For eight years this magazine's—and the nation's—No. 1 writer on professional football has been Hamilton Bee (Tex) Maule. I noted here last November that Maule, in an eventful life, has been a trapeze artist, a merchant seaman and a sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News. During his association with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED pro football has itself become so eventful and has so fascinated America that we have constantly expanded our coverage of it. There is no better evidence of this than the heft and scope of this issue, in which Maule's insights and judgments are prominently put forth.
Maule is an old friend; we have a new one joining him on the pro football beat this fall. His name is Edwin (Bud) Shrake, and by coincidence he also is a Texan. By coincidence he also is a former sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Maule, at 6 feet 2, is big; Shrake, four inches taller and no lightweight, really fills a doorway. Maule has written novels (Jeremy Todd, Footsteps); so has Shrake (Blood Reckoning, But Not for Love). An authority on the American Football League—he broke the first story on its founding in 1960 in the Dallas limes Herald—Shrake has written the AFL scouting reports.
Another writer who figures importantly in this issue will never, I think it is safe to assume, be taken for a Texan. Early readers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED will remember George Plimpton for his fine portrait of Harold S. Vanderbilt and for many other articles—including the horrendous experience of pitching against a team of National League all-stars. A president of The Harvard Lampoon, co-founder of the literary quarterly The Paris Review and leading spirit of a Manhattan literary salon whose visitors have included Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Plimpton has, for all that, taken several wild plunges into hazardous sport. Ernest Hemingway once gave him instruction in caping bulls and boxing and pondered his role on "the dark side of the moon of Walter Mitty." "Zero of the Lions" (see page 96) is Plimpton's tale of the time he played quarterback for Detroit and the fearful consequences thereof.
Maule and Shrake, thanks be, avoided red-doggers in their news-gathering trips to the training camps and came back unbruised. The product of their observations and interviews is in these pages. Their forecast of the outcome of this year's pro football races are below, alongside a consensus of sportswriters' predictions. "This," says Maule, "is probably the toughest year I have ever had in picking, including 1963, when the Cowboys subsided into a quivering heap after I put them first." If Maule is worried, I think I will just keep my own list in my hat.