- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

Bruce Smith's life is no longer in danger, you'll be pleased to know. The NFL's regular game officials are back.
* * *
Isn't it strange that, because of the terrorist attacks, Cal Ripken and Darrell Green will both play their last games at home now instead of on the road?
* * *
One of the playoff scenarios the NFL considered in the aftermath of the attacks would have forced some teams to play three games in eight days (the alternative being to reduce the number of wild cards from six to two). Asked about the difficulty of doing this, Marty Schottenheimer recalled playing three games in eight days in the World Football League in 1974. "I can't remember if we were tired or not," he said. "I'm sure we were."
For the record, Schottenheimer's team, the Portland Storm, played three games in 10 days. It lost to Southern California (Aug. 28), then beat Detroit (Sept. 2) and Hawaii (Sept. 6).
* * *
According to a history of the WFL, Marty was no longer on the active roster when Portland went through its three-games-in-10-days stretch. He had started the season as a linebacker, but on Aug. 7, after suffering a career-ending shoulder injury, he joined the club's coaching staff.
Just thought I'd clear that up.
(One of the quarterbacks on that team, by the way, was Pete Beathard, brother of former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard. The Storm also had Ben Davidson, an American Football League legend, and Tim Rossovich, who in his wild and crazy days with the Philadelphia Eagles was known to eat light bulbs.)
* * *
Channel surfing notes: Came across Brent Musburger broadcasting two games simultaneously the other day and neither of 'em was live. ESPN2 was rerunning the '96 Arizona State-UCLA football clash (Derek Smith vs. Skip Hicks), and ESPN Classic was showing Game 4 of the '75 playoff series between the Bullets and the Buffalo Braves (Wes Unseld vs. Bob McAdoo).
* * *
Alas, Buffalo still won, 108-102 (with McAdoo going for 50).
* * *
Before anyone gets too carried away with Roger Clemens being 20-1 a first in major league history let me just point out that the Yankees' Ron Guidry started out 22-2 in 1978.
That said, I can't believe some people are pushing Seattle's Freddy Garcia for the AL Cy Young Award citing, among other things, his lower ERA and Clemens' generous run support. I mean, Freddy hasn't pitched in a game that's mattered since April (the Mariners opening up such a big early lead). Clemens' Yanks, on the other hand, were in a race with the Red Sox for much of the season.
* * *
It's great for once to see the Caps and Brendan Witt work out a deal without a lot of hassle. If he's ever going to fulfill his potential and become a latter-day Langway, he needs to have his mind free of contractual concerns.
* * *
This Jeff Halpern holdout has me worried, though. If George McPhee drives too hard a bargain, the Pride of Potomac might decide to go to law school or something. (Halpern is, after all, a Princeton man.)
* * *
The heroism shown by the four ex-athletes on Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, reminds me of a commencement address Jimmy Conzelman gave at the University of Dayton back in 1942. In his speech, Conzelman, coach of the NFL's Chicago Cardinals, talked about the usefulness of football in preparing young men for the rigors of battle. His talk caused such a sensation that it was read twice into the Congressional Record and became required reading at West Point and elsewhere. An estimated three million copies of "The Young Man's Mental and Physical Approach to War" were distributed.
An excerpt:
"Football coaches have always been apologists for their profession. For years we've been on the defensive against attacks from reformers who regard us as muscle-bound mentalities exploiting kids for an easy living. Football has been under fire because it involves body contact and it teaches violence. It was considered useless, even dangerous.
"But that's all over now. The bleeding hearts haven't the courtesy to apologize to us, but they're coming around and asking our help in the national emergency. Why?
"Why, because the college commencement classes this month find the customary challenge of life a pale prelude to the demands of a world at war. Instead of job seekers, or homemakers, the graduates suddenly have become defenders of a familiar way of life, of an ideology, a religion and of a nation. They have been taught to build. Now they must learn to destroy.
"It may seem reprehensible to inculcate a will to destroy in these amiable young men; but war is reprehensible and its basic motive is to destroy. The transition will not be an easy one. Democracy makes us a pacific people. The young man must be toughened not only physically, but mentally. He must become accustomed to violence. Football is the No. 1 medium for attuning a man to body-contact and physical shock. It teaches us that after all there isn't anything so terrifying about a punch in the puss."
* * *
In addition to being a Hall of Fame coach (and a pretty fair player), Conzelman was one of the greatest after-dinner speakers in sports history. Nobody had more funny stories or more astute observations than Jimmy. Wish he were around in these politically correct times.
A classic Conzelman moment: During World War II, James F. Byrnes, the director of war mobilization, gave sports a hard time, openly questioning what they contributed to the war effort. Not long after Byrnes issued one of his edicts, Conzelman spoke at the Washington Touchdown Club's annual bacchanal an event attended by cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, military officials and assorted other bigwigs and wrapped up his remarks with this crack:
"What it all amounts to, gentlemen, is that while we are fiddling, Jimmy Byrnes."
* * *
And to those who would argue that war metaphors have absolutely no place in sports writing a popular stance these days I offer this Conzelman comment, made in 1945: "This new war of movement with panzer units is, in effect, a man leading interference for the guy with the ball and mopping up all obstacles along the way."
* * *
Somebody really should do a book on Conzelman. He was a true original.
* * *
Heck, maybe I will.
* * *
And finally, since I can't help myself, one more Conzelman story. When Jimmy was coaching in college, he once kept a player who was struggling in a class eligible by having the professor's wife tutor him. Jimmy's reasoning? "Let the professor tell his wife she's a failure as a tutor."
OK, on with the NFL show.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide