¨Soccer-Fútbol is a disease,” Pele told me when I inter- viewed him for the weekly “Soccer America” magazine many years ago.
For the USA, the disease for us happens to play itself out this Sunday (Super Bowl XLVIII) in paroxysms of news coverage, plays, extravaganzas, clever ads, parties and a love for that other football. The football of giants, not of the rest of the world. And for me, the world of football (all types), horse racing, baseball The MasterS (golf), Indy 500 and TV news put bread on our table. After WWII my Dad joined the “Philadelphia Inquirer” newspaper as a photographer and the paper then owned by Walter Annenberg put together WFIL-TV, one of the city first TV stations on September 10, 1947. My Dad, also Bill, went on to film for various outlets including Tela-Sports Digest, NBA and MLB Films, The Philadelphia Phillies, The New York Racing Association, KYW-TV, Louis W. Kellman Studios (“The Burglar”) just to name a few. He was also a director of photography.
While he received a National Emmy nomination for sports film work and earned First Place, Sports in the National Press Photogra- phers contest, his love in addition to horse racing and football, was baseball. On the eve of World War II he received a tryout call for a pro- fessional NY baseball team and on the advice of his father a Mill-town mayor he declined.
Instead, he learned his photography craft in the USA Marines and honed his eye while fly- ing for the 2nd Marine Wing in Guadalcanal. Those skills, his eye for pro-sports (as well as collegiate football) earned him a spot on the crew of NFL Films coverage of Super Bowl I. His sports film career included more than 25 years of World Series, Indy 500s and Triple Crowns and Masters Tournaments, just to name a few.
As a high school lad, I accompanied my Dad to sports venues ranging from Boston to West Point to New York to Baltimore and Washing- ton. At The 1960 World Series on Sunday Octo- ber 9, 1960, I saw the Pirates win in immortal Yankee Stadium.
While at soccer practice a few days later I heard the announcer call on a portable radio that Bill Mazeroski—hit a homer — and became the first player to hit a game-ending home run in the seventh game, to win a World Series!!!
Then a few months later on December 26th, I helped Dad lug his cases of camera equipment up to the roof of Franklin Field and see the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Green Bay Packard’s for the Championship (pre-Super Bowl)
In high school I was editor of the school’s sports section, I was photo editor for the yearbook and a paid stringer for the local daily newspaper. After a stint in the Air Force (cut short by a tumor on my leg), I got a job at the Philadelphia Inquirer as a copy boy.
I recall Dad encouraged me to go to journal- ism school and also saying I could join the cam- eraman’s local uniom for a small fee because I was family.
I chose news and began a journalism career that took me all over North America and the UK. But years later at the 1980 World Series in Philadelphia –my Dad’s last (his first was in 1950 also Philadelphia) my brother Bob, and I and Dad worked together. A memory !!!
Bob handled cameras as did Dad and I was a grip and gopher.
Over the years as my Dad’s career slowed down my brother continued to pursued a ca- reer in photojournalism and has even written a novel. We worked together often and shared hobbies and other pursuits.
Once Bob worked the official score board and I kept stats for the USA versus Mexico Olympic soccer match.
And we worked together for the Philadelphia Atoms and Philadelphia Fury, NASL pro soc- cer teams and we kept doing stats, spotting and score sheets. He loved soccer-football, too.
I took my first soccer-football photo in Yankee Stadium, when Santos (Pele) played an exhibition match. I often worked out with the Philadelphia Atoms and loved being team escorts for foreign matches (was liaison for Israeli National team and Team England – memorable moments).
But to me the most memorable moment in football –the only real football –soccer came when Bob Rigby, the Atoms’ goalie and later NY Cosmos goalie, and I would pick Pele up at the Philadelphia airport in a limo.
Over the soccer years for me I found Pele to be an honest gentleman, powerfully built, humble and funny and a passionate disciple for the world’s game.
So, as Americans gather around TVs across San Miguel – the Kiwanis will host a big screen and Keith’s Longhorn will show the games just to name a few, I will reflect on all the footballs.
I will think about the purist and less hoopla football games of the 1960s, my Dad, my broth- er, and of course, Pele. (Oh, yea and the com- mercials I will enjoy)
And, I will think of the finesse, speed and grace of the games of Club America, Chivas, and Leon here in Mexico where one does play fútbol with the feet.
Fútbol — the universal language.