Pro Football: Roar of the Crowd

There once was a pro football coach who quit his job because every time the players went into a huddle, he thought they were plotting against him. Today's coaches don't worry about the players. It's the fans—those rabid folks who shell out up to $42 apiece for a season ticket—that they're terrified of. After the Denver Broncos lost their first two games this season, one enraged fan poured a bucketful of garbage over Coach Mac Speedie's head as he ran for the locker room. And in Detroit last week, Coach Harry Gilmer was plastered by a barrage of snowballs when his Lions closed out their worst season in seven years (four wins, nine losses, one tie) by losing to Minnesota 28-16. "Well, at least they didn't put rocks in them," groaned Gilmer.

Then there was New York's Allie Sherman. Last week, as he gazed around Yankee Stadium, what to his wondering eyes should appear—blue-and-white pennants, thousands upon thousands of them, all emblazoned "Goodbye Allie." The fans even put the words to music with a roaring choir to the tune of Goodnight, Ladies. At that, Sherman was lucky, considering what has happened to the once mighty Giants.

Three years ago, the Giants were one of the toughest teams in the National Football League, winners of four Eastern Conference championships in five years. Sherman, a Brooklyn boy himself, won a ten-year contract of $40,000 per. But the Giants decided that their team needed rebuilding. Quarterback Y. A. Tittle went to sell insurance in California, and the Giants traded away an All-Pro linebacker (Sam Huff), two All-Pro tackles (Roosevelt Grier and Dick Modzelewski), and an All-Pro defensive back (Erich Barnes). Result: in 1964, the Giants won two of 14 games. In 1965, they won seven ("Luck," allows Allie).

And this year? They have tied one game, won one, and lost all the rest, including a record 72-41 scalping by the Washington Redskins. Last week, when the Pittsburgh Steelers walloped them 47-28, they became the most scored-upon team in league history: 484 points in 13 games.

So is it really "Goodbye Allie"? Never, says Giants Owner Wellington Mara. "Allie's going to be the coach next year, and, I hope, for many years to come." Of course, it just might be goodbye Welly. Last week rumors swept Wall Street that Mara was in the market to sell the club and all its assets—to say nothing of its liabilities.

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