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No Music in Capriati Column

May 28, 1994

It's too bad Mike Downey took a day off from his normally high editorial standards when he wrote his column about Jennifer Capriati.

To make his main point, that we shouldn't pity prodigies, no matter how obvious their pain, Downey needed to assume that prodigies are somehow immune from the human need for an emotionally secure childhood and adolescence. Downey seemed to be saying that if you make enough money and have enough fame, you don't need those things.

Boy, is he wrong. I competed on the women's pro tennis tour for 10 years, and I know how stressful it can be. The world is strewn with many prodigies whose lives became an emotional mess, including some of the people Downey mentioned in his column.

Downey compared Capriati to Mozart, apparently figuring that we would understand how the world benefited from his status as a prodigy. Downey must have forgotten that Mozart died at 35, severely emotionally disturbed and an alcoholic. We would all have benefited more had he lived a long and productive life.

Capriati's childhood and adolescence have not served her well. Her father shoved a racket at her when she really needed a rattle and sent her off to play hardball in the big time when she really needed to spend time learning how to make and keep friends. Let's hope she can do so now.

JULIE HELDMAN

Santa Monica

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The Times' abandonment of quality reportage is further evidenced in Sports, where Mike Downey continues to find an outlet for his intestinal disquiet.

Monday's column on Jennifer Capriati further defames a fine athlete whose alleged crime, the possession of marijuana for her personal use, is not the heinous societal attack the media makes it out to be. Instead, it is healthy teen-aged rebellion. For years the Capriati family breadwinner, this child has not disgraced tennis or herself but advanced both to a higher plane of excellence.

MARK L. MITCHELL

Pasadena

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My compliments to Mike Downey for his excellent column, "Sing No Sad Songs for Her" and my thanks to The Times for publishing it.

The United States is drowning in a sea of victimization; nobody is willing to assume responsibility for their own lives and actions.

The column rightly decried the obscenity of making Capriati a victim because she had enough talent to earn an enormous amount of money playing tennis. She is a victim of her own irrationality and stupidity, nothing more or less.

To imply that the sport and business of tennis is in any way at fault for her difficulties is to insult the people mentioned who have succeeded at life as well as tennis, as well as those who perhaps didn't achieve as much fame in tennis, but still turned out to be productive, honest human beings.

D. B. WARD

Los Angeles

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