Thank you for Frank Deford's excellent and well-timed article on John McEnroe ("So, Why Can't You Smile?", June 25). Just when it appeared that the media (SI's Curry Kirkpatrick is a fine example) had succeeded in convincing the public that Mac is the worst person on earth, Deford showed us that John might not be such a terrible guy after all.
It's true that McEnroe has a very long way to go before he can gain admiration from the world's sporting public, but he'll never accomplish this if the media portray him only as an Ugly American and not as Deford did—as an artist and a genius with a racket.
At last, someone with clout and a respected opinion has given us a fair, accurate portrait of the true Johnny Mac. As only he could, Frank Deford showed us a side of McEnroe that I long suspected did exist, though no writer had ever revealed it before.
I've contended, to the consternation of many friends, that McEnroe is the only entertaining and interesting figure in all of professional tennis, and that his anticipated tirades are what break up the tedium and monotony inherent in televised matches.
As for all the narrow, pompous, self-righteous tennis people who deplore his outbreaks, I ask why they aren't similarly outraged when they see a batter vehemently argue a called third strike or an NBA player give a referee some serious lip after being called for a foul. No doubt it's because tennis, unlike other sports, has its arguments broadcast for the whole world to hear. If these people didn't know what Mac was saying, then they simply wouldn't care and would probably forget that he argued at all.
McEnroe might be an extreme, but at least he's at the right end of the spectrum. Though I I find televised tennis unbearably boring, I make it a point never to miss a McEnroe match. Johnny Mac and Frank Deford, I salute them both!
Thank God somebody has finally taken notice of John McEnroe's tennis genius and viewed him in a positive light. I'm sick of the jerks who boo and catcall McEnroe, yet root for that hypocrite, Jimmy Connors, whose newly acquired pious airs are quite nauseating. Wasn't he the "bad boy" of tennis not so long ago? No one seems to remember—not even Connors, who's had the nerve to tell John to grow up. McEnroe has added superior talent and "How did he do that?" wonder to a sport that really had started to sag.
MARY JO GREGG
I'm sure Frank Deford's fine article will inspire quite a few "McEnroe is a bad influence on our tennis playing children" and "How can you defend a poor sport like that" responses, but I, for one, like and agree with McEnoroe. Tennis officiating is substandard compared to officiating in other professional sports. Nine times out of 10, television replays either confirm Mac's protestations or are inconclusive. I also wonder if someone like former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who is respected throughout the sporting world, would be where he is today if we had been able to hear everything he said to the umpires over the course of his illustrious career. Keep up the good work, Mac.
Not in all my 50-plus years of following sports of all kinds, professional and amateur, have I been so bothered as I was by Frank Deford's apologia for Jonn McEnroe. it's not that Deford in any way denies that McEnroe is all the things he has been portrayed to be—a boor, a lout, a brat—it's that Deford excuses this type of behavior on the grounds that McEnroe is a "genius" on the court.
No one would deny that McEnroe is one of the most technically proficient tennis players of all time. That ability alone, however, doesn't make him great. His contribution to the game is zero. His contribution to the country is zero—notwithstanding the fact that he plays in Davis Cup competition. His contribution to young people is minus zero. His legacy will, in fact, be zero because he is a one-dimensional figure who supplies nothing but negatives.
McEnroe is quoted by Deford as saying, "I want people to respect me. I'm human. I like to be liked, too. But not if I have to be a phony." How ridiculous! What he's saying is that to be normally decent would be phony.
In my opinion, McEnroe should be exposed to the same strict discipline that is employed in other sports. He should be fined, thrown out of tournaments and, if necessary, barred from competitive tennis. He is a disgrace to the sport, to the American people and, saddest of all, to himself.
RICHARD A. LYDECKER
West End, N.C.
Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words, and all the words extolling John McEnroe's hidden virtues will never excuse his puerile behavior on the court. He degrades the game of tennis and demeans the word sportsman. I wonder if he'll ever comprehend that respect and admiration are earned, not demanded; that character and integrity are developed, not inherited; that class and style are achieved, not bestowed. If he does, he might be remembered as the greatest tennis player of his time, which he wants to be, instead of as the greatest embarrassment to his sport, which, sadly, he has become.
When will some courageous tennis official throw caution and gate receipts to the winds and put child John where he belongs—outside, looking in? Officialdom's unwillingness to throw the book at McEnroe simply invites other talented youngsters to play out their careers as perpetually spoiled adolescents.
FUZZY AND OREO
Bravo to Fuzzy Zoeller and Greg Norman (Fuzzy Wasn't Fazed by the Shark Attack, June 25). What a contrast the final days of their competition at Winged Foot were to professional tennis tournaments in recent years. Nasty-tempered, foul-mouthed tennis players continue to verbally assail officials and even each other on the courts. Meanwhile, the 1984 U.S. Open had towel-waving golfers according each other respect, and an obviously sincere congratulatory handshake by Norman, the loser, on the final playoff hole lit up the TV screen. Zoeller and Norman showed that pro athletes can still vie for an important title and a large sum of money with a little humor and a great deal of class.
It will be an injustice if Zoeller and Norman aren't named Sportsmen of the Year.
ONE MORE CELTICS TITLE
In the locker room after his team had won Super Bowl XVIII, Al Davis said the 1983-84 Raiders were one of the greatest teams in professional sports. The Raiders are the greatest in football, yes, but the Boston Celtics (Green and White and Red All Over, June 25) are the greatest organization in pro sports. Red Auerbach's achievement is unmatched. The faces change, but the outcome remains the same. Basketball is a team game, and no one knows that better than Auerbach.
Having been a fan of the Boston Celtics for many, many years and one who has enjoyed the success of Red Auerbach as coach, I thought it rather tasteless that the successful season of the present coach, K.C. Jones, was ignored. There wasn't one quote in the article regarding Jones's reaction to his marvelous victory. My hat is off to Jones. He's been a winner for a long time, too.
New York City
As a fan of the Boston Celtics since the mid-'50s, I read with considerable relish Anthony Cotton's insightful account of Game 7 of this year's NBA championship series. Nevertheless, I take exception to Cotton's description of Red Auerbach as "the only man who has participated in every Celtic championship." Another man has also been a part of every Celtic championship—their venerable and inspirational announcer, Johnny Most.
RICHARD F. GREENLAW
HUMPHRIES' REPORT CARD (CONT.)
As a graduate of the University of Michigan College of Engineering, I read with interest Douglas S. Looney's article on Stefan Humphries and the subsequent letter to the editor (19TH HOLE, June 25) from two University of Tennessee students questioning whether Humphries took enough credits during his freshman year. SI correctly indicated that no infraction of NCAA rules was involved but gave an incorrect reason.
Michigan is not on a quarter system. Rather, it is on what is known as a "trimester" system; i.e., two 16-week semesters during the regular school year (known as fall and winter terms) and two eight-week summer school sessions (known as spring and summer terms). So, another look at the picture of Humphries' transcript will reveal that he took a total of 26 semester hours during his regular freshman school year and then took an additional seven hours during the spring term of summer school. This adds up to 33 semester hours, which is equivalent to 49½ quarter hours, and is so far in excess of the 24 semester or 36 quarter hours now required by the NCAA as to be laughable.
HOWARD D. BARLOW
KEEPING AN EYE ON HANA
Curry Kirkpatrick's reference to Hana Mandlikova as a comparative child "who happened to have one charmed day" when she beat Martina Navratilova in Oakland earlier this year (Worthy of Really High Fives, June 18) was a slight to one of the best and most consistent tennis players today. The 22-year-old Mandlikova has won five Virginia Slims events this year, including the victory over Martina, and she has raised her ranking to No. 3 in the world. Moreover, this "child" won the French Open in 1981 and the Australian Open in 1980, and she was the U.S. Open runner-up in 1980 and '82 and the Wimbledon runner-up in 1981. In other words, she had been a finalist in all four Grand Slam events and had won two of them by the age of 20. Hana obviously has had other charmed days, and it appears that more will follow.
MAC IN WAX
Accompanying your June 25 article on John McEnroe was a most remarkable picture of McEnroe looking at his double in Madame Tussaud's wax museum. I can't believe the realism of the wax figure. The controversial and talented tennis star has finally gained a good reflection of himself. But just so we can be sure, would you please tell us which was which?
RICHARD GIBBENS ROBICHAUX
•The wax imitation, shown above with Tussaud's likeness of Bjorn Borg, was the one with the red headband.—ED.
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