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The American Football League, the NFL and the Media

In the 1960s, Tex Maule and the magazine he was associated with, Sports Illustrated, were exemplary of the way many sports reporters forgot what should be the first rule of their profession: "maintain impartiality".

Maule was known to his contemporaries as "an NFL guy", and rather than report the Professional Football scene objectively, he resorted to ridiculing and belittling the efforts of the American Football League and its players.  The reasons for this treatment are evident: before going to SI as its lead Professional Football columnist, Maule spent years working for the NFL's Rams under Pete Rozelle.  He reflected what seems to have been a common fault of the profession, all tied to that lack of impartiality: writers sometimes associate so closely with the teams and leagues they cover, that they evidently feel that they are representatives of those leagues and teams.  They feel loyalty and partisanship for "their" teams, and express dislike for opponents or competitors.  (Some would characterize them as "homers".)

Even the AFL's brightest stars and greatest moments did not escape Maule's vitriol.   On September 30 1968, Tex Maule wrote an SI article on Pro Football's best young quarterbacks.  Somehow, he forgot to mention Joe Namath, Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, or Bob Griese!  He did praise those unforgettable NFL icons, Gary Cuozzo, Jack Concannon, Kent Nix, Bill Munson, and Randy Johnson.  You remember them, don't you?

When he wrote the story of Super Bowl III, Maule later admitted he had trouble with it because he felt the Jets had been "more lucky than good" in defeating the Colts.     Maule's irrational contempt for the AFL was known to all, especially his co-workers.  Fellow SI feature writer Robert H. Boyle says that after the Jets' win, Maule did not show up at the office for several weeks!   Other media people knew Maule's bias as well, as shown by the comments of AFL Hall of Famer Curt Gowdy during the NBC-TV broadcast of the game.

For a good portion of the 1960s, Sports Illustrated often reinforced their bias with articles on the NFL which were accompanied by striking full-color action photos, while any AFL stories that managed to survive the editors' scissors usually had two types of photos: none, or black-and-white.  In 1991, SI even flaunted the policy in their "Replay" feature. 

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A final insult by SI occurred in the January 19, 1970 issue, in Tex Maule's story on the Chiefs' victory in the Fourth World Championship Game.  The last photo in the article, the last photo of an AFL team to be published in SI, has Bobby Bell standing over Johnny Robinson after Robinson's interception of Joe Kapp.  Of course, the Chiefs wore the classic 10-year AFL patch in that game.  Click on the photo to enlarge it, then take a close look at Bell's left shoulder. Before they printed it, it looks like the SI editors (or maybe Tex Maule?) took a "magic marker" to Bobby's shoulder to mutilate the patch!

For the photo as it should have been published, with Robinson pointing to the AFL patch that Hank Stram used to motivate the team, see below.

For this slanted reporting, Maule and Sports Illustrated, as representatives of the print media who refused to give the AFL its due, are installed as typical members of the "American Football League Hall of Infamy".  "Dishonorable Mentions" include William N. Wallace of the New York Times and Jerry Green of the Detroit Free Press, and all the other "NFL apologists" whose awe of the established league crippled their ability to report with impartiality.

Paul Brown PFRA


89th US
"pro football"
Hall of Fame
Bud Adams


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