You say the college bowl games proved nothing from the perspective of the AP voters (Top of the Ladder, with a Boost, Jan. 13). On the contrary, the bowls proved to our "63 media types"—journalist types like John Underwood—that no team in any bowl was in Oklahoma's class. Of course, the fact that the University of Southern California fell behind and thus was forced to go for a two-point conversion obviously proves it was better than Ohio State.
You make a big thing of the fact that Oklahoma "barely got by" Texas, which "was crushed by" Auburn in the Gator Bowl. Is Underwood aware that the Oklahoma-Texas game is like no other in its intensity? Is he aware that Texas admittedly did not prepare very hard—no contact work at all—for Auburn? I shudder to think what would have happened to the Longhorns had they prepared as nonchalantly for Oklahoma as they did for Auburn.
And Oklahoma led Baylor "only 7-5" in the fourth quarter. Well, Penn State led Baylor only 17-14 in the fourth quarter of the Cotton Bowl game after trailing at the half, so what does that prove? And it's interesting to note that Ohio State "was only one point worse" than Southern Cal. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes were three points worse than Michigan State back in November.
Do the "other, sounder reasons to exalt USC" include the fact that the Trojans were 10-1-1 to Oklahoma's 11-0, or even Alabama's 11-1 and Michigan's 10-1? Since when is the national championship decided on New Year's Day? It is decided by the season as a whole, and 30 minutes of greatness against Notre Dame and a two-point conversion against Ohio State cannot erase the fact that USC lost to Arkansas and tied California. True, Oklahoma was "not given the chance to lose on New Year's Day." But Oklahoma was given 11 other chances to lose and didn't.
College Football Editor
The Associated Press
New York City
Let's see now, the Southern California Trojans deserve the national championship because 1) they beat an Ohio State team that was defeated by Michigan State; 2) they lost 22-7 to an Arkansas team that was beaten by Texas 38-7 and Baylor 21-17; 3) Oklahoma won only 16-13 over Texas and 28-11 over Baylor; and 4) coaches know more about football than sportswriters and sports-casters.
I think I get it. Oklahoma's undefeated season is a tough swallow for John Underwood, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and the coaches voting in the UPI poll.
Congratulations. I vote for SI as the bravest sports magazine in publication. It takes real guts to print a feature story on a national-champion football team that has a loss to Arkansas and a tie with California.
Oklahoma did just squeak by Texas and had a slow game with Baylor. Those magnificent Trojans couldn't seem to win their close ones. John Underwood should have done more research on the word hogwash and paid less attention to UPI.
When I first read your Dec. 23 story naming Muhammad Ali Sportsman of the Year, I thought it a fair choice. As you said, the man has fought tremendous odds to regain the summit of his profession, which certainly gives him a legitimate claim to the honor. But after watching the Ali-Foreman bout on television, I must protest. While it is true that Ali is now the best in his field, one look at the situation of boxing will tell you that this is not enough. The bout was dull and unexciting. Ali did not defeat Foreman's strengths, he exploited his weaknesses, which were glaring. As Ali protected himself against the ropes, Foreman completely wore himself out, flailing futilely at Ali's arms, and by the eighth round seemed to have all the energy of a dishrag. After that, Ali needed only a short flurry of blows, the fight's only exciting moment, to put the "champion" away.
As I watched this exhibition, I could not help but wonder how Ali's strategy would have worked against a truly great boxer. A Joe Louis would never have worn himself out with useless punches, and a Rocky Marciano would have crumbled Ali's defense with punishing blows by the third round. Yes, Ali is the best, but he is the best in a sport that no longer deserves the attention it is receiving.