Ryder Cup Money Matters

To read golf columns around the nation, one might think that the inflated controversy about carving up the Ryder Cup revenue pie is likely to lead to a boycott, anarchy or fisticuffs among the U.S. team. Imagine the unmitigated gall of David Duval and Tiger Woods to question where the difference between their paltry $5,000 and the estimated $23 million net earnings go!

Whatever happened to the First Amendment? Doesn't it apply to those who generate millions of dollars for the professional tour and the golf industry as a whole? Are Ben Crenshaw and the PGA people fearful that the public might hear how their players feel about issues other than firmness of greens and narrowness of fairways?

American patriotism hasn't been sacrificed because players, who earned the right to play, and who take a week off to play, question where the lion's share of the take goes. Were Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Schwarzkopf any less patriotic because they drew a paycheck?

How ironic that the PGA, which allows its members to be tattooed in sponsor logos during tournament play and publishes their winnings weekly, is surprised when some question why they don't get more than lunch money to play. I say award each player $1 million, plus expenses. That's approximately half the net profits. The PGA will still have a healthy $12 million with which to stuff its coffers. I suggest that in ensuing Ryder Cup play, the players continue to divide 50 percent of the profits and be free to spend the money as they choose. It's no one's business but theirs.

Mr. Crenshaw should be addressing more salient issues like winning. We haven't won since 1993 and the Europeans thumped us in 1995 and 1997. He should be trying to light a fire in the players' bellies and forget their wallet issues until winter. These players need plenty of team practices at the site of the match. Mr. Crenshaw should get these golfers up to Brookline, Mass., to train, watch films, match partners and play the course as if it's their private club.

We all want to see our team trounce its European counterparts. Our team's pride, patriotism and effort will not be weakened by players raising questions about pay.

-- Terrence J. McGann


Good Horse Sense Starts Early

Regarding Andrew Beyer's column of Aug. 11, Mr. Beyer has greatly offended me and a good many of my friends and family. This "established horseplayer" didn't start out as a handicapper. She started out as an 11-year-old girl madly in love with somebody else's superstar race horse. My children also started out that way, although I admit they didn't find the horses on their own. They were kind of forced in front of the TV and to the track first. Now they ask to go.

For me, it was Seattle Slew -- the ultimate in horse racing Cinderella stories. If Seattle Slew hadn't been purchased for $17,500 and won the Triple Crown despite humble beginnings and an "unfashionable" trainer and jockey, I wouldn't be a fan today.

Great human interest stories and great horses DO create fans. And they will come and bet. And they will bring their family and their friends. If all this can be accomplished simply by little kids falling in love with horses, how much do you think a network devoted entirely to horse racing will do? These kids found these horses on TV or in newspaper articles. Those don't say how to gamble. Create fans first. They'll learn to gamble on their own. Trust me, it works. I know from personal experience.

-- Diane M. Hain


Digging the Long Ball

Reflecting on McGwire and Sosa II, Michael Wilbon recently found himself longing for the days of the great pitchers of the late 1960s and early 1970s who "made hitting a home run special." Oddly enough, of the pitchers he mentions, Ferguson Jenkins gave up the most home runs in that period, while Denny McLain gave up the most per nine innings pitched, and Mickey Lolich, Luis Tiant, Juan Marichal, and Jim "Catfish" Hunter were in, or near, the top 10 in both categories. And big home run totals weren't that scarce in the majors then, either. Forty or more home runs were hit 14 times from 1965 to 1969 and 13 times from 1970 to 1974. From 1990 to 1994, the total is 13.

It's true that for whatever reasons, home run numbers have exploded since 1996. But that still shouldn't jade Mr. Wilbon. Michael Jordan's play above the rim will not be diminished just because going above the rim is more and more routine. So, even if it now seems that almost every second baseman can hit 20 home runs, or that half the Colorado Rockies' players hit more than 40, McGwire and Sosa are still on another plane.

-- Charles Hessenius


A Save That's Bogus

It's time to dump baseball's save statistic, which has become increasingly meaningless. A recent case in point: Robb Nen entered a game in the ninth inning with his team leading, 6-3. His job: Get three outs.

In a span of six batters, Nen gave up two hits, including a two-run homer, and a walk. The Giants still won, 6-5, but was Nen's performance a save? "Near choke" would be more accurate.

I am a die-hard Giants fan, so I'm certainly not picking on Robb Nen. But any statistical award given to a pitcher whose ERA that day was 18.00 and who very nearly gave away the game is a joke. Either fix the stat or get rid of it.

How about this for a simple fix: No save can be awarded for any relief outing in which the pitcher gives up more than one earned run per inning pitched. That might help restore some meaning to the stat.

-- Charles E. Estberg

Severna Park

A Policy of Exclusion

The recent refusal of Saudi Arabia to participate in the World Youth Handball tournament in Qatar because of the presence of a team from Israel (Planet Sports, Aug. 9) demonstrates the prejudice of our purported ally Saudi Arabia against our Middle East friend, Israel. The United States has been willing not only in the past, but currently, to play against all competitors in international events, including teams from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia, in a direct insult not only to the host nation of Qatar, but also to the United States, has chosen not only to refuse to participate, but has asked other Arab states to do the same.

This action casts a pall on international sports. This decision by Saudi Arabia not only endangers the peace process in the region, but brings memories of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler barring Jewish athletes from the 1936 Olympics.

-- Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

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