M vs. M
There have been many interesting articles in SI concerning the two best baseball players in the major leagues—Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. I suppose one of the most controversial issues of today is which is the greater ballplayer. I would favor Mays. The quality of Willie Mays is not to be measured with steel tape or slide rule or statistics. Even though a statistical case could be set up for him, it is not in the numbers that you will find this man's greatness. It lies, rather, within him—in a quality of impending excitement, like Vesuvius just before she blows her top.
Willie Mays is never predictable. He may turn a game upside down with his bat, his glove, his arm or his legs. Even when we learn to anticipate all these talents, still he continues to amaze and confound us. To me he is the most exciting player in the game of baseball.
MARC STEPHEN SILVERS
In his article The College Game Is Best (Sept. 20) John Underwood makes a particularly significant point when he says, "There is no such thing as a goal-line stand in pro football, because every team has a kicker." I have a recommendation that I believe would bring back the excitement of that last-ditch action in both the college and pro games.
If a team begins its series of four downs within the 10-yard line, it would be permitted to attempt a field goal only on the first down. If it begins a series between the 10- and 20-yard lines, it would be permitted to attempt a field goal only on first or second down. If the team begins between the 20- and 30-yard lines, it would be permitted to attempt a field goal only on first, second or third down.
The benefits are obvious: a team beginning a series of four downs within the 10-yard line would have to decide immediately whether it would go for the three points or not. The team would not be permitted to make three unsuccessful touchdown attempts and then partially recoup its failure with a fourth-down field goal. If a team chose not to attempt a field goal on first down, fans could enjoy the suspense of knowing that the offense had now committed itself to score a touchdown. They would witness either a brilliant goal-line stand or a touchdown, not three magnificent defensive efforts plus one anticlimactic, automatic field goal.
Each first down a team earned would renew the opportunity to go for a field goal. Thus, from the 20- to 30-yard lines a team would have two plays in which to move the ball forward before attempting a field goal. If the team moved the ball forward (or advanced by penalty) to a first down between the 10- and 20-yard lines, it would once again have the opportunity to attempt a field goal, but this time only on first or second down.
It is good that innovations in the game come slowly, but we have waited too long for a revision in the field-goal rules. For instance, critics of the game have long advocated a rule change that would return the ball to the original line of scrimmage after a missed field-goal attempt. I agree, and I believe such a change, together with my recommendation, would result in a better game.
RICHARD N. DEGUNTHER