It was in the spring, just after the last regularly scheduled Thursday matinee TV game-of-the-week and right before the ballyhoo began for the midsummer twi-night intrasquad rookie games, when the situation was initially called to the attention of the commissioner. At first, of course, he was 10th to accept the figures, but after carefully reexamining them and consulting with Joe Kuharich, he knew he could no longer question the obvious conclusions.
"The second generation," the commissioner said, whirling in his swivel chair. "Who would have thought? It snuck up on us. It seems like just yesterday...."
"I know," the network man said, lapsing into a bit of reverie himself. "Why I can still remember so clearly the day the Colts came into the NFL. It was Channel 2, fuzzy at first, then a little trouble with the horizontal, then just so clear. What a day. And, oh, the time we laid the coaxial cable into Green Bay and brought the first Turkey Day classic from Detroit. What this generation has gone through with us! What golden memories."
"You don't forget people like that easily," the commissioner said, brushing a small tear away. "What a generation it has been."
"What a generation," the network man repeated. Then he took a step toward the commissioner and placed a hand firmly on his shoulder. "I want you to know that we all understand that this sort of thing is hardest for you."
"The buck stops here," the commissioner said stoutly, rapping the Kiwanis Club Man-of-the-Year goalposts that were on his desk. "I know, though, that someone always gets stuck with the tough jobs. But then, let's face it. This sort of thing, and having lunch with you five times a week to work up the schedules—well, that's why they pay me $725,000 a year."
"Not to drag myself into it," the network man said, unconsciously grasping the commissioner's shoulder a little harder, "but this is somewhat reminiscent of my position last year, vis-√†-vis the time we decided to televise the Wednesday morning early bird games. I was the guy who had to make the announcement that we were knocking the Spanish lessons and the Pastor's Study right out of the television box. And this was Lent, you will remember, which made a helluva additional note. Somebody had to tell the preacher that the 6:30 interdenominational devotionals were kaput, and I was the fella. So I know what's weighing on your mind...and your heart."
"Thank you," the commissioner said, swirling his chair in a casual manner that successfully removed him from the painful shoulder grip, "you're a warm and savvy guy. But enough reminiscing. We have to face the present, as hard as it is. Who would have thought the NFL ever would have a fan crisis?"
"It caught us all by surprise,"
"Well, I think we're doing something about it in time, so come on, let's go to the meeting now."
The network man was still lost in his thoughts as he and the commissioner moved down the hall to the conference room. Suddenly, the commissioner tensed. There in the dim half-light of the hall he could make out the gaunt, worn figure of old Connie Thomas. His first thought was of the security guards. How many times had he told them to keep Thomas away from him? Then he remembered—of course, this time old Connie was invited to the office. It was the scouts he needed most of all to turn the fan crisis around.
So, regaining his step, the commissioner moved on, coming closer, until he could see Thomas more clearly by the doorway, his grizzled face, his tired frame bent low to the weight of his 45 years and the binoculars that he always carried about his neck. Connie took out a Holiday Inn wiper, which he used to shine his shoes and clean his binocular lens—or, as he employed it now, to blow his nose.
"Hello, Connie," the commissioner said with studied affection.
"Oh, commissioner, I been waiting," the old man said. "You can't let 'em take it away from us. You can't trust them machines to do all the work."
"Connie has been one of the best scouts," the commissioner explained to the network man. "In the days before we depended upon computers, he would rate every college player in the land—every player every year for the Cowboys."
"Oh, I seen 'em all," Connie went on. "Not just your big ones, your Notre Dames, your UCLAs, your Alabamas, but I seen all of 'em—every little bitty school, every junior college, every nigra institution. And it wasn't just me. Why, I can remember some games you'd look up and the whole press box would just be filled with scouts. Why, it was like the sky dark with a whole flock of birds moving south. Every team would have their scouts there. Some two or even three, and some days, an assistant coach, or a general manager, or maybe even an owner, too. Oh, before them machines we'd all us scouts be there. Bird dogs the newspaper boys called us, and that's what we were—bird dogs stalking our prey. What men."
"It must have been a proud profession in its heyday," the network man said.
"Oh, yes sir, it was," Connie said. "Why, we fought tooth and nail, but we all respected each other—there was only the 26 teams in both leagues in them days—so all us scouts knew each other, You take Francis Riggs of the Cardinals. He could weigh a man with his eye, and it only took one kickoff return for him to measure a player right clear through to the heart. Or Mitch Naylor, God rest his soul, of the 49ers. He could see a player just jog out onto the field for the introductions, and by just the way he moved, his gait, Mitch could computate his 100-yard-dash speed to the nearest 10th. Those were scouts, mister Them machines, can they do that? Can they? Can they?"
The commissioner draped a comforting arm about the old man as his body swelled with sobs, "Connie, Connie, please," he said "We haven't forgotten you. The computers are only aides to us; we need men like you."
"Barnyard Kelly of the Browns—he could find a player under a rock—or Pete Conte, my buddy, or Johnny Simmons—drunk that man could evaluate an interior lineman, his stance, even his lateral motion better than any gadget you ever saw. Oh, commissioner, give me a chance. Please, Just a chance Scouting's the only job I ever knew, I'll scout anything—service ball, the Western Division of the Continental League, the junior highs, I'll even scout the Ivy League,"
"Good God, man, get a grip on yourself," the network rep cried,
"Connie," the commissioner said. "Don't you see? That's why we called this meeting. We have something big, real big, for all you boys to do. Connie, we need you to scout a whole new NFL generation."
"A whole new generation?"
"Sure, you heard me right. Now, come on in and listen to me explain. All your old scout buddies are here." He threw open the door and they walked in—and there they were, all of them, the whole gang. Francis Riggs of the Cardinals was over in the corner with Sam Gentry of the Eagles and Hawk D'Ambroglio of the Rams. There was shrewd Walker Taliaferro of the Steelers, brooding Cranston Tower of the Giants and Will Browne of the Bears, still as sanguine as ever, still as much the ladies' man Johnny Simmons was in his cups already, and Pete Conte of the Colts was trying to tell Simmons and Barnyard Kelly a dirty joke, Roy Earle of the Packers, earnest as always, had cornered Sandy Cochran of the Vikings and was showing him innumerable snapshots of his new boat, so Cochran was particularly delighted to spot Connie Thomas when he came into the room. It gave him a chance to get away from Earle.
"Hey, Connie," Sandy cried, whistling for attention. "Look who's here, gang."
"You old bandit," Hawk D'Ambroglio laughed, slapping Connie on the back.
"And how are you, Hawk? Still recommending linebackers who have three wives?"
"Oh, that hurts, doesn't it, D'Ambroglio?" Pete Conte chimed in, "I remember him too: Rufus Longwood, East Broadside A&T, 6'2", 225, 9.9."
"Ten even," Connie said.
"Same old Connie, never forgets," said Barnyard Kelly, and there was a lot more backslapping and welcoming, Johnny Simmons actually struggled to his feet, and Connie caught him and tugged playfully at his cheeks.
"Like old times," Will Browne said, and there was even a loud cheer for the Lions' Piper (Soupy) Campbell (though he seemed as morose and distant as ever) when he came in late. The commissioner had to rap for order several times. In fact, there was so much noise that he really didn't settle things down until he got Sandy Cochran's eye and had him sound off with one of his special whistles.
"You probably are wondering why I called you all here together," the commissioner said. There were responsive nods and murmurs. Walker Taliaferro cleared his throat; old Connie Thomas' binoculars clattered at his knees. "This all must remain strictly confidential," the commissioner went on. "What I have to tell you today could ruin us if basketball or hockey or even if baseball found out—but these reports tell the whole, sad truth." He held up a sheaf of papers.
"The trouble is, men, that we have used up a whole generation of pro football spectators. All we have left is a tired, run-down group that is just going through the motions. We need an entire generation of new fans, and that's where you...."
"Wait a minute, commissioner," said Cranston Tower, rising to his feet. "There's millions and millions of pro football fans all over this great country who pack stadiums from coast to coast every week. Why do you have to scout for new faces?"
"Yeah," murmured many voices.
"Millions and millions," added others in the room.
"Hold on, hold on," hastened the commissioner, raising his hands to spell the anxious questions. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. That's what no one has ever realized. Sure, there are millions of pro football fans, and have been for years, but how many of them ever get in to see a game? We've been selling out stadiums with season tickets for this whole generation, and only...."
"Hey, he's right," said Pete Conte.
"Listen to this," Roy Earle said, nudging Johnny Simmons.
"Sure," the commissioner went on, "the figures prove that 872 million people have attended NFL games in the last 20 years, but it's all the same people, over and over. The only ones. Our best guesstimate is that only 372,418 individuals, actual people, have seen an NFL game in the last 20 years."
"You mean all this new national pastime stuff has been a fraud?" cried Piper Campbell.
"Fraud's a strong word," the commissioner cautioned him.
"Hanky-pank?" Will Browne asked.
"All right, Will," the commissioner said, "let's not deal in semantics. The point is, a whole American generation has grown up never having attended a professional football game. To take your team, for instance, there hasn't been a new fan in to see the Chicago Bears in 17 years, not since Aileen Quigley was frozen to a fare-thee-well at the Cardinal game."
"Aileen, there was a fan," said Walker Taliaferro.
"They don't make 'em like they used to," Hawk D'Ambroglio added with some feeling.
"In Washington," the commissioner went on, "we haven't had a new spectator since Congressman Dudley Spencer (R., Ill.) was turned out by the voters in the midterm elections of '54. We're in bad shape, boys. This is a house of cards based on image. Television ratings are all very nice. I certainly don't have to tell you that our Tuesday-brunch doubleheaders are already outdrawing Love of Life and Hollywood Squares...."
"Not to mention how we slaughtered Captain Kangaroo," the network man inserted.
"Right you are. But where do our ratings go if we haven't got a soul in the park? Some image. And the trouble is that actuarial statistics tell us that we can expect a high rate of attrition any year now among those 372,000 people who have been eligible to see our games. We have got to find replacements, and I mean pronto.
"This is where you fellows come in. We're going to have our first fan draft. We've never had a fan draft before, so we don't know how to program the computers like we can when we're looking for cornerbacks and watch-charm guards. We're depending on you men to check out all the bars, all the club cellars, all the taverns, all the country clubs, and find us the kind of television game watchers who can make the adjustment to the tough, demanding stadium brand of play."
Sam Gentry was on his feet. "What's the big deal? Why can't we just take young TV watchers and install them in the stadium?"
"Yeah, why not?" Pete Conte added. "Aren't millions of young fans just dying to get their hands on those season tickets?"
"The sudden adjustment to the stadium game has become too drastic," the commissioner answered. "Remember, these people have never seen a football field, a whole 100 yards. Oh sure, some of them have heard their fathers talk about it, but still, they're disoriented when they arrive. It's too big.
"The game surprises them, too. The average TV watcher has never seen an interior lineman, except for the center snapping the ball, and they get mesmerized by the line action. These offensive guards and, uh, whatdycallits, uh...."
"Tackles?" offered the network man.
"Yeah, thanks, tackles, These offensive guards and tackles are altogether new things. Not one of them has been on television in 19 years. And the new stadium fan is confused by all the players, all 22 of them, so that he misses the passes and hand-offs and pitchouts and the good stuff, and he sulks and forgets to cheer. It's sad, believe me, these cases."
"I never thought of that," Sam Gentry said, sheepishly.
"The television fans don't know what to do with themselves at the stadium between plays if they don't get the diagnoses and the instant replays and the slow motion. Their mind wanders. They get a lot like, well, they get like baseball fans—if I must be really candid."
"Good Lord, no!" Francis Riggs cried out.
"Yes, but more than that," the commissioner went on, "since most of them have never been in a stadium, they can't find their seats anyway. Most stadiums have sections numbered up to 30 or 35, and these people have never had to adapt to more than 13 entities at one game."
"That's the number of channels," the network man explained.
"We had a secret test a few weeks ago, and we discovered that 71% of our new spectators never even found their seats during the first half. Thirty-four percent of the rest got up and left at half-time when they found they couldn't switch over to the AFL game. And boy, is that halftime trouble! There's only 372,000 people in America trained to watch what we call halftime 'entertainment,' and our surveys indicate that there simply isn't another person in the country who can possibly tolerate our traditional halftimes. Oh, but that's not your wrinkle to smooth out. For you, the big task is to find us a new generation of stadium fans—so let's get out there and get to it!"
There were excited murmurs, then shouts, and the scouts rose, cheering, and dashed out into the hall, "We'll get 'em for you, commissioner, that's for sure," old Connie Thomas cried as he hurried off to his job.
The new-fan policy was soon passed on to the clubs themselves in a secret memorandum, and there were sad times in most of the front offices as the teams began to go over their stadium rosters. Punch Swenson already suspected what might be in store for him when he got the word that the team wanted to see him. A hardworking, hefty man, whose girth gave tribute to the generous amounts of beer that he had consumed at games through the years, Punch at one time had been recognized as a star spectator. Though he acknowledged himself that he was never "real quick" moving off his seat to cheer at his location in the 24th row of Section 18 in Green Bay's Lambeau Field, he had made up for that with sustained loudness and an ability to remain on his frozen feet for prolonged periods during goal-line stands and to sigh in unison with his fellows when a kickoff was in the air. At his peak, in the 1962-63 season, he had been voted Most Valuable Fan in Section 18. That was the golden year for Punch, when he was in such demand that he was able to supplement his attendance with extra appearances in Milwaukee County Stadium and Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn.
The ride in from nearby Henrysville, where Swenson resides and is lessee of the local Sunoco station, to the Packer offices was a long one. Once, rattled, he had to stop the car and pull out his next year's season-ticket application blank to assure himself that he had not forgotten it. At the reception room now, he waited impatiently for his appointment. It was not long before a burly man came to greet him. "Hello, Punch," the general manager welcomed him buoyantly.
"Hi, coach," Punch said, moving in to take a seat.
"Wouldn't you like to take off a few of your coats and be more comfortable?"
Punch shook his head. For the past several years he had found that he had to stay in shape, bring himself along in the off season so that he would be fit when the cold-weather games arrived. This particular day was July 12 and the temperature outside read 87°, but Punch had on his thermal underwear and electric socks, a hair shirt, fur-lined hunting boots, galoshes, several parkas and some long greatcoats, a skiing face mask, three pairs of gloves and a beaver hat with ear flaps. "No, I'm O.K., thanks. I left the blanket in the car and I just gotta get myself in shape," Punch said. "By September, the way I'm going I should be ready to wear the real heavy stuff."
"I guess you have to start working out the clothes earlier every year," the general manager said.
"Oh, don't you know. Why, when I first came into this league I could just come right out of the house, pick up a hand warmer and my black-and-red woolen jacket and be ready for the season—ready to go—just like that. Then I found I needed overshoes, then a sweater. You know, it gets a little harder every year."
"That's the way it is with all fans," the general manager said. "I was looking at the films of you in action last year, and I noticed you were fidgeting a lot in the last half."
"Well, you know, coach, the fannies always go first," Punch said.
"Yes, and I hate to say it, Punch, but you're getting on, aren't you? There's been a lot of seasons."
The old guy lowered his head. "I got most of my life tied up in this game. Like a lot of guys...."
"You might say a whole generation, huh?"
"Yeah, like that, we come out of school or the service, got a little money together for season tickets and started watching the games. All of a sudden then you look up and a lifetime has passed you by, you're over the hill, playing out the string. Let's face it, it's a young man's game, and I'll be 44 in the middle of the exhibition campaign."
"I'm glad you understand these things," the general manager said kindly, "because, Punch, we've just got to make some changes in your department. We've got Roy Earle and our other scouts out right now looking for some bright new fans, and from what I've heard, I just don't think you can hold your position in the stadium against these youngsters."
Swenson slumped noticeably. At last he said: "Be honest with me. Don't kid me, let me hear it straight. Do you think I could catch on somewhere else?"
"Well, sure, Punch. We can get you a spot behind a pole in Buffalo...."
"Oh no, coach, I don't want to go to the other league."
"Well, all right, maybe we can work out something with Pittsburgh or San Francisco—neither one of those clubs is real strong in the end zones. But do you really want to finish up that way after all these years with the Packers?"
"No, you're right. I oughta quit while I'm still on top."
"Well, great, Punch," the general manager said, "because I can assure you there'll always be a place for you in this organization."
"Oh, that's wonderful.'
"We need a man like you to work the Appleton-Oshkosh area for us, to look for the kind of raw talent in front of the TV screens that can move up here right into a stadium seat. Just find us a few guys like you when you were at your peak, Punch—that's all."
"Oh, thank you," Punch choked, as he took off one glove so that he could shake hands.
They retired his seat number, and hung his thermal longies on the Wall of Fame in the north side men's room in a half-time ceremony at the opening home game against the Lions, Punch was flown to Detroit so that he could watch the proceedings on television. At the stadium, no one cheered harder than Hiram Dente, 20, a free agent from the Elbow Room, Terre Haute, Ind., who had replaced Swenson in Section 18.
"What a guy," Dente later told reporters. "Here is a fan whose seat I'm taking, but he never stopped helping me, teaching me some of the little tricks, giving me the advantage of his longtime expertise. It's going to be tough for anyone to follow in his spot."
The first spectator draft was held in August at a motel near O'Hare airport so that some of the top picks could be flown in quickly from anywhere in the country and introduced to the waiting press. The Philadelphia Eagles had the first choice and, as expected, went for Wally Ginger, 22, of the Kum-On-Inn, Webster Groves, Mo. Everybody's top pick, Ginger had been informed earlier by the Eagles that they would select him, and he was on hand when the announcement was made. With Sam Gentry, a proud scout, Ginger posed for photographers holding up his new tickets.
It was later acknowledged by the Eagles that the tickets that Ginger had held for the photographers were not necessarily the ones that would be assigned to him. "Wally is the kind of guy who is capable of watching from anywhere in the stadium," a club spokesman said, "and we just haven't decided yet where to use him."
A robust young man who listed "insurance salesman" as his aim in life, Ginger was a modest subject for the press. "I'm not taking anything for granted," he said. "This is going to be a tough transition. As a youngster I did see a junior-varsity high school game in person, but otherwise all my grid action has been in front of the old tube."
"Wally, what do you think will be the single toughest thing for you to learn?" Scoop Slaughter of the Tribune asked.
"Discovering exactly when to commit myself," Ginger replied quickly. "At the Kum-On-Inn or at home you can make the break for refreshments or the lavatory, and if a play starts unexpectedly while you are out, your buddies and what-all can scream, 'Hey, Wally, hustle back,' and things like that, and you can dash back in time to catch the play, you know. I never missed a play.
"But at a stadium, once you make that move, once you commit yourself to going through the portal to the concession stand or the little boys' room, there's no turning back. You can miss a lot of action if you don't know when to make your move. And getting that kind of timing down can come only with experience."
Atlanta followed the Eagles and tabbed Joey Overland, 21, a Blackfoot Indian from the Tepee Tavern, Bisbee, N. Dak. The choice was generally characterized as a mild surprise by most close observers. While Overland was high on many draft lists, it had been felt that the Falcons would surely decide to take R. W. Gray, 20, of the Uptown Bottle Club, Spartanburg, S.C. Gray was, first of all, a local favorite in nearby Atlanta but, more important than that, he was rated as potentially a great extra-point catcher, a position the Falcons had been weak in.
Sandy Cochran, the top Falcon scout, bridled at some of the criticism in the Atlanta press. "We looked at Gray carefully," Cochran told reporters, "and we all agreed that he was a top prospect. It's also obvious that we are weak in the end zones with our extra-point catching corps. The Minnesota fans, with gloves on, caught for a higher percentage of extra points last year than our fans did with warm, bare hands. But when you're in our situation of being a young team trying to build the whole stadium up, we felt that we had to take the best available talent, regardless of position, and Overland was the obvious choice."
Gray was himself subsequently selected in the first round by Green Bay, and Atlanta used its second-round pick to name another highly touted extra-point catcher, Elliott Pickett, 19, of VFW Post 4149, Midland, Texas. "The funny thing is," said a scout from another team, "that in all the controversy over Gray, Pickett might, in the long run, be the better talent. Besides, we were never convinced that Gray really wasn't listed out of position as an extra-point catcher. If we had drafted him, we would have tried him first at halftime banner-carrying or running onto the field with 18 seconds left."
Pittsburgh had the next choice, but the Steelers had previously traded it to the Los Angeles Rams for two veteran box-seat holders and a scalper to be named later. With the Steelers' choice, the Rams promptly selected Standish Willoughby, 19, of Swampscott, Mass., and when their own first choice came up later, the Rams tabbed Willoughby's 17-year-old bride, the former Miriam L. Poole. The Willoughbys, who watched out of the Teenevision Social Club in nearby Revere, gave the Rams a solid one-two punch. "We never thought the missus would last this late in the round," said elated Scout Hawk D'Ambroglio after her selection. "We rate Standish and Miriam Willoughby as the kind of nucleus we can build a whole stadium around."
New Orleans followed the first Ram selection by choosing Tiny Kowalski, 22, of The Bottle and Cork, Parma, Ohio. Kowalski, who is 6'8" but has short, stubby legs, was viewed as the kind of prospect who could stir up even a veteran crowd. "Impossible for anybody even three rows behind him to see over his head when he is sitting down," one rival scouting report noted. "After a while, everybody in the section is standing up."
The Saints assigned Kowalski a seat in the fifth row of Section 16, directly in front of the experienced "down in front" specialist, Joe Martin. This shrewd lineup shift turned Section 16 into a mad stand-up powerhouse that was on its feet and screaming most of the year. Everybody was moving around so much that the section even led the league in concession sales early in the season.
Washington had high hopes for getting Kowalski, too, and when the Saints took him the Redskins were forced into a sudden reexamination of the remaining talent. Almost two hours, the maximum time allowed between picks, passed before the Redskins announced that they were drafting Toby Buff, 23, Club Chi-Chi, Inglewood, Calif. Clearly, this was the most controversial choice of the draft. Everyone recognized that, while Buff was a great raw talent, he had never shown any inclination to accept discipline. "This guy can do it all—cheer, boo, sit in any kind of weather, drink beer all day and never have to go to the men's room, whistle loud for vendors. The only question concerns his attitude," one confidential Century Division report noted.
The Redskins paid for their gamble, too. Once the season began, Buff twice missed kickoffs, spilled a whole can of National Bohemian beer on an elderly homemaker, Mrs. Shirley Goldfarb of Chantilly, Va., who occupied the seat in front of him, missed an 89-yard punt return completely while searching beneath his seat for a BIC ballpoint pen that he had dropped and was finally released after a halftime dispute with Usher Paul Penner. Buff caught on briefly with the Rams, being assigned one of the more distant locations in the Coliseum, but the Rams were not impressed by him and did not include him on their 50,000-man protected list when Seattle was given an expansion franchise. Buff is now back at the Club Chi-Chi watching Tuesday night NFL highlight films and talking comeback.
Detroit picked the first field general in the draft, going for Taps (Buddy) O'Hara, 21, of the Delmarvelous Cafe, Seaford, Del. "Picks the TV game to be watched every week despite objections—even when Baltimore, Washington and Philly games are all coming in clear at the same time, plus the AFL and Notre Dame reruns on other channels," one scouting report on O'Hara read. "Has even managed to secure quiet for some halftime interviews."
St. Louis followed and also picked a leader, going for Hip Gypley, 20, who watches out of Mr. and Mrs. Al Michaels' Jr. club cellar in their fashionable Mossway Estates home, Council Bluffs, Iowa, But Gypley was hardly the usual kind of signal-caller. He is known in the scouts' vernacular as a "scrambler," for he would twist the dial every few seconds, trying to catch all the plays in the games, while usually manipulating the radio too, as he did not care for the TV announcers.
"Sure, I've heard all the criticism about Gypley," Cardinal Scout Francis Riggs said. "They say his scrambling game will never work in the stadium. But listen, Gypley may not be a classic fan, he doesn't drop back to his seat by the book, but the guy gets it done. He is a winner. No matter how much he twisted the dial and other fans screamed at him to leave it be, he never once missed a play. This guy can run a difficult zig-out pattern upstairs to the Michaels' hall bathroom or make that down-and-out move to the bar and still buttonhook back in time to change the dial for the next play. I can tell you, that's the kind of guy we want in our ball park."
The 49ers then named Daisy Nelson, 18, K. of C. Rec Room, Chula Vista, Calif. A screamer and all-round referee baiter, Miss Nelson also had shown a marked proclivity for making banners and wearing funny clothes with team colors and insignia garishly featured. Green Bay then took extra-point catcher Gray, and the Vikings followed by going for Dickie Bush, 18, Phi Ki Gamma Kamma House, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, N. Mex. Minnesota was looking mostly to the future with Bush, who had indicated an interest in taking a sophomore biology course and eventually, "if I do real well and like it," becoming a premed major.
"We need more doctors," a Vikings team spokesman candidly admitted. "We went more than a quarter without paging a single doctor in one game last year." Bush has already been assigned doctor No. 421, and will be paged regularly at crucial points in games as soon as he can get accepted by any reputable medical school. "You don't have to go to Johns Hopkins to learn how to answer a page," the official said.
Cleveland followed with the next pick and did make a few heads turn by selecting Missy, a large polar bear residing in the Tampa zoo. Missy (who, it developed, had erroneously been cataloged as a female by a misinformed zoo aide) was obviously delighted to move into the less temperate climes and was a clear choice to sit in the upper deck and brave the winds off Lake Erie, "You don't ask a boy to do a man's job," an official snorted at a newspaperman who wanted to know why the Browns could not find a single human to draft for the upper deck.
Popular Stuart Raintree, 22, of suburban Winnetka, Ill.—the North Shore Tavern and Benjie's Takeout Liquors—brought forth cheers from the assembled when the Bears introduced him personally at the motel lounge as their first choice. Well known to local observers for his antics at the North Shore and over at Benjie's, Raintree then went with a horde of photographers to Wrigley Field, where he was posed in his new seat in Section 25, in the end zone and directly behind a large pole.
Raintree expressed delight at this seat assignment, since he always becomes inebriated during games and thought he might feel guilty if he took a good seat away from a more alert spectator Scoop Slaughter of the Tribune asked Raintree if he would not just once like to stay sober and see a full game. "Well, in a way, yes, out of curiosity," the personable Chicago choice replied, "but I love the game of football and want to do my share, and it just doesn't seem that it would be a real game without at least one drunk. Everybody has a role to play."
New York followed by naming Skip-worth (Skippy) Scott, 21, of the Louisville Hunt and Cricket Club, Louisville, Ky. A junior account executive, Scott first came to the attention of Giant Scout Cranston Tower when the sage talent hunter heard that Scott had stayed over a day in New York on his vacation trip to Rome and Greece to attend a summer midtown Giant luncheon, where films of last year's close losses were shown at length and a second-string cornerback narrated.
"Let's face it," Tower told reporters, "in New York, what is just watching the games? The real fan is the guy who also attends all the lunches and brunches and cocktail parties all week long watching the replays of Sunday's game. That's why we went for Scott."
The young man beamed alongside Tower, "How do you think this will impress the folks back at the Hunt and Cricket Club?" Scoop Slaughter asked.
"Oh, I wouldn't want to be pinned down too much on a thing like that," Scott replied. "I'd rather not say anything definitive on a subject like that until I've seen the films."
Los Angeles followed with the Miriam Willoughby selection, and Dallas also went the distaff route, tabbing statuesque, sometime flaxen-haired Mary Beth Carey, 19, of Tyler, Texas. Miss Carey's background was not quite the same of most of the first-round choices, since they had come up through television watching. Instead, Miss Carey has long been a familiar figure around stadiums, confining her TV attendance to a few games at the local A & W Root Beer lounge.
Miss Carey's stadium appearances had, however, only been at halftimes. She had never seen so much as a whole series of actual downs. As a youngster in Amarillo, she was a sequined baton twirler from the age of 6 for Alamo Elementary and Lone Star Junior High. Then, on a scholarship, she moved to Austin Houston Park High in Dallas, where she twirled her baton some more and was often queened queen as the climax to halftime. At Nomore Junior College, Mary Beth became the leader of the world-famous Nomore Texas Cowboyettes, the skimpy-dressed bevy of precision beauty marchers and baton twirlers who have traditionally appeared at 89.4% of all halftimes throughout America every fall.
"We felt it important," the Dallas scout, old Connie Thomas, said, "that we sign up just a few fans who can actually tolerate a halftime show. Since Miss Mary Beth Carey has been boring people at halftimes since infancy, raising the art of halftime boredom to a real art as a member of the Nomore Texas Cowboyettes, we felt it was only appropriate that she should be our selection."
Baltimore completed the first round of the NFL fan draft by going for little Chickie Ward, 16, who watched out of the Harundale Mall Community Hall, Glen Burnie, Md. The Colts really had no choice in the matter, for emotions in town were at a fever pitch after it was reported that Ward had singlehandedly taken on eight larger (and scruffier) youths outside the Lerner Stores after he understood one of the crowd had passed a disparaging remark about Johnny Unitas near the A & P check-out. Before this incident, young Ward had been listed as no better than a fourth or fifth choice by the Colts, though his keen ability to spot alleged infractions by Colt opponents that officials overlooked had made him a comer.
By late in the season the commissioner could say he was tremendously pleased with the results of the draft. Toby Buff, of course, was the biggest first-round flop, but there were only two other disappointments. The Packers moved R. W. Gray out of his starting end-zone spot behind the goalposts and dropped him down to the rugged, standing-room-only unit after the word leaked out that he was trying to organize a Fans' Committee that wanted to meet with the ticket manager and make certain pension and health demands. Mary Beth Carey was placed on the injured reserve list midway through watching her second half-time. The desultory experience had proved too much for her.
"Next year's draft should be even better," the commissioner said one day to the network man. "We're already able to use computers in some areas of the fan draft, and this should take more of the guesswork out of the job. The preseason camps that all the teams had worked out well for everybody, and some were terrific conditioners. You could see the difference. The fans that had been to the tough camps and worked hard during the preseason campaign were really ready to go when the bell rang for the lid-lifter. Next year I'm sure you'll see that all the teams will have tougher camps. I tell you, I would hate to be a rookie spectator coming into one of those camps."
"Boy, I'll say, and hey, that reminds me," the network man said. "While I was waiting outside to see you, I ran into this screwball who says he has an appointment with you."
"Oh yes, I know who you mean. I even met him once. I have his name here somewhere."
"What a nut. He's a writer, a fan, seen a few TV games, and he's got this idea to go to a real NFL preseason camp, actually masquerade as a genuine spectator trying out, go through all the workouts, and then write about his experiences. Can you imagine? I told him, boy, this is the real thing. You'll be lucky to squeeze through a portal, much less get to your seat."
"Well, it sounds kind of intriguing," the commissioner said, getting up to open the door. "Let's hear what he has to say."
"I told him," the network man added, "in this level of competition, you'll be a sitting duck."
"Sitting duck, hmmm," said the newcomer.
"Come in, George," the commissioner said.
"Connie, Connie," the commissioner said, "the computers are only aides to us. We need you."
Punch had been a star spectator for years, but he knew in his heart he could not continue.
Dallas took a familiar stadium figure.
"George, you will be a sitting duck."