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The Game Around the Game

Feb. 02, 2004
Feb. 02, 2004

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Feb. 2, 2004

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The Game Around the Game

BUD SHRAKE--one of 13 veteran journalists who contributed their
behind-the-scenes memories to SI's Super Bowl preview package
(page 60)--chose the writer's life early. Just after his freshman
year at Texas, Shrake had a job interview with the legendary
Blackie Sherrod, sports editor of his hometown paper, the Fort
Worth Press. Looking around the newsroom that day, Shrake
instantly knew he belonged. "It was a rackety, dirty city paper,
with the teletypes clacking and a sense of urgency everywhere,"
Shrake says. "A copy editor was eating tuna fish out of a can,
and the bowling writer was drinking bourbon, and I thought, This
is the world I want to be in."

This is an article from the Feb. 2, 2004 issue Original Layout

After stints at the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning
News, Shrake moved to SI in 1964 and stayed till '79, covering
eight Super Bowls including number III, in which the Jets whipped
the Colts, an upset Shrake had predicted (sort of, page 75) in
the magazine a month earlier. Along with SI writers such as Mark
Kram, Jack Olsen and Dan Jenkins (a fellow graduate of Fort
Worth's Paschal High), Shrake drank deeply of Manhattan nightlife
and helped define the erudite yet earthy style of SI's formative
years.

Working alone or in collaboration, Shrake has authored 19 books,
among them a novel set in the early years of the Republic of
Texas and the best-selling golf manual Harvey Penick's Little Red
Book. These days he focuses on the stage because "I love the
theater, the casting, the rehearsals, the drama of opening
night."

Shrake had a taste of that drama in 2002 when his play Benchmark,
written with his old British pal Michael Rudman, opened in
London. "It was one of the hottest September nights in the city's
history," says Shrake, "and the air-conditioning broke. The place
was like a Burmese jungle. Actors, pouring with sweat, were
forgetting lines; I saw a guy in the audience stand up, take his
shirt off and wring it out. But it's like Sam Goldwyn said,
you've got to take the bitter with the sour." (Benchmark,
however, was a hit.)

His next play, Jack, about Lee Harvey Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby,
was also co-written with Rudman and will hit the boards in London
this year. Shrake knew Ruby in passing. "We had a show business
relationship," he says. "I was writing a newspaper column, and
Ruby owned a nightclub in Dallas and wanted to be everybody's
friend. This is a study of why he murdered Oswald."

LEIGH MONTVILLE, who recalls that he had "the most literary night
of my life" in Houston the Friday before Super Bowl VIII, worked
at SI from 1989 to 2001, after 21 years at The Boston Globe.
Montville had a quiet dinner with New Yorker writer and editor
Roger Angell, then returned to the Hyatt to find friends heading
out with Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing: On the
Campaign Trail '72. In the hottest Houston nightspot the group
could find--a new T.G.I. Friday's--Montville listened as an
insightful Thompson spoke of the New Hampshire primary, during
which he had talked football with Richard Nixon for two hours.
("He knows his f-----' football, but not much f-----' else,"
Thompson opined.)

Although Montville reminisces here about football (page 62), he
considers himself more of a baseball man. His fourth book, Ted
Williams: Biography of an American Hero, comes out in April. Says
Montville, "It's the first biography since the New Testament in
which the subject dies and his status is still in doubt."

B/W PHOTO: COURTESY BUD SHRAKE (TOP) CHEERS At a bar he owned in Dallas, Shrake (right) chatted withLamar Hunt, who coined the phrase "Super Bowl" in 1967.B/W PHOTO: JOSEPH DENNEHY/BOSTON GLOBE Montville in '79