Week after week the pro football crowds just grow and grow. A fortnight ago 282,530 watched the 12 National Football League teams have at each other; last week with the help of 100,470 in the Los Angeles Coliseum and another 78,404 in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, the league attendance rose to 326,431. These people pay to see perfection—or the closest thing to it—and in Cleveland the man who comes nearest to giving it to them is James Brown, the benign-looking young gentleman to the left with the shoulders of a Miura bull and a 30-inch waist.
Despite the fact that Cleveland lost last Sunday's game with the New York Giants by 21-17, Jim Brown is still about the most exciting thing to hit Cleveland since Bob Feller's fast ball was intimidating American League hitters. Although he is still just a sophomore in pro football, scarcely dry behind the ears as age is reckoned by the old pros, Brown already threatens league season records in touchdowns and yards gained rushing. In six games—half a season—he has scored 15 touchdowns (record: 18) and gained 928 yards rushing (record: 1,146). If he continues his incredible antics, he should, by the time he has played the season out, nearly double both existing records, which were set by the Philadelphia Eagles' Steve Van Buren. On the basis of this six-game performance, Jim Brown is the greatest running back professional football has ever seen.
Seldom is one player so good that he becomes absolutely essential to the success of a pro team. The pro clubs strive for a depth and balance of personnel so nearly perfect that the loss of one man can do no irreparable harm to the team as a whole. And Cleveland, as much as any team, has attained this ideal. Paradoxically, the Browns are the only team in the league which could lose a considerable part of its effectiveness by injury to a single player who is not a quarterback. The Giants managed their victory last Sunday not by stopping Brown, which seems impossible, but by cutting down on his effectiveness. The Giant coaches assigned Sam Huff, one of the league's best linebackers, to dog Brown's footsteps all afternoon. It was a thankless task, and Huff was not always successful: once Brown burst out of a pack of tacklers and fled 58 yards to a touchdown. But he had his "worst" day of the year—only 113 yards rushing in 13 carries.
Jim is a quiet, relaxed human being off the field. In repose, the magnificent body looks loose, the heavy muscles bulging even at rest, the impression he gives one of a great hunting cat asleep in the sun. He is not talkative, but he is an articulate young man who understands the technique of running with a football and is able to explain it.
"There are several reasons why I am running better this year than last," he said the other day. "First, I fit into the Brown offensive unit better. I came to camp three weeks late from the All-Stars last year, and for a while I'd hit the wrong hole on an occasional play. For instance, I wasn't familiar with how Mike McCormack blocks in the middle of the line and once in a while I'd run into Mike and the man he was blocking because I didn't know which way to cut."
Glenn Holtzman, a very good 250-pound tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, recently explained what it is like to face Brown from the wrong side of the line: "He's just the best back in the league...fast as the fastest, hard as the hardest. He gets off to the quickest start of any big man I've ever seen. An arm tackle is no soap; he runs right through you. The only way I've found to stop him is hit him right at the ankles with your shoulder...otherwise, it's like tackling a locomotive." Brown has tremendous lateral speed and balance; he can be hit, knocked sideways and land on his feet running in another direction, picking up full speed again in a few steps.
One league coach made Brown's importance very clear after his team had dropped a thriller to the Browns: "If they ever lose Jim Brown, then they'll be even with the rest of us."
Elsewhere, the Baltimore Colts continued to pick up momentum with a rain-splashed 56-0 victory over the Green Bay Packers. The Colts found, happily, that even John Unitas is not indispensable; after this fine quarterback was slightly injured and left the game at the half, sub George Shaw passed for three touchdowns in the second half. The Los Angeles Rams, to the delight of the 100,000-odd fans, edged the Chicago Bears 41-35, pushing the Bears two full games behind Baltimore.
Y. A. Tittle, who has been sitting restlessly on the San Francisco 49er bench with a leg injury, came off it in the fourth period Sunday to engineer the winning touchdown over Detroit, 24-21. Bobby Layne clicked for Pittsburgh in a 24-16 conquest of Washington, and Norm Van Brocklin of the Philadelphia Eagles threw two last-period passes to tie the Chicago Cardinals 21-21.
IMMENSELY POWERFUL chest and arms tell the strength of Browns' Jim Brown.