Skip to main content
Original Issue


In 1971 Joe Marshall decided he would like to do his master's thesis for Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism on Howard Cosell. Cosell gave him no trouble ("Fine. How about next Friday?"), and once the paper was written, Joe recalls, "You know how, in the back of your mind, you think maybe the professor will look at it and say, 'Gee, that's pretty good, why don't you submit it someplace?' Well, the professor looked at it and said, 'Gee, that's pretty good, why don't you submit it someplace?' " Joe did, to Esquire (SI having recently run a story on Cosell), and Esquire accepted it. It was a few weeks later that SI accepted Joe's job application, a bit of news he received over the telephone by the pool at a Chevy Chase, Md. country club.

It sounds like a journalism career launched upon a sea of gravy, but nothing stays perfect. For example, Marshall's latest assignment was to collaborate with the Washington Redskins' George Allen on a story about his coaching philosophy. Since the philosophy is reflected in the title—A Hundred Percent Is Not Enough {page 74)—Allen had limited time in his seven-day workweek for his literary project. The facts that Marshall had served for two seasons as a Redskin waterboy and that his father Paull is a member of the team's board of directors did not mitigate the circumstance; Coach Allen was constantly stopping the work of Author Allen.

On one occasion Joe remembers that he was just getting settled down to a taping session when the coach's eye wandered to the window. Outdoors some 'Skins were practicing. Badly. "Will you look at that!" fumed the boss, and he kept on looking until the telephone rang. End of session.

At their last meeting, one in which Marshall had planned to ask "all the really important questions," Joe's tape recorder broke. "I tried new batteries," he says, "but smoke started coining from the machine. Allen was getting fidgety and I had to scribble like mad. There I was, talking to a man who spends his whole life preparing for any eventuality, and I was unprepared." Allen's comment: "You should have brought two tape recorders." In the end, Marshall's most productive interview came during a 40-minute ride—he leaped into Allen's car as the coach was leaving for a speaking engagement at a Princeton Club luncheon.

The taping was completed just before Joe had to serve two weeks as a clerk for the U.S. Army. Specialist Marshall took his electric typewriter, tapes, notes and frayed nerves and spent his first week crouched over the machines transcribing George Allen's philosophy, while hiding the work beneath his other responsibilities—newly cut orders and assorted military paper work.

Of the final result, Marshall says with some surprise, "Normally in a project like this you expect to use perhaps a tenth of what you have on tape, but with Allen I found I ended up using about half—he didn't just ramble on, he knew exactly what he wanted to say. And the story is far from being a 'football article'—I use a zone defense because....' Instead it reflects what Allen does best, how he motivates his players and manages to eliminate all distractions."

Happily, Coach Allen did not totally eliminate one distraction—ex-Waterboy Marshall.