For a long time SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has been making predictions on games, pennant races, tournaments, playoffs and such, a precarious and—fortunately—often successful exercise that has our writers and editors out on a limb in public view while the loyal readers sharpen their saws. Professional football results are among the most difficult to forecast, as any bookie can tell you, and our resident pro football prophet, Tex Maule, has had his share of triumph and tragedy. He prefers to brag a little first. "From 1960 to last year I had a pretty good record," he says. "I picked the Eagles to beat Green Bay in 1960, I tabbed the Packers the three years they won the NFL and in the first Super Bowl I darned near picked the score. Of course, last season I picked Dallas and fell flat on my face. The Jets beating the Colts didn't help my average either."
Maule got quite a few reminders of his fallibility from Jet fans, but his lowest moment in the predicting business actually came in college football. Oklahoma had a streak of 47 straight victories in the mid-1950s and he wrote a piece on why the Sooners were unbeatable. The following weekend Notre Dame beat them 7-0 at Norman and Irish Coach Terry Brennan got on the plane waving a copy of SI.
Immune to horselaughs, Tex is at it again in this issue. As part of our annual pro football package starting on page 38, he picks the winners of the six AFL and NFL divisions. He is waiting until the end of the regular season before selecting the league and Super Bowl winners because "there are too many playoffs now, too many imponderables." Along with Maule's picks, we offer an assortment of wild Arnold Roth illustrations; they are followed by 12 pages of scouting reports, a portfolio of color photographs on "the kicking boom" and a funny-agonizing account of the old New York Titans (now the Jets).
This week's cover and portfolio are the work of Photographer Neil Leifer, who shoots a great deal of football for us as well as many other sports. (Last year Leifer took a short leave to make a series of photographs of the recommissioned battleship New Jersey, which shortly will appear in book form under the title Dreadnought Returns.) Getting his kicking pictures was not casy. In Miami, for instance, he had just finished attaching cameras to each goalpost when a downpour started, "exactly what I didn't need with remote cameras. Plus I was trying to shoot extra points and there were only two the whole game."
September 21, 1969
The Turner article, our lead story on Race Driver Jackie Stewart—and a fair portion of the scouting reports—were written by Robert Jones, who will share the pro football beat with Tex this season. Jones is an old Green Bay fan from Milwaukee who grew up listening to broadcasts of Packer games. He suffered through the long drought between Don Hutson's departure and Vince Lombardi's arrival.
Morton Sharnik, who has looked over many football camps for this and past issues, has an even closer relationship with the game. When he got out of Marietta College, where he was a running back, he was offered a pro tryout. He decided instead to go into the service and then to law school before coming to journalism, but he never lost touch with football. He once sat around for hours talking plays, personnel, etc. with Harry Gilmer, at that time an assistant with St. Louis. Finally Gilmer asked, "Where are you coaching now, Coach?"