Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bring on the 'Boys. Again.

Photo credit: Neil Leifer

Sunday's win over the Giants sets up another post-season matchup between our Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. Another game between two of the best- and most traditional-looking teams in the league.

Fifty years ago today, the photo above was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It shows quarterback Bart Starr bringing his arm forward to pass, in the Packers' 34-27 victory in the 1966 NFL Championship Game at the Cotton Bowl.

That victory, of course, earned the Packers the right to face the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the inaugural Super Bowl, and therefore deserved its place of prominence on the cover.

The interior coverage was as impressive as the cover photo.

Amazing. I particularly love the five-photo series of Jim Grabowski's fumble recovery.

These photos represented a great technical innovation for the magazine, which developed a new process to be able to turn around color photographs quickly. Publisher Garry Valk described it this way, in a special letter in the front of the magazine:
This issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED contains the most ambitious use of news color in the history of the magazine. The cover and the pro football championship stories that begin on page 8 are illustrated with 11 photographs of events that took place last Sunday afternoon. Using these photographs without delaying delivery of the magazine represents a major technical advance but hardly an unexpected one. On the contrary, the most noteworthy thing about this week's color that it is merely a significant example of the kind of coverage that our readers can expect throughout the year ahead.

Two weeks from now the NFL-AFL game in Los Angeles will offer a similar occasion for extensive use of on-the- deadline color. Later, such news stories as basketball championships. the Kentucky Derby, the U.S. Open and the World Series will be presented with more color photographs than ever before. And we will now have the opportunity to show, in color and within hours of when they happen, many of the less widely followed but equally interesting events in the sports spectrum.

The degree of our increasing emphasis on news color is not difficult to measure. In 1964 we ran only 18 pages&mdahsh;six of them from the Tokyo Olympics. In 1965 the figure was up to 38, and last year it was 92. We expect that the 1967 total will average four pages an issue, twice as many as a year ago.

One of the results of this is that a demanding sport of our own is going to become a matter of routine. Its name is "Chicago Close"—it is in Chicago, the site of our main printing plant, that all Sunday color pictures must be processed and selected. It is a nerve-testing game because there is a constant danger that the scheduled film may not arrive in time, and that plans for "standby" alternates will fail. (For several hectic hours four weeks ago, our scheduled color cover from the Boston-Buffalo AFL game was stranded in Detroit, our first standby was fogbound in Dallas and our second standby was snowed in at Cleveland.)

This week the coverage of two games doubled the chance of trouble. A staff of 10 went to Chicago early Sunday to await the arrival of film from Dallas and Buffalo, select pictures and get them to the three printing plants involved (no one company could handle that much rush work). As a safety measure in case none of the film arrived, a "superstandby" cover of Bart Starr (left) was chosen immediately after Green Bay had won. picked from 150 regular-season pictures of likely heroes of the Dallas game. Artist Robert Handville was also commissioned to do drawings based on wirephotos and descriptions of key plays from our men on the scene.

Happily. There were no delays with the game photographs. By one a.m. Monday the last rolls of film were being studied by the editors. An hour later final selections had been made and the last pic1ure dispatched to the engravers. It arrived 10 minutes before the 2 a.m. deadline. Now Starr was on our cover playing against Dallas, the kind of news color treatment we like, and know you do, too.
In an age of instantaneous on-demand high-definition video highlights, it seems amazing to consider a time when artists scrawled game pictures based on eyewitness accounts just in case photos didn't arrive at the printer.

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