THE GREAT DEBATE
I totally agree with John Underwood regarding his debate with Paul Zimmerman (A Running Debate, Sept. 7). I feel that the running attacks of most college football teams are much more advanced and more exciting to watch than those of most pro teams. I'd much rather see a college game featuring good running attacks than sit through a pro game watching "cows on ice."
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Paul Zimmerman is stupid to think that pro football is as exciting as the college game. Pro football is dull. Pro coaches should have their quarterbacks run options and bootlegs.
Diamond Bar, Calif.
I have a bit of news for John Underwood and Paul Zimmerman: The running game isn't obsolete in the modern NFL. In this season's first week, seven teams—Tampa Bay. Philadelphia. Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Green Bay and Atlanta—rushed for more yardage than they gained via the air. All seven won.
Of course, as the Oilers have spent three years learning, you can't win with an attack based solely on rushing. But an "Air Coryell" mentality is no more effective, and it seems to me that no team has ever won the Super Bowl with a one-dimensional offense.
John Underwood throws all those 400-yard rushing figures in college games at us without considering the difference between college and pro defenses. Defensive play in the 'pros is totally superior to that of the colleges. With many pro teams playing the 3-4 defense and others playing the flex, it's nearly impossible for pro teams to match college rushing figures.
I feel that the passing game of the pros is much more thrilling than the constant running game of the colleges.
College football more exciting than the pros? Sorry, John, but you've got the wrong sport. You're thinking of basketball.
The pros can't run because the "daylight" between the zones, where professional defenders are effective, has diminished severely over the years as their collective size, speed and tackling skills have increased while the field dimensions remained fixed.
This situation exists for the colleges, as well, when the talent factors are equal. Over the past decade, balanced offensive teams like USC and Notre Dame have consistently defeated their run-oriented peers from the Big Ten, Southeastern and Southwest conferences, especially in postseason bowls.
Because pro defenders have even greater effective ranges than their college counterparts, pro offenses must constantly search for means to spread them out. Given that the field isn't likely to be widened, this means that the offensive attack zone can be increased only via the air—and at the expense of the ground game.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
DR. Z's PICKS
Your Pro Football Issue was great, but picking the Packers to finish last in the NFC Central was a big mistake (Scouting Reports, Sept. 7). The Pack is back, and the preseason and opening-game results prove it.
Dallas to finish ahead of Philadelphia? Come on!
Paul Zimmerman's pick of the Oilers to finish 7-9 and in third place in the AFC Central is ridiculous. The Oilers can stack up their offense against any team in the NFL and come out at least even.
Buffalo to go all the way? You'd better believe it! Thank you, Paul Zimmerman.
Black always seemed to me an appropriate color for the Oakland Raiders' uniforms. After all, nothing else would have looked quite right on Jack Tatum. And now the Raiders are coming on strong with greed as Al Davis attempts to send Oakland fans back to their living rooms while he seeks the end of the rainbow in Los Angeles.
But I should have known. Even big business has its white knights. Rick Telander's story about Jim Plunkett (In the Eye of the Storm, Sept. 7) sent all my "Hate Oakland" emotions packing. I hope Plunkett carries the Raiders to another Super Bowl championship.
ROBERT G. COYNE
To locate a football-playing college smaller than Pillsbury Baptist, with its 340 male students (Small Colleges, Aug. 31). you need look no further than Pillsbury's 1981 schedule. On Oct. 10, Pillsbury travels to Water-town, Wis. to play Northwestern College, a school that fields a football team from just 280 male students. Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that NFL scouts have their eyes on two of Northwestern's linemen, seniors Daniel Marshall and Eric Zimmerman. I'd say it's a classic case of quality, not quantity.
Dan Jenkins' delightful reminiscence about the glory days of TCU football (When the Frogs Were Princes, Aug. 31) would have met with my father's complete approval. He would have been pleased to be remembered as the first Heisman Trophy winner from the Southwest Conference, but more pleased by far to have his beloved school so fondly recalled.
Perhaps, though, he would have been most pleased with his friend, Dan Jenkins, affectionately describing a time when football was a game that people like my father played for the sheer fun of it. In that respect, the boys in the baggy canvas pants are one up on their counterparts in the fishnet jerseys.
DAVID O'BRIEN JR.
TCU's Sammy Baugh was truly one of the alltime greats. I saw him play many times as a Redskin. He was not, however, quarterback of the 1937 NFL champion Redskins. I saw the game at Wrigley Field. The backfield consisted of Riley Smith, quarterback: Ernie Pinckert, blocking back: and Cliff Battles and Baugh, halfbacks. The Redskins of that time used the single-wing formation. The Chicago Bears were the only T-formation team in the league.
Baugh put on a spectacular display of passing and kicking. He could quick-kick from the single wing, and did so several times on third down. The field was frozen, and with no safety back on third down, the ball would roll forever. As I recall, several of his quick kicks went 70 to 80 yards that day. He also played safety on defense and made a number of game-saving tackles when he was the only man between the ballcarrier and the goal line.
Baugh's passing feats are well known. Not too many people recognize his punting ability. The last time I checked, he still held the NFL record for highest punting average for a season [51.4 yards].
WILLIAM B. BARNES
As a loyal University of Michigan alumnus and football fan, I was delighted to observe, in your Aug. 31 issue, our much-deserved preseason No. 1 national rating (The Top 20). The article on Herschel Walker of Georgia (More than Georgia's on His Mind) was also of interest. However, the comment that he was the first freshman to make the All-America team "in this century" is incorrect.
Michigan Fullback Frank W. Steketee, my uncle, was named on Walter Camp's All-America team in 1918 as a freshman. Frank was a great runner, punter and dropkicker.
JOHN P. STEKETEE
When John Papanek compares the total number of players from different college football conferences who are on NFL rosters (What You See, You Get, Aug. 31), he ignores the fact that the Pac-10 has two more schools than the Big Eight. When you calculate the average number of pros per school, which is the only fair comparison, the Big Eight leads the Pac-10, 16.5 to 14.0.
STEPHEN L. STERN
I want to call your attention to an obvious typo in John Papanek's article. The statement reads, "Alabama doesn't even have to play Georgia this year." Everyone makes mistakes, so don't worry, because I know that he meant to say "Georgia doesn't even have to play Alabama this year." Or last year, which is why the Bulldogs were rated No. 1 at the end of the season.
John Papanek stated that the last two Florida State teams have been "overrated." Where does he get off? The 1980 Seminoles were 10-1, with only a one-point (10-9) loss to Miami. They defeated Nebraska and Pittsburgh back-to-back and finished the season No. 1 in scoring defense. Only a last-minute pass by Oklahoma Quarterback J.C. Watts in the Orange Bowl kept FSU from a possible national title.
THE TV REVOLUTION (CONT.)
Your two-part article on cable and pay TV (The Television Revolution, Aug. 10 and 17) was most enlightening. It confirms my suspicions of long duration: Owners of major sports franchises aren't headed for the poor-house. They're heading toward that pot of gold called cable TV revenue. I feel everyone in Chicago knows that Eddie Einhorn, the former TVS and CBS mogul, purchased the Sox for the future benefits cable TV will generate in the Chicago area. We all know cable isn't going to make billionaires out of the owners. How about multibillionaires?
LAWRENCE C. NEFF
In Part II of William Oscar Johnson's article, Tom Villante describes a scenario in which a Cleveland youngster becomes an Atlanta Braves fan because of a "tremendous load of Braves games" carried to Cleveland via cable from WTBS in Atlanta. "He's the least productive fan in all of sports," sniffs Villante.
I'm sure Villante was merely trying to make a point, but he obviously believes that the existence of such aberrations is a result of cable TV in general and superstations in particular. I believe that he's a little behind the times.
Radio created this so-called problem, commercial television compounded it and now cable is trying to profit from it. Radio broadcasts from faraway cities to rural areas helped create pockets of fans for those city teams throughout the countryside. Thus, an Oklahoman could be a St. Louis Cardinal fan without once leaving home. With the aid of satellites, the reach of a broadcast became wider. For example, in the late 1960s and early 70s, while living in New Haven, Conn., I became a Minnesota Viking fan.
To paraphrase Pete Rozelle, what reduces the number of fans is a losing team. In New Haven I was surrounded by losing teams: the Bills, the Jets, the Giants and the Patriots. I had to root for somebody. The weekend TV broadcasts allowed me to go shopping nationally. So in decrying the youngster in Cleveland who's a Brave fan, Villante is picking on the wrong villain.
By the way, I now receive both WTBS and WGN (Chicago) at my home here in Alabama. I have quite a choice: the Braves, the Cubs and the White Sox; the Bulls and the Hawks; and even the Sting and the Chiefs. But I intend to stick with the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers.
ZOLLIE S. STRINGER III
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