O.J. & CO.
O.J. Simpson is finally receiving some of the credit he deserves (Vintage Juice 1864...and 2003, Dec. 24), but what about the rest of the Buffalo Bills?
In just two years the young Bills under the leadership of Coach Lou Saban have moved from the bottom of their division to a 9-5 record (their first winning record since 1966), second place in the AFC East and within a hairbreadth of the playoffs. Go ahead and use the Bills' easy schedule as an excuse for their nine victories, but what about their impressive wins over powerhouse teams like Kansas City and Atlanta?
Buffalo has been ridiculed long enough in the NFL. Now the Bills are beginning their climb to the top. There is no reason why anyone should be laughing at Buffalo anymore.
Ron Fimrite is to be congratulated on his excellent article. O.J. is truly an asset to the game of football, and he will have defensive linemen and backs at his heels for many years to come. The Juice deserves a lot of credit, not only for gaining 2,003 yards rushing in one season along with his other ballcarrying records but, as Quarterback Joe Ferguson says, for giving credit where credit is due. Simpson is not a Namath or an Ali who will tell you why he is great. Instead, he will tell you who opened the hole.
May I interpose—nay, interject—a still, small voice from the past? In all of the hoopla over O.J. Simpson's 2,003 yards breaking Jim Brown's record of 1,863 I must speak of another legendary hardnose, the old Washington Redskin Cliff Battles. His records stood a long time. Of all the great runners past and present he was, in my estimation, Slasher, Dasher, Donder and Vixen all rolled into one. He backed the Skins' line; he did their punting; he threw and completed halfback passes; and, in the words of the immortal Sammy Baugh, "He followed interference second to no man I ever saw." Grantland Rice mentioned him among the best ever.
Records are made to be broken, as O.J. says. But for a man who played only six years in the NFL, was three times all-league and the leading ground-gainer twice, one hears remarkably little today of the fabled Bobcat from West Virginia Wesleyan.
Mt. Sterling, Ohio
MASTERS OF THE RING
It is interesting to note that in your story on the heavyweights (The Power and the Glory of the Champ, Dec. 24) three of the four experts listed Ezzard Charles as one of the top six of all time. Only Nat Loubet, who admits to favoring oldtime fighters (there are seven pre-1930 fighters on his list), omitted him. I have been touting Charles' skills for years and I am happy to see a majority of this particular group of experts agrees with me. Strangely enough, Ezzard was probably the very best light heavyweight who ever lived, although he never held that title; anyone who disagrees might ask Archie Moore, who was so good in the mid to late 1940s nobody would go near him. Ezzard did, three times, and he beat him three times, the last time (1948) by a knockout. This little-known fact, by the way, generally stumps even knowledgeable fight fans who, when asked the question, invariably say, "Moore musta killed him."
Howard Beach, N.Y.
Cus D'Amato's statement that boxing can be divided into two periods, "the old and rather primitive days and the modern era of superior techniques that began with Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson," is a blatant misconception and an injustice to the boxing artists of the early 20th century. The two fighters he speaks of would be the first to disagree with D'Amato.
To back up my claim I quote from Sugar Ray, Robinson's autobiography with Dave Anderson, in which Robinson cites his early boxing education at the old Grupp's Gymnasium in Harlem: "I really had gone to college at Grupp's. My professors were the old-timers who hung around there. Famous old fighters like Harry Wills, Kid Norfolk, Panama Joe Gans. And some not so famous ones like Soldier Jones. All they did was talk boxing and all I did was listen." Joe Louis learned his "superior techniques" from Jack Blackburn, a boxing master who was considered a top professional from 1904 to 1909. The techniques of great boxing are old; it is the modern boxers who are superior.
If the great fighters of today such as Jose Napoles and Bob Foster had been competing half a century ago, they would merely be considered two among a host of other outstanding, highly qualified ring technicians.