Ten years ago, in the July issues of this magazine, we reported the historic Wimbledon victory of Althea Gibson; talked with Al Lopez about the chances of his Chicago White Sox, who were at the top of the American League then as now; and picked Floyd Patterson to keep his heavyweight championship in a fight with Hurricane Jackson. There was much more, of course, but in all the 320 pages, 110,000 words and some 400 pictures of those issues there was not one yat or tittle of football.
Times have changed. The summer sun may be high and hot, but the football season is beginning, and with it the most ambitious program of coverage that we have yet scheduled. The big special issues on college and professional football will not appear for almost two months, but in the meantime there is much to write about in the sport. The first item is the beginning (on page 74) of Fran Tarkenton's story of his career as a most unusual quarterback. The series with the New York Giants' new man in constant motion is the kind of piece that gives dimension to the game's personalities.
Even now most of last year's outstanding college seniors are heading for pro camps from Andover, Mass. to San Diego, Calif. to compete with the regulars for starting positions. (They face unfriendly odds. Of the 40 to 60 rookies trying to crack each of the 25 NFL and AFL teams, only six, on the average, will make it.) By July 23 the last of the regulars will be in camp, too, tuning up for the opening exhibition games of early August.
This year brings the first preseason games between the NFL and the AFL and thus the chance for the younger league to avenge some of the blood lost by Kansas City in the first Super Bowl. Sixteen interleague games will be played before the two leagues settle down to the long regular-season schedules. The NFL will have a new look, now that it has been sliced into four four-team divisions playing within Eastern and Western Conferences. Two new teams have been added to the scene: the NFL's New Orleans Saints (the subject of an early SI story to come), who are in camp right now sorting bodies for the 1967 season, and an AFL Cincinnati outfit that starts preparation for the 1968 campaign under the leadership of a legendary pro football organizer, Paul Brown, the former coach and general manager of the Cleveland Browns.
With all other fans, we will be watching the preseason match-ups with unusual interest. The NFL vs. AFL evidence starts coming in on Aug. 5, when the Detroit Lions go to Denver to play the Broncos. Thereafter some of the better games will match the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers, the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.
Patrons of the New York Giants should be heartened by Tarkenton's optimistic words in these pages, and we think all football fans will want to read not only Fran's plain talk about fancy scrambling, but also the following parts, in which he discusses the problems of being a rookie quarterback, describes his long apprenticeship at Minnesota and eventual split with the volatile Norm Van Brocklin, gives his authoritative view of how to read defenses and make plays go and tells how to beat the Green Bay Packers.