SI Vault
October 14, 1968
GOLD RUSH Sirs:How can you pick the Russians over the Americans in Olympic basketball ( Mexico 68, Sept. 30)? True, the Russians have several big men, but I'll stick with the U.S., with the U.S.S.R. second and Brazil or Yugoslavia third.JOSEPH POWESKA JR. Rochester, N.Y.
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October 14, 1968

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

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John Underwood's story on Kenya's Olympic track program (Lost Laughter, Sept. 30) was ne plus ultra in more ways than one. Having spent 35 days in Africa last summer (several days in Nairobi, in Nyeri at the Outspan and in Masai land), I know that the article described to perfection the scenes we experienced. To this former track coach a highlight of the trip was a visit to Kamosinga Friends Boys School, some 150 miles out of Nairobi (near Kimilili), where we saw 200 boys in a track meet. Though the quarter-mile track was an undulating grass affair (the six lanes were marked with a black, tarry substance), times were excellent, but the English coaching left much to be desired and was a far cry from what we have in our high schools and colleges. Only three or four of the runners wore track shoes, and the lone timer's watch, an antique, registered in fifths of seconds. But don't write Kenya off re future stars; the state is full of them. Time is all they need—and equipment. We passed several schools on the road and noted that there was always track activity in the grassy fields. The material is there.

One Sunday near Nairobi we saw two busloads of kids returning from a track meet they had won. As they stopped in a village, three of their teachers held up the victory plaques while the kids cheered for several minutes. One would have thought they had won the Olympics from the smiling faces. My guess is that it won't be long before there are as many track stars as there are Jomo Kenyatta portraits in the state, and, as Underwood said, the place is flooded with them.
Oak Park, Ill.

I nominate Coach Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsman of the Year 1968. Bill is the greatest athlete in America and in the world today. In fact, he has been the greatest for the last decade and more. At the absolute least he ranks with those athletes we call "our immortals."
Fort Worth

I hope you recognize Jean-Claude Killy as the Sportsman of the Year because he dominates his sport as no one else ever has.

On page 15 of your Sept. 23 issue you display a photograph of Tennessee's Gary Kreis being tackled at the goal line. The accompanying caption reads: " Tennessee's Kreis almost loses the ball as he falls into the end zone after catching pass at game's end" (A Rouser on a Rug). Then on page 17 the description of the same play reads, ambiguously: "Kreis grabbed the ball at the one-yard line, felt it slipping sickeningly from his grasp as he fell into the end zone on his back and then had it again when he hit the Tartan."

My somewhat puzzled impression from watching the original play, then the slow-motion rerun and then a normal-speed rerun on television is that the reason Kreis had the pass "again when he hit the Tartan" is because the ball had bounced off the Tartan and back into his hands as he lay there. It was also my impression that Kreis did not have control of the pass as he fell, so that the pass was never completed. Your picture supported my impression, since it would seem impossible for any normal athlete to regain control of a ball he has clearly lost control of some four inches from the surface of the playing field without having it touch the ground and then bounce back into his hands.

The tiny bounce that the ball took was almost imperceptible to the eye at normal speed. It was only after I had seen the slow-motion replay that I became aware of it. I feel like the man in the old Philadelphia Bulletin ads. No one else seemed to notice.
New York City

Tell Dan Jenkins that God did not "blow it" when He gave us grass. How healthy would our animals be if they grazed on Tartan Turf for a few weeks? Does Mr. Jenkins think grass has been waiting all these countless ages for the very recent sport of football?
Tyler, Texas

In reference to your article on Tennessee's Tartan "rug" I have a question. What would be the effect of a flaming baton if it were inadvertently dropped on this wonderful surface? I wonder whether the 3M Company foresaw this circumstance when it developed Tartan Turf.
Havertown, Pa.

?Indeed it did and so did the Monsanto Company, the maker of Astro-Turf. Neither surface will support combustion, but both—like any nylon rug—will melt.—ED.

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