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Sportsman of the Year
Your praise for Arthur Ashe is welcome. Years ago he gave our family one of the best gifts ever—the life of my father. Because of Ashe's work in providing information on heart disease, Dad was able to identify the onset of his serious symptoms. After open-heart surgery and an early retirement, Dad has enjoyed an extra 10 years of life and love, including a 50th wedding anniversary last summer. Ashe deserves to be rewarded for the gifts he has shared with all of us.
We applaud your choice. Ashe's courage and integrity make him a role model for all. We wonder if there has ever been a Sportswoman of the Year, and if so, who and when?
?In 1972 tennis champion Billie Jean King shared the award with UCLA basketball coach John Wooden in our first double pick. Tennis star Chris Evert was Sportswoman of the Year in 1976, and track star Mary Decker was our Sportswoman in 1983. In 1984 we chose two Olympic gold medalists, gymnast Mary Lou Retton and hurdler Edwin Moses. In 1987 golfer Patty Sheehan and hurdler Judi Brown King were among the eight athletes we selected who honored the world of sport by helping others.—ED.
In an era when sports news is dominated by multimillion-dollar contracts and business-related issues, Ashe is an outstanding example of how a sportsperson can rise above the fray and serve as an inspiration for fans old and young alike. I know that many others share my wish for Ashe's success in his latest challenge. I hope that God will grant him many more years to apply his energies to his noble endeavors.
Arthur Ashe symbolizes courage and strength in the way he has dealt with tragedy during the course of his life. He is truly a terrific role model for everyone, and a hero of mine, but should he be the 1992 Sportsman of the Year? Ashe may deserve the designation of Man of the Year for his many accomplishments over the years, but the Sportsman of the Year award should be reserved for an outstanding athlete who has achieved greatness as a sportsman in the current year or in the recent past.
I admire Ashe and have a great deal of respect for him. However, he is not the Sportsman of the Year. Maybe next year you will select Al Kaline, Ben Hogan or some other old-time great as the Sportsman of 1993.
You've got your criteria all mixed up. Basically you are saying that no active athlete, in this Olympic year, "epitomizes good works, devotion to family and unwavering grace under pressure." That's absurd. I don't wish to denigrate Ashe, since his efforts and dedication to numerous causes over the years are truly admirable. However, if you wish to recognize him for these efforts, then create a lifetime sportsman award or lifetime humanitarian award. Unfortunately, you have deprived an active athlete who deserved this honor.
?He's Biff Henderson, now stage manager for the TV show Late Night with David Letterman, on which he frequently appears in skits. Henderson and Ashe are still friends. Their latest communication was just before Christmas, when Henderson telephoned Ashe to let him know that Letterman was going to mention SI's award on his show. Henderson's tennis game is not what it once was, but he still plays. When he can't get a game, he sometimes hits balls against a wall in a park, often using a 30-year-old Jack Kramer wooden racket.—ED.