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Original Issue


A character named Joe and a coach named Tad contributed to the popular picture of the football hero—here are some retouches

As act two opens, Joe Ferguson, onetime All-America, is bulling around his hostess' living room, arranging china and silverware on the rug in the pattern of an old football play. When the play is ready he speaks:

Joe: The ball is snapped back. Now look, here we go! Both of us. (Carrying a plate and a napkin.) Close together. Fading back but threatening a left end run as well as a pass.

Pretty girl: But who are you?

Joe: I'm both of them—Lindstrom and Wierasocka.—(Comes forward.) Skolsky cuts down the left sideline deep and takes out Wupperman—that's the jam pot. ...

Joe Ferguson is one of the very few All-America football players ever to appear in a Broadway comedy. As invented by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent for The Male Animal (1940), he not only added enormously to the effectiveness of the show—he probably managed, as nobody else in fairly modern times, to stereotype the old football hero (roughly spelled C-L-U-C-K) who just can't get over his playing days. Joe Ferguson has "one thousand fish" bet on the big game between Midwestern and Illinois, he is far more concerned about enlarging the stadium than getting more books for the run-down library, and his wife is just about to divorce him.

Whether Joe ever existed or not—outside a pleasant comedy back there in the days when World War II was known as "the phony war," and in the subsequent movie where he was played by Jack Carson—it must be reported that Joe does not show up on the Silver Anniversary squad.

Even back in campus days the Anniversary men appear to have been a remarkably different breed. For one thing, five of the 25 won some kind of academic scholarship (against seven with football scholarships and 13 with none). Sixteen of them earned part of their way by work during semesters—and the variety of jobs ranged from hustling ice, √† la Red Grange, to serving as head-counting chapel monitor. A majority were active in campus affairs other than football, and half a dozen were presidents or vice-presidents of their student government associations. Five graduated with honors (including two Phi Beta Kappas and a Rhodes scholar), five more with grades at B level.

One of the most striking facts revealed by the questionnaire is the number who took graduate degrees: 14. Their total bag includes five M.D.s, five M.A.s, an L.L.B., two bachelors of divinity, a master of theology and a Ph.D., not to mention a mounting score, nowadays, of honorary L.L.D.s and D.D.s. Back in the fall of 1931 Adolf Hitler was still a more-or-less comic figure with a mustache, and military training in college was not the requirement it has since become; but 11 out of 25 took some form of military training nonetheless.

When the war came for America, virtually all of them had wives and children, but eight went on active duty anyway, wound up in ranks from captains to brigadier general. The stay-at-homes furnished air-raid wardens, Selective Service board members, port and beach security wardens and a variety of wartime production experts.

Twenty-five years out of college they are in pretty fair physical trim. Big men to begin with—most of them—they averaged 183 pounds as seniors, confess to being about 15 pounds over playing weight today. But on the stress-and-strain front, only two of them have ever been treated for ulcers (one a doctor himself), only one for hypertension and none at all for the fashionable neuroses or graver psychoses. All have married and, in a generation where the general divorce rate runs to about one in five marriages, the All-Americas average one in 12½.

They are hard workers, averaging, they estimate, 57 hours a week (counting work carried home) at their executive and professional duties. Yet the big majority still finds time for active sport. Golf, for 15 out of 25, is the big favorite. Moreover, most of their wives take part in sport, with golf again the favorite.

Along with old Joe Ferguson, one of the informal philosophers of football has long been Thomas Albert Dwight (Tad) Jones, Yale football hero and longtime successful Yale coach, who once told his team, before a game with Harvard, they would never again in their lives do anything so important as represent their college in the big game. The Silver All-Americas know what Tad was talking about and are inclined to think that a football coach should be allowed a generous amount of hortatory latitude before the big game—but do they really agree with the philosophy? Twenty-two out of 25 shake their heads (and one of Tad's three supporters is a football coach who has been known to use vigorous pregame exhortation himself).

"I get the impression," writes Colorado's James Haley, "that Tad's contract must have been up for renewal."

"While I was at West Point," says Brigadier General Edward W. Suarez, "I never did a greater thing than represent the Army on a football field, and I would do it again, even knowing that I would be missing studies that would cause me to be lower in my class." Today General Suarez, who has a large share of responsibility for the air defense of the United States, rightly feels he has found something more important to do than it was for him to help beat Navy 17-7 back in '31.