SPORTS ILLUSTRATED does not often carry major articles examining the character (sporting and otherwise) of a city, but when we do undertake such a piece we give our investigators a free hand. In 1962 Joe David Brown went west to study San Francisco, and here are a few of the unminced words in which he described it: "In no other city have I ever seen so much sheer bad taste per square foot, so much tawdry goods hawked, so much bad booze and cheap wine consumed and so many indigestible canapés eaten or trampled underfoot. San Francisco is not the lovely lady I had imagined, but a vulgar old bawd who permits all sorts of indignities for a fast buck...."
The cries raised by Mr. Brown's opinion of San Francisco—and in the passage quoted he was only warming up—were equally forthright. "I would be more than happy to personally escort Mr. Joe David Brown halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge and give him that well-deserved shove in the right direction," one woman offered. On the other hand, there also were such responses as this: "Joe David Brown's article did an excellent job of hitting the San Francisco nail right on its pointed little head."
(Personally, I love San Francisco.)
By 1964 we had pulled ourselves together sufficiently to invite a San Franciscan to come east and assay New York. Columnist Charles McCabe of the Chronicle was as thorough in his work as Brown had been in his. "The streets were about as safe as the back alleys of Port Said or Marseille," he observed, and went on, hitting his stride: "The subways were being used as abattoirs by drunken teen-age louts. A girl could get raped at Columbus Circle while several thousand alert citizens walked by muttering, 'Never volunteer.' The whole place, it occurred to me on Fifth Avenue one day, is the town of Tawdry, on the port of Pinchbeck, in the borough of Brummagem." Mr. McCabe's efforts also elicited some heartfelt comments from our readers: "...the appearance of his snide vituperations in a periodical of your stature must have been his most glorious moment," one letter concluded. "Great!" another read in its entirety.
(I love New York, too.)
Now, in 1966, two more years have passed, and we are printing an appreciation of the city of Baltimore and its relationship to its sports heroes. On page 86 Staff Writer Mark Kram deals at some length with his home town, and once again the article is not going to be mistaken for a work of the local Chamber of Commerce. Kram, like Brown and McCabe, is pretty stern. There is a difference in his approach, however. Brown and McCabe dissected San Francisco and New York, respectively, with a sort of gleeful—if not malicious—intellectual enthusiasm. Kram's statement about Baltimore is more a cry of offended passion.
A city has a personality of its own, apparent always to the perceptive visitor, but the nature of any city to a man who was born and raised there may be so personal a matter that his comments can have the anguished ring of a husband's bellow at a wife. The underlying note is frequently the note of love, but from citizens of Baltimore who fail to detect it, we anticipate letters suggesting Mr. Kram's immediate submersion in the Chesapeake—oops, make it the Patapsco.
(Gee, I even like Baltimore.)