Although they would undoubtedly welcome a second chance against the Cleveland Browns, I daresay both Quarterback Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts and his coach, Don Shula, are reasonably satisfied with their performances in 1964. On page 24 Shula begins a two-part article that explains the strategy and relives the moments of decision that were responsible for the Colts' successes—and occasional disasters—in the past season. It is an intriguing and candid report of a championship pro football campaign by the man who led it, and there is not much I can—or should—add from where I sit in the stands.
At the risk of being redundant, on this page we are printing another picture of Unitas and Shula quite like the one on page 25 but with a little something added. The extra something is 22-year-old, 5-foot 6-inch Neil Leifer, the photographer who took the picture. In the past five years, Neil Leifer has presented us with many rare pictorial gifts, some of them imaginative studies like the Shula-Unitas photograph, others simply fleeting moments of great import or beauty. For a sample of the latter I recommend the beautiful and cold display of iceboating pictures by Leifer in this same issue.
Modern photography is an odd profession, being an art and at the same time a very complicated science. One week a good photographer may use only one camera and one lens to photograph all the violence of a championship football game, and the next week he will stagger off with a truckload of electronic gear and lenses the size of mountain howitzers to catch a bluebird on the wing. Whatever equipment he uses, to succeed in a very competitive profession he must remain an artist at heart, and I think this is the particular and outstanding virtue of young Neil Leifer. Although a master of technology, he has not lost a jot of his sensitivity. He has thrown a bright light on the sporting scene without getting tangled in the wires.
Six years ago Leifer worked in a delicatessen near our New York office, occasionally delivering sandwiches to some of our editors who now count on him for more spectacular deliveries. He has traveled quite a way photographically since then, and will continue on, I feel, because he is a relentless critic of his own work. Once, while we were looking at a picture he took of Clay battling Liston, Leifer said dourly, "The lighting is good, just what I tried for, but the picture has no movement. It is dead." When we looked at this week's picture of Unitas and Shula, Leifer said, "It is what I wanted it to be, but it would have been better, dammit, if I knew more about lighting." Then he added, "I guess I would stop taking pictures if I were ever really satisfied with one of them."
January 11, 1965
Let us hope he never is.