Your suggestion (SCORECARD, Jan. 2) calling for the use of a "super referee" to monitor NFL games via TV's instant replays and reverse any obvious officiating errors proved timely during the AFC championship game. Oakland may have lost the game because of a Ron Lytle "nonfumble" (Wholly Moses for Denver, Jan. 9). A super referee would have made it a different ball game.
If a plan such as you suggest were adopted, I think it would be necessary to have still another official to watch over the super referee in order to correct any mistakes he might make.
SI's proposal to have a super referee monitor football games by way of television is interesting but fraught with difficulties. There are many violations of rules in football, basketball and hockey that are not seen by officials but that are noted (duly and loudly) by spectators. If an official is on the off-side and does not see a fumble but merely sees a quarterback tackled and going down, how can you fault him? And if no other official on the field sees the play and consequently offers no amendment, don't you go by the standard rule that the officials are doing their best, even if at times they err?
THE REV. EARLE A. NEWMAN, S.S.J.
AFC VS. NFC (CONT.)
Now wait just a minute! I have read Wellington Mara's letter (Dec. 12) on the subject of AFC superiority over the NFC in head-to-head competition and want to add some corrective analysis.
January 16, 1978
Wellington attempts to explain away the AFC's winning record by quoting figures on the post-1969 records of the three switchover teams—the Colts, Browns and Steelers. He credits these three teams with being the decisive factor in the AFC's reaching a superior level. Taken as a group, the won-lost figures he quotes (which include all games against all opponents) indicate that Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland have been successful overall. However, for two reasons, the figures are really not pertinent. The facts are that in the seven seasons since the merger was finalized that Wellington talks about, two of these teams—Baltimore (53-44-1) and Cleveland (49-47-2) have been just about average. Only Pittsburgh (64-33-1) has a strong winning record. A closer look at AFC-NFC head-to-head competition shows that the three teams' combined eight-year record against NFC teams is definitely average—34 wins and 33 losses (50.7% which, ironically, is exactly the percentage by which the AFC now leads the NFC after eight years—147 wins to 143 losses).
Pittsburgh, a team that arrived in the AFC tied for the worst won-lost record in pro football (1-13 in 1969), has a 14-8 record vs. the NFC in these eight years. Baltimore is 11-11 and Cleveland is 9-14.
It is well established that Pittsburgh now is a power in pro football, but by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that the three teams are the reason the AFC has moved ahead of the NFC. Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls, but certainly not based on credentials the Steelers brought with them from the NFL. As Wellington says, Chuck Noll was a "Paul Brown disciple," but he also was an "AFL disciple," having been an assistant coach for at least five years in the AFL. Baltimore was rebuilt under Joe Thomas' guidance and he has both AFL and NFL backgrounds.
The AFC's current superiority will not last forever—these things run in cycles; however, it is healthy for pro football that opinions are voiced about who is best. In this case, I felt it important that a closer look be taken at the facts.
American Football Conference
Curry Kirkpatrick did a fine job of chronicling the thoughts of many NBA players regarding violence (Shattered and Shaken, Jan. 2). Kirkpatrick is heading in the right direction when he suggests the implementation of the three-point shot. This would relieve the congestion in the free-throw lane. It would also add more excitement to the offense, allowing Dr. J and other gifted athletes in the NBA to put on an even greater show.
However, the second suggestion of a three-man officiating team should not be implemented. After watching that system in action in the Big Ten for the last five years, it is evident to me that three officials cannot adequately communicate with each other and coordinate their calls and positioning well enough. There is also an alarming tendency on the part of officials to rely too much on the other guy to make a call. This results in many out-of-position calls and, consequently, an inconsistently officiated game.
Wes Unseld's statement, "The NBA has created a monster out of fighting. Now let them live with it." just about sums up the basic problem. However, two other statements need a bit of clarifying. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar maintains that "he labors under a 'double standard.' " Yet, if memory serves, Abdul-Jabbar's brief fisticuffs with Kent Benson was not his first experience. The names Hairston and Awtrey seem to ring a bell.
The second statement was credited to Kermit Washington, who is upset because this is his option year, and the exposure caused by his hitting Rudy Tomjanovich may reduce his value in the marketplace. What about Tomjanovich? What about his future worth in the marketplace? Washington's analogy is laughable at best. Tomjanovich was the individual who was mugged. Washington is getting his just desserts.
One final note. If all of the Bullets really feel the way Mitch Kupchak says they do ("If we put ourselves in Kermit's position, we would have reacted the same way"), then professional basketball is in a sorry state.
Though this may be the tragic end of a great career for Rudy T, I don't think he or any Houston fan wants to see Kermit Washington crucified. All we want are better-enforced rules to keep this from happening.
The problem of violence in the NBA is a growing one, yet it can be solved. The hand check has ruined the game and by tolerating this technique officials have allowed pro basketball to become distorted by defensive mauling. The 1970 New York Knicks played true defense. Many of today's teams play a kind of karate defense. Large fines and long suspensions are not the answer. The referee's whistle would do a lot more than people think. The hand check has to be eliminated, before someone gets killed. If Commissioner Larry O'Brien does not see fit to take this step to improve basketball, he alone can take the blame for the resultant violence, not Kermit Washington or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
WILLIAM MATTHEWS JR.
As a backcountry national park ranger in the Coast Range mountains of Alaska during the summer months and one who has traveled 600 miles down the Yukon River, I find the flora and fauna of that state and the colorful atmospheric displays unsurpassed. The trophy hunters from the Lower Forty-Eight who pay extravagant fees to stalk and kill the wildlife are bitterly scorned by the true Alaskan, who hunts for survival in the Far North. It is hard to believe that Robert F. Jones can be so concerned with the environment when writing his essay on the fragile nature of this giant state and at the same time view out-of-state or transplanted big-game trophy hunters with rose-colored glasses (Land of Geese and Plenty, Dec. 12). It's beyond me. Let's hear it for the lesser Canadas and snows that "yelped across the sky, usually well out of range."
CRAIG A. JULEEN
Before the Americas were discovered by the Europeans, the part of North America that we recognize as the Lower Forty-Eight was as pristine, verdant, beautiful and as abundantly endowed with non-human life as Alaska is today or ever has been. Therefore, we can no more blame the native Aleuts, Eskimos and Indians of Alaska for the current damage being inflicted upon the fragile ecosystems of that state than we can blame the native Americans of the Lower Forty-Eight for our current problems of gross overpopulation, polluted water, polluted air, ravaged landscapes and depleted and endangered wildlife. Clearly, it is at the hands of non-native people that the Alaskan earth and its life forms have suffered and continue to suffer most severely.
DENNIS M. LUND
Robert F. Jones' article on fishing and hunting in the Tikchik Lakes region was refreshing. Not a fisherman myself, I nevertheless enjoyed his descriptions and his remarks on conservation.
Having traveled to Alaska the past two years, and to Katmai National Monument this past summer, I was particularly pleased with Jones' assessment of "the fragile giant." As huge and as abundant in wildlife and wilderness as Alaska is, it must make critical and subtle decisions if it is to maintain even a semblance of its present spirit.
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