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Happy New Year

As a Texas alumnus who is aware of the SI cover jinx, I was excited to see USC's Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart on the cover (Dec. 26--Jan. 2). Now that Texas has won the college football national championship, however, I see that you were actually correct: The Trojans were the best team of 2005; the Horns are the best of 2006.
Ken Lass, Nashville

A Culture with Pop

What an imposing potential lineup there is in Walter Iooss Jr.'s photograph, Latin Kings (Crowd-Pleasers, Dec. 26--Jan. 2). A more daunting decision than the one you mention--who would bat cleanup--would be whom to bench. There are logjams in the outfield (Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Beltran, and Miguel Cabrera), first base (Albert Pujols and David Ortiz) and possibly at third base (Cabrera has some experience at the hot corner, though Melvin Mora would undoubtedly be the starter), and you can use only one of them as the DH, so at least one of these amazing batsmen will be riding the pine. That's a problem 30 major league baseball teams would love to have.
Bill Godwin-Austen, San Diego

Lemon Aid

I cannot believe that the NFL and the players' association decided to give each member of the New Orleans Saints a $40,000 bonus for "performing under unusual and unanticipated conditions" (Scorecard, Dec. 26--Jan. 2). What the league should have done was donate the money to the displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina. You know, the ones who are living in shelters around the country because their homes--and not their stadium--were destroyed.
Danielle Papa, Patterson, N.Y.

A Father Remembered

Thank you for including my father, pitcher Nelson Briles, in Gone but Not Forgotten (Dec. 26--Jan. 2). I was touched to see my dad listed among such an accomplished group. It was a terrific Christmas present.
David Briles, Westerville, Ohio

Boxing Day

Your nine-chapter collaboration, 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas (Dec. 26--Jan. 2), shows once again why boxing is, in the words of former heavyweight champion George Foreman, "the sport to which all others aspire." For the athlete, no other sport more fully measures one's true mettle. For the writer, from Norman Mailer to Ernest Hemingway to A.J. Liebling, no other subject is as rich in drama, pathos, comedy, absurdity and redemption.
Ernest Rodriguez, Nashville

Dueling Damons

Thanks for the update on Damon Bailey (Catching Up With, Dec. 26--Jan. 2). Some of us in northern Indiana remember him all too well. When top-ranked Concord High, which Shawn Kemp had led to the state finals two years earlier, met Bailey and southern Indiana's Bedford North Lawrence in the 1990 state championship game, Concord led by a seemingly comfortable margin with just two and a half minutes to play. Bailey then took over, personally outscoring Concord 11--2 to win it for Bedford North Lawrence 63--60. Some of us are still in shock.
Dan Shenk, Goshen, Ind.

On the cover of your 2005 Baseball Preview (April 4), featuring Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter, Jeter is quoted as saying, "They have what we want." My assumption, at that time, was that he was referring to the World Series trophy. Now I have come to realize that what the Yankees really wanted was Damon.
Roger W. Peck, Long Grove, Ill.

Class Act

The Scorecard Q&A with former Braves outfielder Dale Murphy (Dec. 26--Jan. 2) reminded me of an encounter my wife and I had with him while we were honeymooning in Montreal in July 1987. We were staying at the same hotel as the Braves when we observed, on Sunday morning, Murphy--returning from church, if the dark suit and Bible were any indication--waiting for the elevator. Two not-very-well-behaved kids came up and badgered him for an autograph, which he gave. When we got on the elevator, I remarked what a hassle that must be at times. He smiled and said, "It's much better than if they don't ask." Murphy may not make the Baseball Hall of Fame, but if they ever open an Athletes Who Get It Hall of Fame, he should be a charter member.
Harlan Bernstein, Glenview, Ill.

The Gift of Life

I was deeply moved reading Rick Reilly's column on Steve Ketcham, the young man who returned to the basketball court after getting a heart transplant (Life of Reilly, Dec. 26--Jan. 2). My husband received a kidney transplant 20 years ago, so organ donation is important to our family. In that same issue I read this assessment of Tony Dungy (The Best of the NFL): "The nice guy is finishing first." Then I heard the news of the death of Dungy's son, and that the Dungys had requested James be a tissue and organ donor. We should cheer all the organ recipients who can now "Seize the day," but let's never forget the true heroes: the families, like the Dungys, who somehow see beyond their own tragedies and give the best gift of all.
Martha C. Minahan, Tampa

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