This issue presents something of a changing of the guard, although the old order is not passing from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED nor is the new one unfamiliar to our readers. Tex Maule, our No. 1 pro football writer since 1956, says goodby to the sport he has done so much for in order to concentrate on special assignments, such as next week's preview of the Foreman-Ali heavyweight championship fight. Switching to pro football from the college game he has covered so long is Dan Jenkins, whose first story on his new beat is a wry look at the 26 National Football League coaches (page 82).
Maule and Jenkins have much in common, beyond their distinctive ability as writers. Both are Texans and have known each other since they were covering sports for newspapers in Dallas and Fort Worth two decades ago. Both are successful authors of books. Maule has written 31 in all, including Jeremy Todd, Footsteps and Running Scarred, his account of jogging his way back to health after his 1966 heart attack. Jenkins' rowdy pro football novel Semi-Tough was a 1973 bestseller, and next month he is bringing out a rollicking fictional account of the pro golf tour called Dead Solid Perfect.
Both are amiable soft-spoken men, but they share a remarkable knack for generating controversy with their writing. Maule's unflinching predictions—he doesn't believe in ifs, buts and howevers—arouse fury in fanatic followers of teams he doesn't pick, especially when those teams win, which has been known to happen. When Jenkins failed to accord Notre Dame football proper reverence—"Tie one for the Gipper," he quipped after the Irish chose to protect a 10-10 deadlock in the final minutes of their famous game with Michigan State in 1966—SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was burned and Jenkins villified on the Irish campus.
As for pro football, Jenkins is coy about the season ahead. "All I am willing to say at this time," he declares, "is that it will be an extravaganza."
Which suggests he is—for now at least—a more circumspect prognosticator than Maule.
EAST: Dallas Cowboys
CENTRAL: Minnesota Vikings
WEST: Los Angeles Rams
EAST: Miami Dolphins
CENTRAL: Pittsburgh Steelers
WEST: Oakland Raiders
SUPER BOWL WINNER: Rams
SUPER BOWL WINNER
MOST OVERRATED TEAM
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR