It has been a sporting feast, the year 1972, and we enjoyed every moment as the list of accomplishments and outstanding personalities grew and grew. Rarely had so many deserving candidates emerged for our sportsman of the year award, but as the year began to wane we managed to whittle their number to six, not an easy feat, and asked Stephen Green-Armytage (SI, April 24) to photograph the gallery of honor.
He started off with Mark Spitz—no dark-horse selection—photographing him in the Beverly Hills home of his P.R. man, a residence all winding staircases and rich red carpeting. Green-Armytage had to fight for even a two-hour session, hardly time to begin, but an amount the P.R. man cut to 40 minutes. "Important meeting coming up," he said. "Very big money," added Mark the Shark—sheepishly.
On to Wilt Chamberlain, who made the half-hour-plus with Spitz look generous. "I can give you five minutes," he said, and he arrived at Jack Kent Cooke's Los Angeles office asking, "You don't mind if I bring in these dogs, do you?" Wilt relented and allowed Green-Armytage more time but Stephen recalls, still a little shaken, "Two of the three dogs weighed 190 pounds. The other weighed 205 and wasn't even fully grown."
Next day he drove to UCLA and found Coach John Wooden, mercifully unused to being chased by photographers and willing to pose, after which he flew to South Carolina to photograph Billie Jean King. Billie Jean, though recovering from an illness, was also happy to cooperate. "She was very pleased and excited," Green-Armytage says. "She's much prettier than you'd think from seeing her in action pictures." Then Jack Nicklaus, who seemed about as busy as Spitz, and had been making some money, too, "but he wasn't being dragged around," Green-Armytage observes.
By now our photographer had been on the assignment for weeks and his deadline was near, but no one had managed to contact Bobby Fischer. Letters and calls to his lawyers had gone unanswered, and all that his second in Iceland, Father Lombardy, was able or willing to tell us was that Fischer was somewhere in Pasadena. Finally, with hope all but gone, we succeeded in making contact with one of the lawyers, who offered the use of his home. Fischer arrived for the shooting five minutes early. In provocative contrast to Spitz, Fischer asked to be photographed against a neutral background, away from all the paintings and chandeliers. He didn't belong in such surroundings, he said.
Meanwhile, we had decided that two people, rather than one, best symbolized the events and attitudes of an unusual year, reflecting both the old order and a new point of view. Green-Armytage, having arrived in New York, was instructed to return to California. In secret, he was to photograph Billie Jean King and John Wooden once more, this time together. They had been selected as our first joint Sportsman-Sportswoman of the Year, a choice not likely to be repeated.
So we leave you with the results of Green-Armytage's pursuit of the pursuers of excellence (page 28) and our last issue of 1972. The next will be dated Jan. 8, by which time we trust you will have had a very Merry Christmas and the best of New Years.