Over routes as long as 7,000 miles the professional football clubs are now playing their way through the country, game by exhibition game, back to the stadiums in which they will open their regular season in three weeks. Professional football has made tremendous strides in recent years. Now no sport, with the possible exception of baseball and college football, draws greater or more devoted attention on a national scale. In a PREVIEW beginning on page 54 of this issue Alfred Wright looks at the clubs and analyzes the reasons for the growth and particular appeal of the pro game, which extensive television programming will introduce to more people this year than ever before.
This week's PREVIEW is the kickoff for the complete coverage of all football which our editors have planned from now through the Bowl games. Next week the great coach of Oklahoma, Bud Wilkinson, whose Sooners have won 19 straight games (and who, you may recall, reported the Cotton Bowl game for us last January) will be on the cover. And in CONVERSATION PIECE, Joan Flynn Dreyspool finds the Wilkinson personality as winning as Wilkinson teams. In the same issue SI's head linesman, Herman Hickman, marks out the Eleven Elevens, his preseason predictions of the teams-which will rank at the top when the season is over. Then Hickman hits the gridiron trail, reporting from the practice fields in weekly order the prospects within the five major sections of the country: the Pacific Coast (SI, Sept. 19), Midwest (Sept. 26), Southwest (Oct. 3), South (Oct. 10) and East (Oct. 17). When the season starts, the intrepid Hickman will regularly extend his oak-sized neck in HICKMAN'S HUNCHES, trying to pick the week's winners. "Goodness knows," he says of this, "it's a precarious profession." But in 1954 Hickman took a blushing bow for a percentage of .727 over the season and then proceeded to bat 1.000 on his Bowl choices.
Last year SI published enough football to fill a 250-page book. This year, with scouting reports, the week's scores, nationwide coverage by our staff of experts and Time, Inc. correspondents, and color and black-and-white photography which only SI brings, it takes no Hickman to predict another undefeated, untied season for the 600,000 families who fill SI's stadium each week.