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Pacers Edge

As a Pacers fan I can't argue with your decision to feature Indiana in your NBA PREVIEW ISSUE (Oct. 24). I know people will have a problem with Ron Artest being on the cover, but no one can deny that he is the key to a playoff run. If the risk is worth it to Larry Legend, that's good enough for me.
Sam Kirkland, Columbus, Ind.

You should have had Larry Bird in a doctor's outfit and Ron Artest in a straitjacket.
Cody Custard, Cheboygan, Mich.

The American Way

It occurred to me that four of the six top-rated teams in your NBA preview came over from the old ABA. If the Spurs or the Nuggets meet the Pacers or the Nets in the NBA Finals, do you think the league would let them play at least one game with the red, white and blue ball?
Mark Shipp, Saratoga, Wyo.

Losing a Friend

I was a high school teammate and college rival of Kyle Ambrogi, the Penn senior running back who took his own life after battling depression. (SCORECARD, Oct. 24). At Dartmouth I was on the losing end every time we played Penn. While he was at St. Joseph's Prep, you featured Kyle in FACES IN THE CROWD (Sept. 25, 2000) after he rushed for six touchdowns against perennial powerhouse North Penn High (Lansdale, Pa.). We have all lost a great man, brother and teammate.
Matthew Battipaglia, Newtown, Pa.

Is honoring someone who committed suicide the best message to send to kids?
Hannah Phillips, Kansas City, Mo.

Dance Fever

I'm with Rick Reilly when it comes to Matt Leinart's class schedule (LIFE OF REILLY, Oct. 24). Leinart isn't the first student--athlete or otherwise--to coast through his last semester of college. I did it as a Division III student-athlete, and I'm not ashamed to say so. Leinart is catching flak because he's headed for the NFL and happens to be two credits shy of his diploma. He's man enough to admit that he only needed "one easy class" to get it. Everyone should instead take note of a guy who works hard to be good at what he does on the field, seems to conduct himself honorably off the field, actually attends his ballroom dancing class and, most important, will graduate in December. That represents four years of classwork, not just one semester of dancing.
Anne Bonner, Fredericksburg, Va.

Reilly shouldn't have suggested that Alex Smith is greedy for entering the NFL when he did. He graduated from Utah with a 3.7 GPA two years before the draft--after only two years in college--and was nearly finished with his master's degree in economics at the time he was selected by the 49ers. Smith was a great student-athlete.
Gary C. Walker, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Ship of Fools

As a native of Minnesota, I have remained a dedicated--and sometimes brave--fan of the Minnesota Vikings while living in Wisconsin in the shadow of the Packers for 30 years. After the latest in a series of poor choices, however, by Vikings players and coaches (Adrift on Lake Woebegone, Oct. 24), I find it hard to support a team that has become morally corrupt and the laughingstock of the NFL. Go Packers!
Richard J. Olson, Neenah, Wis.

Nearly 20 years ago our fantasy football league instituted a system of fines for any franchise owning a player who got into legal trouble. We call it the Viking Rule, and it's been a great source of league revenue ever since. All fines go toward funding our year-end banquet, which, by the way, does not include strippers or cruise boats.
Jim Hansen, LaCrosse, Wis.

Under Two Flags

As the brother and agent of runner Meb Keflezighi, I want to thank you for Tim Layden's superb story ("I Am an American", Oct. 31). I wish, however, to correct the description of Meb as "Ethiopian-born." Our native country, Eritrea, was illegally annexed by Ethiopia in 1962. Meb was born more than a decade into the ensuing war of independence and has always considered himself an Eritrean, never an Ethiopian. Describing Meb as "Ethiopian-born" undermines the Eritreans' 30-year struggle to secure independence, in which thousands of lives were lost. Eritrea was liberated on May 24, 1991. Meb, a product of two nations, runs every race proudly wearing a pin (above right) that shows the flags of Eritrea and the United States. Meb is a proud Eritrean-American.
Merhawi Keflezighi, Los Angeles

EDITOR'S NOTE: The phrase was inserted in editing to clarify the circumstances of Meb's birth in what was then disputed territory.

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 RUN-NYC Meb finished third in the New York City Marathon (left).



 [See caption above.]