Professional football, for all its sophistication, is still a boys game being played by overgrown men. The object of the participants should be, if not to have fun, at least to enjoy it. So it is refreshing, every once in awhile, to see an old codger like Coy Bacon come pranching out onto the turf, arms over his head, fists raised, jumping and shouting like a kid on the neighborhood playground.
That was the scene with No. 80 Monday night at RFK. The Redskins were fired up, ready to give 120 percent of their skills and energies. They sent the Dallas Cowboys a message early, from across the sidelines, before the captains met for the coin toss. Tom Henderson was one of the few Cowboys to reply in kind.
Unlike Bacon and other older Redskins, too many veterans in the NFL apparently are afraid to show emotion. It is not considered professional. Somebody once decided a professional should be cool at all times.
All I know is that some of the top talent in the pro ranks has become so cool it's frigid. The Oakland Raiders are a classic example. The ability is still here - although the squad is not as overpowering as it once was - but Oakland has been playing uninspired ball.
Anyone watching the Raider's offensive unit "break" out of the huddle last weekend in Chicago knows what I mean. This is an outstanding unit, but it strolls up to the line of scrimmage as though it is trying to find its way through a fog.The entire team acts as if it can take a vacation for 3 1/2 quarters until the situation becomes serious in the final five minutes. Only the coach, John Madden, gets excited.
The Raiders are 3-2 and fortunate not to be 1-4.
Denver, which leads Oakland by one game in the AFC West, provides an excellent example of what can be achieved even though a team has a little less ability. No one will convince me that the Broncos are a better team than the Raiders, although they have beaten Oakland in three of their last four contests. But Denver certainly plays closer to its potential, week after week, than any other team in the league. This is a club that gets the job done, to a considerable extent, on heart and spirit - and a very quick, dedicated defense.
The old folks on the 5-0 Redskins also are performing better than they know how this season, while the young people in Green Bay are not afraid to jump up and down when there is something to get excited about, as their 4-1 record certainly is.
There was criticism from the traditionalists, a few years ago, when John Ralston made so much of togetherness and brought much of Stanford's sisboom-bah to the Rockies. Ralston may have overdone things a bit, such as having his players hold hands in the huddle. But looking at the lack of enthusiasm on some of the NFL clubs this year makes a fan wonder if a touch of Ralston wouldn't help snap a few of the better teams out of their lethargy.
Ken Stabler and Roger Staubach, for instance, are great quarterbacks, and it is not their nature to pull a Joe Theismann and go traipsing through the end zone, holding the ball on high, trying to turn a giveaway safety into a touchdown for the opposition. But a touch of Theismann would do Oakland and Dallas considerable good at this point. His brand of desire can be infectious and contagious. And it just might accomplish for those superior squads that it has done for one having a little less talent.
The Redskins were all that saved "Playing Football" from another disastrous weekend. I am $2,375 in the red, and red-faced, though not for long. Things are beginning to jell. By the night of Monday, Oct. 16, the profit and loss sheet should be back in the black.
This week's schedule is light, in terms of interesting picks. I will string along with San Diego for a mythical $500, getting one point at home against Denver; Green Bay, $250, getting three at home against Chicago, and Washington, $250, giving eight at Detroit. I will also take a mild rooting interest of $100 each in Houston, getting eight at Oakland; New Orleans, getting 2 1/2 at home against Cleveland, and Alanta, getting 10 1/2 at Pittsburgh.
Denver and Detroit have unsettled quarterback situations. Green Bay is on its biggest "high," emotionally, since Lombardi left. The only problem in selecting San Diego is the fourth-quarter play that has plagued this team for more than a year. The Chargers tend to fold under pressure in the final minutes. I am banking on the new head coach, Don Coryell, being able to give the defense a little dose of confidence while making the offense better than ever.
In other games, Las Vegas lists Buffalo one point over the jets, New England 7 1/2 over Philadelphia, Minnesota five at Seattle, Los Angeles 13 over San Francisco, Dallas 13 over the Giants, Kansas City four over Tampa Bay, and Miami 10 over Cincinnati on Monday night. There is no line on Baltimore at St. Louis, pending word on quarterback Bert Jones' availability.