There is something rather incongruous about all the attention paid the annual National Football League draft. For, despite the excitement and anticipation it generates, many of the top selections are relatively unknown college players, and even the big-name picks don't necessarily turn a team's fortunes around. This latter point was relevant this week, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Bo Jackson, Auburn University's Heisman Trophy-winning running back, the first pick in the entire draft. Even if Jackson chooses a pro football career over one in baseball, there's really no guarantee that he can step in and quickly revive the Bucs, whose 2-14 record matched Buffalo's as the NFL's worst last season.
Interestingly, Jackson has been called the best pro prospect since O. J. Simpson, who joined a 1-12-1 Buffalo team in 1969. Once the Bills had Simpson, it took them five years to piece together a winner, and while Tampa Bay's timetable could be much shorter than that, no one should expect the Bucs to make the Super Bowl next year. After all, the team already has one of the league's better runners in James Wilder (1,300 yards last season), and yet it still loses.
Building a winning team takes time, especially with 22 primary positions to fill, and NFL clubs have historically utilized draft choices, more than player trades or free-agent signings, to accomplish this goal. This, plus the fact the draft is practically pro football's lone ``hot-stove'' league activity, may explain why fans follow the selections so closely.
Tuesday's first round, which took more than four hours, served to identify some of the better interior linemen. Tony Casillas, a defensive noseguard on Oklahoma's national champions, was probably the best known of the group, and was chosen second by the Atlanta Falcons. Other man-mountains quickly followed, including Alabama's Jon Hand (Colts), Virginia's Jim Dombrowski (Saints), West Virginia's Brian Jozwiak (Chiefs), and Temple's John Rienstra (Steelers).
Jim Everett, of Purdue, was the first quarterback selected, going to the Houston Oilers, with Iowa's Heisman runner-up, Chuck Long, en route to the Detroit Lions, next off the board.
Besides Jackson, five other runners were snapped up on the opening round, led by Ohio State's Keith Byars. Philadelphia expects he will be fit despite last season's injury problems. Iowa's Ronnie Harmon got the call from Buffalo, SMU's Reggie Dupard from New England. Florida's 1-2 rushing tandem will go separate ways, John Williams to Seattle, Neal Anderson to Chicago. Baseball's newest strikeout king
Normally, Boston sports fans are convinced there's no place they'd rather be this time of year than the Garden, watching the Celtics in playoff action. The exception may have been Tuesday night, when even an exciting Celtics victory over Atlanta couldn't overshadow what happened in Fenway Park, where Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens set a new nine-inning major league record with 20 strikeouts in a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Clemens was not exactly a household name during his first two injury-shortened big league seasons. The talent is there for him to be an overpowering pitcher, though, as he proved against Seattle by firing 95 m.p.h. fastballs with outstanding control (walking none, and throwing 97 strikes in 138 pitches). Boston manager John McNamara called the performance ``the most awesome piece of pitching I've ever seen,'' better even than perfect games he once saw Catfish Hunter and Mike Witt hurl.
Just because Clemens mowed down the hitting-poor Mariners is no reason to undervalue his feat. After all, the three pitchers who shared the old record of 19 -- Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Steve Carlton -- have faced their share of limp offensive teams over some 60 total years in the majors and never reached 20. NBA's suspect post-season entries
How bad can a team be and still make pro basketball's 16-team playoffs? The Chicago Bulls, who joined the San Antonio Spurs as one of two losing qualifiers this season, sneaked in with a worst-in-playoffs record of 30-52. This yielded the lowest winning percentage (.366) of any playoff team since the 1967-68 Bulls, whose 29-53 record was even less impressive than the current squad's.
Still, the Baltimore Bullets deserve the all-time boobie prize, advancing to the 1953 playoffs with a .229 percentage, the most miserable in history. Of course, there were only 10 NBA teams then, eight of which made the playoffs. Needless to say, the Bullets were promptly eliminated, 2 games to 0, much as the current Chicago and San Antonio teams were swept in three games, by the Celtics and Lakers, respectively.