Your coverage of the Super Bowl (Doomsday in the Dome, Jan. 23) was the best anywhere. After seeing all the newspapers the morning after, all with ordinary photographs and articles, I knew only SI could put together a story that would mean anything. Dan Jenkins' writing was great, but I really loved photographer Neil Leifer's super shot of the Superdome. It captured everything, including the emotion on the Dallas sideline. Another tremendous job by the world's best sports magazine!
Dan Jenkins' colorful description of exciting and game-breaking plays was rivaled only by the color in the excellent photographs. The story serves as proof that Super Bowl XII was not at all boring.
Give the Orange Crush some credit. Dan Jenkins seems to think that the only reason the outcome of the Super Bowl wasn't worse for Denver is that Dallas displayed a flamboyant offense that was a little too "cutesy." Because of the turnovers by the Bronco offense in the first half, Dallas could have had 35 points rather than 13. But Denver's defense stopped those drives short of the goal line. Only a super catch by Butch Johnson and a tricky play sent in by Dallas Coach Tom Landry beat the Denver defense in the second half. The Orange Crush was there through the whole game. It was the Denver offense that didn't show up. So much for Broncomania, but cheers for the Orange Crush.
The heck with all the AFC-is-superior-to-the-NFC analyses (Vince, You Wouldn't Believe It, Nov. 21 et seq.). The plain fact is that the NFC Dallas Cowboys were able to steamroll the AFC Denver Broncos and their much-heralded Orange Crush defense, while themselves playing one of their poorer overall games in recent memory.
Penn Yan, N.Y.
Minnesota fans have been irritated, then amused and now bored by your many demeaning references to the Vikings. Despite the fact that the Vikings have won nine division and four conference championships in the last decade, they seem to be singled out for having committed the "sin" of being in one-third of the Super Bowl games to date but never winning. Given the Vikings' total record, it is fanciful, if not deceptive, to imply that the team cannot win the big games.
SHERMAN E. NELSON
Thank you for one of the funniest articles on tennis I've ever read (The Came Normal People Play, Jan. 23). Peter Nord really put my mind to rest. Now when I hit a backhand over the fence or when my lob goes up and comes down three courts away, I simply console myself with the knowledge that I am just a normal human being.
I have been through more than 75 tennis manuals, 19 tennis instructional films and numerous videotapes of lessons given by tennis professionals, but now the heart of the game has been laid bare. Thank you, Peter Nord (and Dr. Henry Ruston). I have done away with my antiquated "improvement" library (which included SI's how-to book). I have also done away with my tennis racket. I have done away with tennis. How soon will a Nord guide to golf be published?
Did Peter Nord enter your editorial offices with a submachine gun and force you to run his article? If you paid for that drivel it was a big ripoff.
C. WINN UPCHURCH
St. Petersburg, Fla.
E. M. Swift's piece on Princeton's dreadful 1-22 hockey team (Practice Didn't Make Perfect, Jan. 16) deserves praise of the highest degree. Living in a city full of "winners," it is refreshing to read of a gutsy, puck-blocking writer who grew from his setbacks. I hope the spirit and camaraderie displayed by the Princeton hockey fans, who continued to back the team despite its losses, may be recalled by the spoiled spectators of this town if we ever have our first big loser.
Aside from the author's humility and wit, what impressed me most was the appearance of that seemingly endemic species, the faithful hockey fan. Would one more win have spoiled those diehard fans? It didn't spoil the fine people of Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers won for a second time.
Thanks to E. M. Swift, I can see that the St. Louis Blues could be doing worse.
It should be noted that E. M. Swift played two more seasons for Princeton's dauntless hockey team, during which Princeton lost 36 more games and allowed the most goals in Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I play. In one game against Cornell, Swift surrendered 12—and made 60 saves.
As a sportswriter for the Daily Princetonian, I interviewed Swift on the eve of his final game. During that interview he made known his interest in writing. His senior the sis, he told me, was the first draft of a novel.
"Is it autobiographical?" I asked him "Does it draw upon your experience as a Princeton goalie?"
"In a way," he said. "It's about the Johns town flood."
JOHN JAY WILHEIM
Battle Creek, Mich.
According to the new NCAA criteria (The NCAA Splits Its Decision, Jan. 23), a school that participates in eight varsity sports qualifies to play Division I-A football if it play 60% of its games against other I-A teams and has had an average home attendance of 17,000 during one of the last four years and also plays its home games in a stadium seating 30,000 or more spectators, or has had an average attendance of 17,000 over the last four years A school that participates in 12 varsity sport: may also qualify, without meeting the attendance and/or seating requirements (a con cession that came only after much debate).
Perhaps it is naive not to make the connection between athletic success and stadium capacity, or not to perceive a relation ship between scholastics and average home attendance, but don't these criteria raise serious questions about the NCAA's commitment to the scholar-athlete ideal?
MALCOLM B. O'HARA
In this day of overinflated salaries and egos, why doesn't the NCAA show some restrain and hold its ground instead of trying to emulate the pros? Professional football has already become too automated, computerized and predictable, not to mention overexposed.
Now the cream has risen to the top in college football (Division I-A), undoubtedly perpetuating the "professionalism" in the college ranks. It seems inevitable that more scholarships, more spending and more extensive recruiting will result, thus creating more distance between I-AA and I-A, and at the same time moving the latter one step closer to the "run on first down" football we are accustomed to seeing on Sunday afternoon.
Professional sports are beginning to create their own downfall, and owners are going to have to wake up soon. Why then doesn't the NCAA recognize this and proceed in a different direction? The next thing you know, juniors in high school will be declaring themselves hardship cases. I would hate to see the bubble burst.
ROBERT H. BAXTER
NOTRE DAME'S TITLE
It appears that the No. I product of Alabama is sour grapes (SCORECARD and 19TH HOLE, Jan. 23). 'Bama fans obviously have a great deal of animosity toward Notre Dame, undoubtedly because the Irish have beaten the Tide three times in three games. Notre Dame is No. 1 because it was a top-ranked team and soundly thrashed the previous No. 1 team. Simple logic. If you study the final AP Top 10 teams, you will find that Alabama did not play a single one of them. Notre Dame played two of the final Top 10 and four of the final Top 20. Only Texas played a "tougher" schedule, playing three of the final Top 10, one being Notre Dame. Against common opponent USC, Notre Dame won 49-19 while Alabama squeaked by with a one-point win, 21-20. So, no matter how you look at it (except with the tunnel vision of a 'Bama fan), Notre Dame is No. 1.
P. D. BOSCHE
If Alabama backers are as unconvinced about Notre Dame's 1977 national championship as we Penn State fans are about the "national championships" of Ohio State in 1968 and Texas in 1969 (years during which the Nittany Lions were undefeated), why don't they pursue a real national championship—via a playoff—instead of "legislating" a Top 10 as phony as those of the polls and obligating themselves to play in the Sugar Bowl each time Alabama wins its conference?
I can see it all now. The winners of the Southwest, Southeastern, Big Eight and Pacific Ten Conferences will all be undefeated someday but unable to play each other because they are married to their individual bowls. Hooray for independents such as Penn State, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, which will be free to seek a national championship determined on the field of play, not in the prejudiced minds of coaches and sportswriters.
FINKLE AND ALGER
I have long wanted an excuse to write and thank you for the offbeat stories you publish that capture the true flavor of sport more effectively than any number of Super Bowl or America's Cup features. A case in point: Kelly Jentoft, who also teaches English at Kent State, and I agree that 47 Years a Shot-Freak (April 20, 1970), chronicling the career of Wilfred Hetzel, is the finest sports story ever published. The Eddie Feigner (A King Without a Crown, Aug. 21, 1972) and Marty Reisman (A Little Night Music, Nov. 21, 1977) stories were also outstanding.
In your Jan. 23 issue the story of Evil Eye Finkle (Evil in the Eye of an Older Beholder) is in that tradition. However, as a longtime collector of Horatio Alger books and former treasurer of the Horatio Alger Society, I must point out that Ben Finkle must have had a genuine identity crisis as a child. He reports, "I never could figure who I wanted to be: Ragged Dick or Tattered Tom." Tattered Tom is actually a girl whose name is either Jane or Jenny (Alger was not always consistent himself). Perhaps it is from this genetic tension that Finkle derived his ocular dexterity.
New Philadelphia, Ohio
VIEW FROM STRATTON MOUNTAIN
In your recent article on Burke Mountain Academy (It's All Downhill from Here, Jan. 2), Douglas Looney gives credit begrudgingly to the many achievements of Warren Witherell and his ski academy and seems more interested in creating witty one-liners than in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of a successful sports academy. Ski academies just might be the solution to the lack of consistent success of U.S. skiers at the international level. Certainly they are here, and they deserve serious consideration.
Contrary to the article, it is possible to combine successfully academic and athletic excellence. Stratton Mountain School's college placement record (and the achievements of its graduates in college) compares favorably with that of any college preparatory school in the country. And our students continue to ski well enough to earn places on our national ski team.
Stratton Mountain School
Stratton Mountain, Vt.
Address editorial mail to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, 10020.