SI Vault
November 03, 1997
If ever a man gave brutality a good name, it was Jack Dempsey.JESSE WELLS, BETTENDORF, IOWA
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November 03, 1997


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If ever a man gave brutality a good name, it was Jack Dempsey.

William Nack's The Long Count was one of the greatest flashbacks I have ever read (Sept. 22). It captured every detail of the transformation of Jack Dempsey from villain to hero. Dempsey was especially unpopular here after he won a 15-round decision from St. Paul native Tommy Gibbons in 1923. Three years later, I remember listening to the radio broadcast and being thrilled when Gene Tunney took the title from the hated Dempsey. After the Long Count, that changed—Dempsey was the hero and Tunney the villain.

My husband, Jack, would have greatly enjoyed the article, not only because it was factual and interesting, but also because it captured the principals involved and what the Long Count meant to them over the years. The Long Count kept Jack's name alive, which in turn enabled him to give back some part of himself to those who had cheered him. Nack's article was a touching piece that I shall save for my grandson, who is growing up hoping that the U.S. Postal Service will issue a stamp commemorating Jack Dempsey.

This story brought back memories of when I was 14 or 15. Our neighbors, friends and relations got together to listen to the radio, which advertised in advance heavyweight title bouts between Dempsey and whoever his opponent might be. The local newspaper put a loudspeaker outside the office so people in the street could hear the blow-by-blow description, and crowds would gather around many other businesses that had speakers set up, making the evening a festive occasion. Dempsey was such a hero in our crowd that it was almost unthinkable that he lost the title in '26 and failed to regain it the night of the Long Count.
JOHN R. DOUGLAS, Wauchula, Fla.

In 1953, at age 10, I was having lunch with my mom in Jack Dempsey's restaurant in New York City when the champ entered the restaurant, came over to our table and took a seat! My mother was a woman of considerable beauty and charm, but the great man focused all of his attention on me during the 10 minutes or so that he spent at our table. As a rabid boxing fan, I wanted to ask about the Long Count, but I was struck dumb and could only stare at him in slack-jawed wonder. Too soon he was gone, and when my mother asked for the check, we were told that our meal was complimentary.

Backup Quarterbacks
Forty-niners fans who wish for the second coming of Joe Montana are really wishing for the San Francisco teams of Montana's time (Backup Power, Sept. 15). Give Steve Young the kind of protection and running game that Montana had, and then sit back and enjoy watching the greatest quarterback of all time while he's still playing.
LORENZO M. ROMNEY, Kansas City, Mo.

In your item describing occasions when backup quarterbacks were pressed into service because starters were injured, the entry for the Buffalo Bills' game against the New York Giants on Dec. 15, 1990, told only part of the story. As you indicated, Jeff Hostetler did ably replace Phil Simms for the Giants, but what went unsaid was that the Bills' Jim Kelly went down with a knee injury in that game, forcing him out of that game and the following week's, against the Miami Dolphins, with the division title and home field advantage on the line. Backup Frank Reich led Buffalo to a 24-14 win. Kelly returned for the playoffs, which culminated in the Bills' 20-19 loss to the Hostetler-led Giants in Super Bowl XXV.

Omitted from your list was the 49ers' reserve quarterback Steve Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winner and now the Florida football coach. In the sixth game of the 1972 season, he started for John Brodie and then led the 49ers to their third consecutive division title, completing 54.6% of his passes and throwing for 18 touchdowns, including five in a 34-21 victory over the Bears.
MARTIN JACOBS, San Francisco

Class Act
Thank you for Ivan Maisel's article about Penn State (INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL, Sept. 29). It is about time someone recognized the fact that Penn State is continually penalized in the polls for not running up the score against weaker teams. Is it really necessary to beat a team 82-6? Congratulations to coach Joe Paterno and Penn State for remaining a class act even when the national championship is on the line.
JEREMY BOWERSOX, Shippensburg, Pa.