Skip to main content
Original Issue


It was as long ago as last fall that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy seriously began to consider setting forth some urgent recommendations for strengthening—indeed, changing the very pattern of—amateur athletics in the U.S. He had talked to his brother, the late President, on several occasions about what he felt was the increasing loss of national prestige brought about by this country's failure to dominate world sports to the degree it once had. The events of last November led him to set all such matters aside, but by midsummer, with the Olympic year preparations serving as a constant reminder, he sat down to outline his plan. By the July 4 weekend he was essentially satisfied with it.

Then, like many a nervous writer before him, he inquired if SPORTS ILLUSTRATED might be interested in what he had to say. We were more than interested and, if our agreement with some of his contentions is not complete, our pleasure at presenting the article that begins on page 12 is considerable.

The Attorney General is new to us in the role of writer, but not in the role of reader or telephoner. He awakened Senior Editor Jack Olsen with a not really early phone call late last year to tell him how pleased he had been with our article in remembrance of Jack Kennedy (SI, Dec. 2, 1963), which Olsen had written. Olsen hung up before fully realizing whom he was talking to. And in April, Bobby called again. He was on his way to Boston to throw out the first ball of the season at Fenway Park, and he wondered if we had a photograph of his brother doing the same thing the year before in Washington. He figured somebody would ask him what he knew about first-ball throwing, and he would pull out the picture and say he had been studying up on the subject. We were glad to oblige.

Bobby Kennedy is hardly a new listing in the rolls of sports-minded Americans, the athletic proclivities of the Kennedys having become a legend. Thus, when we sent an editor—an out-of-shape one who hoped desperately he would not be needed at fullback—to Hyannisport last Sunday morning to inquire briefly about Mr. Kennedy's present sporting interests and to be sure there were no last-minute thoughts about the article, the scene was predictable. The Attorney General had arisen at seven for a swim in Nantucket Sound, attended Mass, eaten breakfast and been through the New York and Boston papers. He had lingered, he said, over the story on the PGA Championship and noted that "golf and football are my favorite sports now. Byron White and I see the Redskins a couple of times a year, but I don't get to watch as much football as I would like." Minutes later he was watching some in his backyard, where his 8-year-old son David was catching forward passes being thrown by one of the Secret Service men assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy, who was also there. "Did you do any boxing today?" he asked the boy. David said he had—against the Secret Service. There had already been a touch football game, which was over. Some of the children—22 were at the compound—had been sailing. Ethel Kennedy and Jacqueline approached in swimming suits, and Bobby went with them for half an hour of water skiing. On shore again Ethel asked her husband if the afternoon tennis match had been arranged. He said it had, "You and I, and Pat [Mrs. Peter Lawford] and Dave Hackett." He turned to a guest and added, "Dave and I were at Milton Academy together. He was a great hockey player. Made the Olympic team." Children whizzed by on a motor scooter. Dogs whizzed by chasing the scooter. Plans were made for foot races. Written down, it sounds frantic, but actually it was quite serene. People were enjoying themselves on a summer Sunday morning, especially the Attorney General who was eminently at ease in the middle of it all. It was clear that he is a man who appreciates the subtle pleasures of sport, and this adds substance to what he says when he addresses himself to the larger issues of athletics, as he has in his own story this week.