Egad! You put a Denver Bronco, Rubin Carter, on your cover (Oct. 17), but you did it just before our undefeated team was to play the undefeated Oakland Raiders. All I could think of was the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover jinx and those Raiders beating us again. But hold on! Our 3-4 "Orange Crush" defense intercepted seven Kenny Stabler passes (one for a touchdown by Louie Wright) and recovered an Oakland fumble as Denver won 30-7. Please jinx us again. For starters you can feature our linebackers (Randy Gradishar, Joe Rizzo, Bob Swenson and Tom Jackson), who are perhaps the best four in the NFL.
Peter Gammons' preview of the 1977-78 hockey season cannot go unchallenged by Indianapolis fans. He calls Indianapolis "reject city" and says that the Racers have players that no one else wants. I can assure you that we want them.
Two years ago, as the clock, ran down and the New England Whalers eliminated the Racers in the seventh game of the playoffs by a score of 6-0, the 8,000 Indianapolis fans still in attendance gave their team a standing ovation. Do you think that would happen in New York? I doubt it. Our players may not be the most talented, but we enjoy their play and support them all the way. We averaged more than 9,000 fans last year.
LES BRANDT JR.
Why does SPORTS ILLUSTRATED continue to downgrade the World Hockey Association and refer to it as a dying minor league? According to all the reports I've read, the league is more solvent than it has been in its six-year history. It is true the WHA lost four teams in the past year. The owners have had the good sense to fold those that are unable to pay their own way, unlike the NHL, which continues to pump millions of dollars each year into its floundering franchises.
"On the ice, the WHA has also improved. In exhibition games this season against the NHL the WHA came away with a 13-6-2 record. Not bad for a minor league.
I read with disbelief Alan Eagleson's remark that there aren't more than 20 major league hockey cities in North America. Who is he trying to kid? The problem is not a lack of good hockey cities; rather, it is a growing list of cities where fans are no longer willing to pay as much as $14 more than 40 times a year to see Eagleson's overpaid clients perform. All of the current NHL and WHA cities are good hockey markets, and so are most of the cities that have lost their hockey franchises in recent years. If hockey teams were able to charge baseball-level ticket prices (which aren't so cheap anymore, either), major league hockey arenas once again would be packed.
It is no surprise that hockey is dying. It is a simple matter of suicide. In a little more than a decade the sport has grown to five or six times it's previous size, even though there is little player development in the U.S. The resulting lack of competition has made most games dull, yet ticket prices have risen. The NHL owners, choosing to ignore all this, refused to merge and consolidate with the WHA, though that would have reduced expenses and heightened competition.
At the same time, people are daily turning away from the sport because of its brutality. The recent disgraceful Bruins-Flyers brawl resulted in only minimum fines and suspensions. Does this augur another season of little punishment for mass thuggery on the ice?
Hockey will soon go the way of the Roller Derby. It need only look in the mirror to see why.
New York City
So the Yankees won it all. And what moral conclusion are we to draw from this? I suppose a lot of baseball fans will merely turn cynical: money can buy world championships just as it can buy love, happiness and friendship. The Yankees certainly seem to have disproved some, of our most cherished beliefs. There is no denying the skills of the individual Yankee players, but to call them a team is a joke.
Ann Arbor, Mich.