If Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson (College Basketball, Jan. 18) honestly believes he has "never seen a basketball fight where anyone got hurt," he should consult Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (broken hand from punching Kent Benson in October 1977) or Rudy Tomjanovich (severe skull and facial injuries from being struck by Kermit Washington that same season) before he recruits another player for the Hoyas or begins selecting members of the 1988 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
GRASS VERSUS TURF
In his roundup of the Sugar and other college football bowls (Why, Oh Why, Did Pat Stand Pat? Jan. 11), Douglas S. Looney stated that the losses by Oklahoma and Nebraska were "a stunning blow to...devotees of option offense."
Allow me to point out that the Orange and Fiesta Bowls are played on grass, while Oklahoma and Nebraska play in a conference with no grass fields. Option offenses depend on the ability of backs to cut sharply upfield. How often have we seen a back—college or pro—who is used to artificial turf try to plant his foot on grass and lose his footing? You will never see Oklahoma's wishbone at its best on a grass field.
I believe that a grass field, on the other hand, favors a passing game. When footing is so-so, the player who knows where he is going (the receiver) has an obvious advantage over the player who has to react to him suddenly (the defensive back). Linebackers and defensive backs seem to hit the deck much more often on grass fields, providing easy passing opportunities. Do you think it is just a coincidence that virtually every major-college option offense plays on artificial turf?
February 15, 1988
I believe the same factor may partially explain the Big Ten's dismal record in the Rose Bowl (grass field) in recent years. Commentators frequently point out that Pac-10 dominance began around 1970, but none seems to have noticed that that is when many Big Ten teams installed artificial turf in their stadiums. Only Purdue has a grass field today. Five Pac-10 teams play on grass.
DAVID N. JOHNSON
WISHES FOR '88
In POINT AFTER (Jan. 11), Ron Fimrite chastises baseball for not having blacks in positions of authority and states, "It is indefensible that [Cubs general manager Jim Frey] hired [Don] Zimmer."
Let's suppose, as Fimrite suggests, that the Cubs had hired Billy Williams as manager. Would Williams end up much as Maury Wills did with the Seattle Mariners—unable to succeed because he had very little previous managerial experience?
Yes, it is miserable that major league baseball has no black managers. However, the problem is not that blacks aren't hired as managers a year or two after they retire as players. The real problem is that they aren't brought up through the managerial system. Ask Jim Leyland or Tom Kelley or Jimy Williams how much they learned about managing during their years in Evansville or Visalia, Calif. or Salt Lake City.
If George Steinbrenner or Frey or any other major league owner or general manager is really interested in having a black manager by 1990, why aren't blacks being hired for minor league managerial jobs?
Just because Williams was a solid hitter and later a good batting instructor, it doesn't follow that he would be a good manager. A year or two as a Triple A skipper would increase his chances of succeeding.
Here is another side of Bobby Knight: While en route to New Orleans for a conference last April 1, my wife and I stopped at a service station just outside Mobile, Ala., to ask for directions. A trucker lost his brakes, flew across the highway and blindsided us, severely injuring my wife and totally destroying my car. I was uninjured, but never in my life had I felt so alone and helpless. A stranger's comforting hand on my shoulder and reassuring words kept me as calm as possible. I looked at him and said, "You look like Bobby Knight." He said, "I am, but we won't talk about that right now."
Knight, who was fresh from the NCAA championship in New Orleans and en route to Atlanta to receive the Tipoff Club's Naismith Coach of the Year Award, proceeded to take charge of the accident scene.
Perhaps somebody else would have done the same thing, but somebody else did not. Knight did, and he did it without any of the headlines or acclaim he had received just two nights earlier when his Hoosiers won the NCAA tournament.
I'm told that after my wife and I left the scene by ambulance, Knight stayed with our automobile to protect our personal belongings until the wreckers arrived.
My wife, Marlene, who is still recovering, says Knight can throw all the chairs and bang all the telephones he wants to—with her blessing. We are both extremely grateful.
FRED L. NICHOLS
Dean of Students
Wilfred Laurier University
DON'T SPIKE THEIR STORY
I noticed that there was no mention in SI of the 1987 NCAA women's volleyball champions. The Hawaii Rainbow Wahines not only dominated the women's collegiate game from the start of the season but also captured the hearts of the people of Hawaii.
So how about a championship picture?
Pearl City, Hawaii
•Here's a shot (left) of the Wahines' captain, Tita Ahuna, celebrating her team's win over Stanford in the NCAA final on Dec. 19. The Wahines won 15-10, 15-10, 9-15, 15-1 to earn their fourth national title in nine years.—ED.
PLAYERS AND COACHES
I read with some amusement Ron Mix's article, So Little Gain for the Pain (Oct. 19), and the subsequent letters criticizing him for his comments about Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant. Without getting into the debate as to whether either coach brutalized his players, I would like to point out that reverence for football coaches isn't as traditional as most of Mix's critics seem to believe.
In his 1954 autobiography, This Was Football, W.W. (Pudge) Heffelfinger, who witnessed more than 60 of football's early years, beginning when he was an All-America guard at Yale in 1889, '90 and '91, wrote: "Kee-ripes, how different modern football is from the old days when the coach wouldn't dare make a decision without first consulting the team captain. Your head coach today has become an absolute dictator.... If I had my way, coaches would be isolated in the press box, once a game began."
New York City
•According to a New York Times account of April 8, 1954, before the 1916 Harvard game, Heffelfinger, then 48, scrimmaged against Yale's linemen, breaking two of one player's ribs and sending two others to the hospital. He appears here (far left) at age 82, with Edgar Allen (Pete) Poe, an All-America quarterback from Princeton at the first college Hall of Fame Game, on Nov. 4, 1950.—ED.
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