As SPORTS ILLUSTRATED launches a yearlong 40th-anniversary celebration with this issue, we would like to point out that contrary to popular belief, 40 is not necessarily over-the-hill in sports. Jack Nicklaus won the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open at 40, becoming just the third person to win both titles in one year. Ted Williams hit .388 and smacked 38 home runs as he approached his 40th birthday, and quarterback George Blanda at 40 was still three years shy of being named the NFL Player of the Year. We would like to think that like these sports legends, we're just hitting our stride at two score.
With that in mind, we've scheduled a busy year. In addition to SI's usual coverage of national sports events and personalities, we will be bringing you the finest moments from the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, in February, as well as in-depth reports from soccer's World Cup, which will be held in the U.S. for the first time this summer. On Aug. 16, our official 40th anniversary, we will publish a special issue devoted to the last 40 years in sports, to be followed in the fall by a special double issue of SI's greatest photographs. Also, over the course of the year we will be reprinting 40 of SI's best stories of the past four decades, which will allow us to revisit the work of some of SI's own legends, such as Frank Deford, Dan Jenkins and Mark Kram. On page 68 of this issue you'll find Deford's classic profile of Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, a story that originally ran in the Jan. 26,1981, issue when Knight was, incidentally, 40 years old and on the verge of winning the second of his three NCAA titles.
Distilling more than 2,000 issues down to 40 of the alltime greatest stories was no easy task. "There is a tremendous wealth of good writing in these back issues," says feature editor Rob Fleder, who orchestrated the project. "You could put out a whole magazine of classic SI stories every week for a year and still not get all the great ones in. We have tried to narrow it down to a representative mix of sports, writers and styles."
The 12 editors who pored overall of our bound volumes of SI were constantly distracted by quaint or prescient pieces of prose that they felt compelled to share immediately with Fleder. "They were all poking their heads into my office to read me excerpts," he says. On Sept. 2, 1957, for example, we noted in our long-gone automotive column that the new Ford Edsel was "swift, smooth and stable," but that its destiny was "in the hands of the public." We were less foresighted four years later when we observed that young Cassius Clay "is not the awesomely proficient fighter he says he is." And in what year do you suppose we reported a general feeling among baseball owners that "the avarice of the modern players...will send the clubs into bankruptcy"? It was 1956.
Even as we look back at the past 40 years, we will be moving forward. Design director Steven Hoffman has already created a stronger, bolder look for the magazine. You may have noticed that the logo is smaller, a change that, says Hoffman, "leaves more acreage for the cover picture." Virtually all of the graphic elements inside the magazine have been updated as well, giving SI a fresh look with which to start its next 40 years.