Apart from the sheer pleasure of not having to listen every Sunday to Phyllis Goerge contesting, without serious competition, for broadcasting's annual Betty Boop Aware, I am going to miss pro football.
On the Sunday between the last playoff game and Super Bowl XII, I wandered around the house like an out a drink, a man without a country. You name it. I was in terrible shape.
It is going to be a long winter. No Olympics. Just basketball, tennis, and addict without a fix, an alcoholic withgolf. They will have to suffice. This is no time for a man in middle passage to start having to spenf Sunday afternoons talking to his wife and children.
I am trying to think when my Sunday addiction to televised sports began. It strikes me that it was sometime in the early '60s when I was watching Arnold Palmer coming from behind to win the Masters.
Palmer doesn't come from behind much these days. Age is catching up with him. The glasses he now wears don't make the drives go straighter or direct the putts to the hole. He is, like a lot of us, just older.
But what a glory he was in the early '60s. When he was voted the outstanding sports figure of that decade, come complaints were voiced. But the critics were wrong. Palmer became, at least in the public consciousness, the superstar of sports. Television did it. He was television's first sports superstar.
We have become rather blase about superstars in sports these days. But their presence in our lives is a recnet phenomenon. Palmer, as the first, was ready-made for television with the arms of a blacksmith, the hitching up of the slacks as he walked on to the green, the flicking away of the cigarette as he stepped up to putt, the risks he took. It was drama of a high order.
Then there was Joe Namath. It was no accident that he was plucked from the University of Alabama by someone who understood show business and television. Sonny Werblin - who had come out of WMC, the biggest and the best run company in the entertainment field, and who was running the New York Jets - knew that what New york needed was a star.
Werblin saw more than a great arm in Namath. He saw a television star and that is what Namath was for so long. He was box office.
What I miss most about Sonny Jurgensen as the Redskin's quarterback if that he was dramatic. When he came out of the huddle, stood over the center, beer belly and all, it was art.
The big argument that raged in Washington in Jurgensen's final playing years as to whether he or Billy Kilmer should have been directing the offense was supposed to be about who was the better quarterback. It had nothing to do with ability at all. It had everything to do with the fact that with Sonny, win or lose, it was dramatic, whether you watched it at stadium or at home on television.
There is nothing on the tube that quite matches the drama that sports coverages provides. And no sport is quite as exciting on television as football.
I leave it to the sociologists and other worthies to explain its ritualistic relationship to the American psyche. All I know is that I miss it so badly that I ache.
The Sunday afternoon are going to be long and bleak until next September.