At the caboose of the sports section yesterday, on page F8 in the teeny-tiny type that tells you everything, there were two bundles of information that didn't compute. It was enough to make a guy go to his dictionary for the spelling of indignation, as in righteous. And this on a day when he wants to write about the lunatic New England Patriots. Hang on, dear reader.
In the left corner of F8, the NFL standings showed the Redskins at the top of the National Conference with an 8-1 record. This was glory none dared imagine two months ago, yet there it is, made better by the standings' second line: the cursed Cowboys at a dismal 6-3.
What the agate numbers also showed was that the Redskins' defense gave up the fewest points in the 28-team league: only 128 points, an average of two touchdowns a game.
Over in the right corner, there was the all-pro team selected by sportswriters and broadcasters in voting conducted by The Associated Press. Other than specialists, there was no Redskin on the first team or on the second. "You never know when you're going to be surrounded by Redskins," Tom Landry says in that American Express saloon. Well, you won't be surrounded if you're on the AP all-star teams.
For a team that lost three times as many games as the Redskins, Landry's gang did all right. There were two Cowboys on the AP's first defensive team and two more on the second team. Score that one for the Dallas mythology. Okay. But explain how an inhabitant of New England's funny farm made it (more in a minute, promise), and especially how those two fellows from San Diego made it onto an all-star defensive team.
It doesn't compute. San Diego and defense are mutually exclusive terms. To say the Chargers play defense is to say rocks talk and elephants fly. The Chargers gave up 221 points--24.6 a game, ranking them 23rd in the league.
There were two Chargers, but not a Redskin among the first 22 defensive stars.
No Dave Butz, no Tony Peters, no Neal Olkewicz.
Not even Sheriff Manley.
"We've made a tremendous turnaround in defense," said Dexter Manley, the second-year defensive end who doesn't need his out-of-date deputy sheriff's badge to handcuff NFL linemen. "But we're getting no respect. It really puzzles me. We should have more of these honors. People such as myself."
Only two Redskins got any respect. Place-kicker Mark Moseley, voted the AP's most valuable player, was on the first team as a specialist; and kick returner Mike Nelms made the second team.
So of 50 all-stars, the Redskins had two (the Cowboys had six).
This is only one on a growing list of curiosities around the NFL in this season of Super Bowl XVI 1/2.
Seattle fired one coach and his replacement quit to be club president. Kansas City fired its coach right after beating the mighty Jets, 37-13. The Rams fired their coach after a 21-20 victory over last year's Super Bowl champion 49ers. But at Houston, where the team was 1-8, they kept a coach who said his team has a drug and liquor problem.
A kicker is the league's MVP, and the best team is named the L.A.-Now, Oakland-Later Raiders.
Best of all, at delightful New England, the Patriots broke new ground in football sociology.
This is playoff time, when all the playoff teams tell us how much their players love one another, how much they love the coach, how it's one for all and all for one. They shovel so much sugar into it that you think the Little House on the Prairie became an NFL franchise with Father Murphy at tackle.
Not at New England, oh no. Surprising a lot of people, mostly themselves, the Patriots made it to the playoffs with last week's 30-16 victory over Buffalo. "If I'd known I was going to get this old, I'd have taken better care of myself," said Mickey Mantle on his 50th birthday. If the Patriots had known they were a playoff team in the making, maybe they'd have taken better care of Ron Meyer, their new coach.
Fresh in from Southern Methodist University, Meyer upset the old pro Patriots with disciplinary rules and coaching decisions they believed were amateurish. Meyer ordered the Patriots to wear coats and ties on the road; he wouldn't let them leave the hotel once they arrived, and he fined players for missing practice even with permission.
Apparently, Meyer forgot Casey Stengel's maxim on management: "Keep the five guys who hate you away from the five who haven't made up their mind." Accounts of the fun in the Boston Globe have painted a picture of the Patriots united in their regard for Meyer, each one certain the coach regards them as a kindergarten class deserving no recess even on sunny days.
His playbook, they believe, was carved by cavemen. Wide receiver Stanley Morgan was the first to say Meyer didn't know a pass pattern from a road map of Cape Cod. "All you have to do to stop us is double Stanley and stop our three running plays," The Globe quotes an anonymous player. Only two weeks ago, with a playoff spot still available, the great guard John Hannah said he wanted to be traded (one player says 30 guys want out).
Meyer said there were three things wrong with the Patriots: "Offense, defense and special teams."
Hannah added a fourth: "Coaching."
Turning the other cheek, Meyer told Hannah the criticism was "an un-Christian thing to do." Meyer is the guy who bent league commandments by making a snowplow driver a part of his field-goal kicking team.
Anyway, quarterback Steve Grogan says so many crazy things have happened in the Patriots' 5-4 season that--who knows?--maybe they will go to Miami for the playoffs and "kick them around."
New England last won a game in Miami in 1966.
I don't know about you. But if the Redskins can't win this XVI 1/2 foolishness, I'm rooting for the Patriots.