Your March 30 issue goes down in my book as one of the best. The coverage of the NCAA basketball playoffs was insightful and humorous. The article on Johnny Bench helped me to understand his demands. But the most uplifting stories were those on Mike Newlin, Ronnie Darling and Chris Landry. At a time when athletes seem to have become money-hungry tradesmen selling themselves to the highest bidder, it's gratifying to read of the dedication to excellence of Newlin, the emphasis on sport in its proper perspective by Darling and Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti, and the purity of the challenges that Landry sees as sport. Thank you for a breath of fresh air.
PETER C. SEMEYN
It was great to see Mike Newlin of the New Jersey Nets receive the recognition he so richly deserves ("Genius Is Perseverance in Disguise"). He typifies the exuberance of NBA players of days gone by. It's like a fresh burst of spring to see his enthusiasm. He's surely the Pete Rose of basketball.
I thoroughly enjoyed Douglas S. Looney's article on Mike Newlin. However, for the sake of historical accuracy, your readers should know that when Newlin is in Washington, D.C., he must travel farther than Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave of Robert E. Lee. Lee is buried in Lexington, Va. (about 185 miles southwest of Washington) on the campus of Washington & Lee University. After the Civil War, Lee served as president of what was then Washington College, and he and members of his family are buried in Lee Chapel.
Washington & Lee '76
I thoroughly enjoyed Frank Deford's marvelous feature about Yale's Ronnie Darling (A Desire to Excel). More than anything, it was a pleasure to see an article showing that as wrong as it is to condemn the Michigans and USCs as mere sports centers, it is equally inaccurate to categorize Ivy League schools as intellectual monasteries.
What Deford, himself a Princeton graduate, didn't include is that among the proposals of Yale President Giamatti that "irritated a good many alumni" were: 1) that the Ivy Group cease to think of postseason competition as a natural or necessary element of varsity athletics; and 2) that the Group cut back the schedules of practice and play. This led almost directly to an Ivy-wide banning of fall lacrosse and baseball practice to go with the existing taboo on spring football workouts and other non-seasonal practices.
Giamatti's reasoning, to paraphrase, is that an Ivy title should be goal enough for an athlete and that the pressure of preparing for any further steps, such as a national tournament, is injurious to Ivy principles and the education of Ivy students.
While I commend Giamatti's and the Ivy Group's motives, I disagree with this particular reasoning. Ivy members, and colleges in general, should allow the development of an extracurricular interest to be as important to the student as he wants to make it, and this means, in my opinion, letting one's abilities take one as far as possible. If, as was the case two years ago, Penn has one of the best basketball teams in the country, why not let the players go out and prove it, and in the process learn more from the experience than they could possibly have gained from the classes that were missed or the homework that didn't get done?
If restrictions are to be imposed on athletics in the interests of education, similar restraints should be put on other activities. Limit orchestra rehearsals to five months a year and restrict private piano practice to 10 hours a week. Permit students only one recital a year. I'm being facetious, but the point is that Ronnie Darling is as much the model college student as is the future Nobel Prize-winning biochemistry major.
Thanks for the superb article on Johnny Bench (Johnny Goes Job Hunting in a Tight Market). His 1980 statistics—"24 homers and 68 RBIs in only 360 at bats"—average out to one home run in every 15 at bats and one run batted in every 5.3 trips to the plate. Not bad. Bob Horner, Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt averaged one home run for every 13.2, 12.5 and 11.4 at bats, respectively
I think Bench should be allowed to try out for some other positions—and to play them, if he's better than the other guy. After all, what is the Reds management afraid of?