Here's a great big thank-you from all loyal Cleveland fans to that great prognosticator, Tex Maule. The Browns' glorious victory over the "invincible" Colts was undoubtedly assisted by Tex's brave prediction of an overwhelming Colt victory. Tex's record over the past few years has been perfect (always wrong), and I hope he keeps it going with future predictions of Cleveland losses.
Keep up the good work, Tex, old buddy, and please don't pick the Browns to win next year—Cleveland couldn't take another second-division team like the Indians.
Having read Tex Maule's scholarly article, in which he says (among other remarkable things) that "the game will not be, as some seem to think, a rout but...it should result in a decisive victory for Baltimore," and having viewed the complete offensive and defensive humiliation of the Baltimore Colts, I should like to suggest some sort of award for Tex. Perhaps an Oscar for "deadwrongmanship."
WILLIAM E. DEVITT
Your two men, Tex Maule and "Tex" Shrake, have proved that once again the way to predict a championship game is to use the opposite of what you say.
I think it is time SI gave an award to the most consistent performer in sport. The winner by a large margin would be Tex Maule.
NED C. HOELZER
Just how wrong can a sports predictor be?
New York City
•In six years of predicting the outcome of the NFL championship game, Tex Maule has picked the winner four times, missed twice.—ED.
The myth of the fabulous Western Conference of the NFL (How the West Has Won, Nov. 23) was brought to a close forever by the Cleveland Browns, despite anything your writers (Maule and Shrake) continue to say.
The Western defenses have been overrated for years: Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago and, now, Baltimore. If a team that could not score in the championship game could score 30 points a game against Western opponents during the season, then there is no difference between the two conferences, or at least there is no such thing as Western superiority. Perhaps the reason that the East has won but two of the last eight championship games has been that the New York Giants played in five, losing all of them.
I sincerely suggest that you find some writers who realize that Cleveland is and will be for some time the best team in the National Football League—which, despite the absurd words of any AFL fan, is the same thing as being the best team in professional football.
Mount Vernon, N.Y.
The Cleveland Brown-Baltimore Colt championship game proved only one thing: the St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in the NFL.
New York City
Peter Straus' letter with its sarcastic remarks about Bill Bradley (19TH HOLE, Dec. 21) shows an ignorance of the game of basketball and of Bill Bradley. There is no question but that Bradley is the best college basketball player this year or that he is truly one of college basketball's alltime greats.
My own personal experience with Bill came in the NCAA regional triple-header at the University of Pennsylvania's Palestra, March 11, 1963 (Bill's sophomore year). That was the night I "held" him to 40 points (12 of 21 field, 16 of 16 foul line) and 16 rebounds.
That game was only one of many great games I have seen Bill Bradley perform in. So I salute SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and Frank Deford on a terrific article on a terrific gentleman and basketball player.
•As a guard who ranked among last year's scoring leaders with 579 points (a St. Joseph's record) for a 20.7 average, Steve Courtin speaks with authority.—ED.
DAVIDSON AND GOLIATH
After watching Davidson demolish the Big Ten co-champion, Ohio State University, among others, I want to congratulate you for your choice of the Wildcats for top national ranking. This is the second consecutive year that Davidson has trounced the Buckeyes soundly. (OSU has won or tied for five consecutive Big Ten championships.)
Other victims of the Wildcats, all whipped by substantial margins, include Furman, Jacksonville, VMI, Wake Forest and Virginia—not to mention their latest victories in the Charlotte Invitational.
JAMES T. MCCLUNG JR.
Your LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER labels Theodore Sturgeon's How to Forget Baseball (Dec. 21) as an Orwellian view of 1984 and beyond—which it may be—but it seems that many centuries ago the same bloodthirsty spectators cheered enthusiastically as the lions deftly outmaneuvered and defeated the Christians. Are we really progressing as we near the future? While men ponder Mr. Sturgeon's views, we in our neighborhood have started a sandlot Quoit team. But instead of the deadly thin scarlet line, we are using raspberry Jell-O so that severed heads will be kept to a minimum. See you at the stadium in 1986...or in 186.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S readers interested in basketball (like me) have now been told in Robert Boyle's generally optimistic piece on the future of sport (The New Wave, Dec. 21) that basketball is slipping in popularity, that it is designed for glandular freaks, is Dullsville and cannot keep out the gamblers and gangsters.
There are two criteria for measuring the growth and popularity of a sport: attendance and participation. In both, basketball rates high. In 1957 attendance at basketball games in the U.S. was 142,848,698, a remarkable figure in itself. Last year it was up by 10 million. The latest survey on participation (1963) shows that basketball ranks highest in team sports among U.S. schools, a position it has maintained for decades.
Around the world, basketball is fast approaching soccer as a truly international team sport, while the future of such American team sports as baseball and football in this regard is questionable.
The other points Mr. Boyle made are irrelevant, snide or just plain wrong. He quotes Richard Snyder and the National Sporting Goods Association to make one of them, but the N.S.G.A. is, quite properly, concerned with sports like billiards and boating, which require an investment of several hundred dollars before one can participate. Basketball requires only the purchase of a basketball. Hence Mr. Snyder is not interested. What he overlooks, however, is the millions of dollars spent annually to build basketball courts and arenas. The list of new college facilities alone would fill a page.
As for the statement about "glandular freaks," it is an insult to the players and demeaning to all fans. Size is an asset in basketball as it is in boxing, football and other sports. But the seven-foot nonathlete is no more able to play basketball than the 300-pound nonathlete is able to play the line in football. If you don't think so, try foot racing, high jumping, weight lifting or playing golf against Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, Wilt Chamberlain or Elgin Baylor.
Sure, basketball is vulnerable to the fix and has been fixed. But so has horse racing.
The one correct statement Boyle made is that pro basketball has been a comparative failure on network television. But it seems to me even more refreshing that a major sport can survive and grow in popularity without the degrading and corrupting aid of the boob box.
Along with millions of other football fans, I have been greatly intrigued by that recently introduced electronics marvel dubbed the "isolated camera." Its ability to rerun a play—with utmost clarity and within seconds after it has been completed—certainly suggests a further assignment for it.
Because of the substantial stakes involved in the outcome of football games, both college and professional, I believe that the camera should be used for review of plays which could have a bearing on the final result of the game, and particularly where there is some question as to the correctness of an official ruling. Since it is now possible to do this within the span of an official's timeout, claims of an unjustly assessed penalty could be settled immediately and wrong decisions reversed.
No reflection is intended on the quality of the officiating we are now getting. However, the human eye has definite limitations and, with "10-second" men scampering all over the premises, it is not only possible but very probable that faulty decisions are occasionally made.
This is not to say that the use of the isolated camera for this purpose be made a commonplace thing. Most likely, it would be called upon only two or three times during a game and then only upon a signal from a member of the officiating team sitting in the stands. But I do not go along with those who believe that the only position from which a game can be impartially viewed with regard to conformity to all regulations is at eye level with the players.
WILLARD C. STIEVATER
The present idiotic postseason bowl system should be replaced by a series of games to determine the national college football champion. Virtually every sport played on the college campus has its national championship competitions, in which teams or individuals go to the regional and the national championships; yet football, which has long been the king of campus sports, is the only one which does not conform to this exciting and sensible system.
Suppose that instead of the World Series of professional baseball we had a number of meaningless postseason exhibition games featuring contests between, for example, Detroit and Cleveland, the Yankees and Boston, and Kansas City and Houston? The idiocy of such a situation is obvious, but it is the same situation which has existed since the football bowl system has been in operation.
The five major bowls are the Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Gator. Of these, the Rose Bowl is obligated to pair a West Coast team with the Big Ten representative, while the other four are under no similar obligation. Despite the latter fact, during the last three years these four bowls have featured no less than 11 Southeastern Conference teams. During the same period the Big Ten of the Midwest and the "Big Five" of the East, both of whom are at least as powerful as the SEC, have together had a meager total of six teams in the five big bowls.
During the past five to 10 years the teams from the Big Ten and the SEC have dominated the wire services' ratings and, as a result, one of the hottest debates in the world of football has been over which of these conferences is superior. Amazingly enough, however, the last time representatives of the two conferences met in a postseason game was in the 1938 Orange Bowl.
The obvious remedy for these evils is to establish a national championship series patterned after the basketball and baseball championships or based on a seeding system—with more emphasis on the caliber of a team's opposition than on its record. If all teams ended their seasons in mid-November the series could conclude in early January.
FRED GUSTAFSON JR.