I want to congratulate Anita Verschoth on the fine job she did with her Olympic Medal Forecast (Feb. 6). Unlike William Oscar Johnson and many other Americans who had high hopes for as many as 17 medals for the U.S., Verschoth accurately predicted eight medals for our Olympic team. In fact, she came very close to predicting the exact medal count and standings for every medal-winning country in the Games.
As for the disappointing (to some) overall showing of the U.S. team, I would say one thing: Most of our interest this time was centered on hockey, figure skating and the Alpine events. We should be aware that these three categories award a total of 33 medals, nine fewer than in the Nordic events alone. Until we somehow develop a financial incentive for our speed skaters and cross-country skiers to train and compete, we can continue to expect relatively low medal totals at the Winter Games.
I kept careful track during the course of the Olympics, and after totaling up the results, I found that Anita Verschoth's successful picks for medals were down from previous Olympics—she had a .333 average with 13 gold medalists in 39 events. In comparing her performance this time with her average for Lake Placid (.421), it occurred to me that this was truly an Olympics for the surprising underdog: Debbie Armstrong, Bill Johnson, Gaétan Boucher, Marja-Liisa H√§m√§l√§inen and Paoletta Magoni are a few who come to mind.
Verschoth did much better in terms of predicting those athletes who would win some sort of medal, if not always the one she had chosen. Here her average was a very respectable .496 (.590, counting dark horses). The fact that she could so often pick a medal winner attests to her (and SI's stringers') expertise, and partly makes up for her failure to mention Kitty and Peter Carruthers in the pairs skating predictions. They weren't even a dark horse!
Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20, but how could Anita Verschoth have ignored Gaétan Boucher of Canada? His two second-place finishes in world outdoor sprint speed skating championships must have made him a pre-Olympic favorite, and not only in Canada. The fact that he has yet to lose a 1,000- or 1,500-meter event since coming off a broken ankle last year is remarkable enough, but you still ignored him. He proved you wrong, to our delight.
FATHERS AND SONS, AND UNLV
Thank you very much for the positive article on Jerry Tarkanian, his son Danny and Nevada, Las Vegas basketball (The Son Has Also Risen, Feb. 20). As a graduate of the UNLV hotel school, I'm very proud of the basketball program Tarkanian has built. In the past I've been upset about the mostly negative press that has plagued UNLV basketball and Tarkanian. Jerry always has had great teams, and above all that, he has always taken care of his players, in school and out.
ANDREW J. SULTAN
North Miami Beach, Fla.
I commend Alexander Wolff for a well-written article on the Tarkanians. Certainly, my estimation of Jerry Tarkanian is much higher than it was. The article revealed a man who is truly and deeply concerned about the welfare of the young men who play for him, not a ruthless exploiter, which is what I had previously envisioned Tarkanian to be.
WILLIAM J. WARFEL
Alexander Wolff's article on the Tarkanians and UNLV depicts collegiate athletics as it is in this day and age. Jerry Tarkanian has led the Running Rebels to an outstanding winning percentage in the last 10 years. But is winning the bottom line? According to my rough calculations, in Tarkanian's 10 years at UNLV, fewer than 35% of his players have graduated. This sad scenario made me thank God for coaches like Joe Paterno and Dean Smith, who have excellent winning and graduating percentages.
Grove City, Pa.
The story of the Tarkanians was most interesting, and so was the sidebar on other coaches and sons in basketball. However, you left out two of the most famous father-and-son combinations: Adolph Rupp and his son Herky, who played for his father at Kentucky in 1959-62, and Ed Diddle and his son Eddie Jr., who was an excellent player for his father at Kentucky Western in 1948-51.
WALTER WENDELL ARNETT
Another successful father-and-son combination is coach Bob Bessoir and son Billy of the University of Scranton. Billy led the Royals to a Division III national title in 1983 and was the tournament MVP. Bob was voted Coach of the Year.
The Royals, with Bob and Billy, are currently 22-5 and ranked 10th nationally. They have just won the Middle Atlantic Conference Northern Division championship and are headed for the NCAA Division III regional. Billy is only a junior.
RICHARD J. HILLIS
Thanks to Robert H. Boyle for his article on Donald Trump (The USFL's Trump Card, Feb. 13). I hope this will prove to all your readers that Trump is for real. If his sports venture (the New Jersey Generals) turns out to be as successful as his business ventures, then the NFL had better be prepared for the biggest shock of its life.
JOHN P. KUCKO
In light of the article on Donald Trump, it is painfully obvious that he can indeed lay claim to being the media darling, thanks to his purchase of the New Jersey Generals. He has played you folks in the media like a drum, and the saddest thing is that you've marched to his every beat.
Whatever iota of credibility Trump may have possessed upon his entry into sports, it washed away quickly with the fiasco of the Shula incident. Don Shula's class and integrity stand so high they make Trump Tower look like a mere weed.
Outrageous and unheard-of salaries for defensive backs and washed-up quarterbacks do not buy a championship. And Trump should remember that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Beware, Mr. Trump.
It's a good thing Donald Trump doesn't gamble. He might lose every dollar he ever earned if he bet on there being a Galaxy Bowl in three years. On the other hand, he could probably double his fortune wagering that there will be no USFL in three years.
As a lifelong fan of Pete Rose's, I was delighted to read Ron Fimirite's article Pete's Out to Prove He Can Pull His Weight (Feb. 13). It's just a shame that such a hapless team as the Cincinnati Reds did not deem Pete worthy of a contract offer. After two dismal seasons, one would think Cincinnati would be eager to bring Rose back to give its young team the leadership and winning attitude it has been missing since he left.
The weight of Pete Rose should pull the Montreal Expos down to fourth place. Who needs a weak-hitting, lead-footed leftfielder who suffers from delusions of grandeur? He'll fit right in with Gary Carter and the rest of the self-proclaimed talent-rich Expos! The prospect of Rose playing every day brings back memories of an over-the-hill Willie Mays in centerfield in the 1973 World Series. Hang it up, Pete, while you still have some semblance of dignity!
William Nack's article on Butch van Breda Kolff ("I Made My Own Bed, I've Cot to Lie in It," Feb. 20) was a splendid portrait of the man and the coach, an absolute joy to read. As for van Breda Kolff himself, I take my hat off to him for maintaining his tireless devotion to seeing the game of basketball played "right." I wish I could have had a coach like him—or better yet, I wish I could have had him for a coach.
JOHN T. MORAN
After reading William Nack's story about him, I can't understand why I never liked Butch van Breda Kolff. A fine story on a fine coach and a warm human being. What a pity his life is so sad.
Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate Butch van Breda Kolff's coaching technique in the NBA. But I have to admire a man who kept Wilt Chamberlain benched in possibly the biggest game of his coaching career.
Fantastic job by William Nack.
Michigan City, Ind.
I really enjoyed the article on Butch van Breda Kolff. Can you imagine him coaching some of today's NBA crybabies?
I enjoyed William Nack's piece on Butch van Breda Kolff. I was also pleased to see that the up-and-coming sport of "deck toss" has finally been given the national attention it deserves, thanks to the photo on page 67 of the article showing Butch's MVP trophy from the "VBK Family Reunion Deck Toss Championship" of June 1982. However, as my photograph (below) shows, VBK is not the only championship-caliber deck tosser in the country. I am the reigning Eastern Regional champion and mighty proud of it. I therefore propose that VBK and I have a toss-off, at his convenience, of course, to determine the world champion.
•For the uninitiated, the game of deck toss, a van Breda Kolff family invention ("It started at my house on the Jersey shore," says Butch), consists of chucking empty beer cans—soda cans are discouraged but allowed—from a high sun deck down into three or four trash cans lined up in the backyard at varying distances from the deck. Points are awarded according to which receptacle one hits—a point for the closest, two for the next closest, etc.—with trees or other obstacles all in play. Anyone who finishes a drink during a round gets an extra toss. In the version reader Conners plays (he learned the game from Butch's daughter Karen and her husband, Arthur Young, of Baltimore), there are 10 rounds in each game, with the loser of each round delegated to fetch the empties for the succeeding round.—ED.
The great VBK laments his inability to motivate students in his world history classes. Let's look at their teacher: flunked out of one college twice, majored in physical education in another during the 1940s, "never taught school before" and "merely reads one or two days ahead of his students" to get ready for class. Who needs to be motivated? Good basketball coach? Maybe. Good teacher? No.
MILTON S. ALBRITTON
Park Forest, Ill.
The great shot of Johnny Mathis at the Crosby (The Bumper Pool Crosby, Feb. 13) made us feel Wonderful, Wonderful, but the caption, "Chances Are Mathis won't make another ace," is Not for You to Say. In fact, Johnny's ace on the 15th at the Crosby was preceded by another hole in one last July 10, on the 17th at the Seaview Country Club in Absecon, N.J. And Chances Are he'll do it again long before the Twelfth of Never, which will make us all Misty!
Public Relations Consultant to Johnny Mathis
As a staunch Buckeye, I found the fraternization and partnership at the Crosby of Jack Nicklaus, formerly of Ohio State, and Gerald Ford, formerly of Michigan and pictured wearing a scarlet-and-gray sweater, no less, revolting!
Jim Kaplan's article about Joe Sobek (SIDELINE, Feb. 13) gave due credit to the inventor of racquetball. Your readers might be interested to know, however, that the University of Connecticut's Historical Manuscripts and Archives contains not only Sobek's blueprint for the first racquet, but also four linear feet of correspondence detailing the growth and rules development of the sport. We also have an original racquet and ball.
Anyone interested in exploring the history of racquetball is welcome to write for further information or an appointment.
RANDALL C. JIMERSON
University of Connecticut
'OVER THE FENCE'
I just read your special issue, The Year in Sports (Feb. 8), in which you mentioned, in LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER, that SI's soft-ball team, managed by associate writer Steve Wulf, had "an unforgettable season because [the] one road game was against the House Foreign Affairs team on the lush grass of the Ellipse in Washington, D.C."
In June 1949, after playing and umpiring baseball games there many times and losing many balls hit into the White House grounds, I took the enclosed photograph (below), which is entitled Over the Fence. I thought your staffers and readers might enjoy seeing it.
Royal Palm Beach, Fla.
The moral of this story? When playing on Washington's Ellipse, bring extra balls.
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.