"There was not a part of my body that was not welted black, blue and purple. I was dragged on my stomach, on my sides and on my knees, for what must eventually have totaled several miles over snow, ice, the rollercoaster ruts of snowmobile tracks, through thickets and brush piles. I was flung against fences, full force into trees, flamboyantly into snowdrifts. But I never once let go of the sled."
That, says Virginia Kraft on page 54, was the painful story of her 10-day training session for the World Championship Sled Dog Race in Alaska, in which she competed. We usually consider it our job to report the major sporting events of the year, such as Sunday's Super Bowl, from the sidelines, getting as close to the action as possible, but not into it. Yet over the years our writers have competed in or at least sampled a number of sporting events that they would normally only be reporting. Staff members have played golf with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, run the 26 miles of the Boston Marathon, sailed as crew in the Trans-Pac race and completed Carroll Shelby's school for racing drivers. Miss Kraft's participation in last year's sled-dog championship is merely the latest example.
Well, not quite. Next week we will present still another. George Plimpton, who some years ago had a brief, inglorious fling as quarterback of the Detroit Lions (SI, Sept. 7, 1964) and whose series in this magazine was later expanded into the currently best-selling book, Paper Lion, is at it again, this time on the golf course. A year ago Plimpton was allowed to join the pro tour for three weeks. An 18-handicap player, Plimpton in less than a month managed to graze Bob Hope with a wild shot in Hope's own tournament, disgraced the Japanese navy, tried putting with his eyes shut, got caught in an automatic sprinkler system and sliced his last shot of the tour into the deep desert. "A photographer took a picture of my difficulties in that forbidding terrain," Plimpton writes, "and it has a surreal quality, as if a golfer had been dropped by parachute with a club and a ball into the depths of the Mohave Desert to play himself back to civilization." You can read all about our Paper Palmer in a three-part series beginning next week.
Not all of our participation is at the championship level. Some of it is at sea level. Jack Olsen, who not long ago teamed with Senior Editor Ray Cave in a high-stake Las Vegas bridge tournament (SI, Nov. 14, 1966) and did remarkably well, has now completed a transatlantic cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth, during which he attempted to win simultaneous championships in, as he puts it, "horse racing and deck tennis and shuffleboard and bridge and swimming and bingo and that shooting thing with the clay targets and Ping-Pong and squash and guessing games." His story will be published soon.
January 23, 1967
Incidentally, Olsen performed capably in his various shipboard competitions—we've always known he was one of the top 10 shuffleboard players on the staff—and he has a trophy to show for it: a combination five-iron and shoehorn. Even Bart Starr hasn't got that.