It has been remarked that journalism is "history on the run," but in putting together this week's pro football issue, Senior Editor Mark Mulvoy found that history couldn't seem to make up its mind whether to run or crawl. Mulvoy sent Senior Writer Bob Jones to Alabama to catch up with Oakland Raider Quarterback Kenny Stabler, and Jones lived—although just barely—to tell the tale in Gettin' Nowhere Fast (page 88). Jones and Photographer Jim Drake climbed aboard the Stabler merry-go-round and when they staggered off six days later they were so dizzy they could barely stand up. "It felt more like three years," says Jones. "I wouldn't swear that Stabler was trying to kill us, but after I finished the story I was ready for a liver transplant." Life on the run with Stabler was never dull, says Jones, although there were what he recalls as "many stunned moments of alcoholic shock." Drake preferred not to talk about the ordeal but did mention that he was considering having his tongue sanded and waxed and hiring it out as a dance floor.
To complement the story on the veteran Stabler, Mulvoy wanted to take a close look at this year's most celebrated rookie, Tony Dorsett. Unlike most top draft choices, Dorsett was acquired by an NFL powerhouse—the Dallas Cowboys—an anomaly that, along with his Heisman Trophy and NCAA running records, provoked a remarkable buildup of fan and media interest. When Staff Writer Joe Marshall and Photographer Walter Iooss arrived at the Cowboy training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., they knew they were going to have to dig in for a long stay.
"Everyone was clamoring for time with Dorsett," says Marshall, "trying to get a little piece of him. So I decided to keep my distance and wait for things to develop naturally." The wait proved to be a long one—18 days for Marshall, 13 for Iooss—but the results (Tony D Comes to Big D, page 38) provide a detailed look at life in a pro football training camp.
"Training camps are fairly routine," says Marshall, "and you can spend all day waiting for one little thing of significance to happen. But if, at the end of 18 days, you've got 18 little things to write about, you've got a pretty good story."
September 18, 1977
One "little thing" was the discovery that Dorsett had been fined for missing curfew one night, as Marshall learned before Dorsett himself. Iooss and Marshall went to Dorsett's room to offer him a ride to the beach and found a note tacked to the door informing Dorsett of the fine.
After 18 days of Dorsett-watching, Marshall is itching for the regular season to begin. "There's nothing duller than preseason practice," he says. "There's very rarely any drama because they walk through the plays. But most people don't understand that."
Bob Jones and Jim Drake understand it and, when last seen, they were petitioning for next year's training-camp beat.