What with all-star games, divisional championships, conference championships, league championships, bowls, superbowls, post-bowl bowls and early spring pratice, it is sometimes difficult to be sure just when the football season really ends. Our system, probably as accurate as any, consists of reading a succession of signs. First, FOOTBALL'S WEEK is converted into BASKETBALL'S WEEK, a hint that the end is near. Next, Dan Jenkins leaves for Europe wearing a sheepskin coat and carrying a pair of skis, which means that college football is over, for sure. Finally, someone sees Tex Maule in the office, and that's the ultimate sign. Tex never comes back until the pro campaign is all wrapped up.
Thus, this week's story on the Super Bowl (page 14) marks the official end of our football year, since Tex is right here with us, his feet up on the desk, thinking about the first story he's going to write for next season (it will appear next week). This, then, seems as good a time as any to take stock of our football coverage—and, quickly, before someone comes up with a Crocus Bowl or a Robin Redbreast Championship and really brings the season full circle.
For all the dashing journalistic footwork that develops during the autumn, our season begins rather nicely low key—not in autumn or even summer, but back in the spring, usually at a corner table in an Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from our building. There, the editors and writers responsible for football sketch out the year ahead on the tablecloth, deciding, between the antipasto and the spumoni, what to cover when.
They began this season with a cover on Fran Tarkenton in the July 17 issue and ended more than six months later with the cover half a dozen pages to your left, on the Super Bowl. In between there were 11 other football covers, four of them—like this week's—being "fast" covers, those from games of the weekend just past. We also had 60 pages of color photographs on football inside the magazine; more than half of those were from the previous weekend's games. In all, we ran 57 stories, or a total of about 150,000 words, the length of a plump novel.
Getting that much copy and that many color photographs into a weekly magazine calls for a strong second effort and a great deal of deft scrambling by writers, photographers and editors. You might even call it running for darkness, because getting late-closing stories and photographs into print requires night-long hours of work. The climax this season came on New Year's Eve (is that really a fun night?) when staff members were busy selecting pictures and closing copy on both Green Bay-Dallas and Oakland-Houston championship games. At midnight they paused for a moment, toasted the New Year with pastrami-on-rye sandwiches and medium-cold coffee, and then went right back to Bart Starr. They rolled into bed at 6 a.m., awoke a few hours later with rye (bread) hangovers and got set to watch 10 hours of college bowl games on television.
With all returns in now, it appears that our coverage this season was split right down the middle between professional and college football. Of the 57 stories, 28 were on the pros and 27 on the collegians (two were on general subjects). Nice planning, fellows, and stay with that antipasto-spumoni formation again this spring.