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Original Issue


Falcon Crests

Finally! I've been an Atlanta Falcons fan for 25 years, and during that time there had never been a cover featuring a Falcon in uniform, until now (Sept. 20). Even their magical 1998--99 Super Bowl run didn't make the cut.

Pete Riendeau Attleboro, Mass.

As soon as I pulled the magazine out of my mailbox and saw Michael Vick on the cover, I stuck it back in and went inside. Other athletes had a great opening week as well, but no Tom Brady, Daunte Culpepper, Curtis Martin or even Chad Pennington? Brady once again showed up Peyton Manning and garnered only a comment in Who's Hot (SI PLAYERS). When are these other guys going to get cover time and well-deserved praise?

Angel Morton, Richmond

Winning Players

Thank you, thank you for creating the SI Players section (Sept. 20). I went to college with Eagles defensive end N.D. Kalu. One day, as I sat with him at lunch, it struck me that here I was, talking to a future NFL draft pick about normal, everyday things. Yes, star athletes, like many celebrities, live lives that most of us can only dream of. But it's nice to be reminded that they too put their pants on one leg at a time.

Joel Allan, Los Angeles

Quick, get me the unintended irony department. Ty Law's workouts are very impressive, but the more lasting impression is his quote, "I don't have a problem leaving everything behind--my cars, my jewelry, my comforts of home--and just concentrating on myself." How courageous of him to sacrifice those things that bring him pleasure and instead dedicate his efforts to ... himself!

Dave Tuchler, Northbrook, Ill.

Let Barry Be Barry

With award-winning journalists like Rick Reilly taking cheap shots at Barry Bonds (The Life of Reilly, Sept. 20), no wonder Bonds is less than pleasant to the media. Treat him with respect, and perhaps he'll return the favor.

P. Frederic, Chicago

It's too bad that Bonds is three of Rick Reilly's least favorite people, but who really cares? Quite honestly, I wouldn't walk across the street to shake Bonds's hand, but I will pay to sit in the stands, watch a couple of swings (if he gets the chance) and go home. Isn't that what it's all about?

Scott Lee, Kansas City, Mo.

Where is your eye for art? Barry Bonds is the Michelangelo of baseball. Quit dumping on the artist, and appreciate the magnificence of his work. We won't see another like him again.

Alan Johansen, Pleasanton, Calif.

A gifted, pampered and high-priced athlete gets dogged for most of his career by unsubstantiated rumors of performance-enhancing drug use. After being harassed by members of the media over this issue, the athlete has been known to lash out at these sanctimonious journalists. Despite the constant badgering, the athlete continues to dominate his sport, all the while rewriting the record books. Barry Bonds? No, try Lance Armstrong. Reilly really ought to drop his double standard.

Robert Miller, Roseville, Calif.

Tall in the Saddle

Gary Smith's article on the African-American polo players in Philadelphia was one of the best stories I've read (The Ride of Their Lives, Sept. 20). Lezlie Hiner's devotion to these children is an inspiration and a reminder of what really matters in life: love and faith and hope. The tragedy of Mecca's death is heartbreaking, but it did not break the spirit of this courageous group of people. It would certainly be tragic if Hiner's work had to be cut short. She may not have much materially, but she has much love to share. If only we had more like her in this world.

Anna Belcher, New Haven, Conn.

Hiner is an inspiration, crossing boundaries, both color and economic, while asking for nothing in return but the joy of seeing her pupils excel at life. The only thing Smith left out was where to send donations for a worthy cause that must keep its doors open.

Matthew Zuckerman, Long Beach, N.Y.

•Donations may be sent to: Work to Ride, Chamounix Equestrian Center, 98 Chamounix Dr., Philadelphia, Pa. 19131, or online at --Ed.

Thanks for making me even more proud of my sport. Polo is not, however, such an unlikely sport for these young men to be playing. Anyone who plays can tell you it's more about grit and horses than about stuffed mushrooms and flowered hats. Polo has survived for more than a thousand years on the fierce devotion of its players, all of its players.

Richard M. Foxx, Indian Wells, Calif.

I'll be honest. I had no interest in reading a story about polo, with or without inner-city kids. But when I finally got around to reading it, I couldn't put it down. I now realize that stories like this are the reason I keep renewing my subscription.

Robert Beiderman, New York City

As a former Philadelphian, I find it sad but typical that Hiner and her kids are being evicted from their stable. And they call Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love?

Kelly Whalin, Ardmore, Pa.

Give me more stories like this and fewer about high school students with Hummers and an entourage flocking to the NBA.

Lee D. Wilder, Atlanta

James Hunt, Grantham, N.H.

It's not just because I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Philadelphian or because every time I go see my client in West Philadelphia, I drive through the Bottom or because I have an ongoing relationship with Valley Forge Military Academy that I found the piece fascinating and uplifting. It is because it described an activity I had no knowledge about and it was beautifully written. Congratulations for giving it so much space and to Gary Smith for an excellent piece of work.

Stokes Carrigan, Wayne, Pa.

Yo, Adrian

I enjoyed the article on Adrian Beltre (The Prodigy Arrives, Sept. 20), who is having a monster season, until I read that he is a free agent and a client of Scott Boras's. In the off-season we will no doubt read about how Beltre is now a surefire Hall of Famer worth A-Rod money. Sadly for some team, he will be overpaid and end up like Darren Dreifort or Raul Mondesi.

Charley Zwilling, North Bergen, N.J.

It's exciting to see a guy like Beltre turn it around and play great baseball, but for Boras to say that Albert Pujol's contract is a "starting point" is absurd. First let's see Beltre produce at some time other than a contract year, be in the running for MVP every year and help get the Dodgers to the playoffs consistently. Boras has earned the nickname the Great Satan in Dallas for good reason and may see the same sentiment develop in L.A. or wherever he might bankrupt a team for Beltre.

Josh Langley, Euless, Texas

Singular Sensation

Tom Verducci says Ichiro's pursuit of the hit record took precedence over team play (Inside Baseball, Sept. 20). That is true. But so what? Given Seattle's record, Ichiro's decision to play for base hits was in the team's best interest. Ichiro's pursuit of the hit record was the only reason to watch a late-season Mariners' game, and as his 5-for-5 hitting on Sept. 21 proved, a darn good one. His nine hits in two games against the Angels set a Seattle record. Good for him; good for Seattle.

Todd Zilbert, Portland

Verducci's saying Ichiro is not a team player because he only hits singles and does his best to get on base every time at bat is like saying Barry Bonds is not a team player because he hits so many home runs and doesn't lay down a lot of sacrifice bunts.

Dave Darnell, Memphis

Breaking the Seal

I was surprised and disappointed that you allowed yourself to abet the spiteful, vengeful and privacy-destroying efforts by sheriff's office personnel in the Kobe Bryant case (Scorecard, Sept. 20). It is obvious that they are embarrassed by their own behavior, but you should be embarrassed by yours, since you printed what should be a protected conversation with a distraught and surprisingly naive sports figure. By publishing this material, which was sealed for a good reason, you have betrayed my trust in you as a responsible news organization.

Chris Taylor, Santa Monica, Calif.

International Court

It is America's premier tennis event, our national championship. A player heralded as the best in years and perhaps the best ever wins. And you relegate the story of the U.S. Open to the back of the magazine (Swat Team, Sept. 20). Was this due to the lack of an American victor? Roger Federer should have graced the cover.

Michael E. Lane, New York City

Dictionaries should have been included with your U.S. Open story. The use of words like hegemony, firmament, crepuscular, siroccolike, kaffeeklatsch and equipoise only reinforces my belief that tennis is for foreigners.

Patrick Larkin, Niantic, Conn.

Conn Job

I almost always enjoy Steve Rushin's columns, but his enthusiasm for his wife's alma mater's football team needs to be tempered (Air and Space, Sept. 20). Yes, Randy Edsall has made tremendous strides in improving UConn's football program and the state's ardor for it. In their last 17 games, however, UConn has beaten only two teams who were ranked in the top 70 of the Sagarin rankings. In its three games against bowl teams in 2003, it went 0-3 and lost those games by an average of 17 points. Until they start to routinely beat quality teams, these Huskies' barks will be worse than their bites.

Don Leypoldt, West Hartford, Conn.

I always thought that the BCS was just about football. Now I know better. How else do you explain UConn's inclusion in the BCS after playing less than three years of Division I-A football? Utah, Fresno State, Boise State, TCU and others need to take note that in order to field a better football team they must first build up their basketball programs.

David Williams, Midland, Texas

Commodore Wolford

I enjoyed Andrew Lawrence's profile of Will Wolford (CATCHING UP WITH, Sept. 20). The article mentioned the three NFL teams Wolford played with and even his high school alma mater. So why not also report that Wolford played his college ball at Vanderbilt?

Karen Campbell, Nashville

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Vanderbilt senior Wolford was an All-SEC tackle.