THE STEELERS' GLORY DAYS
Thank you for Peter King's essay about the Pittsburgh Steelers' super years (The Steel Age, Jan. 22). As a youngster in the San Francisco Bay Area, I became caught up in the Raiders-Steelers rivalry of the mid-'70s. Like millions of people across America, I became a fan of Pittsburgh's team, and now, some 15 years later, King's story brings back fond recollections.
It's nice to know that most of my old heroes are doing well and that they still share the camaraderie, respect and admiration that made them pro football's greatest dynasty.
It's hard to believe 10 years have gone by since Terry Bradshaw & Co. ruled Pete Rozelle's kingdom. From the way the Steelers ended this season, it seems as though Pittsburgh fans won't have to wait 10 years for another Super Bowl appearance. Coach Chuck Noll, who, amazingly, has never been named Coach of the Year, did an outstanding job of holding his team together after a disastrous start. What football fans saw this season was most likely the dawning of Steel Age II.
The Steel Age made me smile from ear to ear. I'm glad to see that the team that made me so proud has finally received the recognition it deserves. Maybe 20 years from now Peter King will be writing about a second Pittsburgh dynasty. Remember the names Brister, Lipps, Woodson, Worley, Hoge....
The only quarrel I have with King's article is his assumption that the Steelers made a big mistake in selecting Len Dawson instead of Jim Brown in the 1957 draft. After Pittsburgh unloaded Dawson almost three years later, he became the best all-around quarterback in AFL history, leading the Kansas City Chiefs from the doldrums to two Super Bowls. Considering that quarterback Terry Bradshaw didn't arrive in Pittsburgh until 1970, choosing Dawson wasn't a mistake but letting him get away was. With Dawson at the helm, maybe Pittsburgh would have ended its misery 10 years earlier.
CURRY QUITS ALABAMA
Kudos to William F. Reed for his story about the departure of Alabama football coach Bill Curry (Unbearable Burden, Jan. 22). I am confident that the majority of Crimson Tide fans feel that Curry represented the university and the state in an admirable fashion, both on and off the field. It is sad that he wasn't good enough for a provincial clique, mainly because he didn't play at a certain school and for a certain coach.
One must wonder what Bear Bryant, who spent his life preaching class, would have thought of the attitudes of some of his former players toward Curry during the last three years.
I am shocked by the treatment Curry received from my fellow Tide fans. Your article was as fair as his treatment at Alabama wasn't. Curry's record during his first three seasons was better than the Bear's was in his first three years, and he brought us a team that would have been national title bound. Curry had the same approach to football as the Bear. He'll be missed.
Well, I guess there is justice in this world. Thirty-six years ago Kentucky let a coach named Paul Bryant skip out of town. Now, in a true demonstration of Southern hospitality, Alabama has returned the favor by allowing Bill Curry to migrate to Lexington. Who knows if he will develop the same rich tradition at Kentucky that Bryant did at Alabama. But one thing is certain: As college athletics becomes more and more riddled by corruption, coaches who are class acts get harder and harder to find. Curry is just such a coach. This former Kentucky football player and 1974 graduate of the school would like to say, "Thanks. Alabama."
As an Alabama graduate ('78), a college counselor and an advocate of maintaining high standards in higher education, I believe that I qualify as one of the "good, decent" Crimson Tide fans to which Reed refers. However, that does not mean I was pleased with Curry as Alabama's football coach.
The article mentions that Curry had problems maintaining academic standards on his team and that discipline had slipped to the point where players abused alcohol and were involved in public brawls. This was especially tough to take in light of the fact that Curry tried to portray himself as a symbol of all that was clean and decent in sports. He simply did not relate well to many of his students, and that is failure at any level of college teaching.
DEAN C. LAMB
Hinds Community College
TIPS FOR THE NFL
Here are three additions to Rick Reilly's POINT AFTER suggestions for improving pro football (Jan. 22): 1) Penalize ballcarriers for intentionally running out of bounds, 2) institute the two-point option for extra-point attempts and 3) increase the distance between the hash marks to where they are in college football.
Mount Vernon, Wash.
Reilly fails to address the biggest waste of time in pro football: the extra point. Kickers have become so proficient that only one or two games a year hinge on a missed PAT. These plays take up more time and bother than they are worth. The NFL should make the extra point an exciting part of the game, either by moving the kickers back or by requiring running or passing plays instead of kicks. Either change would result in fewer overtime games. Otherwise, award seven points for a TD and eliminate the extra point altogether.
WILLIAM K. TEMPLETON
Get rid of offsetting penalties for personal fouls. Let's penalize the team with the ball 15 yards at the time of the infraction, and then penalize the defensive team 15 yards the next time it goes on offense, making the down and yardage first and 25.
An alternative would be to have those who commit infractions sit out a specific number of plays. The way it is now, the culprits get off scot-free.
Silver Spring, Md.
Your article about schoolboy basketball (High School Confidential, Jan. 8) states that "last season, when 6'11" Rashard Griffith of Chicago's Martin Luther King High was in eighth grade, Indiana assistant coach Joby Wright looked in on one of his games during a nonevaluation period, when coaches are not allowed to attend high school games."
I wish to correct the misstatement in that sentence. At the time I attended that game, no nonevaluation period was in effect. Your statement could be interpreted as implying that I broke an NCAA rule or attempted to circumvent one. I do not want to be perceived as having such an image.
I have worked for coach Bob Knight for 10 years. Our program here at Indiana is built on a foundation of hard work, ethics, honesty and complete compliance with NCAA rules. I hope you clearly understand that I would never misrepresent Indiana or myself in the recruiting process.
Assistant Basketball Coach
I enjoyed Jack McCallum's The Record Company (Jan. 8), but there is one thing in it I didn't understand—the Williams Shift. McCallum wonders how many more records Ted Williams might have set "if he hadn't been so stubborn that he tried to punch line drives through six fielders deployed against him in the Williams Shift, instead of simply lollipopping hits to leftfield." How could there have been six fielders? I can understand five (three infielders and two outfielders), or seven (if the pitcher and catcher are counted), but I don't understand six fielders.
GREGORY H. STONE
•In the Williams Shift the entire infield and two outfielders were deployed on the right side. According to Paul Dickson, author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, it was a "strategical defensive move created in 1946 to deal with the particular pull-hitting strength of Boston's powerful hitter, Ted Williams. The Cleveland Indians under player-manager Lou Boudreau pioneered the technique [the illustration at left shows the alignment and players involved when they first employed the shift, on July 14, 1946].... For this reason, it was also more commonly known at the time as the Boudreau Shift."—ED.
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