Sugar Ray—a perfect pick (One Life Fulfilled, Dec. 28-Jan. 4).
Sugar Ray Leonard's boxing accomplishments, plus his artful, tasteful handling of his role as champion, certainly support his selection as SI's Sportsman of the Year.
Also, it was somewhat gratifying to note that, according to Frank Deford's article, Thomas Hearns is a good enough fighter to be acknowledged as Leonard's greatest challenge. This is a conclusion that was hard to draw from the cruel, demeaning treatment of Hearns in your articles before and after their fight.
JOHN R. WHEELER
You blew it! I have nothing against Sugar Ray Leonard. He really did have a very good year. But how could you choose Leonard over John McEnroe? McEnroe had an unbelievable year. He was an underdog to Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon, but beat Borg where Borg is best. He won the U.S. Open for the third time in a row, and, finally, he led the U.S. to its Davis Cup win. His Cup final against Jose-Luis Clerc was a perfect ending to a wonderful year. I've never seen anybody play tennis the way McEnroe did in 1981. He was just phenomenal. You better make up for it with a heckuva swimsuit issue!
George Plimpton's ode (Birds Thou Never Wert) to the imaginary "superb song swift" in the same issue only heightened my disappointment over your choice for Sportsman of the Year. For me, that perfect bird brought to mind Wayne Gretzky, hockey's perfect player in 1981, and Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett, the perfect runners of 1981 who, though they never met, repeatedly pushed each other to new heights. The selection of Gretzky or the joint choice of Coe and Ovett would have been better than picking a boxer who has learned to market himself.
DR. Z'S ALL-PROS
Thanks to Paul Zimmerman for his accurate selection of the 1981 All-Pro team (Dr. Z Picks the Pick of the Crop, Dec. 28-Jan. 4). Instead of merely choosing all the old familiar names, he determined which players had really had the best year.
I was disappointed when I saw that James Lofton was the only Packer named to the Pro Bowl. Mike Douglass was overlooked, even though he is the best linebacker on one of the best linebacking crews in the NFL. I was delighted to see Dr. Z picked him. His choice of Jan Stenerud was good, too. As Zimmerman mentioned, Stenerud set a record for field-goal percentage. He didn't have as many points as other kickers because he didn't get as many PAT opportunities with the comparatively low-scoring Packers.
Traditional names will continue to reappear on All-Pro and Pro-Bowl lists unless people like Zimmerman point out the players who really had the most outstanding season.
Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
Many thanks to Paul Zimmerman. After looking over the various All-Pro teams, I was glad to see that at least one—Zimmerman's—acknowledges the extraordinary talents of the Giants' Mark Haynes. It's hard to get interceptions, much less press clippings, when no one is throwing your way. Furthermore, no defensive back in football plays the run better.
JOHN D. SHAUGHNESSY
Just who does Dr. Z think he is? His selection of players for his All-Pro team is just that—his. Although I agree with some of his choices, I find others laughable, especially on defense. The Philadelphia defense was second to none—it was rated No. 1 in the NFL—so how come there were no Eagles on Zimmerman's team? No Carl Hairston, Dennis Harrison, Frank LeMaster or Al Chesley? As for Wilbert Montgomery being only the fourth choice at running back, come on! Zimmerman's first and second selections, Tony Dorsett and Billy Sims, can't compare with Montgomery when it comes to taking a good hard hit but still gaining another couple of yards. Zimmerman may be a good writer, but his All-Pro selections leave something to be desired.
ALAN J. EBY