainly exists, but to a great extent Ames bases his proof that drugs are rampant in body building on unidentified sources, on an informal verbal survey conducted by another person and on Lou Ferrigno's comment "I would rather not elaborate on that." The major factors of success in body building are still hard work, dedication and strict attention to diet. Without these as a catalyst no body builder will ever approach the Mr. Olympia title. Also, Ames fails to mention Frank Zane, Mr. Olympia 1977. Zane is the epitome of symmetry and definition without the "necessary" 22-inch biceps and 57-inch chest. Pumping iron is not synonymous with pumping drugs.
Wilmer Ames' enlightening article effectively gives all the facts needed to take a stand against the use of drugs. If an athlete is looking for a pill to improve his performance, then he is lame and in search of a crutch.
Perhaps after this expose of the drug-oriented body-building community, the sport will return to its former ideals of hard work and perseverance.
GEORGE KRITSELIS JR.
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