Plaudits for senior writer Rick Telander's POINT AFTER (Feb. 23) on the absence of a black coach in the NFL. Twelve years ago I wrote an article for Sport magazine entitled, "Who'll Be the First Black Head Coach in Pro Football?" In a survey T conducted at the time, of NFL owners and executives, NFL assistant coaches and black college head coaches, five candidates were mentioned most often: Hall of Famers Emlen Tunnell and Willie Wood, All-Pro receiver Lionel Taylor, Grambling's legendary coach Eddie Robinson and Tennessee State coach John Merritt.
At the time, Tunnell—the first black inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame—had the most NFL coaching experience, with 10 years as the New York Giants' defensive back coach. Tunnell, who also had front office experience, was dubious about seeing a black NFL head coach in his lifetime. Unfortunately he was right; he died in 1975 at the age of 50.
Taylor, then an assistant with the Steelers, said it would take "20 years" because he didn't "think pro football has advanced far enough for a black man to be a head coach."
And what were the NFL executives saying 12 years ago? The same thing they are saying today, almost word for word. Jim Finks, then the G.M. of the Bears and now G.M. of the Saints, said, "When a team feels there is a black who is qualified to be a head coach, they'll hire him. It'll come when a man's qualified and no sooner." So much for progress in the 1980s.
The team that breaks the head-coaching color barrier just might be the Steelers when Chuck Noll retires. The Rooney family hired the first black assistant, Lowell Perry, in 1957 and now employs perhaps the most qualified of all black assistants in defensive coordinator Tony Dungy.
D�tente on Ice (Feb. 23) made the NHL seem minor league. In fact, the NHL All-Stars did an excellent job, considering that they had never played together, unlike their Soviet counterparts, who are part of an international squad that regularly does so.
As an avid hockey fan (especially of these NHL versus Soviet confrontations), I would not consider Monsieur Marcel Aubut's "carnival" a success because he allotted people like myself, who don't have season-tickets, only 500 tickets per game at an arena that seats more than 15,000. Could it be that Aubut forgot that it's the fans who actually "pay" the game? I will wait until Alan Eagle-son's Canada Cup (Aug. 27-Sept. 14).
St. Laurent, Que.
Reading E.M. Swift's coverage of Rendezvous 87 was like reliving the event all over again. I want to thank Swift for commending Marcel Aubut's intelligent diplomacy and hard work. Swift virtually built him a pedestal higher than Le Chateau Frontenac.
I hope this event spurs greater commitment to removing political interference from international competition. With the Calgary and Seoul Olympics barely a year away, maybe Aubut and Rendez-Vous have finally convinced the world that international athletes should compete against each other often.
I thought that I had seen the greatest comeback ever when Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters. But when Dennis Conner regained the America's Cup (Victory at Sea, Feb. 16) after defeating 13 rivals from seven countries, including five American syndicates, dominating the previously dominant Kiwis and defeating a determined crew of Australians in four straight, I'm convinced that this victory will stand as the most stunning comeback of all.