No kicks from wimps who ruined football
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