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Original Issue


Ah, come on, SI. The Dallas Cowboys exposed as "a creaking battleship that has seen its best days, its engines straining, the rifling in its gun barrels worn out" (A Capital Day for the Skins, Jan. 31)? What do you and Ralph Wiley call the 24 teams that didn't make the conference championship games, overaged tugboats?

I applaud the Redskins for winning the NFC title. They played with more intensity and emotion than Dallas did. But, the Cowboys' days in the sun over? No way! Dallas has the best organization, bar none—witness its participation in 16 of the last 17 playoffs. The rest of the league is striving merely for parity with the Cowboys, so don't dry-dock this ship yet! All Dallas needs is enthusiasm.
Waynesville, Mo.

Ralph Wiley's piece on the scalping of America's Team was a delight. What you're hearing, sports fans, is the sound of a dynasty crumbling, and a sweet sound it is to us Anybody-But-Dallas fans. How do I spell relief? R-E-D-S-K-I-N-S!
Sioux City, Iowa

Heartfelt thanks from all of us linemen across the country. It was fantastic to see Washington Defensive Tackle Darryl Grant's post-touchdown spike on your Jan. 31 cover. The lineman's dream of scoring a touchdown was beautifully portrayed. It's also good to see that a lineman can be a cover subject once in a while, instead of another one of those "superstar" running backs.
DePauw University
Greencastle, Ind.

I agree wholeheartedly with the observations made in the article by Bil Gilbert and Lisa Twyman about fan violence (Violence: Out of Hand in the Stands, Jan. 31). I gave up my season tickets to San Diego Charger games because the section in which I was seated became a combat zone. It makes me sick to watch drunken fans ruining the game for all those around them.

As a former college football and track athlete, I know that the players themselves don't help matters much with their overly aggressive behavior, like the obvious showboating and taunting that take place after almost every good play. Maybe many of today's so-called stars should watch game films of Merlin Olsen, Dick Butkus or Jim Brown and see how the real superstars acted. It takes more than stirring the crowd into a frenzy after a sack to make it into the Hall of Fame.

Also, I think the media should take some of the blame for promoting fan violence. Your Jan. 31 cover shot of Darryl Grant spiking the ball encourages this behavior in younger players. Did Brown ever spike a ball? It seems that it isn't enough anymore to be a fine athlete, you must also be colorful. Cameras follow players like the Jets' ultra-demonstrative defensive end, Mark Gastineau, not just because of his obvious skills, but in hopes he will perform for the crowd. Some unruly fans identify with this playing-field behavior, and often the result is violence.
San Diego

As an avid sports fan, I found the article on violence in the stands interesting and alarming. It was interesting to learn that the brutality that occurs on the ice in hockey does not seem to cause a significant increase in violence in the stands, but it was alarming to discover that team owners know what booze does to fans yet still allow it, because booze means money.

Banning alcohol at all sporting events would be fine with me. There is nothing worse than sitting in the stands amid fans who are so boozed up they don't care about the game anymore.
San Jose, Calif.

Show me a spectator who is happy to be losing his bet and I will show you a non-violent spectator! Doesn't gambling add fuel to violence? Many fans arrive at events, particularly in the pros, facing a dilemma of their own creation: They want their team or man to win, but they don't want to lose their bet. This is a significant part of the problem of crowd behavior, yet no mention of this was made in your article. A lot could be written about the influence and effect of the point spread on how fans act at sporting events.

I was disgusted to read a suggestion by Dr. John Cheffers that hockey may be moving in the direction of the "giggle sports," such as pro wrestling and Roller Derby. A few years ago I might have gone along with Cheffers' theories, but these days they just don't wash. With the help of many talented young players—most prominent among them SI's 1982 Sportsman of the Year, Wayne Gretzky—and recent rule changes regarding violence, hockey is again becoming a fast-paced, artistic sport. NHL President John Ziegler may be slow to move, but his actions have had effect.

Furthermore, Cheffers' speculations about the relationship between violence on the ice and the relative mannerliness of the spectators are an insult to hockey fans. Could it be that most hockey spectators are simply intelligent enough to see that fan violence is useless and unnecessary?

Forget about Slap Shot, Dr. Cheffers. Things have changed.
Kingsville, Ohio

I'm one of the spectators at the Kentucky Derby each year who are appalled to witness the plucking, trampling and brazen destruction of hundreds of the tulips that grace Churchill Downs. Dr. John Cheffers had best look beyond the flora to find the "seeds of fan restraint."
Genoa City, Wis.

Give Bil Gilbert and Lisa Twyman high marks in sociology and psychology but a low one in history. Riotous chariot races did occur during the reign of Justinian. However, the year was 532 A.D., not 532 B.C. as stated. At about the same time, the famous Byzantine emperor codified the laws that provide the legal basis for curbing many types of antisocial behavior by Western man and fan.
Arnold, Md.

I had to laugh at Bill Veeck's comment concerning George Steinbrenner's influence on violence in the stands. Wasn't it Veeck whose Disco Demolition Night resulted in the crowd's invading the playing field and the forfeit of the second game of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park a few years back?
Astoria, N.Y.

•Yes, on July 12, 1979.—ED.

I read with great interest your recent article about Coach Lou Campanelli of James Madison University (Madison's Ave. to Success, Dec. 27-Jan. 3). In it, brief mention was made of Madison's athletic director, Dean Ehlers. If he's the same Dean Ehlers I remember from my youth, Campanelli would do well to consult him about shooting if the Dukes ever fall into a scoring slump. Ehlers was a basketball legend in southern Illinois during the mid-'40s, and the only reason he didn't get more ink was that he played for a very small rural high school and was following in the wake of stars like Dike Eddleman and the Whiz Kids of Illinois.

When I was a junior high school student in Murphysboro, down in the Little Egypt area of southern Illinois, my mother took a wartime substitute-teaching job at Campbell Hill High, where Ehlers was a student. Like most kids my age in Illinois at that time, I was a basketball nut, and for the two years my mom taught at Campbell Hill, I watched Ehlers perform hardwood miracles. He could make 'em from three to 30 feet out and anywhere in between, and he routinely scored 30 or 40 points a game. He even scored 60 or more a couple of times. Remember, this was in an era when—and in an area where—team scoring averages were usually in the 40s and 50s. Ehlers was about 6'2", maybe a little taller, blond, handsome and, as my mother tells it, a model student, leader and athlete. I believe he played college ball at Central, now Central Methodist, in Missouri and later coached at Memphis State. That's the last I'd heard about him until your story about James Madison.

In any case, he was one of the best high school players I've ever seen, and he was the first real jump-shooter in our end of the state. He was my boyhood idol, and it's nice to see he's still in the game.
Springfield, Ill.

•Ehlers is one and the same.—ED.

When I heard of Chaminade's incredible upset over Virginia (Very Small but Very Deadly, Jan. 10), I was shocked but not surprised. From 1962 to '65, I was fortunate enough to play for Merv Lopes at Kailua High. He was a strict fundamentalist even then, and a superb strategist.

In 1965, Kailua went to the eight-team state tournament as seventh seed and without three of its starters, who were suspended for misconduct. Using a matchup zone and a tightly patterned offense, Kailua upset St. Joseph's of Hilo and St. Louis of Honolulu to reach the finals, against Kamehameha, where we lost by something like 55-49.

Things haven't changed much since then. Lopes still stresses defense, gets 110% out of his players and is still without his own gym—in those three seasons at Kailua, we practiced and played our home games at Castle High, our crosstown rival.
Kailua, Hawaii

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