TROUBLE IN TAFT
Congratulations on your article Violent Return to a Troubled Past (June 23). I am glad to see that people who can speak out do so. The fight to expose ignorance and bigotry needs all the help it can get. I hope that more than just exposure will be the result of your article. The situation in Taft, Calif. is a familiar one in many small towns throughout the country. Good luck to the athletes who are going back to Taft College for another try and "right on" to the good element in Taft for its efforts to try to control and search out the trouble in the town. Too few people want to get involved or do anything these days. It is refreshing to find some who are concerned.
I was sickened but glad to read in SI the article concerning the troubles at Taft College. I also was glad to read Rocky Bleier's War in your June 9 issue. No doubt you will receive letters complaining that neither the Vietnam war nor the racial turmoil of a small community is a subject for a sports magazine, yet it is precisely this kind of blind ness that allows a situation like the one in Taft to get out of hand. I hope SI will continue to print such articles. Unfortunately, some people have managed to ignore or forget Hitler and Jesse Owens, the tragedy of the 1972 Olympics and the problems involved in South African competitions, not to mention countless other events that are less publicized. For those who have missed the obvious connection between world and national affairs and the world of sports, SI is providing a necessary service.
Keep hitting them in the face with it; agitation is one possible step to enlightenment.
LAURA C. STRUDWICK
I didn't find the article worthy of SI. It seems to be very one-sided, particularly the account of Joe Rhone's carrying a sawed-off shotgun which "accidentally" wounded Doug Henry. Somehow I couldn't sympathize with Rhone to the extent that Joe Jares seemed to expect.
I suspect that both the athletes and the thugs in the town were to blame for the violent events narrated. However, Jares never really reveals the cause of these events. He merely implies that a Ku Klux Klan mentality was responsible, which, to me at least, seems too simple an explanation. Innocent blacks versus evil whites is a trite situation that I doubt exists in Taft, or elsewhere.
LARRY J. REYNOLDS
College Station, Texas
As a former resident of Tulare, Calif., I thought the article on racism in Taft was long overdue. As you pointed out, it is not a recent development in Taft's history and it does not stop at the city limits. The same problem exists in varying degrees in Delano, Porterville, Tulare and most of the other small towns in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley.
Taft has now been nationally embarrassed and should take this time to re-evaluate its standards and, one hopes, establish a precedent of racial tolerance and acceptance for the entire valley.
Blacks are more readily accepted in athletics than in any other field, but a school must have the complete support of the community to go any further in seeing that "equal rights" are in fact equal for all human beings, black, white, red, brown or yellow.
BARBARA LIGHT NESSLE
Fort Monroe, Va.
From "Legend" to "Loon," your issue of June 23 was one of the finest cover to cover that I have read in quite a while. I was most impressed with the variety of the articles: from Joe Jares' expos� of the racially troubled town of Taft, Calif. to tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys to the initial appearance in New York of a true superstar on the American scene. You put together a complete resume of sport in its many realms, on and off the field.
Watch out football, futebol is here. With Pel�'s arrival in the U.S. (Curtain Call for a Legend, June 23), soccer will no longer be a "minor" sport. It already is on the rise with younger Americans; it just hasn't yet flourished on the pro scene. Jerry Kirshenbaum deserves a standing ovation for his excellent article on Pel�.