Of the six issues of SI that preceded Super Bowl XVI, four pictured eventual Super Bowl contestants on the cover, and three of them featured San Francisco 49ers: Earl Cooper (Dec. 21). Dwight Clark (Jan. 18) and Joe Montana (Jan. 25). According to the myth about the SI cover jinx, this should have more than sealed the fate of the Niners: Surely they would lose to the Bengals. But no, the 49ers put an end to this old armchair quarterback's excuse. Congratulations. The myth of the SI cover jinx is all but dispelled. Then again, don't let Thomas Hearns read this. He might not agree.
MARK C. CLARK
I admit the 49ers are a talented football team—you have to be talented to beat a team like the Cowboys twice in a row—but don't you think that three 49er covers in 35 days is a little ridiculous? And that's not even counting the Super Bowl cover of Feb. 1.
I know the girlie version of SI is upon us. but this gal already has her pinup, thanks to your great cover shot of my new heartthrob. Joe Montana. Thank you, SI, I needed that!
I hope you will have some comment on Joe Montana's public pill-popping at the start of the second half of the Super Bowl. I am sure that many of the millions of fans who saw it on TV are curious. After all, there was a confident Montana on the sidelines, headgear off his handsome head, just before the kickoff, extending his palm toward a trainer to receive a pill, which he popped into his mouth. My dentist thinks it was an upper, but he can't understand why Montana got off to such a slow start in the second half. Could he have been slipped a downer by mistake?
SIDNEY L. JAMES
Laguna Hills, Calif.
•No uppers or downers here. According to the 49ers, Montana suffered cramps in his passing hand in the first half and was given a tablet of a soluble calcium salt supplement called Fosfree. Among its various applications, Fosfree, which contains calcium, vitamins and iron, is sometimes useful for relieving such muscle cramps.—ED.
Was I the only person in the world to see San Francisco lose the NFC championship game against Dallas (Off on the Wrong Foot, Jan. 18)? On the last play, after San Francisco's game-clinching recovery of a Dallas fumble, didn't Joe Montana take the snap from center and, while the opposing linemen stood up to shake hands, etc., turn and run from near midfield through the San Francisco end zone for a safety? No matter if time expired before he got there; the play started with 27 seconds still on the clock.
In an amazing coincidence, SCORECARD in that same Jan. 18 issue carried an item on a high school game between Shawnee Mission (Kans.) South and Shawnee Mission West that parallels this situation: The "winning" quarterback took the final snap on his opponent's 40-yard line and then, without downing the ball, retreated toward his own goal line, waiting for the last five seconds of the game to elapse. An alert opponent rushed up, grabbed the ball from the quarterback and ran it in for a touchdown and victory for the "losing" team.
It sure would be nice to have the 49er play explained!
•Although it may have seemed that way, the situations weren't identical. Art McNally, the NFL's Supervisor of Officials, assures us that after Montana took the final snap, he dropped back and down on his right knee, whereupon he was touched—actually, grabbed at each side of the waist—by Dallas Right Cornerback Dennis Thurman. The referee then blew his whistle, ending the play. While it's true that the clock was still running when Montana stood up and, noting the crowds descending onto the field and some players leaving it, ran off with the ball through the end zone, there could be no safety because the ball hadn't been snapped to begin another play.—ED.
A WORD FROM THE POLICE CHIEF
I read with interest the article on Bobby Unser by Sam Moses ('I Will Go Fast Until the Day I Die," Jan. 11). However, I was very disturbed by the passage regarding the New Mexico State Police. It indicates that Unser has a free pass to speed on New Mexico highways.
As head of the New Mexico State Police Department, I want to go on record that neither Bobby Unser nor any other person traveling on New Mexico highways is free to exceed our speed limits.
As for the statement that Unser "looks after their patrol cars," we have our own mechanics and also use commercial garages for that purpose. Furthermore, Unser would not be authorized, nor has he ever had authority from this office, to work on our patrol cars.
MARTIN E. VIGIL
New Mexico State Police
Santa Fe, N. Mex.
COURT TO SHORT
In your SCORECARD item (Jan. 25) on current college basketball players whose first names match the last names of major league shortstops, past or present, you omitted the most famous, hardest-hitting shortstop of all, Henry Aaron, who could be paired with Villanova's standout forward, Aaron Howard. As any true fan recalls, Hammerin' Hank began his career as Milwaukee's shortstop.
•Aaron played 87 games at short for Eau Claire in the Northern League in 1952, his first year in the minors, but he never played that position in the big leagues. He began his major league career as an outfielder for Milwaukee in 1954, following a season at second with Jacksonville in the Sally League. Aaron played 2,759 regular-season major league games in the outfield, 210 at first, 202 as a designated hitter, 43 at second and seven at third.—ED.
You missed the most obvious one. Michael Jordan of North Carolina and Gene Michael of the Yankees, Dodgers, etc.
BOWLS AND EXAMS
As the athletic academic counselor at the University of Missouri, I, too, was concerned about our football team's accepting a bid to play in a bowl game—the Tangerine—whose date conflicted with our final-exam week (SCORECARD, Dec. 21). You might be interested to know how we made the decision to go. Coach Warren Powers first came to me for advice. I surveyed 30 faculty members who would be inconvenienced, and an emergency meeting of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Athletics was held before we submitted our request to attend a bowl to the chancellor, who in turn sought counsel from the Faculty Committee on Bowl Selection before giving the go-ahead.
Each player was then required to make alternate exam plans with his professors and obtain signatures acknowledging such arrangements. Some took exams before finals week, some while they were in Orlando, Fla., and some after they came back. Several players elected not to go to Orlando because of their concern that they might jeopardize their academic performance. And those players who needed to miss practice to study were allowed to do so. No one experienced any major difficulties.
Too often critics propose extreme solutions to the problems in college athletics, such as scrapping the early bowl games. I believe academics and athletics can continue to survive together. I am very proud of our academic and athletic programs and can honestly say that the student-athlete concept is alive and well at Mizzou. Furthermore, for those who made the trip, the stay in Orlando was an educational experience.
LYNN LASHBROOK, ED.D.
Manager, Academic Counseling Unit
University of Missouri
Let me assure you that the members of the Oklahoma State football team did take their books when they went to Shreveport, La. for the Independence Bowl game. In fact, they had regularly scheduled study halls there, along with practice and publicity appearances. This may have resulted in more studying than would have been accomplished on campus. For the band, the cheerleaders and the thousands of undergraduates who made the trip to Shreveport to support their team, the weekend break may have been more intellectually stimulating than marathon cram sessions.
Why the sanctity of exam week? The academic process is spread over the entire 18 weeks of a semester. Intellectual achievement, like athletic achievement, is, after all, the result of continued self-discipline, effort and dedication. Woe to the football team that waits till Friday to prepare for Saturday's game.
Professor of Mathematics
Oklahoma State University
The NCAA has long used interference with academics as an excuse for not holding Division I-A football playoffs. This excuse seems farcical in view of your Dec. 21 SCORECARD item, "Have Finals, Will Travel," the Division II and III playoffs and the expansion of the I-A basketball playoffs. Is Clemson really the best team? We'll never know for sure as long as the bowls and the greedy stronger conferences dictate to the NCAA.
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