Congratulations! In Edwin Shrake you have actually found another writer who knows as little about football as Tex Maule (How the West Has Won, Nov. 23). Mr. Shrake believes that there are at least three teams in the Western Division that are superior to the Browns, including the Detroit Lions. After what the Browns did to the Lions, I wonder if the Lions could hold their own against the Pomona jayvees.
University Heights, Ohio
Edwin (couldn't you call him Tex, too?) Shrake admits that the West defeated the East in the past three years by virtue of favorable weather conditions ('61 and '62) and a critical injury ('63). How this proves superior foresight on the part of the Packers and Bears somehow escapes me.
In the next breath he claims that Y. A. Tittle has been effective in New York because of his education in the West. This strikes me as a singular theme, in that I recall, as recently as last year, that you people were claiming Y. A. never became a truly effective quarterback until he came to the Giants.
Men like Jim Brown, Sam Huff, Frank Gifford, Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Mitchell, Kyle Rote, Steve Van Buren, Buddy Dial, Tommy McDonald, Chuck Bednarik (enough?) were and are products of the Eastern teams. And as for the inane comment that "in the East there were Baugh and Otto Graham," did not your man ever hear of one Charles Albert Conerly Jr.? All he ever did was steer the Giants to three Eastern Division titles and one world championship (score 47-7).
STEPHEN H. ALVEN
December 14, 1964
Until reading this article I was sensitive to anything said against the Eastern Division of the NFL. But this was an unbiased report of the horrible plight of professional football due to bad scouting. I hope the Eastern Division takes heed. Vive la Edwin Shrake! Vive la SPORTS ILLUSTRATED!
New York City
You hit the nail on the head in your editorial about football injuries in scholastic football (SCORECARD, Nov. 30). Size alone seems to be the sole requirement some coaches have for selecting a player. Here in New Jersey this past season no less than seven youngsters of 300-plus played varsity football. Now, how can a boy of 15 standing 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 345 pounds possibly pass a physical examination for strenuous exercise?
Yet I talked to one such boy who told me he cared little about playing football, but the coach saw him in the hall one day and talked him into going out for the team. He had been excused from the conditioning exercises because he could not do deep knee bends, sit-ups or even one push-up!
You are correct; the early teens is the wrong time of life for a youngster to begin organized tackle football. In these years boys of the same age may be quite unequal in size and musculature, and sudden spurts of growth can make a boy's body slow to learn safe body-contact techniques.
Prevention of football fatalities depends upon school-supervised medical examinations for every team candidate. It also depends upon patient high school coaches who will neither accelerate nor abort the body-conditioning phase in their desire to teach the fundamentals—which should have been "begun slowly" years before.
ROGER M. SHERWOOD
While 15 may be too young for football as presently played by high schools, it should be pointed out that younger boys in a well-run football program can participate safely and satisfactorily. I have been coaching boys 10 to 14 for more than 25 years; during that time there has not been a serious injury among my boys or our opponents. On several occasions boys could not participate because of broken bones and other injuries incurred playing cowboys and Indians.
ALFRED G. HARE JR.
A slap on the back of the hand for Gwilym S. Brown (A Matter of Pride at Endsville, Nov. 30). Someone must have put rocks in his mattress while he was here.
We here at "Endsville" are proud of our Cajun Classic tournament and of the community effort that makes it possible. This is a very aggressive and modern city, as proved by the population increase in the last dozen years, and we are equally proud of the state's second largest university (University of Southwestern Louisiana), which has an All-America basketball player, an up-and-coming football team and a bowling team that is one of the top collegiate teams of the nation.
Mr. Brown must have been referring to the position of the tournament at the end of the PGA circuit rather than to the place where it was held. It will be a long time before Lafayette, the Cajun Classic and the hospitality surrounding it are forgotten. I'll even wager that both Palmer and Nicklaus will come back.
WARREN K. FINLEY
PARADOX IN THE WILDERNESS
Robert Boyle's fine article America down the Drain (Nov. 16) has provoked a keen and lingering sense of shock and despair. My wife and I had the good fortune to live the first two decades of our lives in the great Pacific Northwest. Now, as a Foreign Service family, we look forward eagerly to vacations in our wilderness. Every three or four years, during our home-leave periods, we head for the open spaces, more thankful each time that new highway projects make it easier, safer and quicker to get there. Yet what a paradox! In modern America a resident of Virginia, as I have been, can hop in a car and within 72 hours have his fly line floating along Wyoming's Green River, having paid gasoline taxes into the treasuries of several states en route, plus a few dollars for a nonresident fishing license. Yet if the good citizens of Wyoming should someday decide to do something to the river—either a dam or a highway, for example—which would make it less than the great trout stream it is today, what can we do?
Since we Americans take for granted the ease with which we can cross state boundaries and make use of what lies beyond, with little or no thought to the legislative, administrative and organizational functions that make all this possible, it would seem that part of the solution to the current problem is to make more of us aware of the remedial machinery already at our disposal.
BLOCK THAT KICK
I wonder if it has occurred to your experts, as it has to me, that the field-goal craze is killing professional football. It is no longer necessary to cross the opponent's goal line to win a football game. The thrill of watching a team move in for a touchdown is lost about 50% of the time. In a close game the team that finds itself one or two points behind in the final minutes doesn't even try to score. Instead it maneuvers the ball to the center of the field and pow!—three points and the game.
Phooey! Who wants to see a field goal? Let's get action and see them score touchdowns, or football will get the same treatment as baseball.
J. J. BIERNAT
There seems to be no question that the field goal enjoys a greater prestige in pro football today than it did years ago. A glance at the listing of leading scorers in the 31 years of pro football from 1932 to 1962 will reveal rather dramatically the year 1947 as the pivotal year of the field goal's modern ascendancy. In 13 of the 15 years prior to 1947 the leading scorers attained a majority of their points by way of the touchdown. In 10 of the 16 years after 1946, however, the leading scorers acquired a majority of their points by way of field goals and extra points.
In view of the above statistics, it would be rather difficult to dispute the fact of the field goal's modern ascendancy. What needs to be disputed is whether the ascendancy is good. I am of the opinion that it is not altogether good and that rules for the field goal need to be reconsidered.
One deleterious effect of the present rulings is the superabundance of long, long field-goal attempts. According to the present field-goal rulings, teams would be foolish not to try for the three points on the long tries, because the kicking team has everything to gain and very little to lose. Should the attempt fail, the net effect would be the same as if they had punted—so why punt? Today the field goal is generally resorted to on fourth-down situations inside the 50-yard line. This not only gives a rather strong offensive advantage to a team merely for having crossed the midfield stripe, but it grants this advantage without any corresponding risk.
To remedy this situation, I would suggest the following change of ruling, namely, that when a field goal has been attempted and missed, and the line of scrimmage is beyond the 20-yard line, the ball is spotted back on the line of scrimmage. This ruling, while no doubt lessening the number of long field-goal attempts, would restore greater balance between risk and gain and thereby improve the element of sport in one of the greatest of sports.