It never really worked. I probably should have known that from the beginning, had I given it more thought, but I doubt if that would have changed my feelings. I'm not the sort to go into anything with a pessimistic attitude. Even now I want to believe that enough people in America want an honest outlook in their sporting affairs, enough, that is, to get it. At least I hope they will give my opinions fair consideration.
Maybe I should have been more concerned that night in February 1967 when I met Jack Dolph, the director of sports for CBS TV, in the foyer of London's Savoy Hotel. His words do seem more significant now. I remember his brief apology for having little time to spare before he rushed me through a mixed bag of questions concerning American soccer and my possible role as a television commentator, and how something in my answers perturbed him. "You're a spellbinder with words, I'll admit," he finally said. "But, to be honest, you frighten me."
His fears were spellbound, apparently, because a month later a press conference was held by CBS in New York to announce my appointment as "color" man for the network's latest venture into sport, the televising of National Professional Soccer League games.
None of the press corps seemed upset by my answers on that occasion, but they did have some doubt about my fate with CBS. "You'll ruin him," one lady reporter said to Bill MacPhail, the CBS vice-president for sports, over a drink at Toots Shor's after the conference. "Look," MacPhail said to me across the table, "if we say a word to you, you have my permission to phone her."
I wondered if he had forgotten that when I was summoned to his corner office on the 26th floor of the CBS Building just a few weeks later. A couple of his aides were sitting around, and there was a slight air of embarrassment.
"We didn't like part of your commentary on Sunday," one of them said.
"What was that?" I asked.
"You criticized the St. Louis goalkeeper. Couldn't you have been more positive?"
"No," I replied. "He made a mistake."
"That's not what we mean.... You could have said it was a good shot."