It was nice to read about Karl (Mailman) Malone, an athlete who is trying to set a good example for the youth of America (Does He Ever Deliver! Nov. 7). Malone is not a legend—yet—but he is walking the right path. Louisiana Tech, the NBA and, of course, his mother, Shirley Turner, can be proud of him.
LANCE BARNETT ( Louisiana Tech '85)
By picking the Detroit Pistons to win the NBA championship (Scouting Reports, Nov. 7), you've placed the Los Angeles Lakers in the role of an underdog. That should help reduce some of the pressure on the Lakers and enable them to win their third straight title.
Salt Lake City
Last year, SI predicted that the Dallas Mavericks would lose to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs (Scouting Reports, Nov. 9, 1987). However, the Mavericks took the Lakers to seven games before losing in the conference finals. Your 1988-89 NBA preview says, " Dallas will break down in the playoffs." I predict that, come this June, you will be eating some chicken-fried crow.
In the early 1950s, I played football for coach Wright Bazemore at Valdosta (Ga.) High School (Winnersville, U.S.A., Oct. 31), but not on the varsity. He was my P.E. instructor for four years, and he had his classes play two-hand touch. His style was absolute discipline, tempered by fairness and humor. His level of intensity, even in class, was full throttle. At the end of the hour, the losers were required to run 10 laps around the football field—or Death Valley, as we called the field.
During my senior year at Valdosta (1954-55), the varsity lost only one game in the regular season, to Jesup High, and then lost in the playoffs to the same team. On the student bus I rode in coming home from that game, the girls cried and the boys didn't talk. After reading your article, I dug out my yearbooks and found that in the regular seasons from '51 through '54, the Wildcats outscored their opponents 1,187 to 235. Losing was just not in the program.
Incidentally, our new baby recently received a gift from his godmother who lives in Valdosta—a pair of Wildcat boxer shorts. They truly do start 'em early.
The Valdosta Wildcats have discovered a winning recipe for both football and living—hard work, strong discipline and priorities placed in the proper order. I hope coaches at all levels noted your photograph of the message on coach Nick Hyder's blackboard: GOD CREATOR, FAMILY, ACADEMICS, FRIENDS, WILDCATS. I suspect those words are a summary of his successful philosophy.
W. PAUL NANCE
Geoffrey Norman mentions that parents were former Valdosta coach Bazemore's "greatest allies in motivating their sons to play good football." He says, "Bazemore was death on complacency." He also quotes former Bazemore player Bud Hatcher as saying, "Sometimes we'd be out there [practicing] till 10 or 11 o'clock." As a former high school and college letterman, and also as a former teacher-professor-coach, I wonder when the kids had time to study.
GEORGE W. WILLIAMS
Pacific Grove, Calif.
Several things about the Valdosta football program disturb me. Players who came out for practice without their helmets ended up with bloody ears because, to teach them a lesson, coach Bazemore put them through full-contact scrimmages with their helmeted teammates. A Bazemore successor who was a winning coach was pressured into resigning. Finally, Wildcat players were (and are) given preferential treatment in the off-season job market.
With high schools that have warped values like Valdosta's, it's no wonder that so many college athletic programs are scandal-ridden. Young athletes enter college with the idea that they are somehow more special than the nonathlete and that winning at all costs is what amateur sports is all about.