Sport: A Pride of Lions

  • Share
  • Read Later

(See Cover)

It was football's biggest weekend. All Saturday morning, rain fell on Columbus. But it stopped by noon, and on the stadium's dry turf Ohio State came back in the fourth quarter to whip Michigan, 21-7. Not since Chicago, coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg, turned the trick in 1913 had a Big Ten team won seven straight conference games; the Buckeyes were Big Ten champs and Rose Bowl-bound. All evening Columbus echoed to California Here I Come!

In the Los Angeles Coliseum, 102,000 fans, largest crowd of the season, sweltered in 101° heat while U.C.L.A., the nation's top team, ran all over the ' University of Southern California in the last six minutes and won the Pacific Coast championship, 34-0. Back in the East, a left-handed passer named Frank White lobbed a 39-yd. toss over the heads of the Yale secondary and Harvard won its first Big Three title since 1941 (13-9). In the Southwest, Oklahoma trounced the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 55-7, to take its seventh successive Big Seven title. And in the second oldest college rivalry in the country, dear old Rutgers walloped Columbia (45-12) for the first time since 1891.

It was a Saturday for the record books —filled with screeching runs and moaning fumbles, with sad upsets and the wild enthusiasm of undergraduate loyalties. But on Sunday, fans who wanted to see football at its best turned out to see the pros. From Green Bay, Wis. to New York's Polo Grounds, stadiums rocked to the sound of big men butting heads for cash. In the fall of 1954, a large part of the U.S. public is learning what dedicated sportsmen have been saying for years: that Saturday's college boys play a game, while Sunday's pros practice a high and violent art. After half a century of trying to capture the fans' fancy, pro football has finally made the grade.

Era of Cash & Glory. Today, more than 2,000,000 spectators cram into the country's biggest stadiums between the end of September and the middle of December to watch the pros play ball. Last year, for the first time on record, eleven out of twelve teams in the National Football League finished the season in the black. Income: about $60,000 per club from exhibition games, about $125,000 a season per club from TV and radio, a league total of almost $6,000,000 from the turnstiles. Such popularity, says former University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins, may soon be siphoning paying customers away from the collegiate box office. As far as Hutchins is concerned, that would be fine. Both he and New York University's Chancellor Henry T. Heald agree that high-pressure college football has become a high-power nuisance.

Of all the pro teams, the best (for the last three seasons) is the Detroit Lions. And the best of all the Lions, the best quarterback in the world, is Robert Lawrence Layne, a blond, bandy-legged Texan with a prairie squint in his narrow blue eyes and an unathletic paunch puffing out his ample frame (6 ft. 1 in., 195 Ibs.). Layne, a T-formation specialist, led the Lions out of the National Football League's cellar, called the plays and fired the passes that won them the national championship in 1952 and 1953. He is currently doing his bruising best to repeat that performance. As of this week, the Lions have been defeated only once (by the San Francisco Forty Niners).

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8