TALL, DARK MAN
Gil Rogin's piece on Bill Russell ("We Are Grown Men Playing a Child's Game," Nov. 18) is one of the most laudable examples of sports journalism I've ever read. Russell's views on the race problem are not new—yet, as one reads, they take on a stature and importance worthy of a Martin Luther King.
Thank you for telling us about a man so tall in every way that he can look out over the scene with a clear, uncomplicated view.
EDMUND W. BIRNBRYER
I was deeply impressed by Bill Russell's human stature, but I think he was unduly self-critical. The pursuit of excellence in any field is a strong contribution to society. The American mores under which Mr. Russell lives have made him a national hero, and the example he sets is subject to public attention and, therefore, is a source of education, both for his race and for the youth of America. Because of his excellence at a "child's game," Mr. Russell not only gives pleasure (a significant contribution in itself), but commands the loyalty and enthusiasm of his fellowman.
Mr. Russell criticizes himself for not contributing, while he speaks of going to Liberia. His desires are within "the acceptable standards," but is Liberia the place to achieve them? He may not view himself as a leader, but at this period in history he has the opportunity and perhaps the responsibility to become one right here.
MALCOLM FARMFR III
Bill Russell's reason for liking Liberia leads him into serious error: "I found a place I was welcome because I was black." If cither Bill Russell or I were to hear a white man say, "I found a place where I was welcome because I was white," we would surely think the white man a bigot.
Nevertheless, I agree with Russell's list of athletes to admire: Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Sonny Liston. I would like to add one more: Bill Russell.
Panorama City, Calif.
Too many of us regard athletes as merely tools for man's entertainment, and it is refreshing to hear an intelligent, articulate sportsman destroy this myth. Bill Russell, a man obviously in a state of rebellion, gave me a view of sports I had never been exposed to before, and I admire him as an outspoken, honest athlete with a clarity of perception that many Americans lack.
Mr. Russell is unhappy over being a basketball player because of his nonexistent contribution to society. I would like to offer an opinion to Mr. Russell concerning such contributions.
The players in the NBA, the NFL and all sports and entertainment fields contribute relaxation and enjoyment to many millions of people at varying degrees of personal discomfort to the performer. Due to the nature of professional basketball, it has, most probably, the highest degree of strain on a performer. To be able to make thousands of people happy (or unhappy) because of his brilliant performances (coupled with extreme self-sacrifice) over the years, seems to be a contribution of which very few people will boast during a lifetime.
If Mr. Russell remains unhappy over his contribution to society, upon the next visit to Cincinnati he should make it a point to visit a person who contributed a wealth of happiness to basketball fans all over the country, Maurice Stokes, who has been lying paralyzed in a hospital for more than five years. After his visit with Big Mo, Bill can then seek out the nearest chapel, get down on his knees and thank God for his existence as a healthy American man.