When it comes to sports, says Artist John Huehnergarth, "I have no favorites and no specialties." As if to prove it, over the years this accomplished illustrator has illuminated stories for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED on boating, baseball, boxing, basketball, automobile racing, marathon running, football, tennis, skiing, exploration, bridge, travel, wildlife, ice hockey, hitchhiking, bird watching, table tennis, skin diving, track, resort living, equestrianism, touch football, hunting, politics, parlor games, dog training, golf, loafing, darts, television, horse racing, dog racing and even Charles de Gaulle. "I just go in where angels fear to tread," John Huehnergarth says.
Well, not quite. There may have been a few foolhardy angels hovering nearby when Huehnergarth was gathering data for the sketches accompanying the story on sky diving in this issue (page 36). To document them Huehnergarth went up in what he describes as an old jalopy of an airplane, absolutely determined to come down in a parachute. "However," he says, "when all the divers started jumping out of the plane I changed my mind."
"John was just being smart," says one of his most enthusiastic SI fans, Editor Bob Ottum, who keeps a large collection of what he terms "Huehnergarthiana" on the walls of his office. "And I think it was just as well. John came out to the Bonneville Salt Flats with me a couple of years ago while I was testing some Fords for a story. Mickey Thompson roared him around in a Mach I Mustang at 170 mph, and he survived that experience all right. Then he set out alone on a little trail bike. I'm certain John Huehnergarth is the only person in the world who ever managed to crash one of those uncrashable machines on such an absolutely flat surface."
Maybe, on the other hand, it doesn't matter too much, because what Huehnergarth—whose own competitive urge is allayed by cheering on the Princeton Tigers at an occasional home game near his studio in Princeton, N.J.—likes best about sport is the look of it, and you can't get into too much trouble just looking.
"I like the action, the combativeness of sport," says this wonderfully subtle observer. "I don't care about the particulars: the standings, the scores, the statistics. That's all lost on me. Nor do I have any particular favorites among sportsmen. I try hard to remember their names, but usually I forget. But I find much that is thrilling in all sports. I know this sounds a bit too cozy, but I have never found anything in sport that turns me off."
We are glad of that, of course, just as we are glad that we have a mast-headful of writers, reporters and editors who do care, even if John doesn't, about statistics and standings and all that stuff. But no one attempting to put out a magazine on whose cover the word ILLUSTRATED looms so large could help but be happy that we have access to the talents of a sports fan whose major concern is the look of what all of us are talking about.