SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S double year-end issue allows us a few days to catch our breath, but for some, like Pro Football Editor Gil Rogin, all that can be managed is a gasp or two. Just when he would have liked to pursue one of his favorite pastimes—reading mysteries in the sun in Miami—he had to contend with Pete Rozelle's version of Merry Christmas.
Problem A: If you have one writer and two photographers with two assistants covering each of four playoff games, how many people are you assigning? Twenty. Very good. But Problem B: How in early December do you arrange press credentials for, holiday transportation to and hotel reservations in undetermined cities? And Problem C: The wives of which writers, photographers and photographer's assistants are going to divorce their husbands for being away on Christmas? We considered calling in Jimmy the Greek and Dear Abby, but in the end it was all left up to Rogin, with the commendable results beginning on page 12.
The fact is, difficulties of this more or less prosaic type are not the sort that unsettle Rogin. A prodigious swimmer who droops and sickens if he has to forgo his daily laps, he considers the major crisis in the three years he has edited pro football to have been that the Super Bowl will have been held in New Orleans twice. Which means Miami once.
Miami has an ocean. A staffer phoning him there last week—he made it, briefly—asked him whether things were going swimmingly and was told, "I was bitten by a jellyfish."
Another Rogin hobby is bird watching (which he is able to combine with swimming in Miami) and he is most proud of being one of a handful of people who have seen a frigate bird, which very rarely ventures north, in the New York area. Even as a birder, however, he is peculiarly beset. "Once in the Northeast Airlines terminal at Kennedy I saw a Wilson's warbler. Using a great deal of stealth, I caught it. But they wouldn't let me out on the field to release it. I wasn't authorized personnel."
Rogin has one avocation that supersedes even reading mysteries, swimming, birding and Miami. He is a writer of distinction. He was one of our best before he became an editor, and his fiction now appears in The New Yorker. Of his latest book, What Happens Next? (Random House), The New York Times Book Review critic said, "I think Gilbert Rogin has written a great novel, the first new one I've run across in quite some time." It is exceedingly funny (and also equally sad). In What Happens Next?, Rogin's protagonist, Julian Singer, moves warily through life, a prey to obscure preoccupations, bafflements and sorrows. Like Rogin (clearly he is Rogin), Singer deals easily with the "real" problems that confound the rest of us, reserving his anguished attention for the possibilities posed by, say, a tulip bulb planted upside down. Thus Rogin tosses off the problems of the divisional playoffs to get on with what matters—the place in his scheme of things of having been bitten by a jellyfish.
That jellyfish will be dealt with in a future Rogin novel. As for what does happen next—well, Gil, there's the Super Bowl, for one thing. In New Orleans.
ROGIN: FOOTBALL AND FRIGATE BIRDS