It is certainly a shame when a high-class magazine such as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED lowers itself to devoting space to a nonsport such as Roller Derby (Five Strides on the Banked Track, March 3).
While it is tragic that "sports" like professional wrestling and Roller Derby should exist at all, it is doubly tragic that people will spend money to see the phony theatrics that these two offer.
Most tragic of all is the fact that Roller Derby's ridiculous "fights," "grudges" and so forth eventually hurt the public's confidence in the legitimate sports.
R. P. GRIFFIN JR.
I found Frank Deford's article on the Roller Derby interesting. However, I must mention that Publisher Valk, in the same issue, sounds extremely apologetic when explaining to SI's readers why 15 hallowed pages of his journal are devoted to the rambunctious Roller Derby.
I do want Mr. Valk to know that we in Roller Derby sympathize with his situation. Many of our fans were quite upset when they heard that we were permitting SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to do a story. After all, this publication gives coverage to sissy games such as baseball and tennis.
GERALD E. SELTZER
Ever since I saw my first Roller Derby back in Cincinnati at the old Music Hall in 1937, when a mother-son team skated, I've thought that it was deadly dull and cheaply sensational. My opinion has not altered.
Barnum was right.
D. D. ALLEN
Many thanks for a fine article. It is clear that the girls in the Derby would not be confused with Miss America contestants. It is also apparent that the men in the Derby lack the pizazz of a Ken Harrelson, the sheer bulk of a Deacon Jones and the finesse of a Billy Casper.
What came through most clearly to me in the article, however, was the true professionalism of the Derby participants. Recognition of their individual talents is minor, yet they're willing to travel on inhuman schedules in crowded cars to distant tracks filled with screeching ladies. The pay is poor by professional standards, but they're willing to take (and give) bumps and bruises like a professional fighter. In sum, they're willing to endure hardship and withstand pain solely for the love of the sport. Can the same be said of "professionals" in other sports who spend more time talking about their side business interests than their enjoyment of the game?
You've got to be kidding! Fifteen pages devoted to Roller Derby and four to Vince Lombardi?
New York City