STICKING UP FOR UCLA
How can Curry Kirkpatrick conclude that new UCLA coach Walt Hazzard will fail when he has hardly begun (The DeBacle At DePaul, Dec. 10)? How can he imply that Reggie Miller, a sophomore, is less of an athlete than his sister Cheryl, a USC junior? Men can't be compared with women in athletics. Cheryl is wonderful, but Reggie is going to be top-notch, too. As a loyal fan of UCLA, I resent the tone of Kirkpatrick's article.
THELMA R. SCHNEBLIN
Being an avid UCLA fan, I see Curry Kirkpatrick's assault on the Bruins as a good omen. In 1979 you printed a similar article entitled The Bruins Are In Ruins (Dec. 24-31, 1979), and that season UCLA went on to the NCAA final against Louisville. As far as I'm concerned, your dire prediction means good times ahead for UCLA.
New York City
KIRK GIBSON'S YEAR
Ron Fimrite's story The Happy Hunter (Dec. 10) was a fine portrayal of one of the best comeback players of the year, Detroit's Kirk Gibson. When Gibson hit his second home run off Goose Gossage in the fifth game of the World Series, he put the finishing touches on an outstanding season.
Gibson is one of the few pro players who have not developed big egos. He sets an example that I think most players should follow. Considering all the hard work Kirk puts in, I'm glad he got the attention he deserves.
Rock Hill, S.C.
The unleashing of Kirk Gibson's "potential" certainly contributed greatly to the Tigers' wire-to-wire success in 1984, and in my opinion he should have been awarded MVP honors for the Series as well as for the championship playoff. My only complaint about Detroit's Golden Boy concerns his apparently contradictory statement that he treats his dogs like humans. I don't know of too many people who would entice a human to jump off a bridge into icy waters to retrieve a stick.
My best friend is named Whiskers. He's a Schnauzer, and he is very loyal. Unlike Kirk Gibson's best friend, Nick, he is also very intelligent. If I threw a stick off a bridge into very cold water and looked to my pal Whiskers to retrieve it, he would look back at me as if to say, "Some friend you are!" and proceed to tell me where to go.
The "napalm-smell of victory" motivational tool that the University of North Carolina women's national championship soccer team adopted (SCORECARD, Dec. 3) was an unfortunate and inappropriate expression of our players' intensity and desire to win. It most certainly did not reflect the character and flavor of the UNC athletic program, nor did it reflect a posture of our athletic or university administration. Consequently, I find it regrettable, and our team joins me in apologizing to any whom it may have offended.
However, your article indicated that it was explicitly endorsed by our administration and was printed on tournament schedules. Actually, the idea was unknown to me or any other administrators until after the tournament, and the slogan was not printed on any tournament literature except on a mimeographed team itinerary intended only for the UNC team. Coach Anson Dorrance's emphasis was on the smell-of-victory theme, not napalm, and the theme was intended for his team only, not for public purposes.
JOHN D. SWOFFORD
Director of Athletics
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C.
I agree it was unfortunate that the North Carolina women's soccer players were insensitive to the anguish many of us feel about a war they hardly remember. We might also question the literal images evoked by other sports terms, such as "blitz," "the bomb" or "crush." I attended the NCAA women's soccer finals, and while I wasn't aware of the "napalm" cheer, I did see the banner. I'm not all that distressed by this choice of words, however. With a less offensive rallying cry, the Tar Heels' fourth consecutive women's soccer title probably would have received no mention at all in SI.
JOHN W. BECTON
Chapel Hill, N.C.
WHO'S A SISSY?
As much as I love pro football and as much as I agree that soccer-style kickers somehow don't fit the macho image of the NFL, I think Roger H. Small's letter (19TH HOLE, Dec. 10) is full of garbage. Most soccer players are exceptionally skilled athletes, with the kind of speed, endurance and dedication that would more than rival that of any pro football player. In fact, nearly any soccer player can kick a football well enough to make field goals—even long ones. But how many football players possess the agility, dribbling skills and shooting ability to score a soccer goal—even from close in? There's no comparison.
In response to Roger H. Small's letter, those "sissy" soccer-style kickers with their greater accuracy and longer range are truly artists, and they make the game more exciting. Straight-on kickers would be viewed as nonathletes in any soccer-playing country. And besides, the name of the game in the NFL is not runball, passball, tackleball, catchball or blockball. It's still football, and soccer-style kickers do it better.
STEVEN ISTVAN VARSA
Virtually every sport except major college football has some sort of playoff to determine a champion. Sportswriters pick the NCAA Division I football champion, which is unfair to other contending teams. We believe that the following method would be a legitimate way to decide who's the national champion:
1) Take the winners of the six major conferences (Southeastern, Southwest, Big Ten, Big Eight, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast).
2) Combine these six and the 10 best remaining teams into a 16-team field. This year those 10 teams would include BYU, Washington, South Carolina, Nebraska, Boston College, Miami, Oklahoma State, Southern Methodist, UCLA and Auburn.
3) Have the sportswriters seed the 16 teams.
4) Allow the bowls to remain intact but make them serve a different purpose. Smaller bowls such as the Florida Citrus, Hall of Fame, Freedom and Cherry, along with the Aloha, Sun, Liberty and Peach would be the sites of the first-round games. The quarterfinals would be held in the Bluebonnet, Gator, Cotton and Fiesta bowls, the semis in the Orange and Sugar bowls, and the title game in the Rose Bowl.
5) Let the bowls increase in value. For example, a first-round game should be worth about $250,000 per team and the Rose Bowl game about $1 million per team. Thus, the national champion would benefit the most.
We realize that there may be flaws in our plan. However, this system can't be any worse than the present one.
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.