NOTRE DAME'S TITLE
It appears that the No. I product of Alabama is sour grapes (SCORECARD and 19TH HOLE, Jan. 23). 'Bama fans obviously have a great deal of animosity toward Notre Dame, undoubtedly because the Irish have beaten the Tide three times in three games. Notre Dame is No. 1 because it was a top-ranked team and soundly thrashed the previous No. 1 team. Simple logic. If you study the final AP Top 10 teams, you will find that Alabama did not play a single one of them. Notre Dame played two of the final Top 10 and four of the final Top 20. Only Texas played a "tougher" schedule, playing three of the final Top 10, one being Notre Dame. Against common opponent USC, Notre Dame won 49-19 while Alabama squeaked by with a one-point win, 21-20. So, no matter how you look at it (except with the tunnel vision of a 'Bama fan), Notre Dame is No. 1.
P. D. BOSCHE
If Alabama backers are as unconvinced about Notre Dame's 1977 national championship as we Penn State fans are about the "national championships" of Ohio State in 1968 and Texas in 1969 (years during which the Nittany Lions were undefeated), why don't they pursue a real national championship—via a playoff—instead of "legislating" a Top 10 as phony as those of the polls and obligating themselves to play in the Sugar Bowl each time Alabama wins its conference?
I can see it all now. The winners of the Southwest, Southeastern, Big Eight and Pacific Ten Conferences will all be undefeated someday but unable to play each other because they are married to their individual bowls. Hooray for independents such as Penn State, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, which will be free to seek a national championship determined on the field of play, not in the prejudiced minds of coaches and sportswriters.
FINKLE AND ALGER
I have long wanted an excuse to write and thank you for the offbeat stories you publish that capture the true flavor of sport more effectively than any number of Super Bowl or America's Cup features. A case in point: Kelly Jentoft, who also teaches English at Kent State, and I agree that 47 Years a Shot-Freak (April 20, 1970), chronicling the career of Wilfred Hetzel, is the finest sports story ever published. The Eddie Feigner (A King Without a Crown, Aug. 21, 1972) and Marty Reisman (A Little Night Music, Nov. 21, 1977) stories were also outstanding.
In your Jan. 23 issue the story of Evil Eye Finkle (Evil in the Eye of an Older Beholder) is in that tradition. However, as a longtime collector of Horatio Alger books and former treasurer of the Horatio Alger Society, I must point out that Ben Finkle must have had a genuine identity crisis as a child. He reports, "I never could figure who I wanted to be: Ragged Dick or Tattered Tom." Tattered Tom is actually a girl whose name is either Jane or Jenny ( Alger was not always consistent himself). Perhaps it is from this genetic tension that Finkle derived his ocular dexterity.
New Philadelphia, Ohio
VIEW FROM STRATTON MOUNTAIN
In your recent article on Burke Mountain Academy (It's All Downhill from Here, Jan. 2), Douglas Looney gives credit begrudgingly to the many achievements of Warren Witherell and his ski academy and seems more interested in creating witty one-liners than in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of a successful sports academy. Ski academies just might be the solution to the lack of consistent success of U.S. skiers at the international level. Certainly they are here, and they deserve serious consideration.
Contrary to the article, it is possible to combine successfully academic and athletic excellence. Stratton Mountain School's college placement record (and the achievements of its graduates in college) compares favorably with that of any college preparatory school in the country. And our students continue to ski well enough to earn places on our national ski team.
Stratton Mountain School
Stratton Mountain, Vt.