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Brain Man

Thanks for Peter King's insightful article on Super Bowl coaches Bill Belichick and Andy Reid (Meeting of the Minds, Feb. 7). I cannot help but accept that Belichick is football's mastermind. His Patriots dismantled what were supposed to be the unstoppable Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning. Then Belichick came up with a game plan that was quite different to defeat the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. After these remarkable performances, it is time to put the words Belichick and genius together in the same sentence.

Corey Pulliam, Tracy, Calif.

Tom Brady to the SI cover jinx: I am bulletproof.

David Wallace, Livonia, Mich.

Dear John

Hats off--or should it be turbans off?--to Steve Rushin for his column on the late, great Johnny Carson's Carnac the Magnificent (AIR AND SPACE, Feb. 7). Humbly, I submit a few more A&Q's: A: Kerry Wood. Q: How did President Bush respond when asked if he would raise taxes. A: Steel Curtain. Q: How does an interior decorator stay under budget. A: Fools Rush In. Q: What does a con artist do to SI's AIR AND SPACE columnist.

Ed DiMenna, Boca Raton, Fla.

Raising the Bars

Reading Finding the Perfect Sports Bar (Feb. 7) brought back a memory both fond and bitter. During the years that the original Cleveland Browns were competing for AFC championships, The Fours, your No. 1 watering hole, was home to the Browns Backer's organization in Boston. I was in Boston on Sunday, Jan. 17, 1988, and found my way into what seemed--thanks to the presence of so many Browns supporters--like the Dawg Pound East. During the first half of the game, as the Denver Broncos built a 21-3 lead, all we Browns fans could do was drown our sorrows in more refreshments. When Cleveland's comeback came in the fourth quarter, perfect strangers who shared only a perverse love of a football team with bad colors, hugged and kissed. The noise was deafening until Earnest Byner made The Fumble and ended what would have been the final drive to our first Super Bowl. After the Broncos 38-33 victory, hundreds of patrons filed out of The Fours in stunned silence. For 28 minutes of the second half, however, it was the best sporting event, in the best venue, I had ever attended.

Bob Lucas, Parma, Ohio

Your article on the 25 top sports bars was laughable to this local Boston fan who has been to your top-rated bar, The Fours. That rating would have made sense 20 years ago, before plasma TVs, since The Fours still has none. Most people think of a sports bar as a place to watch sports, not a place to talk about the good old days and stare at jerseys on the wall. Next time you're in Boston, drop Gramps at The Fours, then go two doors down to Sports Grille Boston.

Chris Swank, Boston

Before a recent Boston Celtics game my employer treated the staff to beers and finger food at The Fours. The host unexpectedly carded two of my black colleagues a moment after letting my boss and I pass. Bars don't usually ID at the door during dinner, and nobody else was carded during our brief visit. Sadly my friends know this can happen anywhere, and that's why they walked out instead of cussing out, or even worse, knocking out the host.

Justin Rice, Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Chris Ballard writes an article about the best sports bars, and not one from New York City is included? Ballard's either on drugs or he's a Red Sox fan. How can you omit the greatest city in the world?

Peter Mandzuk, Danbury, Conn.

If sports bars are about camaraderie, how could you exclude Mike (Nuf Ced) McGreevey's Third Base Saloon from your history. Named Third Base because it was the last place you stopped before going home, this was the epitome of an early 1900s saloon. The patrons, who called themselves the Royal Rooters, traveled en masse to Pittsburgh for the first World Series, in 1903, and cheered on the Red Sox to the first Series title. Prohibition closed what may have been the first sports bar in America.

Tony Gallo, Franklin, Mass.

Hugh T. Sharp, Williamsburg, Va.

What about the Yankee Tavern on 161 St. in the Boogie Down Bronx, right around the corner from Yankee Stadium? Help us New Yorkers out here--it's been a trying year.

Seth Dressekie, New York City

I finally feel as if I've made it into SI. After all, I've been in four of the top 15 sports bars in America. Not that my teenage son will be impressed, but, hey, it's sort of an athletic accomplishment.

Jim Hansen, LaCrosse, Wis.

SI's (Pabst) blue-ribbon panel omitted an amazing sports bar: The Stadium in Garrison, N.Y. In addition to the many TVs and great food, The Stadium has the feel of a museum of sports memorabilia. The items on display include Mickey Mantle's 1956 Triple Crown trophy, Nolan Ryan's autographed 300th-win game ball, Paul Hornung's '56 Heisman Trophy, Babe Ruth's '34 Yankees contract, Early Wynn's '59 Cy Young Award and Weeb Ewbanks's Super Bowl III Trophy.

I wish my alltime favorite sports bar had been included: Dempster's Pub in Mount Holly, N.J.

Fred Takacs, Berwick, Pa.

... The SkyBox Pub in Portland.

Randy Schaaf, Clackamas, Ore.

... The Beer Hunter in LaQuinta, Calif.

Matt Zukowski, Palm Desert, Calif.

... Shuck-n-Jive in Addison, Texas.

Bruce D. Flanary, Fort Worth, Texas

... Fellingham's in Southampton, N.Y.

Joe Luppi, Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Ill. Annoyed

The Illini were 21-0, and yet you chose to put the Patriots on the cover--again. The Illini dominated Michigan State in East Lansing, and you dedicated more space on the cover to the top 25 sports bars in America. What does the University of Illinois have to do to get a little respect?

Steve Stec, Chicago

I hope that when you report about the NCAA tournament, you'll be able to find some cover space for the Illini as they finish the season undefeated.

Doug Maddox, Warm Springs, Ga.

Charity Line

I was surprised by the letter criticizing San Antonio Spurs fans for trying to distract Jermaine O'Neal during a free throw attempt (LETTERS, Feb. 7). Just because O'Neal pledged $1,000 to tsunami relief for every point he scored, did anyone expect the Spurs to step aside every time he had the ball? Of course not. Were the Spurs being selfish for trying to keep him from scoring? Absurd. The fans were not trying to take money from the victims. They were simply cheering for their team. O'Neal very generously donated $55,000, even more than he had pledged. Put the attention where it belongs.

Jo Walker, Katy, Texas

Living with Diabetes

Thank you for your article on Tigers righthanded pitcher Jason Johnson's confronting his diabetes (SI PLAYERS, Feb. 7). My wife and I have a three-year-old son who also has type 1 juvenile diabetes. Approximately six months ago he was fitted with the same pump that Jason wears. Even though he is still young, we have tried to reinforce the fact that he can do anything he wants to in spite of the limitations brought on by his diabetes. It is encouraging to read about people like Johnson who have overcome roadblocks in their lives.

Michael Weyhe, Pine Grove Mills, Pa.

It Could Be Worse

O.K., I have a complaint to register. The writing in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is way too good. My husband leaves his SI open around the house, and wherever I sit down to do some serious reading, there it is. I just read the headlines, then the picture captions, then a random paragraph--then I'm hooked. So now I get to the mail first to read Rick Reilly's column. Maybe I need my own subscription. Hiring writers for SI must equal drafting for the NFL or major league baseball. Congratulations on your stable of winners.

Susan Howell, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Tragedy's Aftermath

I find it disappointing that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED would publish, with signature withheld, a letter accusing my husband, coach Ed Nizwantowski, of ignoring a player's drug use (LETTERS, Jan. 17). In The Pride of Peabody (Dec. 20), a story about Marlins pitcher Jeff Allison's addiction to OxyContin, my husband and our son, Brad, both had the courage and fortitude to publicly address the drug issue in spite of what drugs did to Brad and how painful it is for our family. Believe me, it would have been easier to ignore this problem, but too many young people had already died. I believe Louis Perullo, a member of Peabody's school committee, said it best: "It took an article in a national magazine for people to finally address the drug problem in our community." The hard times and the criticism that my husband and our family are now enduring, not to mention my husband's loss of his coaching positions (SCORECARD, Feb. 7) in the aftermath of your article on the OxyContin epidemic, are worth the heartache because the tragic results are now being addressed. And that will, hopefully, save lives.

Patricia Nizwantowski
Peabody, Mass.

Rocky Topped

You made the same mistake as the Associated Press by printing that the late Coley Wallace knocked out Rocky Marciano as an amateur (SCORECARD, Feb. 7). Wallace twice knocked down Marciano when they met in the first round of the 1948 Eastern Golden Gloves in New York City, but he did not score a KO. You also wrote that it was the only amateur loss for Marciano, who went 49-0 with 43 knockouts as a pro. Wrong again. In addition to being beaten by Wallace, Marciano lost as an amateur to Joe DeAngelis and Bob Girard by decision and to Henry Lester by disqualification.

Mike Houser, Reno

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  Wallace (right) and three others beat Marciano.





  Fans cheer a '98 World Series win at the Yankee Tavern.