I've been a Bill Walton fan for about seven years. I have a collection of books, magazine and newspaper articles, videotapes and other things about him—more than 1,000 items, a 60-page list—but I have never read a better article on Walton than John Papanek's Climbing to the Top Again (Oct. 15). Thanks.
You reminded me that Walton of UCLA at 20 years of age was sophomoric.
What's your infatuation with Bill Walton? He hasn't played basketball for a year and a half, yet he's on your cover! Lenny Wilkens has coached the Sonics for the last two years and has been in the finals both years. He should be on the cover.
With all due respect to Bill Walton, I thoroughly enjoyed John Papanek's coverage of an even greater phenomenon—the Grateful Dead.
MICHAEL J. MASSA
Glen Head, N.Y.
GREAT WHITE HOPE?
I'm not in the habit of writing letters to the editor, but reasonable and sensitive people need to speak up. The expression "Great White Hope" stems from the era of Jack Johnson. Lately I have seen it repeatedly in print, and most often it is used by sportswriters—constantly, boringly, extraneously. And there it is in paragraph six of your article on Larry Bird and Earvin (Magic) Johnson (Two for the Show, Oct. 15).
I live in the area of the country that calls the SuperSonics the home team. The population of the Seattle area is more than 92% Caucasian. I believe the Sonics have three or four white players on their 11-man roster. That's regional imbalance, or some such garbage. What's more important is that we love our team, revere our NBA championship and respect the players, who are men first and basketball players second. As for color, who cares? Honestly, one doesn't hear it mentioned. So who's perpetuating racism, the writers or the fans?
JAN ARTHUR ROTH
RUSSELL AND DRYDEN
There is a noteworthy coincidence in your Oct. 8 issue. In his BOOKTALK on Bill Russell's autobiography Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man. Jonathan Yardley quotes Russell. "Every so often a Celtic game would heat up so that it became more than a physical or even mental game, and would be magical. That feeling is difficult to describe, and I certainly never talked about it while I was playing. When it happened I could feel my play rise to a new level. It came rarely, and would last anywhere from five minutes to a whole quarter or more. Three or four plays were not enough to get it going. It would surround not only me and the other Celtics but also the players on the other team, and even the referees."
A bit further on in the same issue Ken Dry-den (A Game In Search of Some Contests), writing of his Montreal Canadiens, says, "We are a team that has 'those nights,' those nights when the game finds a level you didn't know existed. Those magic nights when everything you do and everything the guy next to you does...when everything the team does, works. On those nights, we know we are part of something special."
When one stops to think about it. Dryden and Russell share more than just this extraordinary experience. Both are sensitive, thinking men. Both were key figures on unselfish teams that totally dominated their sport. Both retired before they actually "had to," choosing to go out on top. And both have witnessed the deterioration of their respective sports. Neither professional basketball nor professional hockey can currently be called the epitome of a crisp, clean team game.
Basketball has badly missed Russell and everything he represented: hockey will feel the loss of Dryden. It remains to be seen whether adequate replacements can be found.
SEAN PETER KIRST