THE INNOCENT ONLOOKER
In SI, Nov. 21 you have (unwittingly, I am sure) libeled the President of the U.S. through misunderstanding of the true meaning of a word with an interesting background.
The caption describing a picture of Ike limbering up on the White House green explains that he later retired to a nearby chair and "kibitzed" while his son John tried a few putts of his own. Surely you can't mean kibitzed! The essence of the art of kibitzing, and that which distinguishes it from ordinary advice-giving, is that it is unrequested, annoying and misleading. The truly labeled kibitzer is, in a word, a pest.
Admittedly, it was not ever thus. The word comes to us from Yiddish, that remarkably colorful tongue which has infiltrated vocabularies around the globe. But it was first used, as explained in H.L. Mencken's The American Language (Supp. 1), by line officers of the old Austrian army. During the Italian campaign of 1848-49, an Austrian staff officer had a little dog called Kiebitz. Soon, through the traditional disdain of front-line soldiers for those who remain in rear areas, staff officers were referred to as Kiebitze. The next step was to use the word to describe anyone who merely looked on while others did a particular job or played a game.
By the time "kibitzer" was brought to this country, it had lost its connotation of innocent onlooker and taken on that of "meddler." To use another Yiddishism, the kibitzer is something of a schlemiel. All in all, hardly a term to describe our No. 1 golfer giving friendly, helpful advice to his son.
? SI intended no slight on the President's ability to instruct his son John. Ike has been a front-line participant both as soldier and golfer. Actually, though some kibitzers are indeed pests and have given the gentle art a bad name, the meaning of the word is not as hard and fast as Miss Billig implies. A kibitzer's advice may be "unrequested, annoying and misleading," but the term may also be used when the advice is friendly and helpful. It's all in the eye of the kibitzee. As for SI, it welcomes both varieties of kibitzers to the 19TH HOLE.—ED.
ARE THEY TAUGHT TO FEAR?
I most heartily agree with the sentiments expressed by Adam Walsh, the Bowdoin football coach (E & D, Nov. 21). They follow in the steps of Si's Aug. 15 Report That Shocked the President by emphasizing the underlying reason why our American youngsters are allowed to become progressively weaker. The reason is a mistaken educational philosophy, a philosophy which does not approve of muscle building.
This is an old story. I recall the letter from Dr. Frederick Rand Rogers (19TH HOLE, Aug. 29) describing how his thesis on the means of attaining physical fitness for the youth of America had been ridiculed in official educational circles 20 years ago. Now that the facts are beginning to be known, thanks to SI, Dr. Rogers' thesis is being considered in a kinder light. Nevertheless, teachers coming out of most physical education schools today are imbued with the philosophy that if an activity does not have carry-over value it has no place in the school athletic program.
I believe that all youngsters like a little rugged activity, but if they have been weaned away from it from kindergarten through the ninth grade they lose their zest for strenuous activity and may actually come to fear physical contact.
Boxing Coaches Assn.
ADAM PUT HIS FINGER ON IT
Many times I've intended writing you praising your staff and your magazine for its excellence. Probably through laziness I haven't. But, reading Adam Walsh's sentiments, I feel I must thank you for every issue I've read—and particularly Walsh's correct view on one of the things that's wrong with the rising generation. He put the finger on it in blaming the physical education programs of the teacher-training
institutions. In my opinion it has never been presented as succinctly.
Incidentally, Knute Rockne not only called Adam Walsh his greatest center; he considered Adam Walsh the most qualified Notre Dame grad to teach football. Adam went to Yale when Tad Jones asked Rock to "recommend the man who would do most for Yale." Adam was a successful line coach at Yale but, when it came time for him to become head coach, he didn't get it. Yale's loss was Bowdoin's gain.
ART LEA MOND