At work in the office of his Cape Cod-style house. Tom Jennings looks contentedly out on his four acres of wooded New Hampshire countryside, a vision of lush green pine and skeletal white birch aslumber under a blanket of snow. It's a stereotypical midwinter New England scene, which is rather odd because the office happens to be headquarters of the Pacific Coast Club of Long Beach. That's right, Pacific. And, yup, Long Beach, as in (supposedly) California. One of the nation's leading track and field clubs, boasting as members world indoor record holders Billy Olson (pole vault). Debbie Brill (high jump) and 14 other world-class performers, the Pacific Coast Club of Long Beach has been a glorious misnomer ever since Jennings. 40, its coach and executive director, moved to West Lebanon, N.H. three years ago after seeing some travel brochures and concluding, "There must be something more beautiful than the freeways of L.A."
Jennings is a Berkeley native and erstwhile half-miler who captained the Long Beach State track team in 1963. He founded the Pacific Coast Club in partnership with the city of Long Beach four years later. For a time the club occupied a splendid, castle-like oceanside building. "It was similar to the New York Athletic Club," says Jennings, "but in 1971, when there weren't enough members, it was boarded up." The club's headquarters have since been situated wherever Jennings, a former insurance salesman who now runs a mail-order stamp business, has made his home.
That Jennings has moved the club to New Hampshire isn't as incongruous as it seems, because his main role is to handle the team's finances, travel arrangements and public relations, tasks that can be carried on almost anywhere. Besides, the athletes themselves are scattered all over, getting together mostly at meets; Olson lives in Texas, Brill in British Columbia, others in Arkansas, Oregon and other far-flung locales. "They work out best in whatever environment is most comfortable for them." Jennings says. "I'm not involved in the day-to-day coaching. At that level, the athlete is pretty much self-coached, anyway."
When Jennings isn't on the road with his club team, he coaches the high school track team in Hanover, N.H., meanwhile going through his paces as a self-proclaimed "hot-shot Masters runner," and drinking in the New England scenery. He says of his picture-book surroundings, "Everyone else seems to be moving in the other direction—east to west. People said I was nuts. They still say I'm nuts...at least until they see the place."
Super Bowl XVI is over, but last week the memory lingered on.
?A Texas newspaper, the
Port Arthur News, pointed out for the benefit of omen seekers that, for four straight years now. Bum Phillips has ended his season with losses to the ultimate Super Bowl winner—the Steelers in 1978 and 1979 (winners over Phillips' Oilers in the AFC championship game both seasons), the Raiders in 1980 (winners over the Oilers in the AFC wild-card playoff game) and the 49ers in 1981 (winners over Phillips' New Orleans Saints in the regular-season finale).
?Jim Doan, sports information director at the University of California-Davis, took note of a particular sequence of five plays in the Super Bowl, all of which involved 49er Placekicker Ray Wersching. and wondered whether another kicker at any level of football had ever put in such a busy 15 seconds of elapsed playing time. First, with 15 seconds to go in the first half. Wersching kicked a 22-yard field goal, giving San Francisco a 17-0 lead. Then Wersching's squib kickoff was fumbled by the Bengals and recovered by the 49ers. After an illegal procedure penalty assessed against the 49ers. Wersching kicked a 26-yard field goal, making it 20-0 with two seconds to go. Wersching's squib kickoff then was downed by Cincinnati as the half ended. Finally. Wersching kicked off to start the second half.
?NFC partisans were, suddenly, only too glad to revive the old argument about which conference was stronger. The AFC had been on top for some years, but this season the NFC won the Super Bowl (for only the second time in a decade), won a majority (28 of 52) of the inter-conference games during the regular season (for the first time since 1971), and won two more places than the AFC on the football writers' All-Pro team (for its best representation since 1973). AFC players on the All-Pro team included such perennials as the Steelers' Mike Webster, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount, which may signal further change in the near future, because the resurgent NFC dominated the all-rookie team, with 18 of the 24 players named. Further, where the AFC used to have a big edge in quarterbacks, with Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw. Ken Stabler, et at., some of the best quarterbacks are now in the NFC: Joe Montana, Danny White, Steve Bartkowski, Tommy Kramer. The AFC did beat the NFC in the Pro Bowl, but that's all right. The NFCers had won it the previous four years and used to complain that they could win it but not the Super Bowl. Now the cleat seems to be on the other foot.
NOT AN EMPTY HONOR
Of course, the AFC can always try to claim that all-rookie teams aren't necessarily that valid. For instance, this season's all-rookie center is Atlanta's John Scully, out of Notre Dame, who appeared in just three games at that position and made the team more or less by default because no other rookies played center very much, either. Scully will probably take a ribbing for that, but it shouldn't bother him too much; he had a clause in his contract guaranteeing him a bonus if he made the all-rookie squad—and there was nothing in there about how.