Bill Simmons of ESPN Magazine recently wrote an article about the one-month suspension of columnist Bob Ryan by the Boston Globe. Ryan stated on a local television show that "he’d like to smack Jason Kidd’s wife" for her penchant for the spotlight. Although Simmons is not defending Ryan’s remark, his recent article states, and I quote, "That’s the only way you can survive in this business. Witty comments and coherent points only go so far; if you don’t develop a 'schtick' and push the envelope, your rivals in the media will." Bill Simmons, that is positively absurd. There are some excellent journalists and commentators who do not have to resort to pushing that kind of an envelope to get or keep readers, viewers or listeners. That’s a tightrope you don’t have to walk if you’ve got talent! Just ask Bob Ryan.
Story of the Week
Lance Alworth never did like the nickname "Bambi", but what could he do? Even he admitted it was perfect for him. Charlie Flowers, the Chargers’ fullback, gave him the name the day he reported to camp as a rookie. Flowers later stated, "He looked like a kid of 15. He had real short hair and brown eyes. And he reminded me of a graceful deer when he ran."
The slender, swift Alworth was one of the players who established the American Football League as the real deal. There always is a certain amount of doubt about the talent of a new league, but no one who watched Alworth go out for a pass questioned his ability to play at the highest levels of the game.
Lance Alworth was one of the best wide receivers I’ve ever seen. He had great speed, quickness and toughness. When I draw back one of those photographs of the mind, I see him airborne, like a ballet dancer, reaching back behind him for the pass. He’d be a superstar today, just as he was then.
Alworth had great, soft hands, and he was always a deep threat. He could catch the short pass and turn it into a long gain, or, with a trademark leap, pull down the bomb. He averaged more than 50 catches and 1,000 yards a year during nine seasons with the Chargers. During his 11-year career, which included two with Dallas, and a Super Bowl appearance with the Cowboys, he averaged almost 19 yards per reception.
Alworth virtually wrote AFL receiving records by leading the league in touchdowns three times, and posting seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He once ran up a string of nine straight games with touchdown catches. He also broke Don Hutson’s long-standing record by catching passes in 96 consecutive games.
Alworth was almost too successful. Traditionalists, myself included, felt that the new league was all offense and no defense. Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt suggested that the problem was that these same veteran traditionalists were watching too much of Lance Alworth because he was always wide open.
With the brilliant, offensive-minded Sid Gilman drawing up the plays, and John Hadl throwing most of the passes, Alworth was the AFL’s showcase player. No one could match his flair for those leaping, acrobatic catches. He was absolutely spectacular, and worth the price of admission alone.
In 1978, Lance Alworth became the first AFL player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who is the youngest shortstop in baseball history to reach the 200-hit plateau in one season? Same answer as last week’s trivia question, Garry Templeton, as a St. Louis Cardinal in 1977 at age 21. (I actually considered asking yet another Templeton trivia question, but it’s too obvious; who did San Diego get in return for Ozzie Smith when they traded him in 1981?)
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the NBA’s all-time coaching leader in losses? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.