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Strokes of Genius

I was pleasantly surprised with your story on Michael Phelps (Water Craft, Aug. 23). After months of watching Phelps's commercials and after reading an article in Time magazine that made him seem money-hungry and arrogant (the cover photo was particularly overbearing), I was prepared to not like him. Then I listened to poolside interviews, and my opinion of him quickly changed. And reading Tim Layden's article, in which he told a story about Phelps's showing his first gold medal to his mother, sealed the deal. Thanks for making Phelps out to be what he is: an extremely talented 19year-old kid enjoying himself on the world's biggest stage.

Erika Soublet, Portland

The mind-bending selection process for SI's Sportsman of the Year just got a lot easier. Michael Phelps should win the award hands down.

Ransom E. Barber, Annandale, Va.

Hostile Territory

I was deeply saddened after reading S.L. Price's article about anti-American sentiment and protests against American foreign policy in Greece (American Graffiti, Aug. 23). Although I don't condone over-the-top celebrations, American athletes should be allowed to celebrate their country and their success with joy and excitement. What a shame that the current state of affairs does not allow them to do so.

Mandy Pfeifer, Willard, Mo.

What a difference six years make. When I visited Athens in 1998, our tour guide took us by the statue of President Truman and commented on how much the Greeks admired and loved him. Why? The Truman Doctrine saved Greece from the Communists after World War II. To read how this statue is now a target of protesters and anti-American graffiti is unbelievable. It clearly illustrates that all of the goodwill and support we had after Sept. 11 has been replaced by hatred because of the war in Iraq.

Larry C. Hansgen Columbus, Ohio

Missing Persons

Aye-aye to Jack McCallum's Bad Dream (Aug. 23). Not to pass the buck, but let's place the blame where it belongs: on the NBA rules committee, which decided to move the three-point line back three feet to create space for ticket-selling dunkers. That has morphed a balanced team game into a dysfunctional one played by cookie-cutter small forwards (masquerading as guards and power forwards) who can dunk from the foul line but can't shoot from it. Let three-point sharpshooters clear the lane for our entertaining dunkers and mammoth centers by moving the three-point line back to where it belongs. That would help the U.S. regain international prominence and also make the NBA game a team sport again.

Paul Harmer, Page, Ariz.

The poor showing by the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is far more indicative of the style of play in the NBA than the talent level. Too many players want to be the next Michael Jordan rather than emulate the way Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played. Commissioner David Stern should focus more on operational excellence than on marketing.

Jim Norton, Milford, Mass.

People seem to forget that basketball at the Olympics is a team game. The best team is the current NBA champion. Why not have that team represent our country every four years? Then we would have no excuses.

Jim Shea, Winneconne, Wis.

Despite the fact that Puerto Rico was not one of the stronger teams at the Olympics, it demonstrated tremendous teamwork, hustle and composure. It is not embarrassing to lose to such a group. Members of the Dream Team, while being lambasted for their lack of effort and for being poor role models, actually exhibited sportsmanship. They acknowledged their opponents' performances and accepted the defeat with professionalism. In this instance Allen Iverson and many of his teammates were excellent role models.

Ernest Rodriquez, Nashville

Phil the One

Vijay Singh won the PGA Championship because Justin Leonard collapsed on the final four holes (Straits to the Top, Aug. 23). He is a grinder who plays every week and thereby wins more often than other top players. But the best in the world? Please. The top player this year is Phil Mickelson, without question.

Ralph S. Brax, Lancaster, Calif.

Boomer or Bust?

Charles Pierce missed the whole point of Chris Berman's popularity (Boom Times, Aug. 23). Pierce mentions Boomer's roots as a fan but doesn't acknowledge his passion for the sports he covers. The excitement he brings to NFL PrimeTime and his descriptions of a Rrrraaaaiidddaaass versus San Diego SuperChargers game are infectious.

Joe Werner, Louisville

With his worn-out catchphrases and inane nicknames, Berman has set an unfortunate standard for today's breed of shtick-over-substance broadcasters. More important, he violates the most basic standard of journalism: not making yourself part of the story.

Jeff M. Perlman, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Pierce accuses ESPN (and Chris Berman) of blurring the line between the E, entertainment, and the S, sports. Excuse me? I thought sports were supposed to be entertaining. Many people follow sports because they offer us a temporary respite from the everyday realities of the world.

Cameron L. Macdonald, Madison, Wis.

Pierce ridicules Chris Berman for turning sports into entertainment and for having too much fun on the air. Pierce should laud Berman for enjoying sports and his job.

Katie Popik, Richmond

Beyond the Streak

I have been intrigued by the De La Salle High football team ever since I first heard about "the streak" several years ago (The Little School That Can't Be Beat, Aug. 23). I expected to learn of shady recruiting tactics and a team made up of 300pound linemen, running backs who run the 40-yard dash in 4.25 seconds and a quarterback who could throw a football 75 yards. It's heartwarming to learn that the team and its coach are just a bunch of average guys who seem to really love the game and work hard to succeed.

Jim Lavold, Wauwatosa, Wis.

As an assistant track coach at the school for the last seven years and a father of two recent De La Salle graduates, I think Kelley King did a great job of capturing the spirit of coaching kids first and football players second. Coach Lad, Coach Edison and the rest of the staff are the real deal.

Brad Rutledge, Walnut Creek, Calif.

As much as I applaud coach Bob Ladouceur for molding countless young men in a positive way, I can't help but wince at the thought of where high school sports have gone in just the past couple of decades. A workout and practice schedule that begins in January and runs up to the start of the season? Players dropping other sports so they can concentrate solely on football? I sure do miss the days when high school kids played more than one sport.

Mike Rich, Beaverton, Ore.

I had the privilege of being Bob Ladouceur's position coach at San Jose State University. Despite having knee and shoulder surgeries, he was one of the quickest and toughest players I've ever coached. But aside from his athletic talent, he was a strong, moral man with great study and work habits and a wonderful approach to everyday life. He is still the quiet, hardworking, unassuming person that he was as an athlete. The young men at De La Salle who have come under his tutelage will one day realize what a great man and great role model they played for.

Dick Mannini, Twain Harte, Calif.

Political Football

The Great Pigskin Debate between Condoleezza Rice and James Carville (Scorecard, Aug. 23) was great fun, but it clearly pointed out distinctions between the two combatants, and perhaps between the two parties: Rice was informed, thorough, analytical, respectful and positive. Carville was ill-informed, discourteous, bombastic, bumbling and negative.

Ken Tippery, Royal Oak, Mich.

I was struck by Carville's blatant dislike for the Michigan Wolverines. I can't help but wonder where this hatred comes from. Could it be that the Wolverines are the alltime winningest team in Division IA history? Or is it the fact that they have won more than five times as many national titles as Mr. Carville's beloved LSU Tigers? I guess playing "dull, uninspired, gutless football, year in and year out" as Carville described it, has been very successful at Michigan.

Robert Keene, Lexington, S.C.

Mr. Carville should praise, not criticize, the BCS. That flawed system allowed his LSU Tigers to avoid a head-to-head meeting with USC and ultimately gave a piece of the national title to LSU.

Scott Parsell, Chicago


I found Rick Reilly's column about carrying the Olympic torch disrespectful (The Life of Reilly, Aug. 23). Why did he bother to carry the torch? Just so he could write about his buffoonery?

Lou Ganim, Clifton Park, N.Y.

Cover Worthy

I'm glad Beth Riggs is excited about Lance Armstrong's sixth Tour de France victory (Letters, Aug. 23), but allow me to justify Michael Phelps's sharing the Aug. 2 cover with Armstrong. Riggs asks, "What does a guy have to do [to get on the cover?]" Well, here's what Phelps had done to that point in his relatively short career: set 11 world records, including five at the 2003 world championships, and won 20 U.S. national titles. If that doesn't justify an SI cover appearance, I would like to hear Riggs answer her own question.

Davis Mello, Nashville

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Spare Ribbies

In his piece about whether or not Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez belongs in the Hall of Fame (Inside Baseball, Aug. 23), Tom Verducci says the fact that Martinez had only six 100-RBI seasons could hurt his chances of being inducted. Mickey Mantle, Willie McCovey and George Brett had four, Al Kaline had three, and Roberto Clemente had two such seasons. Martinez may not belong in the Hall, but Verducci has chosen an odd criterion to question Martinez's inclusion.

David Murphy, Kirksville, Mo.





Martinez (top) has more 100-RBI seasons than Mantle (left) and McCovey.



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