Congratulations to John Papanek for his POINT AFTER (June 15) on athletes as role models. I agree 110% that demanding higher standards of athletes than of the rest of society is unrealistic and unfair. I feel for the millions of youngsters whose hearts were broken by Dwight Gooden's fall from grace; however, I do not think we have to worry about them. Their ability to see the wrong done is encouraging. I do worry that there are people with the attitude of the New York Post's Dick Young, who seems to believe that star athletes should be infallible. I don't condone what Gooden did, but he is entitled to a second chance and the support and encouragement of people who care what happens to him.
KIERNAN M. HIGGINS
Long Branch, N.J.
As a high school football coach, I understand the necessity for giving a wayward athlete a second chance. "To err is human," and our pro athletes are surely proving that they are not superhuman. Only a few deserve to be called athlete and role model. Give us a Walter Payton any day, but reality tells us that not all athletes are "Sweetness."
Thank you for voicing the opinion of the 51,402 Mets fans at Shea, who knew that the only human thing to do for Dwight Gooden was to stand and cheer and welcome him home. The only thing I expect from him is that he pitch to the best of his abilities.
I hope that John Papanek wrote to stir up debate, not because he was serious. If an athlete is not supposed to be a role model, then who is? Sport is regarded as wholesome and good for a person. To say that its seamy side is natural and should be taken in stride is a cop-out.
At today's inflated salaries, is it really asking too much that an athlete set a good example? Sure, give him a second chance, feel sorry for him, offer compassion, understanding. No one is perfect. But the professional athlete must be held to a higher standard. Any public figure must be. The pros are in the business by choice; they want to be applauded, admired. I don't buy the notion that they "just want to be athletes." They can be that on Saturday afternoons in their local parks.
PAUL J. GLASOE
John Papanek mistook the Mets fans' enthusiastic reception of Dwight Gooden as a demonstration of support and goodwill for a troubled, but dedicated, young man. More likely, the fans that evening were merely welcoming back renewed pennant hopes in the person of their ace righthander. As a Mets fan, I am delighted at Gooden's return, but Papanek has no right to interpret my applause as a personal endorsement of Gooden's character.
East Norwich, N.Y.
FINESSE VERSUS FORCE
It's high time a respected hockey authority made it clear that the beauty of hockey lies in the speed, finesse and passing skills so exquisitely demonstrated by the Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers (POINT AFTER, June 8). Yes, goons should be out, Gretzkyites in.
But until the NHL changes its mentality, beginning at the top with league president John Ziegler, the artful player will have to beware the bully, whose only purpose is to slow down the more skilled player and, as a consequence, the entire NHL game.
Perhaps E.M. Swift is right when he says that the Oilers' victory in the Stanley Cup finals will lead to a greater emphasis on playmaking in the NHL and a resultant rise in the level of play. He should realize, however, that a Philadelphia Flyer victory might have taught the NHL a lesson that is just as important: that hard work and dedication pay off and can offset superior talent. If the Oilers, a team blessed with so much ability, adopted the Flyers' work ethic, imagine the level of play they might attain.
Since the Stanley Cup finals went seven games for the first time in 16 years, it's clear that the NHL has enough room for both the finesse and the grind-it-out styles of play. What would have been tragic for the future of North American hockey would have been a 4-0 sweep by either style.
TOM PELLEGRENE JR.
Fort Wayne, Ind.