Though the glut of Super Bowl news stories will continue right up to the kickoff on Jan. 26, the weekend before the game is always oddly devoid of National Football League action. So what's a fan to do who has tired of reading and hearing about the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, but is still looking for some form of NFL entertainment to tide him over until the big game? One suggestion would be to forage around for a copy of either or both of a pair of recently published books.
``Distant Replay,'' by Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap (G. P. Putnam's Sons), takes a fascinating look at what has become of the members of the 1966 Green Bay Packers, the first Super Bowl kings. The peg here is the reunion the club held 18 years after its historic triumph.
Kramer, an all-pro guard with the Packers, has teamed with journalist-author Schaap on several other occasions, most notably in writing the best seller ``Instant Replay,'' a diary of Green Bay's 1967 season. The where-are-they-now approach is old hat in sports circles, but it's executed here with the precision of a Packers' power sweep. The diverse personalities on that team -- from straight arrow Bart Starr to flamboyant Paul Hornung -- are brought out revealingly. Each was profoundly influenced by playing for the game's foremost taskmaster, Vince Lombardi, and their individual quests to succeed in life after football makes for fascinating reading.
For those who enjoy concise, well-written histories, ``25 Years: The NFL Since 1960,'' by Ted Brock and Larry Eldridge Jr. (Simon & Schuster Inc.) is very informative work. This large-format paperback, which recounts the high points, low points, and most memorable occurrences of the league's era of prosperity, is richly illustrated with a fine selection of black-and-white and color photographs. The league's history is neatly packaged into years, and it's supplemented by a section on 25 unforgettable games of the period and the selection of an all-star team. Chicago's Walter Payton, incidentally, is a second-team running back, a selection that should arouse Bears fans and could inspire some great debates at Super Bowl parties. Touching other bases
Not much was expected of the current Villanova basketball team, which lost the three seniors (Ed Pinckney, Dwyane McClain, and Gary McLain) who formed the nucleus of last season's amazing NCAA championship squad. The Wildcats haven't been any pushovers, though, as an 11-7 overall record and 3-1 mark in the Big East Conference indicate. Earlier this week, freshmen Doug West and Ken Wilson combined for 29 points in a 56-53 win over Connecticut, but it has been the play of senior Harold Pressley that has really inspired the team lately. Pressley, a 6 ft. 7 in. forward-center, was honored as the Big East Player of the Week on the heels of two superb all-around efforts. The second and most spectacular of these netted him the first ``triple double'' in conference history. Not even Georgetown's Patrick Ewing ever managed double digits in three statistical categories, as Pressley did in scoring 19 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and blocking 10 shots in a 78-77 double overtime win at Providence. In the previous game against Syracuse, he had 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 assists.
Following this week's Masters tournament in New York, tennis administrators will meet to assess the men's professional game. Closing a loophole in the players' code of conduct remains a top priority. Players who accumulate a certain number of fines within a given period are automatically suspended for 42 days. This may seem a stiff penalty, but it isn't really for a player who has already decided not to play during that period. And not infrequently, the top players are looking for a convenient break in their schedules. According to the International Tennis Federation, there is strong evidence that one player even deliberately transgressed the rules to make sure he was suspended at a time he knew he would not be playing. Such behavior seriously undermines the code's effectiveness. One way to restore it might be to suspend chronic offenders from the next major tournament on the calendar.
Scorekeepers recently credited forward James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers with making all 14 of his shots in a 31-point outing, a feat that would have qualified as one of the longest single-game shooting runs in NBA history. But upon being congratulated on his accomplishment, Worthy immediately piped up, ``I missed a shot in the second quarter.'' And indeed he did, a fact confirmed when a videotape of the game was reviewed.
Organizers of the Wimbledon tennis tournament are very reluctant to break with tradition. Next summer, however, they will do just that, replacing white tennis balls with the yellow ones that first received International Tennis Federation approval in 1973.
Every other major tournament has long since made the switch, but officials of the All-England Lawn Tennis Club had to be convinced yellow balls were better, not just a fad. A test made in conjunction with the BBC this past year proved their superior visibility on television. Players see them better, too. ``It's good because we play all year with yellow and getting accustomed to white balls always took a little time,'' said Chris Evert Lloyd.