COME BACK, JOE
Football Commissioner Pete Rozelle made one of his biggest mistakes in ordering Joe Namath to sell or be suspended (Mod Man Out, June 16). He said in an interview that he was certain that Namath had done nothing wrong, but that by his associating with "gamblers and suspicious characters" in his restaurant he had laid football open to suspicion by the public. The public, unlike Rozelle, isn't going to condemn Namath for what he has done because so far he has done nothing. The law is unable to do anything about these gamblers; they are allowed to go free and they probably own legitimate businesses of their own. As long as they haven't been punished for what they have done, why make Namath pay for what he hasn't done? Even if he wanted to, he couldn't refuse anyone service in his restaurant. Namath is being judged on guilt by association and not really judged, because how can he be judged right or wrong when Rozelle, the judge himself, has admitted Namath had done nothing at all? As long as the law is unable to judge in this way, how can the commissioner of football be allowed to, no matter how important the "sacred image of unblemished sport" is.
Football (Mr. Rozelle) has made another forward step in attempting to widen the gap between sport and today's generation. There are enough plastic things in the world today. At least give an old 23-year-old fan like me and millions of kids believable heroes. The Jack Armstrong myth is no longer. I would bet all my old Sis that a majority of athletes don't teach Sunday School and some probably don't even like the taste of milk. Perhaps a cliché, but the kids today do know "what's happening." And what's happening is that athletes, even our Impact Champions, have a right to their own ways and attitudes off the field.
Some no-good once told me that Mr. Rozelle plays cribbage for beers, so, if I promise not to snitch on you, Pete, please let Joe do his own thing.
Painted Post, N.Y.
To try to force Namath to sell his nightclub would be a violation of his constitutional rights. Namath's stand on principle is just one of his many beautiful qualities that endears him to his fans. Namath's honesty is above question and we fans trust him completely. He has every right to own a nightclub if he chooses. He has never and would never have anything to do with fixing a football game for gamblers. Who needs it?
June 22, 1969
The first time I read What Price Heroes? (June 9) I thought the author was pulling my leg; the second time I thought it was funny; the third time I realized that he was 100% correct.
Mercer Island, Wash.
According to Mr. Deford, Simpson is already better than Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Joe Namath, John Unitas, Bart Starr or anyone that's ever played in the history of the NFL or AFL.
He's saying let the owner give Simpson at least $1.3 million for the records it looks like he could break, the crowds it appears he could draw, the injuries he might avoid and the pressures he may overcome.
A man that says Oscar Robertson is not a superstar is not all bad, just wrong.
Hartford City, Ind.
Writer Deford raises some interesting and provocative points in his article. As to his initial question about which organization (General Motors or the Buffalo Bills) is wrong—since the former is willing to pay O. J. Simpson $250,000 for a few minutes of televised discussion of automotive merits whereas the Bills will only begrudgingly disgorge $650,000 for several bone-jarring years on the gridiron amidst surly behemoths—Mr. Deford is hereby advised that neither is wrong. General Motors is interested in O.J. only to the extent to which he performs his projected heroics on behalf of the Bills. If he performs said heroics for a brand-spanking-new and far-lesser-known league theoretically begun by Howard Hughes, as suggested later in the article, General Motors may very well revise its offer to $2,500. What price would Simpson's advertising words command if he played for the Calgary Stampeders next fall? The facts of economic life insist that O.J add the $250,000 on top of the $650,000, plus many other probable emoluments, in evaluating the Bills' offer. He should not, economically speaking, view the GM offer as creating an odious comparison with the Bills' meager stipend, as the writer seems to suggest.
Playing football successfully (on TV) for the Bills is what opens the door to the attention of generous sponsors and other similarly rewarding situations. Yes, O.J. is a little greedy and a little shortsighted, I do believe.
RONALD J. YOUNG
Frank Deford proposes a pro tour for the riffraff golfers, separate from the big-name players. Why? It is just a matter of time until a new batch of Palmers and Nicklauses emerge from the pack and establish themselves as superstars.
Mr. Deford insinuates that we should have only the superstars winning every week, yet the Women's PGA tour in effect does just that and it creates a very unhealthy situation. In summary, if he is going to write an all-encompassing article on sports heroes, he should be better informed on all the sports.
JOHN E. FURZE
Congratulations to Frank Deford for uncovering one of the great American put-ons. In this day and age of everything being relative to something, players' salaries seem to be relative only to each other and to the middle-class incomes of the people Mr. Deford spoke about.
Anything less than what O.J. (and others) are asking should be exploitation because of what the organizations are going to make from their use.
H. A. YAZEL III
As a Washington Redskins' season-ticket holder, I was very amused at Mr. De-ford's rhetorical doubt that Washington fans will continue to pay money to see Vince Lombardi's "faceless performers." Washington fans have long packed both Griffith Stadium and D.C. Stadium in order to watch Joe Kuharich's, Mike Nixon's, Bill McPeak's and Otto Graham's "faceless performers."
RALPH W. SMITH
POT AND KETTLE
Your recent SCORECARD ("Bad Show," June 2) on the CBS Super Bowl film was the most honest analysis I have seen of the unfair publicity with which the AFL has had to cope for nine years.
I commend you for the article, but I must say that it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. For years, SI has given preferential treatment to the NFL. Last year you carried at least two biased articles. One was on the races in pro football, and the other on the great young quarterbacks in pro football. Both stories were made to sound in your future billings as though they covered the two leagues, but when the stories came out, the first turned out to be about the races in the NFL, and the second, "The Young Generals," mentioned Bili Kilmer and Craig Morton but somehow forgot Joe Namath, Daryle Lamonica, Bob Griese and all the other great young AFL quarterbacks.
ANGELO F. CONIGLIO
I am compelled to write you to express the thanks of the millions of fans who viewed the first episode of NFL Action and were, as I was, totally nauseated by it. Ed Sabol made a mistake in not calling it Colt Action. The first episode, which you so aptly reviewed, wasn't really a film of the Super Bowl but rather The Johnny Unitas Story. The Jets dominated the whole game, but in the film the whole show was centered around the Colts finally scoring (to make the score 16-7).
The second episode to date was equally sickening, showing films of the Colts and the perennial losers, the Dallas Cowboys, almost exclusively. I hope future episodes will show some NFL action.
Surely we are aware of the fact that 70 million people watched the Super Bowl on TV. The following day each newspaper and magazine throughout the United States described the game in careful detail. A week later Vince Lombardi and Howard Cosell dissected the key plays on a major-network TV show. In our media a film version of the same damn thing six months later is unacceptable!
May I suggest that you take your eyes off the rearview mirror. A more contemporary criticism and surely a more valid one would be written by a film critic, not a sports reporter. I believe (and the response we received validates this) that we made an honest effort to show another view of a great sporting event, within the framework of film-making. To pass the film off as "embarrassingly bad," because it was produced for the great masses of TV viewers and not as a coaching film is what is called in the parlance of pro-football "a cheap shot." Embarrassingly bad? To whom?
NFL Films, Inc.
Address editorial mail to TIME & LIFE Bldg., Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.