Two worthy ambitions our youth traditionally enjoy are to write the Great American Novel and to sparkle on the playing field. But it's less than traditional, I suspect, for an individual to entertain both at the same time. It can happen, as Murray Olderman, sports cartoonist and columnist for the NEA syndicate, discovered. Late in 1957 at a party honoring that year's All-Americas he found himself talking with a skinny-necked guest in horn-rim glasses.
"You like New York?" Olderman asked perfunctorily.
"Well, it is something," came the routinely polite answer, "to look out the hotel window in the morning and see Brooklyn across the river."
This was 20-year-old Lee Grosscup. In his brief career he had already left the University of Washington because of its recruiting mess, returned home to Santa Monica City College and broken his leg in midseason. Then he hiked off to Utah where in his first season of varsity competition he rose from unknown to All-America to lead the nation with a passing record good for 1,398 yards.
August 2, 1959
"But," Grosscup went on above the party's athletic babble, "what I really want to do is write."
Olderman said he'd like to see what Grosscup wrote. Shortly, when Grosscup returned to Utah, there began a correspondence which has flourished to the present.
Next week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED will publish the Grosscup letters. With the personal quality letters have they bring a fresh, frank insight into the mind and life of a young man when he is both undergraduate and football star. Thus they have a timeless character, describing cares over coaches, curriculum, self-consciousness and the future which are more common to topflight college players than we would ordinarily guess. But they are also timely. For right now Grosscup is practicing for the August 14 game in Chicago. He'll be a quarterback for the College All-Stars against the Baltimore Colts. After that he joins Conerly, Gifford, Rote and Co. at the training camp of the New York Giants, whose No. 1 choice he was in last December's preliminary draft. Grosscup's first and foremost ambition looks obvious.
Next week, however, his opening letter begins, "I guess I didn't tell you I was planning to write a novel."
Although Quarterback Grosscup hasn't written it yet, those who read his letters won't mind waiting. It may be hard for future fiction to improve on present fact.