John Papanek outdid himself in his fantastic article about Larry Bird, a super human and super basketball player (Gifts that God Didn't Give, Nov. 9). It's an SI classic, and it made me feel good to know that money and fame haven't spoiled the NBA's "best all-around player." Bird really flies high.
RANDY L. JOHNSON
I formerly lived in central Illinois, about 80 miles from Terre Haute, Ind., and I kept hearing rumbles about this guy Larry Bird at Indiana State. Being a realist, I knew that the rumors were an exaggeration, but I drove down to Terre Haute to see for myself. I stood in line for more than three hours and eventually paid more than the standard price for my ticket. When the game started, Indiana State won the tip against Ball State and Bird broke down the lane. He was guarded and didn't get the ball, so he pivoted and broke for the right sideline. He received the ball and executed a 32-foot, turnaround jump shot while flying out of bounds.
The game was only three seconds old, and I had been given my most vivid sports memory. Of course, by the end of the game I realized that what had so electrified me was pretty common stuff for Bird. I've been a Birdwatcher ever since. Thanks for the fine article about an amazing athlete.
John Papanek's article was insightful but it failed to recognize one of Larry Bird's outstanding qualities, his agility. I've tested more than 3,500 college and professional athletes, including Bird, with the ARCO ability test. There is a data file for that test that contains more than 70,000 scores on items of strength, speed, power, agility, endurance, etc. Bird's agility score put him at the 90th percentile. No tall athlete had ever tested that well before. Surely, this helps explain his "good positioning."
ROBERT F. MCDAVID, PH.D.
Human Performance Laboratory
Indiana State University
Terre Haute, Ind.
In the past, I've disagreed with SI on a lot of different issues, but I sure can't disagree this time. Larry Bird is the best all-around player in the NBA.
Larry Bird, the best all-around player in the NBA? No way! Magic Johnson is the best.
Marques Johnson is clearly the best all-around player in the NBA.
Stevens Point, Wis.
Larry Bird may be great, but Julius Erving is amazing.
As a real-estate attorney, I've had plenty of opportunity in these troubled economic times to digest your magazine from cover to cover. I read with interest, as did my brother Shepherd, Bruce Newman's story The NBA Goes Back to School, Nov. 9). More interesting than the article, however, were Lane Stewart's classroom pictures.
The opening photograph shows two blackboards, one with Lincoln's picture above it and a radiator pipe and radiator on the right side, and the other with a picture of George Washington above it and a desk in front. The picture on page 40 again shows the blackboard with Washington's picture above it, but the radiator and radiator pipe appear here, too. At first we figured that Stewart had switched portraits and alphabet letters from one blackboard to the other. However, the photograph on page 40 does not show a light switch to the right of the radiator pipe as does the opening shot. In addition, the pencil sharpener appears to be on the right rear corner of the desk in the opener, whereas it shows up on the right front corner of the desk on page 40. Finally, the blackboard shown on page 40 appears to be dirtier than the one on page 39, which fact could be explained only if the diagram on page 39 was erased and replaced with a different one.
Our conclusion, with tongue in cheek, is that the pictures were taken in different classrooms. What we can't understand is, why?
THOMAS RANDOLPH LEWIS
•Chalk it up to artist's license, or as Stewart says, "When you build your own classroom [LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER, Nov. 9], you can move the radiator around wherever you please." Actually, Stewart was striving for good composition. As for Coach Westhead's diagram, it was redrawn upside down by one of Stewart's assistants, so that it would better match a photograph of the actual Laker play that Stewart had already taken and that appeared on page 41.—ED.
Lane Stewart's photographs reminded me of my high school days, when I wore a uniform that matched those of all my classmates. If I had ever been as much out of uniform as Kareem is, I would have spent several hours in detention.
BASIL A. KUZIO
In the article, you say that Celtic President and General Manager Red Auerbach "never worked on a [college] campus in his life." Wrong! Auerbach was an assistant coach for Jerry Gerrard at Duke in 1949-50 and was credited with turning Dick Groat, a 12.5-points-per-game scorer for one semester of his sophomore year, into a 25-point scorer in his junior year by teaching him the jump shot during the intervening summer.
As a University of North Carolina alumnus, I've always felt Red would overcome working at Duke.
COOPER E. TAYLOR JR.
REBUTTAL FROM THE NFL
A letter from M.J. Duberstein of the NFL Players Association in your Nov. 9 issue contained inaccuracies regarding the profits of National Football League clubs. Duberstein used the Denver Broncos to reflect the NFLPA's contention that NFL clubs have a "league average of $5.1 million" profit each year. That contention is grossly incorrect.
According to the most recent audit of club finances by the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen & Co., NFL clubs averaged an income of $12.1 million and a profit of $836,000 for the 1979 season. The 1980 audited figures are not yet available, but allowing for normal increases, the figures will not approach the $14 million income or $2.5 million Bronco profit the union alleges.
In fact, we predict that the audited figures for the 1980 season will show the actual profit to decline by half and that the audit for the 1981 season will show a break-even year for NFL clubs. This grim forecast is based on audited figures that were introduced into the Oakland trial last summer in Los Angeles, not on Duberstein's nebulous source, "NFLPA research," which produced the fantasy profit figure of $5.1 million.
The actual profit figures are not difficult to understand in light of the NFL's system of revenues and expenditures. Revenues come from two primary sources: television money and ticket sales. According to the Andersen audit for 1979, about 46% of the revenues came from television and about 44% from ticket sales. The remaining 10% came from miscellaneous items such as revenue from postseason games, programs, concessions and royalties from NFL films. Expenses are divided just about equally into two areas: player costs and all other costs, which include travel, scouting, coaches' and administrative salaries, stadium rental, utilities, promotion, equipment and game-day expenses.
Club profits rise and fall in a cycle that parallels the television contract. For example, profits are highest in the first year of a television contract and gradually decline until a new contract is signed. The reason? When a new television contract is negotiated, the amount of money is fixed over the course of the contract. Player costs, on the other hand, continue to rise about 14% a year, while all other costs rise with inflation. For example, according to the Andersen audit for 1977, the last year of the previous television contract, the average NFL club lost $27,000. In 1978, the first year of the new contract—when profits were at their highest—the average club recorded a $2.2 million pre-tax profit.
True to the historical formula, the profit is steadily declining again. The union's figures are distorted.
Director of Information
NFL Management Council
New York City
•Because NFL clubs are considered private business enterprises, their financial records are not open to the public, or even available to the NFL Management Council, according to spokesman Miller. Team financial statements, he says, are submitted directly to the auditor, who, in turn, reports to the NFL only gross, league-wide averages. Therefore, there is no accurate way for SI to determine whose figures—the Players Association's or the NFL's—are more nearly correct. One must bear in mind, however, that the current contract between these two organizations expires in July and that, just before any new contract negotiations begin, unions traditionally argue that management's financial picture is rosy, while management takes a much bleaker view. The truth usually lies somewhere in between. As for Denver, General Manager Grady Alderman insists the Broncos suffered a "net loss from operations" in 1980 and that the biggest reasons for the loss were player costs and salaries, which he said were "in excess of 50% of our revenues."—ED.
It's apparent that Amos Alonzo Stagg's long-standing record of collegiate wins will be eclipsed by Alabama's Bear Bryant. However, this fact should not negate Stagg's countless contributions to the development of the modern game or obscure his place in football history. Unfortunately, many young fans are unacquainted with Stagg's part in the evolution of the game from the days of the flying wedge to the slick, sophisticated version we see today. Stagg was one of the giants, along with Knute Rockne, Bob Zuppke, et al.
Stagg was the first to use wingbacks, the direct pass from center, the place kick, the mousetrap play and the Notre Dame shift, which Rockne made famous. He developed the draw play and many of the defensive alignments that, with modern adjustments, are used by all teams today.
Clark Shaughnessy and George Halas have rightly been credited with the development of the modern T formation. However, only after adding Stagg's split line, flankers and man-in-motion, was the T resurrected from its status as a casually used formation of the '20s and '30s. The earlier version often featured the quarterback and center positioned "butt to butt," with the quarter reaching through his legs for the ball and then handing it off to a back. It was a weak passing formation with no wide threat until it was embellished by Stagg's innovations.
One of the most commonly used Stagg developments is his spread punt, which was introduced to West Coast football in 1933 by his College of the Pacific team. This formation, with modifications, is universally used today.
As a former player and graduate coach under Stagg at COP, I'll be sorry to see his record surpassed, but I'm confident he'll be recognized by posterity as a great coach.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
I found your article about athletes on postage stamps (SCORECARD, Nov. 2) interesting but incomplete. My father is in possession of a U.S. stamp commemorating the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The engraving was taken directly from a photograph of my uncle, J. Alfred LeConey, who anchored the record-setting 400-meter-relay team in the 1924 Paris Olympics. I don't know how it was arranged, but the picture on the stamp shows my Uncle Al as he appeared in the starting block while a track star at Lafayette College. The "L" was removed from his jersey, however.
When I was a student at Lafayette, before my uncle's death in 1959, it was traditional to ask pledges at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, our mutual fraternity, to name the only living American on a postage stamp. Al LeConey was one of our nation's outstanding sprinters, but like so many athletes of the past, he has been forgotten except by a few. His gold medal and the stamp are a tribute to his memory.
THE REV. WILLIAM W. LECONEY
As a member of the medical profession, I strongly object to your suggestion that sports figures such as Bobby Jones, Babe Zaharias, Jim Thorpe and Babe Ruth deserve the same standing in the history of mankind as does Dr. George N. Papanicolaou, one of the 300 people whose picture has appeared on a U.S. postage stamp. Dr. Papanicolaou, as you noted, invented the Pap test, which has saved hundreds of thousands of women from death due to cervical cancer. Dr. Papanicolaou belongs in the same category as Drs. Lister, Pasteur, Roentgen and Salk. To equate his standing in history with that of a winner of a game illustrates the overblown importance placed on sports.
FRED S. CARTER, M.D.
Jensen Beach, Fla.
"Look what they did to the cocker," you say (The Mutt with a Touch of Class, Nov. 2)? I'm sitting here writing you with a cocker on my lap, one at my feet and two others nearby and wondering why. My cockers are show dogs, ensuring their conformation and temperament. They also are eager to go to field, to nose out and flush game. They are obedience-trained, proving that they have intelligence and a sensitivity to training. And they're companions and enthusiastic and gentle playmates.
I've seen some cockers who are not worthy of the name. But those are from the big-business puppymills and backyard breeders looking for a buck. The responsible breeder's primary concern is for health, good temperament and intelligence.
Your article on the Jack Russells was noteworthy. I hope to see equal coverage on the sport of dogs in the show ring, obedience trials, field trials and coursing in future issues.
Fergus Falls, Minn.
We're writing as cocker spaniel owners who agree with the uncomplimentary things you said about how inbreeding ruined the cocker. We own a parti-colored cocker bred from champion stock. She has epilepsy, a thyroid condition, infected ears and eyes, and she's the only dog we've never been able to completely housebreak—"They bred the brains right out of them!" However, we should add that we love her because she's cuddly, friendly and loyal, qualities that experts have tried to breed into other dogs.
GAIL, JEFF, KEITH and MELISSA GLINER
Fort Collins, Colo.
Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.