Q—Who putts like Billy Casper, hits tee shots like Jack Nicklaus, runs like Steve Prefontaine and plays defensive basketball with the flair once shown by Sihugo Green?
A—We're not sure, but if there is such a person it is a safe bet he has read most of the instructional articles done for this magazine over the years by Gwilym S. Brown, who this week joins with yet another famous athlete, Johnny Unitas, to play professor once again (page 28).
Although Brown's interest in preparing such articles is pedagogic, he also relishes the pupil's role. "I'm always anxious to improve my own game," says Brown, an indefatigable if aging athlete. Certainly, writing nearly 75 golf tips with Nicklaus turned him into a 70s—sometimes—golfer, and he is still profiting, literally, from Casper's putting lessons. He also jogs the way Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman and his prize distance-running pupil, Prefontaine, taught him. "I only hope the readers of the magazine get as much out of the instruction as I do," says Brown.
Another Brown, Gwilym's 13-year-old son Jason, was a factor in this week's article. Jason played in a flag-football league in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. last fall and one day he asked his dad for some help with passing. A former running back for the Harvard frosh, Brown confidently picked up his son's football and found at once that he really knew very little about throwing a forward pass.
"Most of us are still doing the things we learned when we were kids, going strictly by instinct," Brown says. "I realized there must be kids everywhere who could benefit from some genuine expertise. In addition many adults watch football without really understanding the basics of the quarterback's art." It was not long before he got in touch with Unitas.
Watching Unitas operate was a revelation to Brown. "I discovered I was throwing off the wrong foot, that I was setting up wrong, retreating from the line of scrimmage wrong—well, just about everything. In a way passing a football is a little like playing golf: you have to unlearn all your preconceptions. At first everything feels wrong. But eventually, with practice, you improve."
You can also become famous in your neighborhood. When the time came to illustrate the article, someone had to get Unitas' uniform from Baltimore to Orlando, where the Colt quarterback was vacationing. Brown volunteered, with prestige aforethought. By adept scheduling he contrived to have the uniform at his home for a couple of days, during which time numerous youngsters came by to admire and touch, Brown's wife Joyce shook up a dinner party by appearing at the host's door disguised as Johnny U and Brown himself enjoyed a few minutes of Mittyesque posturing for a photograph (above) that shows how desperately he needed help from an expert.
BROWN: MORE THAN A PASSING FANCY