Last season an enterprising group of Colorado State students, their profit motives not dulled by watching the Ram football team stagger to a 1-10 record, printed and sold about 1,000 bumper stickers that proclaimed "We're No. 1," with the "'No. 1" printed upside down. Not only was it a less cumbersome boast than "We're No. 121," but it was accurate. While USC, Oklahoma and other juggernauts were fighting for the top of the weekly AP and UPI polls, havenaut Colorado State was squirming and scratching, and eventually failing, to avoid winning a less prestigious but far more amusing poll, the Bottom 10.
Here, straight from the Bottom 10's creator and lone voter, Steve Harvey, a Los Angeles newspaperman, is how the terrible teams finished behind CSU in '72: 2) Brown 1-8, 3) Texas-El Paso 2-8, 4) New Mexico State 2-9, 5) Wake Forest 2-9, 6) Pitt 1-10, 7) Northwestern 2-9, 8) Oregon State 2-9, 9) New Mexico 3-8, 10) Vanderbilt 3-7. Hats on to them all.
Harvey is somewhat saddened this season. He doesn't have Colorado State (3-4) to kick around anymore, and Brown, of all schools, after forming a Farewell to Steve Harvey Club, has already won one and tied one.
The Bottom 10 is, of course, a parody of the wire-service polls, a little needle used to puncture high-pressure, win-we-must football. Sold by the Universal Press Syndicate to 57 newspapers for 17 weeks in the fall, the feature rates the worst college teams, tabs an upcoming "Crummy Game of the Week" and hands out some "special citations," such as the one Oregon got last season for blocking three extra-point attempts while losing to Oklahoma 68-3. At the syndicate's urging, in 1970 Harvey started to rate the poorest of the pros. It made his job tougher because there are usually four or five "really bad ones and about 16 more that are interchangeable, so I have to rank them according to whom I have a grudge against that particular week."
Sometimes Harvey throws in what he calls "non sequiturs," like rating the Penn Central Railroad in the Bottom 10, or the entire Atlantic Coast Conference, or tempestuous Pitcher Denny McLain. But the feature's staples are wisecracks, some good and some not likely to make us forget Jim Murray:
" Columbia's defensive team, which finished fourth in the voting for the Nobel Peace Prize...."
"Led by its famous backfield, the Four Mules, Washington State romped to a 1-10 record during the 1970 season."
"So far, the only disturbing aftereffect of Gabriel's acupuncture treatment is that he now calls the plays in Chinese."
The Bottom 10 is understandably unpopular among some coaches and publicists. Pat Quinn, sports information director at Oklahoma State, called it "syndicated cynicism, devoid of compassion or talent." He added, "Let's hope the coaches don't think to start a 'Bottom 10' among sportswriters!" Army Coach Tom Cahill called it "garbage" and Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne, who has a Ph.D. in educational philosophy, said, "It's destructive to a team's morale and the program." A reader recently called it "the most disgusting sports column ever conceived."
If many rank Harvey as the worst of sportswriters, ex- Texas A&M Coach Gene Stallings would have loved to use him as a season-long tackling dummy ("One of the safest jobs I can think of," Harvey answered).