Ruminating over the long months ahead between the A's final 3-2 World Series win and 1975 spring training, The New Yorker magazine's Roger Angell and a dinner party of baseball writers played a new game last week. The object is to create a situation that is explained by a baseball clich�. Ready?
Edsel Ford was touring the plant in Detroit when he accidentally fell into the assembly line and disappeared. What happened to him? asks the clich� player. Answer: He came through in the clutch.
Try this one about the drunk who has been going at it all night and is riding a terrific high. He steps out of the bar at 8 a.m. and immediately gets depressed. What happened? Lost it in the sun. Or this one, about the two Easter bunnies from the Deep South discussing one's ailing foot. "I stepped on a tack," the injured bunny says. "How do you know that?" asks the other. "I fielded it on the short hop."
What was Clark Gable doing in Mutiny on the Bounty that so enraged Charles Laughton? Swinging on deck. What happened when the bulldozers appeared and the old lady who was the last holdout on land that would be a future baseball park refused to budge? They ground 'er into left field.
Cheer up. It will be March before you know it.
THE BAD BACK EIGHT
Going into the season, the National Football League had nine new rules and high hopes of enlivened offensive action. The effects on the game, however, have not been dramatic. They could be, though, says New England Patriot Quarterback Jim Plunkett, if the league would adopt one more new rule: make the four-man defensive line mandatory.
The problem, as Plunkett reads it over his center's shoulder, is finding a man free to throw to against the three-man rush, eight-man pass coverage favored by most of today's teams. "Theoretically, there are five receivers," he told the Los Angeles Times' Bob Oates, "but usually you have to keep one back in as a blocker, and that leaves four receivers against eight defensive backs." Most teams, he says, find it impossible to throw anything but dink passes into the 3-8, and not many of those. "Balanced offense is something you don't see much of anymore. There are a lot of runs because of the three-man line and a few passes but almost no long passes."
It does not help to keep running backs in the backfield as blockers, says Plunkett. Even with more time to throw, the quarterback has only three receivers to pass to, one of whom is being double-teamed, the other two triple-teamed. Plunkett concedes that stronger teams like Los Angeles and Minnesota continue to use the front four but he considers them exceptional. "I think most coaches are coming to the opinion that it's easier to find four 230-pound linebackers than four 270-pound defensive linemen. The three-man line is here to stay unless something is done about it."