Computers 'match' all-time all-stars; football toss: heads you lose

Unless the ventilation system acts up, air currents won't be a factor in this year's Super Bowl, to be played indoors in New Orleans's Superdome Jan. 25. Generally, however, wind is an important consideration, one that can make the pregame coin toss a more crucial factor than some might realize.

Few teams want to go against the wind in the fourth quarter, when it could be decisive in a close game. Oddly, however, whoever loses the toss usually gets a following wind during the final 15 minutes, plus possession of the ball to start the second half. As a consequence, writes Steve Guback in Football Digest, nobody wants to win the coin toss.

Traditionally, of course, the team winning the toss elects to receive the kickoff, leaving its opponent the choice of which goal to defend. Ball possession to start the game, though, is not very advantageous. The offense often needs the ball a time or two to warm up and adjust to the defenses it faces. After a halftime "chalk talk," teams are generally better able to attack , which explains why more scoring usually occurs in the third than the first quarter.

Despite this, teams will continue to receive if they win the toss. To do otherwise would virtually assure an opponent of possession of the ball at the beginning of each half, a strategy that doesn't please fans and puts added pressure on the defense.

Guback indicates that the league once voted against a proposal to eliminate the coin toss altogether and give the visiting team the option at the beginning of every game.

A more acceptable solution might be one suggested by Chicago Coach Neil Armstrong, who advocates giving the team that wins the coin toss the choice of when to exercise its option, at the begi nning of the game or at the start of the second half.

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