Don't you dare suggest tampering with college basketball's new three-point line (The Three-Point Uproar, Jan. 5)! If the shot is so easy, why don't teams come downcourt and shoot from that distance every time?
In the same issue you praise Kentucky's freshman sensation, Rex Chapman, who can do it all—including bomb away from the three-point distance (A Wild New Cats' Meow).
In the past a college recruiter only had to find a 7-footer to plant under the basket to make a run at the national title. Now that same recruiter will have to find both a big man for the paint and a kid who can launch a field goal from the three-point line with consistency.
The three-point play at its present distance of 19'9" is college basketball's answer to the home run and the touchdown pass. Don't suggest spoiling it by moving the three-point line so far away from the basket that it becomes the come-from-behind desperation shot we see in the NBA.
Rohnert Park, Calif.
I think the main reason coaches around the country don't want the three-point rule is that they don't want to lose. A "rules committee and a man with a paintbrush" didn't beat Baylor, as Baylor coach Gene Iba claimed, Oklahoma State did. The Cowboys saw what it would take to win and went with it. Just as Maine did against Michigan State. Just as Western Michigan did against Michigan. Just as UNLV did against Western Kentucky. Coaches who don't like losing should adapt to the situation. Charles Darwin would have loved the three-point field goal.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
One thought: If 19'9" is too close and too easy for three points, what's a slam dunk worth? Half a point?
THOMAS J. SMITH
Figure it this way: A good-shooting ball club can make 50% of its shots from the two-point range, so that 50 shots will result in 25 baskets or 50 points. Now, by stepping out to 19'9", one need shoot only 34% (17 of 50) in order to get 51 points. Any guard who can't make one in three shots from the top of the key should be playing intramural basketball. Plus there is an added bonus in shooting from the three-point range, namely that the ball rebounds farther out and is more likely to end up in the hands of the offensive team for another opportunity.
If I were a college coach today, I would find myself five diminutive guards, place them in an arc around the three-point line and have them bomb away.
SCOTT OSUR, M.D.
I applaud Jack McCallum for his proposal to extend the three-point line from 19'9" to 21 feet. While the 21-foot three-pointer would not be as long as the pros' 23'9", it would be long enough to make the shot a challenge.
ERIC J. STOECKER
Windsor Locks, Conn.
McCallum has the right idea but the wrong solution. His proposal is a good one, but 21 feet is still too short. It's only 15 inches farther from the basket than the present line and only six inches farther out than the international three-point line (which McCallum admits is too close). I say increase the distance to the NBA's 23'9" and make the players earn their three points.
The three-point shot is a crashing bore to watch and could be setting a dangerous precedent. Next season we may have a half-court shot worth four points and a full-court shot worth five points.
JUNE E. COOLEY
ON THE MOUNTS
Thanks for the memories (A Grand And Heavy Legacy, Dec. 22-29). As an elementary school student growing up in Indiana, I idolized Rick Mount to the point of trying to perfect a jump shot like his. I worked long hours every day, and it paid off. I was one of the leading high school scorers in Indiana in 1973 and was a three-time small college All-America, shooting 51.4% in field goals and 90.3% in free throws at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.
There is no question that Rick Mount was the best pure jump shooter ever. I'm sure he doesn't realize that he made a lot of other Indiana ballplayers better also.
After reading your article on the Mount family, I resolved never to become a pushy parent. Ex-athletes should encourage their children but not attempt to relive long-lost dreams!
DAVID M. RUFF
SPORT AND CIVILIZATION
Many thanks to Gary Smith for A Letter From South America (Dec. 22-29), which so sensitively put sport into the larger context of human needs. I plan to make Smith's article required reading in a course on world hunger that I will teach this fall. One of the goals of the course is to make clear that the most valuable thing grinding poverty strips from human beings is their sense of hope, their vision of how they might escape poverty's clutch. Smith's article makes that point vividly and poignantly.
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Ohio Wesleyan University
I enjoyed reading about Smith's experiences while teaching English and pursuing sports and fitness in a poor culture. It is only when I am injured or, for whatever reason, find myself unable to exercise that I appreciate what a luxury a five-mile run or an hour of tennis is.
Nikos Kazantzakis wrote in Report to Greco: "When life has succeeded by dint of daily effort in conquering the enemies around it—natural forces, wild beasts, hunger, thirst, sickness—sometimes it is lucky enough to have abundant strength left over. This strength it seeks to squander in sport. Civilization begins at the moment sport begins."
If each individual in one of the have countries were to make the same commitment that Gary Smith has made to provide education or some other resource for the development of a have-not country, the benefit to the progress of mankind would be incalculable.
MARK H. BRAKKE, M.D.
Coon Rapids, Minn.
Gary Smith's Letter From South America revived memories of a trip my wife and I took to my native Cuba in the summer of 1979. After a 19-year absence, I had gone back for a week to visit my family. At that time my wife and I were serious long-distance runners, and we ventured to take our daily runs through the streets of Havana.
In spite of the Castro government's emphasis on sports for the people and Cuba's strong showing in international track and field competition, road running in Cuba seemed to be a novelty. My wife and I did not come across any other runners, and we attracted quite a few stares and comments. The most telling incident, however, occurred when a young boy, seeing us run by, turned to his father and said, "íMira, Papi, los Rusos!" ("Look, Daddy, the Russians!")
LOSING STREAK (CONT.)
Concerning your story last fall about Columbia University football (The Lions Go Out Like Lambs, Dec. 1), that mother who wept over her athlete son's interest in Columbia has even greater reason to shed tears. She turned him away from a golden opportunity for a superb education at a first-rate university. He has also missed playing for a coach, Larry McElreavy, who understands that college football should be a sport in an academic setting rather than a product in a media market.
When McElreavy came to our home to interview our son, Jamie, a quarterback on the freshman team, we met a man who is an appealing mix of personal pride, professional skill and commitment to the athlete as a student.
The news from Wein Stadium is already good. This past season's freshman team, McElreavy's first recruitment effort, was 3-3 in Ivy League play, and the young Lions were competitive in two of the losses. The only tears shed in our home were tears of joy when our son was accepted as a Columbia student and invited to be a Columbia athlete.
THE REVEREND GORDON N. BUTCHER
Park Ridge, Ill.
I find it hard to believe that you would publish six pages plus 10 color photographs about the futility of the Columbia football program, while the University of Pennsylvania Quakers, who had an undefeated season while winning a record fifth consecutive Ivy League title, got only a passing mention in that week's COLLEGE FOOTBALL column.
Columbia football is neither to be pitied nor scorned—only ignored.
Have we reached the point where gross incompetence is considered more newsworthy than excellence? I certainly hope not.
JAMES V. MCCONNELL JR.
Mount Kisco, N.Y.
CHAPMAN MAKES A POINT
My curiosity has the better of me! On the Jan. 5 cover, there is a small photograph of Kentucky's Rex Chapman. Please give me a clearer picture of what is on the gold chain around his neck.
•It says CHAPMAN (see below)).—ED
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