California, the most populous state in the nation, has become something of a supermarket of sport with its 20 professional teams (five major league baseball, five pro football, three pro basketball, three hockey, two soccer, two tennis) and all the action at the college level among hundreds of schools. We are well aware of the interest this generates: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has more readers in California than in any other state. (New York is second.)
This is of particular concern to two of our most able writers, Ron Fimrite and Joe Jares, native Californians both. After several years of working out of New York, Fimrite and Jares have returned to their hometowns, Ron to San Francisco, Joe to Los Angeles. As before, their assignments for the magazine will take them all over the country, sometimes out of it, but between trips they will live in the sports-saturated Golden State, to our mutual advantage—and to their intense satisfaction.
Jares, a USC man and as chauvinistic as any Los Angeleno, says, "Our baby, who had been resisting maturity in New York, began sprouting teeth as soon as we arrived in California." Fimrite, who went to Cal, reflects the detached attitude of San Francisco when he says, "The fans here are different. Whereas other cities live and die with their teams, San Franciscans take winning or losing more in stride." Jares agrees, and notes that while Southern California's enthusiasm for Dodgers, Rams, Lakers, USC, UCLA, etc. is a reflection of the success those teams enjoy, part of the fervor stems from the nature of the people. "You have to realize," he says, "that San Francisco was settled by sophisticated Easterners, Los Angeles by down-to-earth Midwesterners."
Whatever the differences between those cities, Fimrite, who says he is living in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, concedes that there are some things he misses about New York. But he adds, "Even the largest cities in the world can be reduced to a very few essentials. I love physical beauty in a place, and I enjoy living near water, and that's San Francisco."
Jares, who left his snow tires behind in New York ("A symbolic cutting of that umbilical cord," he says), figures he can bicycle from his home in Beverlywood to his office in Beverly Hills in 10 minutes—if he can ever find time to shop for a bicycle. Since his return to California a month or so ago he has flown to Little Rock, Pittsburgh and Columbus on assignments.
Fimrite, on the other hand, has been contentedly commuting up and down the Pacific Coast covering the pennant playoffs and the World Series. "I never did believe the Thomas Wolfe dictum that you can't go home again," he says.