"How many in your party, sir?" the clerk at New York's John F. Kennedy airport asked, staggering beneath the weight of Editor Peter Carry's wad of tickets. "One," Carry told him, which is to say the pro basketball season is here again.
Carry was heading up our team out scouting the pros for the 1972-73 reports beginning on page 59. He covered the ABA West, the NBA Central and the NBA Midwest, a schedule that involved 30 airports in 15 days—all for a look at the game from San Diego to Montreal and plenty of points in between. Scranton, Pa., for instance, where he saw the 76ers play the Bullets—and the 76ers and the Bullets, if they happened to have been watching, saw Carry, in the great Halftime Celebrity Foul-Shooting Contest. Celebritywise, the best Scranton could come up with was two newspapermen and four or five coaches, but our resident hotshot failed to shoot hot, hitting 3 for 5 and losing to one of the newspapermen, who went 5 for 5 to uphold the honor of the Fourth Estate. Of this debacle Pete says that he had had to get up early to leave Dallas that morning, had changed planes and waited three hours in Pittsburgh, and besides he didn't have his lucky shoes. At least during the Pittsburgh stopover he spent the time playing a computerized sports-quiz game and scored "genius" three times, which certainly establishes him as an expert and an O.K. guy to be heading up our scouting team.
Out on the West Coast our NBA Pacific information was gathered by Merv Harris, the portly Merv Harris, formerly a basketball writer for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, currently a P.R. man for the city of Long Beach and still one of the most knowledgeable basketball reporters on any coast.
In the East, considerably thinner than Merv Harris, Reporter Jane Gross covered the teams in the NBA Atlantic and ABA East. Jane met with no flak just because she was a girl, right? Not exactly. A few teams drew the line at letting her ride even in the backs of their buses, though they did occasionally let her fly on the same airplanes. In Springfield, Mass., Carolina Cougar Forward Joe Caldwell looked her over and, apparently uncomfortable until he got her classified, demanded, "What are you, a lady sportswriter?" Perhaps most exasperating of all, the Knicks were among the teams that barred her from their buses. Jane is the daughter of New York Post sports columnist Milton Gross, and has probably logged as many hours at training camps, and more hours watching the Knicks, than anyone on the staff. As a member of the working press she was all of a sudden stashed farther from the action than she had been since she was two.
By and large, though, 5-foot Jane got on well with the basketball players, and why not? She had something in common with Kentucky's 7'2" Artis Gilmore and his friends: they are all sick and tired of jokes about how the weather is up/ down there.