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Original Issue


William O. Johnson says it all about horrendous officiating in the NFL (It's Open Season on the Zebras, Oct. 9). If the refs had the ability to admit it when they are wrong it would be a major breakthrough. However, because they don't, the instant replay seems to be the way to go. If there is a questionable call by an official, the coach can ask for the replay. If the replay doesn't show definite evidence of a bad call, then let the original call stand.

Also, you mentioned that Tommy Bell wanted to get the rule changed about intentional grounding of a forward pass. You mean it hasn't been changed? I'm sick of seeing renowned quarterbacks like Fran Tarkenton consistently throw the ball away to protect themselves from a loss of yardage.
Columbus, Ohio

Chicken Little went around screaming, "The sky is falling," but did nothing about it. William O. Johnson reported on zebra flu, but couldn't find a cure. We have the technology to fly through space and tap-dance on the moon, but Johnson says TV instant replay won't solve the officiating problem.

Instant replay may have its limitations, but still it's a lot better than the instant confusion that players and fans have had far too much of lately.
Fresno, Calif.

Art McNally, supervisor of NFL officials, said he was proud of the years of experience of his 100 officials, who "average 48 years of age." He nailed the biggest problem right there. At 48 the official is about 20 years older than the players. What about an absolute age limit of 45 to 50? Above 50 our zebras may be hampered by age and short wind.

I cannot understand why McNally doesn't permit discussion by officials of the negative habits of some players. Regular offenders encourage other players to be lax about the rules. Intentionally illegal play degrades the game.
New York City

William O. Johnson refers to the 1977 AFC championship game between Denver and Oakland and the Rob Lytle fumble near the Oakland goal line. Granted, Lytle did fumble and the call was wrong. But what Johnson and almost every other writer who uses that game as an example fails to mention is the blown call on Jack Dolbin's touchdown catch. Take away Denver's touchdown after the Lytle "non-fumble" but give the Broncos at least six points on Dolbin's circus catch, which was mistakenly ruled a trap, and the eventual score probably would have been the same.

For every publicized bad call by an official there is usually another, unpublicized one to even things out.
La Grande, Ore.

The article does nothing to solve the problems, which are fundamental and can be resolved only by people with a consummate knowledge of the rules and of officiating. Alas, such individuals are in short supply. At all levels of play too many people who are utterly lacking in qualifications influence the caliber of officiating. Even worse, the subject is being taught by instructors who seem to possess mediocre credentials. It is surprising that officiating is as good as it is, considering the many burdens under which it functions.

I must agree with Tommy Bell when he says, "If the game was infallible, it wouldn't be worth watching."
Ellensburg, Wash.

What Tommy Bell fails to understand is that the fans are interested in the fallibility of the players, not the officials. Let's have our surprise packages based on the actions of the players, not on peculiar calls by the officials.
New York City

The Yankees were 59-49 at the two-thirds point in 1977. In 1978 they were also 59-49 at the same point. They finished 41-13 under Billy Martin in 1977, and 41-14 under Bob Lemon this year. The fact is, the team is a strong finisher, regardless of who is managing. In 1974, under Bill Virdon, the Yanks finished 36-18 after a 53-55 start. That was another year in which the Red Sox proved to be a late-fading team. Granted, the drama of the most recent surge was the most intense because of the size of the deficit and the closeness of the race at the wire.

It has been my wish not to enter into the discussion on the brutality of the modern game of American football and I trust this letter will not further the conflicting dialogue that the series on brutality elicited (An Unfolding Tragedy, Aug. 14 et seq.). But I did wonder what tenderfoot convinced the writer of the series that pursuit and gang tackling, along with the present headgear, contributed to a form of lethal destruction. Football is not a dainty game.

The final article in the series became hopelessly bogged down in recommendations, most of which are partially covered by the present rules.

Probably the writer is too young to have any definitive information on the game that led to Teddy Roosevelt's warning. I remember well when, as a player, I was greeted by a line coach who started every session with "Let's see some blood." I recall the death of West Point Cadet Eugene Byrne in 1909. I was an assistant coach at the Academy in 1931 when Army's Dick Sheridan was fatally injured in the Yale Bowl, so I'm less impressed by "the thunder already being heard."

But I do not scold. Rather, I believe there is a way to slow down excessive defensive enthusiasm and eliminate cheap shots, late hits, out-of-bounds hits and misdirected attention to throwing quarterbacks. I suggest assessing the present penalty for violations and, in addition, in flagrant cases banning the player for three minutes, but, unlike hockey, letting a substitute be inserted into the game. I know of no better way to quiet emotions than to have a penalized player sit on the bench watching his substitute take his place, all the while mulling over his headhunting and uncalled-for personal fouls.
Las Vegas

Regarding your item on racing pigs in SCORECARD (Oct. 2), trainer Roy Holding was a tad optimistic in his claim that a 2.9-second, 40-foot sprint extrapolates to a 5.7-minute mile. In fact, it is a 6.4-minute-mile pace. However, while a feed dish motivated the chubby speedsters in the "40," Holding did not mention what would loom on the horizon at the mile mark. If he ever does get a pig to run a 5.7-minute mile, I'd like to know the brand name of that bacon; to cook it you'd have to add your own fat.
New York City

Shame on Clive Gammon (A Date with Nemesis, Oct. 2). If he keeps knocking away at those stripers, he'll bring on a nemesis of a different sort—namely short seasons and severe limits on the already dwindling supply of bass. Three-quarters of a ton of stripers is more than an indulgence, it's a slaughter—a vain display that takes the sport out of sportfishing.
Los Angeles

I respectfully take exception to the comments of John Kellogg, my DePauw University "fraternity father" (19TH HOLE, Sept. 25). One-platoon football, which Kellogg advocates, was a boon only to the "iron man" type of player, who survived because he was the fittest. Excluded from participation in the game were many skilled athletes whose primary assets were speed or the ability to pass, receive or kick. Since the advent of two-platoon football, thousands of athletes who once would have languished on the bench—or quit the squad—have had an opportunity to compete and excel.

In studying Big Ten rosters for 1958, when single-platoon football was flourishing, I note that the average number of lettermen returning per school from the 1957 season was 19.8. This figure remained fairly constant, rising to 20.7 in 1959, falling to 19.0 in 1960. In contrast, my study of the 1978 Big Ten rosters shows an average of 39.5 lettermen returning per school. Thus, in 20 years, participation has increased 100%.

How many recent players of relatively small stature would have survived the rigors of one-platoon ball? I am thinking of outstanding collegians like Mike Harkrader (Indiana), Bill Marek (Wisconsin), Eric Allen (Michigan State), Rod Gerald (Ohio State), Mike Adamle (Northwestern), etc.

I am the father of two budding young athletes, and I hope that if they are skilled as receivers, passers or kickers, but don't possess the talents to play defense, they won't be denied the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of playing football.
Former Director
Big Ten Service Bureau
Wheaton, Ill.

All of us at West Chester State College are gratified that an article about Joe Senser appeared in SI (For Him, It's Better to Receive, Sept. 25). Joe is a fine young man, and his diverse talents deserve national recognition. We are upset, however, at some misconceptions about West Chester that figure prominently in the article and create an unfavorable and demeaning image of this institution. I'd like to correct those misconceptions.

First, West Chester is not a physical education school, as one could easily infer from the article. We do have a School of Health. Physical Education and Recreation, but it is only one—and by no means the largest—of six schools. We have very strong programs in the liberal arts and in many professional fields, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Moreover, we do not "churn out hundreds of phys-ed teachers every year." On the average, we graduate only about 165 physical education majors every year out of a total of approximately 1,300 graduates.

Second, it is unlikely that many students are making cracks about the college library. Only last year, attitude surveys of both students and faculty revealed the library to be one of the most outstanding facilities on campus. The library contains 360,000 bound volumes, and its micromedia collection comprises an additional 350,000 volumes.

Finally, the overall impression created by the article is that we have little to do here but idolize a single athlete. That may be a cute way for a journalist to achieve focus, but it is unpleasant for several thousand of our students to read. I assure you that "the emotional well-being" of West Chester State College does not "hinge on the impending graduation of one football player."
West Chester State College
West Chester, Pa.

Most people don't know about West Chester State College. Why not identify the Rams as the team that lost three straight Pennsylvania Conference championship games to Slippery Rock (1972, 1973 and 1974)? Then they will get some respect.
Slippery Rock State College
Slippery Rock, Pa.

In BASEBALL'S WEEK (Sept. 25) you stated, in effect, that Tom Seaver holds the National League strikeout record of 289. Am I mistaken in the belief that Sandy Koufax holds the modern record with 382 strikeouts, achieved in 1965? And that in 1972, Steve Carlton of Philadelphia notched 310 strikeouts? What's going on?
Garland, Texas

•Koufax does indeed hold the National League record for strikeouts pitched in one season. Seaver's NL record, which has now been surpassed by Houston's J. R. Richard with 303, was for righthanded pitchers only. Koufax and Carlton are lefthanders.—ED.

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