SI Vault
June 20, 1977
BEISBOLSir:Thanks to Ron Fimrite for his very human story (In Cuba, It's Viva El Grand Old Game, June 6). I anticipate, however, the usual rash of letters that will castigate SI for delving into a political issue. To this expected response, I say if the Fimrite article is political, so is every other article dealing with sports in any publication. What are sports if they are not reflections of the political systems that govern us?BILL SHULMAN Jacksonville
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June 20, 1977

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

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You made a bad call with your conclusion that Houston Rocket Coach Tom Nissalke is irresponsible and a poor sport (SCORECARD. May 30). His address to the crowd was delivered in reasoned tones 10 minutes after the end of the game with Philadelphia. The crowd had settled down, and there were at most 2,000 fans still in the Summit.

Nissalke is so under control during games that he seems a breed apart from most pro coaches. Not only did he deserve the NBA Coach of the Year award, but he should also be acclaimed Most Sportsmanlike NBA Coach of the Year.

Houston is not my favorite NBA team and Tom Nissalke is hardly my favorite coach. Nevertheless, both the club and the coach deserve better treatment than you accorded them.

The entire episode you describe was the inevitable result of egregious officiating that has plagued the league for decades. I began attending NBA games in Fort Wayne in 1942. Officiating in those days was poor, but since then it has gotten progressively worse. Playing skills have vastly improved, however, and the gap between improving play and deteriorating officiating has become a vast gulf. I no longer attend NBA games because the mediocre officiating is an affront to players, coaches, fans and commentators.
Carlisle, Pa.

The real fault for the deplorable situation must rest with the NBA itself. The league left itself wide open by failing to provide the two best referees in the league for the game (there were no other games that day) and employing Jake O'Donnell and Joe Gushue, both residents of the Philadelphia area. While the place of residence of the two officials probably didn't affect their decisions, it opened the door to valid and embarrassing criticism of the league.

If Nissalke was so wrong, then Gene Shue and Tommy Heinsohn should be put away forever. Both constantly abuse the referees and have virtually every NBA official in the palms of their hands. Heinsohn and Shue are the "deplorable" ones, but so far, at any rate, I've never read a single criticism in SI against either one.

Your article on the U.S. Volleyball Association National Championships (The Big Cy Wasn't One Bit Shy, May 23) was fine, but it really missed the major story of the tournament, the major star of the games and possibly the dominant force of the next few years. I'm talking about Flora Hyman, the 6'5" black woman who led the South Bay Spoilers to the women's championship. She had just returned from the North Central American and Caribbean Championships (NORCECA) where she led a resurgent American women's team to second place behind Cuba and where she was honored as the outstanding player in the event.

Flo Hyman's quality as a player and as an individual was reflected in everything she did in Hilo. She dominated the tournament like no other player ever has, turning a team of good players into a great team. She deserves all of the individual credit bestowed upon her and merits wider recognition.
Executive Director
United States Volleyball Association
San Francisco

We were delighted with your article on Phil Woosnam (Nothing But Blue Skies Does Woosnam See, May 30) and glad you got a picture of the Woosnam smile. Since he first arrived in Atlanta I have often thought that with all that fantastic energy and enthusiasm, if one were looking for an illustration to define "infectious" smile, he would be the perfect subject.

The dedication and zeal is also infectious. Woosnam's belief in his sport and in its future attracted a dedicated band of converts even if the box office could not produce a profit quickly enough for owners. We still believe soccer can succeed in Atlanta. Incidentally, Woosnam is the only coach who has ever brought a major league championship to the city.
Stone Mountain, Ga.

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