O.J. & CO.
O.J. Simpson is finally receiving some of the credit he deserves (Vintage Juice 1864...and 2003, Dec. 24), but what about the rest of the Buffalo Bills?
In just two years the young Bills under the leadership of Coach Lou Saban have moved from the bottom of their division to a 9-5 record (their first winning record since 1966), second place in the AFC East and within a hairbreadth of the playoffs. Go ahead and use the Bills' easy schedule as an excuse for their nine victories, but what about their impressive wins over powerhouse teams like Kansas City and Atlanta?
Buffalo has been ridiculed long enough in the NFL. Now the Bills are beginning their climb to the top. There is no reason why anyone should be laughing at Buffalo anymore.
Ron Fimrite is to be congratulated on his excellent article. O.J. is truly an asset to the game of football, and he will have defensive linemen and backs at his heels for many years to come. The Juice deserves a lot of credit, not only for gaining 2,003 yards rushing in one season along with his other ballcarrying records but, as Quarterback Joe Ferguson says, for giving credit where credit is due. Simpson is not a Namath or an Ali who will tell you why he is great. Instead, he will tell you who opened the hole.
May I interpose—nay, interject—a still, small voice from the past? In all of the hoopla over O.J. Simpson's 2,003 yards breaking Jim Brown's record of 1,863 I must speak of another legendary hardnose, the old Washington Redskin Cliff Battles. His records stood a long time. Of all the great runners past and present he was, in my estimation, Slasher, Dasher, Donder and Vixen all rolled into one. He backed the Skins' line; he did their punting; he threw and completed halfback passes; and, in the words of the immortal Sammy Baugh, "He followed interference second to no man I ever saw." Grantland Rice mentioned him among the best ever.
Records are made to be broken, as O.J. says. But for a man who played only six years in the NFL, was three times all-league and the leading ground-gainer twice, one hears remarkably little today of the fabled Bobcat from West Virginia Wesleyan.
Mt. Sterling, Ohio
MASTERS OF THE RING
It is interesting to note that in your story on the heavyweights (The Power and the Glory of the Champ, Dec. 24) three of the four experts listed Ezzard Charles as one of the top six of all time. Only Nat Loubet, who admits to favoring oldtime fighters (there are seven pre-1930 fighters on his list), omitted him. I have been touting Charles' skills for years and I am happy to see a majority of this particular group of experts agrees with me. Strangely enough, Ezzard was probably the very best light heavyweight who ever lived, although he never held that title; anyone who disagrees might ask Archie Moore, who was so good in the mid to late 1940s nobody would go near him. Ezzard did, three times, and he beat him three times, the last time (1948) by a knockout. This little-known fact, by the way, generally stumps even knowledgeable fight fans who, when asked the question, invariably say, "Moore musta killed him."
Howard Beach, N.Y.
Cus D'Amato's statement that boxing can be divided into two periods, "the old and rather primitive days and the modern era of superior techniques that began with Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson," is a blatant misconception and an injustice to the boxing artists of the early 20th century. The two fighters he speaks of would be the first to disagree with D'Amato.
To back up my claim I quote from Sugar Ray, Robinson's autobiography with Dave Anderson, in which Robinson cites his early boxing education at the old Grupp's Gymnasium in Harlem: "I really had gone to college at Grupp's. My professors were the old-timers who hung around there. Famous old fighters like Harry Wills, Kid Norfolk, Panama Joe Gans. And some not so famous ones like Soldier Jones. All they did was talk boxing and all I did was listen." Joe Louis learned his "superior techniques" from Jack Blackburn, a boxing master who was considered a top professional from 1904 to 1909. The techniques of great boxing are old; it is the modern boxers who are superior.
If the great fighters of today such as Jose Napoles and Bob Foster had been competing half a century ago, they would merely be considered two among a host of other outstanding, highly qualified ring technicians.
I got a real bang out of reading about the heavyweight boxing champions. However, I was most interested in the so-called experts' opinions on the 10 greatest alltime heavyweights. I note that all said "experts" were white. Funny thing about that, the real experts in the ring, like the guy in there throwing the leather, almost always wind up being black. That's why the black man has held the heavyweight championship all but four years and eight months since June 22, 1937. And the black man could have taken the same championships long ago, before the turn of the century, if the likes of John L. Sullivan and Jim Corbett had not been afraid of the likes of Black Peter Jackson. Let's face it, baby; I have researched that subject more years than I care to admit. And one thing I discovered long ago: a good black man can beat a good white man any day in the week and twice on Sundays.
Truly great heavyweights come along about once in a decade. Taking each and every one of the 25 men who have held the heavyweight championship from Sept. 7, 1892 to date, you can count the best on your two hands, or less. And now for the shocker: nary a one of them was white. A great champion takes his opponents as he comes to them, as Joe Louis did. He does not handpick the washouts, the setups and the nobodies, as all of the white heavyweights who have passed themselves off as champion have done.
The 15 white men who have been called heavyweight champion since 1892 held the title about 40 years combined. They defended the title a mere 46 times, by carefully avoiding the black man, or any fighter who could give a good account of himself. The 10 black men who have held the same title close to 40 years defended it 71 times, and for the most part against all comers. They gave white hope after white hope a shot at taking it back, but the white hopes could not and still cannot cop the crown. To paint the picture even brighter (in this case blacker), in heavyweight championship matches between blacks and whites, of the 57 chances, whitey has won seven while blackie has taken the other 50. Of the seven limes the white has beaten the black man, six times the black man was already old and over the hill. The exception occurred in 1959 when Ingemar Johansson chilled Floyd Patterson. But Patterson came back to retake the title a year later and became the first and only man to hold the title twice.
However, in all fairness, I cannot be proud of George Foreman for not defending his title more. A black champ is supposed to be a fighting champ, in my book, and Foreman is not living up to the black champ's fighting image.
LEONARD L. COPELAND
Had I read your article about professional boxing in a copy of Mad, I would have commented on what a great job they had done satirizing man's extreme cruelty and ignorance. However, since I found the article in SI, I can only suspect that you are glamorizing what you seem to believe is a sport. When two men get into a ring simply to knock each other's brains out, it is not sport.
You've done it! You've really done it! The Power and the Glory by Ernest Havemann was one of your incomparable articles. What took so long?
There is just one thing that Mr. Havemann left out. There is an old saying that "as heavyweight boxing goes, so goes boxing." This could be changed by bringing other illustrious fighters to the public's attention. There are many. You could do something about that. What do you say?
I surely enjoyed Liege Lord of the Latin Hopes (Dec. 24) by Frank Deford. Howie Haak and I worked for Brooklyn and Pittsburgh for more than 10 years.
As Mr. Deford pointed out, Howie has one of the great retentive minds, which is a must when it comes to scouting. Every boy of ability a scout sees will reflect some other player who has met with success in professional baseball. This triggers the scout's mind and makes him aware that he has a prospect in the boy. The degree of the prospect is then figured by comparing his physical tools to those of the player of reference. The ability to put this all together and project how far it will carry the boy makes a scout. Howie Haak is one of the top men in baseball. I owe what success I have had to him and to Mr. Branch Rickey Sr., the man who set up the system.
The scouts are the backbone of every baseball organization. It is nice to see one of the forgotten men recognized.
ROSS (ROSEY) GILHOUSEN
Western Director of Scouting
Kansas City Royals
Santa Ana, Calif.
AT THE NET
Joe Jares' article That Rumanian Black Magic (Dec. 17) was frosting on the cake to anyone who watched the Grand Prix finals of the Masters Round Robin. Quite the best tennis article on a tournament I've ever read. To be fair, Jimmy Connors must have something else going for him besides his tennis game and his fiancée.
Once again you have failed to recognize Tom Gorman as one of the stars of tennis. You only briefly mentioned his name, even though he beat Nastase. I think Gorman's fine play and sportsmanship deserve more.
Camano Island, Wash.
I was most distressed to note your failure to cover the Dec. 8 NAIA championship game in Shreveport, La. The Wildcats of Abilene Christian College waltzed to an impressive 42-14 victory over Elon College of North Carolina, as Abilene Christian's freshman All-America tailback, Wilbert Montgomery, broke NCAA and NAIA single-season records with 37 touchdowns.
Outside of always guessing right about UCLA winning the NCAA basketball championship, your track record for picking winners of national titles has not been very impressive. We were very pleased, however, to see your prediction (Scouting Reports, Sept. 10) about Louisiana Tech capturing the NCAA Division II championship come true. Obviously, SI was aware that we had something special in Ruston this year.
WALTER JAKIELA, D.D.S.
JAMES FLORENCE, D.D.S.
PRIDE OF SAGINAW
Obviously high school football doesn't rank with the pros, but maybe you will agree that the following is an exceptional event. What is perhaps the best high school football team Michigan has ever had, Saginaw's Arthur Hill, has recently completed a spectacular season. Not only did the team win all of its games, it was never scored upon. The offense added 443 points to the perfect defensive effort, for an average of 49 in each of the nine games (more than a point a minute). The lowest output was 34 points, while twice the team scored more than 60 points. This shutout season is unequaled in Michigan Class A football since 1933.
Arthur Hill's climb to the top is very similar to a Horatio Alger story. In the three years from 1968 to 1970 the Lumberjacks' record was 1-25-1. Then George Ihler came to Saginaw, and with him as head coach Arthur Hill put together a 21-5-1 record from 1971 to 1973. The Lumberjacks now have a 17-game winning streak to start the season with next fall.
As a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., I was able to empathize with the piece entitled "Name of a Name" in the Dec. 17 SCORECARD, describing the frustrations of Miami University alums.
Wesleyan, a member of the Little Three, along with Amherst and Williams, is usually recognized as one of the nation's finest liberal arts institutions. Few people, however, are as well acquainted with Wesleyan as they are with our rival schools. Part of the problem is that Amherst and Williams have contributed such pro football players as the Cowboys' Jean Fugett, the Dolphins' Doug Swift and Jack Maitland, who played for the Super Bowl champion Colts and later for the Patriots. It doesn't help any that the man who is one of the finest players in the history of Little Three football, Tight End Stu Blackburn, Wesleyan class of '69, spurned the pros to join the Peace Corps.
But an even bigger thorn in our side has been the dozen or more Wesleyan colleges preceded in title by the name of a state, such as West Virginia, Nebraska or Kentucky. The best solution for this problem was proposed by a student several years ago in a discussion about alternative uses for the school's very large endowment. The board of trustees, it was submitted, should use Wesleyan's millions to found a number of small, parochial colleges and call them North Dakota Williams, Iowa Amherst, Tennessee Williams, Oklahoma Amherst, etc.
PETER N. MICHAELSON
Drink, don't nibble! Ski nibbling (SCORECARD, Dec. 10) isn't all good and some of it is bad. The basic idea in cross-country skiing is the same as in marathon running or any other endurance sport: replacing liquid loss is primary. Second is glucose replacement. The rule in cross-country is to drink little and often: in racing, half a cup or so every 20 minutes of a drink containing 5% to 10% glucose and .1% to .2% salt. Oatmeal, peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and M & M's are O.K. if you stop for a meal or a snack. That chicken soup may be O.K., too, but not heavily salted.
M. MICHAEL BRADY
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