Egg in Your Beer
Heading Them Off at the Crossroads
"I urge all Harvard alumni and undergraduates to give Coach Valpey their utmost cooperation, and help him by obtaining promising material for future years."
These words were written by Hamilton Fish '10 on October 21, 1948, in his foreword to "The History of Football at Harvard." Fish, a former captain ('09) of football here, was basking in in the illusion that Arthur Valpey would accomplish miracles overnight.
Valpey accomplished no miracles. So now, a little more than a year later, Fish erupts into print. This morning's Boston "Globe" carries a front-page story and the full text of a letter from the former Congressman--a letter which also went to Bill Bingham, the Alumni Bulletin, the New York Times, and the CRIMSON. The letter's central point is contained in these sentences:
"Valpey and his assistants should be retired immediately and at all costs, whether it means adjustment of the contract or not. You (Bingham) are not responsible for the coaching and its success. . . . Perhaps I am spoiled as I have seen West Point play three games this year. . . . There are at least a score of available, experienced coaches and successful professional players, including some former Harvard players, such as Charley Buell, Charley Crowley, Eddie Mahan and "Chuck" (sie) Peabody who could make good and restore Harvard football prestige, but unfortunately Valpey is not one of them. . . ."
There seem to be quite a few points where the Fish letter is wrong. First of all, Fish seems annoyed by the "dismal failure of the 1949 season." It might be germane to point out that the "great" Harvard teams that he played on began their seasons with the following four opponents: 1907: Bowdoin, Maine, Bates, Williams; 1908: Bowdoin, Maine, Bates, Williams; 1909: Bates, Bowdoin, Williams, Maine. The fact that Fish's teams were playing patsies for a month day possibly have had something to do with the fine finishes they staged, or with the reputation of Percy Haughton for fielding polished teams which beat Yale and Princeton.
The overpowering brilliance of the Army team, which Fish has watched with such pleasure this fall, may have blinded him to one interesting fact: Harvard, operating with second- and third-stringers, scored more points against the Big Bad Cadets than did any other Army opponent.
Errors Made in Anger
Fish practically erupts with rage when he discusses the Harvard offense this year. "(Valpey's) plays were too complicated, caused too many fumbles, had no power plays, and filled lamentably in forward passing. . . he failed to provide protection for his passers."
Is Mr. Fish cognizant of the fact that the score against Yale come on a straight power play around end? That the gains against Army and Holy Cross were made predominantly right up the middle with the fullback? That Harvard scored on passes seven times this fall and set up three other touchdowns with passes?
Pass protection and fumbles raise another point. Michigan operates from a system which has just as many spinners, fakes, handoffs, and laterals as does Valpey's. Michigan does not fumble; Harvard does. This would seem to indicate that the quality of personnel had something to do with the matter. This writer has the deepest respect and admiration for the work done by Harvard's players this fall, but the fact remains that week after week they met teams composed of more gifted athletes. As to pass protection, the failure here, as Fish would undoubtedly agree if he knew Valpey's offensive patterns better, lies not with the blocking assignments but with the way they were carried out.
You cannot take a man without basic football instinct and teach him to block like a man with good football instinct. Valpey and his staff worked on blocking every day of the season. They did not neglect this fundamental.
It is to be expected that a former Harvard captain and all-American as prominent in the public eye as Hamilton Fish would have something to say about this season. It is hard to understand, however, why he chose an open letter to four publications to castigate to coach who has done his best. It is hard to understand how Fish could have changed from the helping alumnus he seemed in 1948 to the jealous guardian of past Harvard glory that he now claims to be.
Next week: Martin and Barton.