Want more rhymes? Don't waste your time, and more notes sublime
The real truth behind Beattie Feathers' YPA record
Setting the record straight on offensive holding calls
In addition to its unique formation, Dolphins can play defense
A concerned e-mailer named Thomas W. has noted a lack of joy and a decidedly sour tone in my recent efforts. I did not disagree. These are hard times. Time to button up, draw the laces tighter, spend more time staring straight ahead. But, as the Redhead gamely points out, there's a lot of depression out there, so please be so kind as not to add to it. She's right. You're right, TW. Everybody's right. I'm left. And away we go into the very extremes of correspondence.
Libby from Phoenix, noting that my 32nd-ranked Rams could be handled only in the sparest example of doggerel, wants -- to quote the lady named Ransome in the limerick -- "more."
"I challenge you to come up with a poem each week," she writes, "or better yet, an entire week of poems, one for each team."
My dear madam:
My verse you've praised,
To do your wish
Here comes a chap after my own heart (you can't have it). Joe B. from Medford, Mass., and his suggestion has so much merit that it merits the coveted E-mailer of the Week award. What he wants me to do is, one week, "throw a total curveball into the rankings, to draw the ire of the entire Z nation." Move an unworthy team up. Justify it in some cockamamie way..."then you could post the furious e-mails that stream in."
Joe, you're preaching to the choir. In my house, when my children were growing up, and even afterward, we called these "Bugs." As in, "Maaa, he's bugging us again!" Bugging has been a sacred calling during every stage of my life. When I was a beat man on the Jets, we'd bug coach Weeb Ewbank by substituting our own injury report for the one he'd routinely announce.
"John Dockery -- pulled eye. John Ebersole -- worms. WHAT THE HELL!"
When I was in the army, the target was a poor old master sergeant who'd usually come in hung over. I'd go next door and call our office.
"S-3 office, 1264th, Sgt. Fabian speaking, sir."
But what you suggest would be shortstopped by an editor, and next thing I know, my phone would be ringing angrily. It wouldn't work. But hey, I like your ideas. Keep trying.
Tony from San Antony...uh, San Antonio...draws attention to a piece we ran on the Cowboys' Felix Jones possibly assaulting one of the oldest records on the books, Beattie Feathers' yards per carry average of 8.4, set in 1934. Except that for many years that mark of 8.4 actually was 9.94.
Some background -- 1934 was only the third year in which individual stats were kept in the NFL. The papers never ran them. They were left for concerned members of the club to piece together, somehow. Feathers, a Chicago rookie in '34, actually missed two games with a bad shoulder, which makes his astounding total of 1,004 yards rushing, which, divided by his 101 attempts, came out to 9.94, even more surprising.
It put the yards per carry mark out of reach, probably for all time. It was so amazing that it was suspect. When I wrote my Thinking Man's Guide back in 1969, I did a serious research project on this record, to go into my chapter on statistics. Feathers lasted six more years in the NFL. His average per carry during that period was a modest 3.8. What was the ungodly fire that had gotten into him in that rookie season? The answer was punt and kick returns.
They were not kept back then. I strongly suspected that a few of them had been added to his rushing totals, thereby jerking up the average. I had no proof, just a very strong suspicion. I looked through old newspaper reports from 1934. I could find no mention of Feathers even putting together a 100-yard game. As I said, individual stats were not mentioned in the press.
I called Seymour Siwoff, president of the Elias Bureau, then, and now, the NFL's statistical arm. "I can look through the books and smell a phony statistic," he said. "You see a statistic like the Feathers statistic and it shakes you. It's like a bolt of lightning. I'm not saying anything, but I have a feeling some punt and kick returns were added to his rushing total."
Beattie's 9.94 yards per carry mark stood on the books for 57 years -- 101 carries, 1,004 yards. Then in 1992, hello there, it got a facelift. The 101 carries became 119 in the official NFL record book. Like thieves in the night, masked statisticians somewhere found 18 more carries for Beattie. The new record became 8.44, based on 1,004 yards divided by 119. Fourteen years later Michael Vick came along and ran for 1,039 yards on 123 carries, an average of 8.45. Beattie had been beaten by .01 of a yard -- plus a statistical overhaul.
So if you ask me about Felix Jones, I smile and say, "who, where, what record, whose?"
Let's turn the long range siege guns on TV. "I thought you were going to behave this week," says Redheaded Wife. Yeah, OK, next week, I promise. Eddie of Atlanta can't stand retired ballplayers with mangled language and thought waves. Scott of Fort Lauderdale wants to know if I have any favorites among collegiate announcers.
I answer both at once. Irv Brown, a third string ESPN announcer, was the best I've ever heard. Simply terrific. I liked Dan Fouts when he was doing college stuff, also Chris Spielman. Brent Musberger is an old friend, going back to his days as a Chicago newspaperman. We've been through some stuff together. He doesn't bother me.