No kicks from wimps who ru­ined foot­ball

The Washington Times Weekly - - Letters To The Editor -

Re: your ar­ti­cle in the Oct. 22 edi­tion ti­tled “Bed­narski’s soc­cer-style kick in ’57 her­alded a new era,” I am sorry that I can­not share Dan Daly’s en­thu­si­asm for the in­cor­po­ra­tion of soc­cer-style place­kick­ers into the game of Amer­i­can foot­ball since its ap­par­ent in­tro­duc­tion into the Amer­i­can game in 1957 by one Fred Bed­narski.

Yes, the game evolves over time, but not al­ways for the bet­ter. The to­tal re­place­ment of “straight-on” place­kick­ers by side-foot kick­ers (“sidewinders”) is such a case in point. The “straight-ons,” who re­placed the “drop-kick­ers” in the 1940s, were still foot­ball play­ers first who only dou­bled se­con­dar­ily as kick­ers. Those of us who can still re­mem­ber how real foot­ball was played fondly re­mem­ber the names of Lou Groza and Jim Baker of the Cleve­land Browns, Paul Hor­nung of the Green Bay Pack­ers, Cliff Patten and Bobby Wal­ston of the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, Bobby Layne and Doak Walker of the Detroit Li­ons, Gordy Soltau of the San Fran­cisco 49ers, Pat Sum­mer­all of the New York Gi­ants, Bob Water­field of the Los An­ge­les Rams, “Bul­let” Bill Dud­ley of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins and Steve Mhyra of the Bal­ti­more Colts, most of whom were start­ing po­si­tion play­ers for their re­spec­tive teams. When they lined up to at­tempt a field-goal, there was still an el­e­ment of sus­pense be­cause the straight-on kick was in­her­ently less ac­cu­rate than the soc­cer-style kick, and even less ac­cu­rate as the dis­tance in­creased.

It was also used much less fre­quently as a game strat­egy back in the 1940s, 1950s, and the first half of the 1960s, be­cause scor­ing touch­downs was deemed more im­por­tant, which left kick­ing field goals as less fre­quently em­ployed af­ter­thoughts kicked by real foot­ball play­ers who did not spend all of their time prac­tic­ing field goals. At that time, as well, at­tempt­ing field goals in col­lege games was al­most non-ex­is­tent and never at­tempted in high school games.

In to­day’s game, the “foot” has be­come a dom­i­nat­ing part of Amer­i­can foot­ball be­cause of the near-100 per­cent adop­tion of the “sidewind­ing,” soc­cer­style place-kick­ing tech­nique. As a re­sult, the field goal has be­come in­creas­ingly used in the col­lege game and even in the high school game, but it is in the pro­fes­sional NFL game that we see its full “evo­lu­tion” into an in­te­gral — if bor­ing — part of the game. So ac­cu­rate are to­day’s pro­fes­sional “sidewinders” — and at dis­tances the “straight-on” kick­ers never imag­ined — that the sus­pense has gone out of it. And since the field goal is now em­ployed with such fre­quency by NFL coaches who seem to pre­fer them to touch­downs (in a re­cent game, one NFL team kicked no fewer than eight field goals), the game has be­come em­i­nently less ex­cit­ing.

Mak­ing the field goal even less ex­cit­ing is the fact that all of to­day’s place-kick­ers are “spe­cial­ists,” mean­ing that they are pseudo-play­ers no longer play­ing a po­si­tion on the team other than kicker. They can be eas­ily spot­ted by their clean uni­forms, small shoul­der pads and an over­sized hel­met, look­ing all the world like they be­long some­where else. Oh, where have you gone, Ge­orge Gipp? Tom Carey Hunt­ing­don Val­ley, Penn­syl­va­nia

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