The Feb. 23 issue of SI struck me as an especially important one. Henry
Grunwald's essay, American Renewal, and John Underwood's brilliant admonition
and declaration of hope, A Game Plan for America, are reflections of
enlightened sports journalism at its best. They will be required reading for
all of my students preparing to coach and teach. But the audience should be
larger still. Sports fans, television executives, school officials and the
greater army of parents and youngsters all should memorize Underwood's sports
lesson: "Competition can't serve a society if it's antisocial. Winning at
any cost and true sportsmanship are incompatible." They are shibboleths, to
be sure, but we all have come perilously close to forgetting them.
Professor of Physical Education and Sports Historian
The Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pa.
I have long thought that losing can be as powerful a teaching tool as winning
can. As John Underwood indicates, winning has become all-important in our
society. I believe that this emphasis is misplaced. Rather, it is in the
acceptance of a loss and in the lessons to be learned from losing that
character building often occurs. Life deals us many cruel and seemingly unfair
blows. Facing up to—and overcoming—losses on the athletic field may not totally
prepare us for life's hardships, but they often instill in us important
qualities such as humility and integrity. These lofty values provide us with
the ability to pick ourselves up after we have been knocked down. They also
help us to build a positive self-image, gain self-confidence and, consequently,
contribute to society.
today's young athletes in how to lose properly, as well as in how to win
graciously, our nation's coaches will accomplish their greatest task: the
formation of mature, responsible individuals able to function together in this
East Lansing, Mich.
Whether we like it or not there can be only a few champions, but as long as we
hold true to the ideals put forth by John Underwood there need not be any real
LORIN M. BURTE
Thanks to John Underwood for telling it like it is. It was the frustration of
trying to persuade others of the virtues of this type of philosophy that
recently made me resign my position as director of recreation and parks in Del
Norte County, Calif. My conviction that there are values to be derived from
sports was implanted by coaches who cared and who gave their time to all who
were interested. I believe that I am the product of my athletic experiences,
and I am thankful that, though I was never a star, I was included in my school
sports programs. I recently reviewed my yearbooks from Oakland Technical High
and came across pictures of such outstanding athletes as John Brodie, Curtis
Rood, Proverb Jacobs, Pervis Atkins and Ronald Dellums, now a U.S. Congressman.
I offer my thanks to those special coaches who developed these well-known
people and still had time for me.
The ball is in
the court of today's coaches of young athletes. What are they going to do with
Congratulations to John Underwood and SI for presenting a lucid and intelligent
"game plan." A responsible approach to sports that stresses
participation, fair play and an athlete's commitment to his best effort is not
a call for mediocrity. Excellence will always shine through, and we will still
be treated to unbelievable and thrilling performances by those few athletes who
have the skill, coaching and determination to test the bounds of their
As a father of three sons who participate in sports, as a fledgling manager of
a boys' baseball team and coach of a youth football team, and as vice-president
of a construction company, I have found in John Underwood's article lessons to
be learned for each of these endeavors.
JOHN C. MASCARO
It strikes me as odd that in the same issue in which you spoke of the need to
discourage young athletes from having unrealistic dreams of making it to the
pros and also of the dangers for youngsters of specialization in sports you
would feature on the cover a 17-year-old hockey phenomenon who began his
relentless push for glory when he was eight. It seems to me you are feeding the
fires of short-term pleasure and long-term pain. If you are serious about
American Renewal, I suggest an editorial policy review.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
I find it sickeningly arrogant that you publish a fine article like A Game Plan
for America and then proceed to print in FACES IN THE CROWD the exploits of a
young soccer player who scored 12 goals in a 20-1 "victory." It's
little things like this that perpetuate the attitudes you ask us to reconsider.
In the future, please use your forum to bring us truly valuable lessons in good
sportsmanship and competition.