From the Editors
Frank Deford’s “Britannia Rules,” the centerpiece of our July-August issue about the Olympics, garnered laurels. Richard Hauser of Novato, California, was “left with tears flowing at the end, having been deeply moved by Deford’s words.” Scores of readers cheered author Sally Jenkins, who called for Olympics officials to fully recognize Jim Thorpe’s gold medal-winning feats at the 1912 Games (“The All-American”). Randy Sims of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, wrote, “What a shame that the world today feels a need to invent celebrity for its own sake when there are folks like Mr. Thorpe who have earned and deserve our respect but continue to go with less than appropriate notice.”
Christie Aschwanden’s article, “The Science of Doping,” was compelling, but I was left with a nagging question: What is not a performance-enhancing drug? For Andre Agassi’s last professional tennis match, for instance, he required cortisone shots to quell the pain in his back, an action hailed by many as heroic. Didn’t the cortisone “enhance” his performance? Casual sports fans like me have a hard time differentiating between the legal and illegal substances athletes use. Perhaps that is why we make ignorant comments like the one uttered by Ms. Trotter’s airplane companion—“Oh, they’re all on drugs”—while at the same time we cheer when epic home runs are hit and Olympic records fall.
The Winners’ Circle
Let me propose three track athletes whose Olympic achievements would seem to put them on the same pedestal as Jim Thorpe: Bob Mathias, an American, was only 17 when he won the decathlon at the 1948 London Olympics. He earned decathlon gold at Helsinki four years later. Paavo Nurmi—the “Flying Finn”—won nine gold and three silver medals in distance running at the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Games. Emil Zátopek—the “Czech Locomotive”—won the 10,000-meter gold and 5,000-meter silver in London in 1948. His performance four years later was unmatched in the history of Olympic distance running as he won the 5,000-and 10,000-meter races and followed these triumphs with a victory in the marathon.
Ole R. Holsti
Salt Lake City, Utah
Time to Rethink
As I sat on the bus reading “The Mind” by Temple Grandin, I felt as if I had been struck by lightning. My partner of over 40 years and I are always having discussions (arguments) about the fact that I am unable to visualize his projects. I can never imagine what he’s describing to me, even if he draws little diagrams. Now I understand—I am a word thinker in the extreme. What particularly resonated with me was when Ms. Grandin said she had labeled files in her brain. I have always virtually filed information in my brain as well. The essay has given me a new perspective on how I think and why sometimes it is impossible for us to agree! Thank you, Smithsonian and Ms. Grandin.
Feeling One’s Age
I agree with “Wise Up.” I am enjoying myself more in my old age than I did in my youth. I don’t take things seriously. I laugh more. I do as I please without worrying about what people would say. I’m alone, widowed for several years, but I’ve learned to cope and take care of myself. I like my life.