A couple of years ago, one of my sweet and gentle readers, Mary Crider, gave me a large stack of my favorite childhood magazine, Sports Illustrated, mostly from the year 1957, about three years before Mom and Dad got me my own subscription to what was then a weekly magazine, both to satiate my growing interest in sports and to encourage me to read. It was Mary’s husband, Frank, whose name appears on each mailing label, someone I’m guessing followed the sporting scene as closely as I have pretty much all my life.
I’ve been working my way through the stack of issues, reading several articles along the way to see the world as it once was, a welcome respite from so much that is so very depressing now, from a pandemic that simply won’t release its grip on us to the chaos on our southern border to the escalating prices we pay at the pump and in our grocery stores and to children gunning down classmates in the same type of school hallways I walked for over three decades without one thought something like that could ever happen. As I turn the pages of the magazines now more than six decades old, there’s so very much that provides a history lesson about how the collective “we” in our country once were.
First of all, I’m always interested in old magazines when the subscription card is still stapled in, and there was for this issue, dated December 9, 1957. For what was then a weekly magazine (rather than the monthly publication that it is now), Frank Crider paid his $7.50 for a full year, not quite 15 cents per issue.
In my perusals, I always spend some time looking at the advertising, feeling that always gives an indication of what the largely male demographic the magazine has always had saw as desirable. There were ads for dress shoes, shaving lotions and colognes, sportswear, men’s watches, and lots of liquor, like Old Smuggler scotch.
However, the most interesting aspects as I read that issue came from quotes from two very prominent coaches of that era, quotes that spoke to a couple of pretty important core values, values some might say were far more on display in the 1950s.
As for the core value of industry, the quote came from arguably the greatest influence on professional football the game has ever known, Paul Brown. Following a poor 1956 season, when his Cleveland Browns went 5-7 in that era of 12-game schedules, the Browns were in the process by early December of making a huge turnaround, thanks in large part to their superb rookie running back, Jimmy Brown. And, he wasn’t the only first-year player Brown brought on.
When asked by reporters what the key to the turnaround was from one season to the next, Brown succinctly replied, “We got rid of the people who were no longer willing to pay the price.” In so many instances these days it seems to me that it may just be a bit harder to get rid of those who simply aren’t willing to expend the effort and energy to ensure our national success.
In the cover story in that old magazine, entitled “Dixie’s Yankee Hero” about native New Yorker Frank McGuire, the North Carolina basketball coach ready to head into a new season following the previous year’s NCAA championship, his crowning coaching achievement, I found a quote that speaks so mightily to the importance of humility, a virtue so often missing in today’s “It’s-all-about-me” era sports figures.
The previous March, McGuire coached his Tar Heels to a perfect 32-0 season, culminating the season with a 54-53 win over a heavily favored Kansas Jayhawk team in triple overtime. McGuire devised a game plan that neutralized the most dominant force in his or, for that matter, any era, 7’1” Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain.
In the article, writer Gerald Holland told of McGuire’s being asked to be the keynote speaker in Columbus at the newly opened St. John Arena at a clinic for 1,800 high school coaches. In his concluding remarks that day before a full house hanging on his every word, he reminded his fellow coaches of the significance of a single point.
He said, because of that one point, he was named college basketball’s coach of the year. He went on to say that, because of that same single point, he was invited to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. And, because of that same single point, he was asked to speak to them that day, and, in his dramatic conclusion, holding up one single finger, he finished thusly: “One point and the players and I don’t ever forget that’s the difference between us and a lot of teams and a lot of coaches.”
Although I enjoyed the ads in that 1957 magazine and wished I had one of those now classic cars in the same pristine condition I saw in those ads, what I enjoyed more, thanks to Mary Crider’s gift, was a reminder of the core values of industry and humility that I found in the words of two iconic coaches — values I’m not sure are as prevalent in today’s world.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]