Previewing a season of college football is always difficult, for the sport is both massive and utterly emotional. This year more than 25 million ticket-buying enthusiasts will deal out their loyalties among the 600-odd colleges that play the game. While the fortunes of a few teams will be of national interest, most fevers and arguments will be of the sectional and parish kind: Ivy League, East, West, South, Midwest, Independents and Old Siwash.
Work on this week's special college football issue began in March when Senior Editor Andrew Crichton huddled with his staff to plan coverage of spring training and the succession of eyewitness reports and interviews with coaches that were to be the raw material of our 48 pages of general forecast, illustration and regional scouting reports. Then came evaluation of all the information—with the same healthy debates that last year led to our forecast of Texas as the No. 1 college. The pick this time is Auburn, a team with superb running backs in a year of excellent runners (see page 36). If Auburn has as hard a time winning in the Southeastern Conference as it did in our office the race should be a chiller.
For the short story that caps this issue we have turned to that onetime sportswriter—for TIME and The New Yorker—John O'Hara, better known for the shelf of American literature that begins with Appointment in Samarra and Butterfield 8 and goes on through Pal Joey and Pipe Night and From the Terrace and The Hat on the Bed to whatever John O'Hara decides to do next.
O'Hara came by his football interests early and in one of the game's sounder and more rugged districts: eastern Pennsylvania. As a boy he whooped for Penn at Penn-Cornell games and for Pottsville High against Minersville until, O'Hara remembers, "the games became a threat to the peace of Schuylkill County and were terminated." After prep school he went to work for the Pottsville Journal and covered those forerunners of today's Bears and Packers, the Pottsville Maroons, "disputed champions [in 1925] of the National Football League."
"I have not seen them all," John O'Hara tells us, "but as a boy I saw Jim Thorpe and as a creaking senior citizen I have seen Paul Hornung. In between I have paid and been paid to watch so many of the good ones and great ones (and a few sour ones) that I could fill pages with just their names. I am inclined to think my alltime favorite was Charley Berry, All-America end at Lafayette and on the Pottsville Maroons, and until recently the American League umpire. He was great, and he always came up laughing.
"It is not true, by the way, that I know the name and year of every Yale captain, or the name and year of every Kentucky Derby winner. But I do know that Zev Graham, the onetime Fordham captain, got his nickname from the horse that beat Papyrus. I am speaking of the old Papyrus, not the one that's running now. Even the names have begun to double up on me. Why, here, for the second time around, comes Malicious! And after 35 years I am once again taking money from Mr. Luce for something I like to do."
We think you will like reading The Tackle as much as John O'Hara liked writing it. It begins on page 108.
ONETIME SPORTSWRITER JOHN O'HARA